Archenemies May Be the Best Witnesses
Archenemies of Jesus of Nazareth, Jewish leaders are some of the best witnesses to his birth, life, crucifixion and resurrection. Although they were often cited by the Gospels in a negative context, the flip side is they bore witness to events involving Jesus. As a consequence, they inadvertently acknowledged that Jesus possessed qualities of the Messiah as foretold in the prophecies.
One prophetic requirement generally undisputed by Judaism is the Messiah must be born in the lineage of King David. Neither Jewish leadership then nor Judaism now challenge it. Branch prophecies by Isaiah, Jeremiah and Zachariah, concurred by some Rabbi sages, are among such prophecies.
Joseph and Mary came from Nazareth, a small community strongly influenced by Rabbis who would have been aware of family details such as relatives, reputations, activities, etc. When the decree of Caesar Augustus was announced by the praeco, the Rabbis knew the local ramifications to the town’s residents.
When Mary was about to give birth, the couple willingly traveled about 90-miles to Bethlehem at the behest of the decree. A factor rarely considered, it had to be common knowledge in the Jewish community that Mary’s baby was in the lineage of King David…or else the couple would not have made the trek to Bethlehem when Mary was about to give birth.
According to Jewish Law, a month after the birth of a first-born son, the baby was to be redeemed in a ceremony managed by a priest known as the Redemption of the First-born. Luke’s account states that Joseph and Mary took baby Jesus to the Temple in Jerusalem strongly suggesting they did not go back to Nazareth immediately after the registration and birth.
One main purpose of the Redemption of the First-born was to affirm the son’s right of inheritance. Customary practice was for the father to pronounce a blessing on his son at the ceremony to be followed by a feast. A Jewish priest attended the feast and had a dialog with the father to make an impression upon the attendees.
All four Gospels contain accounts of Jewish religious leaders wanting retribution for Jesus when he performed miracles on a Sabbath. To level the accusations, the Jewish leadership first had to acknowledge miracles had occurred in order to criticize the activity.
One Sabbath, Jesus healed a man with a withered hand in a synagogue, a place of prayer and worship headed by a Rabbi. The Pharisees didn’t like that he had performed a miracle on a Sabbath and reacted by plotting against Jesus.
Again in a synagogue on a Sabbath, Jesus saw a woman who had not been able to straighten up for 18 years. When Jesus instantly healed her infirmity, the leader of the synagogue and other critics became indignant, but the crowd’s rejoicing humiliated them compelling them to take no action.
Near the Sheep’s Gate at the Pool of Bethzatha on a Sabbath, Jesus saw a man who had been disabled for 38 years. Jesus simply commanded the man to get up, grab his mat, and walk away which the man did immediately.
Jewish leaders accused the healed man of carrying his mat on a Sabbath in violation of the Law. The man pointed out that the person who healed him told him to do it. Jewish leaders then turned their focus to Jesus and accused him of working on the Sabbath.
On another Sabbath, Jesus noticed a man who had been blind since birth and stopped to talk to him. Jesus smeared mud on the man’s eyes and had him wash it off in the pool of Siloam. The man was then able to see for the first time in his life.
Doggedly the Pharisees questioned the man, then his parents who confirmed his blindness since birth. Questioning the healed man again, he replied by saying that he had already answered the questions, but they obviously didn’t listen. The Pharisees then heaped insults on the man accusing him of not knowing where such a man, Jesus, came from. The man’s response in his own words:
JN 9:30-33 “Why, this is a marvelous thing, that you do not know where He is from; yet He has opened my eyes! We know that God does not hear sinners; but if anyone is God-fearing and does His will, He hears him. Since the beginning of time it has never been heard that anyone opened the eyes of a person born blind. If this man were not from God, He could do nothing.”NASB
Now infuriated, the Pharisees accused the man of being a sinner who had no place to lecture them. They were so upset, they threw him out of the place where they were questioning him.
During a very raucous day, Jairus, a synagogue leader, begged Jesus to heal his 12-year old daughter who was dying. Before Jesus could reach his house, friends arrived informing them that the daughter of Jairus had died. Jesus still went to Jairus’ house where he encountered people who were loudly crying and wailing.
Asking everyone to leave excepting Jairus, his wife and some followers, Jesus went into the room and said, “Talitha koum,” get up and walk. The girl immediately stood up and walked around the room astonishing those who were present.11]
Bethany was the town where Lazarus lived, died and was buried. Arriving four days after Lazarus died, Jesus raised him from the tomb where he was laid to rest. When the Pharisees heard of what had happened and fearing the Romans if the people followed Jesus, they called a council meeting with the chief priests to devise a plan to deal with him. High Priest Caiaphas was at the meeting and proposed that Jesus as one man be killed for the entire nation prompting them to make plans accordingly.
Judaism agrees with the Gospels in that Jesus was executed by crucifixion. However, opposite of the Gospels is the assertion by Judaism that crucifixion is the reason why Jesus could not be the Messiah:
“The very form of his punishment would disprove those claims in Jewish eyes. No Messiah that Jews could recognize could suffer such a death…” (Deut. xxi. 23), ‘an insult to God’ (Targum, Rashi).” – JewishEnclopedia.com
After the crucifixion of Jesus, Chief priests and the Pharisees approached Rome’s jurisdictional authority of Judea, Pilate, acknowledging Jesus was dead and buried in a tomb – after all he was buried by two members of their own Jewish Council. The Jewish leaders then requested Pilate to secure the tomb to prevent the body from being stolen.
As a consequence of their testimony, the tomb was sealed and guarded by a Roman-Jewish contingent called a koustodia. The security was breached supernaturally in a frightening scenario that terrified everyone who witnessed it and they ran away in at least three directions.
According to Matthew, the Jewish Council responded to the report by some of the koustodia that the tomb security was breached and the tomb was now empty. The guards were worried about being punished for dereliction of duty; however, the Jewish Council paid the guards money and promised to take care of Pilate if it became an issue.
Do the acknowledgments by various Jewish leaders to the birth, life, crucifixion and resurrection support the Gospels accounts?
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