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The Prophecy Of Caiaphas

The sickness of Lazarus was "for the glory of God" (John 11:4) in several ways. Not the least significant was the effect on the people of the sign of the Lord's deity in the resurrection of His friend. Certain of the Jews believed in Him because of it. Others went to the Pharisees and reported it. This was the beginning of the end.

The chief priests and Pharisees convened a council. They envisaged total unrest among 'the people arising out of almost national acceptance of the sign-worker from Galilee. This would bring down the wrath of Rome and as a result they would lose their freedom, such as it was. Now Caiaphas was "high priest that year" (John 11:49). This does not mean that the appointment was annual but simply that he was high priest at that particular time, that year of all years. Actually he was high priest from AD. 18 to 36, following his father-in-law, Annas, who had held the office from around A.D.6 to 15.

According to Josephus, Caiaphas was a Sadducee, and Sadducees were known to be abrupt to the point of rudeness. He said to the council: "Ye know nothing at all, nor do ye take account that it is expedient for you that one man should die for the people, and that the whole nation perish not". The council was impressed by this apparently shrewd human assessment of the situation. Far better let one man die, no matter how undeserving he may be, rather than the whole nation perish at the hands of the Roman legions. But the remarkable thing was that by reason of his office as high priest God had spoken an oracle through him. The Holy Spirit had given him a prophecy for their day and on into ours.

The prophecy was in two parts. First, Jesus was to die for the nation of Israel, so that they might be offered complete freedom from the bondage of sin, something incomparably greater than enjoying a measure of liberty under the sovereignty of Rome. In his own mind Joseph Caiaphas had no knowledge whatever of this wider, spiritual purpose of God in the Man they feared.

Similarly he did not grasp that in the death of Jesus, God had yet another purpose in view. It was that, in addition to dying for the nation of Israel, "He might also gather together into one the children of God that are scattered abroad" (v.52). The giving of Himself would not only be for Israel but it would be "for the life of the world" (John 6:51). Universally, as many as received Him would enjoy "the right to become children of God" (John 1:12). And God's desire was that those scattered children would be gathered "together into one".

Thus John in his comment in 11:51 ,52 gives the Spirit's twofold interpretation of the prophecy of Caiaphas some 60 years after it was spoken. By that time there were many thousands of children of God scattered abroad throughout the nations. And the death of the Saviour had been the basis in the divine mind for these children of God being gathered together into one. This was not their baptism in the Spirit into the Church which is His Body at the time of their conversion. Rather it was their gathering together as children of God into a oneness or unity. It was the bringing together of believers as disciples into one Community.

It had its beginnings in the Fellowship or Community expressed in the Church of God in Jerusalem, as it is written: "And they continued stedfastly in the apostles' teaching and (Greek, the) fellowship..." Again it is referred to in 1 Cor. 1:9, where the church of God in Corinth is viewed as embraced in the wider context of all the churches of God in the one community; "God is faithful, through whom ye were called into the Fellowship of His Son Jesus Christ our Lord".

The language used in interpreting the prophecy of Caiaphas is comparable to the Lord's words in John 10:16. He said: "And other sheep I have, which are not of this fold: them also I must bring, and they shall hear My voice; and they shall become one flock, one Shepherd". In these words the Lord Jesus took the longer, wider view. He would have other sheep beyond the fold of Israel. These would be believers in many nations who would hear His call to discipleship and be led by His voice. And it was His desire that they should be gathered together in one flock under one Shepherd. It was the same vision as in Caiaphas' prophecy. It was the same longing as He expressed in John 17:21: "That they may all be one".

In the choice early days of New Testament history the disciples, by the Spirit's help, were "gathered together into one", to give expression to the Lord's desire in His "one flock" teaching. They gathered together in local churches of God but were united together in one Community. This was in accordance with "the whole counsel of God" (Acts 20:27), "the (full) knowledge of the truth" (1 Tim. 2:4). It was the will of the Father, the desire of the Son, introduced by the Spirit. But what has happened to the vision? The reader may well have seen it and will wish loyally to hold it and tell it abroad. On the other hand he may not have seen it, in which case "The watchman said, The morning cometh, and also the night: if ye will inquire, inquire ye: turn ye, come" (Is. 21:12).