The Showdown in Jerusalem
One of the surest things in life is conflict! Even Jesus, who was perfect, had opposition– and he promised us that if they opposed him, we would be opposed as well. Some of the conflict we face is NATURAL– because people are different, there are differences. But a lot of the conflict we face is SPIRITUAL. Paul reminds us in Ephesians 6 that “We wrestle not against flesh & blood, but against principalities, powers, rulers of the darkness, against spiritual wickedness in the heavenly realms.” The thing that is really troubling is that this spiritual conflict is often in the religious realm. Demons go to church– Jesus encountered them in the synagogue. And it was the religious people that gave Jesus the most problems.
John 11: 45 Therefore many of the Jews who came to Mary, and saw what He had done, believed in Him. 46 But some of them went to the Pharisees and told them the things which Jesus had done. 47 Therefore the chief priests and the Pharisees convened a council, and were saying, “What are we doing? For this man is performing many signs. 48 “If we let Him go on like this, all men will believe in Him, and the Romans will come and take away both our place and our nation.” 49 But one of them, Caiaphas, who was high priest that year, said to them, “You know nothing at all, 50 nor do you take into account that it is expedient for you that one man die for the people, and that the whole nation not perish.” 51 Now he did not say this on his own initiative, but being high priest that year, he prophesied that Jesus was going to die for the nation, 52 and not for the nation only, but in order that He might also gather together into one the children of God who are scattered abroad. 53 So from that day on they planned together to kill Him. 54 Therefore Jesus no longer continued to walk publicly among the Jews, but went away from there to the country near the wilderness, into a city called Ephraim; and there He stayed with the disciples. 55 Now the Passover of the Jews was near, and many went up to Jerusalem out of the country before the Passover to purify themselves. 56 So they were seeking for Jesus, and were saying to one another as they stood in the temple, “What do you think; that He will not come to the feast at all?” 57 Now the chief priests and the Pharisees had given orders that if anyone knew where He was, he was to report it, so that they might seize Him.
You cannot look at the week prior to Jesus’ death and resurrection and not see that one of its main components was His controversies with the religious leaders. It had been going on throughout his ministry. They challenged him on their concept of the Sabbath and challenged him on the temple tax. They claimed his miracles were by the power of Satan. They even tried to trap him with an adulteress. BUT WHEN JESUS RAISED LAZARUS FROM THE DEAD– they had no explanation! That’s when they determined to kill him.
The whole crowd was aware of this opposition. They were wondering whether Jesus would dare show up at the Passover celebrations. When the people saw him coming into town on a donkey, that precipitated their response at his triumphal entry into Jerusalem. The religious leaders demanded that he quiet them. Then he came to the temple and threw out the money-changers– and they challenged him on that: “What authority did he claim to have to do such an act?”
The next day was really heated. He told parables about the two sons, the wicked vine-dressers and the wedding feasts. The religious leaders knew it was about them– and so did the people. They then tried to publicly humiliate him with trick questions about paying taxes, the resurrection, and the debate as to what is the greatest commandment– and he outwitted them. He then preached a scathing message that I call the “Woe To You” Sermon. He then gave the Mt. Olivet Discourse concerning the coming destruction of the temple and of Judaism because of their failed leadership as spiritual shepherds. Finally they contract with Judas to have Him betrayed and turned over to them.
This was truly THE SHOWDOWN IN JERUSALEM. It’s obvious that a showdown was coming. “There’s going to be a fight!” Those words always created a stir when I was in high school… and it seems to be a big deal on social media today. Whenever it does occur, there are 3 inevitable questions: 1) Who started it? 2) What caused it? and 3) Who won?
WHO STARTED IT? Well, it depends upon who you ask. You ask the disciples and they would say, “I don’t know, it seems that everything Jesus did or said was wrong to the religious leaders– they were looking for faults!” The crowd that was there would say, “The powers that be always seemed antagonistic to Jesus, but when Lazarus was raised from the dead– WOW– they were sure ticked!” If you asked the religious leaders they would say, “He started it all. He’s conning the people! He never keeps the law the way we teach it. He seems to enjoy them praising him. He then comes into the temple and runs out all the money-changers – they were providing a good service. And then he kept acting like he was God– he kept referring to himself as ‘I am’!”
But if you asked Jesus he would say, “My Father planned this fight a long time ago- before the foundation of the world. I only said the things HE said. I only did the things HE did. It was not my will, but His will that was to be done. Pilate, the Jewish council– none of them could do nothing to me without HIS consent. My Kingdom was not of this world… it came down with me and invaded their existence. The Father led me and I deliberately stepped over their line in the sand established by their father, the devil.”
That brings up the question: WHAT CAUSED IT? What were the issues that started this conflict? The answer goes a long way back and this fight has been brewing for some time now. It began when Satan was expelled from heaven and he retaliated by inducing man to sin in the garden. At that time God prophesied that He was going to raise up a seed that would “crush Satan’s head.” This created a paranoia with Satan! Since he didn’t know when and where this would happen, he began a campaign against any righteous seed that would appear in history. He incited Cain to kill his brother, Abel. He stirred Esau’s heart to kill Jacob as soon as his father died. He incited the 11 brothers to kill Joseph, but a brother convinced them to sell him in slavery instead. He incited Pharaoh to kill all the male Hebrew babies in Egypt. He turned Saul heart into murderous intentions against David. He incited Haman to devise a plan to kill the exiled Jews in Persia.
Satan must have been feeling pretty comfortable during almost 400 years of silence. But then a star appeared in the east and some magi questioned a maniacal Herod about “where the King of the Jews” was to be born. This fomented an attack against all of Bethlehem sons, 2 years and under. There’s “a voice crying in the wilderness” … and then a voice from heaven saying, “This is my beloved Son, in whom I’m well pleased!” Satan pulled out all the stops during his temptations of Jesus out in the wilderness. When that fails he is really getting desperate: It’s DEFCON 2! “We must kill Him Before He Destroys Us!”
Well, WHO WON? It’s not what it seems. By all appearances it looks like the status quo of the religious leaders won– and Satan, who was behind all their selfish schemes and jealousies. Those who placed their bets on them were just beginning to collect when there’s a comeback! Just as Jesus predicted, he lay in a borrowed tomb for three days, came back to life and grabbed the victory belt (that was engraved with the keys of death & hell) and seized His Victory. “He’s the Winner and still the Champ, the King of Kings & Lord of Lords!”
BUT WAIT! We have a new ruling from the Judge. This was a “fixed fight!” It had been predetermined that he would be the winner. It was trick play: “none of the rulers of this age has understood; for if they had understood it they would not have crucified the Lord of glory!” We discover that this fight was actually for you and me, so that we could become victors! The true winners were those who chose to believe AFTER THE OUTCOME of the fight to place their bets on Jesus– the disciples, the crowd, and even the religious leaders who would choose to believe. And that includes you and me today!
When Satan, defeated, but “not going down without a fight,” stirred up opposition against the early church in Acts 4, they looked to Psalm 2 and saw the scriptures literally fulfilled. The heathen that raged were Herod, Pilate and the gentiles. But God didn’t seem bothered by it; in fact, He was in heaven laughing at them. Therefore the church asked for even more boldness to preach the Kingdom of God on earth. They saw that GOD WAS NOW BETTING ON THEM– AND HE’S BETTING ON US TODAY! You are in a fixed fight– it’s no contest for Him. The fight that rages now is to teach and train us to rule and reign with Him.
It tells us in Romans 8 that “The creation waits in eager expectation for the sons of God to be revealed.” And we know that we will accomplish this mission to take planet earth for Jesus because it tells us in Revelation that “They overcame him because of the blood of the Lamb and because of the word of their testimony, and they did not love their life even when faced with death.”
Conflict in our life is inevitable, but so is our victory in Christ!