The devil was once crossing the Libyan Desert, and he came upon a spot where a number of small devils were tormenting a Christian hermit. The Christian man easily shook off their evil suggestions. The devil watched their failure, and then he stepped forward to give them a lesson.
“What you do is too crude,” he said. “Permit me for one moment.”
With that he whispered to the holy man, ‘Your brother has just been made bishop of Alexandria.’ A scowl of envy at once clouded the serene face of the hermit. ‘That,’ said the devil to his minions, ‘is the sort of thing which I recommend.’”
From Luke 23:1-5 we start to look at the public trial of Jesus Christ. This is the most famous trial in human history. This verdict against Jesus is a verdict that is always on appeal. As we look at Luke 23:1-25 we need to put ourselves in this company that is gathered around Jesus. For, if I understand anything about reading the Bible, it is the fact that we must never treat something like this simply as history, for in reality what happens here is also happening in our own hearts. In fact, today, as we look at the group that has gathered around Jesus and we re-try the case in our own heart, we will find that we belong somewhere in this story.
Today we look at this assembly who rose and led Jesus off to Pilate. Who was this assembly? “At daybreak the council of the elders of the people, both the chief priests and teachers of the law, met together, and Jesus was led before them.” Luke 22:66, NIV. The other Gospels tell us that Jesus stood before Annas and before Caiaphas throughout Thursday night. The Sanhedrin, however, could not legally conduct business at night. Therefore, it was necessary for them to meet early in the morning to give some legality to the proceedings against Jesus. The Sanhedrin was composed of 24 chief priests (Sadducees), 24 scribes (Pharisees), and 24 elders of the people. Rome, when it governed provinces, always allowed as much autonomy as possible. The Sanhedrin, along with Rome, ruled the Jews. The Sanhedrin could not sentence a person to death. But they had broad ranging powers. This council represented all the Jewish people including all of their opposing political and religious views. This council was often filled with strife. They argued about everything and could be at each other’s throats immediately. However, when it came to Jesus Christ there was no arguing, no dispute. The only ones who may have disagreed were Nicodemus and Joseph of Arimathea (good change they were uninformed of this emergency meeting). When it came to Jesus the Sanhedrin considered him enemy #1. We find early on in the Gospel of Luke: “But they were furious and began to discuss with one another what they might do to Jesus.” Luke 6:11. Toward the end of Luke’s Gospel we find this: “and the chief priests and the teachers of the law were looking for some way to get rid of Jesus” Luke 22:2. Why such animosity against Jesus by the leaders of the Jews?
We could say that they were concerned about doctrinal purity: Luke 22:66-71 they know that Jesus has spoken blaspheme, making himself equal with God. But they knew that this charge would not get anywhere before the Roman governor, and they needed his approval to put Jesus to death so they had to come up with other charges.
We could say that they are concerned about Jesus subverting the nation (Vs. 2): This charge is rather vague. Perhaps they mean that Jesus’ teaching had guided the nation down a wrong path with their relations to the Romans.
We could say that they are concerned about Jesus’ views on taxation (Vs. 2): This charge is an outright lie. Jesus never encouraged his followers to avoid paying taxes (Luke 20:21-26)
The third charge here is a half truth. Jesus did claim to be Christ, Messiah, a King. This charge Pilate investigated (learn more about him next week) and found to be without validity (Vs. 4).
The fourth charge in the first part of Luke 23 is that Jesus is a trouble maker (Vs. 5). These were all trumped up charges to get Pilate aroused. Why were these men so strongly opposed to Jesus Christ? It was not that they had suddenly become patriotic toward Rome. Pilate knew exactly why they hated Jesus and wanted to get rid of him. “knowing it was out of envy that the chief priests had handed Jesus over to him.” Mark 15:10, also Matthew 27:18.
Thesis: Let’s talk about the what, why, and how of envy
What is envy?
The Dictionary’s Definition: "Anger or discontent at the good fortune or possessions of another". The word literally means "to look at with evil intent..." Called "the Green Eyed Monster" because it portrays someone who is looking so hard that his eyes turn green.
Jealousy is a similar word. However, jealousy is directed within, while envy is directed without. Jealousy, when tainted with sin, turns into envy. Another way to describe envy is to have a feeling of bitterness or indignation at seeing in others what we think we deserve. Instead of using this feeling to better ourselves, we go out of our way to trip this other person, to knock them down to our level. This is what the religious leaders were doing to Jesus.
They were so envious they were glad to see Jesus suffering pain. “The people stood watching, and the rulers even sneered at him. They said, “He saved others; let him save himself if he is the Christ of God, the Chosen One.”” Luke 23:35, NIV.
Old saying- To render evil for good is devilish; to render good for good is human; but to render good for evil is divine! The religious leaders were acting like the devil by repaying evil for good. “how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and power, and how he went around doing good and healing all who were under the power of the devil, because God was with him.” Acts 10:38, NIV. Yes, Jesus often called down the religious leaders for their hypocrisy but instead of repenting, they were hardened in their sins. They gave into envy and acted like the devil.
Why did they envy?
They were scared of two things:
Afraid of losing their following
Until Jesus came the people followed the leaders’ words and actions. They put their faith in these leaders. Now Jesus was receiving the acceptance of the people and they were rallying around Jesus instead of them. Instead of them being popular, Jesus was far more popular and they were even afraid of the crowds following Jesus.
Jesus had publicly rebuked them for many things. It humiliated them instead of humbled them. Their sin was exposed and they hated it. “When he said this, all his opponents were humiliated, but the people were delighted with all the wonderful things he was doing.” Luke 13:17, NIV.
Afraid of losing their position
After raising of Lazarus from dead, “Then the chief priests and the Pharisees called a meeting of the Sanhedrin. “What are we accomplishing?” they asked. “Here is this man performing many miraculous signs. If we let him go on like this, everyone will believe in him, and then the Romans will come and take away both our place and our nation.”” John 11:47, 48
In fact some of the leaders believed but we find this: “Yet at the same time many even among the leaders believed in him. But because of the Pharisees they would not confess their faith for fear they would be put out of the synagogue; for they loved praise from men more than praise from God.” John 12:42, 43, NIV.
The truth was unimportant; the only thing to them was that they would have to forfeit their positions. Jesus posed a threat to their status!
How can we overcome envy?
1. Confess it as sin. “But if you harbor bitter envy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast about it or deny the truth.” James 3:14, NIV. Pilate knew what the Jewish leaders problem was but they would never admit to this. When they went to Pilate they covered up their real motives but presenting false charges against Jesus. Deceiving themselves with patriotism and concern over the direction of the nation, what a sham!
2. Accept our calling from God. If someone is doing something outstanding for the Kingdom, that is great. There will always be someone who does something better than us. We have been given different gifts and talents to build up the church and expand the Kingdom. “There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit. There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord. There are different kinds of working, but the same God works all of them in all men.” 1 Corinthians 12:4-6, NIV.
3. Love God and others. Jesus called this the greatest commandment: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind … And love your neighbor as yourself”- Matthew 22:37-39. Loving God and neighbor leaves no room for envy or jealousy. Romans 12:15 says, “Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn.” Love looks for the good in the other person, and rejoices in it rather than resents it.
4. Be content in Christ. Paul wrote in Philippians 4:12-13: “I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. 13 I can do everything through him who gives me strength.” Find our contentment in Christ, and be thankful for the gifts God has given us. Contentment and thankfulness will go a long way towards combating envy in our lives.
5. The fruit of the Spirit- Galatians 5:22-23. Only as the Holy Spirit changes our character from within will we have victory over the sin of envy. The fruit of love, joy, peace, and self-control are especially meaningful here.