Rejection

Jesus’ Parable of the Tenants revealed that the Jewish chief priests were aware that their Messiah had come and decided to kill him so that they could remain in control of God’s earthly kingdom. The parable and its interpretation are as follows:

“Hear another parable. There was a master of a house who planted a vineyard and put a fence around it and dug a winepress in it and built a tower and leased it to tenants, and went into another country. When the season for fruit drew near, he sent his servant to the tenants to get his fruit. And the tenants took his servants and beat one, killed another, and stoned another. Again he sent other servants, more than the first. And they did the same to them. Finally he sent his son to them, saying, ‘They will respect my son.’ But when the tenants saw the son, they said to themselves, ‘This is the heir. Come, let us kill him and have his inheritance.’ And they took him and threw him out of the vineyard and killed him. When therefore the owner of the vineyard comes, what will he do to those tenants?” They said to him, “He will put those wretches to a miserable death and let out the vineyard to other tenants who will give him the fruits in their seasons.”

Jesus said to them, “Have you never read in the Scriptures:

“‘The stone that the builders rejected
    has become the cornerstone;
this was the Lord’s doing,
    and it is marvelous in our eyes’?

Therefore I tell you, the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people producing its fruits. And the one who falls on this stone will be broken to pieces; and when it falls on anyone, it will crush him.”

When the chief priests and the Pharisees heard his parables, they perceived that he was speaking about them. And although they were seeking to arrest him, they feared the crowds, because they held him to be a prophet. (Matthew 21:33-46)

It says in Matthew’s gospel that on the morning of Jesus’ crucifixion, “When morning came, all the chief priests and the elders took counsel against Jesus to put him to death. And they bound him and led him away and delivered him over to Pilate the governor. Then when Judas, his betrayer, saw that Jesus was condemned, he changed his mind and brought back the thirty pieces of silver to the chief priests and elders, saying, ‘I have sinned by betraying innocent blood.’ They said, ‘What is that to us? See to it yourself” (Matthew 27:1-4). The chief priests and elders were not concerned about Jesus’ guilt or innocence, they only wanted to gain custody of him so that they could put him into the hands of the Roman government and have him killed. The chief priests and elders’ primary objective was to get rid of Jesus so that he would no longer be a threat to their assumed authority over the people of Israel (John 11:47-48).

Matthew 27:20 indicates that the chief priests and elders persuaded the crowd outside the governor’s palace to destroy Jesus. The Greek word that is translated persuaded, peitho (pi’-tho) has a similar connotation to what we think of today as a jury in a trial, but it goes deeper into the realm of belief and suggests that the chief priests and elders were able to convince the Jews that Jesus was not who he claimed to be and therefore, they shouldn’t put their trust in him. “Peitho, in the active voice, signifies ‘to apply persuasion, to prevail upon or win over, to persuade,’ bringing about a change of mind by the influence of reason or moral considerations” (G3982). Matthew described the situation this way:

Now at the feast the governor was accustomed to release for the crowd any one prisoner whom they wanted. And they had then a notorious prisoner called Barabbas. So when they had gathered, Pilate said to them, “Whom do you want me to release for you: Barabbas, or Jesus who is called Christ?” For he knew that it was out of envy that they had delivered him up. Besides, while he was sitting on the judgment seat, his wife sent word to him, “Have nothing to do with that righteous man, for I have suffered much because of him today in a dream.” Now the chief priests and the elders persuaded the crowd to ask for Barabbas and destroy Jesus. The governor again said to them, “Which of the two do you want me to release for you?” And they said, “Barabbas.” Pilate said to them, “Then what shall I do with Jesus who is called Christ?” They all said, “Let him be crucified!” And he said, “Why? What evil has he done?” But they shouted all the more, “Let him be crucified!” So when Pilate saw that he was gaining nothing, but rather that a riot was beginning, he took water and washed his hands before the crowd, saying, “I am innocent of this man’s blood; see to it yourselves.” And all the people answered, “His blood be on us and on our children!” Then he released for them Barabbas, and having scourged Jesus, delivered him to be crucified. (Matthew 27:15-26)

Jesus’ quotation of Psalm 118:22 at the end of his parable of the tenants (Matthew 21:42) pointed to a larger conspiracy that was taking place at the time of his crucifixion. Aside from the Jews rejection of their Messiah was an attempt by Satan to usurp the authority of God’s Son. Beginning with their bondage in Egypt, there was an ongoing effort by Satan to shift the Israelites’ allegiance away from God and onto himself. Pharaoh’s cruel treatment of the people of Israel made them fearful to rebel against him. Even though God promised to deliver them from their bondage in Egypt, the Israelites refused to listen to Moses and rejected God’s offer of help. Exodus 6:2-9 states:

God spoke to Moses and said to him, “I am the Lord. I appeared to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, as God Almighty, but by my name the Lord I did not make myself known to them. I also established my covenant with them to give them the land of Canaan, the land in which they lived as sojourners. Moreover, I have heard the groaning of the people of Israel whom the Egyptians hold as slaves, and I have remembered my covenant. Say therefore to the people of Israel, ‘I am the Lord, and I will bring you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians, and I will deliver you from slavery to them, and I will redeem you with an outstretched arm and with great acts of judgment. I will take you to be my people, and I will be your God, and you shall know that I am the Lord your God, who has brought you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians. I will bring you into the land that I swore to give to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob. I will give it to you for a possession. I am the Lord.’” Moses spoke thus to the people of Israel, but they did not listen to Moses, because of their broken spirit and harsh slavery.

The Israelites’ unbearable circumstances caused them to ignore what Moses said God intended to do to save them. The Hebrew word that is translated listen in Exodus 6:9, shama (shaw-mah’) means to hear intelligently. “Hearing can be both intellectual and spiritual…In the case of hearing and hearkening to a higher authority, shama can mean to obey (Genesis 22:18)” (H8085). When it says that “they did not listen to Moses,” it meant that the people wouldn’t do what Moses told them to, he didn’t have any influence over them.

The prophet Isaiah’s mention of the precious cornerstone that would be rejected showed up in the context of a covenant that God’s people had made with death (Isaiah 28:15-16). This may have been in reference to Moses’ final proclamation to the Israelites. Moses said, “See, I set before you today life and good, death and evil. If you obey the commandments of the LORD your God that I command you today, by loving the LORD your God, by walking in his ways, and by keeping his commandments and his statutes and his rules, then you shall live and multiply, and the LORD will bless you in the land that you are entering to take possession of it. But if your heart turns away, and you will not hear, but are drawn away to worship other gods and serve them, I declare to you today, that you shall surely perish. You shall not live long in the land that you are going over the Jordan to enter and possess. I call heaven and earth to witness against you today, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and curse” (Deuteronomy 30:15-19).

The Jews response to Pilate’s declaration that he was “innocent of this man’s blood” (Matthew 27:24) seems to indicate that they were aware of the fact that they were rejecting their own Messiah. Matthew stated, “And all the people answered, ‘His blood be on us and on our children!'” (Matthew 27:25). One of the things that is evident from Matthew’s account of Jesus’ crucifixion is that everyone was clear about who Jesus claimed to be, even the Roman soldiers that carried out his execution. Matthew said, “Then the soldiers of the governor took Jesus into the governor’s headquarters, and they gathered the whole battalion before him. And they stripped him and put a scarlet robe on him, and twisted together a crown of thorns, they put it on his head and put a reed in his right hand. And kneeling before him, they mocked him, saying, ‘Hail, King of the Jews!'” (Matthew 27:27-29). The title King of the Jews was first introduced by the wise men that came looking for Jesus not long after his birth. Matthew recorded:

Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, wise men from the east came to Jerusalem, saying, “Where is he who has been born king of the Jews? For we saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him.” When Herod the king heard this, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him; and assembling all the chief priests and scribes of the people, he inquired of them where the Christ was to be born. They told him, “In Bethlehem of Judea, for so it is written by the prophet:

“‘And you, O Bethlehem, in the land of Judah,
    are by no means least among the rulers of Judah;
for from you shall come a ruler
    who will shepherd my people Israel.’” (Matthew 2:1-6)

Micah’s prophecy of the arrival of Israel’s Messiah (Micah 5:2) was clear evidence that Jesus had fulfilled the Old Testament prophecies about himself. The fact that the Roman soldiers “mocked him, saying, ‘Hail, King of the Jews!'” (Matthew 27:29), seems to suggest that even they were convinced that Jesus was who he claimed to be, and yet, they also rejected him and killed him anyway.

Isaiah’s prophecy of the LORD’s coming salvation indicated that Jesus’ appearance would be “marred, beyond human semblance, and his form beyond that of the children of mankind” (Isaiah 52:14). The beatings and whippings that Jesus endured at the hands of the Roman soldiers was in itself enough to kill the average person. By the time he was led off “to a place called Golgotha (which means Place of a Skull)” to be crucified Jesus was so weak that he was unable to carry his own cross (Matthew 27:32-33). Isaiah indicated that Jesus was rejected by everyone and had to bear the burden of the willful disobedience of not only the Jews, but also every person, past, present, and future that would receive him as Savior. Isaiah said:

He was despised and rejected by men,
    a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief;
and as one from whom men hide their faces
    he was despised, and we esteemed him not.

Surely he has borne our griefs
    and carried our sorrows;
yet we esteemed him stricken,
    smitten by God, and afflicted.
But he was pierced for our transgressions;
    he was crushed for our iniquities;
upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace,
    and with his wounds we are healed.
All we like sheep have gone astray;
    we have turned—every one—to his own way;
and the Lord has laid on him
    the iniquity of us all.

If it weren’t enough that Jesus was rejected by of all of mankind, he also had to endure the rejection of his heavenly Father. When he was hanging on the cross, Matthew said, “Jesus cried out with a loud voice, saying, ‘Eli, Eli, lema, sabachthani?’ that is ‘My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Matthew 27:46). The Greek word that is translated forsaken, egkataleipo (eng-kat-al-i’-po) means to desert (G1459). Just as his disciples had left him and fled after he was taken prisoner in the garden of Gethsemane (Matthew 26:56), Jesus’ own Father abandoned him while he was dying for the sins of the world.

Isaiah’s explanation of Jesus’ complete rejection centered around God’s Eternal Covenant of Peace and the compassion that He would eventually show to everyone because of His Son’s sacrifice. Isaiah’s prophecy stated, “‘For a brief moment I deserted you, but with great compassion I will gather you. In overflowing anger for a moment I hid my face from you, but with everlasting love I will have compassion on you,’ says the LORD, your Redeemer…Seek the LORD while he may be found; call upon him while he is near; let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts; let him return to the LORD, that he may have compassion on him, and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon. For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the LORD. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts” (Isaiah 54:7-8, 55:6-9).

The Hebrew words that are translated brief moment in Isaiah 54:7, qaton (kaw-tone’) and rega’ (reh’-gah) denote the shortest space of time and could also be expressed as the blink of an eye. In other words, God’s desertion of Jesus probably lasted less than 400 milliseconds or the average time it takes to blink your eyes. The Apostle Paul talked about the mystery of the transformation of believers’ bodies and said, “Behold! I tell you a mystery. We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we shall be changed. For this perishable body must put on the imperishable, and this mortal body must put on immortality, then shall come to pass the saying that is written: ‘Death is swallowed up in victory.’ ‘O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?'” (1 Corinthians 15:51-55). It seems that God the Father’s rejection of Jesus had something to do with his transformation from a mortal to an immortal state. Because Jesus died a mortal death and was separated from his Father momentarily, the eternal rejection that believers would have otherwise experienced at death has been eliminated.

The ungodly

The author of the book of Jude was likely a brother of Jesus. Jude identified himself as the brother of James (Jude 1:1) who was a leader in the church at Jerusalem. There is evidence that suggests James was related to Jesus because in Matthew 15:33 he is mentioned among the list of Jesus’ brothers. Jude’s message centered on a particular group of people he labeled ungodly. The Greek term translated ungodly, asebes (as-eb-ace’) has to do with a person that has heard the gospel of Jesus Christ and rejected its message (G765). Jude’s close association with Jesus and likely conversion to Christianity after he was resurrected from the dead made him a good candidate to talk about the ungodly Jews that had rejected their Messiah because he himself had not believed what Jesus told him. John noted in his gospel “even His brothers did not believe in Him” (John 7:5, NKJV).

Jude warned his audience, “certain men have crept in unnoticed, who long ago were marked out for this condemnation, ungodly men, who turn the grace of our God into lewdness and deny the only Lord God and our Lord Jesus Christ” (Jude 1:4, NKJV). Jude’s harsh language suggested that he was disgusted by what appeared to be an intentional effort to hinder the preaching of the gospel. The phrase he used “crept in unnoticed” indicated the ungodly men he was referring to had disguised themselves as Christians in order to not draw attention to themselves, all the while stirring up trouble and planting seeds of doubt in the minds of those that were considering committing their lives to Christ. The Greek word he used, pareisduno (par-ice-doo’-no) means “to settle in alongside, i.e. lodge stealthily” (G3921). In other words, the ungodly were making themselves at home by becoming members of the church.

Jude’s condemnation of the ungodly went so far as to say that they were no better than the fallen angels that rebelled against God before the world was created (Jude 1:6). Jude indicated God was aware of the ungodly’s activities and had planned their demise from the beginning. He said, “Now Enoch, the seventh from Adam, prophesied about these men also, saying, ‘Behold, the Lord comes with ten thousands of His saints, to execute judgment on all, to convict all who are ungodly among them of all their ungodly deeds which they have committed in an ungodly way, and of all the harsh things which ungodly sinners have spoken against Him'” (Jude 1:14-15, NKJV). Jude’s lack of compassion for the ungodly was rooted in his belief that they had consciously chosen to do the devil’s dirty work. It’s possible that Jude felt his disbelief of his brother’s message was due to Satan’s influence and that he had always known the truth about Jesus, but had initially chosen to reject it.

Abandoned

Jesus was abandoned by everyone that knew him on the night he was arrested in the garden of Gethsemane. Matthew reported, “Then all the disciples left him and fled” (Matthew 26:56, ESV). During a series of interrogations, Jesus stood alone before the religious and political officials that condemned him to death. One of the unusual aspects of Jesus’ trial was that he was never convicted of a crime. After being questioned by Pilate, the Roman governor declared, “I find no guilt in him” (John 18:38). In spite of his innocence, Pilate ordered that Jesus be crucified to pacify the crowd that kept shouting, “Crucify, crucify him” (Luke 23:21-25, ESV).

The apparent hatred displayed toward Jesus on the day he was crucified might be explained by the behavior of Peter who denied three times that he even knew Jesus (Matthew 26:69-75). Matthew stated, “Then those who had seized Jesus led him to Caiaphas the high priest, where the scribes and elders had gathered. And Peter was following him at a distance, as far as the courtyard of the high priest, and going inside he sat with the guards to see the end” (Matthew 26:57-58, ESV). Peter detached himself from what was happening to Jesus. It was as if he was watching the end of a movie that was playing out the life of someone he had never met. It seems likely that Peter disassociated himself from Jesus because he was afraid he would be killed if he admitted being his disciple.

Peter’s abandonment of Jesus was probably a result of his lack of faith. When he was confronted, Peter adamantly denied having any association with “the man” (Matthew 26:72). Matthew recorded, “After a little while the bystanders came up and said to Peter, ‘Certainly you too are one of them, for your accent betrays you.’ Then he began to invoke a curse on himself and to swear, ‘I do not know the man'” (Matthew 26:73-74, ESV). Peter’s public denial of Jesus was in a sense the opposite of a profession of faith. Peter was willing to give up his salvation in order to prevent himself from being crucified with Jesus. Afterward, Peter “went out and wept bitterly” (Matthew 26:75), most likely because he realized he had given up the most important thing he had gained from his previous three-year commitment to the Lord.

Visitation

Luke’s account of Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem included a unique aspect of his approach that revealed Jesus’ feelings at the time. Luke reported:

And when he was come near, he beheld the city, and wept over it, saying, If thou hadst known, even thou, at least in this thy day, the things which belong unto thy peace! but now they are hid from thy eyes. For the days shall come upon thee, that thine enemies shall cast a trench about thee, and compass thee round, and keep thee in on every side, and shall lay thee even with the ground, and thy children within thee: and they shall not leave in thee one stone upon another; because thou knewest not the time of thy visitation. (Luke 19:41-44)

Jesus’ prediction of the destruction of Jerusalem showed his foreknowledge of the end result of his ministry. The Jews rejection of their Messiah would bring about a severe punishment of their nation and divine sentence against their false religion.

The Greek term translated visitation in Luke 19:44 is episcope (ep-is-kop-ay´). “This word expresses that act by which God looks into and searches out the ways, deeds, and character of men in order to adjudge them their lot accordingly, whether joyous or sad” (G1984). One of the reasons Jesus came to Earth was to show God’s people he was a real person and was able to see everything that was going on in the physical realm. Jesus existed before he was born as a man and was involved in God’s work which included the creation of the universe (John 1:1-3). Jesus was sad when he looked down on the city of Jerusalem because in spite of all he had done to demonstrate God’s love and concern for his chosen people, they were not interested in the kind of salvation he had to offer them: peace with God and their fellow man.

Jesus’ visitation to Earth culminated in a series of orchestrated activities during the final week of his life. One of those activities was a private dinner at the home of Mary, Martha, and Lazarus. John said of this event, “Much of the people of the Jews therefore knew that he was there: and they came not for Jesus’ sake only, but that they might see Lazarus also, whom he had raised from the dead. But the chief priests consulted that they might put Lazarus also to death; because that by reason of him many of the Jews went away, and believed on Jesus” (John 12:9-11). The authenticity of the miracle Jesus performed was indisputable. Therefore, the religious leaders knew that in order to stop his work they had to not only get rid of Jesus, but also the evidence of his miraculous power; Lazarus, the man that he had brought back to life.

Matthew indicated that Jesus lodged in Bethany (Matthew 21:17), most likely at the home of Mary, Martha, and Lazarus until his arrest a few days later. During that time, Jesus had an opportunity to fellowship with some of his closest friends and associates of his ministry. Jesus may have intended to lay the groundwork for the church that would be established in that area after his resurrection. Jesus’ visit with the believers in Bethany and Bethphage was probably filled with both joyous and sad moments. One thing that is certain is that Jesus knew he was going to die before the end of the week and wanted to spend as much time as possible preparing his followers for what lay ahead.

 

Personal testimony

Jesus’ healing of the man born blind provided an opportunity for him to give his personal testimony to the religious leaders that denied Jesus was the promised Savior of God’s people. When the man was asked how he had received his sight, “He said unto them, He put clay upon mine eyes, and I washed, and do see” (John 9:15). This straight forward account of what happened left little room for the Pharisees to question the man any further. As usual, the religious leaders were divided about the authenticity of Jesus’ miraculous power. John recorded, “Therefore said some of the Pharisees, This man is not of God, because he keepeth not the sabbath day. Others said, How can a man that is a sinner do such miracles? And there was a division among them” (John 9:16). In an attempt to discredit the man who was healed, the Pharisees brought in his parents to see if they would corroborate his story or deny that a miracle had taken place.

The parents of the man that was healed refused to put their own reputations on the line, but instead claimed that their son was old enough to testify on his own behalf (John 9:23). It says in John 9:24, “Then again called they the man that was blind, and said unto him, Give God the praise: we know that this man is a sinner.” The Pharisees’ persistent haranguing of the man who was healed did little to shake his confidence in what had happened to him. In what appeared to be a sarcastic jab at the Pharisees ignorance, “He answered them, I have told you already, and ye did not hear: wherefore would you hear it again? will ye also be his disciples?” (John 9:27). This man’s courageous personal testimony left the Pharisees with little choice but to ban him from their synagogue in order to prevent him from influencing others into believing in Jesus. In a final attempt to convince the Pharisees he was telling the truth, the man said:

Why herein is a marvelous thing, that ye know not from whence his is, and yet he had opened mine eyes. Now we know that God heareth not sinners: but if any man be a worshipper of God, and doeth his will, him he heareth. Since the world began was it not heard that any man opened the eyes of one that was born blind. If this man were not of God, he could do nothing. (John 9:30-33)

After the man was cast out, Jesus found him and encouraged him in his faith. Jesus told the healed man that he was the Son of God and gave him the opportunity to be born again (John 9:35). Immediately, the man committed himself to Jesus, “And he said, Lord, I believe. And he worshipped him” (John 9:38). The commitment the man made to Jesus was not based on the miracle he done for him, but an understanding of who Jesus really was, God in human form. Jesus allowed this man to worship him because he knew his faith was genuine.

Abraham’s children

The descendants of Abraham were promised a kingdom on earth that would be an everlasting or eternal kingdom (Genesis 17:6-8). The ruler of this kingdom was prophesied to be not only the son of King David, but also the son of God (2 Samuel 7:14). The remnant of Jews that returned to the Promised Land at the end of their captivity in Babylon expected to be a part of this eternal kingdom and were told that their Messiah would arrive after God dealt with Israel’s enemies (Zechariah 9:2-7). The prophet Zechariah told God’s chosen people, “Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion; shout, O daughter of Jerusalem: behold, thy King cometh unto thee: he is just and having salvation; lowly, and riding upon an ass” (Zechariah 9:9). Somewhere in between the delivery of this prophetic message and the birth of Jesus Christ, the Jews forgot the point of their salvation, to be witnesses to the rest of the world of God’s endless mercy toward his people (Zechariah 9:16-17). When Jesus confronted the Jews about their lack of understanding of God’s plan of salvation, they argued that they were entitled to membership in God’s kingdom because they were descendants of Abraham (John 8:33). What these men failed to comprehend was that the rules had changed when the nation of Israel was destroyed and God’s chosen people were taken into captivity. Afterwards, Jesus told the Jews that survived the only way they could inherit the kingdom of God was to be born again (John 3:3).

Jesus’ formal rebuttal to the Jews argument was directed at the lack of proof behind their claim to the eternal inheritance that was promised to Abraham. He said, “If ye were Abraham’s children, ye would do the works of Abraham” (John 8:39). The works that Jesus was referring to were works of faith. God’s original promise to Abraham’s was based on his faith or belief that what God told him was true. It says of Abraham in Genesis 15:6, “He believed in the LORD; and he counted it to him for righteousness.” The Hebrew word translated counted, chashab (khaw-shab’) has to do with a spiritual transaction that enabled Abraham to receive credit for the death of Jesus on the cross before it actually happened. For all intents and purposes, Abraham was saved when he believed that God would do what he said he would. Jesus’ final comment about who would inherit the kingdom of God pointed to his eternal existence. He said, “Verily, verily, I say unto you, Before Abraham was, I am” (John 8:58). In other words, Jesus was saying that Abraham’s belief in God was actually belief in himself because “the word of the LORD” (Genesis 15:1) became real or was manifested when Jesus was born on earth. The Apostle John identified Jesus as God’s living word and said, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God…And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us”  (John 1:1, 14).

Controversy

Toward the end of Jesus’ ministry, there was a lot of public debate about his true identity. Part of the problem was that Jesus intentionally tried to keep his identity a secret. Many times after he performed a miracle, he would tell the recipient not to tell anyone what had happened to him. Even when Jesus took three of his disciples to the top of a mountain and showed them his glorified state, he instructed them saying, “Tell the vision to no man, until the Son of man be risen again from the dead” (Matthew 17:9). It says in John 7:1, “After these things Jesus walked in Galilee: for he would not walk in Jewry, because the Jews sought to kill him.” The controversy about Jesus stemmed from the fact that many people knew him as the son of Mary and Joseph, a carpenter who had lived an ordinary life until the start of his ministry around the age of 30. When it was time for Jesus to begin his work of salvation, he tried to win the common people over without impressing them with his holy grandeur. Often times, Jesus had to sneak away to remote locations just to get a break from the masses of people that sought his help. During a popular religious festival, that would be attended by the majority of the Jewish population, Jesus was encouraged to “go into Judea, that thy disciples also may see the works that thou doest. For there is no man that doeth any thing in secret, and he himself seeketh to be known openly. If thou do these things, shew thyself to the world” (John 7:3-4).

The crux of the argument being presented to Jesus was that his intention of being the savior of the world meant that he had to be known by everyone. Therefore, it was necessary for him to go where masses of people could witness his miracles. Jesus knew that the risk of being killed was too great for him to expose himself to anymore public appearances. After Jesus’ brethren were gone, it says in John 7:10, “then went he also up to the feast, not openly, but as it were in secret.” Jesus’ intention to keep himself hidden from the religious leaders was nearly an impossible feat. When it was discovered that Jesus was somewhere in the vicinity, “Then the Jews sought him at the feast, and said Where is he? And there was much murmuring among the people concerning him: for some said, He is a good man: others said, Nay; but he deceiveth the people” (John 7:11-12). When the Pharisees heard the murmuring about Jesus, they sent officers to arrest him, but Jesus told them, “Yet a little while am I with you, and then I go unto him that sent me. Ye shall seek me, and shall not find me and where I am, thither ye cannot come” (John 7:33-34).

Jesus’ reference to his ascension to heaven was probably meant to startle the officers that came to arrest him so that they would realize he wasn’t an ordinary man that they could just take into custody. When the officers were asked to explain why they hadn’t arrested Jesus they told the Pharisees and chief priests, “Never man spake like this man” (John 7:46). In other words, they recognized the supernatural power of Jesus’ words and were unwilling to try and take him by force. Like the prophet Elijah, Jesus could have brought fire down from heaven and consumed these men if he chose to (1 Kings 1:10). At the heart of the discussion about Jesus true identity was the question about whether or not the Pharisees intended to allow the Jews’ Messiah to accomplish his mission on earth. At that time, it was becoming clear to the religious leaders that Jesus had already won over the majority of people and proven himself to be who he claimed to be, “the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world” (John 1:29). Among the Pharisees that were debating what to do about Jesus, was Nicodemus (John 7:50), the Pharisee that had come to Jesus by night and admitted, “no man can do these miracles that thou doest, except God be with him” (John 3:2). Even though Jesus had given him an in depth explanation about how he could be saved (John 3:3-21), Nicodemus didn’t appear to have been converted, because rather than sharing what had happened with the other Pharisees, Nicodemus suggested a trial should be conducted in order to settle the controversy about Jesus’ identity once and for all (John 7:51).

 

The keys to the kingdom

In an effort to dispel rumors about his identity, Jesus had a conversation with his disciples that made it clear he had come from heaven to earth for a specific purpose, to die for the sins of the world. Jesus began the conversation by asking his disciples, “Whom say the people that I am?” (Luke 9:18) and then asked, “But whom say ye that I am?” (Luke 9:20). The apostle Peter’s response is documented three different ways in the three gospels that have a record of this incident. I think Matthew, who was present at the time, captured it best when he said, “Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God” (Mark 16:16). What Peter was saying was that Jesus was the Messiah, the savior God had promised to send to his people. Matthew went on to say, “And Jesus answered and said unto him, Blessed art thou, Simon Bar-jona: for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven” (Matthew 16:17).

Luke explained that the reason Jesus’ true identity was being kept a secret was because, “The Son of man must suffer many things, and be rejected of the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be slain, and be raised the third day” (Luke 9:22). In other words, it was dangerous for Jesus’ identity to be revealed because the religious leaders wanted to kill him in order to stop him from completing his mission of saving the world. After Peter made his confession of faith, Jesus told him, “And I say unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock will I build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. And I will give unto thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven” (Mark 16:18-19).

Keys are only mentioned twice in the Bible, in the conversation Jesus had with his disciples about his identity and in Revelation 1:18 where Jesus said, “I am he that liveth, and was dead; and, behold I am alive for evermore, Amen; and have the keys of hell and death.” The keys to the kingdom of heaven and the keys to hell were both given to Jesus, the Messiah, who was also know as the anointed one, God’s designated representative. It was in his role as Messiah that Jesus obtained access to heaven for all mankind. When Jesus told Peter that he would give him the keys of the kingdom of heaven, he was essentially saying that Peter, and anyone else that confessed that he was the Messiah, would be able to have direct access to God for all eternity. Jesus’ reference to things being bound and loosed on earth and in heaven had to do with sin and its power to separate us from God.

So that his disciples would understand that access to God was not something to be taken lightly, Jesus said:

If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me. For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: but whosoever will lose his life for my sake, the same shall save it. For what is a man advantaged, if he gain the whole world, and lose himself, or be cast away? For whosoever shall be ashamed of me and of my words, of him shall the Son of man be ashamed, when he shall come in his own glory, and in his Father’s, and of the holy angels. (Luke 9:23-26)

The phrase Jesus used “take up his cross daily” meant to undergo suffering, trial, punishment, to expose oneself to reproach and death. In other words, to allow oneself to be treated in the same way that Jesus was. Matthew’s version of Jesus’ admonition included an incentive. He stated, “For the Son of man shall come in the glory of his Father with his angels: and then he shall reward every man according to his works” (Matthew 16:27). The Greek word that is translated works, praxis means practice and by extension a function (4234). Another way of referring to works could be an assignment or regular duty. I think what Jesus was implying was that the more we exercise our faith on earth, the more we will see the results of it in heaven.

 

Weather forecast

One of the ongoing challenges Jesus had to deal with during his ministry was conflict with the religious leaders that influenced God’s people. Jesus had very little of what we refer to today as positional authority. In essence, Jesus was a nobody that arrived on the scene and gathered a huge following in a relatively short period of time. No one knew for certain that Jesus was God, except for the many miraculous things he did, many of which had never been seen before. Jesus could have done more to convince people of who he was, but it was apparently not God’s will for his identity to be completely revealed until after he had been resurrected from the dead.

In an attempt to get Jesus to prove that he was the Jew’s Messiah, Matthew tells us that the Pharisees and Sadducees “came, and tempting desired him that he would shew them a sign from heaven” (Matthew 16:1). Matthew’s reference to tempting suggested that the Pharisees and Sadducees were working as agents of Satan and were attempting to get Jesus to go against his Father’s will by making a spectacle of himself in order to prove that he was without a doubt the savior of the world. Jesus’ response to their request showed that he was aware of their motives and had intentionally refused to appease them in spite of their ability to discredit him. Matthew reported:

He answered and said unto them, When it is evening, ye say, it will be fair weather: for the sky is red, and in the morning, it will be foul weather to day: for the sky is red and lowring. O ye hypocrites, ye can discern the face of the sky; but can ye not discern the signs of the times? A wicked and adulterous generation seeketh after a sign; and there shall no sign be given unto it, but the sign of the prophet Jonas. (Matthew 16:2-4)

Jesus used the example of weather forecasting to show that the Pharisees and Sadducees were only pretending to not know who he was. The many miracles Jesus performed were adequate evidence of his divine character and authority. There had even been a previous occasion when God spoke from heaven and said, “This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased” (Matthew 3:17). The issue that was really as stake was whether or not Jesus would act according to the will of Satan or according to will of God, his heavenly Father. Matthew said of Jesus, “And he left them, and departed” (Matthew 16:4). In other words, Jesus just walked away without saying anything further to them.

Negative impact

Although many were affected positively by Jesus’ teaching, there was a large portion of the Jewish population that rejected his messages and refused to respond to Jesus’ call to repentance. Jesus said, “Woe unto thee, Chorazin, woe unto thee, Bethsaida: for if the mighty works which were done in you, had been done in Tyre and Sidon they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes” (Matthew 11:21). The Greek word Jesus used, which is translated repented, metanoeo (met-an-o-eh´-o) means “to think differently or afterwards that is reconsider” (3340). Jesus wanted God’s people to understand that his kingdom was not an imaginary, fictitious place, but a real destination that everyone would eventually arrive at. Jesus compared the cities within the borders of the Promised Land to “Gentile cities in Phoenicia, north of Galilee, which had not had opportunity to witness Jesus’ miracles and hear his preaching as the people had in most of Galilee” (note on Luke 10:14). Jesus’ vicious condemnation of the Jews made it clear that they would be judged for their rejection of his gospel message.

The town where Jesus had spent the majority of his time, Capernaum received the harshest reprimand of all. Jesus continued, “But I say unto you, It shall be more tolerable for Tyre and Sidon at the day of judgment, than for you. And thou, Capernaum, which art exalted unto heaven, shalt be brought down to hell; for if the mighty works, which have been done in thee, had been done in Sodom, it would have remained unto this day” (Matthew 11:22-23). The mighty works Jesus referred to were the numerous miracles he had performed in Capernaum, including raising a young man from the dead (Luke 7:14-15). “Although Sodom was so sinful that God destroyed it (Gen 19:24-28; Jude 7), the people who heard the message of Jesus and his disciples were even more accountable, because they had the gospel of the kingdom preached to them. This passage clearly teaches degrees of punishment. Some sins are worse than others and bring more judgment” (note on Luke 10:12).

The day of judgment that Jesus eluded to was mentioned numerous times during his ministry. Jesus’ example of Tyre and Sidon, as well as Sodom, as cities that would fair better in the day of judgment, was meant to startle or perhaps even shock his listeners into an awareness of their extremely dangerous spiritual state. The thought that Capernaum would be brought down to hell would surely have had a negative impact on those that believed territories within the border of the Promised Land would escape the judgment or at least be judged on a different scale than the notorious pagan cities of Tyre and Sidon and ancient city of Sodom. The truth that Jesus was declaring to them was that the Jews would be judged on a different scale, one much more harsh than others, because they had heard his gospel and rejected it.