John 11:45-57

Identity Theft

John 11:45-57
“Then the chief priests and the Pharisees called a meeting of the Sanhedrin”
John 11:47
This week we get back into John’s gospel after our summer break. We remind ourselves that John is writing his gospel to help his first readers, and us, see who Jesus was and is. John structures his gospel around 7 signs and 7 “I am” statements. The purpose of these two groups of 7 is the same. Look at what Jesus did (the signs) and listen to what Jesus said about himself (The “I am’s”) and make a decision about the man that they reveal. Our passage this week is reflecting the response of a particular group of people to the seventh of the signs – the raising of Lazarus.

The group in question are the chief priest and the Pharisees. It was a subset of this broad group, together with some Sadducees, that made up the Sanhedrin. Seventy-one individuals who would gather each day apart from the Sabbath, to make judgements and rulings for the people. These judgments were both theological and practical. On this occasion they gathered to make a decision about Jesus. They did not make a good decision. In fact that is a vast understatement – they made a terminally bad decision.

It is so easy to move from an assessment of their decision to an assessment of the people who made that decision. This group seem to always be in opposition to Jesus. They are always the villains of the piece. They become a group who are easy to judge. However, these were not universally bad men (and the culture dictated that they were all men). The Pharisees and the Priests had maintained observance of the law of God and the uniqueness of the people of God for hundreds of years. The roots of the Pharisees stretched back to Ezra in the Old Testament, and he was a hero of faith.  It is easy to look at what they did and make a judgement. That might make us feel better about ourselves – but does it help us be better?

Let’s pause for a moment and ask Why they made the decisions they did? Let’s suspend judgment and allow the reasons behind their decision to teach us something about why we make decisions. Let’s take a look at 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 Temple and our nation”
Why did they reject Jesus and plot his execution? Because they were afraid. They were afraid that they would lose the two things they had kept safe for so long – their temple and their nation. Jewish identity was tied in to their worship and their land. Both had been restored under Ezra and Nehemiah over 450 years earlier and now they felt they were under threat. If the people started following another King – this man Jesus – surely the Roman superpower would sweep in and destroy not just this man’s followers, but the whole nation. Jesus was challenging the foundation of their identity – the things they relied on for safety and security.

It would be easy at this point to slip back into judgement. But where do I place my security and identity? How do I react when the Word of God or the work of the Holy Spirit challenge the things I tend to lean on in a time of crisis? When the words of Jesus challenge my views on finances, family, education or care for the poor what decisions do I make? If I am honest with myself how often do I try and shut down Jesus rather than simply responding with obedience? These men had taken something good – the Temple and their nation/land – and had made it their foundation, their identity and their god. Where in my life, where in your life, might we make the same mistake?


  1. Spend some time with God allowing the Holy Spirit to reveal where good things in your life might have become gods?

  2. Remember that God is not seeking to condemn us, rather these good things are meant to be gifts from God, not our identity or foundation. Spend some time simply confessing where they have become too important to you. Spend time receiving the grace and forgiveness of God.

  3. Why not make a time to talk to a Christian friend about what God revealed to you and get them to pray with you.


Father God,

Thank you that you have promised us life in all its fullness. Thank you that when you highlight parts of our life that have become our identity or place of security you do so simply to bring blessing. Thank you that you are a loving heavenly Father who will challenge us but never condemn us.

This Everyday Devotions was written by Simon Elliott, our Lead Elder.

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