Please Don't Tease the Pharisees

That would be mean.

John 11:53–57

Then, from that day on, they plotted to put Him to death. Therefore Jesus no longer walked openly among the Jews, but went from there into the country near the wilderness, to a city called Ephraim, and there remained with His disciples.

And the Passover of the Jews was near, and many went from the country up to Jerusalem before the Passover, to purify themselves. Then they sought Jesus, and spoke among themselves as they stood in the temple, “What do you think—that He will not come to the feast?” Now both the chief priests and the Pharisees had given a command, that if anyone knew where He was, he should report it, that they might seize Him.

Chrysostom makes a great point about verse 53.

Before they only looked for ways to kill him. Now they ratify their determination and get down to business in determining how to carry it out. — Homilies on the Gospel of John 65.1

So Jesus decides to avoid them. Of course, He could have walked openly among the Jews. He has the power to do that and constantly frustrate their efforts to capture Him. So why doesn’t He?

Scripture doesn’t tell us, but maybe it’s simply not His style. A series of repeated narrow escapes would be amusing, but, in a sense, mean. Jesus has the power to tease the chief priests and Pharisees relentlessly, but that’s not His agenda.

He has more important things to do.

It’s interesting that the chief priests and the Pharisees had given a command, that if anyone knew where He was, he should report it, that they might seize Him. This supports Chrysostom’s point about verse 53, to an extreme extent.

The word translated as “command” (entolas) is very strong. It’s the word Jesus uses for God’s commandments (e.g. in Matthew 19:17 and Mark 10:19).

Entolas is also used for commands issued by a Roman magistrate. In either case, where do these guys get off thinking that they can issue commands with that kind of gravitas? They’re not God, and they hold no civilian power. What are they thinking?

They’re thinking that everyone must agree with them because they’re so learned. They, of course, yield to God, but they think they’ve got Him all figured out. When they speak, it’s as if God is speaking because they have puzzled through every nuance of His law.

So when they issue a “command”, it never occurs to them that they might be overreaching, because nothing is over the top for God and their word is His word.

These Monday—Friday DEEPs are written by Mike Slay. The Saturday DEEPs are written by Matt Richardson. To subscribe to all the DEEPs click here:

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Except as indicated, Scripture taken from the New King James Version. © Copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved. ESV stands for the English Standard Version. © Copyright 2001 by Crossway. Used by permission. All rights reserved. NIV stands for The Holy Bible, New International Version®. © Copyright 1973 by International Bible Society. Used by permission. All rights reserved. KJV stands for the King James Version.

Mike Slay

As a mathematician, inventor, and ruling elder in the Presbyterian Church in America, Mike Slay brings an analytical, conversational, and even whimsical approach to the daily study of God's Word.