I tried to obtain wikis and dictionary meaning or definitions on Pharisees and Chief Priests but with the varying versions, I prefer to stick to what the bible says about them. The mention of these characters or `authorities’ appeared many times in the New Testament and they were more often than not, the bad guys, the enemies that sought to destroy Jesus for shaking their `turf’. They were not gangsters or thugs but learned in the traditions and regulations of the holy temple of the Jews called the synagogue.
With the backdrop of the Roman Empire ruling that part of the world, the Pharisees and Chief Priests were authorised by the Romans to let the people carry on with their temple and traditions as long as they keep the peace and pay their dues. It seemed like a good idea to let these `authorities’ take care of their own people so they relieve themselves the job of looking after them and focus on conquering the rest of the world.
So these `authorities’ had for a long time, held privileged and high positions over the people and the arrival of Jesus and his works somehow threatened their status. This was because his teachings and deeds were different from what they had been instructing the people to do. They were very upset as not only were his teachings and deeds different, they were against, upside down or right side up from theirs.
One incident that really made them flip was when Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead. Lazarus was dead and in the tomb for four days and this was what Jesus did:
When he had said these things, he cried out with a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out.” The man who had died came out, his hands and feet bound with linen strips, and his face wrapped with a cloth. Jesus said to them, “Unbind him, and let him go.” – John 11:43-44 ESV
This was one of the most amazing miracles that Jesus did and many people witnessed this as they had all gathered for the mourning of Lazarus. I can imagine that if I was there to witness it, I would have fainted but would have glorified God for his mercy if I was able to remain conscious. Anyway, how did the `authorities’ react to this?
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 like this, everyone will believe in him, and the Romans will come and take away both our place and our nation. – John 11:47-48 ESV
Many who witnessed or heard about the miracle came to believe in Jesus but I was baffled at the indifference of these `authorities’. However, some of the officials who were subordinate to these `authorities’ believed in Jesus but their reaction was also baffling:
Nevertheless, many even of the authorities believed in him, but for fear of the Pharisees they did not confess it, so that they would not be put out of the synagogue; for they loved the glory that comes from man more than the glory that comes from God. – John 12:42-43 ESV
They chose something less when something far greater was shown. The prospect of losing their power and wealth was too hard to bear if they were to stand for the truth. So f0r them, truth which is eternal was not worth the loss of power and wealth which eventually come to nothing. I think I will go in circles trying to make some sense of their decision and reaction.
Let’s examine the state of mind of people addicted to drugs or alcohol where they would do anything to feed their addiction even if the deed was despicable, detestable or criminal. We might say they were under the influence or control of the drug or alcohol. So do we say that these `authorities’ were under the control of their power and wealth? I think not. It was a decision over what they love versus what they know to be the truth. They know there was no such thing as having both as it was one or the other. Some of them went really out of the way to ensure that what they love will not be threatened further:
So the chief priests made plans to put Lazarus to death as well, because on account of him many of the Jews were going away and believing in Jesus. – John 12:10-11 ESV
I examine myself in the light of how we can easily allow the powers of status, wealth and pride to blind us from the truth. How I may choose the fleeting pleasures of this world over what is eternal or that has an everlasting impact and purpose.
With this, I pray that the eyes of my heart will be open only to see God and walk in the light of his love and purpose.