To give someone “Glory” can be defined this way: it is giving public recognition, honor, and praise for who someone is (their magnificence and/or beauty) and what they have done. I was reading a book recently which explained that the pursuit of glory by different monarchs was one of the primary reasons for the national wars in the 17th and early 18th centuries. They wanted to receive praise and honor for who they were and what they had done. I couldn’t help but think of the religious leaders of the nation of Israel in Jesus’ day. Ultimately, they refused to give the Son of God the glory He deserved and crucified Him on a cross.
A key passage in the ministry of Jesus is Matthew chapter 12. In this chapter, the religious leaders’ rejection of Jesus is shown in their refusal to give God glory for His miracles in their midst. My goal today is to give you three ways the religious leaders of Israel refused to give Jesus the glory He deserved, and in turn, help you to not do the same. May you give Jesus the glory that He so rightly deserves.
1. Israel’s Religious Leaders Refused to Accept Jesus’ Authority
Matthew 12 is the turning point in Jesus’ ministry as His own people rejected Him as their King and Messiah. Their skepticism increased until they became outright hostile to Him, leading directly to His crucifixion.
One of the primary reasons for their opposition was Jesus exposed their man-made rabbinical traditions as a false religion that was not honoring to God. They had elevated those traditions to the level of scripture and in turn shackled the people so they could not see that the “righteous man shall live by his faith” (Habakkuk 2:4). As Jesus pulled away the veil to expose the hypocrisy of the religious leaders and their worthless religion, they hated Him for it. One of the things they despised most was Jesus’ disregard for their traditions about the Sabbath. This is seen in how they respond to the disciples of Jesus picking grain to eat in Matthew 12:1-7, and then Jesus healing a man with a withered hand in Matthew 12:8-21.
How did the religious leaders respond? Look in Matthew 12:14. “But the Pharisees went out and conspired against Him, as to how they might destroy Him.” They rejected Jesus’ teaching, and more importantly they rejected His authority. Over and over in the gospels we see Jesus performing ministry validating miracles for the people as He called them to repent and believe. Yet, how did the leaders respond to these miracles? They attributed the miraculous works to Satan. They actually put forth that Jesus was an accomplice to Satan, that he was casting out demons by the power of the prince of demons (Matthew 12:24).
They would not have this man rule over them (Luke 19:14). They would not give Him glory by submitting to His authority.
Accepting to the authority of Jesus Christ means you deny yourself, take up your cross, and follow Him. We glorify Him by submitting to His authority and obeying His commandments.
2. Israel’s Leaders Refused to Believe the Gospel
In Matthew 12:38-42, the religious leaders of Israel come to Jesus and demand a sign from Him. They want Him to prove that He is not of Satan. They have seen the dead raised, the lame walk, the lepers cleansed, and the blind receive sight (Matthew 11:4-5), and yet they ask for another sign. Jesus responds by telling them they will receive no sign, except the sign of Jonah. Jesus repeats this again to the Pharisees in Matthew 16:1-4 and then again in Judea in Luke 11:29-32. Each time the religious leaders ask for a sign, Jesus tells them that the only sign they shall receive is the sign of Jonah.
What is the sign of Jonah? Jonah is a type, or picture of Christ. Just as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the great fish, so the Son of Man would be three days and three nights in the belly of the earth. The sign of Jonah is the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. This is shown more clearly in Jesus’ words in Matthew 12:41-42. Jesus says that the men of Nineveh and the Queen of the South will rise up, and yet “something” greater than they are here. He does not say “someone,” but rather “something.” Jonah preached God’s message of repentance and belief, while Solomon proclaimed the wisdom of God. The “something” which was present before the Pharisees was Jesus’ perfect life, then His sacrificial death, and finally His resurrection. Jesus’ sacrificial death and resurrection bring life to those who believe…this is the gospel (1 Corinthians 15:1-3).
He gave them the most earth-shattering sign that creation has ever seen. After being crucified, He rose from the dead on the third day. Matthew 28:4 says the guards shook for fear of the angel at the tomb. They saw the stone roll away, the appearance of the angel, they felt the earthquake, and heard the message from the angelic host that Jesus had risen from the dead. Matthew 28:11 says the soldiers came and reported what had happened to the chief priests. All the religious leaders, the Sanhedrin, assembled together, and as one they rejected the sign of Jonah and paid the soldiers to lie.
Jesus gave them exactly what they had asked for — one last tremendous sign — and still they would not believe. They rejected Jesus as their Messiah, their King, and their Savior. They refused to believe and glorify God.
3. Israel’s Leaders Refused to Respond to the Truth
Look at Matthew 12:41-42 again. Jesus says that the men of Nineveh (Gentiles) will rise up as witnesses against this generation at the judgment. Why? Because they responded properly to the truth they received from God. All they had was the testimony and preaching of one reluctant prophet. You better believe that the Ninevites glorified God and thanked Him that He brought Jonah out of the great fish after three days and three nights. The Israelites of Jesus’ day had something so much greater. They had the ministry of Jesus. The Son of God was in their midst, calling men to repent of their sins and believe, but they would not. Those of Jesus’ generation who were present during His ministry will be held accountable at the Judgment for the truth they received from God.
Jesus uses another example from the Old Testament when He mentions the Queen of Sheba (another Gentile) in Matthew 12:42. She traveled from the ends of the earth to hear the wisdom of Solomon. In 1 Kings 10:2-3, she asks Solomon all that is in her heart, and he answers all of her questions according to the wisdom given to him. She then praised God for this wisdom and the fact that Israel was so blessed. The Queen of the South will rise up at the Judgment as a witness against this generation because they rejected the truth given to them.
Every man will be held accountable for the truth given him. The natural man cannot fully grasp the truth and rejects it, suppressing it in unrighteousness (Romans 1). Do not be like the Pharisees and reject the truth that God has given you. Give glory to God and respond in repentance and faith. For the believer, to whom much has been given, much will be required (Luke 12:48). “If you love me, you will keep my commandments” (John 14:15).
I pray that you would give Jesus the glory He deserves and that you would not act like the Pharisees who rejected Jesus’ Authority, who did not believe the gospel, and who rejected the truth.
“Worthy is the Lamb that was slain to receive power and riches and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing.”
And every created thing which is in heaven and on the earth and under the earth and on the sea, and all things in them, I heard saying, “To Him who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb, be blessing and honor and glory and dominion forever and ever” (Revelation 5:12-13).