Trusting the Heavenly Father — John 11:45-54

// December 6th, 2017 // Sermons

Like I mentioned a few weeks ago, I’ve been spending a lot of time reminiscing about the past. I’m coming close to the end of my seminary degree. Times like that are times that naturally bring our minds to remember the past–where we’ve been, who we were, what we’ve done.

As I was preparing for this sermon, I kept thinking back before I was the youth director here at Bethel. I took a convoluted path into this position. I graduated high school desiring to be a phy ed teacher and a football coach. I went to Northwestern College (at the time), played football, and met Rachel. I dropped out after my first year of college because I had a “hair-brained” idea to start my own business. No, it wasn’t the dock business. I was going to buy a bait shop. That fell through, so I ended up working for Baas Construction for a little while. Then, I was laid off from that because things slowed down in the winter. After that I ended up finding a job as a car salesman down in the cities. That was short lived. I quit that job and began working for Westling Manufacturing here in Princeton. At the same time, I started the dock and boat lift business on Mille Lacs Lake. After a couple years, that business took off to the point that I could do it full time and provide for my family, so I quit Westling and continued on with the dock business, adding a lawn service. Since I didn’t have anything for the winter, I picked up odd jobs each winter working for the Vet Clinic and a cabinet shop, occasionally for Rachel’s dad’s well drilling business. It was only after I had done all these things, and the dock business was becoming very successful, that God called me into the ministry (six years after I graduated from high school).

Now, here’s the question that has popped into my mind numerous times. Why? I have some thoughts on the question, but the question still comes up: Why? I mean, wouldn’t it have been much easier if God had called me into the ministry when I was fifteen or sixteen, like he has with many other pastors? Why wait till I’m twenty-four? Even if God would have waited to call me until I was eighteen, I could have graduated and pursued a pre-seminary degree, then moved onto seminary, and graduated by the time I was twenty-four or twenty-five. So, why wait? Does that mean those six, convoluted years were all wasted? No, I don’t believe that at all. Actually, I believe that’s the answer to most of the questions I’ve asked so far. Why did God wait? Because He knew it would be important for me to experience those things before I was a pastor. Why did God wait? Because he used those things to equip and shape me to be the pastor I am today. Ultimately, Why did God wait? Because he doesn’t always take the shortest path, but it’s always the RIGHT ONE.

Let’s take a look at our passage in John. [Read John 11:45-54]

Like always, it’s important to remember last week’s message in order to fully understand this week’s message. Last week, Jesus did a powerful miracle by raising Lazarus from the dead. Then our passage says, “Many of the Jews therefore, who had come with Mary and had seen what he did, believed in him…” (John 11:45, ESV). Good, right? God has drawn many people to Mary and Martha’s place to bring them comfort. When these people saw the powerful miracle of Jesus, many of them believed. Now, we know from John’s gospel, this doesn’t necessarily mean they were all converted, but they positively responded to the miracle and were open to hearing more from Jesus. That’s a thumbs up. However, not everyone reacts this way. In fact, throughout the gospel of John, he shows us that Jesus divides people. When Jesus speaks something or does something, some respond positively and others negatively. John tells us that many believe “but some of them went to the Pharisees and told them what Jesus had done.” (John 11:46, ESV).

Now this sets up the rest of our passage. The Pharisees call a council meeting and voice their concern saying, “What are we to do? For this man performs many signs. 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.” (John 11:47–48, ESV).  So, the Pharisees recognize that people are responding positively to Jesus’ miracles. Rather than responding positively to the miracles themselves, they see it as a problem. They say that if this continues to go on, everyone will believe in him and then the Romans are going to come and cause problems. They will take away both our place and our nation. When they say “our place,” they are most likely talking about the temple. So, they believe that Jesus’ influence is going to cause them to lose their place of worship and their nation. As I read this section in my Bible, I noticed I note I had on the margins, “They are more afraid of Rome than they are of God.” They are not simply afraid of Rome, they are also afraid of losing their places of authority and power. We see that in Caiaphas’ response when he says, “…it is better for you…” He is pointing out that they are really more concerned for themselves and not for the nation and the temple. So the question continues to hang in the air, “What are we to do?”

Caiaphas is obviously unhappy with all of their chatter and worry. He belts out, “You know nothing at all.” (John 11:49, ESV). Basically calling them a bunch of ignorant leaders. He goes on to answer their question, “What are we to do?” by saying, “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.” (John 11:50, ESV). This is Caiaphas’ solution to their problem. To make this point even further, this was the High Priest’s solution the problem. It’s better for us to sacrifice one man, than lose our whole nation (and insinuated under all of this, “lose our power and authority”). Not only does he have this wicked plan, but he calls the rest of the group “stupid” for not thinking of it. He thinks it’s the obvious solution. “If we kill Jesus we save our nation.”

If you were watching this story on a movie screen, this would be the point where they start playing very serious music. It’s the climax of the story, the high tension point. Then, John makes a “side comment” that isn’t a side comment at all. He says, “He did not say this of his own accord, but being high priest that year he prophesied that Jesus would die for the nation, and not for the nation only, but also to gather into one the children of God who are scattered abroad.” (John 11:51–52, ESV). This is one of the reasons I love John’s gospel. John basically says, “Caiaphas said that Jesus must die in order to save the nation. That’s exactly right. However, it’s not right in the same way Caiaphas meant it.” John points us back to chapter one, where John the Baptist cries out, “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!” (John 1:29, ESV). This is how Jesus will die for the nation, as a sacrificial lamb for the forgiveness of their sins. That’s how he will save the nation. Yes, Jesus will save the nation of Israel by dying on a cross for the forgiveness of their sins.

John broadens the scope of this saying, though. He says, “Jesus would die for the nation, and not for the nation only, but also to gather into one the children of God who are scattered abroad.” (John 11:51–52, ESV). It’s not just about the nation of Israel. Jesus died for all the children of God, all those who are scattered throughout the earth–this includes the Gentiles. In the last chapter Jesus said, “And I have other sheep that are not of this fold. I must bring them also, and they will listen to my voice. So there will be one flock, one shepherd.” (John 10:16, ESV). So, Jesus’ salvation stretches beyond Israel. The emphasis is also on Jesus gathering these sheep, or these children of God who are scattered on the hills. His death was not simply for the forgiveness of sins, but also for the gathering of his people.

We are gathered here tonight because of Jesus’ death on the cross. Ridderbos calls the cross “the great gathering point and center of [our] unity (12:20ff.,32,33)” (410). Don’t forget the importance of that understanding. At the center of this group, at the center of our unity, at the center of our gathering together is our crucified Lord and Savior. He is the gathering point. He is the reason we come each week. He is the reason we gather on Sunday mornings. It’s all about Jesus and Jesus is all about saving and gathering. We don’t do this on our own. We don’t do this as a solitary Christian (there’s not such thing). If you’re saved by Jesus you are gathered by Jesus into the rest of the flock–into the rest of the family of God. If you are here tonight and you’ve believed in Jesus and given your life to him, then you are family. You’ve been adopted into God’s family and we get together a couple times a week to celebrate as a family.

This is why Jesus came. In Luke Jesus says, “For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.” (Luke 19:10, ESV). Catch both of those words: Seek and Save. You could reword that passage to say, “For the Son of Man came to die for the children of God and to gather them into one.” It’s essential to remember this during Advent–a season focused on Jesus’ coming. As we look forward to Christmas Day, remember that Jesus came to die for the children of God and to gather them into one. Jesus was born in a manger with the purpose of dying for your sin and adopting you into his family. That’s what Christmas is all about. “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made. In him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it…The true light, which gives light to everyone, was coming into the world. He was in the world, and the world was made through him, yet the world did not know him. He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him. But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God. And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.” (John 1:1–14, ESV). That’s the Christmas story.

This passage ends in two different ways. The council sets their minds on killing Jesus. They began making their plans–working their schemes–to kill Jesus. Jesus leaves again to a town that was near the wilderness. Here’s the question: Why? If Jesus’ purpose was to die for the children of God and gather them into one, why does he keep putting off his death? Why does he keep escaping from those who are trying to kill him? Why not just let it happen, get it over with? Have you ever thought of that? You can expand the question to ask: Why did God wait thirty-three years before Jesus was killed? D.A. Carson says something about this question. He says, “To those with eyes to see, he was making a theological statement: no human court could force him to the cross. Both the fact and the timing were simultaneously the Father’s determination and his own willed act” (423). Nothing was going to bring Jesus to the cross apart from the Father’s will–and Jesus’ own will (remember they are one). It wasn’t the schemes of man that brought Jesus to the cross. It was the Father’s will.

It’s the repeated theme throughout the Gospel of John. Jesus will not function on anyone’s timeline, except for the Father in heaven. People are continuously trying to force him to do things on their timeline and timetable, and he refuses to let that happen. He loves them more than that. Think about it. Who do you trust more: Yourself or the God who knows the beginning from the end? Seriously. That’s a real question. If you trust yourself, to say it bluntly, you’re not a Christian. If you are a Christian, then you MUST trust God with every aspect of your life–your past, present, and future. He knows what’s going to happen. He knows when it’s going to happen. He knows the best time for it to happen. Do you trust him? Can you wait for him? Like I said at the beginning, God doesn’t always take the shortest path but it’s always the RIGHT ONE.

God proved that when he sent Jesus into the world to die for sinners and gather them into one family. It wasn’t the shortest path but it was the RIGHT ONE. God has proved that to me in my life. He hasn’t taken me on the shortest path but I have utter confidence that it was the RIGHT ONE. The same goes for you. I don’t know what path your on. I don’t know what your future holds. I don’t know what you’re hoping for or waiting for. But you must trust God more than you trust yourself. In your life, God will not always take the shortest path, but he will take the RIGHT ONE.

So, rest in him. Trust your Father in heaven. Trust the Father who sent his son into the world to die for your sins and to adopt you into his family. He is your Father. He loves you and will care for you.

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