“If ye, then, be risen with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God. Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth. For ye are dead, and your life is hidden with Christ in God.” (Col. 3:1-3)
John the Baptist, through the Holy Spirit, was able to spiritually see the multitudes of people in Israel who needed repentance, salvation, and reform. When John captures God’s love-filled vision of repentance for Israel, and begins to preach the message that God gave him in the wilderness, the New Testament says: “Then went out to him Jerusalem, and all Judea, and all the region round about the Jordan” (Matthew 3:5).
Paul, in the midst of his evangelical ministry to the Mediterranean world, says that God has set forth the apostles as being last (1 Corinthians 4:9). Only from the low vantage point of humility can the leaders of the early Christian church spiritually see the field of lost people ready for repentance and harvesting into the kingdom of God. A large number of people were ready to turn to God in first century Israel and in the Greco-Roman Mediterranean world, but the Pharisees, scribes, and other religious leaders in Jerusalem were unable to see, much less minister to this need. Self-centeredness and self-importance blocks our spiritual vision of the needs of other people.
The Pharisees and scribes unwittingly revealed their true character by criticizing Jesus for associating with damaged, needy, and broken people, when they ask the disciples: “Why eateth your Master with publicans and sinners?” (Matthew 9:11). Jesus said that He came to “seek and to save that which was lost” (Luke 19:10). The narrowly exclusive outreach of the Pharisees and scribes does not include the outcasts and undesirables of society, because the Pharisees are sitting in self-righteous pride, high atop the thrones of their lives.
Lucifer certainly has no intention of seeking and saving the lost sheep of Israel. Jesus says of the Pharisees and scribes, at the height of their power and influence, and while the Temple in Jerusalem is fully functioning as a religious institution, that these men are as the blind leading the blind (Matthew 15:14). The Pharisees and scribes are spiritually blind because they cannot see the multitudes of people in Israel, ready and willing to come to John, hear his message at the river Jordan, and to confess their sins and be water baptized.
The Pharisees and scribes are blind because they cannot see, from their high perch atop the thrones of their hearts, those people in Israel who are spiritually sick and in need of God the Great Physician (Matthew 9:12). John the Baptist, Jesus, and the early church Christians in Jerusalem have to do the work that the Pharisees and scribes were supposed to be doing, but were not, because it takes a life genuinely lived according to the cross of Christ to be able to spiritually see, empathize with, and commit ourselves to meeting the needs of lost and broken people.
The Pharisees and chief priests revealed their true heart condition when they said: “If we let him thus alone, all men will believe on him; and the Romans shall come and take away both our place and nation” (John 11:48). If we are called, if we are prepared for ministry through the experience of the cross, if we have God’s vision of the needs of the lost in this world…then no one can take away our place except by the express will of God Almighty (1 Peter 3:13). By saying that the Romans can come and take away their place, these religious leaders are unknowingly admitting that their worldly-based authority does not derive from a divine, unshakable godly calling to minister to the lost people of this world.
Even though multitudes of people were ready to come to the Jordan River to repent and be baptized, God could not enlist the Pharisees and scribes to this great work, because they could not even see the need. If Christians today want to go forth into their Christian ministries with their spiritual eyes fully open to be able to see the needs of others, the road of preparation that leads there is the lowly way of the cross.