I’ve often thought about the Sadducees and the Pharisees and their inability to view Jesus as the long-awaited Messiah. How could anyone be so blind? Did they miss all the wonderful miracles Jesus was working? Were they, in fact, blinded to the truth or rather were they simply choosing to ignore what was right before their eyes? These men were learned in the law and the Old Testament and surely had read verses (messianic prophesy) like those in Isaiah 53, for example.
In researching this topic a bit, I came across some relevant verses in the book of John (John 11:47-53). Jesus had just raised Lazarus from the dead after 4 days. The 4-day period is significant here because the Jews had a belief at the time that the spirit of the dead could revisit the body for up to 3 days after death. Apparently, Jesus took this belief into account and wanted to insure that those present to Lazarus’ raising could not counter that Jesus had not raised him but rather that the spirit of Lazarus had returned. Jesus wanted to ensure that God would get credit for the act of resurrecting Lazarus (John 11:40).
A couple of interesting things happened shortly thereafter. The Pharisees convened a council to discuss what Jesus was doing and how they should react.
- The Pharisees acknowledged that what Jesus was doing was wondrous: They agreed that Jesus was performing “many signs,” also translated “attesting miracles.”
- Verse 11:48 may contain a clue: some of those present voiced concern that, if Jesus was allowed to continue, “…all men will believe in Him….” Further in their concern was the fact that, if Jesus would win over the hearts of the people, this would be a threat to Rome and “…the Romans will come and take away both our place and our nation.”
- Finally, the Bible takes time to explain that Caiaphas, who was serving as high priest, stated that it is expedient that one man should die rather than the whole nation perish. The Bible notes in verse 51 that Caiaphas “…did not say this of his own initiative….” No, he had prophesied that Jesus was “going to die for the nation….” Even more astoundingly, his prophesy included the thought that Jesus would die also to “…gather together into one the children of God who are scattered abroad.” See John 10:16 in Jesus’ own words. Amazing that Caiaphas could have these prophetic insights yet reach the conclusions he did!
To me these facts all add up to this: these religious leaders were more concerned with keeping the status quo intact, i.e., their special position in the Jewish society of the time. Which coincidentally, accorded them much power, wealth and respect. Their lives were supposedly focused on studying God, His laws, His thoughts (the OT Bible). Yet when God was in their presence and was busy doing what only God could do and saying things in a manner that could only come from God, they chose to ignore Him. In fact, they wanted to expunge Him from their world!
A sad statement indeed, but I suppose all of us pick and choose which of God’s truths, attributes, teachings we will adopt into our lives at times. And probably for many of the same self-serving kinds of reasons the Pharisees did. It can’t be new news to our Lord that people haven’t changed all that much in 2,000 years.
By: Lee Pierce