Tag Archives: Pharisees

THE GOSPEL OF MARK – GUILTY AS CHARGED!

GUILTY AS CHARGED!

13 Later they sent some of the Pharisees and Herodians to Jesus to catch him in his words. 14 They came to him and said, “Teacher, we know that you are a man of integrity. You aren’t swayed by others, because you pay no attention to who they are; but you teach the way of God in accordance with the truth. Is it right to pay the imperial tax to Caesar or not? 15 Should we pay or shouldn’t we?”
But Jesus knew their hypocrisy. “Why are you trying to trap me?” he asked. “Bring me a denarius and let me look at it.” 16 They brought the coin, and he asked them, “Whose image is this? And whose inscription?”
“Caesar’s,” they replied.
17 Then Jesus said to them, “Give back to Caesar what is Caesar’s and to God what is God’s.”
And they were amazed at him. Mark 12:13-17

The religious leaders were so intimidated by Jesus that they had fled the scene for fear of more exposure and more egg on their faces. Now they used their supporters and even supporters of their enemy (Herod) to do their dirty work for them. They were out to trap Jesus into incriminating Himself by His own words, but they should have known better. Not even their flattering prologue fooled Him. He knew exactly who they were and why they were questioning Him.

These men should have been warned before they ever posed their question. They were the ones who would be made to look like fools, but they ploughed on anyway. One wonders what their body language and tone of voice was like when they began their hypocritical and rehearsed speech. Their sarcastic words were actually bull’s-eye truth if they had only spoken them with sincerity. Was their little preamble intended to nail Him to an honest answer? They didn’t need to do that because there was no danger of Jesus ever being devious or deceitful.

Their question was loaded. Answering either way would have put him into a dangerous position. Pay taxes – He was siding with Rome and that would have angered the Jews. Don’t pay taxes – that was treasonable and would have got Rome’s attention. Once again Jesus was sharp and accurate – His spiritual vision 20/20. He used a Roman coin as a visual aid. The coin represented the inescapable world system in which they lived. As part of that system, they were obliged to participate in it and God Himself sanctioned that.

But there was also another kingdom which Jesus represented and, whether they liked it or not, everyone was also part of that kingdom, either willingly or living in rebellion. Everyone is subject to God’s rule and will eventually be judged by the way he/she responded to that rule. This was not an either/or situation but both/and. The very obedience in paying taxes to Caesar fell into the greater submission to the kingdom of God.

With His own return question which, by the way, was a clever way of making His opponents think, Jesus hit them right on the nose. Of course is was right to pay taxes to Caesar, There was no question about it and rebelling against it was, from God’s perspective, disobedience to His rule but… what about giving to God was belonged to Him? There was the glaring omission on the part of the religious leaders, and they were trapped. Guilty as charged!

However, no amount of truth would bring His opponents to their knees. Jesus was hammering the nails deeper and deeper into His own coffin…and He knew it!

THE GOSPEL OF MARK – READ DEEPER…

READ DEEPER…

14 The disciples had forgotten to bring bread, except for one loaf they had with them in the boat. 15 “Be careful,” Jesus warned them. “Watch out for the yeast of the Pharisees and that of Herod.”
16 They discussed this with one another and said, “It is because we have no bread.”

17 Aware of their discussion, Jesus asked them: “Why are you talking about having no bread? Do you still not see or understand? Are your hearts hardened? 18 Do you have eyes but fail to see, and ears but fail to hear? And don’t you remember? 19 When I broke the five loaves for the five thousand, how many basketfuls of pieces did you pick up?”
“Twelve,” they replied.
20 “And when I broke the seven loaves for the four thousand, how many basketfuls of pieces did you pick up?”
They answered, “Seven.”
21 He said to them, “Do you still not understand?” Mark 8:14-21

Jesus’ mind was obviously preoccupied with His recent encounter with the Pharisees. What was the influence of their constant criticism for not adhering to the minutiae of their religious system? In a culture where all of life revolved around the Torah and its protective laws, the disciples were probably soaked in this way of thinking. Perhaps, because most of them came from Galilee, which had close ties with the Gentile world, they were not as heavily influenced by Pharisaic thinking and behaviour as those who came from Judea.

Jesus issued a stern warning to them all to be careful of the Pharisees’ influence. It was as subtle and all-pervading as yeast in a lump of dough. Although the disciples had neglected to bring enough bread for the day, He was not concerned about their lunch, or lack of it. He had a far greater concern for their hearts and for the danger of judging people by their own artificial standards of righteousness.

Once again, this incident reveals the contrast between the thinking of Jesus and the thinking of His disciples. The disciples were preoccupied with their immediate need while Jesus was concerned about their hearts and where they were in their understanding and attitude to the kingdom of God. They thought Jesus’ comment was a rebuke because of their thoughtlessness. They focussed on the physical – on bread.

Jesus was annoyed with them. His rebuke was not about their neglect but about their inability to understand the lessons they were supposed to learn from His dealings with people. The fact that the Father was capable of taking care of their needs went unnoticed. Not once but twice Jesus had provided food for thousands from a tiny supply because God cared that they were hungry. He could do it again for them if they needed help, in spite of their forgetfulness. Jesus was teaching them to read deeper into their experiences for the real meaning of life.

THE GOSPEL OF MARK – LIKE A PLAGUE OF RATS!

LIKE A PLAGUE OF RATS!

11 The Pharisees came and began to question Jesus. To test him, they asked him for a sign from heaven. 12 He sighed deeply and said, “Why does this generation ask for a sign? Truly I tell you, no sign will be given to it.” 13 Then he left them, got back into the boat and crossed to the other side. Mark 8:11-13

The Pharisees were everywhere, it seems. Like a plague of rats, they appeared wherever Jesus went, badgering Him over every issue they could think of. This time it was about signs. They were demanding a miraculous sign to confirm His claims.

Jesus was angry with them. If they chose to believe, He had given them more than enough proof of His identity. If only they had eyes to see and ears to hear, they would have seen a perfect replica of the Messianic fingerprint all over the Old Testament. They were not convinced and they would never be convinced because it all boiled down to what they wanted. Their attention was on the politics of their nation rather than on the real kingdom of God, the one inside them to which Jesus called them to give their allegiance.

Since the Jews believed that their hearts were intrinsically good and that TESHUVAH and TEPHILAH meant coming back to what He originally created them to be, then it is understandable that Jesus would remind them that the kingdom of God was within them…

Jesus also knew that no matter how many miraculous signs He did, nothing would convince them of His true identity because they had no desire to change and submit themselves to His lordship. They enjoyed their position of authority and admiration in the nation and they were not prepared to forfeit that for a position of humble servant-hood. They were far too fond of the praise of men to forfeit it to follow Jesus.

Every message, every miracle was a sign, if only they had a heart to see and hear. As we read the gospels, we can see more and more that Jesus’ miracles were not stunts but signs of His identity and His intention. Whatever He said and did reflected on the Father. He was the perfect replica of the Father and His purpose was to reconcile His people to the Father so that they, in turn, would reflect the Father to the world.

With their hearts so full of rot, is it any wonder that they would rather kill Jesus than hear the truth. Jesus” diagnosis of the human heart was spot one. “People love darkness rather than light because their deeds are evil.” How tragic that the solution is so simple, and yet people run from Him instead of to Him. He has mercy for everyone who repents, but only judgment for those who reject His offer of mercy.

THE GOSPEL OF LUKE – WHAT’S BEHIND THE APPEARANCE?

WHAT’S BEHIND THE APPEARANCE?

“When the Pharisees, a money-obsessed bunch, heard Him say these things, they rolled their eyes, dismissing Him as hopelessly out of touch. So Jesus spoke to them, ‘You are masters at making yourselves look good in front of others but God knows what’s behind the appearance.'” Luke 16:14, 15.

What a powerful hold deception has over people’s minds! It is Satan’s potent and elusive weapon, blinding us to the most simple and obvious truths. If we would just stop and think logically for a moment, we would recognise how easily we have been duped.

In this case, the Pharisees, who loved money and power and paid any price to get it, made two serious errors; they thought that by outwardly acting holy, they could cover up their greedy hearts, and secondly, they thought that they could fool God. Had they only stopped to think, they would have realised how wrong they were.

Jesus’ words should have brought them back to reality with a bump, but it only drove them deeper into their hardened attitude. That’s the other part of Satan’s arsenal that is so difficult to overcome. He trades on human pride to keep his deception in place. Once a person has made his erroneous beliefs public by acting on them, he will not easily back down and admit that he is wrong.

This stubborn attitude disqualifies a person from access to the kingdom of God. Truth and humility are the two requirements for understanding and entering into the realm of God’s rule. They are like the guiding lights that must be lined up to give a ship safe entry into the harbour. Truth displaces the lies that cause us to veer off course, and humility softens our hearts to believe and receive the truth.

Jesus gave us clear directions for getting free from the lies that ensnare us and drive us into misery, pain and loss, “To the Jews who believed Him, Jesus said, ‘If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.'” John 8:32 (NIV). The truth in and of itself cannot set us free. It must first be believed and internalised to become effective in breaking the bondage of deception.

There is a process in moving from deception to truth. Sometimes it happens is a blinding flash of understanding and at other times it follows a period of careful investigation and growing conviction.

For the disciples, barring Judas Iscariot, it was a combination of the two. They followed, watched and listened to Jesus for three years and then came His death and resurrection. His appearance to them was the last piece of the puzzle. From that moment, nothing could budge them from the truth that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the Living God. Until then, they still wobbled and tottered in their faith, but the presence of the risen Jesus cancelled all their doubts and misunderstandings.

This is the moment of revelation and transformation. It happened to the Apostle Paul on the road to Damascus; it has happened to millions of people across two thousand years but it never happened to the Pharisees because they refused to examine the evidence. They chose lies over truth and became part of the tragedy of those who never fulfil their God-given potential.

If you examine the evidence with a humble desire to know the truth, there will come for you the dazzling moment of conviction and the life-changing experience of faith, giving you entry and access into the realm of God’s passionate love and unfailing goodness. All His resources will be yours; you will find the meaning and purpose of your existence, and your eternal future will be secure, based on the infallible truth of God’s word.

But is all comes back to the same thing. You choose….

THE GOSPEL OF LUKE – GREATER THAN JOHN

GREATER THAN JOHN

“‘Let me lay it out for you as plainly as I can: No one in history surpasses John the Baptiser, but in the kingdom he prepared for you, the lowliest person is ahead of him. The ordinary and disreputable people who heard John, by being baptised by him into the kingdom, are the clearest evidence; the Pharisees and religious officials have nothing to do with such baptism, wouldn’t think of giving up their place in line to their inferiors.” Luke 7:28-30.

What on earth was Jesus talking about? John the Baptist the greatest and yet the least? It doesn’t make sense, does it?

According to Jesus, John was the greatest of the Old Testament prophets, not because of the length of his ministry but because of its importance. All the other prophets, so said Peter, “…Who spoke of the grace that was to come to you, searched intently and with the greatest care, trying to find out the time and circumstances to which the Spirit of Christ in them was pointing when He predicted the sufferings of the Messiah and the glories that would follow.” 1 Peter 1:10b, 11 (NIV), spoke of events that were still far off in the future.

It was John who was privileged to announce and introduce the Messiah to his people, and yet he himself did not witness His ministry or hear His preaching. As soon as Jesus appeared on the scene, he was removed by Herod into a dungeon from which he was never released. He had stood on the brink of the era of the New Covenant but never experienced it for himself.

It must have been very frustrating for John to have been so near and yet so far. Perhaps he had longed to be a part of what Jesus was doing, to be more than his forerunner, even a prominent member of His band of disciples. But it was not to be. John’s work was done, short though it had been, and Jesus graciously acknowledged the value and importance of what he had done.

But, at the same time, He did not overplay John’s role. He was the greatest of the Old Testament prophets but the least in the kingdom Jesus had come to inaugurate. Why?  Because, through Jesus, people could enter and experience what he could only announce.

When the Holy Spirit came in His fullness to continue the work of Jesus, He would take up residence within every believer, making everyone who embraced Jesus as the Son of God and His teaching as His yoke, His dwelling place. It was no longer the privileged few who experienced the presence of the Holy Spirit with them; but all who believed would have Him in them, even the lowliest in man’s eyes.

The high-and-mighty religious ones who thought they were in, were actually out, while the ones they regarded as of no consequence, occupied a more privileged position than they. That’s how it is in God’s kingdom — the world’s value system is reversed. The places of highest honour are reserved for the ones who least expect it. If you think you are important, you are not!

John’s baptism was received by those who welcomed his message and identified with the one he was introducing. Of course, the religious leaders, who thought they knew better, refused to be a part of it. They would not participate in anything that attracted the riff-raff. How tragic that their proud, know-it-all attitude excluded them from the greatest moment in their history and their own personal lives!

What about us? How much have we missed of the grace of Jesus because we think we know better, or because we refuse to humble ourselves and change the way we think. Jesus’ way is open to all, but there are many who miss it because it demands our shedding all our preconceived notions about how it should be.

He said, ‘Follow me.’ That’s all! Are you following? If you are, you will be part of the many who are greater than John the Baptist.