I have been encouraged by something from the last three passages in John. Perhaps you might be too…?
Three times we have met people who act in certain ways, but their actions speak much more than they ever realised. It gives us a glimpse into the mystery of how God achieves His purposes in this world.
As human beings intend one thing – God is working out His great intentions for the world. Whether that be a scheming enemy, a devoted follower or a clueless crowd. God is doing much more than they knew.
The Scheming Enemy
Meet Caiaphas the High Priest. Jesus is becoming an ever increasing headache to religious leaders of the day and so the Sanhedrin meet to discuss what to do. Caiaphas clearly sees the obvious solution to the “Jesus-problem”. Here is what he says in John 11:50:
“…it is better for you that one man die for the people than that the whole nation perish.”
The solution is that Jesus should die, then all the fuss would die down and the Romans might leave the Jews alone. He arrives at this verdict based on his own reason, his desire for personal comfort and stability, and his growing hostility towards Jesus.
But God had other ideas. Actually Caiaphas was prophesying (v51)! He was acting as God’s mouthpiece. This is precisely what God intended would happen. One man dies to save the nation, and in fact even more than that, all the scattered children of God.
Human intention (a hostile opponent) and God’s intention working to bring about what God had purposed and planned.
The Devoted Follower
Next we meet Mary and find her anointing Jesus feet. She is the sister of Lazarus. Mary is moved by her own desire for Jesus, her love for Him and her choice to express that love with the most valuable thing she owned. The perfume poured out was Mary’s choice.
Yet something more was going on. There was divine intention to her action. Jesus says:
“It was intended that she should save this perfume for the day of my burial.”
Like Caiaphas her actions were prophetic and spoke more than she ever realised. She was anointing Jesus for burial. She was pointing forward to His death. Her actions spoke more than she realised.
Human intention (a devoted follower) and God’s intention working to bring about what God had purposed and planned.
The Clueless Crowd
Finally we meet the crowd welcoming Jesus into Jerusalem. They were excited about Jesus and all He was doing. They were longing for a political leader to save them and liberate them. They began to think it might be Jesus, so they waved their branches and shouted their praise. It was genuine excitement and joy that flowed out of hearts looking for a particular sort of King.
But actually they pointed to something far greater. A greater King than they had even imagined. A greater King than simply a political hero. Their actions that day were prophetic and declared the truth that God wanted the whole world to know.
Here is the King who has come to restore all things. Here is the Saviour of the World.
Human intention (a confused crowd) and God’s intention working to bring about what God had purposed and planned.
Three times John shows us this pattern. God works out His plans to save the world through the heart intentions of hostile people like Caiaphas, or devoted people like Mary, or through confused people like the crowd.
This should encourage us. Those hostile to God cannot derail His plans. Those devoted to God find their acts of devotion taken up in greater ways than we could ever imagine. And even the clueless are not beyond God’s purposes.
God does not act despite us, or without us, He does not wait to see what we will do and then react to us. Instead God weaves all of our intentions (both good and bad) together in order to work out his eternal plan.
We can’t derail it by our sin. We can be part of it by our devotion. Let’s get on with serving Jesus. Perhaps He will use our intentions to do far more than we know.