God’s People, part 223: Leaders

Read John 7:32-36

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE
“When they heard this, the people in the synagogue were furious. Jumping up, they mobbed him and forced him to the edge of the hill on which the town was built. They intended to push him over the cliff, but he passed right through the crowd and went on his way.” (Luke 4:28-30, NLT)

When we think of God’s people, we tend to think one of two things. We might think of the Israelites who were God’s “chosen people”, or we might think of specific characters in the Bible. Either way, we tend to idealize the people we are thinking about. For instance, we may think that God’s people are super faithful, holy, perform miracles and live wholly devout and righteous lives. Unfortunately, this idealism enables us to distance ourselves from being God’s people, because we feel that we fall short of those ideals. As such, I have decided to write a devotion series on specific characters in the Bible in order to show you how much these Biblical people are truly like us, and how much we are truly called to be God’s people.

Trial-of-Jesus Part 223: Leaders. For someone often referred to as the “Prince of Peace”, Jesus sure did find himself in the midst of quite a lot of conflict. In fact, it is safe to say that, out of what is known, much of Jesus’ life was riddled with conflict. When he was born, Jesus had to be snuck out of Bethlehem in the dead of night because an angel warned Joseph that Herod was going to attack Bethlehem and kill every newborn make up to 2 years old. So, the first part of Jesus’ life was living as a refugee, seeking asylum in the foreign kingdom of Egypt.

When Jesus was twelve, he slipped away from his parents, who just assumed he was somewhere in the caravan they were traveling home from Jerusalem with. Meanwhile, Jesus was back in city carrying a theological discussion with the Temple leaders. When his parents realized he was missing, they went back to Jerusalem and searched for him for three days before they found him. For those of you reading this who are parents you can imagine the horror and the anger running through Mary and Joseph’s veins.

All throughout his ministry, Jesus ran into conflict. He ran into conflict with his family, with townsfolk who didn’t quite know what to think of him, with village farmers for casting demons into pigs, with demons (obviously), with local Rabbis, with the Pharisees, with the Sadducees, with Herod, with Herod Antipas and, of course, with the Romans. It would be more than justified to say that Jesus’ life was full of conflict.

In this account within John, a conflict arose between Jesus and the Pharisees because they had heard the crowds whispering among themselves that Jesus was the Messiah. The notion of this man, who had challenged their authority before, being the Messiah was not only outrageous, it was completely scandalous as well. This man was a peasant from Nazareth in Galilee. How could he possibly be the Messiah, this uneducated man from a place that no prophet, let alone Messiah, was likely to be from. What’s more, the Messiah was supposed to be of the line of David, yet this man from Nazareth could not possibly be a descendant since David and his family was from Bethlehem.

It was bad enough that people were looking to Jesus as a prophetic figure and, while the Pharisees couldn’t even stomach the notion of that, there was no way they were going to tolerate this rabble rouser to get hailed the “King of the Jews” (aka the Messiah). That would simply anger God, as they saw it, and God’s wrath would come down upon them all through the might of the Roman Empire. It would not be the first time God’s wrath came down upon Israel through a foreign empire, and the Pharisees, as leaders among the Jewish people, did not want to be the one’s responsible for stoking God’s anger by allowing this riff raff to spread his deceitful teachings.

Thus, these Rabbinic leaders, along with the Temple Priests, sent the Temple guards to arrest Jesus. When they arrived, they found Jesus waiting for them and ready to teach them: “I will be with you only a little longer. Then I will return to the one who sent me. You will search for me but not find me. And you cannot go where I am going.” (John 7:33-34, NLT) The leaders were puzzled by this. They began to question what he could possibly mean. Was he going to leave Jerusalem and Judaea and go other Jews out in the land of the Gentiles, among the Greeks and the Romans? Would he bring this obscure message to the Greeks themselves?

The leaders were at a loss as to what he could have possibly meant by his words, so much so that he evidently slipped away from them without even getting arrested. These leaders had been stumped by a supposedly uneducated simpleton from Nazareth in Galilee. How embarrassing that must have been. How much more they must have wanted to find this man and have him arrested, especially since they had him in plain sight and, yet, were unable to take him in custody.

The question for us is this, do we think we know more than Jesus. Do we think that, because of our place in the 21st Century, that we are superior to Jesus and the ancient world. Do we look at his miracles as being mythological because we, in the 21st century, know that natural science doesn’t work that way? Do we think that we somehow are in a place to pick and choose which of Jesus’ teachings are worth following and which aren’t?

The truth is that if we take such a position we find ourselves in the place of the Jewish Leaders. The challenge is for us to look to Jesus with new and fresh eyes. The challenge for us is to accept Jesus for who he claimed to be, and to let go of our modern-centric cynicism. Remember, that Jesus is either who he said he is, or he is not worth our time in listening to and following. I personally have experience Jesus Christ as Lord, I have come into his real, living presence, and you can too if you open yourself up to it. I pray you do.

THOUGHT OF THE DAY
“Now I say to you that you are Peter (which means ‘rock’), and upon this rock I will build my church, and all the powers of hell will not conquer it.” – Jesus Christ (Matthew 16:18, NLT)

PRAYER
Lord, help me to grow in my knowledge and experience of you so that I might also grow in my faith and in my faithfulness. Amen.

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