Israel failed to obtain the full grace of God which led to the opportunity for the rest of mankind to find it.
Most of the religious leadership of the Jews at the time of Christ did not recognize His coming. They failed to see that He was the promised Messiah spoken of by the righteous men and prophets for hundreds of years before His coming.
And yet they were looking for Him. They knew He was coming for they searched the scriptures and the signs of His coming as they had for years…and missed Him. Why?
Pride & Arrogance
The primary reason they failed to see was the pride and arrogance of the people.
I have discussed this in recent posts that the people and the leaders of the people, scribes and Pharisees, we’re proud and arrogant. They believed they were better than anyone else, and the leaders considered themselves better than the rest of the people. They were prejudiced against anyone who was not “one of them”.
They thought they were the religious elite and looked down on anyone else.
When Jesus gave the parable of the Good Samaritan in Luke 10:29-37 He clearly showed the way that most of the religious leaders thought and behaved. If you recall the story, a man had been beaten and robbed by thieves and was left wounded and bleeding by the side of the road. Then a priest and a Levine came upon the wounded man and both crossed to the other side of the road and passed him by without offering any assistance. It was not until a Samaritan came by who stopped, tended his wounds and carried him to a place where he would be cared for, paying for any costs that might be needed that the man was aided.
We should understand that the Samaritans were shunned by the Jews as they were considered unclean like the Gentiles, even though they were descended from the tribes of Israel as we see in the dialogue between Jesus and the woman at the well in John 4:7-42.
So we see that it was pride and arrogance that turned the hearts of the Jewish religious leaders away from what was the right thing to do. They followed the letter of the law, but failed to achieve the spirit of the law because they approached the law as if it were based upon works and not faith.
And Jesus condemned them, especially the Pharisees, Sadducees and priests of the temple because they did not apply the compassion, justice, mercy and love that were contained in the law, opting instead for works and judgement. In the case of the Good Samaritan, although the bible does not say it, I imagine that the priest and the Levine who passed by the wounded man leaving him to die may have though that he was a bad or evil person and the beating was his just reward. The point is, how would they know and they should have shown him compassion because it was the right thing to do.
Darkened Eyes & Hardened Hearts
So why did the leaders of the Jews, and later on many of the rank and file of the nation, reject and condemn Jesus to death? Why did the mobs incited by the priests, scribes, Pharisees and Sadducees reject Jesus and then cry out for Jesus to be put to death and have the criminal Barabbas released instead?
We see the answer to this in this section back in Romans 11. It was the will of God that they reject Jesus and reject the teachings He brought, which then enabled the word to go out to the rest of mankind. Look at what these words say in verses 8-10.
8 as it is written, “God gave them a spirit of stupor, eyes that would not see and ears that would not hear, down to this very day.” 9 And David says, “Let their table become a snare and a trap, a stumbling block and a retribution for them; 10 let their eyes be darkened so that they cannot see, and bend their backs forever.” (Romans 11:8-10)
God placed a spirit of stupor upon them to close their eyes and hears to the truth of the message. Their minds and hearts were closed so that they would not and could not see or understand the work that He was doing in amongst them.
In their pride and arrogance they were blinded because they chose not to see what was before their very eyes. The leaders could see that their positions of power were under threat because this new teaching from Jesus was not based upon a law or a temple served by a specially selected priesthood. This new teaching allowed everyone to come directly to God and stand before him without a priest as intercessory.
And they were threatened by this teaching for it would take away their power. Thus they raged and opposed Jesus at every turn and sought to destroy Him, His disciples and to put down this new teaching at every opportunity and at any cost.
They failed. Instead, God closed their minds enabling the way to be opened for the rest of the world. The gospel did not die but grew and strengthened to where it is preached and believed on in all parts of the world today.
Those men did not see it because they were never able to see it. They rejected it and so God shut their minds so they would not perceive and understand and turn to Him.
Not All Failed to See
But not everyone was rejected from the people of Israel or the Jews. As verse 7 shows us, the “elect” obtained it. There were those among the people who listened and accepted the word for they could see the freedom, salvation and promises it offered in Jesus Christ.
And even among the leaders of the Jews and the Pharisees there were those who saw, accepted and received the truth for what it was, the word of God. And they were accepted for it.
Nicodemus was a Pharisee and a leader of the Jews and in John 3 we see the discussion he had with Jesus one night where he admitted that many of the leaders of the Pharisees knew that Jesus was sent from God because no one could do what Jesus was doing unless God was with them. And Nicodemus believed Jesus for at his death we see him take the body of Jesus after he had died and with Joseph of Arimathea, who was a leader and respected member of the council according to Mark 13:43, prepared the body for burial and laid it in the tomb provided by Joseph.
So not all of the Jewish leaders of the time failed to see and accept Jesus for who and what He was, the Messiah promised ages ago.
Also the people who revolted and cried out for His death did not all stay in darkness. We see that at the day of Pentecost when the early disciples first receive the Holy Spirit, Peter stood up and spoke to the people explaining how they had all conspired to put to death Jesus. But he also explained that the death of Jesus was by the definite plan and foreknowledge of God. It was meant to happen for without the death of Jesus our sins could not be removed and we could not be set free from the law to receive the free gift of righteousness by faith and the Holy Spirit.
The people were shocked and stunned that they had not seen what should have been obvious to all and they reacted as we see in this section of Acts chapter 2.
37 Now when they heard this they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, “Brothers, what shall we do?” 38 And Peter said to them, “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. 39 For the promise is for you and for your children and for all who are far off, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to himself.” (Acts 2:37-39)
They were “cut to the heart”. They would have been in great fear saying to themselves, “What have we done!”
But Peter and the rest of the apostles showed them the way forward through repentance and baptism to accept Jesus and they would be forgiven.
So even though many hearts were hardened in Israel, and many eyes and ears closed so they would not see and perceive Jesus for who He was, not all of them remained that way. Not all of the people of Israel, even amongst the Jewish leaders and the Pharisees remained turned against Jesus, for we see examples of how they subsequently repented and came to Him for salvation, not by works of law but by faith.
And it is the same today. Gos can turn around the hearts of anyone if they are willing to accept. Even the most vile, vicious criminal can be turned around to be a vessel of good for Jesus. Think about the apostle Paul who for so long denied, rejected and opposed Jesus to the point of authorizing the imprisonment of Christians and consenting to the stoning death of Stephen. To men of the time Paul was the least like prospect for conversion to the truth. But God knew Paul’s heart and we see the change to this day and what the power of the gospel is able to do in Paul’s life as an example for us all.
Let us then not judge anyone for we do not know how God is working with them. Also we must understand that in these end days the spirit of stupor will again come into play, so that those who choose to reject God will be blinded to the truth. Instead they will accept the falseness and lies of the man of sin and lawlessness who is to come proclaiming himself to be God as we see in 2 Thessalonians 2.
11 Therefore God sends them a strong delusion, so that they may believe what is false, 12 in order that all may be condemned who did not believe the truth but had pleasure in unrighteousness. (2 Thessalonians 2:11-12)
And the key to NOT being deluded in these last days is shown in this verse above. Seek and believe the truth as it was given by the lord Jesus Christ. He gave us the bible which has His words and leads us in His way so that we are not deluded and led astray to false teachings. Seek and you will find for many will not see and be condemned. Do not be one of them.
(Photo sourced from freeimages.com provided by Adrian Van Leen)
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