So different, so the same…

Posted: 22 March, 2016 in My stuff
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Christ and the Pharisees- Anthony van DyckIntroduction

Jesus world was so similar to our in so many ways. There were different brands of politics across the spectrum from progressive to conservative. There were different brands of religion – from the old gods of Greece and Rome, the new ‘mystery religions from the east, Emperor worship, and the superstitions that grew in this multicultural environment.

In thee religion of the Jews there different brands as well. The Pharisees were a popular movement among the people but small in number. They carried a lot of sway. The Sadducees were the established priestly elite and had control of the Temple in Jerusalem. They came from ‘old money’ and had strong connections. They were the arch conservatives. Politics and religion met in the Zealots. They were nationalists and very anti-Rome. They used religion to gain support for their movement. There was also the synagogue movement. Local meeting places of prayer and scripture reading and centres of community. There like our churches; park of a bigger thing but local in operation.

Jesus spoke in the synagogues, was probably most aligned with the Pharisees, and went to the Jerusalem Temple for the feasts. He was a bother to the conservative Sadducees. He was a critic of the Pharisees. He was welcome in some and expelled for other synagogues. He had come to the attention of men in high places; both religious and civil.

His arrival in Jerusalem for the Passover Feast caused a stir across the board. His entry to the city on a donkey was a direct challenge to Sadducees and Pharisees alike. His public teaching was even more of a challenge.

The action in this passage no doubt takes place in the temple courts. It was in thee courts that people gathered to pray, prepare for passover, to listen to a variety of religious teachers speak, and to marvel at the grandeur of the temple itself.
The ‘teachers of the law’ in the following passage are from the ranks of the Pharisees.


Luke’s Gospel, chapter 20, verses 27-46

Some of the Sadducees, who say there is no resurrection, came to Jesus with a question. “Teacher,” they said, “Moses wrote for us that if a man’s brother dies and leaves a wife but no children, the man must marry the widow and raise up offspring for his brother. Now there were seven brothers. The first one married a woman and died childless. The second and then the third married her, and in the same way the seven died, leaving no children. Finally, the woman died too. Now then, at the resurrection whose wife will she be, since the seven were married to her?”

Jesus replied, “The people of this age marry and are given in marriage. But those who are considered worthy of taking part in the age to come and in the resurrection from the dead will neither marry nor be given in marriage, and they can no longer die; for they are like the angels. They are God’s children, since they are children of the resurrection. But in the account of the burning bush, even Moses showed that the dead rise, for he calls the Lord ‘the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.’ He is not the God of the dead, but of the living, for to him all are alive.”

Some of the teachers of the law responded, “Well said, teacher!” And no one dared to ask him any more questions.

Then Jesus said to them, “Why is it said that the Messiah is the son of David? David himself declares in the Book of Psalms:

“‘The Lord said to my Lord:
“Sit at my right hand
until I make your enemies
a footstool for your feet.”’

David calls him ‘Lord.’ How then can he be his son?”

While all the people were listening, Jesus said to his disciples, “Beware of the teachers of the law. They like to walk around in flowing robes and love to be greeted with respect in the marketplaces and have the most important seats in the synagogues and the places of honour at banquets. They devour widows’ houses and for a show make lengthy prayers. These men will be punished most severely.”



Again I am struck by Jesus’ wisdom. No matter the question and no matter from whom it comes, he has an answer. He knows his scriptures and knows who he is speaking to. He is always appropriate albeit just about always challenging. I need to know the story of my faith better, and knowing it to understand it better as well.

While debating in public Jesus does not ridicule or condemn. He takes no ‘cheap shots’. He does call it as he sees it among his disciples as he does in this passage with his critique of the teachers of the law. I am challenged by this be careful with criticism.
I am also challenged to not be like the teachers of the law, who knew their stuff but did not practice it. The outward appearance was good but the inward motivation was skewed. I must not look so much for the ‘hypocrite’ in others but more so in myself.


Burning Bush


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