Website owner:  James Miller

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Who were the great antagonists of Jesus?

   Who were the great antagonists of Jesus when he was here on 
   earth?  Who hated him?  Who plotted to kill him?  Who finally 
   succeeded in killing him?  The crowds?  The atheists of the 
   land?  Profligate sinners?  No.  It was the Jewish religious 
   leaders of the land.  It was religious leaders that he so 
   antagonized, who plotted against him, wanted to kill him, and 
   who finally succeeded in getting him crucified.  What group of 
   people was Jesus most critical of?  The religious leaders.  
   What was his criticism of them?  Why did the religious leaders 
   of the land hate him? What was their criticism of him? Let us 
   explore these questions.

   Why did the religious leaders of the land hate him? Well, Jesus 
   claimed to be that messiah promised by their scripture.  They 
   rejected that idea.  They were expecting the messiah to be a 
   completely different kind of person, someone presenting himself 
   as a king, not a humble, meek person like Jesus.  Moreover,  
   Jesus claimed to be the son of God, to be of divine nature.  
   They rejected that idea and were angered by the claim.  As an 
   illustration, Jesus on occasion told people their sins were 
   forgiven.  This upset them.  They reasoned, "What man can 
   forgive people of their sins?  Only God can forgive sins."  The 
   claims Jesus made about himself angered them.  They were 
   angered by the idea that one that they regarded as a mere 
   mortal man was making himself equal to God, or representing 
   himself as God himself.  How did they explain all the many 
   miracles that he performed, healing the sick, casting out 
   demons, raising the dead, etc., all his supernatural power?  
   They said these powers must come from Satan. Another cause of 
   anger: Jesus often healed people on the Sabbath.  They claimed 
   that was a violation of Jewish law.  And yet another thing that 
   most likely caused them to hate him was his criticism of them.

   What were Jesus' criticisms of the Jewish religious leaders?  
   He accused them of hypocrisy.   He accused them of being 
   preoccupied with forms and rituals and living true to the 
   letter of the law but violating the most important principles 
   of the law.  He taught that the things that God is most 
   concerned with is not forms and rituals but general principles 
   like treating other people well, concern for your neighbor, 
   doing right by your neighbor, forgiving your neighbor for 
   wrongs he has done to you, living peaceably with your neighbor, 
   etc..  Jesus taught the importance of humility, kindness, 
   goodness, morality, righteousness, love of God; true obedience to 
   God in heart and attitude. 

   Consider the following scripture:

   After this there was a feast of the Jews, and Jesus went up to 
   Jerusalem. Now there is in Jerusalem by the Sheep Gate a pool, 
   which is called in Hebrew, Bethesda, having five porches. In 
   these lay a great multitude of sick people, blind, lame, 
   paralyzed, waiting for the moving of the water. For an angel 
   went down at a certain time into the pool and stirred up the 
   water; then whoever stepped in first, after the stirring of the 
   water, was made well of whatever disease he had. Now a certain 
   man was there who had an infirmity thirty-eight years. When 
   Jesus saw him lying there, and knew that he already had been in 
   that condition a long time, He said to him, "Do you want to be 
   made well?" The sick man answered Him, "Sir, I have no man to 
   put me into the pool when the water is stirred up; but while I 
   am coming, another steps down before me." Jesus said to him, 
   "Rise, take up your bed and walk." And immediately the man was 
   made well, took up his bed, and walked. And that day was the 
   Sabbath. The Jews therefore said to him who was cured, "It is 
   the Sabbath; it is not lawful for you to carry your bed." He 
   answered them, "He who made me well said to me,  Take up your 
   bed and walk.'" Then they asked him, "Who is the Man who said 
   to you,  Take up your bed and walk'?" But the one who was 
   healed did not know who it was, for Jesus had withdrawn, a 
   multitude being in that place. Afterward Jesus found him in the 
   temple, and said to him, "See, you have been made well. Sin no 
   more, lest a worse thing come upon you." The man departed and 
   told the Jews that it was Jesus who had made him well. For this 
   reason the Jews persecuted Jesus, and sought to kill Him, 
   because He had done these things on the Sabbath. But Jesus 
   answered them, "My Father has been working until now, and I 
   have been working." Therefore the Jews sought all the more to 
   kill Him, because He not only broke the Sabbath, but also said 
   that God was His Father, making Himself equal with God. 

                                               John 5:1-18

   Then Jesus spoke to the multitudes and to His disciples, 
   saying: "The scribes and the Pharisees sit in Moses' seat. 
   Therefore whatever they tell you to observe, that observe and 
   do, but do not do according to their works; for they say, and 
   do not do. For they bind heavy burdens, hard to bear, and lay 
   them on men's shoulders; but they themselves will not move them 
   with one of their fingers. But all their works they do to be 
   seen by men. They make their phylacteries broad and enlarge the 
   borders of their garments. They love the best places at feasts, 
   the best seats in the synagogues, greetings in the 
   marketplaces, and to be called by men,  Rabbi, Rabbi.' But you, 
   do not be called  Rabbi'; for One is your Teacher, the Christ, 
   and you are all brethren. Do not call anyone on earth your 
   father; for One is your Father, He who is in heaven. And do not 
   be called teachers; for One is your Teacher, the Christ. But he 
   who is greatest among you shall be your servant. And whoever 
   exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will 
   be exalted. "But woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! 
   For you shut up the kingdom of heaven against men; for you 
   neither go in yourselves, nor do you allow those who are 
   entering to go in. Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, 
   hypocrites! For you devour widows' houses, and for a pretense 
   make long prayers. Therefore you will receive greater 
   condemnation. "Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! 
   For you travel land and sea to win one proselyte, and when he 
   is won, you make him twice as much a son of hell as yourselves. 
   "Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you pay 
   tithe of mint and anise and cummin, and have neglected the 
   weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faith. 
   These you ought to have done, without leaving the others 
   undone. Blind guides, who strain out a gnat and swallow a 
   camel! "Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you 
   cleanse the outside of the cup and dish, but inside they are 
   full of extortion and self-indulgence. Blind Pharisee, first 
   cleanse the inside of the cup and dish, that the outside of 
   them may be clean also. "Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, 
   hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs which indeed 
   appear beautiful outwardly, but inside are full of dead men's 
   bones and all uncleanness. Even so you also outwardly appear 
   righteous to men, but inside you are full of hypocrisy and 
   lawlessness. "Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! 
   Because you build the tombs of the prophets and adorn the 
   monuments of the righteous, and say,  If we had lived in the 
   days of our fathers, we would not have been partakers with them 
   in the blood of the prophets.' "Therefore you are witnesses 
   against yourselves that you are sons of those who murdered the 
   prophets. Fill up, then, the measure of your fathers' guilt. 
   Serpents, brood of vipers! How can you escape the condemnation 
   of hell? Therefore, indeed, I send you prophets, wise men, and 
   scribes: some of them you will kill and crucify, and some of 
   them you will scourge in your synagogues and persecute from 
   city to city, that on you may come all the righteous blood shed 
   on the earth, from the blood of righteous Abel to the blood of 
   Zechariah, son of Berechiah, whom you murdered between the 
   temple and the altar.          
                                       Matt 23:1-15,23-35

   What were the errors of the religious leaders of that day?  
   Were they perhaps too preoccupied with dogma and doctrine and 
   too little concerned with the right heart that God wants, too 
   little concerned with the kind of practice that God wants?  What 
   does true love of God involve?  Is it about dogma and doctrine 
   and complicated theology?  Is it about ritual and rite?  No, it 
   is about practicing those things that Jesus taught: humility, 
   kindness, goodness, justness, righteousness, morality, purity,
   truthfulness, honesty, integrity, etc.  If Jesus were to come 
   down to earth today what would he have to say about the 
   religious leaders of our day?  How well would he get along with 
   our present day religious leaders?

   Aug 2011

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