“They went each to his own house, but Jesus went to the Mount of Olives.” (John 7:53-8:1).
As indicated yesterday, the Feast of the Tabernacles came to its conclusion. So too, for the time being anyway, did the Sadducees and Pharisees conclude their efforts to arrest Jesus. Today’s text refers to the religious leaders going back to their respective homes. You get the impression that they went to their homes thinking that tomorrow was another day in which to plot and plan anew their intent to arrest and kill Jesus. As we will witness in John 8:1-11, it would not take them long.
Jesus, however, went to the Mount of Olives. We may observe a contrast concerning Jesus and the religious leaders.
First, they went to their respective homes. Jesus went to the Mount of Olives. He had no physical home or house in which to spend the night.
Second, it can be speculated that the religious leaders spent the night plotting their next effort to trap Jesus in order to arrest Him. John 8:2-11 will support this conclusion. In contrast, Jesus went to the Mount of Olives presumably to pray. Luke 21:37-38 indicates that this was His common practice.
Dr. John Walvoord explains that, “It might have been the Lord’s ordinary custom from the beginning to leave the brilliant misery of the city every night, that so He might compose His sorrowful and interceding heart, and collect His energies for new labors of love; preferring for His resting-place Bethany, and the Mount of Olives, the scene thus consecrated by many preparatory prayers for His final humiliation and exaltation.”
Today’s text may also be a contrast between the false shepherds of Israel, the Sadducees and Pharisees, and the Good Shepherd, Jesus Christ. Why were people who were so religious at the same so intent on destroying the very One who was the fulfillment of their religion? The Prophet Ezekiel shares the possible answer in Ezekiel 34:1-11.
The word of the LORD came to me: “Son of man, prophesy against the shepherds of Israel; prophesy, and say to them, even to the shepherds, Thus says the Lord GOD: Ah, shepherds of Israel who have been feeding yourselves! Should not shepherds feed the sheep? You eat the fat, you clothe yourselves with the wool, you slaughter the fat ones, but you do not feed the sheep. The weak you have not strengthened, the sick you have not healed, the injured you have not bound up, the strayed you have not brought back, the lost you have not sought, and with force and harshness you have ruled them. So they were scattered, because there was no shepherd, and they became food for all the wild beasts. My sheep were scattered; they wandered over all the mountains and on every high hill. My sheep were scattered over all the face of the earth, with none to search or seek for them. “Therefore, you shepherds, hear the word of the LORD: As I live, declares the Lord GOD, surely because my sheep have become a prey, and my sheep have become food for all the wild beasts, since there was no shepherd, and because my shepherds have not searched for my sheep, but the shepherds have fed themselves, and have not fed my sheep, therefore, you shepherds, hear the word of the LORD: Thus says the Lord GOD, Behold, I am against the shepherds, and I will require my sheep at their hand and put a stop to their feeding the sheep. No longer shall the shepherds feed themselves. I will rescue my sheep from their mouths, that they may not be food for them. “For thus says the Lord GOD: Behold, I, I myself will search for my sheep and will seek them out.”
The LORD’s stinging rebuke of Israel’s kings through the prophet may also be applied to Israel’s religious leaders during Jesus’ days of ministry. The Sadducees and Pharisees true identity as false shepherds is in contrast to Jesus’ true identity as the Good Shepherd (John 10:11-16). Their desire to kill Him is in contrast with Jesus’ desire to die on behalf of sinners like them.
Jesus gave His own warning against false shepherds. In Matthew 7:15-20. He said, “Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves. You will recognize them by their fruits. Are grapes gathered from thorn bushes, or figs from thistles? So, every healthy tree bears good fruit, but the diseased tree bears bad fruit. A healthy tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a diseased tree bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Thus you will recognize them by their fruits.”
What was true in Ezekiel’s and Jesus’ day remains so in our own. There are many so-called spiritual leaders who are in reality false shepherds. They are only interested in preying upon believers in Christ, instead of praying for them. They are only interested in feeding themselves instead of feeding the flock of God’s people. Jesus said we will know them by their fruits.
Pray for and encourage pastors and religious leaders who are truly doing the work God has called them to do.
Soli deo Gloria!