How can such an old book always be new and life-impacting when I read it?
I’m talking about the Bible, of course!
Usually, something catalyzes the epiphany I experience. The unconscious backdrop for my latest reading of John’s gospel has been “The Chosen.” I’m seeing the people of the New Testament in a new dimension thanks to this television show.
As a child of the sixties, I saw the same pictures of Jesus, the disciples, and the Jewish leaders in my Sunday school class that I saw in my beloved Egermeier’s Bible Story Book. Wearing spotless, wrinkle-free robes and standing or sitting placidly under a pastel blue sky dotted with fluffy white clouds. For the most part. Even the beggars looked presentable. The Roman soldiers stood by stoically in their shiny armor, scarcely more menacing than the friendly policemen we trusted back then.
Let’s talk about the Jewish religious leaders we love to hate. Even the most vivid pictures of the scribes and the Pharisees failed to convey their arrogance. The best cinematographer of the day could only allot a few seconds to the swish of a Pharisee’s robe when telling the gospel story in a feature-length film. And while Jesus reproved them for their wide phylacteries, their long tassels, and their lust for adulation, familiarity drained His words of their bite.
Enter The Chosen. In this television series, the Pharisees parade through the marketplace, robes billowing, and the crowds part in awe. Their luxurious lifestyle grates on the viewer as it’s contrasted with the ragged poverty of the average person in the street. The Roman soldiers inspire fear reminiscent of Nazis. Their armor clanks. They fling the occasional anti-semitic remark. Cringe-worthy–but real.
And the political intrigue. The conniving. The scheming. I’d always known the Jewish leaders plotted to kill Jesus, but seeing the seeds of this plot being sown by “real” people in scenes that could be played by politicians on Capitol Hill–game-changing.
But this is not a review of The Chosen. It’s about another game changer: these leaders knew who Jesus was. John showcases Jesus’ claims to deity and Messiahship in a way that’s lost to the modern reader, even though we’ve read our Sunday school lessons. We “know” that His repeated “I AM” statements were not mere poetic metaphors, but they lacked a gut punch.
Those statements were blasphemy in the eyes of the religious elite.
But not really.
Jesus was their Messiah.
And these arrogant, officious religious leaders knew it. They had heard the I AMs. They had seen the authenticating miracles Jesus had performed.
Jesus was their long-awaited Messiah and they didn’t want Him.
They didn’t “receive” Him.
Some people truly didn’t understand, but these schemers did. What was really in the back of their minds as they murmured in their chambers about how the crowds would respond to Jesus if they figured out who He was? When they strategized about how to persuade the loathesome Romans to prop up their patriarchal puppet show of a trial?
They didn’t want their Messiah after all.
They wanted their power.
People haven’t changed at all.
Do you want your King Jesus? Have you received Him?
Illustration “Peter the Fisherman” is in the public domain, Creative Commons Mark 1.0