From Joy to Rage: How People in the Bible Reacted to Jesus

Author of Someplace to Be Somebody
From Joy to Rage: How People in the Bible Reacted to Jesus

How do you feel when you think about Jesus? Do you marvel? Are you astonished by Him? Antagonistic? Filled with wonder and belief? We’re going to look at narratives from the Bible that describe peoples’ reactions to Jesus while He walked on this earth. What did their reactions mean then and what do our reactions say about us today?

John 3:1-21

Many of us know the nighttime account of Jesus’ meeting with the Pharisee, Nicodemus. Coming to see Jesus at night spoke of Nicodemus’ fear of men, yet he reached out to Jesus and addressed Him as Rabbi, acknowledging Jesus as, “a teacher come from God, for no one can do these signs that you do unless God is with Him.”

Jesus’ direct words to the Pharisee stunned him, for He said a person must be born again to see the kingdom of God. Nicodemus reacted in disbelief, and marveled at Jesus’ words. Jesus once again confronted him as a teacher of the law who didn’t understand. Then Jesus told Nicodemus the Father sent Him — His only Son — to save those who believe in Him, and those of disbelief are condemned already.

We read of Nicodemus only once more in Scripture, when he went with Joseph of Arimathea to claim and place Jesus’ body in the tomb. Did he finally believe and reconcile his doubts regarding Jesus with the traditions of the Pharisees? God knows; by His grace we are left with the ultimate truth of the Gospel.

Matthew 21:23-46

Jesus was in Jerusalem for the last week of His first advent. He would soon go to the cross and bear the sins of the world and die. But with all of that looming, Jesus knew on the third day He would be resurrected and ascend to the Father, where He is now. But He had some “business” to do with the Jewish religious leaders before His crucifixion.

Jesus entered the temple and taught. The chief priests and elders came up to Him and questioned His authority. Jesus caught them in their own trap and questioned them about John’s baptism. Since they could not give Him an answer (because they feared men), He denied them an answer about His authority.

Jesus then told the chief priests and elders two parables which exposed their hypocrisy. They knew He spoke of them in His parables, and, “When the chief priests and the Pharisees heard His parables, they perceived that He was speaking about them. And although they were seeking to arrest him, they feared the crowds, because they held him to be a prophet.”

John 18:28-40

Before Jesus’ crucifixion and death, Caiaphas, the Jewish high priest, sent Him to Pontius Pilate, the Roman governor of Judea. Pilate questioned those who brought Jesus and told them to judge Him “by your own law.” The Jews argued, “It is not lawful for us to put anyone to death.”

Pilate then questioned Jesus about His being King of the Jews. Jesus’ answer spurred one of the most profound and leading questions to come out of a natural man. When the Lord told him, “You say that I am a king. For this purpose I was born and for this purpose I have come into the world — to bear witness to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth listens to my voice.” Pilate said to him, “What is truth?”

Here a man stood in the presence of Truth asking Him what truth is. With that, Pilate reported he found no fault in Him and washed his hands of the matter. The riotous crowds called for Jesus’ crucifixion. In exchange Pilate released the notorious prisoner, Barabbas, and handed Jesus over to be scourged and crucified.

John 11

Our Lord Jesus nurtured a close friendship with Lazarus and his sisters Mary and Martha. Many of us know the account of Lazarus’ death. When Jesus first “learned” of Lazarus’ illness, He lingered where He was for a few days and then announced to His disciples they would be going to Bethany in Judea, the home of Lazarus and his sisters. His disciples argued against the decision, “Rabbi, the Jews were just now seeking to stone you, and are you going there again?” Jesus told them Lazarus was dead, and He would “waken him.” When they arrived, Lazarus had been in the tomb four days.

Upon His arrival, Martha ran to meet Jesus and she spoke her faith in Him when she said, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died. But even now I know that whatever you ask from God, God will give you.” She expressed belief in the resurrection “at the last day” but didn’t expect Jesus to raise Lazarus that very day.

Mary, too, ran to Jesus and stated what her sister had, that Jesus would have not let Lazarus die had He been there. Jesus wept at the tomb and the Jews questioned His sovereignty with derision, “Could not He who opened the eyes of the blind man also have kept this man from dying?”

But when Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead, many of the Jews believed in Him. And some other went to the Jewish religious leaders and “from that day on they made plans to put Him to death.”

Mary and Martha, however, clung to the Lord. May we do the same.

The Bible is our authority. In it, God has given us everything we need to live a life of godliness. Because it is written by the Lord Jesus (using men – see 2 Peter 1:21), what He teaches in the words of the Scriptures, He teaches us. Our reactions to Him show whether we believe and surrender to Him or if we hold Him in derision.

Which one are you?

Photo credit: ©Getty Images/artplus

Lisa Baker 1200x1200Lisa Loraine Baker is the multiple award-winning author of Someplace to be Somebody. She writes fiction and nonfiction. In addition to writing for the Salem Web Network, Lisa serves as a Word Weavers’ mentor and is part of a critique group. She also is a member of BRRC. Lisa and her husband, Stephen, a pastor, live in a small Ohio village with their crazy cat, Lewis.