Different Does Not Mean Wrong
No matter how righteous or how noble your actions are there will be some people who will verbally oppose you; some who will lie on you; some who will become active enemies who put social, financial, or political obstacles in your way; and some who will encourage others to become active enemies also. Your sin is that you are different from them – “partly or totally unlike in nature, form, or quality” (www.merriam-webster.com).
That is what happened to Jesus, who was different from all other religious sects in his day. For lack of space, I only list three opposing groups.
The Pharisees (called The Separatists by their enemies) was the largest and most popular sect, taught strict obedience to the oral law (legalism), established and controlled the synagogues, and shunned non-Pharisees as unclean (socially exclusive). One of the reasons they hated Jesus was because he did not practice social exclusiveness; rather he ate, drank and was friends of tax collectors and sinners (Matthew 11:19).
The Sadducees (an aristocratic, priestly class of Jews, in charge of the temple and the Sanhedrin, “[b]elieved that God is not actively involved with the world and far removed from evil…believed that human beings have complete free will… dismissed the idea of a soul living after death and punishment in the next world. They rejected Oral law and focused instead on Temple worship” (www.artsci.uc.edu). One of the reasons they hated Jesus was because he exposed their wrong teaching concerning the resurrection. They came to him with a trick question, Jesus’s answer included a quote from Father God, which won him more followers: “God is the God of the living and not the dead. (Matthew 22:32b). “And when the multitude heard this, they were astonished at his doctrine” (Matthew 22:33).
Scribes – Scribes had knowledge of the law and could draft legal documents (contracts for marriage, divorce, loans, inheritance, mortgages, the sale of land, and the like). Every village had at least one scribe. (www.britannica.com). They often joined the Pharisees in trying to demean Jesus before the people. They hated Jesus because he exposed their false appearance of righteousness. He described them as full of hypocrisy and iniquity (Matthew 23:23-36). “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you tithe mint and dill and cumin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faithfulness. These you ought to have done, without neglecting the others” (Matthew 23:23).
Each group hated Jesus because his difference threatened their way of life, their status, their authority, and exposed their unrighteousness and lack of anointing. They tried to paint him as a heretic before the people he was healing, delivering from demons, and teaching.
Jesus’s answer to their trick questions and acts of hatred was:
“Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. For truly I tell you, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished” (Matthew 5:17-18).
Translation: “I did not come to denigrate, to displace, or to destroy the Old Testament. I am its fulfillment.” He adds further clarity:
“Therefore anyone who sets aside one of the least of these commands and teaches others accordingly will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever practices and teaches these commands will be called great in the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 5:19).
“Jesus concurs: God does not allow us the right to say, “I will obey his teaching about murder but not his teaching about adultery or fornication”; or, “I will obey his teaching about theft but not about divorce.” To refuse his right to rule any of our ethics or behavior is to deny his lordship” (www.biblegateway.com). He warns teachers not to be guilty of this practice and not to teach others this practice.
Finally, Jesus issues a warning to his disciples:
“For I tell you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law, you will certainly not enter the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 5:20, NIV).
Jesus teaches his followers not to imitate the Pharisees, Sadducees, and scribes by following the letter of the law with hearts far removed from the compassion, love, and mercy of God. Today He would warn us to not imitate the personalities of today’s religious leaders or to blindly obey the denominational traditions of men, but to obey the biblical commandments of Our Heavenly Father. I would add that we should also imitate the obedience of Jesus, Our Savior.
If you would live righteous before God, you will make enemies – from other church folk. You may feel lonely, frustrated, mad, and/or sad. Even so, I have decided to live as right as I know how before my God as best I can on any given day.
What are your thoughts about how the Pharisees, the Sadducees, and the scribes treated Jesus? Join the conversation.
Dr. Dorothy J. Haire
Author & Blogger
Both church planter and pastor of Bread of Life Christian Church for the last 18 years, Dr. Haire is a beloved mother and successful author. Empowered to deliver the word of God to His people, Dr. Haire uses her digital platform to educate and develop Christian communities that are rooted in the word of Christ.