By Bill Byrnes
In the beginning there was the Word. The Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. All things were made by him and nothing was made without him. In him there was life, and that life was the light of all people. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overpowered it. John: 1:1-5
In case you have Liberal/Progressive leanings remember that the Bible does support the Liberal agenda, in fact, don’t forget about the greatest liberal of all: Jesus Christ!.
Yes, Jesus Christ was God incarnate! When I make this next statement, I am not belittling Christ’s true nature: that of being our Lord & Savior: but, what he did was to involve himself in a great political struggle. He was in a society whose leaders would NOT tolerate any change! Hate was a “natural” response to any agent of different ideas. Hmmm, sound familiar?
Although politics was not his purpose, it was a medium that could not be avoided if one had a social agenda, and he did! He wanted to “fulfill” Mosaic Law: “Think not that I have come to destroy the law, or the prophets. I am not come to destroy, but to fulfill them.” Matthew: 5:17
To Gentiles who are more familiar with the Ten Commandments– Mosaic laws were a program that governed literally all aspects of everyday life for Jews–even clothes to wear & proper food types. These laws were arguably the most important element in preserving God’s chosen people thru 1,500 years of wars, rebellions, divisions & assimilations into other empires. They worked incredibly well! So you can easily imagine the immense challenge facing Jesus.
The Pharisees, with their emphasis on maintaining the “purity” of the law posed tremendous opposition to the young Rabbi, bent on changing the entire picture of the law! Indeed, they were more centered on the “letter” of the law and not its purpose. What they overlooked was that the laws were set up to protect the purity of the race, but more importantly, the reason for them was to insure that the Messiah would, indeed, fulfill the prophesized lineages and other predictions.
Also, we can’t forget about the real “elephant” in the room–the Roman Empire! Jewish leaders did not want anything to damage the always fragile relations with the occupation forces. They were afraid of anything that the Romans might perceive as a threat. This is quite clear from John: 11:48: “If we let him alone all will believe on him, then the Romans will come and take away both our place and nation” It is unfortunate that they chose this view. Had Temple leaders embraced Jesus’ teachings they would have seen that they were very compatible with the Roman occupation (“Give to Caesar what is Caesar’s and give to God what is his”). But, I won’t get off-track. As we all know–that was never the plan for Jesus’ life. His main goal was to be the sacrificial lamb of God.
What is significant is that the comments from John:11 occurred just after Lazarus was raised from the dead. Some of the observers of that miracle described it to Pharisee leaders on their way home. So, to me, it’s clear that this was a kind of “last straw” moment. Upon hearing this, the Temple leaders knew that they could no longer tolerate the ministry of Jesus. They began considering ways to kill him.
There is another question that has gnawed at me for several years. John: 11:50-52: “ Caiaphas said, ‘ Now consider that it is expedient for us, that one man should die for the people, and that the whole nation should perish not. And not for that nation only, but that also he should gather in one, the children of God that were scattered abroad.”
Might this mean that Caiaphas has already accepted Jesus as the Messiah, but didn’t want to come out and say it publicly? They HAD KNOWN Jesus for many years–remember as a twelve-year old he kept the religious scholars “spellbound” in the Temple when he spoke with amazing authority? (Luke:2:41-52) Luke:2:52: “And Jesus increased in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and man.” It would make sense, then, that from this moment onwards, Temple scholars(and leaders) knew that this boy from Nazareth was quite a prodigy! Very interesting–isn’t it? Expanding these thoughts from this point on would be pure speculation, so let’s get back on point.
When Jesus started his mission there were 4 main religious groups: the Pharisees, the Sadducees, the Essenes and the Zealots( & other splinter anti-Roman revolutionary groups). The Pharisees and the Sadducees were the most influential. Surprisingly, none of these 4 groups represented a majority of the Jews! This majority, everyday workers, made for quite a “fertile field” for a man with a message–and what a message Jesus had! If you haven’t read the Bible yet, start with the New Testament. As you read Jesus’ many parables and his Sermon on the Mount, you’ll understand why his message was so powerful! Of course, the many miracles he created were attention getters but they weren’t the essence of his message.
A great dilemma was how to replace the huge volume of Mosaic laws with something easily absorbed & remembered by the simple, uneducated minds of these people. It was done brilliantly(something we would expect from God):
Matthew 22: 36-40 Master, which is the great commandment in the law? Jesus said unto him: “ Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart and with all thy soul and with all thy mind. This is the first & great commandment. And the second is like unto it: Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets .”
When you stop & think about it–what an incredible summation of the laws!
Everyday people now had an easy way to justify any action by asking two simple questions: does the action show love of God and does it reflect how they would want to be treated in the same situation? We have the advantage of hindsight–but can you imagine the power this had on the people who heard it the first time?
The Temple leaders saw the effect upon the people, and, at the least , they had to feel quite insecure. And, insecurity can be a natural growth medium for hate. Religious scholars spent their entire life studying huge volumes of laws, only to have this young “upstart” say that they no longer mattered? Worst of all, they saw that his arguments made sense!
All things considered, it appears that the lesser Pharisee & Sadducee leaders would have hated Jesus enough to kill him, while Caiaphas and other top leaders, while not feeling the intense hatred felt by their underlings, were more politically expedient in their desire to execute the young Nazarene: while not hating Jesus, they saw his death as a way of protecting their nation. So, hate and expediency were the two major factors that paved the way for Jesus’ execution. But, regardless of their reasons, Pharisee and Sadducee leaders could not foresee that their judgments, though momentous for them, were just other pieces that fit into God’s wondrous plan!
Proverbs: 21:30: “Many are the plans of man, but only the plans of God will prevail!”