LENTEN DEVOTION: The Enemies Gather by Johann Ernst von Holst

Morning and Evening Devotions for the Holy Season of Lent

The Enemies Gather by Johann Ernst von Holst

From The Crucified Is My Love

So the chief priests and the Pharisees gathered the council and said, “What are we to do?  For this man performs many signs.  If we let him go on like this, everyone will believe in him, and the Romans will come and take away both our place and our nation.” (John 11:47-48)

Ever since the Lord’s first appearance, he encountered malicious opposition from the Pharisees and elders.  The higher the sun of his activity rose, the deeper grew their hostility.  For he had nothing in common with them, nor they with him.  They wanted a brilliant, political messianic kingdom; he demanded repentance and a change of heart.  They looked for pleasure and power; he demanded obedience and surrendered faith in his divine mission.  Thus their hostility rose to the point of murderous hatred.  Already when he had been in Jerusalem previously, they had wanted to stone him.  He had escaped their clutches at that time, for his hour had not yet come, and he still wanted to allow them a time of grace.  Then suddenly he appeared once more before the gates of the royal city in quiet Bethany, where by raising Lazarus his divine majesty was made to shine more gloriously than ever through the garment of lowliness.  This deed was a powerful sermon without words, addressed to his nation; it was the last shaking call to his city: “Awake, Jerusalem!”  If she did not grasp this last warning, there was nothing for it but that judgment should break in.

The raising of Lazarus roused tremendous excitement in the people, and many believed in the divine victor over death.  But that very fact fanned the hatred, which the ruling classes had nursed for so long, to fanatical rage.  A meeting of the council was held, and while the Lord was by the Jordan preparing to drink the cup of suffering, here in the den of hatred the poisoned drink was made ready for him.  “What should we do?” asked the elders of Israel.  But these men did not ask in order to discover the truth but in order to suppress it; they did not ask in order to find God’s will but in order to force through their own wicked will.  They admit: “This man performs many signs; everyone will believe in him.”  But instead of hastening to him and placing their hearts and lives at his service in adoration, they consider how to cause his downfall.  They do this only to maintain their own influence over the people and so defy the hated Romans in their own way.

It happens still today that human hearts and political parties, filled with passionate hatred, stifle the voice of truth and conscience to find a favorable opportunity for a crime they have already decided on.  But we want to flee from such purpose as from the plague.  We would rather suffer and die with the Lord than live and rule without him or against him.

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