The more I study the life and ministry of Jesus the more I am humbled and endeared to follow Him for the rest of my life. With that being said... Because I’ve accepted Jesus as the perfect, sinless Son of God, there is much about His ministry that doesn’t surprise me.
For example… I’m not all that surprised multitudes of people followed Jesus. You would assume the “King of Kings” would be able to inspire the allegiance of a few, poor, uneducated, Galilean fishermen. Aside from this… It’s not hard to imagine such a dynamic personality as we see in Jesus would easily attract the desperate masses longing for a leader. Is it really a surprise people followed a Man as radicle as Jesus? I don’t think so.
I’m not all that amazed when I read that people were astonished by His teaching. You would assume the same voice that spoke all things into existence would carry with it a certain level of authority and gravitas that people would be naturally captivated.
I mean how hard would it be to teach a compilation of Scriptures designed to reveal the character, personality, purpose, and mission of the Christ - when You happened to be the Christ? Shouldn’t the “Living Word” be able to effectively communicate the “Written Word?”
I’m not all that wowed when I read of Jesus preforming the supernatural. If He fashioned all things out of nothing, multiplying a few fish and bread to feed a hungry multitude shouldn’t be that big of a deal? If Jesus holds together the particles that make up H2O, can’t we assume they’d support His weight as He walked across the Sea?
If Jesus had the authority to cast demons out of heaven, wouldn’t He possess the ability to cast them out of people? If His very word created the wind and the waves, isn’t it only logical to believe the same voice would be able to command these forces of nature to stand down?
I mean honestly, shouldn’t the One who’s very nature was supernatural (God and Man) be able to preform deeds that exceeded the order of the natural universe? It’s not illogical!
Along these lines… I’m not all that astonished when I observe Jesus miraculously healing the human body. If He designed the eyeball, the human ear, or the ability to speak, shouldn’t He be able to restore sight, heal the deaf, and loose the tongue of the mute?
If, as we read in Genesis, Jesus fashioned man from the dust of the earth, is it really crazy to believe He was able to return motion to the paralytic or restore the function of a withered hand? If Jesus authored life itself, shouldn’t He be more than able to raise the dead?
Though marvelous, I’m also not all that shocked Jesus would choose to die on the cross for sinners. If, as the Bible so clearly states, God created me, loves me, and desires a relationship with me (knowing there is nothing I can do to remedy the sin problem that separates us), then doesn’t it makes perfect sense that, in His love, God “would give His only begotten son that whosoever might believe in Him will not perish but have everlasting life.”
I know it sounds absolutely crazy to take purely at face value, but I’m not all that astounded Jesus was resurrected to life after being dead for three days. To think the death of the Jesus would be the end of His story seems absolutely silly to me! Frankly, in the presence of so much circumstantial evidence, the only reasonable assumption one can make is that it would have been impossible for the Son of God to be bound by the grave.
Though everything I read concerning the life and ministry of Jesus endears me all the more to Him, none of these things exceed my already lofty expectations - with maybe one exception. When I examine the Gospel record, what I do find surprising is that the religious leaders, charged by God with the task of looking out for the Messiah, would knowingly resist Him! Yes, the Bible is clear they knowingly resisted Jesus as their Messiah.
Understand, the religious leaders did not resist Jesus because they lacked enough evidence. Consider the incredible amount of revelation they had been given… In Luke 2, directly following Jesus’ birth and circumcision, we’re told He was presented in the Temple where Simeon and Anna publicly declare this baby boy to be the long promised Savior.
In Matthew 2, in response to the mysterious arrival of the Wise Men from the East, we read the Scribes actually tell Herod the “King of the Jews” was to be born in Bethlehem… A fact Herod the Great was so convinced of he ends up ordering the execution of all the baby boys two years old and under in Bethlehem upon being double-crossed by the Magi.
In Luke 2, while Mary and Joseph spent three days trying to find the 12-year-old Jesus they’d lost, we’re told He was found hanging out with the religious leaders at the Temple. Not only does Jesus remark to his parents, “Did you not know that I must be about My Father's business?” but Luke makes this interesting observation about His time with these scholars, “And all who heard Jesus were astonished at His understanding and answers.”
In Mark 1, following the miraculous healing of the Leper, Jesus does something interesting… He commands that he present Himself to the priests “as a testimony to them.” The healing of the Leper was to be a sign to the religious leaders that the Christ was in their midst!
Not only had John the Baptizer been clear to the religious leaders as to Jesus’ true identity, but on numerous occasions throughout the Gospels the religious leaders specifically came to evaluate Jesus and His ministry. And each time they left unable to find any fault or flaw with the things He taught or did. In Mark 1:22 we’re actually told “they were astonished at His teaching, for He taught as one having authority, and not as the scribes.”
Aside from all of this, consider that the religious leaders were also eyewitnesses to the countless miracles preformed by Jesus. Though in Mark 3 they try to pass off His power as coming from Satan, the existence of the supernatural was a reality they could not excuse away. These men were present when Jesus healed the lame man, restored sight to the blind, multiplied the loaves and fish, forgave sin, and cast demons out of the afflicted.
Even during their trial against Jesus, they had difficulty making a case. In Mark 14, “Now the chief priests and all the council sought testimony against Jesus to put Him to death, but found none. For many bore false witness against Him, but their testimonies did not agree.”
You see, as you examine the actions of the religious leaders in Jesus’ day, it’s important you always keep in mind they were not acting out of ignorance, a lack of revelation, or with limited knowledge. The truth is that these men resisted Jesus fully knowing who He was! In actuality, this was a point not lost on Jesus - which is why, during His Week of Passion (specifically on Tuesday), He spoke to these very men the following parable…
Mark 12:1-9, “A man planted a vineyard and set a hedge around it (the man is God and the vineyard is the people of Israel), dug a place for the wine vat and built a tower. And he leased it to vinedressers (religious leaders) and went into a far country.
Now at vintage-time he (God) sent a servant (a prophet) to the vinedressers (religious leaders), that he might receive some of the fruit of the vineyard (His people) from the vinedressers. And they took him and beat him and sent him away empty-handed.
Again he (God) sent them another servant (a prophet), and at him they threw stones, wounded him in the head, and sent him away shamefully treated. And again he (God) sent another, and him they killed; and many others, beating some and killing some. (Jesus is basically describing the relationship between His prophets and the people.)
Therefore (God) still having one son, his beloved, (this is not simply a prophet, but God’s Son) he also sent him to them last, saying, ‘They will respect my son.’ But those vinedressers (religious leaders) said among themselves, ‘This is the heir. Come, let us kill him, and the inheritance will be ours.’ So they took him (the Son of God) and killed him and cast him out of the vineyard. Therefore what will the owner of the vineyard do? He will come and destroy the vinedressers, and give the vineyard to others.’”
While there is much you can unpack from this parable, there is one point Jesus is hammering home… These religious leaders had more than enough evidence to know who He was! “This is the heir. Come, let us kill him, and the inheritance will be ours.”
These men had been given the revelation of Scripture. They had seen with their own eyes the incredible amount of fulfilled prophecy in their midst. They had the evidence of the countless transformed lives. They had the physical presence of Jesus right before them…
And yet, how incredible they still resisted Him! This morning I want to take our time together and discuss why these religious leaders still resisted Jesus as their Savior even when they’d been given so much evidence! And the reason I want to discuss this particular topic is because, sadly, it’s the same three reasons people knowingly resist Him today.
First… There is no question people resist Jesus in spite of the evidence because Jesus is a fundamental threat to their authority. Understand, if these religious leaders had accepted Jesus as their Messiah, the implications were simply more then they were willing to accept! You see, if they conceded Jesus was indeed the Christ, He would have automatically possessed the authority to tell them what to do and they didn’t like this.
If we’re being honest this morning people resist Jesus because they don’t want to submit to His authority! It’s simply a truth that people want to rule their own lives, call their own shots, be the captain of their own ship, master of their own destiny. The reality is submission tends to imply weakness. The very word sours in our mouths. There is no doubt people want to do what they want when they want to do it!
And why is this the case? At the core of man’s rebellion has always been his desire to be god - to be life’s ultimate authority! If you recall in Genesis 3 the fundamental temptation of the Enemy was simple… He said to Eve, “For God knows that in the day you eat of the fruit your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.”
As it pertains to Jesus, the hang up tends to boil down to this reality (and it isn’t a lack of evidence)… If you accept Jesus as God, you must also surrender your life to His!
Fundamentally, such an act will require you ceed control and submit to the fact His authority concerning your behavior, as both your Lord and King, overrides your own. In such a dynamic you can no longer do as you please. Instead, you must do what pleases Him!
Frankly, the idea of submission and servitude is much more difficult to accept as an American. Because our nation was actually born in a rebellion against authority, it’s a fundamental premise to this great Federalist experiment that people have the freedom (an inalienable right from God) to live without the intrusion of others. As a matter of fact, in many ways, freedom from authority has become the very definition of liberty!
You see a country founded on the belief that each individual has the fundamental freedom to “pursue life, liberty, and happiness” subsequently yields a society filled with people who simply do not believe authority has the right to tell anyone what they can and cannot do.
As an American you believe you have the right to do with your body what you choose, have sex with who you want and when you want, as well as set your own moral compass… And when an authority infringes upon these rights you’ll immediately cry out, “Injustice!”
Aside from this warped view of liberty (and it’s warped because liberty isn’t freedom from authority but the right to choose one’s authority), the reality is we resist authority because our culture has rapidly embraced a philosophy known as relativism.
Relativism states that because all points of view are equally valid, truth (or what defines right from what is wrong) is completely dependent upon the perspective of each individual.
The reality is when a society removes God from the human equation, what is left is a culture that abandons any absolute moral standards - embracing instead a position in which everyone is free to act upon their own interpretation of what is true. There is no question we live in a society that teaches, “What is true for you, might not be true for me!”
Since this relativistic framework behind our society teaches that all perspectives carry equal weight, anyone who challenges another’s viewpoint, claiming there to be a higher authority that establishes the basis for what is right and wrong, is labeled a religious fanatic, unloving, and intolerant. It’s true “intolerance becomes the only punishable crime of relativism.”
For example… In today’s world, if you take a stand for the Biblical definition of marriage, secular society will label you intolerant, judgmental, unloving, and bigoted. People will challenge you by asking, “Who gave you the right to tell a same sex couple in love they can’t get married?” And the truth is they have a point! You see if there is no God then there is actually no basis for anyone to place any of their own moral standards upon another!
And yet, here’s the kicker… Though relativism might explain the trends we see as it pertains to the moral fabric of our culture, many of us do believe there is a God who is by definition true and has established what is true for mankind through His Word…
Meaning what is morally permissible is no longer a matter of one’s perspective, but is instead a matter of what God has to say concerning that behavior. His authority overriding my own.
If we’re being honest, many people (even knowing who Jesus is) resist Him for this very reason. It’s not a lack of understanding, but like these religious leaders it’s a simple refusal to accept the implications. It’s either you on the throne or it’s Him. People resist Jesus, because to accept Him would be to ceed authority over one’s life.
Secondly… There is no question people resist Jesus in spite of the evidence because Jesus challenges their religious system. As it pertained to the religious establishment in Jesus’ day, these men took pride in a works-based, religious system that combined the Law of Moses with their own man-made traditions. It’s not an accident then that throughout His ministry Jesus was constantly pointing out the flaws within this system.
Through His teaching Jesus called out their religion as only producing a false morality. Through His activities Jesus showed open disregarded for their man-made, non-Scriptural traditions. And through His associations Jesus contrasted their judgment of sinners with grace and love. As we read last Sunday in John’s summary of Jesus’ life (John 1:17), “For the law was given through Moses, but grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.”
The reality is religion has never saved a soul because it only establishes a framework whereby man seeks to achieve God’s approval without God’s direct involvement.
Sadly, I have found many people resist Jesus because they don’t want to admit they need help! It boils down to an issue of pride and self-sufficiency. For many, acknowledging the need for divine help is seen as nothing more than evidence of human weakness. God is viewed as a crutch for the weak. The skeptic has even said, “Only sheep need a shepherd.”
To this very point Christian scholar and thinker Ravi Zacharias observes that “a man rejects God neither because of intellectual demands nor because of the scarcity of evidence. A man rejects God because of a moral resistance that refuses to admit his need for God.”
Here’s a point most fail to understand as it pertains to this topic… Though the first step of salvation is the admission you’re in need of a Savior (which religion actually masks), in order for this to happen you must first admit the failure of your idols.
In His book “Counterfeit gods” author Timothy Keller defines idolatry this way, “A counterfeit god [idol] is anything so central and essential to your life that, should you lose it, your life would feel hardly worth living... Idolatry then is not just a failure to obey God, it is a setting of the whole heart on something besides God.” In laymen’s terms an idol is anything or anyone you give a preeminent position in your life over Jesus.
The reality is the religious leaders in Jesus’ day, in their best attempts at pleasing God through their works, had actually created for themselves idols. It’s all religion ever does!
Because many have a false understanding of what an idol actually is, let me take a second and explain how counterfeit gods typically develop… The first step to developing an idol is that you end up defining your own hell. Since you can’t escape the reality you’re living in a fallen world, you seek to pinpoint what it is that’s causing your life to be so miserable.
As with Adam and Eve, instead of recognizing your core problem is you, you seek to blame someone or something other than yourself. By definition, hell then becomes the very thing you want to avoid at all costs - because you’ve determined it’s the very thing ruining your life. Examples: rejection, pain, being alone, fat, single, insignificant, or boredom.
Secondly, after defining hell, it’s then only natural you’ll search for a savior that will save you from this hell. Let’s use the examples I just mentioned… If hell is being rejected, your savior becomes your image and appearance. If hell is physical or emotional pain, your savior becomes pleasure (partying, drinking, popping pills, having sex, etc).
If hell is being lonely, your savior will naturally become a group of friends. If hell is being fat, your savior becomes the gym, a diet, or healthy lifestyle. If hell is being single, your savior becomes a boyfriend or girlfriend. If hell is being insignificant, your savior becomes a scene or a cause. If hell is being board, your savior becomes a hobby or sport.
Finally, once you’ve pinpointed the source of your misery (hell) and determine what it is you believe will save you from that hell (savior)... It’s only natural that you’ll end up worshipping that person or thing by exalting it to a place of priority in your life!
Whether you intend to or not it’s only natural that you will make sacrifices, dedicate time, invest energy and resources convinced that person or thing will eventually save you! We always worship saviors! This is why people end up worshipping their outward appearance, group of friends, exercise routine, significant other, cause, or recreation. It’s your god!
And yet, there’s two problems with the entire approach… First, I hate to break it to you, but you’ve completely misdiagnosed hell. The real source of your problems is you and the fact your sin has separated you from God. And secondly, idols make lousy saviors.
You see many people reject the salvation Jesus provides because they don’t want to admit they’re the problem and that they need a Savior. It’s why the religious leaders resisted Jesus. They’d created their own religious system that allowed them to worship gods of their own choosing all the while resisting the one Savior they really needed!
Finally… Aside from people resisting Jesus because He’s a threat to their authority and challenges their self-created religious system, many resist Him in spite of the evidence because Jesus is a threat to their way of living.
After years under Roman rule, the Jewish leaders had not only adapted, but had begun to thrive under the occupation. As long as they kept the peace, their relationship with Rome would continue to prove mutually beneficial. There is no question these men resisted Jesus because His growing popularity had become a political liability. Jesus was a threat to their power, influence over the people, and subsequent wealth.
If we’re speaking truthfully this morning, many resist Jesus because they don’t want to change their way of living. Like the religious leaders people understand that when you surrender your life to Jesus many aspects of your life will automatically change: friends leave, activities change, lifestyles alter, and behaviors adjust accordingly.
As I’ve mentioned before… It’s a truth that though Jesus may love you just the way that you are, doesn’t mean He wants to leave you that way! For some, like the religious leaders, prospects of these types of radicle life-changes are not all that appealing.
As you examine the Gospel record you will discover that the people who humbly came and encountered Jesus did so because they were sick of the status quo and desperately wanted their lives to change for the better. They recognized and accepted the fact the only Person who could save them - the only One who could really set them free was Jesus. They were willing to embrace a life-change, because they wanted their lives to change!
Friend, please know the greatest lie Satan has ever told is the lie he continues to tell today… That life without God is much more fun, exciting, and fulfilling than living life with Him! I think you’d be hard-pressed to tell the Leper or Blind Bartimaeus that their lives were better off before they encountered Jesus than they were after.
Be honest with yourself! How has acting as your own authority with all these self-appointed little saviors really worked out? The fact is the one group of people who were always around Jesus but were never changed by Him were these religious leaders.
This morning I could have taken the time to present for you all the various proofs for Jesus’ resurrection, but I’m not sure that’s why anyone who’s taken the time to come to church this Easter are actually resisting the work Jesus wants to do in their life.
Like these religious leaders, if you’ll be honest, you aren’t resisting Jesus on the basis of the truth or a lack of evidence. You’re resisting Jesus because you refuse to submit to His authority, humble yourself by admitting your need for a Savior, or accept the natural life-change that would automatically come with a decision to follow Him.
I don’t want to close our time together on a sour note, but I do want to be real with you. Apart from Jesus life get’s much worse - not better! Look again at the text and see how Jesus concludes His parable. “Therefore what will the owner of the vineyard do? He will come and destroy the vinedressers, and give the vineyard to others.” I pray you realize when it comes to your life Jesus is the final point of God’s revelation before His judgment.
Please consider what are you actually resisting by resisting Jesus? Luke 4:16-19, “So He came to Nazareth, where He had been brought up. And as His custom was, He went into the synagogue on the Sabbath day, and stood up to read. And He was handed the book of the prophet Isaiah. And when He had opened the book, He found the place where it was written: ‘The Spirit of the LORD is upon Me, because He has anointed Me to preach the gospel to the poor; He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed; to proclaim the acceptable year of the LORD.”
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