What does John 11:51 mean?
ESV: He did not say this of his own accord, but being high priest that year he prophesied that Jesus would die for the nation,
NIV: He did not say this on his own, but as high priest that year he prophesied that Jesus would die for the Jewish nation,
NASB: Now he did not say this on his own, but as he was high priest that year, he prophesied that Jesus was going to die for the nation;
CSB: He did not say this on his own, but being high priest that year he prophesied that Jesus was going to die for the nation,
NLT: He did not say this on his own; as high priest at that time he was led to prophesy that Jesus would die for the entire nation.
KJV: And this spake he not of himself: but being high priest that year, he prophesied that Jesus should die for that nation;
NKJV: Now this he did not say on his own authority; but being high priest that year he prophesied that Jesus would die for the nation,
Verse Commentary:
Among the toughest truths to accept is that God's view of tragedy is not identical to ours (Isaiah 55:8–9). Scripture tells us that God works out all things to the good of those who love Him (Romans 8:28). It tells us every wrong will one day be made right (Revelation 21:3–5). The recent resurrection of Lazarus demonstrated that even situations which seem inexplicable (John 11:35–37) are part of God's plan for our own good (John 11:11–15). This doesn't make those moments any easier to bear (2 Corinthians 5:2–4), but it does give us perspective.

Caiaphas' statement in the prior verse was that it was better for one man to die than for an entire nation to be destroyed. That comment is prophetic in at least two ways, both of which are accidental. Like a donkey supernaturally empowered to speak (2 Peter 2:15–16; Numbers 22:28), a hardened non-believer is speaking prophetic truth.

First and foremost, Caiaphas predicts the basic concept of Jesus' sacrificial death. The reason Jesus became human was to serve as a living, perfect sacrifice for the sins of many other people (Romans 5:12–17; 2 Corinthians 5:21). Caiaphas means this in a worldly, political sense: that it's better to have a troublemaker executed rather than let that person disrupt the peace.

His words are also prophetic in that not long after Jesus' resurrection, Rome would respond to Jewish uprising with extreme violence. That attack will culminate in the obliteration of the temple in AD 70, causing Old Testament Judaism to effectively "perish" from the earth (Hebrews 8:13).

This verse again notes that Caiaphas was High Priest "that year." Contrary to the lifetime appointments found in Scripture, Roman rulers preferred not to give one person power for too long. So they installed their own leaders, including Caiaphas. It's possible that the Jewish people acknowledged this position, formally, while informally considering others to be their "real" High Priest, such as Annas (Acts 4:6; John 18:13).
Verse Context:
John 11:45–57 follows Jesus' seventh and most spectacular miraculous ''sign,'' the resurrection of Lazarus. Amazingly, Jesus enemies are so hardened against Him that this miracle only inspires them to have Jesus killed even more quickly. This is one of many examples disproving the claim that non-believers merely lack sufficient evidence. Critics claim Jesus may incite rebellion and invite destruction from Rome. For the most part, however, Jesus is a threat to their pompous arrogance and positions of power. When Jesus maintains a low profile, the religious leaders give orders to find Him so He can be arrested. This sets in motion the critical events completing Jesus' sacrificial death.
Chapter Summary:
Jesus has left the vicinity of Jerusalem to avoid hostile religious leaders. While gone, He receives word that a good friend, Lazarus, is sick. In fact, Lazarus has died by the time this message reaches Jesus. He purposefully waits a few days before returning to Bethany, arriving four days after Lazarus' burial. In front of Lazarus' mourning sisters—who Jesus weeps with—and an assembled crowd, Jesus raises Lazarus from the dead in a stirring and spectacular miracle. This is the seventh of John's seven ''signs'' of Jesus' divine power. In response, religious leaders coordinate in their effort to have Jesus murdered.
Chapter Context:
After giving sight to a man born blind (John 9), Jesus sparred with religious leaders on at least two occasions (John 10). After another failed arrest attempt, Jesus left the area and went out where Jerusalem's politics had little influence. In this chapter, He returns to resurrect a recently-departed friend, Lazarus. That results in a renewed commitment from Jerusalem's religious leaders to have Jesus murdered. As the crucifixion draws near, Jesus will stage His triumphal entry in chapter 12, and then begin His final teachings to the disciples.
Book Summary:
The disciple John wrote the gospel of John decades after the gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke were written. The author assumes that a reader is already familiar with the content of these other works. So, John presents a different perspective, with a greater emphasis on meaning. John uses seven miracles—which he calls "signs"— to prove that Jesus is, in fact, God incarnate. Some of the most well-known verses in the Bible are found here. None is more famous than the one-sentence summary of the gospel found in John 3:16.
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