Yesterday I read a great book called Twelve Ordinary Men by John MacArthur. He gives insightful comments and background information on Jesus’ twelve disciples, as well as helpful commentary on the religious leaders of Jesus’ day. As I have been spending time in the gospel of John this past week, reflecting on Jesus’ identity and how He was received by different people, I especially appreciated MacArthur’s thoughts about why the religious leaders rejected Jesus.
“Their rejection of Him was complete. They were hostile to the gospel He preached. They despised the doctrine of grace He stood for, spurned the repentance He demanded, looked with disdain upon the forgiveness He offered, and repudiated the faith He epitomized. In spite of the many miracles that proved His messianic credentials—despite actually seeing Him cast out demons, heal every conceivable sickness, and raise dead people to life—they would not accept the fact that He was God in human flesh. They hated Him. They hated His message. He was a threat to their power. And they desperately wanted to see Him dead.” (p. 8)
“The Judaism of Jesus’ time represented a corruption of the faith of the Old Testament.
had abandoned divine grace in favor of works-religion. Their religion was legalistic. It was shot through with hypocrisy, self-righteous works, man-made regulations, and meaningless ceremonies. It was heretical. It was based on physical descent from Abraham rather than the faith of Abraham.” (p. 19) Israel
“The religious leaders of Jesus’ day (like the vast majority of religious celebrities even today) were blind leaders of the blind. Most members of the Jewish establishment in Jesus’ day were so spiritually blind that when the Messiah came and did miracles before their eyes, they still did not see Him as the Messiah. They saw Him rather as an interloper and an intruder. They regarded Him as an enemy. And from the very outset, from the first time He preached in public, they sought a way to have Him murdered (Luke -29)…
It wasn’t that the self-righteous leaders did not believe in Jesus’ miracles. Nowhere on the pages of the Gospel record did anyone ever deny the reality of Jesus’ miracles. Who could deny them? They had been done too publicly to be dismissed even by the most skeptical gainsayers. Of course, some desperately tried to attribute Jesus’ miracles to the power of Satan (Matthew ). No one, however, ever denied that the miracles were real. Anyone could see that He had the power to cast out demons and do miracles at will. No one could honestly question whether He truly had power over the supernatural world.
But what irritated the religious leaders was not the miracles. They could have lived with the fact that He could walk on water or that He could make food to feed thousands of people. What they could not tolerate was being called sinners. They would not acknowledge themselves as poor, prisoners, blind, and oppressed (Luke ). They were too smugly self-righteous. So when Jesus came (as John the Baptist had come before Him) preaching repentance and saying they were sinners, wretched, poor, blind, lost people under the bondage of their own iniquity, needing forgiveness and cleansing—they could not and would not tolerate that. Therefore it was ultimately because of His message that they hated Him, vilified Him, and finally executed him (p. 150-151)