Why were the Pharisees against Jesus?

Religion will always try to kill the Prophetic, Religion will always add to the saving grace of the Jesus and add a work to it.

God works in history. He works in the context of people and personalities and politics to teach us, correct us, and act on our behalf. In the time of Christ, the social upperclass included super-legalistic Pharisees, power-hungry Sadducees, favor-seeking Herodians, Jewish priests, and Roman rulers maintaining a precarious order. In all of their history together, these groups may have agreed on only one thing: Jesus had to die. The Pharisees valued religion. They studied, memorized, and debated the Law of Moses, and when that wasn’t enough, they added more laws. Their middle-class position situated them close to the people, but their legalism put them in conflict with Jesus. They heard Jesus clearly saying (in a culturally understood way) that He was God and the Son of God. They might have dismissed Jesus as a madman except those who had been burdened by their teachings were now finding freedom in Jesus Matthew 11:28(HCSB)28 “Come to Me, all of you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. In addition, Jesus taught that the Pharisees were hypocrites and false teachers (Matthew 23:11). Jesus was a threat to the Pharisees’ beliefs, social position, and power—but they were unable to kill Him outright. Although the Jews could execute someone for religious reasons (see Stephen’s stoning in Acts 7), if the Pharisees had personally killed Jesus, they would have faced an angry populace and lost even more influence (Luke 20:19). Unable to get rid of Jesus themselves, the Pharisees had to find political justification for an execution. Then Rome could do the dirty work. The middle men between the Jews and the Romans were the Sadducees. Sadducees were upper class. They held the majority of the positions in the Sanhedrin and the most political power. They were also Hellenists, which means they welcomed the influence of Greek culture and philosophy. But because the Pharisees were so influential among the people, the Sadducees often had to bow to the will of the Pharisees in the Sanhedrin. It was simple for the Pharisees to convince the Sadducees that, if Jesus were allowed to live, He would inspire a revolt and bring the wrath of Rome on all of Israel. As much as the Sadducees longed for the day when they could rule without foreign interference, they knew that any revolt had to be absolutely successful or Israel would be destroyed (as it was in A.D. 70). Meanwhile, the Roman rulers in Palestine were charged with keeping the peace. If violence erupted (which it did occasionally), Caesar would come down hard on both the Jews and the appointed Roman leaders.  The Pharisees lit the fire. They pounced on the fact that the people of Jerusalem called Jesus a king during the triumphal entry (Luke 19:28). The Pharisees, with the Sadducees on their side, began to accuse Jesus of plotting to overthrow Rome, as if He were a rabble-rouser of the first degree. Ironically, this is probably the exact opposite reason that Judas Iscariot betrayed Jesus (Mark 14:10). It’s likely that Judas was hoping for the overthrow of Rome, and when he realized that Jesus was not interested in a political coup, he became treacherously disillusioned. The Jewish leaders took their trumped-up charge against Jesus to the Roman ruler Pilate. Pilate knew the allegations were bogus, but he couldn’t control the crowd—a crowd that was incited to clamor for Jesus’ death (Mark 15:11). Fear became a strong motivation for Pilate. If the people rioted, Rome would declare him an ineffective leader and he’d be ruined politically.The New Testament records that the religious leaders hated Jesus to the point that they arrested Him, tried Him, and brought Him to Pilate for a sentence of death. What made them so angry at Jesus that they wanted to see Him dead? There Are Many Reasons They Wanted Jesus Dead There were a number of things about Jesus that infuriated the religious leaders. These included. 1 The claims that He made. 2 The deeds that He did. 3 His threat to their religious system. 4 His threat to their way of life. 5 The people with whom He socialized. 6 The lack of respect He had for their religious traditions. These six things caused outraged among the religious rulers. Consequently they wanted to see Jesus dead. We will consider each of these reasons. 1. Jesus’ Claims Outweighed Their Authority When Jesus claimed to be the Messiah it meant His authority outweighed their authority. The religious leaders did not believe His claims and were angry that some of the people did. They said, John 7:48-49(HCSB)48 Have any of the rulers or Pharisees believed in Him? 49 But this crowd, which doesn’t know the law, is accursed!” The religious leaders assumed that the belief of some of the crowd was due to ignorance. But the attention Jesus was getting brought out the leaders’ hatred and jealousy. The jealousy of the religious leaders caused them to want Jesus dead. 2. His Deeds Outraged The Religious Rulers The deeds of Jesus also angered the religious leaders. After seeing Jesus heal a demon-possessed man some of the multitude questioned if Jesus could be the Messiah: Matthew 12:23-24(HCSB)23 And all the crowds were astounded and said, “Perhaps this is the Son of David!” 24 When the Pharisees heard this, they said, “The man drives out demons only by Beelzebul, the ruler of the demons.” The miracle was undeniable, for the man was blind and mute as well as demon-possessed. Rather than believe Jesus to be the Messiah, these religious rulers attributed Jesus’ power to the devil. Thus their “official” explanation was that Jesus’ power came from Satan. This was another cause for which they wanted Him dead. 3. Jesus Was A Threat To Their Religious System Jesus was also a threat to their religious system. He pointed out the hypocrisy that was connected with their practice. The Bible records that on two different occasions He came into the temple precincts and drove out the moneychangers. John 2:13-17(HCSB)13 The Jewish Passover was near, so Jesus went up to Jerusalem. 14 In the temple complex He found people selling oxen, sheep, and doves, and He also found the money changers sitting there. 15 After making a whip out of cords, He drove everyone out of the temple complex with their sheep and oxen. He also poured out the money changers’ coins and overturned the tables. 16 He told those who were selling doves, “Get these things out of here! Stop turning My Father’s house into a marketplace!” 17 And His disciples remembered that it is written: Zeal for Your house will consume Me. 4. Jesus Was A Threat To Their Way Of Life There were political reasons that the religious leaders wanted Jesus dead. There was an unstable situation between the Jews and the Romans. The thought of a Messiah who may lead an uprising against Rome 5. The People With Whom He Socialized Outraged The Religious Rulers The religious leaders were filled with pride and arrogance. They were particularly proud that they did not socialize with “sinners.” They did not believe that the Messiah would socialize with such a crowd. When one Pharisee saw Jesus allow a woman to wash His feet, he said, Luke 7:39(HCSB)39 When the Pharisee who had invited Him saw this, he said to himself, “This man, if He were a prophet, would know who and what kind of woman this is who is touching Him—she’s a sinner!” Jesus noted their opinion of Him. Matthew 11:19(HCSB)19 The Son of Man came eating and drinking, and they say, ‘Look, a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!’ Yet wisdom is vindicated by her deeds.” The religious rulers believed themselves to be righteous by avoiding sinners. When Jesus kept company with these individuals, it infuriated the proud Pharisees and other religious rulers. 6. Jesus Had A Lack Of Respect For Their Traditions As much as anything, the lack of respect that Jesus had for their religious traditions incensed the religious leaders. Jesus ignored these traditions, which they observed so minutely. He knew they were human-made rules that had not come from God. And it was Jesus’ disregard for their traditions concerning the Sabbath that caused the most outrage. God had commanded the Sabbath to be a day of rest from labors and a time to worship Him. The religious leaders added all types of restrictions to the Sabbath making it difficult, if not impossible to observe. Jesus was grieved and angry at the way they had perverted the Sabbath observance. He asked the religious leaders, Mark 3:4-5(HCSB)4 Then He said to them, “Is it lawful on the Sabbath to do what is good or to do what is evil, to save life or to kill?” But they were silent. 5 After looking around at them with anger and sorrow at the hardness of their hearts, He told the man, “Stretch out your hand.” So he stretched it out, and his hand was restored. Jesus then healed a man in their presence. This healing on the Sabbath was more than they could endure. They concluded that the genuine Messiah would not dare do such a thing. Their response was immediate: Mark 3:6(HCSB)6 Immediately the Pharisees went out and started plotting with the Herodians against Him, how they might destroy Him. They were convinced that Jesus had to die. They Had No Godly Or Righteous Motive It was not for anything godly or righteous that the religious leaders wanted to put Jesus to death. It was their hypocrisy, pride and arrogance that caused them to bring Jesus before Pilate to be crucified. They did not want to hear the truth of God. Summary The religious leaders wanted Jesus dead for a number of reasons-none of the reasons were righteous. First, the claims that he made demonstrated that his authority was greater than theirs. The religious leaders could not accept this. The miraculous deeds that he, which demonstrated his superior authority, was also a reason they wanted him dead. Jesus was also a threat to their religious system. He went the temple and condemned the practices. They also considered him a threat to their way of life. They were worried how the Romans would respond. The people with whom Jesus socialized offended the pride of the religious leaders. Above all, it was the lack of respect for their religious traditions that caused them to desire to kill him. This is particularly true of Jesus’ attitude toward the Sabbath. All of these things contributed to their evil desire to want Jesus dead. So, the Pharisees wanted Jesus dead because He pointed out their sin and undermined their influence. Judas wanted Jesus dead because He was not the political champion Judas had hoped. The Sadducees wanted Jesus dead to ensure the stability of their political position. Pilate didn’t want Jesus dead, but he feared a riot. God used all of this to get His Son to the cross to die for our sins. Ultimately, it wasn’t Jews or Romans or Pilate or Judas who put Jesus on the cross; it was greed, fear, jealousy and selfishness. Jesus died because of sin and through His death justified us and saved us from God’s wrath (Romans 5:9). “Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us—for it is written, ‘Cursed is everyone who is hanged on a tree'” (Galatians 3:13).

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