Chief Priests and Pharisees
Plot to Kill Jesus

Expensive Perfume - Anointing Jesus for Death

The Plot to Kill Jesus
Verses 45-47: "Many of the Jews therefore, who had come with Mary and had seen what he did, believed in him, 46but some of them went to the Pharisees and told them what Jesus had done. 47So the chief priests and the Pharisees gathered the Council and said, "What are we to do? For this man performs many signs."

In our previous study, when Martha informed Mary that Jesus had arrived, she left her mourning position, and ran to where Jesus was, and those (Jews) who had been mourning with her, also went, and saw Jesus raise Lazarus from the dead. These are the Jews who, some of them, went to the Pharisees and told them what Jesus had done.

There are several different reactions here to what the Pharisees refer to as the signs Jesus has done.

In verse 47 the Chief Priests and Pharisees called together the Council, or "Sanhedrin." Many believe this Council consisted of chief priests who were actually ex-high priests. For the most part, these theological liberals were politically oriented Sadducee's who didn't believe in the resurrection or angels. The other members of the council were the religious legalistic's known as the Pharisees.

This strange group got together and agreed on one thing, that was to get rid of Jesus. They didn't question the signs/miracles of Jesus, their concern was that many people were beginning to follow Him.

They essentially said "we know He's not the Son of God. It doesn't matter if He raised the dead, that only confuses our unbelief." Rather than denying the miracle, they denied that Jesus was who He claimed to be, which was even more ridiculous, and in the following verses they plot Jesus' death.

Verse 48: "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."

Their concept of those who believed in Jesus was ruled by political considerations. Totally lacking in Spiritual guidance these people relied on history and history had shown that all others claiming to be the Messiah had proven to be false, which had brought about instability within the Jewish government; which in turn caused concern for the Roman government.

The Romans accepted only one king, and that was Caesar. So there was a domino effect, and the Jews played this fact for all it was worth in promoting their plan to get rid of Jesus.

The council members feared Rome and were concerned only about protecting their own interests. They figured that if Jesus got a big following and the people pushed Him into being a political Messiah, Rome would come down and squash the rebellion, taking away their religious and political authority

Which, having a glimpse from where we are in this study into the future, to the crucifixion, we see that the Romans, through the provocation and lies of the Pharisees, in fact did kill Jesus, because he claimed to be "King." If you remember, they nailed a sign above His cross in "Arabic," "Hebrew," "Greek" saying "King of the Jews."

The Pharisees didn't have the authority to crucify Jesus, so they basically tricked the Roman's into doing it for them. But, as we will see, this didn't have any lasting benefit; because in 70 AD the Romans destroyed the Jewish temple and the Jewish nation was absolved. There was no officially recognized Jewish Nation until after World War 2 when it was reestablished.

Verse 49: "But one of them, Caiaphas, who was high priest that year, said to them, "You know nothing at all. 50Nor do you understand that it is better for you that one man should die for the people, not that the whole nation should perish."

The above scripture can be somewhat confusing by using the term "High Priest that year;" because the High Priesthood was considered to be a lifelong office, and had never been reduced to an annual assignment. Caiaphas was high priest during A.D. 18-36.

It was common in that day to date events by some "Official's term, so John could have simply meant that Caiaphas was high priest in that particular year, but some even think that John may have found the idea was so ridiculous that he was poking fun at the Roman governor who could exercise the change of the High priest at will.

In either case, during that era, a high priest who could keep the peace, meaning controlling the Jewish people so they would not cause the Roman government problems, could possibly serve many years. This could also explain what sometimes seems to be a harsh and even cruel treatment the Pharisees and other leaders levied upon their own people.

Regarding Caiaphas' prophesy; some believe that Caiaphas being the High priest could certainly hear from God, at least he was suppose to, and we see by his prophesy of Jesus death, that apparently he did. Many also believe God's appointed representatives could prophesy, speak God's word without intending to do so.

Can we not certainly agree with his statement to these people, You know nothing at all?"

And, verses 51 and 52:
Verse 51-52: "He did not say this of his own accord, but being high priest that year he prophesied that Jesus would die for the nation, 52and not for the nation only, but also to gather into one the children of God who are scattered abroad."

Verse 51 confirms that Caiaphas' words, though far beyond his limited understanding, were prophetic. His words uttered in blasphemy, were transformed by God into a prophecy with a deeper meaning. And most scholars agree that Caiaphas was totally unaware that He was speaking words or prophecy directly from God.

He didn't know that Jesus death would unify and gather together the children of God from throughout the world. Jews and Gentiles were brought together into one body, the church. Christianity is not a system of religious activities; it is actually a love relationship with Jesus Christ and other believers.

In truth, the "sacrificing the few for the sake of many", as Caiaphas had said, was not a part of the Jewish policy. According to commentators, the Jewish teachers themselves taught that during wars or siege even if the result would be the rape or execution of all, they were not to betray a single Israelite to be harmed, raped, or killed for the benefit of others.

Verse 53: "So from that day on they made plans to put him to death."

From that day onward, the highest most powerful leaders in Israel worked and schemed to designed a plan to have Jesus put to death.

Verse 54: "Jesus therefore no longer walked openly among the Jews, but went from there to the region near the wilderness, to a town called Ephraim, and there he stayed with the disciples."

We're getting pretty far along in this study of the Gospel of John and can see the end of Jesus' public ministry approaching; and again Jesus found it necessary to escape for His life because it was not yet His time to die, but this was the last time He was driven out of Jerusalem.

Many scholars teach that the Ephraim spoken of here, where He escaped to, is an area located eight miles north of Jerusalem, where there is also a desert, or wilderness, (as verse 54 describes) extending from Jericho to Bethel, called the wilderness of Bethaven.

Verse 55 "Now the Passover of the Jews was at hand, and many went up from the country to Jerusalem before the Passover to purify themselves."

The Old Testament records many rituals of purification for any type of situation considered unclean, body fluids, skin disease, death, animal sacrifices and numerous others.

In this case purifying themselves did not simply mean to get all the dirt off their hands and feet, or even to bath all-over. This was a ritual required prior to particular types of activity, such as attending the Passover Feast.;

Verse 56-57: "They were looking for Jesus and saying to one another as they stood in the temple, "What do you think? That he will not come to the feast at all?" 57Now the chief priests and the Pharisees had given orders that if anyone knew where he was, he should let them know, so that they might arrest him."

Jesus had been to the last two Passover's, so they assumed He would be at this one and were watching for Him. Actually, it was a requirement for the men to attend the Passover Feast, yet they were wondering if, after all the hate and tension He would show up.

John 12:1-11 Mary Anoints Jesus at Bethany

Verse 1" "Six days before the Passover, Jesus therefore came to Bethany, where Lazarus was, whom Jesus had raised from the dead."

Jesus had apparently left the city of Bethany after raising Lazarus from the dead and had now returned. The house He was in was actually that of Simon the Leper.

Verse 2: "So they gave a dinner for him there. Martha served, and Lazarus was one of those reclining with him at table."

In that time teachers were often invited to lecture at meals in return for free meals and lodging. Jesus was invited to many banquets such as this, but this one was apparently in His honor.

Speaking of 'those reclining,' In those days it was customary to "sit" at normal meals, and to "recline on couches" at special meals like feasts or banquets.

And here Lazarus who had been raised from the dead was enjoying the companionship of his friends and loved ones. The people could actually witness that his resurrection was no illusion, that he was really restored to the blessings of life.

Some scholars believe this was about two months after Lazarus was resurrected from the dead. This is the last we hear of him and we aren't told how long he lived, and neither are we told of what he experienced during the four days of his death. (wouldn't that be interesting?)

Verse 3: "Mary therefore took a pound of expensive ointment made from pure nard, and anointed the feet of Jesus and wiped his feet with her hair. The house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume."

All the Gospel accounts place this occurrence in the last week of Jesus' ministry.

Isn't John's mention of the "fragrance filling the house" a vivid eyewitness detail? It was customary to anoint the heads of important guests, but to only provide water for their feet.

A pound, or pint as mentioned here , is thought to have been around 12 ounces, and a flask would normally contain not more than an ounce, so Mary is considered to be tremendously extravagant here. Scholars see this as evidence of the wealth and social position of the Lazarus family

Spikenard (spahyk-nerd) was a perfume highly prized by the ancients, and was produced from a small plant (which is) a native of the Himalayan Mountains. The high cost derived partly from the transportation of it thousands of miles from India to Jerusalem. There were "cut" varieties of it, but what Mary used was expensive pure nard itself.

the religious Jews resented married women, and apparently any women, who uncovered their heads and exposed their hair to men's gazes, but some believe since there is no mention of Mary's husband, that she was probably unmarried.

If so, whether widowed or divorced, acting this way toward a famous rabbi would probably raise some eyebrows. And in any case Mary's Christian love for the Lord was stronger than their criticism.

Verse 4-6: "But Judas Iscariot, one of his disciples (he who was about to betray him), said, 5"Why was this ointment not sold for three hundred denarii and given to the poor?" 6He said this, not because he cared about the poor, but because he was a thief, and having charge of the moneybag he used to help himself to what was put into it."

The pint of pure nard was probably a very expensive liquid perfume, equal in value to a year's wages. The complaint from Judas is in character with everything the bible has to say about him, the implication is that Judas, being a thief, saw himself missing out on some easy money.

(Do you think Jesus knew that Judas was a thief all along?)

The rabbis would sometimes delegate their school's financial matters to their disciples, but only the most trusted, were permitted to keep group funds. This supposedly was Judas, which makes what he did even worse.

So, in verse 7, defending Mary:

Verse 7: "Jesus said, Leave her alone, so that she may keep it for the day of my burial."

In that time corpses were first anointed to clean them and were then washed with water. Jesus was considered to be a criminal by both the Romans and the Jews, and was executed as a criminal. In that day criminals were denied anointing before burial; so what Mary had done was very important.

Verse 8: "For the poor you always have with you, but you do not always have me."

Many see an allusion in Jesus statement to Deut 15:11 - "there will never cease to be poor in the land. Therefore I command you, 'You shall open wide your hand to your brother, to the needy and to the poor, in your land."

But even now, Jesus wants to be first in our lives. In all of Scripture He encouraged generosity to the poor, which here He says, "you will always have with you." So, while not playing down the importance of taking care of the poor, in this verse He is bring attention to His impending death, and lets them know that their first commitment must be to Him.

The Plot to Kill Lazarus

Verse 9-11: "When the large crowd of the Jews learned that Jesus was there, they came, not only on account of him but also to see Lazarus, whom he had raised from the dead. "So the chief priests made plans to put Lazarus to death as well, 11because on account of him many of the Jews were going away and believing in Jesus."

By now the people had all heard of how Jesus had raised Lazarus from the dead, and when they learned that He was there, came to see both Jesus and Lazarus for themselves. Many saw the proof and believed in Jesus.

The scripture relating to the Chief Priests planing to put Lazarus to death is often referred to among scholars as "John's irony." Irony, in this case, being (the opposite of what is expected) It takes a twist of the mind to grasp that the reason they wanted to kill Lazarus was because Jesus had raised him from the dead. (I guess we would say, "they wanted to re-kill him.")

At any rate, the Jews put out what is considered to be a contract on Lazarus, which is further irony

When men are determined not to believe the gospel, there is no end to the crimes to which they are driven. Lazarus was alive, and the evidence of his resurrection was so clear that they could not resist it.

Wouldn't we say, they were over the edge here? Hadn't they lost all sense of spiritual guidance, truth and rationality?

This study takes a rather large step into the very last days of Jesus' life. It contains some of the richest passages and morsels of God's Word of any in the entire bible.

Some of the headings are: Jesus says "We are to Walk in the Light," "The Triumphal Entry," "The Faithful Grain of wheat," "Jesus Predicts His Death on the Cross," asks "Who Has Believed our Report," and commands His followers to "Walk in the Light."

"The Triumphal Entry"

Bible Study Lessons


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Plot to Kill Jesus

Samuel L. Mills