The Chief Priests & Scribes

William J. Stewart | Faces Surrounding Calvary

As I think about the chief priests and the scribes, they tend to remind me of our modern day tele-evangelists. Such preachers of the gospel do so for their own profit, not understanding what it is that they teach. The Scriptures have escaped their focus, and all they see is the power they have. They see all the people grabbing onto the emotional atmosphere they provide, and falling captive to it. Their claim is in the name of God, yet if they were to confront a demon, it would say to them, “…Jesus I know and Paul I know about, but who are you?”, just as the demon did to the sons of Sceva.

The chief priests and scribes were power-hungry. They were accustomed to the attention of the people in religious matters. If one had a question, there was nowhere to go but to them. But this Jesus of Nazareth was changing that. He brought forth a new doctrine. He possessed new teachings. Such had happened before, but the people hadn’t fallen for it. But with Jesus, the people were captivated by His ability to expound the word of God. So taken by His abilities were they, that many departed from listening to those things which were spoken by the chief priests and scribes. The people didn’t merely see Him as a teacher, but as a prophet, some, as the Messiah.

From the start of Jesus’ ministry, we are told that the chief priests and scribes persecuted Him. They followed Him about everywhere, diligently searching for error in Him. Much to their dismay, they found none. Rather, He turned the people against the priests and scribes, revealing their errors. He made note of how they bound heavy burdens on the people, yet did not bear such themselves. He on several occasions warned about the hypocrisy of the scribes. In one discourse He at least seven times, and possibly many more times called them hypocrites, to their face, and before the people. He referred to them as blind leaders who lead people in ways of darkness.

By the time of the third Passover of Jesus’ ministry they were ready to destroy Him. As He entered the city, riding on a donkey, He received praise from all the people as they called Him the King. He made Himself equal to God. He was, according to them a disgrace to the nation of Israel. He had to be destroyed.

The chief priests and scribes are a sad case. Think about them. They were the religious leaders of the nation. They read the Scriptures on a daily basis, they studied the deep things of the mind of God. All of the Law and the Prophets was before their eyes, yet they were blind. Inexplicable miracles were done in their presence. They had seen the lame walk again, the diseased healed, the dead rise to life!

Several cases are given us in Scripture where the blind came to Jesus that they might be healed. We read of them calling out to Him, “Son of David, have mercy upon us!” The blind could see, but the priests and scribes who had their sight could not. The miracles attested to His being the Messiah. He Himself claimed Deity. Being such close observers of His life, they ought to have seen that He was the Christ, but they refused to open their eyes. All they saw was a Crusader who dared to challenge their authority.

We are told that some of the priests did believe that He was the Christ, but they remained silent. They remained faithful to the cause of the priests – to have supreme authority in regards to religion over the people of Israel and Judea. Such a sad group of individuals.

We need to question ourselves, to see if we are of such a mind. We may have faith in Christ, and may profess to be His, but do we have a tendency to rebel against His control of our lives? Do we still desire to be the one in control? That was the problem with the chief priests and scribes. They wanted the power. They wanted to be in control, not only of themselves, but of all the nation.

When we give ourselves to Christ, we have made a commitment to allow Him to reign as King. We have ceased serving self, and turned to the all powerful Saviour. Let us not decide that we want the power. Let us not decide that we want control.

Especially for those who would read this article who have a place of authority. Those who are teachers, preachers, elders, deacons. Your power is given you by God. You are subject to Him. The chief priests and scribes had long forgotten that. The tele-evangelists who clutter our televisions as well have forgotten. Let us not forget!

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