When Jesus came preaching the ‘kingdom of God’ and offering everlasting life in that kingdom for all those who would believe, accept it and obey, he was actually delivering the new covenant proposal message to the people and nation from Yahweh God, our Father. We know that Jesus always said that the words (the message) he spoke were not his words but the Father’s – and that message, as it had always been, was essentially: believe Me, trust Me, love Me, obey Me, and I will be your God – and this time I will give you a heart, a mind and a spirit to do it.
We saw in previous studies (see under Category ‘Jesus’) the kind of Messiah the nation expected at that time, an all-conquering national leader giving them victory over their enemies, and that in actual fact Jesus came as a ‘suffering servant’ the first time bringing the message (gospel) of the kingdom of God and salvation – the new covenant message, as the mediator of that covenant.
Was Jesus and the covenant message he brought received eagerly and accepted by the people and the leaders in Israel, and the covenant entered into at that time? Many of the people welcomed Jesus and his message from Yahweh initially:
Matthew 7:28-8:1 NRSV
Now when Jesus had finished saying these things, the crowds were astounded at his teaching,
29 for he taught them as one having authority, and not as their scribes.
8:1 When Jesus had come down from the mountain, great crowds followed him;
John 4:1 NRSV
Now when Jesus learned that the Pharisees had heard, “Jesus is making and baptizing more disciples than John”
Mark 4:1-2 NRSV
Again he began to teach beside the sea. Such a very large crowd gathered around him that he got into a boat on the sea and sat there, while the whole crowd was beside the sea on the land.
2 He began to teach them many things in parables, and in his teaching he said to them:
Luke 4:14-15 NRSV
Then Jesus, filled with the power of the Spirit, returned to Galilee, and a report about him spread through all the surrounding country.
15 He began to teach in their synagogues and was praised by everyone.
John 4:39-45 NRSV
Many Samaritans from that city believed in him because of the woman’s testimony, “He told me everything I have ever done.”
40 So when the Samaritans came to him, they asked him to stay with them; and he stayed there two days.
41 And many more believed because of his word.
42 They said to the woman, “It is no longer because of what you said that we believe, for we have heard for ourselves, and we know that this is truly the Savior of the world.”
43 When the two days were over, he went from that place to Galilee
44 (for Jesus himself had testified that a prophet has no honor in the prophet’s own country).
45 When he came to Galilee, the Galileans welcomed him, since they had seen all that he had done in Jerusalem at the festival; for they too had gone to the festival.
Luke 6:17-19 NRSV
He came down with them and stood on a level place, with a great crowd of his disciples and a great multitude of people from all Judea, Jerusalem, and the coast of Tyre and Sidon.
18 They had come to hear him and to be healed of their diseases; and those who were troubled with unclean spirits were cured.
19 And all in the crowd were trying to touch him, for power came out from him and healed all of them.
Luke 8:40 NRSV
Now when Jesus returned, the crowd welcomed him, for they were all waiting for him.
John 7:40-41 NRSV
When they heard these words, some in the crowd said, “This is really the prophet.”
41 Others said, “This is the Messiah.” But some asked, “Surely the Messiah does not come from Galilee, does he?
Matthew 21:9-11 NRSV
The crowds that went ahead of him and that followed were shouting, “Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest heaven!”
10 When he entered Jerusalem, the whole city was in turmoil, asking, “Who is this?”
11 The crowds were saying, “This is the prophet Jesus from Nazareth in Galilee.”
Luke 19:36-38 NRSV
As he rode along, people kept spreading their cloaks on the road.
37 As he was now approaching the path down from the Mount of Olives, the whole multitude of the disciples began to praise God joyfully with a loud voice for all the deeds of power that they had seen,
38 saying, “Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord! Peace in heaven, and glory in the highest heaven!”
How was Jesus and his message received by the authorities and religious leaders?
John 3:1-2 NRSV
Now there was a Pharisee named Nicodemus, a leader of the Jews.
2 He came to Jesus by night and said to him, “Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher who has come from God; for no one can do these signs that you do apart from the presence of God.”
Notice that Nicodemus came by night, not openly. Also that ‘we’, the rulers of the Jews, ‘know that you are a teacher from Yahweh God’. Jesus informed them through Nicodemus, that they must be ‘born again’ – be internally and spiritually transformed to enter into the kingdom of God and the new covenant with Yahweh (verses 3-9).
Did they understand, believe, accept and receive this?
John 3:10-15 NRSV
Jesus answered him, “Are you a teacher of Israel, and yet you do not understand these things?
11 “Very truly, I tell you, we speak of what we know and testify to what we have seen; yet you do not receive our testimony.
12 If I have told you about earthly things and you do not believe, how can you believe if I tell you about heavenly things?
13 No one has ascended into heaven except the one who descended from heaven, the Son of Man.
14 And just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up,
15 that whoever believes in him may have eternal life.
Not according to Jesus in these verses.
Do other scriptures indicate that the chief priests and leaders of Israel rejected Jesus and the message he brought?
Matthew 12:24 NRSV
But when the Pharisees heard it, they said, “It is only by Beelzebul, the ruler of the demons, that this fellow casts out the demons.”
And Jesus answered:
Matthew 12:28 NRSV
But if it is by the Spirit of God that I cast out demons, then the kingdom of God has come to you.
They continued to reject him:
Matthew 21:42-46 NRSV
Jesus said to them, “Have you never read in the scriptures: “The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone; this was the Lord’s doing, and it is amazing in our eyes’?
43 Therefore I tell you, the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people that produces the fruits of the kingdom.
44 The one who falls on this stone will be broken to pieces; and it will crush anyone on whom it falls.”
45 When the chief priests and the Pharisees heard his parables, they realized that he was speaking about them.
46 They wanted to arrest him, but they feared the crowds, because they regarded him as a prophet.
Matthew 22:15 NRSV
Then the Pharisees went and plotted to entrap him in what he said.
Jesus said that the Scribes and Pharisees sat in Moses seat, but that they were hypocrites:
Matthew 23:1-2 NRSV
Then Jesus said to the crowds and to his disciples,
2 “The scribes and the Pharisees sit on Moses’ seat;
Matthew 23:13 NRSV
”But woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you lock people out of the kingdom of heaven. For you do not go in yourselves, and when others are going in, you stop them.
Along with verses 15, 23, 25, 27 and 29! Seven ‘woes to them’ in chapter 23 of Matthew!
Did Jesus say that by rejecting him they would be rejecting Yahweh God?
Luke 10:16 NRSV
“Whoever listens to you listens to me, and whoever rejects you rejects me, and whoever rejects me rejects the one who sent me.”
They not only rejected him and his message but sought to destroy him:
Luke 19:47 NRSV
Every day he was teaching in the temple. The chief priests, the scribes, and the leaders of the people kept looking for a way to kill him;
Mark 11:18 NRSV
And when the chief priests and the scribes heard it, they kept looking for a way to kill him; for they were afraid of him, because the whole crowd was spellbound by his teaching.
Matthew 26:3-5 NRSV
Then the chief priests and the elders of the people gathered in the palace of the high priest, who was called Caiaphas,
4 and they conspired to arrest Jesus by stealth and kill him.
5 But they said, “Not during the festival, or there may be a riot among the people.”
Matthew 27:1 NRSV
When morning came, all the chief priests and the elders of the people conferred together against Jesus in order to bring about his death.
Mark 15:1, 10-11 NRSV
As soon as it was morning, the chief priests held a consultation with the elders and scribes and the whole council. They bound Jesus, led him away, and handed him over to Pilate.
10 For he realized that it was out of jealousy that the chief priests had handed him over.
11 But the chief priests stirred up the crowd to have him release Barabbas for them instead.
Even at this time they were still asking ‘are you the Christ(Messiah)?’ – not to believe him and accept him, but to accuse him and condemn him:
Mark 14:61-64 NRSV
But he was silent and did not answer. Again the high priest asked him, “Are you the Messiah, the Son of the Blessed One?”
62 Jesus said, “I am; and “you will see the Son of Man seated at the right hand of the Power,’ and “coming with the clouds of heaven.’ ”
63 Then the high priest tore his clothes and said, “Why do we still need witnesses?
64 You have heard his blasphemy! What is your decision?” All of them condemned him as deserving death.
Luke 22:66-71 NRSV
When day came, the assembly of the elders of the people, both chief priests and scribes, gathered together, and they brought him to their council.
67 They said, “If you are the Messiah, tell us.” He replied, “If I tell you, you will not believe;
68 and if I question you, you will not answer.
69 But from now on the Son of Man will be seated at the right hand of the power of God.”
70 All of them asked, “Are you, then, the Son of God?” He said to them, “You say that I am.”
71 Then they said, “What further testimony do we need? We have heard it ourselves from his own lips!”
And the chief priest turned the people against Jesus:
Matthew 27:20-23 NRSV
Now the chief priests and the elders persuaded the crowds to ask for Barabbas and to have Jesus killed.
21 The governor again said to them, “Which of the two do you want me to release for you?” And they said, “Barabbas.”
22 Pilate said to them, “Then what should I do with Jesus who is called the Messiah?” All of them said, “Let him be crucified!”
23 Then he asked, “Why, what evil has he done?” But they shouted all the more, “Let him be crucified!”
The chief priests and leaders rejected Jesus, the awaited Messiah, and his new covenant message, urging and persuading the people to do likewise – resulting in his crucifixion and death. But some remained faithful:
Acts 1:15-16 NRSV
In those days Peter stood up among the believers (together the crowd numbered about one hundred twenty persons) and said,
16 “Friends, the scripture had to be fulfilled, which the Holy Spirit through David foretold concerning Judas, who became a guide for those who arrested Jesus—
Acts 2:1-5 NRSV
When the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place.
2 And suddenly from heaven there came a sound like the rush of a violent wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting.
3 Divided tongues, as of fire, appeared among them, and a tongue rested on each of them.
4 All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other languages, as the Spirit gave them ability.
5 Now there were devout Jews from every nation under heaven living in Jerusalem.
As a result of their witness more were added:
Acts 2:41-42 NRSV
So those who welcomed his message were baptized, and that day about three thousand persons were added.
42 They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers.
But still the Jewish leaders and religious authorities rejected the gospel message and the new covenant, even when the spirit was poured out as prophesied:
Acts 2:16-18 NRSV
No, this is what was spoken through the prophet Joel:
17 “In the last days it will be, God declares, that I will pour out my Spirit upon all flesh, and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams.
18 Even upon my slaves, both men and women, in those days I will pour out my Spirit; and they shall prophesy.
And even when Peter, Paul and the others took it to them – as we shall see in the next study.