THE LAMB’S OBSTACLES: V
John the Baptist introduced Jesus the Christ as the Son of God, who would baptize people with the Holy Spirit, and deliver them from their sins as the Lamb of God. The same John became offended at Jesus because Jesus had not met his expectation of some heroic figure, which Jesus had never intended to be. The Jewish leaders also were offended when Jesus did not comply with their wishes, or co-operated with them. The leaders became the obstacle course to the Lamb’s redemptive road.
Jesus was no stranger to John. And John’s reaction to Jesus’ appearance and
Jesus’ request to be baptized, suggests that their mothers, who were cousins, shared their encounter with their angelic announcements, regarding the birth of their sons. It was surprising, to Jesus, that John had second thoughts about the mission of Jesus. Jesus, Himself, held John to be the greatest man born of a woman. Jesus had enormous praise for John, his cousin, and Jesus did identify John with Elijah. And, that the same fate, which would befall John, would also be His lot of suffering and death. John would not just prepare a way for the Lord, but John also would die for his Lord, and so would the Lord, Himself. King Herod had John beheaded. Therefore when Jesus appeared, King Herod believed that John had returned from the dead to plague him:
Now when John heard in prison about the deeds of the Christ, he sent word by his disciples and said to him, “Are you he who is to come, or shall we look for another?” And Jesus answered them, “Go and tell John what you hear and see: the blind receive their sight and the lame walk, lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear, and the dead are raised up, and the poor have good news preached to them. And blessed is he who takes no offense at me.”
As they went away, Jesus began to speak to the crowds concerning John: “What did you go out into the wilderness to behold? A reed shaken by the wind? Who then did you go out? To see a man clothed in soft raiment? Behold, those who wear soft raiment are in kings’ houses. Why then did you go out? To see a prophet? Yes, I tell you, and more than a prophet. his is he of whom it is written, ‘Behold, I send my messenger before thy face, who shall prepare they way before thee.’
Truly, I say to you, among those of women there has risen no one greater than john the Baptist; yet he who is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he. From the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven has suffered violence, and men of violence take it by force. For all the prophets and the law prophesied until John; and if you are willing to accept it, he is Elijah who is to come. He who has ears to hear, let him hear (Matthew 11:2-15).
And the disciples asked him, “Then why do the scribes that first Elijah must come?” He replied, “Elijah does come, and he is to restore all things; but I tell you that Elijah has already come, and they did not know him, but did to him whatever they pleased. So also the Son of man will suffer at their hands.” Then the disciples understood that he was speaking to them of John the Baptist (Matthew 17:10-13).
King Herod heard of it; for Jesus’ name had become known. Some said, “John the baptizer has been raised from the dead; that is why these powers are at work in him.” But others said, “It is Elijah.” And others said, “It is a prophet, like one of the prophets of old.” But when Herod heard of it he said, “John, whom I beheaded, has been raised.” For Herod had sent and seized John, and bound him in prison for the sake of Herodias, his brother Philip’s wife; because he had married her. For John said to Herod, “It is not lawful for you to have your brother’s wife.” And Herodias has a grudge against him, and wanted to kill him. But she could not, for Herod heard John, knowing that he was a righteous and holy man, and kept him safe. When he heard him, he was much perplexed; and yet he heard him gladly. But an opportunity came when Herod on his birthday gave a banquet for his courtiers and officers and the leading men of Galilee. For when Herodias’ daughter came in and danced, she pleased Herod and his guests; and the king said o the girl, “Ask me for whatever you wish, and I will grant it.” And he vowed to her, “Whatever you ask me, I will give you, even half of my kingdom.” And she went out, and said to her mother, “What shall I ask?” And she said, “The head of John the baptizer.” And she came in immediately with haste to the king, and asked saying, “I want you to give me at once the head of John the Baptist on a platter.” And the king was exceedingly sorry; but because of his oaths and his guests he did not want to break his word to her. And immediately the king sent a soldier of the guard and gave order to bring his head. He went and beheaded him in prison, and brought his head on a platter, and gave it to the girl; and the girl gave it to her mother. When his disciples heard of it, they came and took his body, and laid it in a tomb (Mark 6:14-29).
The confusion over who Jesus was and what Jesus had come to do, required some answers. Jesus had been with his disciples nearly three years; yet, the disciples were still in the dark about Jesus, their Teacher, who had healed the sick, cast out the demons, and performed many miracles. Jesus had come at the crucial time to disclose that He was the Son of God, who would be sacrificed as the Lamb of God for the sins of the world.
Now when Jesus came into the district of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples. “Who do men say tat the Son of man is?” And they said, “Some say John the Baptist, others say Elijah and others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” Simon Peter replied, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” And Jesus answered him, “Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jona! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven. And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the powers of death shall not prevail against it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.” Then he strictly charged the disciples to tell no one that he was the Christ.
From that time Jesus began to show his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised. And Peter took him and began to rebuke him, saying, “God forbid, Lord! This shall never happen to you.” But he turned and said to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a hindrance to me; for you are not on the side of God, but of men” (Matthew 16:13-23).
The question was and still is, “How can a man like Peter receive the highest commendation from the Son of man for recognizing him as the Son of God, and then few minutes later be reprimanded for endorsing the policies of Satan? What had Peter done that was so abhorred to Jesus the Christ or the Messiah? What was the issue?” Jesus was about to raise Lazarus from the dead and demonstrate that He had power over death and could save the soul from the eternal separation from God. Jesus would confess to Martha, Mary, and their mourners, with his disciples being present, that He was “the resurrection and the life.”
Now when Jesus came, he found that Lazarus had already been in the tomb four days. Bethany was near Jerusalem, about two miles off, and many of the Jews had come to Martha and Mary to console them concerning their brother. When Martha heard that Jesus was coming, she went and met him, while Mary sat in the house. Martha said to Jesus, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died. And even now I know that whatever you ask from God, God will give you.” Jesus said to her, “Your brother will rise again.” Martha said to him, “I know that he will rise again in the resurrection at the last day.” Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life; he who believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and whoever lives and believes in me shall never die. Do you believe this?” She said to him, “Yes, Lord; I believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God, he who is coming into the world” (John 11:17-27).
Many of the Jews therefore, who had come with Mary and had seen what he did, believed in him; but some of them went to the Pharisees and told them what Jesus had done. So the chief priests and the Pharisees gathered the council, and said, “What are we to do? For this man performs many signs. If we let him go on thus, every one will believe in him, and the Romans will come and destroy both our holy place and our nation.” But one of them, Caiaphas, who was high priest that year, said to them, “You know nothing at all; you do not understand that it is expedient for you that one man should die for the people, and that the whole nation should not perish.” He did not say this of his own accord, but being high priest that year he prophesied that Jesus should die for the nation, and not for the nation only, but to gather into one the children of God who are scattered abroad. So from that day on they took counsel how to put him to death (John 11:45-53).
Lazarus did trigger the final showdown between Jesus and the leaders. The hostility began when the leaders questioned Jesus’ authority. And Jesus had them decide whether the baptism of John was from heaven or from men? Their inability to decide to answer Jesus’ question was intimidating and so alarming, that it threatened their own authority. In addition, Jesus was vocal about their shortcomings in His teachings and in His parables.
And they came again to Jerusalem. And as he was walking in the temple, the chief priests and the scribes and the elders came to him, and they said to him, “By what authority are you doing these things, or who gave you this authority to do them?” Jesus said to them, “I will ask you a question; answer me, and I will tell you by what authority I do these things. Was the baptism of John from heaven or from men? Answer me.” And they argued with one another, “If we say, ‘From heaven,’ he will say, ‘Why then did you not believe him?’ But shall we say, ‘From men’?”—they were afraid of the people, for all held that John was a real prophet. So they answered Jesus, “We do not know.” And Jesus said to them, “Neither will I tell you by what authority I do these things” (Mark. 11:27-33).
The most vicious group that began to plot the demise of Jesus and his followers were the Pharisees. They were aligned with the Sadducees and the Herodians (Mark 8:15). The Pharisees were the first to accuse Jesus of being subject to Beelzebul, the prince of demons. Jesus defended Himself against the charge and warned his followers about the deadly venom the Pharisees were trying to inject in His mission:
Then a blind and dumb demoniac was brought to him, and he healed him, so that the dumb man spoke and saw. And all the people were amazed, and said, “Can this be the Son of David? But when the Pharisees heard it they said, “It is only by Beelzebul, the prince of demons, that this man casts out demons.” Knowing their thoughts, he said to them, “Every kingdom divided against itself is laid waste, and no city or house divided against itself will stand, and if Satan casts out Satan, he is divided against himself; how then will his kingdom stand? And if I cast out demons by Beelzebul, by whom do your sons cast them out? Therefore they shall be your judges (Matthew 12:22-37).
In the meantime, when so many thousands of the multitude had gathered together that they trod upon one another, he began to say to the disciples first, “Beware of the leaven of the Pharisees, which is hypocrisy. Nothing is covered up that will not be revealed, or hidden that will not be known. Whatever you have said in the dark shall be heard in the light, and what you have whispered in private rooms shall be proclaimed upon the housetops.
I tell you, my friends, do not fear those who kill the body, and after that have no more that they can do. But I will warn you whom to fear: fear him who, after he has killed, has power to cast into hell; yes, I tell you, fear him! Are not five sparrows sold for two pennies? And not one of them is forgotten before God. Why, even their hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not; you are of more value than many sparrows.
And I tell you, everyone who acknowledges me before men, the Son of man also will acknowledge before the angels of God; but he who denies me before men will be denied before the angels of God. And every one who speaks a word against the Son of man will be forgiven; but he who blasphemes against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven. And when they bring you before the synagogues and the rulers and the authorities, do not be anxious how or what you are to answer or what you are to say; for the Holy Spirit will teach you in that very hour what you ought to say” (Luke 12:1-12).
Jesus did not hide anything! And the scribes, the Pharisees, with the chief priests and the Sadducees, knew that Jesus’ parables were aimed at them. The underlying message was that the leaders had filled their cups of injustice and usurpation of power, which, no longer, warranted their existence. And their rejection of the Son of God and their rejection of redemption by the Lamb of God, ended their tenancy, and they handed the vineyard and nation over to another people:
And he began to speak to them in parables. “A man planted a vineyard, and set a hedge around it, and dug a pit for the wine press, and built a tower, and let it out to tenants, and went into another country. When the time came, he sent a servant to the tenants, to get from them some of the fruit of the vineyard. And they took him and beat him, and sent him a way empty-handed. Again he sent to them another servant, and they wounded him in the head, and treated him shamefully. And he sent another, and him they killed; and so with many others, some they beat and some they killed. He has still one other, a beloved son; finally sent him to them, saying, ‘They will respect my son.’ But those tenants said to one another, ‘This is the heir; come, let us kill him, and the inheritance will be ours.’ And they took him and killed him, and cast him out of the vineyard. What will the owner of the vineyard do? He will come and destroy the tenants, and give the vineyard to others. Have you not read this scripture: ‘The very stone which the builders rejected has become the head of the corner; this was the Lord’s doing, and it is marvelous in our eyes’?” And they tried to arrest him, but feared the multitude, for they perceived that he had told the parable against them; so they left him and went away (Mark 12:1-12).
Jesus did not exactly endear Himself to the leaders with His denunciations and His warnings. Jesus accused them of tampering with the Law, and of causing the people to stumble because they were children of the devil:
And he said to them, “Well did Isaiah prophesy of you hypocrites, as it is written, ‘This people honors me with their lips, but their heart is far from me; in vain do they worship me, teaching as doctrines the precepts of men.’ You have the commandment of God, and hold fast the tradition of men.”
And he said to them, “You have a fine way of rejecting the commandment of God in order to keep your tradition! For Moses said, ‘Honor your father and your mother’; and, ‘He who speaks evil of father or mother, let him surely die’; but you say, ‘If a man tells his father or his mother, What you would have gained from me is Corban’ (that is, given to God)—then you no longer permit him to do anything for his father or mother, thus making void the word of God through your tradition which you hand on. And many such things you do” (Mark 7:6-13).
Whoever receives one such child in my name receives me; but whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to have a great millstone fastened round his neck and to be drowned in the depth of the sea. “Woe to the world for temptation to sin! For it is necessary that temptations come, but woe to the man by whom the temptation comes! And if your hand or your foot causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it from you; it is better for you to enter life maimed or lame than with two hands or two feet to be thrown into the eternal fire. And if your eye causes you to sin, pluck it out and throw it from you; it is better for you to enter life with one eye than with two eyes to be thrown into the hell of fire” (Matthew 18:5-9).
Jesus said to them, “If God were your Father, you would love me, for I proceeded and came forth from God; I came not of my own accord, but he sent me. Why do you not understand what I say? It is because you cannot bear to hear my word. You are of your father the devil, and your will is to do your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, and has nothing to do with the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks according to his own nature, for he is a liar and the father of lies. But, because I tell the truth, you do not believe me. Which of you convicts me of sin? If I tell the truth, why do you not believe me? He who is of God hears the words of God, the reason why you do not hear them is that you are not of God” (John 8:42-47).
A Pharisee had invited Jesus to dine with Him for the main purpose to see whether Jesus would obey their tradition and wash His hands. Jesus intentionally did not wash up and issued six woes against his host and his companions the scribes:
And the Lord said to him, “Now you Pharisees cleanse the outside of the cup and of the dish, but inside you are full of extortion and wickedness. You fools! Did not he who made the outside make the inside also? But give for alms those things which are within; and behold, everything is clean for you.
But woe to you Pharisees! for you tithe mint and rue and every herb, and neglect justice and the love of God; these you ought to have done, without neglecting the others. Woe to you Pharisees! for you love the best seat in the synagogues and salutations in the market places. Woe to you! for you are like graves which are not seen, and men walk over them without knowing it.”
One of the lawyers answered him, “Teacher, in saying this you reproach us also.” And he said, “Woe to you lawyers also! for you load men with burdens hard to bear, and you yourselves do not touch the burdens with one of your fingers. Woe to you! for you build the tombs of the prophets whom your fathers killed. So you are witnesses and consent to the deeds of your fathers; for they killed them, and you build their tombs. Therefore also the Wisdom of God said, ‘I will send them prophets and apostles, some of whom they will kill and persecute,’ that the blood of all the prophets, shed from the foundation of the world, may be required of this generation, from the blood of Abel to the blood of Zechariah, who perished between the altar and the sanctuary. Yes, I tell you, it shall be required of this generation. Woe to you lawyers! for you have taken away the key of knowledge; you did not enter yourselves, and you hindered those who were entering.”
As he went away from there, the scribes and the Pharisees began to press him hard, and to press him hard, and to provoke him to speak of many things, lying in wait for him, to catch at something he might say (Luke 11:39-54).