A Year with Jesus: ''The Last Straw''

Monday, April 6, 2020

Note from Jesus

Dear Disciple,

After My triumphal entry, Jerusalem was a tangle of tension and evil plotting. Look at a few excerpts from Luke's descriptions of the situation as given in the verses below:
The chief priests, the religious scholars, and the leading men of the city wanted to kill Him [Jesus], but because He was so popular among the people — who hung upon each word He spoke — they were unable to do anything.
...
"Tell us by what authority You march into the temple and disrupt our worship. Who gave you this authority?"
...
That
[Jesus' parable of the vineyard] was the last straw for the religious scholars and the chief priests; they were ready to attack Him [Jesus] right then and there. But they couldn't for fear of public opinion, and they realized that Jesus, through this parable had exposed their violent intentions.

They would send spies, pretending to ask sincere questions, listening for something they could seize upon that would justify His arrest and condemnation under the governor's authority.
The whole conflict in Jerusalem centered around the truth of My story — or parable — in today's verses. Most of the religious leaders in Israel had decided they were entitled to special benefits for their "service" to the people. They felt entitled to their positions and their interpretations. They felt entitled to their respect among the people. They felt entitled to practice their religious leadership for their own advantage. And they were determined to keep their positions, their influence, and their control over the whole religious enterprise. This control was more important to them than honoring the Father. It was surely more important to them than lovingly leading the people they were entrusted to serve.

My conflict with these religious leaders is the same conflict that I have with any religious leader who forgets that position and spiritual influence are given by the grace of the Father. Spiritual leadership must be used to honor the Father and bless His people. Any favor with the Father vanishes in a heartbeat when leaders use their position to manipulate or oppose the truth, preserve their power, or abuse the people.

You live in a time when church leaders of various stripes and persuasions have embarrassed Me and the movement I gave My life to set in motion. The Bible has multiple warnings about leaders and teachers being judged with greater strictness (Ezekiel 34:1-24; James 3:1; Matthew 23:1-39; Galatians 1:6-9). The abuse of spiritual leadership has been a problem in almost every age and was a big part of My conflict with the spiritual leaders in Jerusalem. My words of criticism of the spiritual leadership of Israel lay behind the religious leaders' rejecting and crucifying Me.

So when you find yourself disillusioned by the failures of leaders in your day — moral failure, failure to offer compassion, failure to speak the truth, failure because they were co-opted by the political winds of the age — remember two things:
  1. I abhor the abuse and neglect perpetuated out of hypocrisy and misuse of religion for personal gain.
  2. Those who have abused their privilege and position of spiritual leadership will have to answer on judgment day to the Father.
This, My beloved disciple, is how I characterized the Father's position on the subject of selfish, abusive, and hypocritical religious leaders:
He'll come and wipe those tenants out, and he'll give the vineyard to others.

Verses to Live

The following hard words were spoken, and hard actions were taken in the middle of a very difficult set of circumstances. The issues behind these hard words were a matter of utmost importance:
  • Why do people serve God?
  • Do they practice religion for themselves and for their own personal advantage?
  • Do they serve as religious leaders to bless those in need and to reflect the character and compassion of God or to line their pockets and puff up their egos?
He [Jesus] came back day after day to teach in the temple. The chief priests, the religious scholars, and the leading men of the city wanted to kill Him, but because He was so popular among the people — who hung upon each word He spoke — they were unable to do anything.

One day when He was teaching the people in the temple and proclaiming the good news, the chief priests, religious scholars, and elders came up and questioned Him.

Elders:
Tell us by what authority You march into the temple and disrupt our worship. Who gave You this authority?
Jesus:
Let Me ask you a question first. Tell Me this: was the ritual cleansing of baptism John did from God, or was it merely a human thing?
Chief Priests, Religious Scholars, and Elders (conferring together):
If we say it was from God, then He'll ask us why we didn't believe John. If we say it was merely human, all the people will stone us because they are convinced that John was a true prophet.
So they said they didn't know where John's ritual washing came from.

Jesus:
Well then, if you won't answer My question, I won't tell you by what authority I have acted.
He told the people another parable:

Jesus:
A man planted a vineyard. He rented it to tenants and went for a long trip to another country. At the harvest time, he sent a servant to the tenants so he could be paid his share of the vineyard's fruit, but the tenants beat the servant and sent him away empty-handed. The man sent another servant, and they beat him and treated him disgracefully and sent him away empty-handed too. He sent a third servant who was injured and thrown out. Then the vineyard owner said, "Now what am I going to do? I'll send my much-loved son. They should treat him with respect."

But when the tenants recognized the owner's son, they said, "Here's our chance to actually own this vineyard! Let's kill the owner's heir so we can claim this place as our own!" So they threw him out of the vineyard and murdered him. What do you think the owner will do to these scoundrels?

I'll tell you what he'll do; he'll come and wipe those tenants out, and he'll give the vineyard to others.
Crowd:
No! God forbid that this should happen!
Jesus:
Why then do the Hebrew Scriptures contain these words:
The stone that the builders rejected
has become the very stone
that holds together the entire foundation?

Everyone who falls on that stone will be broken to fragments, and if that stone falls on anyone, he will be ground to dust.
That was the last straw for the religious scholars and the chief priests; they were ready to attack Him right then and there. But they couldn't for fear of public opinion, and they realized that Jesus, through this parable, had exposed their violent intentions.

They would keep Him under constant surveillance. They would send spies, pretending to ask sincere questions, listening for something they could seize upon that would justify His arrest and condemnation under the governor's authority.
(Luke 19:47-48; Luke 20:1-20)

Response in Prayer

Father in heaven, forgive me when my motives get mixed up — when I serve You to get what I want and enjoy what I like. Purify my heart. Forgive my sin. Restore me to your service with a clean and upright heart that loves and serves to honor You and to bless Your people. In Jesus' name, I pray. Amen.

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About This Devotional

A Year with Jesus is a daily devotional written to help us all reclaim Jesus as the daily Lord of our lives.

'A Year with Jesus' is written by Phil Ware.

All scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from The Voice™. © 2008 by Ecclesia Bible Society. Used by permission. All rights reserved.