What does John 11:56 mean?
ESV: 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?”
NIV: They kept looking for Jesus, and as they stood in the temple courts they asked one another, 'What do you think? Isn't he coming to the festival at all?'
NASB: So they were looking for Jesus, and saying to one another as they stood in the temple area, 'What do you think; that He will not come to the feast at all?'
CSB: They were looking for Jesus and asking one another as they stood in the temple, "What do you think? He won't come to the festival, will he? "
NLT: They kept looking for Jesus, but as they stood around in the Temple, they said to each other, 'What do you think? He won’t come for Passover, will he?'
KJV: Then sought they for Jesus, and spake among themselves, as they stood in the temple, What think ye, that he will not come to the feast?
NKJV: Then they sought Jesus, and spoke among themselves as they stood in the temple, “What do you think—that He will not come to the feast?”
Verse Commentary:
Passover is near, and this brings many people into the city of Jerusalem. Jewish men were obligated to observe certain festivals (Deuteronomy 16:16). That meant a surge of population in the city during those feast days. In order to maintain order, it was common for local political leaders to visit the city for those holidays, even if they lived elsewhere. That, in fact, is why Pilate—who lived in his own palace—was in Jerusalem and will be available for an immediate audience with Jesus (Matthew 27:2).

The people probably don't know that the Jewish religious leaders have agreed to have Jesus killed (John 11:53). Since the death penalty was not officially theirs to enact (John 18:31), it's unlikely the Council would make that part public knowledge. Such news would also have proven that any "trials" Jesus endured were shams, since the verdict was already decided. And it would risk the wrath of the crowds (Mark 12:12; Matthew 21:46). However, the religious leaders are aggressively seeking information about where to find Jesus in a private setting, so they can have Him arrested (John 11:57). The people coming in and out of the city are certainly aware of that, and it makes them wonder if Jesus might avoid the city, instead of coming to observe Passover (John 11:55).
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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