Why is this important: Jesus is clear. God’s goal for us is to seek God. If we seek God, we will find Him. There is a reward there for us. Seeking leads to finding. Jesus is also clear that it not about finding religious truth or enlightenment. There is no power in the “religious system”. Creeds are useless without the power of God in our life. The Good News of Jesus is liberating.
Our focus is to seek God. I will be rewarded for that.
God rewards those who seek him. Not those who seek doctrine or religion or systems or creeds. ~Max Lucado
The big picture: Pharisees (religious elites) opposed Jesus the Messiah during his ministry and were among those who brought about his crucifixion. Some Pharisees, however, accepted the Messiah’s teaching and believed in him. The Pharisees (religious elites and frauds) were an influential religious sect within Judaism in the time of the Messiah and the early church.
They were known for:
- Their emphasis on personal piety (the word Pharisee comes from a Hebrew word meaning “separated”).
- Their acceptance of oral tradition in addition to the written Law, and their teaching that all Jews should observe all 600-plus laws in the Torah, including the rituals concerning ceremonial purification.
Worth noting: Now here this from Jesus!
And he left them, got into the boat again, and went to the other side. Now they had forgotten to bring bread, and they had only one loaf with them in the boat. And he cautioned them, saying, “Watch out; beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and the leaven of Herod.
English Standard Version. (2016). (Mark 8:13–15). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.
- Accusing Jesus the Messiah of being demon-possessed: Now this is bold. This took some chutzpah.
The bottom line: The Pharisees (religious elites) were mostly middle-class businessmen and leaders of the synagogues. Though they were a minority in the Sanhedrin and held a minority number of positions as priests, they seemed to control the decision-making of the Sanhedrin because they had popular support among the people.
- Matthew 9:32–34 — As they were going out, a mute, demon-possessed man was brought to Him. After the demon was cast out, the mute man spoke; and the crowds were amazed, and were saying, “Nothing like this has ever been seen in Israel.” But the Pharisees were saying, “He casts out the demons by the ruler of the demons.”
- Matthew 12:22–24 — Then a demon-possessed man who was blind and mute was brought to Jesus, and He healed him, so that the mute man spoke and saw. All the crowds were amazed, and were saying, “This man cannot be the Son of David, can he?” But when the Pharisees heard this, they said, “This man casts out demons only by Beelzebul the ruler of the demons.”
- Mark 3:22 — The scribes who came down from Jerusalem were saying, “He is possessed by Beelzebul,” and “He casts out the demons by the ruler of the demons.”
The Pharisees are often presented as hypocritical and proud opponents of Jesus. The Master stated it bluntly: “They do not practice what they preach
As a general rule, the Pharisees were self-righteousness and smug in their delusion that they were pleasing to God because they kept the Law—or parts of it, at least. Deluded so much as the thought our Master Jesus was demon possessed. Imagine!
As Jesus pointed out to them, however scrupulous they were in following the finer points of ritualism, they failed to measure up to God’s standard of holiness: “You have neglected the more important matters of the law — justice, mercy and faithfulness”.