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God Meant it for Good

Lent 2022

Read John 11:45-57

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.” 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.

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.

“It is better for you that one man should die for the people, not that the whole nation should perish.” Little did Caiaphas know how these words indicated God’s work that was to come. Jesus died: the One for the many. The Apostle Paul speaks similarly (Romans 5) when he describes how sin came into the world, and to all people, through the disobedience of one man (Adam). But he goes on to describe how, by God’s gracious will, the righteousness of One (Jesus) who was sent to a cross leads to justification and life for all. God brings about his good work for our well-being, even in the midst of those who plot for the death of Jesus. This not only reminds us of the salvation secured for us by God’s mercy, but also of the mystery of God’s good and gracious work.

I can’t help but think of the Old Testament account of Joseph and his brothers. Out of their jealousy and anger, they sold Joseph into slavery. That led to a number of trials Joseph had to endure, including years of unjust imprisonment. Through those trials, God brought Joseph into the house of Pharaoh and to a high position within the government. This gave Joseph the ability to help his brothers when they came seeking food during a famine and to save his entire family. Joseph describes all this by saying, You meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive (Genesis 50:20). We may not always be clear as to what hidden work God is doing in the midst of our lives. Nevertheless, time after time, God’s word directs us to see that he is good and gracious. He has Christ for all, and works things for our good, even if in the most hidden of ways.

Prayer: Almighty God, thank you for your salvation given to me because of Jesus. May it always remind me that you work things out for my good. Strengthen my faith during times when your gracious activity seems more hidden than I would like. Amen.

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