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The New Testament Commentary Vol Iii John by B.W. Johnson

The Sanhedrim in Session.

45. Many of the Jews who came to Mary. Verse 19 speaks of many Jews of Jerusalem who came to the house of Martha and Mary. Verse 31 speaks of them remaining in the house with Mary and following her when she went forth; now, therefore, they are named in connection with her. Believed on him. They had seen what had been done and were compelled to believe that Jesus was a man of God. (Joh 11:46)

46. But some . . went to the Pharisees. They, as was usual, divided into two classes. Others, though unable to explain the miracle, were hostile and went at once to the Pharisees with a report. As this sect was now in declared enmity to Christ, this report was no doubt an unfriendly act. (Joh 11:47)

47. The chief priests therefore and the Pharisees gathered a council. The chief priests, including Caiaphas, the acting high priest, and Annas, who had been high priest, as well as other great hierarchs, were Sadducees and the leaders of that party. The old feuds between them and the Pharisees were now forgotten and the two great sects unite in a call for a meeting of the Sanhedrim. This session is a notable event. It is the first case recorded in the Gospels where we meet with a formal account of the meeting of this great body. This meeting settles on the plans that are henceforth pushed with vigor and which lead a few weeks later to the arrest, trial and condemnation of Christ. For an account of the Sanhedrim see notes on chapter 1:19. What do we? They do not ask what they shall do, but reproach themselves that they are doing nothing. |This man,| a designation intended to show contempt, is doing many miracles and yet we are idle, doing nothing to counteract their influence. This body admitted the miracles and was without excuse. As at least two of the members were afterwards Christians, Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus, it would be easy to learn what passed on this note-worthy occasion. (Joh 11:48)

48. If we let him thus alone, all men will believe. They take it for granted that his miracles were calculated to produce belief. They also held that the people would regard him the Messiah and would rise in insurrection, or raise tumults that would induce the Romans to interfere. The Romans . . . will take away our place and nation. The Romans were already there, for Judea was a Roman province, there was a Roman governor, and also a Roman garrison was stationed in the tower of Antonia overlooking the temple itself. But they had their place still, were priests with great revenues, or members of the Sanhedrim with great power. If there were seditions they might lose |their place,| as they did a generation later. To take away |their place| would be to destroy the ecclesiastical organization, while to destroy the civil organization would be to take away |the nation| in the sense they used the term. (Joh 11:49)

49. Caiaphas, being high priest that year. John does not mean that the high priesthood was an annual office, but places the emphasis on |that year.| With him the |year of our Lord| was the year of his death. In that ever memorable year Caiaphas was high priest. Caiaphas was a Sadducee, a crafty, powerful, unscrupulous man, who was high priest in all for eighteen years, from a.d.18 to a.d.36, an unusual tenure of office in those times when the Romans made and unmade high priests at will, there being twenty-five in the century preceding the fall of Jerusalem. Ye know nothing at all. |Ye| is the emphatic word. |Ye who dwell on these scruples and fears do not even know the simplest rule of statesmanship, that one must be sacrificed to the many.| The proud Sadducee contrasts the timid, hesitating policy of others with his fixed, clear policy of putting Jesus to death. His language is bitterly sarcastic and he charges the Sanhedrim with blindness to its own interest. (Joh 11:50)

50. Nor consider that it is expedient for us. What was |expedient for us| was the main thing to consider. This required |one man to die for the people (laos, Jewish race in its relation to God), that the whole nation (ethnos, the nation as a civil organization) perish not.| The word |nation| is applied many times to the Jews, in the singular, but never in the plural. It is then translated |Gentiles.| (Joh 11:51)

51. This he spake not of himself. He thought he spoke it of himself, but unwittingly he uttered a prophecy. The high priest represented the divine headship of the Jewish nation and through him, of old, an inspired decision was given on questions of doubt. So Caiaphas by virtue of his office utters a prophecy, and like Balaam, while wickedly counseling the death of Christ, interprets the results of his death truly. (Joh 11:52)

52. Should gather in one the children of God. Christ died for his enemies, for the Jewish nation, and not for it alone, but his death broke down the barrier between Jew and Gentile and made friends of the hostile clans and nations of the earth. Jew, Gentile, Indian, African and Anglo-Saxon; -- all who are gathered into him, are brethren and are drawn to each other by the ties of universal brotherhood. What Rome could not do with the sword was accomplished by the cross when Christ was nailed there, and there was cemented in his blood the foundations of a universal empire in which there would be neither Jew nor Greek, bond nor free, male nor female, but all one in the Lord. (Joh 11:53)

53. From that day they took counsel. From the time of this meeting they were brought over to the policy of Caiaphas and steadfast in carrying out their plans for the death of Christ. Here is the official culmination of Jewish hatred, and what had been a decree before (5:18) now becomes a settled plan. John points out the development and successive steps of this enmity and the reader can trace them by consulting 5:16-18; 7:32, 45; 8:59; 9:22; 10:39; 11:47. (Joh 11:54)

54. Jesus therefore walked no more openly among the Jews. The Savior once more retired from Jerusalem to avoid the blow that was ready to be struck and retired for a short time into a city called Ephraim. Its location is not surely known, but it is supposed to be an Ophrah named in Joshua 18:23, called Ephraim in 2 Chron.13:19, and now a village called et Taiyibeh. It is about sixteen miles northeast of Jerusalem on the borders of a wild wilderness region. To this place the Lord must have retired immediately after the resurrection of Lazarus, and here he remained until six days before the passover. His |disciples,| meaning more especially the apostles, were with him in this retirement, and he was, no doubt, actively engaged in training them for their great work. This was his last retirement from Jerusalem and he went from Ephraim to attend his last passover and to die. (Joh 11:55)

55. The Jews' passover was near at hand. It could not have been more than a few weeks away when he went to Ephraim. Many went out of the country. They gathered to the great national festivals, not only from all parts of Judea and Galilee, but from the foreign countries where Jews were scattered abroad. To purify themselves. They came in advance of the time of the passover that they might have time to purify themselves from ceremonial uncleanness before the feast. Though no special rites of purification were enjoined before the passover, yet the people were expected to purify themselves before any important event (Exodus 19:10, 11), and were accustomed to go through certain special rites of purification before the passover (2 Chron.30:13-20). (Joh 11:56)

56. Then sought they for Jesus. There was a restless curiosity among these country people to know more of the wonderful Teacher of whom they had heard so much. As they gathered in groups in the temple they discussed the probability of his coming, and that the more eagerly as they knew that, (Joh 11:57)

57. The chief priests and the Pharisees had given a commandment. The Sanhedrim had published an edict commanding any man who knew of his whereabouts to reveal it in order that they might take him. Godet is of the opinion that this order was given to intimidate Christ and his disciples so as to prevent their coming to the passover. They certainly could have traced him to Ephraim and when he did appear they had to lay their plans very carefully and nearly a week passed before they dared to arrest him. Lightfoot reports a Jewish tradition that, during forty days preceding the passover, an officer of the Sanhedrim |publicly proclaimed that this man, who by his imposture had seduced the people, ought to be stoned, and that any one who could say aught in his defence was to come forward and speak. But no one doing so he was hanged on the evening before the passover.| It maybe that John refers to some such proclamation.

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