When our Lord Jesus walked the earth, He went around tirelessly preaching the Word of God and performed many signs and wonders; and of course we see that there were different reactions to His preaching.
Some understood and perceived that He was the Messiah prophesied in the Scriptures and they followed Him. Some understood but did not think much about it and did not follow Him.
Some misunderstood what He was preaching and ridiculed Him as a lunatic, and some were offended by what He spoke because His teachings threatened their very status in the society of that time.
In chapter 16, there were many people who came to listen to Jesus’ preaching. But I would like to pick out two main groups of people who responded differently to Jesus’ preaching; and through these people’s reactions, we can ponder to ourselves to see which category have we fallen into.
The Pharisees and Sadducees
The Pharisees and Sadducees were regarded as the “know it all” religious people, and they were usually esteemed by the Jewish community. After listening to Jesus’ preaching, they asked for a sign from heaven.
At that point, Jesus was already a famous teacher among the people, He would have performed many signs and wonders that could prove that He was the Messiah. But due to the pride in them, they obviously turned a blind eye to all the signs and wonders that Jesus had done.
Their request for a sign from heaven was not from a genuine heart of seeking for the truth, but their hearts were tuned to the denial mode, rejecting Jesus was the Christ; they also despised Jesus as only a trouble maker who knew nothing about the laws of God.
They could tell the weather by looking at the sky, but they could not recognize the prophesied Messiah even having seen the miracles performed by Jesus, and having heard the words taught by Him.
Are we among this category of people?
We are definitely not among these people with the sentiment to despise Jesus, for if we do, we won’t be Christians in the first place. But the question is, have we allowed our pride or self-righteousness to blind us from perceiving and revering the sovereignty and the will of God?
In the society, we are often encouraged to think out of the box, and also to do things in their most practical ways. These are not totally wrong but if we are not careful to be mindful about revering God in our hearts constantly, we may do things that are done through thinking out of the Bible! And we may bring the worldly practical ways into the divine works in the Church!
The Pharisees were blinded by their pride and self-righteousness that they refused to genuinely seek if Jesus was truly the Christ who was to come, so they tested and persecuted Jesus instead, thinking that they were doing something pleasing to God.
Similarly, if we are not careful, we could be blinded by our pride and self-righteousness to carry out divine works that are so influenced by the practical ways of the world, or implementing new and out of the box things that are against the good traditions of the Church (ref. 1 Corinthians 11: 2, 2 Thessalonians 2: 15). And all these could make us feel that we have done things that please the Lord and bringing benefits to the congregation.
Therefore we need to seriously be careful of our mindset and to know what pleases God, just as Apostle Paul admonishes us,
If then you were raised with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ is, sitting at the right hand of God.
Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth.
Colossians 3: 1 – 2
Jesus had handpicked the twelve disciples, but it seems quite strange that the disciples were slow in understanding what Jesus was doing all these while.
When Jesus told them to beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and the Sadducees, they thought Jesus was talking about the bread that they eat.
Because of the encounter with the Pharisees and the Sadducees, Jesus used it to warn the disciples that these self-righteous people had corrupted the truth and had hardened their hearts towards the preaching of Jesus; and these are leaven in the eyes of God.
Why did the disciples misunderstand what Jesus was trying to warn them?
I think, it’s all up in the mind again.
The disciples were too concerned about bringing no bread with them, so when Jesus used the term “leaven”, immediately they jumped to conclusion that Jesus was talking about the bread they eat.
So Jesus had to explain to them that He was referring to the leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees, and not about bread. And then Jesus also had to remind them of the miracle of multiplying the bread that fed thousands of people.
This is something that we need to be careful about when it comes to understanding the word of God.
We must not only depend on what others had told us or taught us concerning the word of God, because this may only be a short-cut to have the knowledge about God’s word, but without having a personal walk with God daily in prayers and studying the word of God, our faith would not be a personal one and it is incomplete.
That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon, and our hands have handled, concerning the Word of life.
1 John 1: 1
Apostle John wrote about his personal experience regarding the Word of life, he had heard it, seen it, and even had handled it. This is truly a personal experience with the Word of God and therefore is also having a personal relationship with God.
Therefore we need to have a personal and intimate relationship with God, and to diligently seek to know the word of God with a sincere heart and reliance on the Holy Spirit.
So when heresies reach our ears, we will be able to discern and not be quick to jump to conclusion that these are also biblically sound.
We have to put in our effort in seeking and following the truth, so that we won’t have any misunderstanding or misconception about the truths, instead we can have a firm foundation on God’s absolute truths that we have learnt from the Holy Bible through the guidance of the Holy Spirit.
May God shower us with wisdom to draw closer to Him everyday.
And let us all be diligent to seek and to keep His absolute truth with a sincere heart, for in chapter 17, during the transfiguration, God’s voice sounded forth, “This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased. Hear Him!” (v. 5b)
Yes, we must hear Him who leads us into all truths.