Hello everybody, and welcome in to episode 127 of the Bible 2021 podcast. We are reading Matthew 23 today and our focus is on why Jesus was so opposed to the Pharisees – and why did they hate him? We are a daily 10 minute podcast, EXCEPT FOR YESTERDAY – sorry about that! where we will dig in to the truth of the Word of God by reading one Bible chapter a day and discussing it. Welcome to new listeners in , . Thanks for listening! Our goal is to encourage DAILY Bible reading, so you can jump in at any time and join with us. We want to invite as many people as possible to join us in daily Bible reading, so help spread the word and share the podcast Don’t forget about our web-page, Bible2021.com – contact page, show notes, transcript and more– Click here for our Bible 2021 reading plan\
Great comment on yesterday’s pod from WWH:
Atone (atonement), if we can pardon a pun, makes us “at one” with One whom we have wronged. We are then Justified (Just-if-I’d never sinned).
Before we dive into those scoundrel Pharisees, let’s talk about titles for a moment. Certain corners of Christendom seem quite interested in titles. Father, apostle, pope, bishop, pastor, arch-deacon, etc. It seems that Jesus strongly warns us against such things in today’s passage:
8 “But you are not to be called ‘Rabbi,’ because you have one Teacher, and you are all brothers and sisters.9 Do not call anyone on earth your father, because you have one Father, who is in heaven.10 You are not to be called instructors either, because you have one Instructor, the Messiah.11 The greatest among you will be your servant.12 Whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted. Matthew 23:8-11
I’m not really sure how that can be anything but clear. There is not a clergy/laity dividing line found in Scripture, and the Bible, and Jesus in particular, does not make a big deal about titles – even warning us against their use. Apparently, in this context, it has a lot to do with humility – there seems to be a great danger in affixing a high and lofty title to your self.
Speaking of titles, today our focus is on the scribes, Pharisees and religious leaders of the people of Israel during the days of Jesus – we’ll mainly focus on the Pharisees today, but do know that there were other factions of Judaism active in time of Jesus, including Sadducees, Essenes, and others. Other than scribes, you won’t find these groups in the Old Testament. the Pharisees themselves had their origin around 160-170 years before the time of Jesus, and they folded as an ongoing group roughly 35 years after His death, with the Sadducees and Essenes having very similar time lines.
As we’ve mentioned before, the Pharisees were not 100 % bad in the Bible (but one does struggle to find good things about the Sadducees in the Bible.) Apparently a fair amount of Pharisees became believers in Jesus at some point, as we see in Acts, “But some of the believers who belonged to the party of the Pharisees stood up and said, “It is necessary to circumcise them and to command them to keep the law of Moses.”” (Acts 15:5) These Pharisees were on the wrong side of things in this dispute, but they did follow Jesus. As well, Paul/Saul – when he was a bad guy – was a Pharisee, and Gamaliel, who spared the life of John and Peter, was also a Pharisee. They were the conservative faction of the religious leaders at the time – probably over-conservative in a lot of ways – adding to the commands of Scripture, and going beyond what was written. The Sadducees were probably the liberal party, at least in a theological sense, not believing in an afterlife or angels and spirits, despite the Old Testament testifying to all of those being a reality.
Interestingly, the first major leader in the Bible to have an issue with the Pharisees and Sadducees was not Jesus, but John the Baptist:
When he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees coming to his baptism, he said to them, “Brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the coming wrath? Matthew 3:7
What was so bad about these leaders? Let’s read out passage and find out!
7 times Jesus castigates the Pharisees for their hypocrisy – their acting as if they were holy men, but being like painted and decorated houses of the dead – pretty on the outside, and utterly dead on the inside. Twice Jesus calls the Pharisees snakes – just like John the Baptist did. Why? Because they would kill God’s messengers who endeavored to call them to repentance. FIVE times Jesus calls the Pharisees blind. Why? Because they cared and were meticulous about tiny details, but neglected the great commands of God – especially in regards to justice and mercy. I’ve mentioned it before, probably last year, but one of the most powerful media clips I’ve ever seen comes from the Visual Bible’s dramatization of Matthew 23 – which is word for word from the Bible. You should watch it, because I think the actor playing Jesus accurately captures the passion, anger, and heartbreak that we see Jesus portraying in Matthew 23:
We see clearly here in Matthew 23 what Jesus had against the Pharisees. What did they have against Him? Here’s John “Amazing Grace” Newton to help us understand:
They “despised him” for what they accounted the meanness of his appearance. Though rich in himself, he became poor for our sakes, and his poverty made him contemptible in their eyes. They expected MESSIAH would appear with external pomp and power. But when they saw him, they scorned him, saying, “Is not this the carpenter’s son?”…Their contempt was heightened, when this poor man publicly asserted his proper character and claim, demanded their attention and homage, and styled himself in a peculiar sense “the Son of God,”
They objected to him the low state and former characters of his followers. Some of them were of low rank in life. The most of those who constantly attended him were poor fishermen. Others had been of bad repute, publicans, and open sinners. For this they reproached him, and thought they were fully justified in their contempt, while they could say, “Have any of the rulers or Pharisees believed on him? They were farther exasperated against him, by the “authority” and severity with which he taught. It is true, he was gentle and meek to all who felt their need of his help, or sincerely desired his instruction. He received them without exception, and treated them with the greatest tenderness. But he vindicated the honour of the law of God, from the corrupt doctrine and traditions of their professed teachers. He exposed and unmasked the hypocrisy of their most admired characters; and compared the men who were in the highest reputation for wisdom and sanctity, to whited sepulchres, warning the people against them as blind guides and deceivers…
John Newton and Richard Cecil, The Works of John Newton, vol. 4 (London: Hamilton, Adams & Co., 1824), 202.
Bible Memory verses for the month of May: Matthew 28:18-20 18 Jesus came near and said to them, “All authority has been given to me in heaven and on earth.19 Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,20 teaching them to observe everything I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”
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