The events surrounding the Cross were some of the most dramatic events to occur in all of the Scriptures. Darkness falling on the land, dead men walking again, the veil being torn, an earthquake–a lot occurred around the cross. The most striking was that this all took place in Jerusalem. Jesus, God Himself, was killed in the city in which God dwells. The events that took place around the cross reveal the hearts of Israel’s religious leaders, and it serves as an important lesson to us that we must learn, so that we do not miss God when He is right before our eyes.
A question I often ask when reading the end of the Gospels is: how did we get to this point? To the point when the chief priest was calling out for the Messiah to be crucified. Even after Pilate pleaded with the pharisees and the chief priest to allow him to free Jesus as the annual pardon. Instead they called for Barabbas, a rebellious murderer, and when asked what to do with Jesus they kept shouting “crucify Him” and got the crowds to join them. Pilate gave into their demands. The chief priest called for God to be killed.
Of all people in Jerusalem, the chief priest more than anyone should have recognized Jesus. The chief priest was the most trusted in all of Israel to represent them before God. He was the only one allowed in the “Holy of Holies.” He directly represented the people to God and God to the people. Yet, when God was just mere inches from him, he did not recognize Him. He had Him killed. The chief priest thought he was doing the right thing. He thought he was serving God when he did it. Yet when he died, he stood before God and guess who he saw? Jesus. Can you imagine what went through his mind.
Right before He died, Jesus cried out, “Father forgive them, for they do not know what they do.” The chief priest had no clue what he was doing. If he knew it was God, he never would have had him killed. Never. But he did not see Him. He was blind. He was blinded by his own self righteousness and reputation, and if we are not careful it can happen to us all.
Think of the unbelievable pressure that comes with being the chief priest. All of Israel is looking to you. You have been in leadership for a long time. There is pressure to perform. Pressure to be good. Pressure to be perfect. The chief priest could not afford to show any weakness. He had to be strong. The people had to think he was perfect. So he hid who he really was from them. He hid his heart and his sin. He put on “make-up” to hide his imperfections. In fact he layered it on. If they ever knew, he thought, he was finished. He wanted to keep his place at the table, his reputation. So, when a little blemish came on his white washed tomb, he bleached it. Over time he began to believe the image he created through make-up. He believed in what he saw in the mirror and it blinded him.
In James 5, God commands us to “confess [our] sins to each other and pray for each other, so that we may be healed.” The chief priest and all the pharisees had been putting on make-up instead of confessing and as a result they could never be healed. Their conscience began to harden, and their heart darkened. It was further fueled by people worshiping and recognizing them rather than God. They were blind. So blind that they missed God when He was in Jerusalem, while tax collectors and prostitutes saw Him.
We, too, are prone to this trap. When we first come to know Christ we are so vulnerable and open. We are quick to bring our sins to light through confession. We are quick to ask brothers and sisters for help, and begin the healing process. But as time goes on and we grow, we begin to buy the lie “I have been following the Lord for to long too keep making these mistakes,” and we have begun to develop a reputation that we want to keep. So, rather than bring these issues to the light, we put on make-up. We begin to lather it on and become more and more concerned about our image and over time our heart begins to harden. And if we are not careful it can harden to the point where we can no longer see God.
Brothers and sisters, we must be vulnerable with one another. We must continue to bring things into the light until the day the Lord calls us home. That does not mean air our dirty laundry for all to see, but we must be opening our lives with brothers and sisters in the Church. When we do, we will experience God’s healing. When we do, we will protect our hearts from self-righteousness and be humble. When we do, people will see that we are not that awesome and that everything we have is from the Lord and they will give God glory rather than you and me.
Brothers and sisters, let’s not laugh and criticize the pharisees, which is so easy to do when we read the Scriptures. Rather, let’s learn from them. Let’s be vulnerable and open with one another, and when we do God will be glorified and the Gospel will be attractive to outsiders. Because the world will see how God works through people’s lives.