Wednesday, August 4, 2010
A Berean Moment
Proverbs 30:5 Every word of God is pure: he is a shield unto them that put their trust in him.
The Pharisees heard the crowd muttering these things about Him, and the chief priests and the Pharisees sent officers to seize Him … Some of the people therefore, when they heard these words, were saying, “This certainly is the Prophet.” Others were saying, “This is the Christ.” Still others were saying, “Surely the Christ is not going to come from Galilee, is He? “Has not the Scripture said that the Christ comes from the descendants of David, and from Bethlehem, the village where David was?” So a division occurred in the crowd because of Him. Some of them wanted to seize Him, but no one laid hands on Him. The officers then came to the chief priests and Pharisees, and they said to them, “Why did you not bring Him?” The officers answered, “Never has a man spoken the way this man speaks.” The Pharisees then answered them, “You have not also been led astray, have you? “No one of the rulers or Pharisees has believed in Him, has he? “But this crowd which does not know the Law is accursed.” John 7:1
I have talked previously about Paul’s praise for the Bereans noting the verse:
“these were more noble-minded than those in Thessalonica,
for they received the word with great eagerness,
examining the Scriptures daily to see whether these things were so.” Acts 17:11
The Bereans were standing on the belief that God’s word was pure never changing, never ending truth. They believed that God’s word is pure and therefore they should test the teachings of those that spoke to them to determine what to believe and what to reject. If the Bereans were alive today, they would they would be viewed as intolerant Christian fundamentalists.
This past week I heard a story that I feel is a good example of how Christians are to practice their faith, and to be a modern day Berean. My friend Lou is a police officer. His job is to investigate the facts of a crime with basically one purpose in mind: to discover the truth. When investigating a case, he has been trained that it is not his concern where the truth leads, but rather to discover the truth, regardless of where it leads. The truth is to be used by the defense or prosecution to prove either innocence or guilt.
Early in his career, Lou was being discipled by another police investigator who was a Christian. His friend showed Lou that he needed to look into the Bible more deeply because from a fellow investigator’s perspective, the evidence of truth and miracles were everywhere. A life foundation that begins with a book that outlines eternal truth is invaluable to an investigator seeking truth. Lou’s friend used the story in John 7 as compelling evidence that Jesus was more than just a good teacher and that God’s word is truth.
Let’s step back into the picture. In the time of Christ, there were two forms of police authority. The Romans had conquered Israel and set up the primary ruling authority much like federal government. But they had also allowed for the Israelites to maintain their religion and enforce their religious laws and authority, much like our state, county and city police. As a result, the secondary form of authority was the Chief Priests and the Pharisees and their police force was the palace guard. The Romans only needed to step in when their rules were violated, or if the palace guard was not able to maintain control. This allowed for the Romans to control the lands they had conquered from more of a distance.
One thing that we can be sure of during time period is that soldiers and guards obeyed the orders of their superiors. Penalties for not following orders were severe. The loss of their job was likely a certainty; and for negligence or insubordination, a Roman soldier could have been executed. The penalties are not clear regarding the Palace Guard, but to disregard direct orders from the chief priest would surely bring shame in them personally, and the likely loss of their valued career position.
In the above story, the Chief Priests gave a direct order to arrest Jesus and this is where the story takes on special meaning for my friend. As a policeman and investigator, it was clear to him that these palace guards acted outside of their normal character, and that there had to have been a compelling reason for them not to have arrested Jesus. The Chief Priests and religious leaders were seeking Jesus for reasons that they deemed worthy of death. What faithful temple guard would be foolish enough to disregard such an order without a very good reason?
Why were the Jewish leaders seeking to capture and kill Jesus? He was exposing their hypocrisy. He was a threat to them and their authority. He was talking with the authority of God’s Word; He turned water into wine; He had fed 5,000 with a five loaves and two fish; and He healed the lame, blind, and lepers; and He raised a young girl from the dead; and He cast out demons and performed many more miracles. When He told a man his sins were forgiven … that was the last straw, for the Jews that was blasphemy, worthy of death. The people were talking of making Him king and this brought great concern to the leaders who were concerned about a conflict with the Romans. They needed to neutralize this irritant to their authority and system of government.
Their greatest evidence that Christ was not the Messiah was “Has not the Scripture said that the Christ comes from the descendants of David, and from Bethlehem, the village where David was?” But what they did not know is that Jesus was born in Bethlehem and that He was a descendant of David. Unfortunately, their facts were limited to their human knowledge and perspective and they were the opposite of the truth They could have discovered the truth … if they had only searched for the truth.
So they sent two of their best policemen, who faithfully went to arrest Jesus. They didn’t need a reason. They had already been given the order. Now, let’s try and walk in their shoes. The Chief Priest called them in and explained the urgency of the situation. This Galilean who had earlier had attacked numerous people in the temple was now inciting a riot and revolt amongst the people. Go and arrest Him at once. When these guards found Jesus, there was most likely a crowd that numbered in the thousands. But the guards saw miracles and listened to the truth spoken by the Lord and Savior of the world. Probably … much like Paul on the road to Damascus, their eyes were opened for the first time. When the guards were convinced that Jesus is the Messiah, and decided not to arrest Him … from a human viewpoint, what do you think the most intelligent explanation for going to the Chief Priest empty handed would have been? Certainly not, “we just couldn’t arrest him, he is a great orator … you should just hear the way he speaks.” The Jewish leaders already knew of Jesus amazing way with words. No … that would be a foolish reply to the leaders. And as expected, the priest’s answer to the guards was one of sarcasm. The wiser thing for them to say would have been: “we went to arrest him but there were just too many people there in his support … it would have incited a riot and we surely would have been attacked and overrun.” So why did they go back and speak of Jesus with awe and admiration? Because they had witnessed miracles, and listened to God speak to them. The same God that Pilate did not want to crucify, and the same God who the Centurion in charge of Jesus’ crucifixion identified when he said; “Surely he was the Son of God!”
So, why is this story important for Lou and for you and for me? Well, when my friend Lou considered this story, God spoke to him in a special way. He spoke to him through the eyes of a police investigator searching for the pure truth, and through the eyes of those two palace guards. God opened Lou’s eyes to the truth. No two police officers with an arrest warrant would come back empty handed; and if they did, they better have a very good reason; or suffer the end of their career, or worse. Yet they simply said, “Never has a man spoken the way this man speaks.” They just would not come back with this answer unless … they had just watched and listened to the living God walk and talk and perform miracles. The lesson for all of us is that when we search the pure word as the Bereans did, God will show us these deeper messages that he has placed throughout his word to strengthen our faith. And all of a sudden a light goes on and the truth becomes clear and a life is saved and secured for eternity. And like my friend Lou, “those who receive the word with great eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily” to discover the truth, many will find their life verse. On its face, it may be hidden where most would just read over, tucked away in the details of a story about religious leaders and the palace guard. Only a Berean would find it. One searching for truth, the Lord has placed it there for him to discover and marvel and share with the rest of us. Are you like the Bereans?
God Bless you my friends, Bob