The Gospel of John is full of reasons to accept Jesus Christ. John’s expressed purpose is for readers to believe in Jesus as the Son of God and to experience renewed spiritual life (John 20:30-31). John is also open and honest about those who chose to reject Jesus.
John 11:47-53, John describes the meeting that solidified the Jews’ official rejection of Jesus. This is the only Gospel that provides the rationale behind their decision. When we look at it deeper today, we can find a connection with some of the reasons why people reject faith in Jesus today.
Step 1: Respond from an attitude of fear. The Pharisees were one of two political groups in ancient Judah. Even though they were frequently at odds with the Sadducees, they were unified in their fear of Jesus. He was growing in popularity and their positions of power and influence were at stake.
Fear is a frequent starting point for those who resist the gospel. Sometimes they are afraid of losing something like their reputation or their way of life. Sometimes, they are afraid of what they might have to do in responding to the claims of Christ. Either way, fear is the first response for many.
Step 2: Twist God’s Word to fit your agenda. John tells us that Caiaphas was the high priest that year. As the high priest, Caiaphas was the chief spiritual, political, and legal officer at that time. He looked through Israel’s complicated history to find some sort of precedent to take action against Jesus. He found it, in part, in Leviticus 16:7-10, which describes Israel’s use of a sacrificial and a scapegoat in the Old Testament. Ironically, even the high priest’s twisted use of Scripture fit into God’s plan.
Modern people may use some variation of the Bible to justify their unbelief. They may use some reference to “not judging” to escape any sort of moral accountability for their behavior. They may use a quotation about the loving nature of God to define what they think love is or should be. They might even exaggerate some perceived inconsistency in Scripture to discount the whole Bible, from cover to cover.
Step 3: Band together with others. This whole passage is about a meeting of Jerusalem’s leaders, but John doesn’t miss an opportunity in verse 53 to emphasize their commitment to one another. Based on a favorable vote, “they planned together to kill him.” Sanhedrin made their decision against Jesus as a group.
Whether it’s friends, a personal association, or just people in the past, antagonists of the gospel find strength in numbers. They assume that the popular decision is always the right decision. It was true in Jesus’ day and it’s still true today.
Like John, I usually focus on positive steps toward accepting Jesus instead of the negative steps involved in rejecting Him. Yet, John includes this decisive moment in history as a lesson for everyone who is willing to learn from it.