Corruption disguised as holiness and hearing the voice of Jesus


As I am reading The Final Days of Jesus, I appreciate how the authors chronologically break down the sequence of events leading up to Jesus' crucifixion verse by verse while simultaneously utilizing all four gospels to help wrap my mind around the bigger picture. 

One of the benefits that I get from reading this book leading up to Resurrection Sunday, I am made aware of many crucial events, things to ponder, and reflect on that I would not have necessarily noticed. In my own Christian journey, I have read the chapters of the betrayal many times and have become quite familiar with how the events played out. 

Let's specifically look at Mathew 27:3-10. 

When morning came, all the chief priests and the elders of the people took counsel against Jesus to put him to death. And they bound him and led him away and delivered him over to Pilate the governor.

 Then when Judas, his betrayer, saw that Jesus was condemned, he changed his mind and brought back the thirty pieces of silver to the chief priests and the elders,  saying, “I have sinned by betraying innocent blood.” 

They said, “What is that to us? See to it yourself.” 

And throwing down the pieces of silver into the temple, he departed, and he went and hanged himself.  

But the chief priests, taking the pieces of silver, said, “It is not lawful to put them into the treasury, since it is blood money.” 

So they took counsel and bought with them the potter's field as a burial place for strangers. Therefore that field has been called the Field of Blood to this day

Then was fulfilled what had been spoken by the prophet Jeremiah, saying, “And they took the thirty pieces of silver, the price of him on whom a price had been set by some of the sons of Israel, and they gave them for the potter's field, as the Lord directed me.”

I know that many, including the authors of this book prefer to focus on how Judas reacted when he realized that what he did was wrong. Judas shows his remorse when he utters this confession

"I have sinned by betraying innocent blood". 

The authors' analyze this confession pretty thoroughly so I will not. 

What I do want to concentrate on is the behavior and actions of the chief priests and how God's Sovereign hand is right smack in the middle of it all.....leading...guiding....hardening.....in order to fulfill prophecy written over 500 years prior to the events. 

Look at what happens when Judas throws down the money and departs in turmoil. What do the chief priests do? 



They pick up the money and actually say this

"It is not lawful to put them (the money that Judas threw down) into the treasury, since it is blood money". 

Think for a moment and remember where the money came from.

Mathew 26:14 helps here. 

Then one of the twelve, whose name was Judas Iscariot, went to the chief priests and said, “What will you give me if I deliver him over to you?” And they paid him thirty pieces of silver. And from that moment he sought an opportunity to betray him.

The money used to pay off Judas to betray Jesus came from the chief priests themselves.

For those unfamiliar with who or what a chief priest was, in a nutshell they were the top echelon of "holy men". They ran the show in regards to the religious system as a whole. They were the ones the people went to get advice, to settle matters, to make sacrifices...etc.  They were the ones that taught in the synagogues. Supposedly, they "knew" everything and everyone. The Jewish religious system had become so intertwined with daily life matters, that they were one in the same. Religion, religious traditions and life were one. Inseparable.

In our American democratic system, it is difficult for us to wrap our minds around a system of religion or an adherence to religious traditions influencing the intimate details of our daily lives. However, we only have to look back in history to the Roman Catholic church during the middle ages to see how the system functioned and failed.  Another example would be the Church of England. 

In these examples, any historian will tell us that the close connection between religiosity and common life never turns out well. Man's natural tendency to sin will inevitably corrupt any well laid out system of religion, church, or government.

All that to say, the chief priests were the ones in charge of pretty much anything that had to do with Jewish life and the religious system that the Jewish people operated under. 

The money that the chief priests used to pay off Judas was the same money that Judas gave back. Let's look at two observations. 

1) They call the money that they originally give to Judas "blood money". They apparently didn't see that it was wrong when they gave it to Judas....but now they want nothing to with it. 

AND.....

2) They reference the law of God to justify their actions. 

Unbelievable...right?

If that is not the highest example of corruption disguised as holiness...then I don't know what is. 

Yet......

these very same verses tell us that:

Then was fulfilled what had been spoken by the prophet Jeremiah, saying, “And they took the thirty pieces of silver, the price of him on whom a price had been set by some of the sons of Israel, and they gave them for the potter's field, as the Lord directed me.”

Jeremiah was written well over 500 years prior to the betrayal of Judas. This reference lets us know that God knew this corruption was going to take place. We could even say He ordained it to happen. God knew that these chief priests would use their position in the religious system to betray and eventually crucify His Only Son. It was supposed to happen as it did. The Father knew it. Jesus knew it. Yet....Jesus still moved toward his death. 

As an outsider looking in....or a person who cannot see or has a difficult time understanding the Sovereign hand of God, one might say that the chief priests were just prideful or evil...and Jesus was just a victim in their corrupt hands. However, God, who is never not in control of His creation...used the natural tendency of evil, pride and corruption that lies in the heart of man, to accomplish His perfect unfailing plan. These verses remind us that God is never surprised or unaware of what happens on this earth. We could even say He ordains it all...... the good and the evil. Nothing is out of His control.

If we look at history and say "how could a loving God do _____________? (fill in the blank with what ever evil example we have seen take place throughout history)

Maybe that's the wrong question. Maybe the question we should be asking is:

Why would God allow evil, prideful and corrupt religious men to decide the fate of His perfect, sinless Son? 

Would not this be the highest form of evil? 

These religious people were claiming to know more than Jesus and believed that Jesus uttered blasphemous claims by saying he was God's Son. The religious establishment went crazy hearing these claims. 

Regardless of what the religious establishment thought many that met Jesus can agree that he was sinless....he was good....he was perfect.....he was righteous....he was compassionate....he was loving....he was bold....he was truthful, all to the thousandth degree.....yet.....they demanded that Jesus be killed because they believed, in their religiosity that they were instruments of God...not Jesus. 

I personally know many that reject the Christian faith due to corruption in religion. They believe that Jesus is a part of and condones a corrupt religious establishment. Jesus may have rejected it......and still does.......

Yet....God willed for this very same corrupt religious Jewish system to be a part of His perfect plan.....

Why?   

There must have been a very significant outcome that was necessary for sinless Jesus to be led to slaughter at the hands of evil, corrupt and religious men. 
  
Before we try to figure out what that reason was....let's first establish that Jesus was not a passive participant in his death. 

Jesus did not move towards His death unwillingly or as a victim.

John 10:14-18 says

 I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me, just as the Father knows me and I know the Father; and I lay down my life for the sheep. And I have other sheep that are not of this fold. I must bring them also, and they will listen to my voice. So there will be one flock, one shepherd. For this reason the Father loves me, because I lay down my life that I may take it up again. No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it up again. This charge I have received from my Father.”



Jesus uses the analogy of shepherd and sheep to help explain a very important truth. He says he gives up his life for his sheep. He is saying that no one, not Judas...not the corrupt chief priests....not the Jewish mob can take his life from him. 

He tells us that he himself lays down his life. He not only has authority over laying down his life, he has authority to take it up again.  Who can say that other than Jesus?

It may seem as though the corrupt chief priests, Judas, and later the Roman soldiers were in control of Jesus' fate and inevitable death. However, we learn from Jesus' own words they were merely instruments in Jesus' death and Jesus was fully in control. 

Let's also note that he differentiates certain groups of sheep here. He does not lump all the sheep in one collective group or category. He even differentiates that there is another flock of sheep that was not assumed when he says "I have other sheep that are not of this fold".

He did not say he is giving up his life for ALL the sheep ever created. He says he gives up his life only for the sheep that hear His voice because they know him and he knows them as intimately as He knows the Father and as intimately as the Father knows Him. 

Think about that for a second. When someone calls your name....how do you respond? 

Do you ignore them? .......

It it possible to ignore Jesus.

Also note...that Jesus says "I MUST bring them in, they WILL listen to my voice". 

To me...that does not give us permission to say that "we give our lives to Christ'...

To me...that says that Jesus takes our lives and makes us His......a member of his flock.....

That does not sound like He is a passive recipient of our feeble attempt to follow Him. 

MUST bring them in and WILL listen to his voice. Those are very clear strong directives. 

Regardless if one has been in church all their lives, or have never heard of Jesus......when they hear Jesus calling them, they WILL respond. It's inevitable. It's undeniable. It's.......irresistible.

We can know a lot of good information about Jesus.....
We can know academically who Jesus is historically...
We can even deny Jesus......

However.....when Jesus calls......
we WILL hear his voice and become part of his flock....

Let's not rely on our own merits....our religious activity (as the chief priests did).......or our upbringing (growing up in church).....

According to what Jesus says here in the book of John, the only thing that we can rely on is the plain and simple truth that when Jesus called you, you listened....and he made you a part of his flock. 

It doesn't matter if corrupt religious systems are in place. It doesn't matter if there are evil religious people in the world. We can try to explain away our desire to stay away from all things "religion" or "church". 

It also doesn't matter if you have been to church all your life and know a lot of great facts about Jesus and live outward pious lives.

None of that matters when Jesus calls. 

If you struggle with whether or not he called...believe me....you will know!  No one who hears Jesus calling them will ever be the same. Jesus will turn your world upside down and rock your world all the same time. And believe me.....it's not pretty.....but it's good!  
 
If we know people that have not heard the voice of Jesus....pray that Jesus calls them.