After three days they found him in the temple courts, sitting among the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions. 47 Everyone who heard him was amazed at his understanding and his answers. (NIV)
I have always wondered if some of these teachers that Christ was listening to and learning from would later be of the same group that Jesus referred to as a ‘brood of vipers.’ I suppose it is possible. These men did know a great deal about the law. Later, during Jesus’ ministry, he told the people to follow their teachings which would certainly suggest that what they were teaching was correct even though they were living what they were preaching.
Then Jesus said to the crowds and to his disciples: 2 “The teachers of the law and the Pharisees sit in Moses’ seat. 3 So you must be careful to do everything they tell you. But do not do what they do, for they do not practice what they preach.
Jesus called them out for being whitewashed tombs, being clean on the outside but dead on the inside. Yet, it is very possible that those he learned from he later rebuked. Some of the religious leaders though became disciples of Christ. Nicodemus went to Jesus under the cover of night confessing that he and others knew that Jesus had come from God. And what happened after the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Many of the religious leaders who were Pharisees also became believers.
Then some of the believers who belonged to the party of the Pharisees stood up and said, “The Gentiles must be circumcised and required to keep the law of Moses.”
I guess we could say that it is a wonderful thing that some of this same group responsible for the death of Christ and the persecution of Christians eventually see the light. But even as we learn that they are now believers after the resurrection of Christ, they are arguing that Gentile Christians must be circumcised and required to keep the law of Moses. They taught the right stuff before but they weren’t living it and they rejected Christ. But then those who had been opposed became sincere followers. Yet, now after they are believers, they are teaching something that is wrong. When they hated Jesus, they taught the right stuff. When they followed Jesus, they were teaching the wrong stuff. What a mess!!
There is a Scripture that I think applies here and I just love this passage. Here it is:
Where there are no oxen, the manger is empty,
but from the strength of an ox come abundant harvests.
This passage speaks to the messiness of Christianity’s forward development and progression. As the belief system of those who put their faith in Jesus Christ moved forward to new people, new cultures, and against all odds, it was messy. When there are no oxen, there’s no poop in the stable. But we need oxen to do the work of the harvest and if we are going to have oxen, we are going to have poop. Ha! We are mere men and women attempting to teach something that is beyond our ability, beyond our intellect, beyond our comprehension. We attempt to use finite words and wisdom to explain the Infinite Spirit God who is not limited in any way. This is why the Bible refers to preaching as the ‘foolishness of preaching.’ True, how can someone be saved unless they hear the Gospel and how can they hear unless someone is preaching. This is what the Bible teaches-we need preachers and teachers. Yet, the Bible also says that these same preachers and teachers are going to get a lot wrong at times. We have confidence knowing the Holy Spirit will prevail, but what a mess! As a preacher, I don’t know if I am more offended to say that I am an ox, a fool, or one that leaves poop in the stable. Nevertheless, I acknowledge that Christianity is messy, yet it continues to forcefully advance on.
Conceding the mess of Christianity does not mean we should simply be happy to dance in the poop. We must listen to our teachers and adhere what our preachers preach, but we must also study what they have taught and ask the Holy Spirit to help us to know what is true and what is a little bit off. I am not talking about false teachers, but those who may desire to please God, but their understanding is incomplete as well just like these Pharisees who were believers, but were still confused about how the law of Moses fit into the law of Spirit and life. Clearly, even with sincere teachers and preachers like myself, as we work to advance the Gospel of Jesus Christ, we will leave messes. But don’t be content with the mess. Study to stay out of it. Study to avoid it. Study to help others avoid it. Don’t dance in the poop.