Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Learning more from the Pharisees

Remember, we are studying this week the response of some of the witnesses to Lazarus' resurrection, and also the response of the Pharisees . . .

Let's go back and refresh our memories of the religious hierarchy of the day, OK? The Sanhedrin (the council) was the highest ranking group of leaders, directly under the Roman government in Judea. It consisted of the high priests, past high priests, members of wealthy, privileged families, the Pharisees, the Sadducees, and some of the tribal heads.

The chief priests and the Pharisees are the ones who get right to the point -- they announce the reason for calling the meeting:

                              “What are we to do? For this man performs many signs. If we let
                               him go on like this, everyone will believe in him, and the Romans
                               will come and take away both our place and our nation.”

That's getting to the point, isn't it?
Here's the thing -- Jesus is drawing a lot of attention because of the signs and miracles He is providing.  Some of the people think He is the Messiah, and another word for that is "King." That will get the attention of the Romans, for sure, and they will want to squash that quickly. The easiest way to do that is to do away with the Jewish leadership, and take the area in hand under strict Roman rule.
So this is what they mean: the Romans may destroy the temple, and also remove them from their positions of power.

Caiaphas, the chief priest, can't figure out for the life of him why they are so stupid. He says there are two options:
           1. Jesus continues and they lose out.
           2. They kill Jesus.
It's that simple, he says. The better option is that "one man should die for the people, not that the whole nation should perish." So from that day on, "they made their plans." (verse 53)
In Psalm 2 we read:

                    Why do the nations rage and the peoples plot in vain? The kings of the
                    earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together, against the LORD
                    and against his Anointed, saying, “Let us burst their bonds apart and cast
                    away their cords from us.”

We see this fulfilled in verse 47. They are making plans to push back, and not accept His rule.

The biggest lesson from today's study is to learn from the Pharisees -- don't be swallowed up in pride.

We shouldn't think that our wisdom can thwart God. Did you see that they believe the potential progress of Jesus (having more people believe in Him) would be the result of their inactivity? And they also think that they can plot, and plan, and stop Jesus. But Psalm 2 continues by saying that “He who sits in heaven laughs; the Lord holds them in derision.”

Their pride also got them into trouble because they assessed things with their own finite minds and judgment, instead of measuring by the Word of God.  Of all the Jewish people, the members of the Council should have been the ones who recognized the Messiah -- they were the ones who studied the Law and the prophets!  They should have been searching the scriptures to see what such signs said about the one performing them. Time and again we have seen how what Jesus has been doing directly corresponds to what the Old Testament writers told God’s people to expect in their Redeemer.

But nooooooo, they don't consult the scriptures. They decide by their own wisdom what is best for the nation.  They can't even fall back on "He was doing something wrong." They are simply plotting to kill Him for convenience . . . it would have been terribly inconvenient to lose their positions of power.  In our present-day, we must resolve to search the scriptures and follow God's will, even if it is inconvenient.

A third evidence of their pride is that they call the Temple (which is the Lord's) and their positions "theirs."  Maintaining control of what they had was of greatest concern to them. They challenged the plan and sovereignty of God by taking ownership of what was rightfully His.

Sometimes we need to remember this in our churches. We need to recall that the church does not belong to us. It belongs to God; it was purchased with the blood of His Son.

                    “You are not your own, for you were bought with a price.” (II Cor. 6:19-20)
                    “We are the temple of the living God.”  2 Corinthians 6:16

 In Acts 20:28, Paul refers to “the church of God, which he obtained with his own blood.” In Matthew 16:18, Jesus says, “I will build my church.” In Revelation 5:9, we read that Christ was slain and by his blood “purchased people for God.” The church belongs to our Father; it was purchased with the blood of his Son.

No matter how many years or positions of leadership in which we serve, no matter how much we give to the offerings, no matter how long our family has been on the membership roll, the church doesn't belong to us -- it belongs to Him.
Here is the consequence of pride like the Pharisees showed. Look at verse 54: "Jesus therefore no longer walked openly among the Jews."

In the Old Testament, when the people were stubborn and bowed their necks and broke the covenants . . . what did God do? He drove them into exile, or removed His glory from the Temple, or had foreigners come and destroy it. He removed His presence from them. And that is what Jesus is doing in verse 54.  What a terrible statement. Think about that -- doesn't it make you shudder?

We should stay away from pridefulness, and we should fear losing Christ more than losing "our places."

But wait! That can't happen, can it? Jesus said in Matthew 28, "I am with you always, to the end of the age." But Jesus didn't make that promise to prideful, self-serving Pharisees. He didn't make it to high priests who chose to do evil for the sake of convenience. He didn't make it to those who want to take ownership of what is actually God's.
He promised His presence to His people. To those who love Christ, follow His word, and love others the way that Christ loves them.

We'll conclude our study of this passage tomorrow.

1 comment:

Belinda said...

It's hard to not shake our heads at the Sadducees and Pharisees. We think they were so puffed up and arrogant. But I have to say that I'm sure I am that way to some extent.

I find that sometimes I'm puffed up with my "religious" or "spiritual" self. I'm better than her, or him. Yes, I am blessed. Yes, I am saved by GRACE. But I'm not any better than anyone else. I have been given a gift, but I am still a sinner. Thanks be to God that my sins are forgiven. There is no reason to be proud of myself, because I didn't do anything to earn it.

Just as the leaders then needed humility, I need to remember to be humble.