Before we are quick to look down on the Jewish leaders we should stop to think about why this story is important enough to be in the Bible. It is important that it is in there because we are made of the same stuff and will fall into the same traps if left to ourselves.
Jesus is the only one who has demonstrated the ability and the authority to fulfill all three of these offices in combination in one person.
The point is that all his religious accomplishment was not able to produce anything of ultimate value. When he came face-to-face with Christ Jesus, he understood that all his achievements totaled up to a pile of rubbish, trash, waste. He is forgetting what lies behind because it is of no value.
I find that there is in me a stubborn and deep seated resistance to the application of the Gospel. In brief, I have the desire to work hard enough and be perfect enough to not need grace. I want to be above criticism.
The first observation that I need to make is that there is mystery here. We must acknowledge that complete understanding of this is beyond our reach as humans.
I am learning to trust that God can use my choices, even the faulty ones, to bring me to the place he wants me to be. Like a GPS that recalculated the route when I miss a turn, God can bring about his plan without my full understanding or cooperation.
If one or more of the leaders is using ungodly means to implement his vision, I struggle to see how the church could be healthy.
In the last few months, I have been reading about the first Ecumenical Councils of the church in the 4th and 5th Centuries. It was at these councils that the nature of Jesus was clearly defined for all of Christendom. Many of the misunderstandings about Jesus that survive today were addressed by these councils.
But Jesus is the wild card that makes everything possible. The point (or at least one point) of this story is that no-one is beyond hope. No-one should be written off as no longer able to be changed. No-one.
The question I have to ask myself is this, “if John the Baptist, arguably the greatest prophet sent before Christ, experienced doubt and confusion, why would I assume that I should be exempt?”