Jesus and the Pharisees
Some of the most dramatic moments depicted in The Chosen are between Jesus and the Pharisees. In the Bible, the Pharisees spent much of their time trying to trap or trick Jesus and prove that He was wrong and that they were right. Jesus regularly condemned the practices and behavior of the Pharisees because they lived hypocritically and went against His teachings. To understand the complexity of Jesus and the Pharisees, it’s important to understand who the Pharisees were, why they disliked Jesus, and why Jesus rejected their practices and lifestyle.
Who Were the Pharisees?
The Pharisees were a religious group within Judaism that was prominent and powerful at the time of Jesus’ mortal ministry. The name Pharisee means separatist in Aramaic, and this particular religious sect practiced strict obedience to the written and oral Judaic traditions. Unlike the Sadducees, the Pharisees believed in the resurrection. Many scholars believe that the Pharisees were often small landowners and traders by profession but dedicated to also being teachers of the law.
The Scribes were a very related religious group that often overlapped with the Pharisees. The Scribes were legal experts with knowledge of the law who could draft contracts and other legal documents. Each village and city had Scribes. Some of these Scribes were also Pharisees, and Pharisees were also known for their legal knowledge. But most Pharisees were primarily experts in the religious oral and written laws and traders by profession.
Why Did the Pharisees Hate Jesus?
Since the Pharisees were highly religious, it seems confusing that they would revile against Jesus, who declared Himself to be the Son of God. The Pharisees regularly sought to trick Jesus with their words, and they even went so far as to try to have Him arrested and killed (John 8 and 10). The Pharisees genuinely seemed to despise Jesus and His teachings, even though they were very familiar with the scriptures and the idea of the Messiah. So why did the Pharisees hate Jesus?
There are a few reasons why scholars think that the Pharisees despised Jesus, but it’s impossible to know for sure exactly why each Pharisee acted the way they did. One reason the Pharisees hated Jesus was because they disliked His success with the people and could have potentially been jealous of it. Where Jesus traveled, masses of people gathered around to hear Him teach and to be healed. The rich, the poor, the strong, and the weak all flocked to hear Jesus teach, which could have made the Pharisees upset. They believed that they were the teachers of what was right religiously, but Jesus swayed many of their followers. In addition, Jesus taught the poor and the sinners—all people the Pharisees considered beneath themselves. Teaching the lowest of the people upset the Pharisees and stoked some of their dislike for Jesus.
Another reason the Pharisees hated Jesus was because He regularly exposed their hypocrisy and inconsistencies. The Pharisees were supposed to set the moral standard for the people—after all, they were teachers and leaders. They were celebrated for their virtue and wisdom. But Jesus consistently showed the Pharisees that their demonstrations of virtue were only external. Inside the Pharisees were sinners like the rest. The Pharisees didn’t like to be told that they were hypocrites, so that contributed to their strong dislike of Jesus.
Finally, the Pharisees disagreed with some of Jesus’ teachings. The Pharisees focused on following the exact letter of the law, without focusing on the reasons for those laws and the people in need around them. As shown in the New Testament, Jesus taught a higher law to love everyone and serve them—and to serve them in secret without public praise. Jesus taught a new and better way, something the Pharisees didn’t like. They wanted to only follow the Mosaic Law and the traditions of their fathers instead of following Jesus and His gospel.
Why Did Jesus Reject the Pharisees?
The Pharisees hated Jesus, and Jesus regularly rejected them and their practices and lifestyle. Why did Jesus reject the Pharisees? One reason was because the Pharisees lived in hypocrisy. Jesus taught a higher law that invited all to more closely align their actions with their intentions. Instead of merely avoiding sin, Jesus’ gospel invited everyone to align their intentions and to become more like him. But the Pharisees didn’t live by this law, and they rejected the higher law when Jesus taught it. Jesus regularly rejected the way the Pharisees lived in hypocrisy. In Matthew 23 Jesus says, “Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites!” to the Pharisees several times. Jesus saw how the Pharisees and scribes would condemn others for sin yet continue to choose wickedness themselves.
The Pharisees also disrespected the temple. They turned the temple in Jerusalem into somewhere that was more focused on finances, gain, and public displays of obedience rather than the holy place it was meant to be. Jesus rejected the Pharisees’ disrespect for the temple—instead describing them as the blind leading the blind. Jesus regularly had to remind the Pharisees that they were also sinners and also reliant on the grace of God.
Overall, the Pharisees were a religious sect that opposed Jesus because they wanted to maintain their own power. Jesus rejected the way the Pharisees were living and instead taught a higher law, inviting all to come unto Him. The Pharisees could have chosen to follow the higher law and follow Jesus, but they were instead too focused on wealth and power.
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