Jesus and the Jewish Leaders

2024-02-02A

A. THE CONTRAST BETWEEN JESUS AND THE JEWISH LEADERS

Because of the many miracles that Jesus did and because of his powerful, wise and uplifting teaching, thousands of people followed him wherever he went. This provoked the jealousy of the religious leaders of the Jews. There were different groups of them such as the Pharisees, Sadducees and Scribes. These clerics were highly learned and studied the Law of Moses in great detail. They also added their own explanations and interpretations which made it very difficult for the man in the street to serve God. The intercourse with God was placed beyond the reach of the common man.

Despite these leaders’ impressive outward appearance, they were in truth hypocrites who did not live out their own teachings. Against them, and their dishonest way of life, by which they pretended to be men of God but did not know or serve Him at all, Jesus spoke out strongly. In the Scripture section that follows, some of the skirmishes He had with them are recounted.

  • Jesus had power over evil spirits; the religious leaders, on the other hand, were spiritually powerless. Please read Luke. 11:14-20 (See also Matt 12:22-32).

A certain man who was mute and blind, was brought to Jesus. His physical defects were not of a physical nature but were attributable to a demon that took possession of him and bound him in such a way that he lost the use of his senses of sight and speech.

Whether his family and friends first brought him to the religious leaders for liberation is not mentioned, but the fact that the latter were present when Jesus freed him, and they reacted so vehemently, indicates that it was indeed so. Despite all their theology and strict observance of the Law, they were powerless against the forces of satan. That is why his relatives then brought him to Jesus.

He cast out the devil without effort and suddenly the man could speak (and probably see too). A loud shout of praise and joy went up from the crowd. A miracle, that only God could do, took place before their eyes.

The spiritual leaders were naturally green with jealousy and red with anger as they realized that their waning reputation had been dealt another blow. They also could not explain why Jesus had more power than them. Now they had to quickly think of a damage control plan to try to maintain their prestige and shouted: “He casts out devils through Beelzebub, the chief of the devils.” (This is, of course, an old established strategy: speak ill of your opponent, then you immediately look better yourself.)

But see how wisely Jesus answered them: “The devil is the king of the kingdom of darkness. The demon that was cast out is one of his faithful servants who possessed the afflicted person on his behalf. If the devil casts his own servants out of men, he loses his property and breaks down his own kingdom, which will then fall. It would be unwise of him to work against himself like that. After all, it is God who stands against the devil and if I have cast out the devils, it can only be through God’s power that I have done it.” They could not refute this argument and were even more embarrassed and taken in the face .

Then Jesus raised another argument and said: “But some of your own sons also cast out evil spirits, do you also accuse your own sons of working with the devil?” It was also a good argument. They were probably pleased that their sons could cast out devils and attributed it to the power of God, but because they hated Jesus, they refused to acknowledge that He was sent by God and cast out devils by the power of God.

  • Jesus possessed divine light (insight) which He also wanted to share with man, but the religious leaders did not have even a spark of light in them. Please read Luke. 11:33-36 (See also Luke 8:16 and Matt 5:15 and 6:22).

Here Jesus actually explained why the religious leaders of His time did not understand the will and ways of God and why they misled their followers. As usual, he used examples from everyday life to illustrate spiritual truths. Here He used the image of a lamp that is lit to illuminate a room so that a person entering can see what is inside. In the lamplight he saw a table and placed the things he had brought with him on it; he saw a chair and sat down on it. Such are the eyes of man; it makes his environment visible and accessible to him so that he can move around with ease and utilize it without running into objects and injuring himself. .

However, if a person’s eyes are blinded, he is as powerless as if he were standing in a pitch-dark room. He may have a good strong body, but that body will be useless because his hand will not be able to see the food on the table, reach out to take it and bring it to the mouth. The foot will not know where the door of the bedroom is and therefore cannot bring the body to the bed. A blind person can easily trip over a suitcase someone left in the middle of the room, fall, and injure himself.

Similarly, the spirit of man is equipped with spiritual eyes to see into the spiritual world. With his spiritual eyes he can see the things that God sees and see them as God sees them. When you are spiritually enlightened, you will see what is for your benefit and what will only lead to harm, loss, dishonour and destruction. You will see in which direction to move, i.e. which decisions to make in order to live a fulfilled and worthy life. You will not hurt yourself by unexpectedly stumbling and falling into sin. You will notice temptations from a distance and walk around them.

The physically blind is at least aware of his disability and limitations and can ask others to help him, but the spiritually blind is usually unaware of his lack of insight. Thus these leaders were unaware of their lack of spiritual insight; they were conceited and self-confident and not only stumbled down a path to the abyss themselves, but led their unsuspecting followers down it as well.

Their followers trusted them fully because they held positions of spiritual leadership and passed themselves off as spiritual experts. Jesus, on the other hand, was the true and only Light of the world and when a person opened his life and He entered, a light switched on in his spirit and suddenly that person was no longer locked up in a pitch-dark cell.

  • The spiritual blindness of the unsaved religious leaders cuases them to take care that their lives appear pious on the outside but their hearts which cannot be seen are dirty with unholy thoughts and plans. Please read Luke. 11:37-41 (See also Matt 23:1 ff.).

In this pericope too, we see that the Pharisees were blind to the spiritual meaning of the Word of God. The believers of that time lived according to the Laws and institutions that God gave to Moses. Those teachings are, of course perfect and right to live by.

According to those Laws, the priests had to wash themselves with the water provided in a basin in the forecourt, before entering the tabernacle to perform services for God. This washing of their bodies had a symbolic meaning; it pointed to the washing away of sin by the Blood of Jesus without which no one may come into the presence of God or perform His service.

Those Laws also determined that certain objects or persons could become symbolically unclean. Thus, for a number of days per month, a woman was spiritually unclean symbolically due to her flow of blood. A dead body was likewise unclean. A person who contracted a disease such as leprosy was also spiritually symbolically unclean. Objects that were touched by a spiritually, symbolically unclean person became unclean and a person who touched these, then also became symbolically unclean. He had to had to go through certain rituals to be spiritually, symbolically cleansed.

The Pharisees did not understand this; they did not understand that the cleansing of their hands could not cleanse their hearts. The Pharisee with whom Jesus went to table, felt that he was now one hundred percent clean before God because he had washed his hands before eating. Of course he did it in the presence of all his guests so that he could be admired and praised as a holy man of God. He look down on Jesus and sort of reprimanded him for not doing the same.

The Lord Jesus however looked right through his pious exterior and saw his depraved heart. He rebuked him and the other Pharisees comparing their lives to dirty drinking cups. A cup must be washed both inside and out; if not one would never drink from it. The Pharisees only washed the outside of their lives, such as their hands, that which people could see. But the inside, namely their hearts and lives, that which people could not see, was rotten.

Because they were spiritual leaders and put up a good appearance, people went to them to quench their spiritual thirst. What flowed from their hearts and mouths however, was rotten with sin and would cause spiritual death to those who drank from them (accepted their teaching).

In verse 44 He even compares them to corpses buried beneath a thick layer of soil. Misery, i.e. divine judgment and punishment, awaited them because they were like unrecognizable graves over which people walked unawares.  By walking over such a grave, a person would come very close to death because a grave contains dead bones and rotting flesh. They covered the rottenness that was in them with their outward (seemingly decent) actions and were a danger to those who would come into contact with their example and teaching, because they carried spiritual death within them .

Everyone will agree that it is so much easier to wash your hands clean of dirt with soap and water, than to cleanse your heart of sin. The latter requires humble acknowledgment of that sin, repentance, washing away by faith in the Blood of Jesus and a walk with God by trusting Him to keep you from further sin.

  • Two more rotten spots in these leaders’ lives were that they had no true love for others but only for themselves as revealed by their thirst for glory. Please read Luke 11:42.

They were very precise in giving their tithes. Every harvest they took from their fields, they divided into ten equal parts, then gave one part to God as was prescribed in the Law of Moses. This was again an outward action that would be clearly seen by other believers, but when it came to giving to others what was justly theirs, they failed to do it.

They especially fell short in their love for God. It was easier to give God one of their ten sheaves of wheat than to love Him with all their heart.

Furthermore, they derived great pleasure from sitting in the front row of chairs of the synagogue where they could be seen and appreciated by everyone. And when they walked around the market, it was like dripping honey to be greeted by one after another with a: “Good morning, rabbi (my pastor). Oh, I am so glad to see you, rabbi (my teacher).”

Well, Jesus did not say that it was wrong to show love and respect for your pastor, but that Christian leaders should not seek or desire such honor, because praise and respect should be given to God and not to men. These leaders did not have it in their hearts to give, but to receive.

  • Their greatest crime: the concealment (hiding) of the keys to God’s kingdom. (Please read Luke 11:52).

 Keys grant access and when one loses one’s house or car keys, it is a great dilemma (elderly people, being more frogetful, will know what I am speaking about). You stand there at ten o’clock at night in the parking lot or in front of your apartment’s closed door, blaming yourself because you were so careless with the keys. You firmly promise yourself that if you can find it just this once, you will guard it like gold.

When your keys get stolen, it is even much worse. If somebody steals your keys, he might as well steal your car or house for which the key is intended. By robbing you of the key, he robs you of the use of the item for which the key is intended.

B. THE GOLDEN KEY TO THE HOUSE OF GOD.

 The Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ is the key that gives man access to God and to all the riches in the house and Kingdom of God. Once a person understands the Gospel and accepts Jesus as Saviour, all of Jesus’ wealth becomes his too. He unlocks the door and takes possession of it. Jesus then becomes the Center of that person’s life.

The religious leaders, of course, did not think of the Gospel as the key to the Kingdom of God. They themselves wanted to be the door through which people had to get to God. They themselves wanted to be able to let people in or lock them out. This would afford them a special place of importance in the Kingdom of God by which they would receive great honour from man and be able to exercise tremendous power.

  • Put the key in someone’s hand and get out of the way.

By preaching the Gospel to a person, you place the key of God’s Kingdom in his hands, then stand aside that he may enter in if he so wishes. You, as a preacher of the Gospel, therefore withdraw from the picture and Jesus, who is the Door, takes the central place. The Gospel (the Good News of Salvation through the Blood of Jesus) is much more important than the person who preaches the Message. The preacher fits the Gospel key into the the lock of heaven’s door, then steps aside so that anyone can unhindered make his own decision to step forward, turn the key, push open the door and step inside to meet the Lord.

  • Who stole the keys?

This is why the religious leaders hated Jesus and His Gospel so much. They themselves were too proud to recognize their need for the cleansing of their hearts by the Blood of Jesus. They therefore did not want to recognize Jesus as the door to God and committed an even greater sin by hiding the Gospel Key so that others could not enter either. They piled all kinds of false teachings on top of the Gospel key so that people would not find this Golden Truth. This made their sin that much greater.

We can of course also hide the Gospel key in other ways; eg by confessing that we are children of God, but living in sin. In this way we blind the unsaved people’s spiritual eyes to the glory of God so that they cannot enter through the Door and inherit Eternal life.

My dear brother and sister, what more can I say? I can but pray that you and I will cherish this Prescious Key, hold it up high above our heads for all the world to see, fit it in the lock, step aside and witness people going forward, turning it in the lock and stepping into eternal glory.

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