Summary: Those who opposed Jesus were puzzled by His death and resurrection and ascension. It was hard for them to grasp its meaning and to believe in Him.
We have been studying the reactions of the people to Jesus’ claims for the past 3 studies. Tonight we are going to look at a fourth reaction.
The fourth reaction to Jesus’ claims comes from the religious and civil authorities. It paints a clear picture of men in every generation who reject or oppose Jesus. That’s because what Jesus says is tragic for all unbelievers.
READ v. 32. The religionists or the Pharisees took the lead in opposing Jesus. Let’s put ourselves in the place of the Pharisees for a minute to see why. The leaders’ conflict with Jesus over religious beliefs and rules is sometimes thought by us to be petty and harsh, or else these conflicts are just misunderstood. There are three basic reasons why the conflicts happened and were life-threatening, ending in the murder of Jesus.
1. The Jewish nation had been held together by their religious beliefs. Through the centuries the Jewish people had been conquered by army after army, and by the millions they had been deported and scattered over the world. Even in the day of Jesus, they were enslaved by Rome.
Their religion was the binding force that kept Jews together, in particular their belief that God had called them to be a distinctive people who worshipped the only true and living God, their rules governing the Sabbath and the temple, their laws governing intermarriage, worship, and cleansing, and their rules governing what foods they could and couldn’t eat.
Their religious beliefs and rules protected them from alien beliefs and from being swallowed up by other nationalities through intermarriage. Their religion was what maintained their distinctiveness as people and as a nation. Jewish leaders knew this. So they opposed anyone or anything that threatened or attempted to break the laws of their religion and nation.
2. The second reason was that many of the religionists were men of deep, deep conviction, strong in their beliefs. So they became steeped in religious belief and practice, law and custom, tradition and ritual, ceremony and liturgy, rules and regulations. To break any law or rule governing any belief or practice was a serious offense, because it taught loose behavior. And loose behavior, once it had spread enough would weaken their religion. So in their minds Jesus was committing a terrible offense by breaking their law. He was weakening their religion and threatening their nation.
3. The third reason was that the religionists were men who had profession, position, recognition, esteem, livelihood, and security. Anyone who went contrary to what they believed and taught was a threat to all they had. Some religionists undoubtedly felt that Jesus was a threat to them. Every time Jesus broke their law, they felt He was undermining their very position and security.
They apparently approached the chief priests and persuaded them that Jesus was a threat.
The chief priests were primarily leaders among the Sadducees who held most of the high offices of Jewish government under Roman rule. When Rome became dissatisfied with a chief priest, he was removed and another one was placed in authority. This removal from office was a common occurrence, so there were quite a few chief priests surviving. In the eyes of the people, they were still honored despite being removed from office. The people blamed Rome for their removal, not the chief priests.