Thursday, December 14, 2023

The Danger of Indifference

“And you, O Bethlehem in the land of Judah, are not least among the ruling cities of Judah, for a ruler will come from you who will be the shepherd for my people Israel.” (Matthew 2:6 NLT)

They were the theological experts of their day, the guardians of spiritual truth in Israel. Yet the religious leaders wouldn’t even bother to walk a few miles to Bethlehem to see whether the Messiah had indeed been born.

When King Herod heard from the wise men about a “newborn king of the Jews” (Matthew 2:2 NLT), he summoned the chief priests and scribes and asked them where the Messiah was to be born. They told him, “In Bethlehem in Judea, . . . for this is what the prophet wrote: ‘And you, O Bethlehem in the land of Judah, are not least among the ruling cities of Judah, for a ruler will come from you who will be the shepherd for my people Israel’ ” (verses 5–6 NLT).

They knew the answer. In fact, from the text it almost appears as though they knew it right away. So why weren’t they looking for the Messiah in Bethlehem? They could have gone from Jerusalem to Bethlehem in a relatively short period of time.

Doesn’t it seem a little unusual that foreign dignitaries arrived from the East, claiming to have seen a star that led them to that very area, and the One they were seeking was called the “king of the Jews?”

Certainly that must have piqued the religious leaders’ curiosity and caused them to wonder. Yet they didn’t do anything. They simply told King Herod that Bethlehem was where the Messiah would be born.

At least Herod feared Jesus’ authority. But what about these men? They knew better. They knew the Scriptures, yet they did nothing in response. These men were indifferent and too busy with themselves to be concerned about Jesus.

In fact, when Jesus began His public ministry, the religious leaders were His principal adversaries. For all practical purposes, they were responsible for the execution of Jesus Christ. He was a threat to their religious world.

They sent Jesus to Pilate out of envy. They envied His authority. They resented the fact that people loved Him and hung on His every word. And they were jealous that He seemed to have a relationship with God that they lacked. 

Jesus addressed this later, telling them, “You hypocrites! Isaiah was right when he prophesied about you, for he wrote, ‘These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me’ ” (Mark 7:6 NLT).

They were looking for a different kind of a Messiah. They were looking for someone who would support their religious system and their chosen way of living, someone who would cater to their whims and conform to their wishes.

There are a lot of people like this today. They want Jesus, but they want Him on their terms. They want the kind of Jesus whom they can control, the kind of Jesus who won’t challenge them.

The religious leaders knew God’s Word. Yet they did nothing to meet the living Savior. Don’t miss Christmas like these religious leaders did. Religion and ritual kept them from Jesus.

Copyright © 2023 by Harvest Ministries. All rights reserved.

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