Summary: The crowd rejected Jesus that first Easter for the same reasons many reject Him today.
That first Easter, Jesus was rejected by the people. He was taken to Pilate; and Pilate found nothing against Him. So, he asked the people the most important question anyone will ever answer. (READ TEXT)
Instead of answering himself, Pilate looked to the crowd. But the crowd can be wrong. The crowd in America once thought slavery acceptable. The crowd in Germany once supported Hitler. Pilate asked the crowd and they rejected Him. Why? For the reasons many reject Him today.
1. Jesus Claimed to Be God - Matthew 26:59-64
When Jesus talked about destroying the temple and rebuilding it in three days, He was referring to destroying the temple of His own body, not the physical temple in Jerusalem. And in three days His figurative language would be clear. But what really angered the religious leaders was His clear claim to being God in the flesh, the promised Messiah.
Jesus referred to Daniel and the vision he had of the Son of Man (Daniel 7:13-14). In this, Jesus identified Himself as the Son of Man, who Daniel says has an everlasting dominion that will not pass away. What kind of person has a dominion that is everlasting? What kind of a person is given a kingdom and will have all men serve Him? The High Priest, who immediately recognized Jesus’ claim to divinity, tore his robe and declared Jesus guilty of blasphemy.
The religious leaders understood Jesus claimed to be God in the flesh; and they rejected that claim. In deciding what you will do with Jesus, you have to deal with His claim to be God. That’s who He said He was. The title, “Son of Man” is used 82 times in the gospels with respect to Jesus, and each time it is a claim to His divinity.
The people in Jesus’ day understood clearly that He claimed to be God come in the flesh. Again, this is what made them so angry.
“‘I tell you the truth, before Abraham was even born, I AM!’ At that point they picked up stones to throw at him.” - John 8:58-59 (NLT)
“‘I and the Father are one.’ Again his Jewish opponents picked up stones to stone him, but Jesus said to them, ‘I have shown you many good works from the Father. For which of these do you stone me?’ ‘We are not stoning you for any good work,’ they replied, ‘but for blasphemy, because you, a mere man, claim to be God.’” - John 10: 30-33 (NIV)
“Either this man was, and is, the Son of God: or else a madman or something worse. You can shut him up for a fool, you can spit at him and kill him as a demon; or you can fall at his feet and call him Lord and God. But let us not come with any patronizing nonsense about him being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to.” - C. S. Lewis
Jesus Christ claimed to be God in the flesh; and proved it through . . .
A. His Fulfillment of Prophecy.
Scholars identify 350+ Old Testament prophecies Jesus fulfilled. What are the odds? Professor Peter Stoner calculated the chances of fulfilling only 48 prophecies to be 1 in 10 to the 157th power!
B. His Uncompromised Character.
Usually, when you get to know someone you become more aware of their shortcomings. But the opposite was true of Jesus. In fact, nobody was closer to him than Peter and John; listen to what they said:
“In Him is no sin.” - 1 John 3:5 (NIV)
“He committed no sin and no deceit was found in His mouth.” - 1 Peter 2:22 (NIV)
Christ’s character gives credibility to His claim.
C. His Miraculous Power.
“The miracles I do in my Father’s name speak for me.” - John 10:25 (NIV)
Jesus raised people from the dead; He calmed storms; He healed lepers; He opened the eyes and ears of the blind and deaf; He walked on water; and He turned water into wine. All of which pointed to Him being God in the flesh.
Take the water turned to wine. The steward of the feast said it was the best wine served (John 2:10). Everyone knows wine gets better with age. With a word, Jesus by-passed planting seed, cultivating vines, harvesting grapes, processing wine, and allowing it to age. Genesis says God, with a word, spoke creation into existence with a superficial appearance of age. That’s what Jesus did with the water turned to wine!
“This was the first of all the miraculous signs Jesus did. He did it in the town of Cana in Galilee. By this he showed his divine greatness, and his followers believed in him.” - John 2:11 (Easy to Read)