World English Bible translation
11:55Now the Passover of the Jews was at hand. Many went up to Jerusalem out of the country before the Passover, to purify themselves. 11:56 Then they sought for Jesus and spoke one with another, as they stood in the temple, "What do you think? Isn't he coming to the feast?" 11:57 Now the chief priests and the Pharisees had commanded that if anyone knew where he was, he should report it, that they might seize him.
Understanding the context of yesterday's scripture and today's is important to understanding the death of Jesus. Yesterday, we saw that the religious leaders understood that the raising of Lazarus changed how Jesus would be perceived by the masses of people. Today's scripture hints at those changes as well.
Today's scripture sets the stage for what is about to occur in Jerusalem. The time of the year is just before the greatest feast of the Jewish nation, the Passover. The Passover commemorated the work that God accomplished in leading the people out of their slavery in Egypt. The last plague that Moses called down on the land of Egypt was the Angel of Death who came and slew all of the firstborn of Egypt. But, God had told Moses that every doorway that bore the blood of a sacrificed lamb would be passed over. So, the Jewish slaves spent a solemn night, safe in their homes while death came upon the greatest nation in the world at that time.
We have already, in earlier lessons, spoken of the obligation of Jewish men to attend this Feast whenever possible. It was not only a requirement of their religious duties; most people eagerly anticipated it. The population of Jerusalem increased just prior to the Feast until there was little available space in the city. The Romans were especially sensitive to any disturbance at this time. Normally, extra troops were brought in from Caeserea to maintain the peace.
It would have been in the interest of the religious leaders in Jerusalem if Jesus had been arrested before the Feast of Passover began. They did not want His arrest to disrupt the Feast. It was for this reason that Jesus went into the wilderness to the city of Ephraim. His plan was to arrive at the Feast after it had already begun.
In verse 55, the author correctly states that many people came into the city early in order to purify themselves for the Feast. To the devout, it was important to be "ritualistically pure" for this Feast. This included cleansing them and atoning for any sin that might prohibit their observance. The author states that those preparing themselves for the feast wondered whether Jesus would attend this year. The chief priest and the Pharisees spread the word that if anyone knew where He was; they should report it so that He might be arrested.
The stage is set. Here begins the final act of the play. We know the reasons for what the Jewish leaders sought to accomplish. We know their reasoning. And, their reasons are sound and valid. Except, for one thing only. They looked at Jesus and saw someone who upset their rule. They believed that He was a disruptive influence on the people. They believed that He had made blasphemous statements. He had made himself equal to God. All these things were true and from their perspective, they were right to have Him arrested.
Except, Jesus was who He said that He was. As incredible as it may be, He was equal to God. Not that He counted equality as something He would rely on or hold onto at all cost. Rather, He was willing to become like us. He was willing to make Himself like you and I, so that we might have a true representative and advocate with God. He was willing to die, so that you and I might have a chance to become one with God.
They would have been right, except they left God out of their decision. They would have been right, except that they did not leave open the possibility that God would attempt to accomplish something that they could not understand. They would have been right, except that in this case, they were very wrong.
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