Immediately after the resurrection of Lazarus, look at what transpired according to John:
John 11:46-50 wrote:But some of them went to the Pharisees and told them the things which Jesus had done. Therefore the chief priests and the Pharisees convened a council, and were saying, "What are we doing? For this man is performing many signs. "If we let Him go on like this, all men will believe in Him, and the Romans will come and take away both our place and our nation." But one of them, Caiaphas, who was high priest that year, said to them, "You know nothing at all, nor do you take into account that it is expedient for you that one man die for the people, and that the whole nation not perish." (NASB used by permission)
Why did the Pharisees think that if “all men will believe in Him” that would necessitate “the Romans will come and take away our place and our nation”?
Some commentators suggest that a swell of messianic fervor behind Jesus would result in Rome stepping in to avoid, or perhaps put down, a messianic rebellion.
This seems unlikely since Jesus had already once alienated a good number of followers:
John 6:54, 66-67 wrote:"He who eats My flesh and drinks My blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day.
As a result of this many of His disciples withdrew and were not walking with Him anymore. So Jesus said to the twelve, "You do not want to go away also, do you?" (NASB)
Why then would the Jewish leaders not bide their time to see if this happened again? We see evidence of this pattern in their history. The words Gamaliel, during a council held by the same leaders, recounts their actions in the case of former would be messiahs:
Act 5:36-37 wrote:"For some time ago Theudas rose up, claiming to be somebody, and a group of about four hundred men joined up with him. But he was killed, and all who followed him were dispersed and came to nothing. After this man, Judas of Galilee rose up in the days of the census and drew away some people after him; he too perished, and all those who followed him were scattered.” (NASB)
Why did they not take this same wait-and-see approach with Jesus? Why did they appear to believe a clock was running?
Additionally, we must consider the nature of their response:
John 11:53 wrote:So from that day on they planned together to kill Him. (NASB)
Theirs is a profoundly evil plan. While the chief priests and Pharisees were evil, to be sure, their sin more often took the form of self-righteousness covered by good appearances. What engendered an imminent fear of Roman action? What so compelled them toward conspiracy to commit murder? What moved them to publicly violate God’s law to protect “our place” and the “nation”?
A side note: the word place as in “…both our place and the nation…” is commonly understood to refer to the Temple. Thus “our place” would make sense in the context of the Pharisees and chief priests whose entire existence and position in society derived from the goings on of the Temple and religious practice.
Now, with the understanding that “our place” may well refer to the Temple also called the Sanctuary, consider this passage from Daniel:
Dan 9:25-27 wrote:"So you are to know and discern that from the issuing of a decree to restore and rebuild Jerusalem until Messiah the Prince there will be seven weeks and sixty-two weeks; it will be built again, with plaza and moat, even in times of distress. Then after the sixty-two weeks the Messiah will be cut off and have nothing, and the people of the prince who is to come will destroy the city and the sanctuary. And its end will come with a flood; even to the end there will be war; desolations are determined. (NASB)
Is it possible that they knew Daniel’s prophecy? Of course! Rabbis were required to memorize the whole of the OT before they were allowed to comment on it! They were awash in scripture!
Further, the Jews kept excellent genealogies, to wit those stated throughout the Bible. They also kept times and dates as part of those genealogies. They knew exactly how long it had been since the decree to rebuild Jerusalem! They knew the date on which Messiah was to be presented to the nation! We know this date as the triumphal entry. They also knew the progression of empires foretold in Daniel. They knew that the Medes & Persians had consumed Babylon, that the Greeks had consumed the Medes and Persians, and that most recently, Rome had consumed the Greeks. They knew that Rome was the “people…to come” - it was the forth kingdom in the progression per Daniels visions.
I submit for your critical analysis:
• The Pharisees were aware that the 69th week was nearly complete.
• The Pharisees were aware that Messiah was about to appear.
• The Pharisees were aware, according to Daniel, the next thing on the calendar was the destruction of “our place” a.k.a. the Temple a.k.a. the Sanctuary.
• The Pharisees were aware, according to Daniel, the next thing on the calendar was the destruction of “the nation”.
Now, read again the words of Caiaphas:
“…take into account that it is expedient for you that one man die for the people, and that the whole nation not perish.”
I submit that the Pharisees were not simply mistaken, nor ignorant, but instead, they willfully conspired against whom they knew to be God’s Messiah. They did this in fear, disbelief and rebellion on account of their own lives, their position, their self-righteous prominence and their power.