45Many of the Jews therefore, who had come with Mary and had seen what Jesus did, believed in him. 46But some of them went to the Pharisees and told them what he had done. 47So the chief priests and the Pharisees called a meeting of the council, and said, “What are we to do? This man is performing many signs. 48If we let him go on like this, everyone will believe in him, and the Romans will come and destroy both our holy place and our nation.” 49But one of them, Caiaphas, who was high priest that year, said to them, “You know nothing at all! 50You do not understand that it is better for you to have one man die for the people than to have the whole nation destroyed.” 51He did not say this on his own, but being high priest that year he prophesied that Jesus was about to die for the nation, 52and not for the nation only, but to gather into one the dispersed children of God. 53So from that day on they planned to put him to death. 54Jesus therefore no longer walked about openly among the Jews, but went from there to a town called Ephraim in the region near the wilderness; and he remained there with the disciples. 55Now the Passover of the Jews was near, and many went up from the country to Jerusalem before the Passover to purify themselves. 56They were looking for Jesus and were asking one another as they stood in the temple, “What do you think? Surely he will not come to the festival, will he?” 57Now the chief priests and the Pharisees had given orders that anyone who knew where Jesus was should let them know, so that they might arrest him.
Those who had come from Jerusalem to comfort Mary and Martha witnessed the miracle. Some of them believed in Jesus after seeing this sign, but some of them went to the religious leaders. Those very leaders had demanded that Jesus provide a sign – he has done so, but it becomes a reason for killing him. They are fearful – if Jesus keeps performing miraculous signs, they reason, all the people will believe in him, and will follow him, and it will upset the delicate balance of power in Palestine. The Romans expect that the Jewish religious leaders will help to keep the populace in line, preventing rebellion. The positions of the Chief Priest (who was appointed by Rome) and his leaders depends on their keeping order for Rome. Their fear is that Rome will perceive a great following of Jesus as a usurping of their authority, and that of Rome, and that Rome will destroy Jerusalem and the temple as a result. Jerusalem and the temple would indeed be destroyed in 70 CE, just another 40 years or so from their conversation, but it would not be because of Jesus, but due to rebellion arising within Judea and Jerusalem.
Caiaphas, the Chief Priest, spoke up, and John says that he spoke prophetically, although he did not know that was the case. He says, “You know nothing at all! You do not understand that it is better for one man to die for the people than for the whole nation to be destroyed.” How often have tyrants and unjust rulers used that rationale? But in this case there is irony in his words, for Jesus would die for the nation – and not only for the nation but for all the children of God. Jesus would die for you, and for me.
And so – the Chief Priests and the Pharisees plotted to kill Jesus, and Jesus went to a town near the wilderness and stayed there for a time. The time of Passover was approaching – the people were looking for Jesus at the temple, wondering if he would come, and the religious leaders had sent out spies and watchmen to let them know if they heard where he was. The tension in the story builds!