16 April 2011

John 11:45-57

"Many of the Jews therefore, who had come with Mary and had seen what Jesus did, believed in him. But some of them went to the Pharisees and told them what he had done." (vv. 45-46)


Jesus was a Jew and John's Gospel is more than a little harsh towards Jews.

Jewish people around him responded in different ways to him. Many "believed in him" (verse 45). Some were his disciples. Then there were those like Martha, Mary and Lazarus for whom he had a special love (verse 36). And there were authority figures who planned to arrest him or "put him to death" (verses 57, 53).

One authority figure, the high priest Caiaphas, prophesied about Jesus that he "was about to die for the nation, and not for the nation only, but to gather into one the dispersed children of God" (verses 51, 52).

There were those Jewish people who accepted and welcomed Jesus, and there were those who were troubled by him and rejected him. There was a fear too that "everyone [would] believe in him, and the Romans will come and destroy both our holy place and our nation" (verse 48).

So within just a few verses all these different Jewish responses to Jesus are captured. He is a friend and companion to many of his Jewish contemporaries but also a threat, religiously as well as politically by the authorities.

Jesus had a public ministry of preaching, teaching and healing. He loved going to festivals like the Passover (verse 56). But he also found it difficult to walk about "openly" and spent much time in quiet wilderness spots (verse 54).

Jesus was an outspoken and controversial public figure. In today's world he would be a celebrity. And people either love or hate such figures. There was not a uniform acceptance or rejection of Jesus by Jews.

To Ponder

Do you think John's Gospel is harsh towards Jews? In what ways?

Why do you think Jesus was seen as such a threat by the religious and political authorities of his day?

Bible notes author

The Revd Inderjit Bhogal

Inderjit Bhogal is a Methodist minister with a wide experience at local, regional, national and international levels. He is a former president of the British Methodist Conference and is currently working as leader of the Corrymeela Community in Northern Ireland.