Jesus and the Jewish Religious Leaders
The greatest event in the history of mankind took place in the first century when God, at the appointed time, sent his Son into the world as both God and man. Jesus the Christ (Messiah) is the Son of God, the Jewish Son (descendant) of David, and the global Son of Man. His astonishing Virgin-birth arrival on the earth changed the measurement of time itself (B.C. to A.D.), and he continues to change the lives and eternal destiny of those who have believed in him for their personal salvation.
The most tragic event of all time also took place in the first century, continuing to this very day. It was and is the widespread refusal of most Jews and Gentiles to believe that Jesus is the Messiah and, therefore, to reject him as Savior and Lord, the only way to God. Tragic, because this disbelief will result in eternal separation from God. Yet, God, as he so often does, turned this tragedy into triumph over sin and death that has plagued mankind since the day that our original parents defied their Creator … to do their own thing and go their own way.
One of the paramount proclamations in all of the Bible to unequivocally affirm the eternal existence of Messiah Jesus as (the Living Word of) God, is the first verse of the Gospel of John.
“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God” (New American Standard Bible).
Followed by: “He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through Him … In Him was life, and the life was the Light of men. The Light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it” (John 1:2-5, NASB).
Throughout the Gospels it’s crystal clear: Despite his profound teaching and the awesome miracles Jesus performed to prove his divine power and his God-given authority, the religious leaders scorned him for two indefensible reasons:
First, they could not tolerate anyone usurping or even sharing their position and prestige among the common people. Secondly, they deliberately declined to search their own Hebrew Scriptures to objectively determine if this man from the region of Galilee (whom they mistakenly thought was born in Nazareth, instead of Bethlehem—the prophesied birth place of the Messiah), just might be the long-awaited Messiah.
Among other things, they did not:
- Bother to resolve if Jesus was from the lineage of King David (Son of David).
- Carefully examine Daniel’s prophecy (Chapter 9) that the Messiah would arrive 483 years after Nehemiah began to rebuild the walls of Jerusalem. Jesus’s triumphant entrance into Jerusalem on a donkey precisely fulfilled this spectacular prophecy.
- Study the Scriptures (Old Testament) that show Messiah would also be a humble, suffering servant of a lowly birth, as found especially in Isaiah and the Psalms, but also other books such as Micah.
- Match up specific things that Jesus said and did, or that were done for or to him such as crucifixion on a cross—during Jesus’s life, death, burial, and especially his resurrection—to dozens of Messianic prophecies.
- Out-of-hand dismissal of Christ’s resurrection.
- Then later, after the 2nd Temple was destroyed in 70 AD, to again review Daniel 9 which confirms that Messiah would come BEFORE the Temple would be destroyed.
Said Jesus to the Jewish religious authorities:
“I tell you the truth, those who listen to my message and believe in God who sent me have eternal life. They will never be condemned for their sins, but they have already passed from death into life. And I assure you that the time is coming, indeed it’s here now, when the dead will hear my voice—the voice of the Son of God. And those who listen will live. The Father has life in himself, and he has granted that same life-giving power to his Son. And he has given him authority to judge everyone because he is the Son of Man” (John 5:24-27).
Jesus went on to say to the Jewish leaders: “But I have a greater witness than John—my teachings and my miracles. The Father gave me these works to accomplish, and they prove that he sent me” (John 5:36 … John here is John the Baptist).
Then Jesus drives home the point:
“You search the Scriptures because you think they give you eternal life. But the Scriptures point to me! Yet you refuse to come to me to receive this life” (Verse 39).
This scene ends with these astonishing words of Jesus:
“For I have come to you in my Father’s name, and you have rejected me. Yet if others come in their own name, you gladly welcome them. No wonder you can’t believe! … Yet it isn’t I who will accuse you before the Father. Moses will accuse you! Yes, Moses, in whom you put your hopes. If you really believed Moses, you would believe me, because he wrote about me. But since you don’t believe what he wrote, how will you believe what I say?” (John 5:43-47).
When Jesus said that they didn’t believe what Moses wrote, he was referring to what Moses—and also by extended implication what all of the prophets—had written about the coming Messiah. If they would set aside their pride and prejudice, then carefully and impartially match the prophecies with Jesus, they would plainly see that he was the Messiah.
Many Have Believed Jesus is Messiah … Many More Have Not
It was not just the religious leaders. Although most Jews didn’t have the same hang-up that their clerical leaders did—the incomparable power and authority of Jesus usurping the influence of the religious authorities—they, nevertheless, dismissed Jesus for another reason. He did not fit the image of a conquering Messiah who would deliver them from the oppression of the Roman Empire. To be sure, the Messiah would one day deliver Israel from all Gentile domination, but not until he first freed the people from themselves. Until the human heart is supernaturally changed by the righteousness that only God can give (as opposed to sin induced self-righteousness that only enslaves people), a kingdom (nation) cannot be changed from one of darkness to one of light.
Let’s read about one of the incidents between Jesus and the common folk of Israel:
“When Jesus had finished telling these stories and illustrations, he left that part of the country. He returned to Nazareth, his hometown. When he taught there in the synagogue, everyone was amazed and said, ‘Where does he get this wisdom and the power to do miracles?’ Then they scoffed, ‘He’s just the carpenter’s son, and we know Mary, his mother, and his brothers—James, Joseph, Simon, and Judas. All his sisters live right here among us. Where did he learn all these things?’ And they were deeply offended and refused to believe in him…” (Matthew 13:53-57).
The stories and illustrations referred to were no less than nine parables in this one chapter alone to explain “The Kingdom of Heaven.” As alluded to in last week’s article, the Kingdom of God and Kingdom of Heaven are occasionally used interchangeably by Jesus. They both apply to the King of those Kingdoms, which is the Triune God—Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. However, the immediate context of the Kingdom of Heaven applies more directly to the rule and presence of the Lord universally in the hearts and minds of those who believe and receive the King (Messiah) as personal Savior.
Whereas the Kingdom of God pertains comprehensively to the actual physical kingdom of God on earth when Christ returns to rescue Israel from annihilation and defeat at the hands of Satan, Antichrist, and the False Prophet. Satan’s worldly kingdoms will be decisively crushed, and the Kingdom of God will be centered in Jerusalem, from where Messiah Jesus and all believers will rule and reign.
Kingdom of Heaven: Personal relationship to God.
Kingdom of God: Global governmental administration by God.
The people looked only for the Kingdom of God that would be preceded by God’s judgment of ungodly Gentile nations (at that time, the Roman Empire). They missed entirely the clear evidence of the Old Testament (completely revealed in and accomplished by the New Covenant) that first must come the Kingdom of Heaven in the hearts and minds of those who had been redeemed by the final sacrifice of the High Priest, Messiah. Their own sins must first be mediated and forgiven, which would spare them from the coming judgment of all people … Jews and Gentiles alike.
They had forgotten or had chosen to ignore the fact that the Temple and all of its instruments, the ceremonial laws, and even the Levitical sacrificial system, were only pictorial patterns of a greater Temple (Christ himself), a more-enduring (once and for all) Sacrifice for their sins, and the ultimate promise that God would live (tabernacle) among them. The sacrifices had become entirely ritual with strict observance to the letter of the law, not the real underlying spiritual purpose of the law.
They were too short-sighted to see that the seven festivals God gave them to celebrate would also be a pattern precursor to a new and better relationship with God through their Messiah.
Which leads us the theme of todays and the next two Eye of Prophecy articles: the Seven Festivals given by God through Moses for the people of Israel to observe annually and the remarkable prophetic correlation of these High Holy Days to Messiah Jesus.
Passover (Pesach in Hebrew) … Where It All Began!
God instructed the Hebrews to stop the daily routine of their lives seven times each year to memorialize the remarkable things that the Lord had done for them, not the least of which was deliverance from slavery and creation of the nation of Israel from the twelve sons of Jacob. The festivals were special times to reflect on the profound privilege afforded them through God’s providence, power, protection, provision, and even his very presence among them.
Observant Jews, especially the Orthodox and Conservative, keep all of the festivals in some fashion. So, too, does the Reformed branch of Judaism, but with more flexibility in their observance. Even many non-observant Jews (secular mostly) celebrate Passover, Rosh Hashanah (Jewish New Year), and Sukkot (Festival of Shelters) because, in their view, these holidays pertain to Israel collectively as a nation. Not much different than Americans celebrating the Western New Year, Easter, Fourth of July, Thanksgiving, and Christmas … whether the person is a Christian or not.
There are two other Jewish holidays celebrated as much or more than Passover and Rosh Hashanah. They are not among the seven festivals because the events that led to these festive occasions took place centuries later. They are: Purim and Hanukkah. The reason why virtually all Jews take part in these two celebrations is because there are more secular Jews in today’s world than religious.
Passover is the first festival God commanded the people to observe annually. Next to the birth, life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ, no event on earth is as well-known and remembered down through the ages as the Exodus. Jews and Gentiles, believers and unbelievers, rich and poor, young and old, religious and secular alike have heard or read or know something about the dramatic deliverance of the Hebrews from Egypt, complement of ten miraculous plagues on the Egyptians.
Followed by one miracle after another: Parting of the Red Sea; Return of the waters to drown the Egyptian pursuers; Pillar of Cloud by day and Pillar of Fire by night; Bread (Manna) appearing every morning from nowhere; Meat (Quail) falling out of the sky; Water gushing from solid rock; The Finger of God writing the Ten Commandments on stone tablets; and more.
(Note: I’m not so sure about the young in today’s world. For example, a recent survey showed that 71% of Millennials in America, 18-26 years of age, didn’t even know where to look for Israel on a global map)!
Next to being alive in Israel when Jesus walked the earth, if I could have lived in another time and place in history, I would, without hesitation, select the Exodus. (As an Israelite, not an Egyptian!)
The Ten Commandments (Charlton Heston, Yul Brynner, and Anne Baxter) is still considered one of the greatest movies of all time. Other films have been made of the Exodus; numerous books, articles, and commentaries written; and countless sermons preached about this monumental historic milestone.
(Depicting Moses Receiving The Ten Commandments on Mt. Sinai)
Many know that it all began when God struck Egypt with ten spectacular plagues to demonstrate that he, alone, was the true and living God. But most likely not that many could identify all of the first nine of these divine judgments necessary before Pharaoh’s hard-hearted pride would finally be crushed. However, a great number of people recall the tenth plague, one that shook the very foundation of the mighty Egyptian empire, one that would take centuries for Egypt to recover.
“And that night at midnight, the Lord struck down all the firstborn sons in the land of Egypt, from the firstborn of Pharaoh, who sat on his throne, to the firstborn son of the prisoner in the dungeon. Even the firstborn of their livestock were killed. Pharaoh and all his officials and all the people of Egypt woke up during the night, and loud wailing was heard throughout the land of Egypt. There was not a single house where someone had not died” (Exodus 12:29-30).
The Passover Changed the Hebrew Calendar
Whatever calendar the Hebrews had used to measure time was changed to accommodate and acknowledge this phenomenal event in Israel’s history. Then subsequently to regulate the months of the Hebrew year; a lunar calendar still used by the Jews today, instead of the Julian turned Gregorian solar calendar that came along much later.
“From now on, this month will be the first month of the year for you” (Exodus 12:2). The month is called Nissan (originally Abib in the Bible) corresponding to the Gregorian calendar months of March/April.
Also amazing: God through Moses instructed the Hebrews to commemorate Passover on the 14th day of the first month of every year, before this catastrophic calamity actually took place! In other words, it was a sure thing that God would do what he said would be done. That’s also true with hundreds of other Biblical prophecies.
In fact, let’s read what God told Moses to announce to Pharaoh (God through Moses warned Pharaoh of this final catastrophic judgment, just as Pharaoh had been warned before all the preceding plagues).
“…This is what the Lord says: At midnight tonight I will pass through the heart of Egypt. All the firstborn sons will die in every family in Egypt, from the oldest son of Pharaoh, who sits on the throne, to the oldest son of his lowliest servant girl who grinds the flour. Even the firstborn of all the livestock will die. Then a loud wail will rise throughout the land of Egypt, a wail like no one has heard before or will ever hear again. But among the Israelites, it will be so peaceful that not even a dog will bark. Then you will know that the Lord has made a distinction between the Egyptians and the Israelites” (Exodus 11:4-7).
*Note: We’ll see in a moment what this distinction was and what it was meant to be and do.
To this very day, Jews enthusiastically celebrate the Passover; with, however, primary emphasis on their deliverance from Egypt … with minimal or no reflection why the blood of innocent lambs had to be spread on the doorposts of every Hebrew house. Even before, but especially after Israel’s second Temple was destroyed by the Romans and their Levitical Sacrificial System eliminated, there had not been nearly as much attention paid to the very heart of Passover, itself. Instead, the Passover has been representatively reduced almost exclusively to remembering the emancipation from Egypt; which is, according to the Lord, to be observed in and by the 2nd Festival ordained by God … the Feast of Unleavened Bread.
(Passover Today with Emphasis on the Meal … Unleavened Bread)
Let’s read the actual account in Scripture which reveals the more exact meaning of Passover and the purpose for its remembrance. For sure, the seven-day Unleavened Bread Festival that follows the day after Passover is an extension of Passover itself. However, this following feast served a different purpose and possessed a different meaning to God and (should) also to the Jews and now to Gentile Christians and Messianic Jews.
The Original Passover and Its True Purpose
First, an unblemished (without defect of any kind) one-year old male lamb or goat must be set aside by each Jewish family four days ahead of the Passover. One of the main reasons for selecting a lamb or goat four days before Passover was so each family would become more personally attached to the animal. Which, in turn, would make it even more difficult to (sacrificially) kill their lamb. Invariably, it was to impress on the people the high price of atonement … the shedding of innocent blood.
“Take special care of this chosen animal until the evening of the fourteenth day of this first month. Then the whole assembly of the community of Israel must slaughter their lamb or young goat at twilight. They are to take some of the blood and smear it on the sides and top of the doorframes of the houses where they eat the animal” (Exodus 12:6-7).
Why must the blood of their innocent slain lamb be applied to the doorframes? Many know the answer to that. Because the Lord said:
“On that night I will pass through the land of Egypt and strike down every firstborn son and firstborn male animal in the land of Egypt. I will execute judgment against all the gods of Egypt, for I am the Lord! But the blood on your doorposts will serve as a sign, marking the houses where you are staying. When I see the blood, I will pass over you. This plague of death will not touch you when I strike the land of Egypt” (Exodus 12:12-13, italics for emphasis).
So … easy answer to the question. Right? God would pass over the Jews as long as they displayed the blood of the slain animals as directed by the Lord.
But wait a minute. That summary answer still doesn’t fully explain what’s going on here. Which is why virtually all Jews, except those who believe in Yeshua as Messiah, focus on the Pesach supper more in the context of and reason for the Feast of Unleavened Bread during their celebration of Passover.
Logically, that makes sense; because they no longer observe the all-important feature of Passover, which is the shed blood of a sacrificial lamb. Scripturally, however, the Jews are not obeying and following God’s original commandment, i.e. sacrificial slaying of innocent animals. That’s particularly true for Passover, but also for the entire Levitical Sacrificial system where sin, guilt, peace (thanks), grain, and other sacrifices were required, including the weekly Sabbath.
(The True Essence of Passover)
Thanks be to our Sovereign God and His Glorious Son, Messiah Jesus. Although the Jews are not truly keeping the full Scriptural essence of the Passover (slain animal), what most of them don’t know or won’t accept is that God has taken care of that problem! Which will be more fully developed in next week’s article.
In the interim, you might want to read Eye of Prophecy articles, Where Is the Temple? Part I, II, & III, posted 11-19, 12-6 & 12-13-14. They explain in great detail the ongoing disbelief (in denial) of non-Messianic Jews regarding the real reasons for and results of the destruction of the 2nd Temple.
To better understand the very core of Passover, let’s ask some probing questions.
Sacrificial Blood Must Be Shed
Why did it have to be blood (of an innocent unblemished animal)? Why not the juice of grapes, or dye, or paint, or chimes, or anything else that could easily be seen?
For that matter, why must the blood be spread on the entrance to their homes at all?
Does anyone think for a moment that the angel of death sent by God to destroy the firstborn sons of Egypt couldn’t distinguish between Egyptian homes and Hebrew homes (even though it was dark)? Plus, the Hebrews lived in Goshen, completely separated from the Egyptians. Not only that, but all of the previous plagues (a couple partially, most entirely) had not touched nor affected the Israelites. Why wouldn’t or shouldn’t the Lord give his people carte blanche protection during the worst, by far, of the ten plagues?
Have you ever thought about these reasons/questions?
The answers, as always, are found in Scripture.
The Lord specifically states the purpose was to: “execute judgment against all the gods of Egypt, for I am the Lord!”
Egypt had numerous man-made deities, most of which were gods representing specific parts of nature … worshipping creation not the Creator. Their chief god was Ra, the sun god. During the passage of time (400 years of captivity) many of the Hebrews had begun to worship some of these Egyptian gods. They had forgotten that it was the God of their fathers—Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob—who had called them to be his special possession.
Thus, the Hebrews would also have been struck down by the angel of death; as a whole, they no longer believed in or trusted the true and living God. Which is why God sovereignly said, “I am the Lord.” Repeat those four words aloud three times. With each announcement successively emphasizing “I”, then “AM,” then “The Lord.” Then, you’ll get the full meaning of what God impressed on the Hebrews and why he would not pass over them if they did not follow his instructions.
Because they believed God and followed the angels out of Sodom, Lot and his two daughters were spared from God’s destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah. Lot’s wife would also have lived, but she chose to “look back” with the obvious meaning that she longed to go back to this wicked city (her home). Noah and his family were delivered from the Great Flood because their trust in God had made them righteous in God’s sight. Righteousness by and through faith (as opposed to self-righteousness and good works and keeping of laws) alone was already a universal truth long before the Mosaic Law was given.
“And Abram believed the Lord, and the Lord counted him as righteous because of his faith” (Genesis 15:6).
When it comes to God dispensing his wrath on entire cities or nations and his mercy to spare those who love and trust him, there must first be obedient trust in God and his directions to be exempted from divine judgment. Even the Hebrews in the land of Goshen, which was part of Egypt proper, must agree with the Lord’s instructions in order to be spared from, “the plague of death … when I strike the land of Egypt” (Exodus 12:13, italics for emphasis showing that all of Egypt would be judged).
Thus, Passover is first and foremost God sparing his people from judgment, not precisely their departure from Egypt. The “Exodus” itself would be celebrated by the Feast of Unleavened Bread.
Getting back to the distinction God would make between the Egyptians and the Israelites, we again ask the question:
Why blood? Because as Scripture teaches: without the shedding of blood, there is no remission of sin. Nor pardon from sin’s ultimate penalty … eternal separation from God. From the beginning when Adam and Eve sinned and infected all of humanity with that dreadful disease, God’s plan was to remedy the problem by the shedding of innocent blood. The Lord spilled the blood of innocent animals to make clothing for Adam and Eve to cover their nakedness, which became a source of guilt and shame to our original parents the instant they sinned. It was the fall of innocence.
The very life of all created beings on this planet is in the blood. We can transplant the human heart and other organs, we can substitute arms and legs with artificial limbs, and we can do skin grafts. But drain the blood of any human being without replacing it, and we’re goners within minutes.
God ordered Abraham to sacrifice his son, Isaac, to demonstrate among other things that the death of the promised son (Isaac as opposed to Ishmael) whose descendants would bring us the Messiah, must die for the sins of Israel and the whole world. God spared Isaac by providing a nearby (innocent) ram in his place. But God did not spare his own (Promised) Son, the One for whom Isaac was a pattern and preview.
Which brings us to Messiah’s fantastic fulfillment and profound perfection of the original Passover. But that will need to wait until next week’s article, which will further distinguish between the festivals of Passover and Unleavened Bread. Then we’ll look at the 3rd and 4th Jewish Festivals … their extraordinary connection to and completion by Messiah Jesus when he came to earth the first time. Finally, week after next we’ll examine the amazing perfection by Messiah Jesus of the last three Jewish Festival to be accomplished at his second coming.
Things to Ponder
All who personally agree with God and accept the sacrificial redemption of Messiah’s shed blood and death, will be saved (spared) from the judgment of God. That includes those who have died in Christ and those still alive seven years before Messiah Jesus physically returns to this earth, “…with power and great glory” (Matthew 24:30).
At the spectacular Rapture, the dead in Christ will be raised and the living will be caught up from the earth to meet the Lord (I Thessalonians Chapter 4).
God’s Pre-Millennial Tribulation wrath and Post-Millennial final judgment of the dead and living will then Passover all who believe in God’s perfect Sacrificial Passover Lamb.
Messiah Jesus, the sinless innocent Son of God, dying in our place. Paying the ultimate price for our sins. Doing for us what we could not for ourselves.
As said in a previous Eye of Prophecy article: It is the Greatest Sacrifice Ever Made, by the Highest Price Ever Paid.