And they answering said, John the Baptist; but others say, Elijah; and others, that one of the old prophets is risen again.Luke 9:19 ASV
Significantly, the multitudes were no longer suggesting that Jesus was the Christ, due to the vicious and unrelenting campaign of the religious hierarchy against the Lord.
At the very beginning of his ministry, John the Baptist had announced Jesus as “the Lamb of God that taketh away the sin of the world,” and, at first, Jesus was widely hailed as the Messiah, as fully detailed in the early chapters of John.
However, having determined that Jesus was not the type of Messiah they wanted, the priestly leaders of the people exhausted their resources of cunning and deceit in an all-out campaign to convince the people that Jesus was not the Christ.
Here is a summary of their charges:
- They said Jesus was a glutton (Matthew 11:18,19).
- They said he was a winebibber (Matthew 11:18,19).
- They said he cast out demons by the prince of demons (Matthew 9:34).
- They called him Beelzebul (Matthew 10:25).
- They called him a sinner (John 9:24).
- They said he had a demon (John 7:20).
- They said he violated the sabbath (Matthew 12:2).
- They said he was a Samaritan (John 8:48).
- They referred to him as a deceiver (Matthew 27:63).
- They accused him of friendship with publicans and sinners (Luke 15:2).
- They said that no prophet could come out of Galilee (John 7:52).
- They accused him of leading the multitude astray (John 7:12).
- They said that since Elijah had not risen from the dead, it was impossible for Jesus to be the Christ (Mark 9:11).
- They said he had an unclean spirit (Mark 3:30).
- They said, “He is beside himself’ (Mark 3:21).
- They said he transgressed the tradition of the elders (Matthew 15:2).
- They said, “This man is not from God” (John 9:16).
- They said he forbade to give tribute to Caesar (Luke 23:2).
- They said that he made himself a king (Luke 23:2).
- They said he was an evildoer (John 18:30).
- They said that Jesus claimed he would destroy the temple of God and build it in three days (Matthew 26:61).
The men who indulged in this malignant crusade against the Lord of Life were the exalted rulers of the people, led by the high priest of the chosen people.
They were the learned, the wealthy, the well-favored, the intellectual aristocracy, the accepted interpreters of sacred law. Moreover, their crusade was pressed forward with all the cunning, deceit, and vituperation that could be mustered.
The marvel of ages is that in the face of such a hellish blast of opposition the people still clung to the conviction that Jesus was someone sacred, no living person being worthy of comparison with him, and that he must be Elijah, Jeremiah, or John the Baptist risen from the dead!
Nor can it be any wonder that, in view of such vicious slanders, the conviction that Jesus was the Christ had been somewhat eroded in the popular mind. The evil campaign of the leaders of Israel had, in that degree, succeeded for the moment.