The Pharisees & Sadducees (Matthew 16:1-4 study part 2)

Matthew 16: 1-4
And the Pharisees and Sadducees came, and to test him they asked him to show them a sign from heaven.2He answered them, “When it is evening, you say, ‘It will be fair weather, for the sky is red.’ 3And in the morning, ‘It will be stormy today, for the sky is red and threatening.’ You know how to interpret the appearance of the sky, but you cannot interpret the signs of the times. 4An evil and adulterous generation seeks for a sign, but no sign will be given to it except the sign of Jonah.” So he left them and departed. (ESV)

Who: Pharisees and Sadducees
Who were the Pharisees and Sadducees? We know from scripture that they were religious leaders however there was an important difference between them, the Pharisees believed in the resurrection of the dead and in angels and spirits while the Sadducees incorrectly did not (Matt 22:23, Mark 12:18 & 24 & 27, Luke 20:27, Acts 23:7-8).

What else can we glean from scripture? Gathering a description of these men will help us understand the context of their question to Jesus for a sign as well as His response to them. To do this open up a Bible concordance and look up the word Pharisee as well as Sadducee to check out the various scriptures about them. After doing this I came up with a list of Biblical descriptors about them, this list is not exhaustive and is a general profile:

  1. They were hypocrites
    (Matthew 23, Mark 7:6-9, Luke 11:38-44)
  2. They hardened their hearts against Christ’s message and rejected God’s purpose for them.
    (Mark 3:5, Mark 7:6-9, Luke 7:29-30)
  3. The Pharisees were covetous and lovers of money
    (Luke 16:14-15 AMP)
  4. They plotted to test Jesus and watched Him hoping to find an opportunity for accusation.
    (Matt 22:15-18 & 34-35, Mark 3:2, Mark 10:2, Mark 12:13, Luke 6:7, Luke 11:53-54)
  5. They were envious/jealous of the attention Christ and His apostles got from the people.
    (Matt 27:17-18, Mark 15:9-10, Acts 5:16-17)
  6. They started to have problems with Jesus when:
    a. He ate with sinners.
    (Matt 9:9-12, Mark 2:14-17, Luke 5:27-31)
    b. He healed the sick on the Sabbath.
    (Mark 3:1-5, Luke 6:6-10)
    c. When His disciples picked some heads of grain to eat on the Sabbath.
    (Mark 2:23-24, Luke 6:1-2)
  7. Plotted to arrest Jesus and to kill Him.
    (Matthew 26:1-4, Mark 3:5-6,  Mark 14:1, John 7)
  8. Christ warned His followers to beware of the leaven of the Pharisees/Sadducees.
    (Matt 16:6-12, Mark 8:15, Luke 12:1)
  9. Jesus was vexed, angered and grieved at the hardening of their hearts.
    (Mark 3:5, Mark 8:12 AMP)

Well there we have a better picture of who these guys were. I paused frequently as I read these scriptures about them and humbled myself before God, we are all susceptible to the leaven of the Pharisees that Jesus warns us about. Like I Corinthians 10:12 says “Therefore let anyone who thinks that he stands take heed lest he fall.”

Some (yes just some, there is a whole lot there!) Life Application from Pharisee & Sadducee Study
Although I face temptation in several areas of the “leaven of Pharisees” a couple areas stood out to me during this study. First off in Mark 7:9 where Jesus says “…You have a fine way of setting aside the commands of God in order to observe your own traditions!’” How many of us are guilty of setting aside obedience to God in order to satisfy the desires of the flesh? I think we all are! The Pharisees were professionals at it and today we are pretty good at being guilty of disregarding God’s spirit and justifying sin too. Maybe not the same exact way that the Pharisees were justifying their sins but justification of sin is wrong either way! How can we pick and choose which commandments of God to obey and which ones to ignore?!

We are all susceptible to sin so like Romans 13:14 says, we should “…put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires.” This isn’t just a recommendation or a nice idea, it is absolutely necessary! It is necessary for us to offer up or flesh as a living sacrifice each day to God (Romans 12:1-2) in order to operate in a spirit filled walk of obedience towards God. As Galatians 5:16-17 and 24-26 say:

“But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do…And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. If we live by the Spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit. Let us not become conceited, provoking one another, envying one another.

The second thing that stuck out to me was that you could be right but still be wrong. The Pharisees were right about the resurrection and spirit beings and so what? It didn’t matter because although they had interpreted a few scriptures correctly they were hypocrites, lovers of money, envious and hardened their hearts towards God’s purpose for their life as we saw above…This is humbling because sometimes we might feel like the goal is to “get it right” and although that IS really important when it comes to scripture, the knowledge of scripture void of the spirit and power of Christ equals “Pharisee-itis”.  So while studying scripture carefully is important just remember you could be right and still be so very wrong. Instead of falling into the role of “a-ha! I’m right and your wrong” person let us seek first His Kingdom and His righteousness here on earth:

“ …The harvest is indeed plentiful, but the laborers are few. So pray to the Lord of the harvest to force out and thrust laborers into His harvest…”  Matthew 9:37.

“…Those who are strong and well have no need of a physician, but those who are weak and sick. Go and learn what this means: I desire mercy and not sacrifice. For I came not to call and invite the righteous but sinners.” Matthew 9: 12

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