Studies in John's Gospel -- Part 17
A Jewel of Gold in a Swine’s Snout
By: A.J. Higgins, M.D.
Passage: John 11
The title for this article is taken from one of Solomon’s many proverbs. He used it to heighten the marked contrast that occurs when truth and error, beauty and vanity, or virtue and dishonor are seen in the same individual.
In John 11:49-52 we have a statement of dramatic irony; a statement that qualifies for the "jewel of gold in a swine’s snout" category. The religious leaders of the day had seen the effect of the raising of Lazarus as discussed in the previous article. Their great fear was that the following which Christ had attracted would lead to a crisis with Roman authorities. The end result would be that they would lose their places in the establishment (vs. 47, 48). As they deliberated their problem, Caiaphas, the high priest spoke:
"Ye know nothing at all, nor consider that it is expedient that one man die for the people, and that the whole nation perish not."
The inspired writer was quick to add that in so speaking, Caiaphas was speaking far beyond his own understanding. Any Jewish readers or those familiar with the Old Testament will recall a similar case in Balaam, the mercenary prophet who came to curse Israel, but blessed her instead.
The remarkable prophecy of Caiaphas actually embodies the gospel story. It begins with the very unflattering awareness of our
"Ye know nothing at all." They were words spoken with scorn and disdain by a leader to his followers, yet words that were true on a completely different level than even the speaker realized. The truth is that even he knew nothing at all. The actual fact is that none of us would imagine salvation in God’s way. One of the many tragic effects of sin is a blindness of God and truth (Rom. 3:10-18; 2 Cor. 4:3, 4). When Adam sinned, he little expected God to be the provider of a way of salvation. His natural instinct was to hide. Each son and daughter of Adam has been reenacting Eden’s scene, hiding from God. The Bible teaches that God desires to save man from the consequences of his sin. Only a revelation from God could communicate this to us.
Caiaphas’ words were strong: "It is expedient that one man die for the people." Unknown to himself he was giving utterance to the truth that if men were going to be saved, it was imperative that heaven intervene. The grand news of the gospel is that heaven has intervened. Far eclipsing Apollo II’s "one giant step for mankind" was the immeasurable distance traveled when Christ left the throne eternal for planet earth and a rude tree outside Jerusalem’s walls. Greater still was the distance traveled when He plumbed the depths of the wrath of God against sin upon Calvary.
Man’s sin, yours and mine, made it expedient that one should die. Divine love made it expedient that He be the victim.
The Vicarious Nature
"It is expedient that one man should die for the people that the whole nation perish not." The amazing truth of the gospel message as preached by the early apostles is that one Man has died for others that they might be saved from perishing. The gospel tells of a Savior Who has willingly gone into death to endure the punishment that we rightly deserved for our sins. He has died in the sinner’s place, enabling God to forgive the repentant believer in His Son.
Allow the testimony of Peter to conclude this brief article: "Who His own self bare our sins, in His own body, on the tree" (1 Peter 2:24).