The Pharisees were at odds with Jesus because they failed to recognize that he is Lord and King over them.
Luke 19:47 – 48
47 Every day he was teaching at the temple. But the chief priests, the teachers of the law and the leaders among the people were trying to kill him. 48 Yet they could not find any way to do it, because all the people hung on his words.
As Jesus approached the city and saw Jerusalem, he wept over it. This was a sudden change of mood for him. He longed that Jerusalem repent and seek what would be for its own good. The people had failed to recognize that God was coming to it and longing to save it.
Then Jesus entered the temple and made a demonstration of driving out the people who carried on their trades within it. Whilst they provided for the needs of worshippers and pilgrims, the trade seems to have been less than honest and grown to vast proportions. The area of the temple appointed for the Gentiles to worship God had become a den of thieves rather than a place of prayer. It was up to Jesus to put the temple to its proper use. He taught there daily amidst increasing opposition from authorities and strong sympathies from crowds.
This was a common New Testament theme. The Pharisees were more determined to follow the ways of man than the ways of God. They thought that they knew better and that following religious practices trumped faith. They also failed to recognize that Jesus, the Lord, King and Saviour of all humanity was standing right in front of them. No wonder Jesus was angry at them. But while we engage in ‘Pharisee bashing’, we don’t often ask ourselves whether we are similar to the Pharisees. Rather than failing to recognize God, do we do something even worse and outright reject him, seeking to follow our own ways? Do we really know better than the one who created the heavens and the earth and sent his own son to die for our sins? In my case, I know God is better than me, but my sinful nature and habits keep me from thinking this and I end up thinking otherwise.
This passage reminds me of Malachi 1:6-14 where the Israelites fail to recognize God as their king and send him injured, crippled or diseased animals as sacrifices. God is far from impressed at them, but what struck me was how similar my life was to that. As a Christian, your life is a living sacrifice to God and with my actions, my life was effectively an injured, crippled or diseased animal. It sent the same message- that God doesn’t matter too much and I can just give him what is left over of my life. Rather than just giving God the leftovers, a true part of recognizing him as king is to devote your entire life to him as a living sacrifice and not reject him. That is the best way to recognize and honour God.
Head: Why do you think the Pharisees wanted to kill Jesus? What was their motive?
Heart: Take a look at your own life and the lives of those around you? Where do you see examples of the attitude of the Pharisees? How do you feel about it?
Hands: What practical steps can you take to devote your entire life to God and cut out the false sacrifices in your life?
Prayer: Father God, thank you for sending your son on the cross to die in our place. We are sorry for the times when we fail to acknowledge who you are. As Jesus said on the cross, ‘Father, forgive them, they know not what they do’. Help us to emulate his attitude towards the authorities who put him on the cross and remind us to devote ourselves to your Word and keep it at the center of our lives. Amen
A song to listen to: Only You Can Satisfy
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