“What are we accomplishing?” they asked. “Here is this man performing many signs. If we let him go on like this, everyone will believe in him, and then the Romans will come and take away both our temple and our nation.” John 11:47-48, NIV*
This comes near the end of Jesus’ ministry. He’s been preaching, healing, restoring people who’ve been dead for short periods, and now He’s raised Lazarus after a four-day stay in the tomb.
Many of the people watching Him think the only way someone could do miracles like this is if God is involved. Others can’t get past their suspicions.
Then we have the chief priests and Pharisees. Yes, some are secretly impressed by Jesus, but the party line is clear: “denounce this itinerant preacher who dares rock our boat.”
They’ve recognized His claim to equality with God—and that’s a killing offense. They’ve also seen how the people love Him—and how he makes religious officialdom look bad. He doesn’t play by their rules, doesn’t buy into the monopoly they’ve built on holiness.
But there’s more: they’re afraid the brutal Roman empire will crush a perceived uprising. They’re not just scared for their cushy positions, they’re scared of their beloved nation being pasted again.
I don’t have much sympathy for their self-protection, but protecting their people sounds more noble.
They remembered the exiles, the military humiliations in the past. Now they’d achieved a form of peace under Rome, and they didn’t want anything to wreck it.
But they weren’t remembering back far enough.
What about the God who brought the Israelites out of Egypt’s slavery? The God who brought them back from exile in Babylon?
Even the God who sent them into exile in the first place because they had turned away from following Him.
What if... the leaders believed Jesus was who His words and actions claimed? God come down to His chosen people?
I know it couldn’t have happened that way. He came to die, to sacrifice Himself to buy us back. To bring healing and eternal life.
But think about it... what if they’d recognized God in their midst? Remembered what He could do? Relied on Him to do it again?
The threat of Rome wouldn’t have seemed so overwhelming if they knew God was there: God who had defeated so many of their enemies, often at incredible odds. Running to Him would be much smarter than trying to kill him.
They remembered the pain, but they didn’t remember the hope.
Aren’t we the same?
© Janet Sketchley, 2010
* THE HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2010 by Biblica, Inc.™ Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
For devotionals, reviews and conversation, stop by Janet Sketchley's blog, God with Us: Finding Joy.