Jesus also, that he might sanctify the people with his own blood, suffered outside the gate. Therefore, let us go forth to him outside the camp, bearing his reproach. For we have no continuing city here, but we seek one to come.
Select a thought to read by choosing a collection, the month, and then the day:
“Verily, every man at his best state is altogether vanity.”
David, in Psalm 39:5
The observation made above by David can by no means be better illustrated than by considering the conduct and words of those who lived in Jesus’ last days on earth. The light Jesus brought to earth exposed for us the real spiritual condition of man.
In Matthew 16, when Jesus revealed to his disciples that he would be abused and slain when he went to Jerusalem, Peter rebuked Jesus and insisted that he would not allow that to happen to the Lord. But Jesus, in turn, sternly rebuked Peter, saying, “Get behind me, Satan! You are an offense to me. You do not esteem the things that are of God but of man.” Do not these words from Jesus show us that Jesus’ cruel trial and crucifixion were things that were of God?
Shortly after the day of Pentecost, when the saints were threatened by the authorities not to proclaim the good news about Jesus any longer, they gathered to pray for God’s help and encouragement. Part of that prayer is recorded in Acts 4:27-28: “For of a truth, against your holy child Jesus, whom you have anointed, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, and the people of Israel, were gathered together” – but gathered together for what purpose? The answer is in what they prayed to God next: “to do whatsoever your counsel determined before to be done.” What happened to Jesus in Jerusalem was without any question determined by God the Father, who “gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish but have everlasting life.”
Having shown now that it was God’s plan and will that Jesus be whipped, abused, and crucified, let me ask this question? Who was it who most co-operated with God’s plan? What people most helped bring about the will of God concerning the awful sacrifice of His Son? It wasn’t Peter, for as the Scripture from Matthew showed, Peter rebuked Jesus for even suggesting that he would suffer at Jerusalem and promised to rescue the Lord if those men attempted to harm him. It wasn’t James and John, or Jesus’ other followers, for when the time came for Jesus’ suffering, they all “forsook him and fled.”
Who did God find on earth who was willing to carry out His wonderful plan for the salvation of mankind? Who demanded that this bloody plan be carried out by screaming, “Crucify him! Crucify him!”? Who was willing to make sure that Jesus was captured by betraying to the authorities Jesus’ secret place of prayer? Who forced the hesitant Pontius Pilate to execute an innocent man by threatening to report him to Caesar if he let Jesus go free? The only co-operation God could find on earth to do His will concerning His Son was among wicked men. The upright would not do it. There was not a single righteous man on the face of the earth willing to play a part in the sacrifice of God’s Son for the sins of the world. Not one.
These facts demonstrate the absolute vanity of us humans, even in “our best state”. They demonstrate our absolute ignorance of God, and our absolute need of a Savior. The righteous did nothing to carry out the plan for the salvation of men and were so blind to the wisdom and goodness of God that they thought that what happened to Jesus should not have happened. Peter would have killed men in order to prevent Jesus from paying the debt for Peter’s sins. The wicked, however, gladly carried out God’s plan, even though they thought that plan was their own and had no idea that God was using them to do good for mankind, not just harm to Jesus.
Listen to me. Without God’s help, good may seem to be very evil to us, and evil may seem to be very good. None of us within ourselves has the right knowledge of good and evil. “Every man at his best state is altogether vanity”, and nothing indicates how very true that is more than the behavior of the righteous and the wicked in the last days of Jesus. In those last days, the righteous did not want God’s plan to be carried out and were grieved by it because they did not believe that it was God’s plan. But the wicked were eager to carry out God’s plan, believing fully that it was indeed God’s plan. It is impossible for anyone to conceive of a more confused and helpless state for humans to be in than that.