Rejecting Religious Leaders
There are many strong reasons for rejecting religious leaders. Priests are supposed to be protecting children, but we live in a world where some abused them. Pastors are supposed to be like John the Baptist and challenge political leaders about the destructiveness of adultery, lying, pride, and covetousness, no matter what party they’re from, but we live in a world where prominent religious leaders on both the right and the left keep silent when their candidate promises access to power.
Some of my friends have insisted more than ever that professional religionists are “All a bunch of hypocrites. They preach one thing and practice another.” These are good reasons for rejecting religious leaders, but are they good reasons for rejecting Jesus?
The first time that Matthew introduces into his account the religious leaders of his day, a caravan from the east arrives in Jerusalem and stuns the capital, “Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews?” Herod, the Roman-appointed ruler, the one who also controls the priesthood overseeing the Jerusalem Temple, is immediately threatened and to discover the birth place of his potential rival, who does he turn to?
“And when he had gathered together all the priests and scribes of the people, he asked them, “Where is the Messiah to be born?” They knew instantly “In Bethlehem of Judea … For this is what the prophet has written, ‘But you Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, are in no way the least among the rulers of Judah; for out of you will come a ruler who will shepherd my people Israel.’” (Matthew 2:5-6, Micah 5:2)
What amazes me is that these religious leaders devoted their lives to understanding every jot and tittle of their Scriptures. They could instantly declare where the Prophet Micah predicted the Messiah would be born, but when the wise men announced His birth, they didn’t even walk six miles south to check it out. Their indifference scares me.
I have devoted my life to studying both the Old and New Testaments in the original languages, to teaching others how to track God’s redemptive story from Genesis to Revelation, but as I look forward, will I get going and join the wise men on my knees in worship before Jesus, joyfully giving Him gifts, or will I stay behind in Jerusalem, seeking only to maintain my own personal power, possessions, and prestige?
Indifference is a dangerous thing. The next time Matthew introduces the Jerusalem priests and scribes into his narrative they are not giving directions to the birthplace of the Messiah. They are the ones who will plot and bring charges against Jesus that will lead to His crucifixion (Matthew 16:21, 20:18, 26:3).
LORD, one of the greatest dangers in being committed to teaching students your Word is that it can become only ideas in my head and not worship from my heart. Help me through your Spirit’s power to be a wise man in 2018 and not a hypocritical religious leader.
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