“In Place of” vs “On Behalf of”


S (Scripture): John 11:47 So the chief priests and the Pharisees called the council together and said, “What are we doing? For this man is performing many miraculous signs. 48 If we allow him to go on in this way, everyone will believe in him, and the Romans will come and take away our sanctuary and our nation.”

49 Then one of them, Caiaphas, who was high priest that year, said, “You know nothing at all! 50 You do not realize that it is more to your advantage to have one man die for the people than for the whole nation to perish.” 51 (Now he did not say this on his own, but because he was high priest that year, he prophesied that Jesus was going to die for the Jewish nation, 52 and not for the Jewish nation only, but to gather together into one the children of God who are scattered.) 53 So from that day they planned together to kill him.

O (Observation):  I love the irony of some of the statements of Jesus’ enemies.  One found here is “it is more to your advantage to have one man die for the people than for the hole people to perish.”

As a city / state occupied by Romans, the arrangement is that the Jews can keep their religion, as long as they keep things on an even keel.  Don’t rock the boat.  And what was Jesus doing?  Rocking the boat!

People started following him and believing that he was something special.  To put a stop to this, we hear Caiaphas say that killing Jesus will save Israel.  He says this from a political perspective.   Jesus will die “in place of” the Jewish people.  

However, the irony of Caiaphas’ statement is that Jesus WILL save the Jews and ALL who believe.  Jesus will be killed “on behalf of” all believers…the true people of God – Jew and Gentile alike.   

A (Application):  How does one lead a local gathering of God’s people?   When stepping into new territory does one go “in place of” the congregation?  Or does on go “on behalf of” the people?

Here’s how I see it:  if one goes in place of a people, the ONE is responsible for everything. This is the beginning of a scapegoat process. “Don’t worry, we sent Sally and Jacob.”    In other words, don’t worry about it, because “they” are handling it.  If they fail, at least they tried.  If they succeed, yippee!  No sense of communal ownership comes from this.  The only lives changed are that of Sally and Jacob.  

If one goes “on behalf of” a people, more is expected or lies waiting for the people being represented by those who were sent.   Those sent are now advocates or ambassadors of the people gathered.   And the ambassadors relay information or return with information.   And the people come together in order to take action or to discuss what the ambassadors brought back.  Sally and Jacob are representing the community and are bringing challenges back to the people.  The community is engaged and benefits from being represented.  

As a pastor, I hope we tend towards having our people go “on behalf of” the congregation.  I pray that we might own the outpouring of God’s love as a community, or as sub-groups within the  larger congregation.  Too often, service is relegated to individuals (in place of the larger congregation).  That can be helpful, but I hope we lean towards serving on behalf of the congregation…where all people can support the ministries – through prayer, giving, driving, purchasing items, assembling items, delivering items, etc.   

Jesus didn’t go to the cross in place of God’s people – as if we are disconnected from Jesus.  Instead, Jesus went on our behalf.  As Jesus-followers, we now have the responsibility of sharing that connectedness with others to help them see how we are all part of this big call to mission and ministry in our everyday lives.  We have a role to play now.  Let’s get busy!

P (Prayer):  Lord, we are called to one, common mission: sharing your grace with others.  Help us to be ambassadors of grace.  Amen. 

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