[Caiaphas] did not say this of his own accord,
but being high priest that year he prophesied
that Jesus would die for the nation, and not for the nation only, but also to gather into one the children of God
who are scattered abroad.
And I have other sheep that are not of this fold.
I must bring them also, and they will listen to my voice. So there will be one flock, one shepherd.
Without knowing it, a donkey may speak for God (Numbers 22:28). So may a preacher or a priest. It happened to Caiaphas, who was the high priest in Israel when Jesus was being tried for his life. Unwittingly he said to the leaders of Israel, “It is better for you that one man should die for the people, not that the whole nation should perish” (John 11:50). This had a double meaning. Caiaphas meant: Better that Jesus die than that the Romans accuse the nation of treason and destroy the people. But God had another meaning. So the Bible says, “[Caiaphas] did not say this of his own accord, but being high priest that year he prophesied that Jesus would die for the nation, and not for the nation only, but also to gather into one the children of God who are scattered abroad” (John 11:51-52).
Jesus himself said the same thing with a different metaphor. Instead of “children . . . scattered abroad,” Jesus spoke of “sheep” outside the fold of Israel: “I have other sheep that are not of this fold. I must bring them also, and they will listen to my voice. So there will be one flock, one shepherd” (John 10:16).
Both of these ways of saying it are astonishing. They teach that all over the world there are people whom God has chosen to be reached and saved by Jesus Christ. There are “children of God . . . scattered abroad.” There are “sheep not of this [Jewish] fold.” This means that God is very aggressive in gathering a people for his Son. He calls his people to go make disciples, but he also goes before them. He has a people chosen before his messengers get there. So Jesus speaks of converts whom God had made his own and then brought to Christ. “All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never cast out. . . . Yours they were, and you gave them to me” (John 6:37; 17:6).
It is an awesome thing that God looks down on all the peoples of the world and names a flock for himself, and then sends missionaries in the name of Christ, and then leads his chosen ones to the sound of the gospel, and then saves them. They could be saved no other way. Missions is essential. “The sheep hear his voice, and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out . . . the sheep follow him, for they know his voice” (John 10:3-4).
Jesus suffered and died so that the sheep could hear his voice and live. That’s what Caiaphas said without knowing it: “Jesus would die . . . not for the nation only, but also to gather into one the children of God who are scattered abroad.” He gave up his life to gather the sheep. By his blood he bought the mercy that makes his voice unmistakable to his own. Pray that God would apply that mercy to you, and that you would hear and live.
*This is taken from John Piper’s book “The Passion of Jesus Christ,” which was later released under the name “50 Reasons Jesus Came to Die.” Please visit Desiring God’s Website for more gospel-centered resources from John Piper. You can also download a free PDF of “50 Reasons Jesus Came to Die” here.