Kids Talk About God

Why did religious leaders want to kill Jesus?

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“So the story is that the religious leaders were planning to kill Jesus, but when the day came, nobody could find Jesus,” says Eli 10.

If you look at the Gospels as a game of hide-and-seek, Jesus always wins. He mastered the art of hiding from religious and political leaders, but revealing himself to seekers until the day and hour of his crucifixion.

It started with Jesus’ parents fleeing Bethlehem just before King Herod commanded his troops to kill all the children two years and younger. King Herod didn’t want any competition.

Sometimes Jesus revealed himself as Israel’s Messiah. At other times, he tells those whom he healed not to tell anyone. Jesus travels to Jerusalem in secret during a national festival and then teaches openly in the temple. Just when Jerusalem’s religious leaders are about to arrest Jesus, he heads for a small town in the desert or to Galilee.

Why all this zigzagging?

Timing is everything! Jesus had a mission. It needed time to develop.

When Jesus asked a woman at a well in Samaria for a drink of water, he provoked her curiosity by offering her living water. When she talked about the Messiah, Jesus said, “I who speak to you am he” (John 4:26).

To this Samaritan woman, Jesus embraced his messianic role and title openly. But to Jerusalem’s religious leaders and lawyers, Jesus was cunning. He acted like a winning chess player planning his next three moves. At times he answered a question with a question (Mark 11:27-33).

On other occasions, his subtlety flipped into outright confrontation. Jesus drove money changers out of the temple with a whip (John 2:13-16). Have you ever seen a picture of this in a children’s storybook Bible? Probably not. It might be too scary for kids.

How about calling religious leaders whitewashed tombstones, beautiful on the outside but full of dead men’s bones on the inside (Matthew 23:27)? Unless you’ve got chutzpah on steroids, you’ve probably never done this. Jesus did.

“Jesus was getting all the fame, and the religious leaders were upset,” says Matthew, 9. “They did not want the Romans to destroy the city.”

Of jealousy, Mark Twain wrote: Among human beings jealousy ranks distinctly as a weakness; a trademark of small minds; a property of all small minds, yet a property which even the smallest is ashamed of; and when accused of its possession will lyingly deny it and resent the accusation as an insult.”

After Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead, many who saw the miracle “believed in him” (John 11:45). But religious leaders considered the miracle a threat to the nation’s religious system and the control they exercised through the Roman government.

Here’s their response to the miracle: “What shall we do? For this man works many signs. If we let him alone like this, everyone will believe in him, and the Romans will come and take away both our place and nation” (John 11:47-48).

Think about this: Religion as a self-salvation project will always persecute those who promote God’s free grace as offered in Jesus Christ to all who believe in him. Jesus kept God’s law perfectly so that all lawbreakers, which is everyone, can enjoy life forever with him in his kingdom by simply believing in him.

Memorize this truth: “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6).

 

Kids Talk About God is designed for families to study the Bible together. Visit www.KidsTalkAboutGod.org.

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