John 11:45-57 – Clash of the Kingdoms

Throughout John 11, Jesus has challenged both the Jews and us on what Love, Death, Grief and Resurrection look like in the Kingdom of God.
• And as we will see, because His challenges are at odds with the status quo, they demand to be reckoned with.
• In our text today, three areas of contention are brought to bear as the Jews reckon with the Kingdom of God.
    o The first is Reason’s relationship to Belief
    o The second is Jesus’ Identity
    o The third is who is in Control


John 11:45–46 (ESV) — 45 Many of the Jews therefore, who had come with Mary and had seen what he did, believed in him, 46 but some of them went to the Pharisees and told them what Jesus had done.

This text is remarkable in what it implies.
• Some of those who were mourning with Mary and Martha over the death of Lazarus actually “believed in him” because of Lazarus.
• And remember, in John, to believe in Jesus means, among other things, that Jesus is of the Father and works under his authority.
• Remarkably, however, some actually did not believe in Him!
• They were confronted with the most awesome of supernatural miracles and still did not believe.
    o Surely they believed Lazarus was now alive.
    o Surely they believed Jesus had something to do with it.
    o However, their conclusion was Jesus was a potential problem not a Messiah.
    o I think the Gospel of John teaches clearly that those that aren’t called, drawn, and given by the Father to Christ, simply didn’t have eyes to see.
    o They interpreted the evidence as their hearts saw fit.
This begs the question, was the raising of Lazarus really the source of belief for those that believed?
    o Or was it something else?
    o The miracle was perhaps just a means to call the called.
• Jesus Himself has addressed the presence of unbelief by those who witness His power and authority.
    o How does He account for it?

Just last week Lewis Wolpert, an atheist biologist at University College London, made the following comments in an episode of Unbelievable? Radio:
• He says God is a “mystical person for which there is zero evidence”.
• And wants to know if God is real why He doesn’t perform a miracle.
• In fact, God certainly hasn’t performed a miracle in the last 2000 years, Wolpert claims.
• He says, “If God is so jolly clever, why doesn’t he give us a more recent example [of a miracle], like tomorrow?”
• This is because, “a miracle would be very helpful in explaining the existence of God”.

What is Wolpert saying?
Now, does the unbelief that persisted before the very presence of the incarnate Word of God’s raising Lazarus from the dead shed light on the premise of Mr. Wolpert?
• In other words, does belief in God necessarily follow from witnessing a miracle?

Contrasted with Wolpert, G.K. Chesterton has the following to say about miracles:
• "I had always vaguely felt facts to be miracles in the sense that they are wonderful: now I began to think them miracles in the stricter sense that they were willful."
• Hebrews 1:3 (ESV) — 3a He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power.
• Colossians 1:17 (ESV) — 17 And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together.
• Psalm 75:3 (ESV) — 3 When the earth totters, and all its inhabitants, it is I who keep steady its pillars. Selah

From the perspective and teaching of John’s Gospel, what is the difference between Lewis Wolpert who sees God in nothing and Chesterton who sees a miracle of God in the fact that there are facts that we can know?


Within the kingdom that Jesus is inaugurating, the Jews inevitably had to answer two questions.
• We will deal with each separately.

John 11:47–48 (ESV) — 47 So the chief priests and the Pharisees gathered the council and said, “What are we to do? For this man performs many signs. 48 If we let him go on like this, everyone will believe in him, and the Romans will come and take away both our place and our nation.”

Who Is Jesus – Messiah or Threat?
• The unbelievers told the Pharisees, and then the Pharisees convened the Sanhedrin.
• Rightly, the Pharisees and the Sanhedrin were greatly concerned with the implications Jesus’ work would have on them.
• Unfortunately, however, their concern was misplaced.
• They were preoccupied with the political implications instead of the spiritual implications of Jesus’ work.
• And worse still, notice that they specifically were concerned that the Romans would take away, “our place” and “our nation”.
• Their fear was a self-serving; “this Jesus is going to screw up our cozy arrangements with the Romans”.

Why did they have this fear?
• There are at least two reasons.

Pax Romana:
• Rome allowed the Jews to remain semi-autonomous.
• They could worship their God.
• They could maintain their temple, etc.
• However, in threat of an uprising by the Jews the Romans would crack down.
• Peace would be maintained but at the loss of liberty.

Jesus’ own words and actions:
• With His words and actions, Jesus was drawing large crowds, many of which were seeking to label Him the Messiah and overthrow Rome.
• These same words and actions were also seen as an affront to God and Judaism.
• And because of this, certain events began to draw the ire of the Jewish establishment.
    o Healing on the Sabbath – John 5:15-17
    o Claiming Equality with God – John 5:18
    o His Self Proclamation – John 7:28-30
    o His “I Am” Statement – John 8:58-59

So, having decided Jesus was a threat to their status quo, a solution had to be found.
• This leads us to our second question.


John 11:49–54 (ESV) — 49 But one of them, Caiaphas, who was high priest that year, said to them, “You know nothing at all. 50 Nor do you understand that it is better for you that one man should die for the people, not that the whole nation should perish.” 51 He did not say this of his own accord, but being high priest that year he prophesied that Jesus would die for the nation, 52 and not for the nation only, but also to gather into one the children of God who are scattered abroad. 53 So from that day on they made plans to put him to death. 54 Jesus therefore no longer walked openly among the Jews, but went from there to the region near the wilderness, to a town called Ephraim, and there he stayed with the disciples.

Who is in control – God or man?
• Here we have a powerful, in your face example of the sovereignty of God.
• Caiaphas, in agreement with the “our place” and “our nation” talk, knew exactly what they had to do to solve their problem.
• Kill Jesus so that everyone else would not go down in flames at the hands of a Roman crackdown.
• We know this because John tells us that after Caiaphas’ words, they, “made plans to put him to death” (vs. 53).
• Beasley-Murray tells us that the language of vs. 53 is so definitive it means that there is no adjudication to take place because the verdict has already been rendered.
    o Jesus has already been found guilty.
    o “All that remains is to find a way to accomplish their purpose.”
• The logic was that if they killed Jesus, they could prevent a messianic frenzy and thus the loss of the “whole nation”.
    o Ironically, Jesus himself feared such an upheaval (John 6:14-15).
    o Moreover, the Kingdom of God and its new covenant could not be thwarted.
    o 70 A.D. would bring an end to Jewish temple life and their cozy arrangements.

But John makes a startling admission about Caiaphas’ words.
• He says, “He did not say this of his own accord” (vs. 51).
• In fact, Caiaphas’ words were a prophecy that “Jesus would die for the nation” (vs. 51).
• And that Jesus would even die for the “scattered abroad” (v. 52).
    o These are the Gentiles in anticipation of the Gentile mission.

So we half to ask, did Caiaphas speak these words because he wanted to say them or because God wanted him to say them?
• Scholars are certain that Caiaphas’ “certainly did not mean [his words] in a Christian sense” – D. A. Carson.
• But as we just pointed out, John says Caiaphas did not speak “of his own accord”, “on his own”, or “own his own initiative”.

So if both Caiaphas and God are speaking, the answer to our question has to be, paradoxically, “yes”.
• D.A. Carson puts it like this, “Caiaphas spoke his considered if calloused opinion. But when Caiaphas spoke, God was also speaking, even if they were not saying the same things” – D.A. Carson.
• In other words, Caiaphas meant what he intended and at the same time God spoke through Caiaphas His intended meaning.
• Joseph puts it like this:
    o Genesis 50:20 (ESV) — 20 As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today.

So, in the Clash of the Kingdoms who is in control?
Can the answer be both?
• This is one of the most profound mysteries of the Bible, the relationship between God’s sovereignty and man’s actions.
• As we see in our text, and in those that come, Jesus Christ is ground zero for this mystery.

Jesus was killed due to the sinful actions of man.
• Yet, God the Father had chosen to kill Him from the beginning.
    o It was God’s will and desire that Jesus should die.
Did the Father illicit the sinful actions of the Jews and Romans to kill Jesus?
    o Placing before the people the exact circumstances in which He knew they would choose to kill Jesus in the way He desired.
Or was He simply a skillful chess player that saw their move and made his move?
    o If so, how many steps ahead of man’s actions does God stay?
How much control, exactly, does God have?
How does man’s freewill exist within God’s sovereignty?
    o John’s Gospel has already made clear this relationship with respect to salvation.
    o But what of the rest of our actions?
    o We will save this for another day.


John 11:28-44 – Messiah in the Kingdom of God

Thus far in John 11, we have seen how the Kingdom of God that Jesus was inaugurating revolutionized love, death, grief and resurrection.
• And the events leading up to Lazarus’ resurrection makes this monumentally clear.
• However, there is one thing that is foundational to the working out of the Kingdom of God that John 11 also plays out for us.
• It was first alluded to with Jesus’ words in 11:4.
    o John 11:4 (ESV) — 4 But when Jesus heard it he said, “This illness does not lead to death. It is for the glory of God, so that the Son of God may be glorified through it.”

Here we see that the glory of God the Father is foundational to understanding John 11.
• But more than that, this verse also suggests a distinction, yet a relationship between, Jesus’ glory and God the Father’s glory.
• And the one aspect of this relationship that I want to deal with today is the glorification of God the Father by Jesus the Son through Jesus’ humanity, His authority and His divinity.

We will start with how John 11 brings Jesus’ humanity into view and how it glorifies God the Father.
• As we go, we will occasionally allude back to our 4 previous lessons from John 11.


John 11:28–39 (ESV) — 28 When she had said this, she went and called her sister Mary, saying in private, “The Teacher is here and is calling for you.” 29 And when she heard it, she rose quickly and went to him. 30 Now Jesus had not yet come into the village, but was still in the place where Martha had met him. 31 When the Jews who were with her in the house, consoling her, saw Mary rise quickly and go out, they followed her, supposing that she was going to the tomb to weep there [related to our grief lesson]. 32 Now when Mary came to where Jesus was and saw him, she fell at his feet, saying to him, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.” 33 When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who had come with her also weeping, he was deeply moved in his spirit and greatly troubled. 34 And he said, “Where have you laid him?” They said to him, “Lord, come and see.” 35 Jesus wept. 36 So the Jews said, “See how he loved him!” 37 But some of them said, “Could not he who opened the eyes of the blind man also have kept this man from dying?” 38 Then Jesus, deeply moved again, came to the tomb. It was a cave, and a stone lay against it. 39 Jesus said, “Take away the stone.” Martha, the sister of the dead man, said to him, “Lord, by this time there will be an odor, for he has been dead four days.”

First, let’s look at how our text puts Jesus’ humanity in view.
• 1) “Where have you laid him?” (vs. 34)
• 2) "Jesus wept." (vs. 35)
• 3) “Take away the stone.” (vs. 39)

I don’t know if John intends us to notice this or not, but I find these three comments striking.
• We have already seen that Jesus supernaturally knew that “Lazarus has died” from vs. 14.
• And then in vs. 25, He makes the astounding claim that “I am the resurrection and the life”.
• But now, it almost appears that His divinity, certainly at the request of the Father, has been “restrained”.

Why does this appear to be the case?
• (1) Jesus asked where Lazarus was, certainly He had it in is power to know exactly where Lazarus was.
    o As we just saw, He knew that Lazarus had died.
• (2) Jesus wept even though He would shortly raise Lazarus from the dead.
    o This seems contrived.
• (3) Finally, already in John, Jesus has performed miracles involving physical, inanimate objects – wine, loaves, etc.
    o But here He asks others to “take away the stone” (vs. 39).
    o Wouldn’t it have been all the more magnificent had He moved the stone away by Himself?

Could there be a reason that Jesus’ humanity is in view?
• In general terms, Paul seems to think so.
• Philippians 2:6–7 (ESV) — 6 who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, 7 but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men.

I think John is showing us that because Jesus was “born in the likeness of men,” He, in His humanity, was totally dependent on the Father to accomplish His mission.
• He had “emptied himself” for our sake.
• Of this emptying, “Perhaps we could say that he had such knowledge as was necessary for him to accomplish his mission; in other matters he was as ignorant as we are” – Millard Erickson.
• And, “the fact that Jesus found it necessary to pray and depend upon the Father is indication that we must be similarly reliant upon him” – Millard Erickson.
• And Jesus’ “emptying”, His reliance on the Father in His humanity, “is for the glory of God” (vs. 4).

On a theological note, Millard Erickson gives 6 reasons why Jesus being fully human is significant:
• (1) “The atoning death of Jesus can truly avail for us.”
    o “He was one of us, and thus could truly offer a sacrifice on our behalf.”
    o “everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die” (vs. 26)
• (2) “Jesus can truly sympathize with and intercede for us.”
    o “When we are hungry, weary, lonely, [and grieving] he fully understands, for he has gone through it all himself (Heb. 4:15).”
    o “Jesus wept” (vs. 35)
    o “a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief” (Isa. 53:3)
• (3) “Jesus manifests the true nature of humanity.”
    o “Jesus has not only told us what perfect humanity is, he has exhibited it.”
    o “though he die, yet shall he live” (vs. 25)
• (4) “Jesus can be our example.”
    o He shows us what “full dependence upon the grace of God” entails and the power it has.
    o “If anyone walks in the day, he does not stumble” (vs. 9)
• (5) “Human nature is good.”
    o “When we tend toward asceticism, regarding human nature, and particularly physical nature, as somehow inherently evil or at least inferior to the spiritual and immaterial, the fact that Jesus took upon himself our full human nature is a reminder that to be human is not evil, it is good.”
    o “deeply moved” and “greatly troubled” (vs. 33)
• (6) “God is not totally transcendent.”
    o Deism is not an option.
    o God is with us.
    o “she went and met him” (vs. 20)

So we have seen why John may have wanted us to notice Jesus’ humanity in John 11.
• Now, let us move on to Jesus’ authority.


John 11:40–42 (ESV) — 40 Jesus said to her, “Did I not tell you that if you believed you would see the glory of God?” 41 So they took away the stone. And Jesus lifted up his eyes and said, “Father, I thank you that you have heard me. 42 I knew that you always hear me, but I said this on account of the people standing around, that they may believe that you sent me.

Our text certainly puts Jesus’ authority in view.
• 1) “Father, I thank you that you have heard me…that they may believe that you sent me.”
• With these words Jesus is acknowledging publicly before the crowd that what He is about to do is under the authority and power of God the Father.

Could there be a reason that John brought Jesus’ authority into view?
• Elijah expresses precisely the reason that John, and thus Jesus, would do so.
• In fact, the sentiment expressed by Jesus here, many believe, purposely echoes the words of Elijah in 1 Kings.
• 1 Kings 18:37 (ESV) — 37 Answer me, O LORD, answer me, that this people may know that you, O LORD, are God, and that you have turned their hearts back.”
    o “Many…believed in Him” (vs. 45)

What this means is that the ensuing miraculous event was not the primary focus in Jesus’ mind.
• But rather, that we would recognize in Christ the power and authority of the Father working through Him and believe in Him.
• That the Father was the source of Jesus’ glory and authority was so primary in His mind that John tells us Jesus “said this on account of the people standing around” (vs. 42).
• And in the “rightness” of this relationship, Jesus could be certain that those who believe in Him “would see the glory of God” (vs. 40) in His actions and words.
• Kostenberger puts it like this, “Jesus’ focus is not on the ensuing miracle but on the revelation of God’s glory (and thus his own messianic calling) in and through it”.

This is the Father’s Jesus that we have talked so much about.
• John 5:19-21 (ESV) — 19 So Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of his own accord, but only what he sees the Father doing. For whatever the Father does, that the Son does likewise. 20 For the Father loves the Son and shows him all that he himself is doing. And greater works than these will he show him, so that you may marvel. 21 For as the Father raises the dead and gives them life, so also the Son gives life to whom he will.

All that Jesus said and did was at the direction of and under the authority of God the Father – including giving life.
• And this ensured that whether Jesus’ submission was as “Son of God” to Father or “the last Adam” (1 Cor. 15:45) to Father, it was the Father who was glorified.
• So Jesus’ reliance on the Father for His authority “is for the glory of God” (vs. 4).

So, now we have seen how Jesus used both His humanity and His authority “for the glory of God” (vs. 4).
• We now need to see how John 11 reveals Jesus’ divinity.


John 11:43-44 (ESV) — 43 When he had said these things, he cried out with a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out.” 44 The man who had died came out, his hands and feet bound with linen strips, and his face wrapped with a cloth. Jesus said to them, “Unbind him, and let him go.

Obviously, our 2 verses have Jesus’ divinity in view.
• 1) “Lazarus, come out” (vs. 43)
• 2) “Unbind him, and let him go.” (vs. 44)

Like with Jesus’ humanity and His authority, could there be a reason for John to bring Jesus’ divinity into view?
• Jesus had just told Martha that “I am the resurrection and the life” (vs. 25).
• And now having made sure all knew the authority under which He was operating, the Word of God spoke and even the dead obeyed Him.
• Lazarus, who had been dead for 4 days, and whose body had already begun to decay, walked out of the tomb.
• And at the command and authority of Jesus, was unbound and let go – clearly this was both in a literal and spiritual sense.
• For these reasons, we can see that Jesus’ display of His divinity to raise Lazarus from death “is for the glory of God” (vs. 4).
    o As we have said, people believed as a result.

Additionally, on a theological note, Millard Erickson gives 4 reasons why Jesus being fully divine is significant:
• (1) “We can have real knowledge of God.”
    o Jesus said, “Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father” (John 14:9).
    o To, “know what the love of God, the holiness of God, the power of God are like, we need only look at Christ.”
    o “you would see the glory of God” (vs. 40)
• (2) “Redemption is available to us.”
    o “The death of Christ is sufficient for all sinners who have ever lived, for it was not merely a finite human, but an infinite God who died.”
    o “He, the Life, the Giver and Sustainer of life, who did not have to die, died.”
    o “I am the resurrection and the life” (vs. 25)
• (3) “God and humanity have been reunited.”
    o “It was not an angel or a human who came from God to the human race, but God himself crossed the chasm created by sin.”
    o “Where have you laid him?” (vs. 34) and “Lazarus, come out” (vs. 43)
• (4) “Worship of Christ is appropriate.”
    o “He is as deserving of our praise, adoration, and obedience as is the Father.”
    o “you are the Christ, the Son of God” (vs. 27)
    o “she fell at his feet” (vs. 32)

Finally, it seems to me that John was purposely bringing our attention to one of the most profound paradoxes in Scripture.
• Paul put it like this; Colossians 2:9 (ESV) — 9 For in him the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily,
• John had shown us that Jesus was fully human, and fully divine.
• This paradox, one that skeptics call a contradiction that cannot be reconciled, was one that John did not shy away from highlighting.
• And even though this human/divine nature of Christ is, “one of the most difficult of all theological problems, ranking with the Trinity and the relationship of human free will and divine sovereignty” – Millard Erikson.
• It is to be celebrated and embraced and not ignored.
• And as with the resurrection, the nature of the Messiah in the Kingdom of God was unlike anything the Jews had expected.
• Yet this paradox and how it played out in John 11 was also “for the glory of God” (vs. 4).

So John has shown us that Jesus glorified God in John 11 in the context of His humanity, His authority, and His divinity and in the mystery of the union between humanity and divinity.
How are we to emulate that?

Lessons for Us:
• We are capable of glorifying God in our humanity.
    o As we live dependent on God.
• We are capable of glorifying God by subjugating ourselves to His authority.
    o As we serve God.
• We can glorify God by pointing others to His divinity.
    o As we evangelize for and worship God.