A friend recently shared the story of a local college coach having a profound impact on campus by sharing the gospel with many of the students he encounters each day. On hearing this, another friend expressed surprise the school’s administration hadn’t prohibited the man from sharing his faith with others or manufactured an excuse to terminate him, since their hostility to Christianity was well established. I couldn’t help recall a sequence of events in Jesus’ ministry that demonstrated why leadership at this college had failed to prevent the spread of the gospel.
The apostle John tells us that after Christ healed a crippled man, “The Pharisees persecuted Jesus, and sought to kill Him, because He had done these things on the Sabbath. Then Jesus answered them, ‘My Father has been working until now, and I have been working.’ Therefore the Jews sought all the more to kill Him, because He not only broke the Sabbath, but also said that God was His Father, making Himself equal with God” (John 5:16-18, NKJV).
A short time later Jesus upbraids the Pharisees for their hypocrisy and declares Himself sent from God, infuriating the Pharisees so much “They sought to take Him; but no one laid a hand on Him.” Despite their visceral hatred for Christ and desire to slaughter Him, the Pharisees do nothing, as if prevented by a hidden hand.
On another occasion these religious charlatans are enraged by the crowd’s reaction to Jesus who “believed in Him, and said, ‘When the Christ comes, will He do more signs than these which this Man has done?’” (John 7:30-31). Their response prompted immediate action from Jewish leaders. John explains. “When the Pharisees heard the crowd murmuring these things concerning Christ, they and the chief priests sent officers to take Him” (verse 32). But nothing came of their effort. “The officers came to the chief priests and Pharisees, and said to them, ‘Why have you not brought Him?’ The officers answered, ‘No man ever spoke like this Man’” (John 7:45-46).
After another encounter in which Jesus announced that “before Abraham was, I AM,” the Jews “took up stones to throw at Him; but Jesus hid Himself and went out of the temple, going through the midst of them, and so passed by” (John 8:58b-59, NKJV).
A short time later Jewish leaders demand of Jesus, “If You are the Christ, tell us plainly.” In response, He informs them, “I give My followers eternal life, and they shall never perish; neither shall anyone snatch them out of My hand. My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all; and no one is able to snatch them out of My Father’s hand. I and My Father are one” (John 10:28-29, NKJV).
That He claimed to offer eternal life was bad enough for the Pharisees and priests, but His assertion that He and God were one was outright blasphemy. John notes that the Jews sought to seize and stone Him but He managed to evade their evil intentions. (See John 8:22-39).
Time and again this pattern is repeated throughout His ministry. Jesus speaks the truth about Himself, the Pharisees take offense and try to harm or detain Him, and Christ escapes unscathed. How is this possible? How could the chief priests constantly fail in their efforts to eliminate Jesus and end His burgeoning ministry?
John offers this insight: “His hour had not yet come” (John 7:30). God had established a time for Jesus’ life to end and His earthly ministry to come to a close. Until that time arrived, nothing could prevent Him from fulfilling His purpose. No amount of scheming or intimidation could undermine His work. All efforts to arrest, incarcerate, or harm Him were destined to fail. Until, that is, His hour arrived. At that time the Jewish leaders would succeed in stopping His ministry and ending His life.
Have those antagonistic to the gospel ever threatened you harm? Ever encountered hostility when sharing Jesus’ good news with others? Do those in positions of power try to terrorize, bully, or shame you into silence about Christ’s love? Has vitriolic opposition to biblical truth paralyzed you from speaking boldly for Christ?
If so, take heart that such efforts will never come to fruition outside of God’s timing. God will prevent the wicked from undermining the fruitfulness of your obedience until your hour has come. Armed with that confidence, I encourage you to preach, proclaim, and share the truth and love of Christ with boldness and conviction.