Summary: In this topical sermon we are going to examine how the Pharisees missed it so badly by examining their history, their beliefs, and where they went wrong.
How the Pharisees Got it Wrong
Text: Matthew 15:1-14
By: Ken McKinley
Well we’re taking a little break from Ecclesiastes. We did last week so that I could talk to you all about how we might better serve God as a church. And tonight, I want to talk to you about how the Pharisees got it wrong.
Now if you’ve read through the Gospels, then you know that the Pharisees were an ultra-religious group of Jews, who the Bible tells us, were the enemies of Jesus. Jesus was patient with everyone except for the Pharisees. When sinners would approach Him, He would often show them kindness, forgive them, and even eat with them. But the Pharisees were a different story. He called them a brood of vipers, evil, hypocrites, and sons of their father the devil, white washed tombs, and here in our text… He calls them blind leaders of blind people. And there are several occasions where Jesus implies that the Pharisees aren’t going to make it to heaven. He says they have no part in the Kingdom.
So what I want to do tonight is look at the Pharisees and examine how they got it so wrong. Now you might be sitting here and thinking to yourself, “Why? Why should we care about the Pharisees?” Well for one reason they are important to the context of the New Testament, and for another reason… they help us understand ourselves. We all have a little bit of Pharisee in us. That’s why the New Testament devotes so much time to the Pharisees. If you know your history, then you know that by the time John wrote his Gospel, the Pharisees had probably already been done away with by the Roman Empire. John probably wrote his Gospel around 90 AD, but the Pharisees were done away with in 70 AD. But the reality is, that we all can have some of the same problems that they did. So the purpose of the Bible in telling us about them is to help us identify it in ourselves and then… kill it!
So tonight; what we’re going to do is look at the Pharisees. Their history and origin, what their ideas and beliefs were, and where they went so wrong.
First off, let’s examine their history. About 200 years before Jesus came to earth, Israel and Jerusalem was under the control of the Greeks… this was before Rome came to power. And so Greek thought was prominent and many of the Jews had begun to observe the Greek way of life. If you wanted to rise to any type of prominent position you had to do that. And so that’s what many of the Jews began to do. They stopped circumcision so that their sons could compete in the Greek Games. Some Jews had begun worshiping the Greek gods. They were basically being Hellenized. And anytime you have that, you will also have a pocket of resistance that stands up and tries to turn the tides, and that’s what happened in Israel. You had pious Jews who stood up against the Hellenization of their people. Some of them even took up arms and fought a revolution to save Israel and Judaism. This was called the Maccabean Revolt. And the Jews actually won their revolution and appointed a queen to rule over them. But they didn’t really have a plan after that, and so they began to fracture into groups. And these groups happened to be religious groups, and each one had a different view of how things should be. There were three main groups. The Sadducees, the Essenes, and the Pharisees. The Sadducees are what we would call theological liberals today. They denied the existence of angels and demons, and denied the resurrection from the dead. The Essenes were what we would call ultra-charismatics today. They saw angels and demons behind everything and where the Pharisees denied the authority of Scripture, the Essenes were busy adding extra-biblical books to Scripture. They even claimed that they had other books written by Moses that no one knew about. And then you had the Pharisees… The conservative, fundamentalists of today. These were the guys who were involved in politics, and they even tried to influence things through politics…. Now they didn’t actually have any political power, because once Rome came in, they saw to it that – that sort of thing didn’t happen… but they still tried to manipulate the politics and the people to influence the politicians… Remember Pontius Pilate? They were also, usually excellent scholars, and so they ended up being in charge of the synagogues. And of course the synagogues were not only the places of religious worship and practice, but also like the schools of ancient Israel… So if you can teach the kids, you can influence the kids, and then you eventually influence society. And so basically, the Pharisees had some power and authority, even when Rome was ruling Israel. And when Jesus came along, they became nervous, because people started listening to Him instead of them, and they could see all that they had worked so hard for might slip away, and so they crucified Him. Of course I believe that’s why Rome wiped them out in 70 A.D.