Broadcasting now. Watch Live.

The Two Reasons Jesus Had to Die!

Tom Pennington John 11:47-57


Today begins what Christians have historically called the Passion Week. It began on Sunday morning with the Triumphal Entry that we’ve just remembered together. But later that week, by late Thursday night, Jesus was arrested. Following in immediate succession, one after another there was then a series of Jewish and Roman trials. And by 9 AM on Friday morning Jesus had been crucified, and by 3 PM on that same day He had died.

It was probably, if we take the dating that’s appropriate from the New Testament times on April 7th in the year 30 AD. If you want to know more about why I believe it was that year, there were really only two possibilities the year 30 and 33 AD, and you can go back to the series that I did on surveying the New Testament where I argue for that date. And I think there is good reason for it. The 30th year AD. That would have made it then on April 7th that Jesus died, and on the third day April 9th in the year 30 AD that He rose from the grave.

The question for this morning is how did events spiral so out of control from the triumphal entry on Sunday to the crucifixion on Friday? It’s important for you to know the answer is not because of what happened during that week. Instead, it’s because of a momentous decision that had been made weeks before; a decision that was forced by the most public and spectacular miracle that Jesus ever did. That miracle was the reason that there was so much pent up excitement about Jesus coming to the feast of Passover; the reason for the Triumphal Entry with all the crowds. And it was because of that miracle that by Friday of the Passion Week Jesus would be dead.

Look at John’s gospel with me, John 12, and here you’ll see how this spectacular miracle figured into the events in that last week of our Lord. John 12:1, “Jesus, therefore, six days before the Passover,” [This would have been on Saturday night before the Triumphal Entry on Sunday] “came to Bethany where Lazarus was, whom Jesus had raised from the dead.” Verse 2 and following goes on to describe a feast that was given in Jesus’ honor there in Bethany. This would have been probably on Saturday night. And notice verse 9,

The large crowd of the Jews then learned that He was there….” [Now, Jerusalem was only two miles away from Bethany where Jesus is staying. So, after sundown which would have been the end of the Sabbath, a large crowd of those that are in Jerusalem go out to Bethany, the two miles, because they hear that Jesus is there. Verse 9 says] and they came, not for Jesus’ sake only, but that they might also see Lazarus, whom He raised from the dead. But the chief priests planned to put Lazarus to death also; because on account of him many of the Jews were going away and were believing in Jesus.

[Now look at verse 17.] So the people who were … [this is now the Triumphal Entry] So the people who were with Him when He called Lazarus out of the tomb and raised him from the dead, continued to testify about Him. For this reason also the people went and met Him, [on that Sunday morning] because they heard that He had performed this sign. So the Pharisees said to one another, “You see that you are not doing any good; look, the world has gone after Him.”

Now, you have to understand what went on in the last six months of Jesus’ life and ministry to understand what’s happening here. In those last six months leading up to this event, Jesus entered into Judea, that southern part of the land of Israel, three times, three occasions. In November of 29 AD Jesus went to Jerusalem to celebrate the Feast of Tabernacles, the Feast of Booths, as it’s called. In December of 29 AD He went back to Jerusalem to celebrate the Feast of Dedication what we today call Hannukah.

Then He came back a third time. It was in February of 30 AD. Some six to eight weeks before the Triumphal Entry Jesus heard that his dear friend Lazarus was sick. He delayed His coming until Lazarus died. And then He went to their home, it was on the east side of the Jordan in Perea, and He left where He was ministering, went down to Bethany where their home was. Now Bethany was just over the Mount of Olives from Jerusalem. It was only about two miles away, and so there’s a large crowd that is gathered to mourn the death of Lazarus. This was a very influential family, a wealthy family. They had their own stone tomb with a stone to roll in front of it which was a sign of significant wealth.

And so, they had a lot of family and friends there and they’re watching, and in that context Jesus publicly, visibly, spectacularly raised Lazarus from the dead. You remember He told them, as everyone watched, he told him to roll the stone away from the opening of the grave. And Martha protested and said, Lord, he’s been dead four days, and the decay has already begun. And Jesus said, I told you, you would see God’s glory. Move the stone away.” And so, a large group of guys rolls the stone away from that tomb. And then He lifts His eyes up toward heaven and publicly, aloud He prays to the Father. And He tells the Father what He’s about to do and thanks Him for what He will do through Him. And He says, I didn’t pray out loud for You Father, but for all these people standing around. And then he finishes His prayer. And in a loud voice so that everyone can hear He says, Lazarus, come forth. And this man who has been dead for four days, whose body is already decaying, is raised from the dead, walks out of the tomb.

What I want you to understand is that Jesus carefully calculated this miracle to supply the entire nation with one great final proof of His claims. Through most of His ministry Jesus was doing miracles in private, sometimes telling people don’t say anything. But this miracle was publicly portrayed, arranged, calculated by Jesus to set forth His claims. It occurred about six to eight weeks before Passover and right next to the city of Jerusalem. Just two miles away, there were many who believed in Jesus because of this dramatic miracle. Look at 11:45.

Therefore many of the Jews who came to Mary, and saw what He had done, believed in Him. But some … went to the Pharisees and told them the things which Jesus had done.

What you need to see is this event, the public, dramatic raising of Lazarus changed everything. It guaranteed that Jesus would soon be killed. Soon following this public miracle of the raising of Lazarus there was a secret meeting of the Jewish leaders, probably in their usual chambers on the Temple grounds. And there in the secret council they reached a politically expedient decision that will echo down through eternity. And what happened behind those closed and bolted doors is recorded for us in John 11 beginning in verse 47. Therefore in response to this miracle, the raising of Lazarus,

… the chief priests and the Pharisees convened a council, and were saying, “What are we doing? For this man is performing many signs. If we let Him go on like this, all men will believe in Him, and the Romans will come and take away both our place and our nation.” But one of them, Caiaphas, who was high priest that year, said to them, “You know nothing at all, nor do you take into account that it is expedient for you that one man die for the people, and that the whole nation not perish.” Now he did not say this on his own initiative, but being high priest that year, he prophesied that Jesus was going to die for the nation, and not for the nation only, but in order that He might also gather together into one the children of God who are scattered abroad. So from that day on they planned together to kill Him.

John may have known about that secret meeting and what happened there in several different ways. He may have discovered it through direct revelation and from the Spirit of God. Or John’s family was very well known, very influential in the city of Jerusalem. In fact, you remember that on the night of the trial of Jesus. John was able to get permission to get into the High Priest’s house and to attend the trial, but Peter had to stay out by the fire where he got himself in trouble. So, it’s possible that John learned of what happened in the secret meeting from one of his family’s friends. I think most likely, however, John learned of this through one of the two men on the council who were followers secretly of Jesus. One of them was Nicodemus, the other Joseph of Arimathea, both of whom acknowledged that He was, in fact, their Lord after His crucifixion when they went and got His body and saw that it received proper burial. If they hadn’t been in attendance at this particular meeting, they could have read the minutes of the meeting, minutes were kept, or they could have heard about the report from those who were in attendance.

This passage though, this account is absolutely pivotal in John’s account of the life of Christ because it connects the three-year ministry of Christ in the first eleven chapters with the account of His Passion Week that begins in chapter 12 and runs all the through the end of the book. In this section that I’ve just read for you John gives us an apologetic for Jesus’ death as a terrible criminal. This paragraph explains the reasons for the death of Jesus Christ from both the human perspective and as well as the divine perspective. We will see two reasons Jesus had to die as we let this inspired historical record unfold before us.

Now, we are going to let it unfold in a series of acts because it really is an amazing drama, and I want you to see each act. The first act in this drama is a moral dilemma. The leaders of the nation are faced with a very difficult decision. They have already tried to deal with Jesus. Look back in 7:32. You’ll read that after Jesus’ miracles and teaching, there were those in the crowd that begin to believe in Him and were saying that He was the Messiah, verse 31. Chapter 7:32 says, The Pharisees heard the crowd muttering these things about Him, and the chief priests and the Pharisees sent officers to seize Him.

They had already tried to arrest Him; they’d already tried to stop this problem, but now the circumstances have changed. Verse 47 of chapter 11 says, “… the chief priests and the Pharisees convened a council….” Now the chief priests here is a group that consisted of obviously the current High Priest, but also the ex-high priests, those who had served in that office before, as well as the male members of their families, along with other elevated civic leaders. They were the wealthy aristocratic families of the nation. They controlled the office of High Priest, and by the way, the office of High Priest was far more of a political position than it was a spiritual position; controlled, dominated by the wealthy blue-blooded aristocrats in Jerusalem.

And then there’s the other group, the Pharisees. These were the theologians. These were those who were interested in the minutia of the Law of God and beyond in their oral tradition. The word “Pharisee” means “separated ones”. This group arose during that period between the Old and the New Testaments to respond to attempt to Hellenize the people, that is to introduce Greek pagan elements into the Jewish culture. They were very conversative. Most of the Pharisees were scribes that is they copied God’s Word, and they taught it to the people.

Together, these two groups, the wealthy aristocratic families, here called the chief priests, and the Pharisees made up the balance of power in Israel. They were like the Democrats and the Republican parties of ancient Israel. And, by the way, they got along just as well. But here they begin to forge an uneasy alliance. Why? Why?

Well, understand this, that throughout Jesus’ ministry, He had consistently antagonized the Pharisees. He had questioned their source of authority, their oral tradition. He broke their man-made rules. He publicly called them hypocrites and snakes and vipers. He said they were part of a first century Judaism that had become a false religion. But for the most part the wealthy aristocratic families that controlled the high priesthood and the life in Jerusalem, they had agreed that Jesus needed to be dealt with, but they had done so with frankly very little energy and or enthusiasm.

But from this point forward, in all four gospel accounts, it is the chief priests the High Priest, the high priestly families, the rest of the aristocracy of Israel who became Jesus’ greatest enemies. They became the driving force behind Jesus’ death. And although the Pharisees are involved all along the way, they take a back seat from this point forward. Why is that? What changed?

Well, most of the high priestly aristocracy were part of a group the Bible calls Sadducees. The Sadducees embrace the Pentateuch, but what’s really important to understand about the Sadducees is that they were anti-supernaturalists. That is, they did not believe that God intervenes in the world He made. They were ancient deists, basically. They didn’t believe that there was a spirit world. There were no angels, no demons. But the Sadducees had one other major doctrinal foundation and that is they taught uniformly that there was no resurrection, no bodily resurrection.

Now, what had Jesus just done with great fanfare? Raised a man from the dead, and in that same context He said, I am going to do exactly the same thing for all of my followers. No one who believes in Me and dies will ever stay dead. I will raise him up on the last day. So the Sadducees, the high priestly families, the aristocracy, they have a problem, a big problem. So now, Israel’s two ruling parties, the equivalent of the Democrats and the Republicans cross the isle, come together and convene a council. Likely this is an official meeting of the Sanhedrin, that’s the language that’s used there is verse 47.

The Sanhedrin, it was the supreme Jewish governing body under the Romans. It dated to that 400-year period between the Old and New Testaments. The Talmud, the Jewish Talmud says there were 70 men plus the High Priest, so 71 who sat on this council. They were in effect both the Supreme Court of Israel and the Congress of Israel rolled into one. And the High Priest was the chief executive officer; the President of you will. Together they had authority to govern the civil affairs of the nation under the Romans and to try certain criminal cases under the Roman procurator’s authority. When they met, they met in a place Josephas, a Jewish historian, called the Chamber of Hewn Stone there on the temple grounds, a magnificent room, much like you would expect and see where our congress meets. They sat in a great simi-circle when they sat and convened a council. And in the middle of that simi-circle was a table with a couple of scribes taking careful minutes.

That day when the Sanhedrin met, one of the items on the agenda or perhaps the only item on the agenda was how to deal with Jesus. Verse 47,

and [they] were saying, “What are we doing? For this man is performing many signs. If we let Him go on like this, all men will believe in Him, and the Romans will come and take away both our place and our nation.”

That first question, what are we doing, is in effect to say so how successful do you think our efforts to deal with Jesus have been so far? And the question understands the negative answer, not very good. He’s performing many signs, including the public healing of that blind man back in John 9, and most recently and most obviously the raising of Lazarus from the dead. And He’s doing so many signs, and if He keeps on doing these signs, all men will believe in Him. It’s interesting, because here the leaders of the Jewish nation reveal their theological views, they were thoroughly pallegian. They misunderstood man, they had a flawed view of man that if you just give a guy enough evidence, everybody can believe and has the power to believe.

Ironically, they themselves were evidence to the contrary of that position. They had just admitted that Jesus had done many signs. They had just admitted that Jesus had even raised a man from the dead. And yet, they were convening a council not to say let’s embrace Him as our Messiah, but what are we going to do about Him. They will not believe. It reminds me of what Jesus said in that parable in Luke 16 when He talks about the rich man and a different Lazarus, and He says the rich man was told by Abraham when he said please send somebody from the dead so my brothers will believe. Abraham said to that rich man in hell, listen, if they won’t believe Moses and the Prophets, neither will they believe even if one was raised from the dead.

Now in verse 48 their words provide us a glimpse into their hearts. What was really their concern here? Verse 48,“If we let Him go on like this, all men will believe in Him, and [here’s the bottom line] the Romans will come and take away both our place and our nation.” If we let Jesus keep performing these signs, everybody’s going to believe that He is, in fact, the Messiah, and when the Romans see our people embracing another king besides Caesar, they’re going to bring their legions, and they will take away our place, that’s probably a reference to Jerusalem, especially the temple and our nation, that is our relative right to self-rule, to autonomy under the Roman authority. Now, on the surface that could sound like maybe there was even a little bit of genuine concern for the people that they ruled over here. But literally, the Greek text says this, “The Romans will take away from us both the place and the nation.” You see their concern, their chief concern, wasn’t about the people. Their chief concern was about the impact of Jesus’ popularity on them. They were concerned about what they stood to lose. In fact, this is clear in another spot. Pilate even understood this in Mark 15:10. It says, [Pilate] “… was aware that the chief priests had handed [Jesus] … over because of envy.” It’s all about the position and prestige and wealth they were losing.

But I want you to notice that what they say here, what this convened council of Jewish leaders say, confirms our faith because their discussion shows that even Jesus’ enemies affirmed His miracles. He’s doing many signs, and left alone, He has the power to do many more. And those signs and miracles are so clear they said and so demonstrable that if it was theologically possible it would convince all men to believe that He was Israel’s Messiah. But they can’t allow that because it would cost them too much.

You know, there are many people, perhaps some sitting here this morning, who refuse Jesus for the same reasons. They fly in the face of the evidence because they will not have this Man to rule over them. Maybe you like something in your life too much to bow your knee to Jesus Christ. Maybe you’re protecting your turf just like they were protecting theirs. So, there’s the moral dilemma facing the leaders of the nation.

The second act here introduces us to an evil solution, and evil solution. Look at verse 49. “But one of them, Caiaphas, who was high priest that year….”

Josephus calls this man Joseph Caiaphas. He served as High Priest to the nation eighteen long years, from 18 AD through 36 AD. He was deposed the same time as Pontus Pilate was deposed. The position of High Priest had become a kind of political prize. The Romans gave the position to the one they thought could keep the people and their leaders in line. And so, Caiaphas was seen to be such a man. The reason for that was, Caiaphas had married well. Caiaphas had married into the most powerful family in first century Israel. His father-in-law was a man named Annas, whose name shows up in the gospel record.

Annas had already been High Priest of Israel from the year 6 AD to the year 15 AD. And frankly, he continued to have great power throughout the first century. After Caiaphas is deposed in 36 AD, five of Annas’ sons end up eventually being High Priest. This was without question the most powerful aristocratic family in first century Israel. And Caiaphas married in. Even though he was in the position of High Priest, it is clear in both the secular documents as well as the biblical record that Caiaphas answered to his father-in-law. Annas was in control, but Caiaphas, himself, was a formidable man. He was a ruthless cut-throat politician. Listen to William Hendrickson describe him.

In the patchwork of his personality, the strands of brazen impudence, insane ambition, rancorous jealousy and consummate cleverness were interwoven. He knew all the answers, and he knew how to make others see things his way. He was the perfect politician. And he was driven far more by political expediency than principle. The documents in the New Testament and secular documents both show that he had no problem even with murder to get his own way.

Caiaphas, who was high priest that year, said to them, “You know nothing at all.” John says it was Caiaphas who was high priest on that fateful year when Jesus died. Of course, he was high priest much longer, but as well that year. And as high priest Caiaphas then was President of the Sanhedrin. He presided over the official meetings of the Sanhedrin. So, he’s listened to the discussion so far but now he steps up and speaks up.

Josephus says that the Sadducees, the party to which Caiaphas belonged, were “even among themselves were rather savage in their conduct, and in their intercourse with their peers as ungentle as they are to strangers.” You can see this in this first response of Caiaphas. He says, “What are you doing you know nothing at all.” That’s the first century equivalent of, would you just be quiet, you don’t even know what you are talking about. Verse 50, “nor do you take into account that it is expedient for you that one man die for the people, and that the whole nation not perish.”

The Greek word that’s translated “to take into account” means to “reckon”. It’s an accounting word. Can’t you count the cost here? Can’t you do the accounting on this situation? It is expedient, literally, it is profitable. Notice, he added, “it is expedient and profitable for you.” Such a politician. I’m just thinking of you and your interests. So, what course of action does he think will profit them all? Notice what he says, “that one man, [that is Jesus] die for the people, and the whole nation not perish.”

Here under the cloak of patriotism Caiaphas tries to get rid of the chief danger to his own position and his own prestige. If one innocent man has to die to save the entire nation from destruction, so be it. But it’s interesting because Caiaphas speaks, he uses sacrificial language of the Old Testament. He doesn’t exactly say it like this, but the basic idea of what he says is, look Jesus needs to be sacrificed as the scapegoat like on the Day of Atonement to save the nation.

Now there are a couple of huge implications in what Caiaphas says that are absolutely essential to our faith. The first is that Jesus was completely innocent of any crime worthy of death. When Jesus dies in a few weeks from this secret meeting, it will not be from any crime of His own. That isn’t the point here. And His death will simply be a political expediency for the benefit of Israel’s leaders. And here we uncover the first reason Jesus had to die. From the evil human perspective of the Sanhedrin, it was to save the nation from the Romans. And ultimately, it was to save themselves in their positions. But it was to save the nation from the Romans.

You know the great irony here is that in the very act of murdering Jesus they would bring the utter devastation of the land of Israel in 70 AD. It was because of that sin that not one stone of Herod’s temple would be left on another Jesus said. So the first reason Jesus had to die was political. It was the personal expediency on the part of Israel’s leaders. They killed an innocent man. It was nothing less than first degree murder.

That brings us to the third act in this drama. A Predetermined Plan, a predetermined plan, verse 51, “ Now he did not say this on his own initiative, but being high priest that year, he prophesied …” John doesn’t mean that Caiaphas spoke against his will, that he was just sort of a robot. No Caiaphas said exactly what came out of his wicked heart. But in an amazing display of God’s sovereign power, God causes Caiaphas to express his wicked thoughts and his wicked scheme in such a way that at the same time it meant something else. He was in the position of the High Priest even though he was undeserving of it. So at the same time Caiaphas spews out his wicked scheme to murder Jesus, God directs him to use words that have an altogether different meaning. Verse 51,

“… he prophesied that Jesus was going, [literally] was about to die for the nation, and not for the nation only, but in order that He might also [bring together or] gather together into one the children of God who are scattered abroad.

John says there are several parts of that prophecy. First, and most obviously, Jesus was going to die, and He was going to die for the nation. Caiaphas meant He was going to die to save the nation politically. God meant He was going to die to save the nation spiritually. But Jesus would also die for others beyond Israel. Notice what it says, “… not for the nation only, not for the Jews only, but in order that He might also gather together into one the children of God who are scattered abroad.”

Jesus would die for others who were not part of the Jewish nation, but who could properly be called God’s people. They would not be Jewish, and they would be scattered all over the world. In other words we are talking about Gentiles. And Jesus would gather these people into one new entity. He would gather them into one. And Jesus’ death would accomplish all of this to fulfill a great eternal plan.

Notice, God planned all of this. Before Caiaphas’ prophecy, before Jesus’ death, even before Jesus’ died, before the people, here called the children of God, had actually been saved, before they had been gathered together into one, (none of those things have happened here yet) they are still called the children of God. Not because they are His children, they’re still His enemies until they come to faith) but because God knows who they are because He chose them in eternity past, and He will redeem them. They are in the mind of God already His own.

John, by the way, makes a big point throughout His gospel. Look back in John 6, John 6:37, Jesus said, All that the Father gives Me … [those are ones who will come to Me], and the one[s] who comes to Me I will certainly not cast out. Verse 44, No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him; and I will raise him up on the last day.” Verse 65 of that same chapter … “For this reason I have said to you, that no one can come to Me unless it has been granted him from … [My] Father.” There was this eternal plan. God knew, and He sent Jesus on a mission. In chapter 10:16, Jesus says I’m going to gather into one flock people that aren’t from this flock, that is from Israel, but are from other places. In chapter 17, that high priestly prayer Jesus prays before His crucifixion, and He says, “Father, I am praying for all of those whom You have given Me who will believe through the apostles’ ministry.”

Understand, that what Caiaphas’ was unwittingly prophesying, was that Jesus in His death would pay the penalty for those whom God had chosen. This was a great eternal plan, and He would die for them, notice as a substitute. Caiaphas uses sacrificial language. Jesus is going to be the scapegoat to save the nation, But God meant it in same way He would be the sacrifice for sin.

Listen to Leon Morris, “Either the nation dies, or Jesus dies. If Jesus dies, the nation lives. It is His life instead of theirs.” That is the language of substitution. That is the language of sacrifice. The innocent one dying in the place of the guilty.

That’s what John said earlier in his book you remember when he gives us the words of John the Baptist when John the Baptist had baptized Jesus, and he sees Him later that week, and he points to Him and he says, “Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.” What an amazing prophecy from such a wicked man.

Here’s the second great reason for the death of Christ. Jesus has to die, first of all, because of the politically expedient decision of Israel’s leaders, and secondly, from God’s perspective, He had to die so that He could save those whom God had chosen to be His children, His people.

There’s a fourth act in the record, in John 11, It’s an Illegal Decision.

Verse 53, “So from that day on they planned together to kill Him.” The Greek word for “planned together” is “resolved”. This was a resolution. Here is a formal decision on the part of the Jewish Sanhedrin meeting in an official session. They had come to a conclusion. Jesus had to die. Caiaphas was right. It an innocent man had to die to save the nation, so be it. It was worth the price. It was politically expedient for one innocent man to die to preserve their position, and the relative autonomy of the nation under the Romans.

The final act in this drama is a Shocking Response, a shocking response, verse 54. “Therefore Jesus no longer continued to walk publicly among the Jews, but [He] went away from there to the country near the wilderness, into a city called Ephraim; and there He stayed with the disciples.” The word “therefore” that begins verse 54 clearly implies Jesus knew what had happened in that secret meeting of the Sanhedrin. He knew it either by divine omniscience or by the fact that it was reported to Him. But either way He knew.

And so after that meeting, after He knows about that meeting, after the raising of Lazarus Jesus went to Ephraim, a town about 13 miles north of Jerusalem, a little quiet wilderness town where Jesus waited with His disciples for several weeks. It’s interesting, Jesus knew of their plot, He knew of their plot. They wanted to kill Him, and yet He withdrew and waited.

D.A. Carson’s right, “there is a theological statement in that.” No human court could force Jesus to the cross. It would be because He and the Father had decided, and it would be when they had decided. So, they wait. Sometime right after the raising of Lazarus, six to eight weeks before the Passover Jesus goes to this little wilderness town, and there He waits with His disciples. In the meantime, the leaders had demanded that anybody who knew where Jesus was turn Him over. Look at verse 57, “Now the chief priests and the Pharisees had given orders that if anyone knew where He was, he was to report it, so that they might seize Him.”

Obviously, they had come up with a little more detailed plan. Their plan was to arrest Jesus and give His death the appearance of due process of law, but the sentence had already been decided. The outcome was already sure. And in light of this order to turn Jesus over, people wonder. Is Jesus going to come to the Feast of the Passover? Look at verse 55.

Now the Passover of the Jews was near, and many went up to Jerusalem out of the country [about a week] before the Passover to purify themselves. [to get themselves ready to take of the Passover] So they were seeking for Jesus, and [they] were saying to one another as they stood in the temple, [you can just picture these little groups of pilgrims standing around talking and they are saying to one another [will He come?] “What do you think; that He will not come to the feast at all?”

Surely, He’s not going to come. I mean we all know that the authorities have given orders that anybody who knows where He is, is to turn Him in. He’s going to be arrested. He’s not coming. But in all of that Jesus does something shocking. When it comes time for the Passover, although He was close to Jerusalem, just about 13 miles north of the city. He heads north with His disciples, further north. And He goes up just south of the Sea of Galilee. He joins a group of Galilean pilgrims coming down to the feast, and He comes down the Jordan valley with this huge group of people. And while He comes down with them, He’s teaching. He’s clearly visible, very public. He’s denouncing the leaders of the nation. He’s performing miracles. And on the way down that Jordan Rift, on the way to Jerusalem He makes a remarkable statement. Look at Luke’s gospel. Chapter 18, 18:31. On the way down to Jerusalem for the Passover, when nobody thought He would come, He says this in Luke 18:31,

Then He took the twelve aside and said to them, “Behold, we are going up to Jerusalem, and all [of the] things which are written through the prophets about the Son of Man will be accomplished. For He will be handed over to the Gentiles, and will be mocked and mistreated and spit upon, and after they have scourged Him, they will kill Him; and the third day He will rise again.” But the disciples understood none of these things, and the meaning of this statement was hidden from them [by God in other words, but], … they did not comprehend the things that were said.

God didn’t want them to fully comprehend what was going to happen, but He wanted Jesus to have prophesied it beforehand for them to remember it afterwards so that it was clear that this was all part of the plan. He knew. This is what I want you to see. Jesus knew about the secret meeting. He knew what they had decided, and He knew exactly what was waiting for Him in Jerusalem. But He still went. Why? It was His love for His own. Remember what He said, “The Son of Man did not come to be served but to serve and to give His life a ransom for many.” This is why He came.

This week as we remember the death of Christ, it is so important that we reflect on the two reasons Jesus had to die. Because of the devious murderous scheme of the leaders of first century Judaism the death of Jesus Christ was premeditated first degree murder. And in one of the greatest ironies of all time that decision they made confirms the truth of Jesus and His claims; His innocence and the real reason for his death which was to save sinners. It was for that that Jesus voluntarily, intentionally offered Himself to death.

Let me just make this very personal with each one of us here this morning. Jesus knew every detail of the suffering He would endure. Did you see it in Luke’s gospel? He knew He would be mocked and spit upon, turned over by the Jewish authorities to the Gentiles. He would be scourged. He would be crucified. He knew everything that was waiting for Him. He knew the torture of the physical pain that lay ahead of Him. And not one moment of those long hours on the cross separated from the Father, enduring wrath for our sins. Not one of those moments escaped Jesus’s notice. And yet He set His face toward Jerusalem. If you have trusted in Jesus Christ as your Lord, or if you are here this morning and you are willing to do that, then understand Jesus went up to Jerusalem for the Passover because He loved you. He had you in His mind. He went to the Passover so that He could become your Passover Lamb.

I love the way Paul puts it in 1 Corinthians 5:7, … “So Christ our Passover [lamb] has been sacrificed.” Why did John under the inspiration of the Spirit of God record this? Why did he record the secret meeting for us? Well, he tells us. Turn over to the end of John’s gospel. John 20. Eight days after the resurrection the disciples are gathered, and Thomas is with them. He had not been with them on the Sunday of the resurrection. But eight days later he is with them. And Jesus shows Himself to him in John 20:27, and he touches Him, and he sees Him, and

Thomas answered, verse 28, and said to Him, “My Lord and my God!” [You are my Master, You are God!” And] Jesus said to him, “Because you have seen Me, have you believed? Blessed are they who did not see, and yet believed.”

He’s talking also about all those who would read this letter the gospel that John was writing. He’s talking about us. And then he says this, verse 30

Therefore many other signs Jesus also performed in the presence of [His] … disciples, which are not written in this book; [there are a whole lot of things he could have said about Jesus that aren’t here] but these have been written [this is why I’ve written; this is why I told you about that secret meeting; this is why everything is here] so that you may believe that Jesus is the [Messiah the promised One] …, the Son of God; and that believing you may have life in His name.

Listen, the reason this account was there is so that you and I would see the reality of who Jesus was and why He had to die and we would do as Thomas did, we would say to Jesus, “My Lord and My God!”

So, let’s pray together.

Father, thank you for this wonderful account. Thank you that You inspired John to record it for us, so we have an apologetic for why Jesus had to die. From the human side it was a simple matter of political expediency to save their position, their prestige, their wealth, their leadership. And yet Father, from Your perspective as Peter reminded the people on the day of Pentacost how they may at the hands of wicked and godless hands maimed the Prince of Life yet it was according to your predetermined plan because You wanted to spiritually rescue those who would come to Jesus and acknowledge Him as Lord and God as Thomas did.

Father, I pray for those of us who have. May we love Him more deeply because He knowing everything that He would face went freely and gladly to suffer all of that with each one of us who would believe in Him in mind.

And Father, I pray for the person here this morning, who, like the religious leaders of Israel, have found a lot of excuses as to why not to bow their own knee to Jesus; personal agendas, things they want to do their own way. Father, may this be the day when they are willing to acknowledge as Thomas did, Jesus to be their Lord and their God, and find in Him eternal life. The one who restored Lazarus to physical life, who will someday restore all of those who believe in Him to a resurrected body, and who will never really die because we believe in the only One who’s defeated death.

Father, may You do Your work in hearts even here this morning.

We pray in Jesus’ name. Amen.