The Gathering Church/ Pastor Barry Bruce Gospel of Mark/ naked runner series #10
Sadducees & Pharisees
The Gospels refer often to the Sadducees and Pharisees, because Jesus was in constant conflict with them. The Sadducees and Pharisees comprised the ruling class of Israel. Here is a brief overview of them:
Sadducees: Sadducees tended to be wealthy and held powerful positions, including that of chief priests and high priest, they also held the majority of the 70 seats of the ruling council called the Sanhedrin. They worked hard to keep peace with Rome (Israel was under Roman control), and were more concerned with politics than religion; therefore, they did not relate well to the common people. History indicates that the Sadducees had to go along with the ideas of the Pharisaic minority often because the Pharisees were held in higher esteem.
Religiously, the Sadducees were more conservative in at least one main area of doctrine. They preserved, passed down and taught that God’s word (Books of Moses: Genesis through Deuteronomy) alone had authority. The Pharisees gave their oral tradition equal authority to the written Word of God. (The Roman Catholic Church also functions in this way. Oral tradition and the authority of the Pope are on equal footing with the written word.) The Sadducees, however, were not perfect in their doctrinal views. The following is a brief list of beliefs they held that contradict Scripture: 1. They denied God’s involvement in everyday life. 2. They denied any resurrection of the dead. 3. They denied any afterlife, holding that the soul perished at death. 4. They denied the existence of a spiritual world, i.e., angels and demons. The Sadducees were therefore “Sad you see”.
The Sadducees were unconcerned with Jesus until he received negative Roman attention. It was at this point that the Sadducees and Pharisees united and conspired to put Christ to death (John 11:48-50; Mark 14:53; 15:1). The Sadducees ceased to exist in A.D. 70 when Rome destroyed Jerusalem and the temple.
The Pharisees: The Pharisees were mostly middle-class businessmen, and therefore were in contact with the common man and seemed to control the decision making of the Sanhedrin far more than the Sadducees did.
Religiously, Pharisees accepted the written Word as inspired by God, but gave equal authority to oral tradition. They defended this position by saying these traditions went all the way back to Moses evolving over the centuries. Ironically this practice is forbidden in the very word they swore to believe (Deuteronomy 4:2). The Pharisees did believe correctly in some areas. They believed: 1. God controlled all things, yet allowed individuals to also affect life’s course. 2. They believed in the resurrection of the dead. 3. They believed in an afterlife, with reward and punishment. 4. They believed in the existence of angels and demons.
The Pharisees continued to exist after the Romans destroyed Jerusalem, in fact they were first to make peace with them. The Pharisees were also responsible for the compilation of the Mishnah, an important Jewish document with reference to the continuation of Judaism beyond the destruction of the temple.
Both the Pharisees and the Sadducees earned numerous rebukes from Jesus. Perhaps the best lesson we can learn from the Pharisees and Sadducees is to not be like them. Unlike the Sadducees, we are to believe everything the Bible says, including the miraculous and the afterlife. Unlike the Pharisees, we are not to treat traditions as having equal authority as Scripture, and we are not to allow our relationship with God to be reduced to a legalistic list of rules and rituals.
Wash Your Hands! Mark 7:1-1-8, Isaiah 29:13-16, Proverbs 3:5-6
The Pharisees were aghast that Jesus and his disciples did not follow their oral traditions of washing. They implied that they therefore could not be of God. Jesus blasted them with words from Isaiah the prophet. Reading further in Isaiah’s passage gives us even more insight into what Jesus was thinking. Those Pharisees (the clay) were telling Jesus (the Potter) that he was at fault. Have we ever been so stupid? Of course we have. We turn things “upside down” when we question God’s word based on our own understanding. Wisdom is to lean not on our own understanding but to acknowledge Him in all our ways as he directs our paths. The Pharisees were upset by a lack of hand washing and yet failed to see how dirty their thinking was. How “upside down” are we?
Hypocrisy Mark 7:9-16, Matthew 7:1-5, 1 Peter 4:7-8, James 2:12-13
hy·poc·ri·sy the practice of claiming to have moral standards or beliefs to which one’s own behavior does not conform; pretense
Jesus pointed out the hypocrisy in the Pharisees tradition of “Corban” which made money for the temple while violating God’s commandment to honor ones father and mother (Exodus 20:12). They were pointing a finger at Jesus and yet failed to see three other fingers pointing at them. We must remember that we will be judged by the same measure we judge others by (Matthew 7:1-5). This sobering fact should make love and mercy most sought after by the believer (1 Peter 4:7-8, James 2:12-13).
Wash Your Heart! Mark 7:17-23, Jeremiah 17:5-10
Tradition, especially religious tradition and hypocrisy is difficult to let go of. This is why the disciples were so “dull” (ignorant). Let’s not be so dim. Jesus made it clear— what enters us from the outside may be eliminated by the body but what we store up in our hearts will defile (pollute) us. While the Pharisees (clay) were telling Jesus to wash his hands, the Potter was telling his creation to wash their hearts. We must not trust in man or think for a moment that self (flesh) can stand in judgment of another. Our hearts are full of deceit and hypocrisy…we must trust in the Lord and stay in communion with him. We must never think too highly of ourselves (Romans 12:3). Sober judgment is only found in Christ.