When a Plan Comes Together
*Disclaimer* We’re going to open with a scene from Thor 2. Before we start it, I just want to warn you that there is a decent amount of violence, and at one point, somebody loses an arm. So fair warning. Now let’s watch this clip.
4 Min Thor Clip: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3e7vHTcpc54
How many of you had never seen that movie before? How many had never seen it?
When you’re seeing this movie for the first time, You watch in horror as Loki betrays Thor IMMEDIATELY upon being released, right at the part of the plan where he’s supposed to be helping Thor win the day.
For over 2 minutes you are led to believe that things have developed very badly for the good guys, when it is finally revealed that you (and the bad guys) were supposed to think that! The bad guys are supposed to see Thor attacked by his accomplice, and be lulled into thinking they have the upper hand. This allows Thor to draw the “red stuff” into the open, where he can deal with it once and for all.
This scene is executed so well, because for two minutes you are convinced that everything has gone horribly awry—but once you see what was really going on, it totally changes your perspective on the part you just saw.
Everything wasn’t totally out of control. It was going according to plan. Loki was supposed to do what he did. Thor was supposed to look like he’d lost a limb. But that’s not what was actually happening.
For the people who had already seen this movie, you may have smiled or smirked and said, “oh yeah, I remember this scene.” You experienced this whole thing differently than the rest of us. You knew there was a plan the whole time, and that changed how you interpreted the events as they unfolded.
That brings us to our passage in tonight. We’re going to read through it, and I want to walk us through it twice, from two different perspectives.
45 Many of the Jews therefore, who had come with Mary and had seen what he did, believed in him, 46 but some of them went to the Pharisees and told them what Jesus had done. 47 So the chief priests and the Pharisees gathered the council and said, “What are we to do? For this man performs many signs. 48 If we let him go on like this, everyone will believe in him, and the Romans will come and take away both our place and our nation.” 49 But one of them, Caiaphas, who was high priest that year, said to them, “You know nothing at all. 50 Nor do you understand that it is better for you that one man should die for the people, not that the whole nation should perish.”
53 So from that day on they made plans to put him to death.
54 Jesus therefore no longer walked openly among the Jews, but went from there to the region near the wilderness, to a town called Ephraim, and there he stayed with the disciples.
55 Now the Passover of the Jews was at hand, and many went up from the country to Jerusalem before the Passover to purify themselves. 56 They were looking for Jesus and saying to one another as they stood in the temple, “What do you think? That he will not come to the feast at all?” 57 Now the chief priests and the Pharisees had given orders that if anyone knew where he was, he should let them know, so that they might arrest him.
What’s happening here?
Well Jesus just raised a guy named Lazarus from the dead. Pretty big miracle. And there is a crowd of people there. Some people respond the right way: wow, this Jesus guy is something. What a miracle.
But some of them go scurrying off to tell the Pharisees what happened.
This is a big deal for the Pharisees, so they call together the Jewish Sanhedrin—the ruling council of 70 elders, to plot what to do now that this Jesus guy was getting out of control.
Their head honcho gets up and says “this is simple guys. It’s better for us to kill him than for Rome to kill all of us. Do the math here.”
and verse 53 says “So from that day on they made plans to put him to death.”
Ok, so this isn’t looking good. And it gets even worse.
Jesus, knowing they are out to get him, has to fall back to a small village out in the middle of nowhere, just to avoid falling into their hands.
Now comes the Passover feast, and word is getting around about Jesus, and the fact that the authorities are looking for him everywhere, and these crowds start showing up, wondering to each other, “Man, is jesus even going to show up? Will the threats keep him away from this big festival?
Man, this doesn’t seem to be a very uplifting part of scripture. Stuff looks bad on all fronts.
Have you ever been in this place? Man, my Christian friends keep telling me “trust God, He’s got this.” “He’s got a plan,” “God will take care of you.” But I don’t see any of that happening right now. My family life is really bumpy, I don’t know how I’m going to pay for school, let alone ever afford rent. Everything is out of control!
We all have those moments. In the last few months, my wife changed jobs, and there have continually been times where we think “are we doing the right thing?” “Are we even going to be able to pay for our housing payment this month?”
We all have those moments—and sometimes it’s way longer than just a moment. by now each of you have probably walked through seasons where life was really hard, and it was hard to see the light at the end of the tunnel.
Here’s the thing: we all experience these times, but you don’t have to live there.
The bible tells us to expect difficult times, but it also gives us the hope to walk through those times, the promise of a God who is in control, who is unstoppably carrying out his plan to bring hope and salvation to his children.
And once we understand that, once we begin to understand how he works—it totally changes how we see the story unfolding.
See my first walkthrough of our passage today was incomplete. yeah, the bad guys are up to some shady stuff, trying to stop Jesus any way they can. but this passage in is not at all intended to leave us with a sense of doom and gloom. In fact I had to leave out a couple of verses in order to make it seem more gloomy.
See, like in the story of Thor, there’s a piece we’re missing, that totally changes how we see what’s happening here.
Let’s go back to verse 47 and read the middle section of our story again
47 So the chief priests and the Pharisees gathered the council and said, “What are we to do? For this man performs many signs. 48 If we let him go on like this, everyone will believe in him, and the Romans will come and take away both our place and our nation.” 49 But one of them, Caiaphas, who was high priest that year, said to them, “You know nothing at all. 50 Nor do you understand that it is better for you that one man should die for the people, not that the whole nation should perish.” 51 He did not say this of his own accord, but being high priest that year he prophesied that Jesus would die for the nation, 52 and not for the nation only, but also to gather into one the children of God who are scattered abroad.
53 So from that day on they made plans to put him to death.
That really changes things, doesn’t it?
The centerpiece of this story is the plot to Kill Jesus, but John wants us to know, that the very words that Caiaphas, the chief priest, uttered, suggesting that they kill Jesus, those words were also the words of God, a prophesy made by the high priest—God’s most anointed servant in the Old Testament sacrificial system.
Let’s look at how crazy this is:
Where are they when He makes this prophecy? They’re in the back room plotting the death of the Messiah, Jesus, the Son of God.
What is he doing when he prophesies? He’s trying to convince them to murder God. he’s the high priest, He’s supposed to be the number 1 helper when it comes to bringing people to God, and He’s in with the council, trying to protect their own position. He opens his mouth to plant the idea to murder Jesus, and out comes the gospel in prophecy form.
See, literally in the middle of this gathering of bad guys, God uses the baddest bad guy to prophesy—while the baddest bad guy is giving voice to the baddest bad-guy plan!
It is so easy for us to get wrapped up in watching stuff happen, watching the bad guys work. Watching them have the power. Watching them take advantage of people. Watching them seem to do whatever they want. If you don’t know how the world really works, how God really works, all of this is a terrifying scene.
But here’s what the bible has to say about this:
1 Why do the nations rage and the peoples plot in vain? 2 The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together, against the Lord and against his Anointed, saying, 3 “Let us burst their bonds apart and cast away their cords from us.”
4 He who sits in the heavens laughs; the Lord holds them in derision. 5 Then he will speak to them in his wrath, and terrify them in his fury, saying, 6 “As for me, I have set my King on Zion, my holy hill.”
I think a lot of times we think God hasn’t taken into account all the ways the bad guys are trying to thwart him. That’s not true. The first two verses are all about that: Humans are constantly up to no good. The people who are in charge are constantly plotting in vain to throw off the shackles that bind them to God.
And God is not at all threatened by that. He’s going accomplish his plan no matter what. In fact, he’s going to use they stuff they do—trying to undo His plan—to accomplish his plan. God is not threatened by them, in fact he mocks their pride in the plans he’s about to undo.
That’s what is so crazy about this scene back in John 11: John gives us the behind-the-scenes perspective of what’s going on: God uses the High-Priest of Israel to prophesy that Jesus will die in place of God’s people.
But if you were in the room, heck, if you were Caiaphas, you probably would have missed all that. See God didn’t hijack Caiaphas’s body and make his tongue spit out this prophecy.
Caiaphas was plotting against God’s son, Jesus. And he interrupts the council to tersely say “You guys don’t know what you’re talking about: we gotta kill him.”
And as he said what he meant to say, there was a second layer to this pronouncement. He was saying “it’s better for one guy (Jesus) to die instead of all of God’s people (political/ethnic Israel).” But that’s the gospel: “God’s plan is for one man (Jesus) to die, so that all of His children might live.
See our God is so big, and so powerful, he can use the actions of people who are INTENTIONALLY trying to work against him, to accomplish his good will. And they don’t even know they’re doing it when they do.
So let’s look at our story from a different perspective:
the bad guys get together and God uses the High Priest to prophesy the gospel that they are about to see play out.
For the fifth or sixth times, the bad guys get together to try to kill Jesus. They’ve tried before, and each time Jesus eluded their grasp.
Jesus withdraws to a secluded town because he is in lock-step with the Father’s plan. And the time for him to face the Pharisees in the final showdown is not yet here. It’s coming. But it isn’t here yet.
Finally: It’s the week before Passover, and the crowds know something is up. People are coming from all around Israel, and Jesus is already the talk of the town. The word has gone out that the Pharisees and Priests want any information they can get about the whereabouts of Jesus, so they can arrest him. The stage is set. The pieces are moving into place, and when the Passover comes, When Jesus’s triumphal entry into Jerusalem comes, when his public trial and execution take place, People. Will. Be. Watching. It’s a cinematic masterpiece. And God has lined it all up perfectly. And in this next week, his perfectly obedient servant, Jesus, will set the plan in motion. But contrary to the script the bad guys are working with—the climax of the story isn’t jesus’s death on a cross—it’s his rise from the dead three days later.
When we “watch the movie for the second time,” we finally see what’s going on. God is at work behind the scenes. He’s big enough and strong enough to accomplish His good plan, and to use what we do, and what the people around us do, to accomplish that plan.
So where does that leave us?
The takeaway for tonight is this: God has a plan.
It may not feel like it right now. It might seem like the bad guys are winning in your life. It might seem like your own choices have screwed up God’s plans to use you. But like we saw today, God can even work through the people who want to work against him. He’s still at work in our lives, and He still is willing to use us!
There are two ways we should respond to the truth that God has a plan:
Be Confident: confidence in the face of opposition.
We are not surprised that things don’t go our way, or that we run into people who seem to be actively trying to undo the work God is doing. We can be confident knowing that GOD is at work, and that he is even using their actions to bring his plans to fruition.
Make no mistake, our confidence is not in ourselves: the message is not “We’re awesome, God is on our side.” It’s God is awesome. And he’s on our side. And that truth can help us to walk confidently into whatever he’s called us to do, even in the face of severe opposition.
That leads us to response number two:
Be Faithful: It gives us the inspiration to remain faithful
says “For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.”
Jesus has called us to walk with him in obedience every single day. That means loving the people around us. Especially the difficult people. That means doing a good job at work, school, and all the other places God has called us to.
If we just looked at the circumstances around us, it would be easy to grow weary, to get tired and discouraged, and just give up. Knowing that God has a plan gives us the strength to keep pushing on when we want to give up, when we are discouraged.
The whole story of the gospel is that we are all hopelessly lost and broken on our own. And God, in his goodness, planned to save us through the sacrifice of His son Jesus. And jesus calls to each of us: come and follow me, come and make disciples. He’s going to ask us to do things that scare us, and He’s going to give us the strength to accomplish them.
God has a plan. And when we know that, it changes how we see everything. Even when it looks like things are going horribly wrong in the movie of our lives, we can be confident that He is at work, and with that hope, we can continue to walk faithfully.