Continuing the review of passages that particularly came to my attention during the writing of “The Fellowship of the Secret” * –
Then fear came upon all, and they glorified God, saying, “A great prophet has risen up among us”; and, “God has visited His people.” And this report about Him went throughout all Judea and all the surrounding region [vv16-17 NKJV].
When all the people and the tax collectors heard this (Jesus’ acclamation of His herald), they acknowledged God’s justice, having been baptized with the baptism of John. But the Pharisees and the lawyers rejected God’s purpose for themselves, not having been baptized by John [vv29-30NASB]
The Man Christ Jesus was foretold to be “despised and rejected by men” (Is53:3); and so He was ultimately, for as the Lord had observed, His people (i.e. the Jews) were like sheep without a shepherd (Mt9:36). For many of their spiritual leaders were ravenous wolves who succeeded in persuading and cajoling the people who a few days earlier had acclaimed their Messiah’s prophetic entrance into Jerusalem to demand His crucifixion. As the account in Mark makes clearer, the chief priests had handed Jesus over to the Roman authorities out of envy and succeeded in stirring up the crowd to call for Barabbas’ release in His place (Mk15:10-11).
But as the verses from Luke 7 quoted above indicate, the Jewish people were not instinctively hateful or derisory towards either Jesus or His herald John. They had “glorified God” after Jesus resurrected the widow’s son at Nain (v16) and “acknowledged God’s justice” at Jesus’ affirmation of John’s greatness as a prophet (v29). Their leaders on the other hand being many (not all) of the Pharisees, priests and interpreters of the Law “rejected God’s purpose for themselves“, refusing the baptism of repentance offered to them (v30). That “purpose” would have been to take forward the work of the Kingdom, supporting their Messiah as leaders and teachers of the people, but that same Messiah deemed them unfit for purpose and selected His dozen from amongst artisans, fishermen and tax collectors. Yet Jesus went on to insist that those same leaders were still to be obeyed by the people since “they occupied the seat of Moses”, albeit “Do what they say, not what they do” (Mt23:1-3).
This affirmed that Jesus did not regard Himself at this point as “instigating a new religion”, or else why would He require the people to whom He was ministering to continue to obey their appointed leaders? (The answer pertains to the subject of my book*, i.e. what Paul was alluding to in Eph3:9-11). And it suggests that even the princes and people of the true Church should take care that they are not to be snubbed by their Master at His return, observing the sentiments behind the herald’s warning recorded in Matthew3:8-9:
So bear fruits worthy of repentance, and do not begin to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father.’ For I (John) say to you that God is able to raise up children to Abraham from these very stones!
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