Jesus and the Religious Establishment

by Al Benson Jr.

Usually most nights after our evening meal, my wife, son, and I have a little devotional time. We read something from the Old Testament, usually the Psalms, and then something from the New Testament. This is something we have been doing for years now.

I started noticing, a few years ago, when reading the Gospels and the Book of Acts, that the people Jesus had the most problems with were those in the Jewish religious establishment, the Pharisees, Sadducees, and Scribes. As Jesus went about preaching the Gospel of the Kingdom these were the people that constantly questioned His authority, demanded signs from Him, and even went so far as to say that He performed His miracles through Beelzebub, the chief of the devils.

Theoretically, these should have been the people most glad to see Jesus come. In reality, He was the last person they wanted to see because His coming upset their theological apple cart and pointed to the fact that the Jewish religious system in first century Israel had become totally apostate. It’s leaders taught for religious dogma the traditions of men rather than God’s Word and some of those traditions may well have come from the Talmud which came back with them from the captivity in Babylon.

In Matthew, chapter 15, the scribes and Pharisees try to take Jesus to task because His disciples “transgress the tradition of the elders” by not washing their hands before they eat. To which Jesus replies to them “Why do ye also transgress the commandment of God by your tradition?” And he pointed out what they did to avoid taking care of their aged parents and He said to them: “Thus have ye made the commandment of God of none effect by your tradition.” He called them hypocrites and said of them: “But in vain do they worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men.” He labeled them “blind leaders of the blind.”

Not only did they teach their man-made traditions in place of God’s Word, but they sought to make what Jesus said of no effect. Matthew 22:15 notes: “Then went the Pharisees, and took counsel how they might entangle him in his talk.” Here they sought to thrust upon Him a loaded question–one that would condemn Him no matter how he answered it–is it lawful to give tribute to Caesar or not? When He answered it in a way that did not allow Him to fall into their trap, “they left him and went their way.” But He knew they would be back. They were the first century version of those denizens of the Washington Swamp that have been trying to take down Donald Trump. No matter how their questions get answered, if it is not to their satisfaction they will always retreat and then reform their ranks and try a different approach–until they get what they want. Until then they never quit! I suppose I’d better say this here, lest some who don’t like what I write here will make a “leap of faith” and attribute my comments in a way I never intended. I am not–I repeat not equating Donald Trump with Jesus! Donald Trump is a sinner like the rest of us, who needs to trust in Christ for his salvation as we all do. I am only trying here to make the point that, be it in the first century, or the 21st century, politicians both religious and secular, operate in the same fashion.

And in Mark, chapter 3, after Jesus had healed a man on the sabbath, verse 6 notes: And the Pharisees went forth, and straightway took counsel with the Herodians against him, how they might destroy him.” Then, in Mark 3:22 Mark notes: “And the scribes which came down from Jerusalem said, He hath Beelzebub, and by the prince of the devils casteth he out devils.” To which Jesus replied, “How can Satan cast out Satan?” But then He also said: “But he that shall blaspheme against the Holy Ghost hath never forgiveness, but is in danger of eternal damnation.” This was because they said “He hath an unclean spirit.”

This was the sort of thing Jesus constantly had to put up with from the so-called “religious” leaders in Israel. What they really wanted was a messiah that would come, toss out the Romans, and set up Israel as the country that would rule the world. Jesus was not about to give them that because that was not God’s plan for them. They were to serve and minister to the world rather than ruling it–and that was the last thing they wanted–or even want today.

More on this as the Lord enables.

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