Relationships – Jesus and the Pharisees

As Jesus went on from there, two blind men followed him, calling out, “Have mercy on us, Son of David!”
When he had gone indoors, the blind men came to him, and he asked them, “Do you believe that I am able to do this?”
“Yes, Lord,” they replied.
Then he touched their eyes and said, “According to your faith let it be done to you”; and their sight was restored. Jesus warned them sternly, “See that no one knows about this.” But they went out and spread the news about him all over that region.
While they were going out, a man who was demon-possessed and could not talk was brought to Jesus. And when the demon was driven out, the man who had been mute spoke. The crowd was amazed and said, “Nothing like this has ever been seen in Israel.”
But the Pharisees said, “It is by the prince of demons that he drives out demons.”

  • Matthew 9:27-34

At that time Jesus went through the grainfields on the Sabbath. His disciples were hungry and began to pick some heads of grain and eat them. When the Pharisees saw this, they said to him, “Look! Your disciples are doing what is unlawful on the Sabbath.”
He answered, “Haven’t you read what David did when he and his companions were hungry? He entered the house of God, and he and his companions ate the consecrated bread—which was not lawful for them to do, but only for the priests. Or haven’t you read in the Law that the priests on Sabbath duty in the temple desecrate the Sabbath and yet are innocent? I tell you that something greater than the temple is here. If you had known what these words mean, ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice,’ you would not have condemned the innocent. For the Son of Man is Lord of the Sabbath.”
Going on from that place, he went into their synagogue, and a man with a shriveled hand was there. Looking for a reason to bring charges against Jesus, they asked him, “Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath?”
He said to them, “If any of you has a sheep and it falls into a pit on the Sabbath, will you not take hold of it and lift it out? How much more valuable is a person than a sheep! Therefore it is lawful to do good on the Sabbath.”
Then he said to the man, “Stretch out your hand.” So he stretched it out and it was completely restored, just as sound as the other. But the Pharisees went out and plotted how they might kill Jesus.

  • Matthew 12:1-14

While the Pharisees were gathered together, Jesus asked them, “What do you think about the Messiah? Whose son is he?”
“The son of David,” they replied.
He said to them, “How is it then that David, speaking by the Spirit, calls him ‘Lord’? For he says,
“‘The Lord said to my Lord:
    “Sit at my right hand
until I put your enemies
    under your feet.”’
If then David calls him ‘Lord,’ how can he be his son?” No one could say a word in reply, and from that day on no one dared to ask him any more questions.

  • Matthew 22:41-46

Now there was a Pharisee, a man named Nicodemus who was a member of the Jewish ruling council. He came to Jesus at night and said, “Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher who has come from God. For no one could perform the signs you are doing if God were not with him.”
Jesus replied, “Very truly I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God unless they are born again.”
“How can someone be born when they are old?” Nicodemus asked. “Surely they cannot enter a second time into their mother’s womb to be born!”
Jesus answered, “Very truly I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless they are born of water and the Spirit. Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit. You should not be surprised at my saying, ‘You must be born again.’ The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit.”

  • John 3:1-8

Later, Joseph of Arimathea asked Pilate for the body of Jesus. Now Joseph was a disciple of Jesus, but secretly because he feared the Jewish leaders. With Pilate’s permission, he came and took the body away. He was accompanied by Nicodemus, the man who earlier had visited Jesus at night. Nicodemus brought a mixture of myrrh and aloes, about seventy-five pounds. 

  • John 19:38-39

A Quote

[John 19:38]: ”This man appears in all four Gospels, only in connection with Jesus’ burial. The synoptics relate that he was a member of the Sanhedrin (Mark 15:43), he was rich (Matt. 27:57), and he was looking for the kingdom of God (Luke 23:51). John treated the idea of secret disciples negatively (see 12:42, 43) but, since Joseph publicly risked his reputation and even his life in asking for the body of Jesus, John pictured him in a more positive light.”

  • John MacArthur, John MacArthur Commentary

What Do We Know about their Relationship?

Jesus had “secret” followers among the Pharisees, but He challenged the Pharisees on multiple occasions.  Jesus’ disciples were even concerned that Jesus constantly challenged the Pharisees.  The Pharisees seemed to immediately go from irritation with His teaching to wanting to kill Him.  They even claimed Jesus cast out demons by being a demon Himself.

Yet, we know that Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus were believers.  You see the encounter with Nicodemus.  It does not state that Nicodemus went away believing at that point, yet Nicodemus prepares Jesus’ body for burial in open defiance of the Sanhedrin.

Thus, Jesus talks about whether they understood Mercy rather than the strict adherence of rules.  Jesus simply asked people to trust Him and love one another, but to a religious sect, born of the returned exiles, rules were the only important thing.  It was blind rule following that the Pharisees felt keeping them from being exiled again.

What Can We Infer about their Relationship?

We can infer that Jesus had unrecorded meetings with Nicodemus and Joseph of Arimathea.

The animosity of the Pharisees toward Jesus and Jesus’ penchant for healing on the Sabbath in the presence of Pharisees seems to grow quickly and consistently.  While Jesus was using this as a series of teaching points, He was also getting His opponents angry enough to kill Him.  After all, Jesus came to earth to die for our sins.

In What Ways Can We Fill in the Gaps about their Relationship?

While the title of this post only mentions the Pharisees, Jesus had His run-ins with Sadducees and religious leaders.  It was the religious leaders who eventually had Jesus killed.

Yet, in some cases, the religious leaders were also members of the Pharisee or Sadducee sects.  Angering one group easily affected other groups.  All these groups had money and power to lose if Jesus started a revolution.  Odd, how they fought Jesus, but then the revolution came about 40 years later.  This is reminiscent of when the spies returned from the Promised Land, and they refused to go into the land.  Then God told them to wander in the wilderness, and they decided, without God’s assistance to attack Canaan, resulting in utter defeat.  Time and again, the leaders of the people show a lack of faith and understanding of God’s Will.

What Can We Learn from this Relationship?

I would love to say that legalism is dead, but it still reigns in many circles.

For those who enjoy following rules, they can get as silly as the Pharisees in no time at all.  They are justified by their ability to follow the rules.  They never see that Jesus wants a personal relationship with each believer.  They only see the rules.

But God’s rules, when understood fully, are virtually impossible to live up to.  The Holy Spirit guides us along the path, but we often take a long time to understand what we are doing wrong and then, even longer repenting and getting on the right track.

Was it wrong to heal someone on the Sabbath?  My wife died about 2:00am on a Sunday morning.  If the doctors could have saved her, I would have praised their efforts.  But to the Lord of the Sabbath, Jesus was making Himself above the silly rules that the Pharisees established.  His question was, “Is it wrong to do good on the Sabbath?”  In other words, doing good on the Sabbath can keep the Sabbath day Holy.  In so doing, we are worshipping God.

What Have We Learned thus far?

We have learned to:

  • Own our own mistakes and not blame others.
  • Be faithful to God, and worship properly, in the proper spirit.
  • Go to God in prayer, especially before any major decisions.
  • Do not show favoritism among family members, but always go to God.
  • Forgiveness is extremely important for none of us are perfect except for God.
  • Beyond physical love, there are other expressions of love, and respect is very important.
  • A relationship requires maintenance, nurturing, and an acceptance of the roles.
  • Be humble and listen to wise advice, and even wait when necessary.
  • At times, we must be bold and trust God, and we must obey.
  • And to love, love, and love.
  • Be trustworthy.  Trust is required.
  • And don’t worry.  God has this situation, and He has us in the palm of His hand.
  • And remember to forgive others and confess our sins.
  • And never go against what God instructs us to do.
  • And truly believe that God can show you mercy and accept the mercy offered.  Yet remember that it is indeed mercy.
  • Not blindly trust our buddies from our youth as advisors and there may be emotional ties that make their advice sound better than it is.
  • Understand that good cannot compromise with evil.
  • And sometimes you have to weather the storms, both in the home and in the world of public opinion.

A Closing Prayer

We look to You for guidance.  Even doing good on the Sabbath gets into muddy territory, but what we often forget is that You wish a relationship with us.  Help us keep our eyes on that.  We know that Jesus had to die on the cross and that required creating opposition from those whose hearts were hardened to the message Jesus preached.  Help us to not get in the way of that message today with our silly rules.
In Thy Name we pray,

Soli Deo Gloria.  Only to God be the Glory.


Add yours →

  1. Thanks for sharing this idea. Anita

    Liked by 1 person

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