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Posts Tagged ‘the Jewish leaders’

A few weeks ago, someone pointed out to me how the immediate response many of us seem to give these days when asked how we are is not, ‘Good, thanks!’ or ‘I’m fine!’ Instead, what we often say is ‘Oh, I’ve been so busy!’ or ‘I’m actually so tired—I’ve had so much to do!’ or some other phrase that indicates life is currently a little too full or perhaps even overwhelming for us.

It seems to be a badge of honour, in some circles at least, to be able to point out how many tasks and activities we manage to pack into our lives. Yet, in the midst of it all, how are we ourselves truly surviving? What is happening deep down inside us—to our soul or our spirit? Have we perhaps lost sight a little of who we are, apart from all that we manage to do and achieve? Have we forgotten how to sit and simply be? And, beyond that, have we perhaps allowed our faith to recede into the background somewhere, as if there is no room for God in our heads and our hearts, in all the busyness of life?

No room. Those words have such a sad, empty ring, don’t you think? Centuries ago, it seems to me, I used to sing a Christmas solo occasionally by John Peterson that began with the words:

No room, only a manger of hay,
No room, He is a stranger today,
No room, here in His world turned away,
No room, no room.

Perhaps nothing has changed really since that time over two thousand years ago when Jesus came as a baby to live among us. And perhaps nothing has changed since those days when Jesus, despite the many amazing miracles he performed and despite his wise teaching, was rejected as an adult either. Recently, I read some strong words Jesus spoke as he challenged the Jewish leaders to honestly believe in him in their hearts.

To the Jews who had believed him, Jesus said, “If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” John 8:31-32

Yet, they kept arguing with him, which resulted in Jesus speaking even more strongly to them.

I know that you are Abraham’s descendants. Yet you are looking for a way to kill me, because you have no room for my word.  John 8:37

Wow—there are those sad words ‘no room’ once again. These people back then seem to have been so proud of their heritage and position in society and so bent on disproving Jesus’ claims that they would not even let Jesus’ words truly enter their hearts and minds at all.

But what about us right here and now? To my shame and regret, I know there are times when I say a rude and disrespectful, ‘No room!’ to Jesus—times when I am just too busy to bother to leave any space for him in my life. How much wiser it would be to let Jesus order my days and lead me through them, as I listen to him and make room in my heart for his loving words!

No room. Let’s not say that to Jesus this Christmas—or at any time, for that matter.

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Jo 17There I was, happily reading John’s Gospel when I noticed I had previously put two exclamation marks beside a particular verse. Then I discovered two more in another spot—and I realised why. What the Jewish leaders were saying and how they were responding to Jesus just seemed so crazy-ridiculous to me!

I read how the Jewish leaders pester Jesus to tell them plainly if he is the Christ. Jesus points out he already has—and how his many miracles back up his claim (10:25-26). They try to stone him, but when Jesus asks which of the many great miracles from God the Father has upset them so much, they dismiss them, as if they are unimportant:

We are not stoning you for any of these,” they replied, “but for blasphemy, because you, a mere man, claim to be God.” (10:33)

I then read how Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead (11:1-44). While many Jews put their faith in him as a result, some head off to the Pharisees, who call a meeting to discuss the matter:

What are we accomplishing?” they asked. “Here is this man performing many miraculous signs. If we let him go on like this, everyone will believe in him …” (11:47-48)

Their conclusion, in collaboration with the chief priests, strikes me as sad but kind of funny too:

So the chief priests made plans to kill Lazarus as well, for on account of him many of the Jews were going over to Jesus and putting their faith in him. (12:10-11)

Doesn’t it seem weird to you that the best idea the Jews can come up with is to kill Lazarus? If Jesus had brought him back to life once, could he not do it again?

Finally, I read the saddest verse of all:

Even after Jesus had done all these miraculous signs in their presence, they still would not believe in him. (12:37)

As I reflected on all this, I remembered a time when I was a student at Queensland University and a keen member of the main Christian group there. One year, we held a mission on campus and tried to strike up conversations about Jesus with passers-by. During one such discussion, some sceptical philosophy students clinched their arguments with us with the following very definite statement:

‘If Jesus were to appear here right now and do some miracle, then we’d believe in him, for sure.’

An older minister helping us then chimed in.

‘Would you really? … Would you really?’

At that point, they left, uncertainty written all over their faces.

I sat for a moment, remembering and reflecting. If God had not opened my eyes to see who Jesus truly is and changed my life forever, I could well have had the same response as these students—and the Jewish leaders. I too could be lost in that sea of scepticism and unbelief. I still scratch my head at God’s absolutely amazing grace and love for me—but I also receive it with a truly grateful heart and with determination to treasure this gift forever.

He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him. Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God … John 1:11-12

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