Losing What You Try to Keep

June 3, 2019

If we let Him alone like this, everyone will believe in Him, and the Romans will come and take away both our place and nation. John 11:48

We all highly value certain things, some of them legitimate—family, home, friends—and others, like pride or resentment, are dangerous. Either way, when we hold on to something tightly for our own gain, even if it’s a good thing, Jesus says that we will eventually lose it.

It’s hard to imagine that anybody could witness Jesus raise a man who had been dead for four days and still not believe in Him. But some of those who watched Jesus raise Lazarus reported His actions to the religious leaders. They knew that the Jews were looking for some basis on which to get rid of Jesus.

The Pharisees and the Sadducees, the two groups that made up Israel’s religious leaders, weren’t on the best of terms. The Sadducees were extremely liberal, while the Pharisees were taken up with every detail of the Law. But the two groups had a common enemy that united them: Jesus of Nazareth.

Evil Plans

These factions came together to devise a plan to deal with Jesus Christ. “What shall we do?” they said. “This Man works many signs.” The obvious conclusion for a person to draw, upon hearing that Jesus had raised a man from the dead, was that Jesus had to be the Messiah. But these men were concerned about something else: “If we let Him keep doing this, everyone will believe in Him, and the Romans will take away our place and our nation.” The Jewish leaders were driven by one thing: keeping their position.

As the leaders debated, Caiaphas, the high priest, interrupted. “Listen,” he argued. “It makes more sense that one Man die for the people than that the whole nation perish.” Caiaphas, an evil man who would later have Jesus arrested and sentenced to death, was prophesying, although he didn’t know it. Caiaphas’s words lined up exactly with what the prophets had said the Messiah would do: He would die so that Israel—and the whole world—would not perish. This is the gospel.

Maintaining Autonomy

Tell me, why are people so up in arms about the gospel? The fact that somebody was punished in our place so that we don’t have to perish is good news! In the end, the bottom line is that people do not want to be told what to do. They want to maintain their autonomy.

This perspective is driving our culture today. As in Jesus’ day, when the Jews decided to get rid of the Lord to save their own position, people wanted to get rid of Jesus in order to maintain their independence. We see it in the uproar over the use of the term “Christmas.” We see it in the reaction to Christian prayer in any public arena and in the secularization of our educational system. Atheists and unbelievers don’t want this entity called the church telling them that God requires them to live a certain way. Ultimately, people want to call the shots for their own lives. They want to keep that relationship or that lifestyle or that behavior.

From this point on, the Jews plotted to put Jesus to death. The rationale of Caiaphas sounded to them like good situational ethics.

The Jewish leaders portray a classic example of what Jesus taught on another occasion: “If a person seeks to save his life, in the end he will lose it” (see Matthew 16:25). The Jewish leaders did exactly that: they tried to save their position. But in the end, they lost it. About forty years after Jesus’ time, the Romans came and totally decimated the temple and the city of Jerusalem, and the survivors were led away to captivity. Had the Jews embraced Jesus as the Messiah, what they were so afraid of never would have happened. But in rejecting Him, the very thing they feared came upon them.

Yield to Jesus

Even as believers, we sometimes hold tightly to things that are precious to us—relationships, attitudes, positions. Even if the things we love are naturally good, grasping them can bring damage or even destruction to our lives. Will you ask Jesus to help you lay aside your autonomy completely and to be yielded to Him in every area of your life?