Bible Study

John Bible Study, Day 20: Wise Words from an Unlikely Source

Today’s passage: John 11:45–57

Focus verse: “You do not realize that it is better for you that one man die for the people than that the whole nation perish.” (John 11:50)

When Jesus’s friend Lazarus dies, Jesus goes to his grave and, with a dramatic flair, raises him from the dead. When the people witness this miracle of miracles, many believe in Jesus.

To restore a dead man to life is an amazing feat. Everyone should celebrate. But not everyone does. Guess who’s upset. The religious leaders. These are the same people who claim to represent the God who sent Jesus. But they don’t recognize who he is.

They can’t see God’s hand at work. A more worrisome thought is that they’re not willing to. All they think about is themselves. Though under Roman occupation, they’ve carved out a comfortable existence for themselves.

They want to keep it. They enjoy their standing as religious leaders and the admiration of the people. In self-interest, they seek to preserve what they have. They want to keep their religious status quo.

In their self-centered ambition, they lose sight of the God they profess to serve. They don’t realize that God is present, ushering in the new era that the Scriptures predict.

These religious leaders fear losing their position, their power, and their prestige. Their solution? Kill Jesus. That’s right. Their focus on protecting what power they have pushes them to plot against their God.

Caiaphas, the high priest, summarizes their predicament. “It’s better for one man to die for all the people,” he says, “than to lose the entire nation.” In this way, Caiaphas acts as a prophet, predicting Jesus’s sacrificial death to save the nation, along with all of God’s children. 

It’s easy to criticize Caiaphas and his conspiring compatriots. Yet, this same thing still happens. How many religious leaders today have become so focused on preserving their job, receiving their paycheck, and holding on to their followers that they end up opposing the work of God?

In doing so, they resist God’s movements. Instead, they act contrary to their professed faith and what God has called them to do.

This happens too often, and it’s wrong. We must always put God first, even if we might lose what we think is important.

Just like the religious leaders two thousand years ago, we may place our personal needs over what God is doing. When we do, we risk missing out on his best.


  1. How well do you do at embracing Jesus’s miracles in the Bible?
  2. How is God at work in your life? If you don’t know, what must change?
  3. In what ways do you strive to maintain your spiritual status quo?
  4. How might you put your position, power, or prestige ahead of Jesus?
  5. When have you placed personal needs over what God is doing?

Discover more about Jesus in 2 Samuel 7:12 and Philippians 2:5–11. What insights can you glean from these passages?

Read the next lesson or start at the beginning of this study.

Tips: Check out our tips to use this online Bible study for your church, small group, Sunday school class, or family discussion. It’s also ideal for personal study. Come back each Monday for a new lesson.

Read more in Peter’s new book, Living Water: 40 Reflections on Jesus’s Life and Love from the Gospel of John, available everywhere in e-book, paperback, and hardcover.

Peter DeHaan writes about biblical Christianity to confront status quo religion and live a life that matters. He seeks a fresh approach to following Jesus through the lens of Scripture, without the baggage of made-up traditions and meaningless practices.

Read more in his books, blog, and weekly email updates.