When people tell me how good their church is , I often wonder what they understand about religious leaders. The New Testament does not speak of religious leaders as many naïve people do, who because they like some aspect of their church (friendliness, music, child care, etc.) they become willing to justify many ungodly beliefs and practices. Some of the most scathing things ever uttered by Jesus Christ were against religious leaders (Mathew 23). It was religious leaders that hated Jesus from the outset of His ministry and who plotted His death in the end.
“Now the Passover and Unleavened Bread were two days away; and the chief priests and the scribes were seeking how to seize Him by stealth and kill Him” (Mark 14:4)
It is hard for many to conceive that religious people could be so diabolical to plot and murder Jesus by stealth. Premeditated murder is the worst kind, which has the highest penalty attached to it according to the American judicial system. There can be accidental killing but forethought makes it manslaughter. The Jewish leaders did not want to kill Jesus in the daylight hours because they feared the people and thought they might not win. Nowhere in the story of Jesus do the leaders deny His miracles, the goodness of His life, or His birthright as a son of David. The plain truth is, they envied His popularity, and feared the clarity with which He denounced their hypocritical religion, thievery, and pompous arrogance.
These men were the most fastidious law keepers (regarding the letter not the spirit of the law) but yet refused to accept the undeniable reality that what they were plotting was contrary to Exodus 20:13, which says, “You shall not murder.” According to a Hebrew dictionary the verb re-attach (kill) refers to the premeditated or accidental taking of the life of another human being; it includes any unauthorized killing. Jesus was guilty of no sin, the trial they planned included false witnesses, it was at night, there was no period of twenty-four hours between the trial and Jesus’ execution, all of which broke the law and made His death unauthorized murder.
But that was two-thousand years ago, surely no one would do that today. To such a statement I reply, what Adam did was about six-thousand years ago and the whole human race has been guilty of sin ever since. In fact, if you and I were present at Jesus’ death, and apart from divine intervention to transform us from sinners to saints, we would all have taken part in His death. Perhaps we are not religious leaders, maybe we would not plot His death, but if we were soldiers we would with petty prejudice, callous emotions, and distain for a lowly and poor man who claimed to be king drive the nails into His hands. If we were the bystanders who become convinced that this seemingly weak Jesus could not possibly be the long awaited Messiah who would conquer Rome and restore the kingdom to Israel, we would have mocked, spit, cursed, and called for His crucifixion and death.
How do I know we would do these things? The Bible says, “All have sinned and come short of the glory of God.” Sin is a rejection of God, His will, and plan for our lives; Jesus Christ is the Son of God and to reject God is to reject His Son. If the most religious, careful about the law (outwardly), and most educated about the Bible plotted the death of the Son of God, is it not possible that the pulpits today are filled with men much like those religious hypocrites? And likewise, their followers are just like them.
I do not say these things to be critical, to cause animosity where there should be unity and love, but the New Testament record is clear, religious people and leaders plotted by stealth the murder of Jesus Christ. If you are a Christian you must see the lost for the sinner we all are. If you are not a Christian, you are guilty of the blood of Christ unless you repent of sin and place your faith in Him as Lord.