Jesus Takes On The Pharisees

Jesus Takes On The Pharisees: Seeing is believing. Well, not necessarily. We live in a world of misinformation, propaganda and truth is considered relative or meaningless. We live in a divided society, with a political chasm that is greater than anything we have ever seen.

It’s a zero sum game. One side has to win, at any cost.

I share this only because the truth often gets lost in the shuffle. A person can do a good job, yet be considered a complete failure. The common good is replaced by self-interest. But take heart, we’ve been dealing with this for a long time. Jesus had His fill of it 2000 years ago.

Most Pharisees despised Jesus

When Jesus was becoming well-known, and reports of His miracles circulated, the Pharisees and the Jewish ruling elite became increasingly annoyed. The Pharisees became very tired of hearing or even seeing these events take place.

The Jewish law prohibited any work on the Sabbath, but Jesus routinely healed people on those days, sometimes in full view of the Pharisees. It was quite intentional. That was a no no in Jewish culture.

When Jesus revealed His true identity as the Messiah, He was quickly rebuked and rejected by the Pharisees. One of the major points the Pharisees made was that Jesus was from Nazareth and that no prophet could come from that town.

In truth, Jesus was from Bethlehem, the place where David was born and the place from which the Messiah would come. Jesus just happened to live in Nazareth, where He grew up. The Pharisees used this lie to discredit Jesus.

Pharisees did not love God

The Pharisees were an arrogant group, lording over people, holding themselves in very high esteem. But it was all for show and Jesus went to specific lengths to point that out in no uncertain terms.

Jesus got right to the point asserting that the Pharisees taught ABOUT God, but did not love God. The law was their weapon of choice to keep people in line. They preyed on widows, taking their assets while pretending to be devoted men of God.

They talked about God, but did not share the love of God or teach about the true nature and character of God. In doing so, they guided people away from the truth in favor of a meaningless religion.

Jesus took on the Pharisees directly

In Matthew’s gospel, Jesus says “Woe to you” seven times in direct conflict with the Pharisees. He pulls no punches and it is a side of the Messiah that people seldom talk about. His remarks to the Pharisees are fueled by righteous indignation. He is angry, yet he speaks the truth without losing His temper or committing sin. Jesus does not lie or over state. He tells them the truth.

13 “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You shut the kingdom of heaven in men’s faces. You yourselves do not enter, nor will you let those enter who are trying to.

15 “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You travel over land and sea to win a single convert, and when he becomes one, you make him twice as much a son of hell as you are.

16 “Woe to you, blind guides! You say, ‘If anyone swears by the temple, it means nothing; but if anyone swears by the gold of the temple, he is bound by his oath.’ 17 You blind fools! Which is greater: the gold, or the temple that makes the gold sacred? 18 You also say, ‘If anyone swears by the altar, it means nothing; but if anyone swears by the gift on it, he is bound by his oath.’

19 You blind men! Which is greater: the gift, or the altar that makes the gift sacred? 20 Therefore, he who swears by the altar swears by it and by everything on it. 21 And he who swears by the temple swears by it and by the one who dwells in it. 22 And he who swears by heaven swears by God’s throne and by the one who sits on it.

23 “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You give a tenth of your spices — mint, dill and cumin. But you have neglected the more important matters of the law — justice, mercy and faithfulness. You should have practiced the latter, without neglecting the former. 24 You blind guides! You strain out a gnat but swallow a camel.

25 “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You clean the outside of the cup and dish, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence. 26 Blind Pharisee! First clean the inside of the cup and dish, and then the outside also will be clean.

27 “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You are like whitewashed tombs, which look beautiful on the outside but on the inside are full of dead men’s bones and everything unclean. 28 In the same way, on the outside you appear to people as righteous but on the inside you are full of hypocrisy and wickedness.

29 “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You build tombs for the prophets and decorate the graves of the righteous. 30 And you say, ‘If we had lived in the days of our forefathers, we would not have taken part with them in shedding the blood of the prophets.’

31 So you testify against yourselves that you are the descendants of those who murdered the prophets. 32 Fill up, then, the measure of the sin of your forefathers

Luke added his own list of “woes”

42 “Woe to you Pharisees, because you give God a tenth of your mint, rue and all other kinds of garden herbs, but you neglect justice and the love of God. You should have practiced the latter without leaving the former undone.

43 “Woe to you Pharisees, because you love the most important seats in the synagogues and greetings in the marketplaces.

44 “Woe to you, because you are like unmarked graves, which men walk over without knowing it.”

45 One of the experts in the law answered him, “Teacher, when you say these things, you insult us also.”

46 Jesus replied, “And you experts in the law, woe to you, because you load people down with burdens they can hardly carry, and you yourselves will not lift one finger to help them.

47 “Woe to you, because you build tombs for the prophets, and it was your forefathers who killed them. 48 So you testify that you approve of what your forefathers did; they killed the prophets, and you build their tombs. 49 Because of this, God in his wisdom said, ‘I will send them prophets and apostles, some of whom they will kill and others they will persecute.’

50 Therefore this generation will be held responsible for the blood of all the prophets that has been shed since the beginning of the world, 51 from the blood of Abel to the blood of Zechariah, who was killed between the altar and the sanctuary. Yes, I tell you, this generation will be held responsible for it all.

52 “Woe to you experts in the law, because you have taken away the key to knowledge. You yourselves have not entered, and you have hindered those who were entering.” Matt 23:13-32

Very little has changed

Consider our own present day attitudes about life and truth. Rarely does a politician speak truth to power, especially if he/she is in the majority party. With them it is party before everything else.

With the Pharisees it was power and status before the simplest needs of everyday people. It’s sad, but it’s true. Nothing much changes.