Summary: We are going to look at unbelief and opposition to Christ. It’s a lesson that needs to be studied in detail. How tragic it is that religious positions sometimes become political. How tragic it is that men reject Christ for the things of this world. How
Tonight we are going to look at unbelief and opposition to Christ. John 11: 47-57 gives a good lesson on this. It’s a lesson that needs to be studied in detail. Let’s begin in v. 47.
READ v. 47. Jesus has just raised Lazarus from the dead. Scripture tells us that some believed and some rejected it. In v. 46 it tells us that some of those who rejected it went to the Pharisees to report what Jesus had done.
So the Sanhedrin met to discuss Jesus and to decide what to do about Him. This was an official meeting of the nation’s leaders, including religious leaders. The Sanhedrin was the ruling body, both the governing council and supreme court of the Jews. It had 71 members and was presided over by the High Priest. But it only took a quorum of 23 to pass the laws of the nation. Its membership was made up of Pharisees, Sadducees, Teachers of the law (Scribes or lawyers), and elders who were lay leaders from among the people.
The legal power of the Sanhedrin to pass the death sentence was restricted about 20 years before the trial of Jesus. But they did retain the right of excommunication. To secure Jesus’ death, they were forced by law to appeal to the Romans for the death sentence.
These leaders, the Sanhedrin, were the very ones who should have been leading the people to God and giving moral and spiritual direction to the nation. Yet, here they were determining what to do about Jesus. The scene is pathetic and ironic.
There was Jesus, the Son of God, standing right before them, having come to reveal God to all men everywhere. There were the many miraculous signs which Jesus had done to prove that He was truly the Son of God. There were the leaders, the very ones who should have been rejoicing and receiving Him, the ones who recognized and acknowledged His many miraculous signs and His great teaching—so great that everyone was about to follow Him, yet they were the ones who were taking the lead in rejecting and opposing Him.
This scene is repeated every time a person deliberately rejects and opposes Christ. A person who hears and sees the works of Christ should rejoice and receive Him, not reject and oppose Him and His salvation.
READ 48. Here we see the cause of the unbelief and opposition. The basic reason was selfish fear. Self-centered fear, the fear of losing something, causes man to reject and oppose others. Three things in particular cause the leaders to fear Jesus.
1. The fear of losing their esteem, recognition, and following. If the leaders lost the people, they would have lost the same as any man who loses his circle of attention (friends, fellow-workers, neighbors, whomever.)
2. There was the fear of losing their place, position, influence, and authority. If they lost their place, they would have again lost their job, livelihood, security, comfort, power, authority, and wealth.
3. There was the fear of losing their nation.
It’s a man’s selfishness that causes him to cling both to himself and to his possessions. Man wants to control all he is and has. He wants to do his own thing as he wills and desires. He wants to have no interference in his life and desires, or as little as possible.
When Jesus comes along demanding that a person change by denying himself and giving all he is and has to meet the desperate needs of a lost and starving world—man rejects and opposes Jesus. Man is unwilling to deny himself, unwilling to live a life that is totally sacrificial.
READ 49-53. Here we see the conclusion of unbelief and opposition. Note 4 points.
1. The decision to oppose Jesus was made by the High Priest himself, Caiaphas, the highest religious leader in the nation. The very person who should have been leading the others to Jesus was suggesting that everyone reject and oppose Him.
How tragic it is that religious positions sometimes become political. How tragic it is that men reject Christ for the things of this world. How tragic it is that men exchange eternity for a few short years.
2. The second point is that the conclusion suggested by the High Priest was that Jesus should be sacrificed for the people. The people were following Jesus in such numbers that the leaders feared the Romans might conclude that Jesus was arousing the people to riot. The Romans would move in and disperse the people, taking away even what little liberty they had. The Romans might blame the present leadership and remove them from power.
So the thought proposed was that it was better for Jesus to die than for the people to perish. Jesus should be sacrificed and killed in order to save the people.