Having spent the night in Bethany, Jesus returns to the Temple to teach. Throughout the day, however, He is confronted by the chief priests and then the elders. The Pharisees then take their turn, followed by the Sadducees. After them, one of their lawyers comes to Jesus with a question. And, in the mix, the scribes come with their test. You can easily picture the scene in your mind. All of the Jewish religious leaders are in a fury. They are scared. They are angry. In their eyes, it seems that the whole world has gone after this Jesus (John 12:19). So, they huddle together in the shadows of the Temple plotting how they are going to trap Jesus with a question so they can then charge Him with… well, they hope for blasphemy but at this point any kind of falsehood would suit them. Just as long as it was something that would give them grounds to have Jesus arrested and removed from the open courts. And so they come. Small groups of them with carefully worded yet seemingly innocent questions. However, they all come back with the same message. Failure to the point that they dared not ask anything else.
Desperation. That is what is at the heart of it all. Jesus posed a threat to them – to their positions, to their influence (and their affluence), and to their authority. While they had absolutely no comprehension of Jesus’ purpose and ministry due to their failure to understand Him as the promised Messiah, they knew that if Jesus succeeded in whatever He was going to do it would be their undoing. And, they were not going to let that happen. They were not only part of the covenant people of God, they were the leaders of that covenant people. And so they came with their questions. With their schemes and traps. Hoping and longing to humiliate Jesus. In utter desperation, they clung to that which was their right and their heritage – their positions, their influence, their authority.
As we draw closer to the end of Holy Week preparing for Good Friday and our meditation on Jesus’ Passion, is there a sense of desperation that wells in us as we realize that to truly comprehend Jesus’ purpose and ministry means that we have to deny ourselves completely? To what are we clinging that hinders such self-denial? And, ultimately, are we going to be silenced as were the Pharisees, the Sadducees, the scribes, the chief priests, the elders and the lawyers?
Sadly, the religious leaders of the day saw Jesus as a threat, as One who would take something away from them should He succeed in His mission. They failed to realize that Jesus came to take away one thing – the judgment due the sin of the world. They failed to realize that in accomplishing that mission they would have instead gained something – the blessing of using their positions to lead the people in the way of faith and true righteousness, of using their influence to teach God’s Word in its truth and purity, of using their affluence to aid the poor and needy, and of using their authority to defend the covenant of God. That is true for us as well. Letting go of that to which we cling in this world is not as much about what we are losing as it is about what we gain. First and foremost, we gain the forgiveness of our sin and the sure hope of our eternal life through Jesus’ death and resurrection. And, in this new life, we gain the blessings of using our vocations, that is, our positions and our possessions, to serve each other and share God’s grace. Jesus’ success is our gain. It is our life. It is our hope. It is our blessing.
Heavenly Father, help us to let go of all we are and all we have. Help us to share Your goodness and grace with others so that in losing ourselves in You we may rejoice in what we gain – forgiveness, life and peace. In Jesus’ name. Amen.
Along Life's Way
Learning to live life as it’s meant to be. That’s what we strive to do here at Grace, to live under the cross in the new life that we have in Christ through His death and resurrection. The posts on this blog, grounded in God’s Word, will be offered as a source of encouragement, comfort and strength “along life’s way” to the end that we live lives of service in our homes, in our communities and in our congregations.
The author of this blog is the pastor of Grace, Andrew Green. He is a 2000 graduate of Concordia Seminary in St. Louis and has served Grace since January 2002. He is married to Erica and has two children, Clara and John-August.