Monday, March 7, 2011

Surprise, Surprise! They Were Listening.

Surprise, surprise! They were actually listening. Ever have someone pretend not to be listening to you only to discover later that they acted on what you were saying? Most parents of teenagers know what I am talking about. Sometimes we try to help our children, we give them good advice, we point them in the right direction, only to be met by a wall of indifference or a turned back. We are often surprised later when they act on the advice we had given them. Well, it seems that the Pharisees had been listening to Jesus as well.

There was a moment when Jesus had explained to his disciples that he would be killed but on the third day he would rise from the dead. On the other side of the cross it must have sounded like a fantastic claim, so much so that the disciples could not understand it. One of the times he taught this was when the disciples were admiring the temple in Jerusalem. Jesus turned around and said that he could tear down the temple and rebuild it in three days, referring to his temple, his body. Later he was accused at his trial of saying he would destroy the temple and build it in three days. It was also used as an insult and accusation as he hung on the cross. These people could not understand that he was doing exactly what he said he would do. However, after his death we discover that the Pharisees were listening and had understood:

The next day, the one after Preparation Day, the chief priests and the Pharisees went to Pilate. “Sir,” they said, “we remember that while he was still alive that deceiver said, ‘After three days I will rise again.’ " (Matthew 27:62-63)

They heard, understood and now were afraid. Did they believe he would rise? Perhaps. I think they believed Jesus more than they were willing to admit but in this case they used the excuse of Jesus' followers to try to keep him in the grave:

"So give the order for the tomb to be made secure until the third day. Otherwise, his disciples may come and steal the body and tell the people that he has been raised from the dead. This last deception will be worse than the first.” (Matthew 27:64)

Ha! What followers? The priests and the elders had been very effective in scaring the scattered followers into hiding. Some of the eleven remaining disciples had found each other but hid away in a locked room, afraid to go out into public. Nevertheless, these Pharisees would use whatever means to keep Jesus in his tomb just as they had tried to attack his teaching while he was alive. But there efforts were as useless as trying to stop an earthquake, a volcano or a hurricane.

The world is not much different today; they are still trying to keep Jesus in his tomb. Those who admit that he ever existed continue to refer to the theory of this deception. They still claim that his disciples over powered the guards, stole his body away and then sacrificed their own lives to perpetuate their deception. The only problem is that they have no evidence, only wild rumours and false accusations. People would love to keep Jesus in his grave so that they have no reason to change, no reason that they should not continue in the darkness with their wicked ways.

The thing we need to take from this is, they are still listening. They may act indifferent, callous, rejecting the good news we are sharing and teaching, but they are listening. As long as they are listening there is hope that the Spirit will intervene, will break down their wall of indifference and allow the light in. Remember apostle Paul who was more than indifferent, he persecuted the followers of Jesus. He refused to listen and was bent on destroying this teaching about Jesus. That is, until he met Jesus. There are so many stories like this down through history, including my own. In fact, in the book of Acts we can read of the priests who came to Jesus and in Acts 15 we can see that the Pharisees were also numbered among the believers.

So regardless of how people may seem indifferent to you don't give up. They are listening to what you are saying and they are watching what you are doing. Their problem is that they are fighting against what seems to be the impossible to them. However, even if they appear to be your enemy today don't give up on them because tomorrow they may be a brother or sister. God has this wonderful way of surprising us with who is listening. The Pharisees heard and rejected; Paul heard and rejected; many heard and rejected until they either encountered the risen Lord or the Holy Spirit. Keep going my friend, the world is looking in.

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