Please turn in your Bibles to John the first chapter. We are going to start with a scripture here as background to my topic today. This, of course, is the first chapter of John's gospel, and he is getting the ball rolling on the life of Jesus Christ here. So he lays a bit of ground work with some of these first things that he says. We are going to read verses 10 through 12. He says,
John 1:10-12 He was in the world [meaning Jesus], and the world was made through Him [He is the Creator], and the world did not know Him. He came to His own, and His own did not receive Him. But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name.
As he opens his account of the life of Jesus Christ, particularly the ministry of Jesus Christ, the apostle John points out that Jesus came to His own people. He came to His own tribe, if you will, to His own family, to the family of David. But we will just leave it at the Jews, his tribe. But they rejected Him.
Now we could say that this applies to everyone. Jesus came to His own humanity and humanity rejected Him, but we are going to keep it narrowed down to the Jews, his own clan, his own tribe. They rejected Him. And we know this gospel story very well. We have been around the church or known the Bible for a long time, so we know the story of Jesus. He begins His ministry and many people flock to His teaching and His healing especially. Hey, you find out some guy can cure your cancer, you run to Him! You have got all kinds of witnesses that He has done this before and you come before Him and He cures you. Well, that is going to make a guy popular, is it not? A lot of people will like Him.
The Pharisees though, and the other Jewish leaders, start to get wind of all this. They get wind of His message and they begin questioning Him. They try to trip Him up on matters of doctrine and ritual. They criticize Him up and down. They undermine Him at every turn. Pretty soon they are trying to arrest Him, wondering how they could work that out and not have problems with the people, with the Romans.
Then Jesus, after about three years or so, starts doing the unthinkable. He had been doing it all along, but He raises Lazarus from the dead, a man they knew was dead and had been stinking up the place—it was the fourth day already. He raised him from the dead, made him live. They saw Lazarus walking around. And then he has the temerity to come into Jerusalem on a donkey as king. They hired Judas very quickly to betray Him and they arrest Jesus and they send Him to Pilate and Jesus is crucified. So they have done what they set out to do three years before.
Now, let us think another way of this. We are still on this idea that He came to His own. What about His family? Look at this at a personal level. He goes to His hometown, Nazareth where, evidently, He had been around for 30 years. Everybody knew Him. They said, "Oh, isn't this the carpenter's son? Isn't His dad Joseph, His mom Mary, and look at all his brothers and sisters. We all know them." Well, it is within hours of His coming home and they are trying to throw Him off a cliff! A prophet is not without honor except in his own country.
Even His brothers, who saw Him every day of their lives as they grew up, knew what He taught, knew what He believed, they did not believe Him. His cousin, partway into Jesus' ministry, doubts Him. He sends a of couple disciples. "Are You the one or should I look for another?" One of His own disciples betrayed Him, Judas, and one of His closest friends and the leader, evidently, of the disciples, denied Him three times. And, well, let us just throw the rest of the disciples under the bus. They all forsook Him and fled just when He needed them most. Even His own Father in heaven, because of the monstrous number and terrible sins that had to be put on Jesus Christ, had to forsake Him as He died because He could not look on that sin. So when He died He was all alone.
It turned out well because obviously He was resurrected from the dead and we have this hope before us now of the same sort of thing in the first resurrection. But just think of the life that He went through those last three and a half years with everybody doubting Him, hardly anybody He could turn to who could be said was fully on His side. He had to face criticism and ridicule and worse every day of His ministry.
But let us think about His enemies for a minute, particularly His enemies among the Jews. The Jewish authorities, the scribes and the Pharisees, the lawyers, the Sadducees, the priests, the Levites, the Herodians, the Zealots, all different groups there, some overlap between them. But that is a lot of enemies, a lot of different groups that really wanted to basically scalp the guy. All of those who had some influence among the people, that is the common Jews on the street, had a bone to pick with Him about something. And even though they may have agreed with Him at some point, at other points, a little ways down the road, they all turned on Him. Rejected Him, and eventually of course, they killed Him.
But in the meantime they dogged Him. They contested His teachings and His behaviors. They belittled Him, they ridiculed Him. They tried to delegitimize Him at various turns, they called Him names, that He was born of fornication and such, and they just made His life miserable, despite Him trying to do them good all the while. This was for their good, all this that He was saying, all the healings that He did, all the casting out of demons. All of those things were good but they could not abide Him. They could not stand the Man.
What was their problem? Why did they paint Him as an enemy so quickly? Well, obviously they were at first blind to who He was and we could also say they had no faith, or no belief. They dismissed His statements out of hand about His identity and His origins. They did not believe those things. Who does this guy think He is? I do not think—this is my own personal opinion—that they truly believed that God would send a messiah even though they knew the time was just about up. They could count the 460 years (or 490 years or whatever it is, the Seventy Weeks prophecy), and they knew that was about up. So if God was to be trusted, they knew the Messiah was coming.
But I do not think they really believed it. If they did, they certainly did not expect what they got. They did not expect a preacher of righteousness, they expected a conquering king. They wanted a guy that would come in, lead armies, oust the Romans, because temporal national power was their game. Remember, these are authorities, these are leaders, these are people who were in the political scene, or in the religious administration of things with its own political power. And that is the word we have got to kind of latch on to for this sermon, the word "power." Because there we are getting to the crux of the matter here.
Why did they hate Jesus so much? Because He was infringing on their power.
Now, this idea of power and authority appears in the text that we just read. It is in verse 12 of John 1, where Jesus said, in its proper sense, that He gave the right to those people whom God called to become children of God. Notice how that power works, in the proper sense. It comes through God who gives the power. It says He gave them power. It was from Jesus Christ Himself to give this power. And of course, as Jesus Christ, as the Son of God, He had the power to give. It had been appropriated to Him, given to Him by the Father, and He in turn gave the right, the authority, the power to those who are called and chosen. So that is the way real power works.
Out there in the world they do not think that. They do not see power from that perspective. They think of power as something you take or that is given to you by some other human authority who has been given that power from some other human authority, who has taken it. That is the way the power game is played among human beings.
Now consider this: The Jewish authorities, in their are many factions (we went over them before), believed authority—religious, secular, however it is—derived from them. At least in Judea because that was their playground, that was their territory, and they had power that had been given them from their forefathers or what have you. They would likely say, because the Pharisees and those were very well known to say the right thing, but not do the right thing, that the power came from God at some point in the distant past, but for all intents and purposes, they acted as if they were the power brokers, that they had the power, and they could give it and legitimize anyone whom they approved of. But they certainly did not approve of Jesus Christ.
So they saw themselves as the gatekeepers. They saw themselves as the upholders of standards and orthodoxy and everyone who wanted to get into the game, if you will, had to pass their bar of judgment before being given any kind of legitimacy. They were the ones you had to hop over their fence to be allowed to come in and do what you were going to do. So you had to make deals, you had to play by their rules, you had to do all things that they would allow you to do. This was their power game and they were in control. That is how they saw it.
I do not mean to pick on the Jews here. That is just our our topic here because they were the ones that were opposing Jesus at this time. But we should realize that this kind of power politics is not restricted to first century Judea. Not at all. It happens in every culture, every nation, pretty much every organization, especially organizations of men. But hey, I was in the Worldwide Church of God long enough in Pasadena to know that it was there too. Religion seems to be an especially fertile place for power politics. There are those who have power and there are those who want power, and the two are like vinegar and oil, they do not mix. Or if they do come together, it is a collision, it is a clash, it is a crash until one comes out on top.
Power is the name of the game. We cannot think that all was peaches and cream in first century Judea just because Jesus was there. Actually, that was one of the worst times in the history of the world in terms of all the political things going on because you had so many factions and they all hated each other. Jews hated the Romans, Romans hated the Jews, and then you throw Christ and the Christians in the mix and it was just a powder keg. You have the Zealots on the one hand, you have the Essenes on another hand. I did not even mention them in my list of things. But you had all these groups trying to get power in this little, tiny backwater area of the Mediterranean Sea.
And it was a blood war. It was a gangland war except a lot of these groups were religious and they had to have a little bit of façade of righteousness or of rectitude in front of the people. So a lot of this stuff was being done in a very underhanded manner. I mean, it is just human nature, this is what humans do. And humans think that if they want to make it in this world, they have to be at the pinnacle of their society, their order, their organization. They think that that is the ultimate goal. And people who play this game will give anything and play as rough as they must to reach that goal. It is a no-holds-barred fight. They really believe that to the victor go the spoils. This is survival of the fittest at its finest, or lowest, depending on your perspective. This is the law of the jungle, this is predator and prey.
That is just the way human nature is. It is ugly. And all of this was in play in Jesus' ministry. Not from Him, of course. He was not playing the game and this is what infuriated them so much. He would not play their game. He would spar with them, but more often than not, He just told them like it was. But He kept the law perfectly. He never crossed that line into blood sport. He just told them the way it was. But from the Jewish authorities, from their perspective, it was blood sport and they were going do get rid of Him as soon as they could, as soon as they could make it appear like they had grounds to do so, they would protect their positions of authority with underhanded stratagems. They would use knee-breaking violence if they had to, and they went further than that.
Like I said, through, most of His ministry they kept a kind of a hands-off approach because they needed to maintain that veneer of rectitude before the people. They did not want to blow their cover, even though Jesus at several places blew their cover wide open, calling them hypocrites and telling the people exactly what they were like. He knew who He was dealing with, He knew the human nature that they had, and He knew that they would turn it on full force to get rid of Him.
Let us go to Matthew 23. This is one of those places, of course, a castigation of the Pharisees where He lays it all out for us to see very plainly what the people, what the Pharisees themselves were like. We are going to read a fair amount of this chapter, just hop, skip, and jump through it. I will not make much commentary because I think it is very plain. He was able to describe them very closely.
Matthew 23:1-7 Then Jesus spoke to the multitudes and to His disciples, saying: "The scribes and the Pharisees sit in Moses' seat. Therefore whatever they tell you to observe, that observe and do, but do not do according to their works; for they say, and do not do. For they bind heavy burdens, hard to bear, and lay them on men's shoulders; but they themselves will not move them with one of their fingers. But all their works they do to be seen by men. They make their phylacteries broad [talking about their clothing and the accoutrements that they have] and enlarge the borders of their garments [so they will stand out and be seen to be especially holy]. They love the best places at the feasts, the best seats in the synagogues, greetings in the marketplaces, and to be called by men, 'Rabbi Rabbi.' [have this great title]
Matthew 23:12-16 [And He kind of pegs them here.] "And whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted. [He is saying, "Look, these people are exalting themselves and we can expect them to be humbled."] Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you shut up the kingdom of heaven against men; for you neither go in yourselves, nor do you allow those who are entering to go in. Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you devour widows houses [remember this], and for a pretense make long prayers. Therefore you will receive the greater condemnation. Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you travel land and sea to win one proselyte, and when he is won, you make him twice as much a son of hell as yourselves. [He is not holding back here.] Woe to you blind guides who say, 'Whoever swears by the temple, it is nothing; but whoever swears by the gold of the temple, he is obliged to perform it.' [Talking about their avarice, their greed, they were out for money.]
Matthew 23:25-28 "Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you cleanse the outside of the cup and dish, but inside they are full of extortion and self-indulgence. [They were doing all the things on the outside, on the exterior to make themselves look good. But if you could just peel that back just a little bit, all you would see was evil and dirt and just the worst of human character.] Blind Pharisee [He says], first cleanse the inside of the cup and dish, that the outside of them may be clean also. Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs which indeed appear beautiful outwardly, but inside are full of dead men's bones and all uncleanness. Even so you also outwardly appear righteous to men, but inside you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness."
That is all I need, as far as I need to go to give you a sense of Jesus' very precise perspective and judgment about their character. They did a lot to be seen as good. Remember I talked about this veneer of rectitude that they had tried to keep up in front of the people. But beneath all that was just horrendous power politics. Greed, as He says here, self indulgence, extortion, all of these terrible things, and that is what He had to deal with. These are the enemies that He was facing every day.
What we are going to consider in the remaining time we have is why these Jews hated Jesus so much. We already have enough from what I have already said to give you a good idea why they did not like Him. But I want to go through five examples, and all of my examples focus on this idea of authority, Jesus proclaiming His authority as the Son of God over areas that they, the Jewish authorities, thought they controlled. And it infuriated them, from the very beginning it infuriated them. They did not like the fact that Jesus came in and He encroached on all their territory. He did not leave anything to them. And we will see a couple of places where He says they are going down and He meant it. By the time we come to the end of his ministry, it is no surprise that they were saying "Barabbas, Barabbas" and "Crucify this Man!" because they hated His guts as much as any person has hated another. By then they saw it as the zero sum game (like Marc Schindler was talking about). It was either Him or us, He has got to go or we are done for—we are doomed. That is the way they looked at it.
My hope is that we understand by the time we get done with this today, that we are facing a very similar thing in the future. The world hates the people of God. We are right now living in a bubble of of sheer joy and wonderfulness. And there is going to come a time, though, when it is going to get bad. We have that from Jesus Christ Himself. He tells us, and we will get to this at the end of the sermon, that if they hated Him, they are going to hate you. So we need to be prepared. As we go through this, please think about how Jesus handled these things because that is wisdom that we can file away for the times ahead.
But God's people will be in the crosshairs of this world at some point and we need to be prepared so that we can at least hold our own. I know we are not trained in power politics. We do not have that killer instinct, you might say, who are trying to beat the other guy at their own game. So what we have to do is we have to know God, know the wisdom of His Word, and most of all, stay close to Him because He is the only one with the power to do anything in our behalf.
So what specifically got Jesus into trouble with the Jewish authorities? We are going to look at five events that riled the Jews because they perceived Jesus as an interloper, as one who was taking their power and prerogatives to Himself. Most of these things, what they considered their powers, are really rights or authorities or privileges of God. These were things that were God's, but they had presumed to take it upon themselves over the centuries, especially the Pharisees.
Now the Levites and the priests, you could think that they had some of these rights or authorities from God because they are in the Old Testament. He gave them specific powers and abilities or whatever to do things. But the Pharisees were laymen. They did not have those God-given rights and authorities. They had taken them upon themselves. So they did not like the fact that someone was calling them on this. And they were like babies who throw a tantrum when their favorite toys are taken from them. They pitched a fit. They did not react well at all. And instead of understanding that it was for their own good and repenting, they did not do that. They went after the One who they deemed was taking those things from them.
Let us start in the book of Mark in chapter 2. This is the healing of the paralytic that was lowered down to Jesus to heal. And there are several things going on here. I just want to read the whole thing and then we will go back and pick up these points.
Mark 2:1-12 And again He entered Capernaum after some days, and it was heard that He was in the house. Immediately many gathered together so that there was no longer room to receive them, not even near the door. And He preached the word to them. Then they came to Him, bringing a paralytic who was carried by four men. And when they could not come near Him because of the crowd, they uncovered the roof where He was. And when they had broken through, they let down the bed on which the paralytic was lying. When Jesus saw their faith, He said to the paralytic, "Son, your sins are forgiven you." And some of the scribes were sitting there and reasoning in their hearts, "Why does this Man speak blasphemies like this? Who can forgive sins but God alone?" But immediately, when Jesus perceived in His spirit that they reasoned thus within themselves, He said to them, "Why do you reason about these things in your hearts? Which is easier to say to the paralytic, 'Your sins are forgiven you,' or to say, 'Arise, take up your bed and walk'? But that you may know that the Son of Man has power on earth to forgive sins"—He said to the paralytic, "I say to you, arise, take up your bed, and go your way to your house." Immediately he arose, took up the bed, and went out in the presence of them all, so that all were amazed and glorified God, saying, "We never saw anything like this!"
Like I said, there are several things that we need to point out here. I am going to give you six and these basically give the background, if you will, for all the other four vignettes that we are going to look at. These are all kind of in play or most of them are. These are six reasons that they hated Jesus.
1. They hated that Jesus was so popular. They came up to the house and it was so crowded they could not find a seat, not even on the floor, not even near the door, as far away from Him as possible in the house. It was so crowded there that the paralytic's friends had to lower him through the roof. That was the only way in because it was packed with people otherwise. People were flocking to see Him and to be healed by Him from all over Judea and Galilee. The whole country had heard about Him and they were all coming to Him as they were able so that they could be healed of these diseases. I mean, look at chapter 1, verse 45, just the last clause that is in the verse, "and they came to Him from every quarter," it says, from every direction. This is early in His ministry and His name, His fame had gone out already and people were coming to see Him. It was like He was like a rock star. Everybody wanted to hear Him sing, if you will.
2. They hated Him because His power to heal was real. He was actually doing miracles. People's diseases were gone. People were leaping up like little lambs and galloping away when they could not even roll over before. That is how this paralytic man was. Paralytic means he cannot move! And he picked up his bed and walked out! A paralytic would not even have the strength to pick up his bed after his healing. But evidently Jesus gave him the strength to even pick up his bed and get out of there through all those people. I am sure they stood aside and let him walk through, but they were probably going, "Wow! I can't believe what I've just seen." So Jesus made the sick well. It was real. The lepers were cleansed, the demon possessed were free of the demons. Let us go back a chapter here, verse 32.
Mark 1:32-34 At evening, when the sun had set, they brought to Him all who were sick and those who were demon-possessed. And the whole city was gathered together at the door. Then He healed many who were sick with various diseases, and cast out many demons; and He did not allow the demons to speak because they knew Him.
Mark 1:40-42 Now a leper came to Him, imploring Him, kneeling down to Him and saying to Him, "If you are willing, You can make me clean." And Jesus, moved with compassion, put out His hand and touched him, and said to him, "I am willing; be cleansed." As soon as He had spoken, immediately the leprosy left him, and he was cleansed.
These are things that people could see. The guy comes with all kinds of splotches and whatnot of leprosy on him and they are looking at him and from one moment to the next, he goes from leprous to having beautiful skin. They could see it with their own eyes. It was not fake. He was not a Benny Hinn or one of these other faith healers that hits you on the head and says, "Be healed!" And it is like an actor they picked up from Hollywood Boulevard or something. That is not the way it was with Jesus. These were normal people with real diseases.
And He was not a one-trick pony either. It says there in verse 34 "with various diseases." He did not just cleanse lepers. He did not just heal paralytics, He did not just heal the blind or the deaf. He did everything. He was the one shop healer. I mean, He could do anything because the power of God was in Him. It was real. Now this should have made the Pharisees and the Sadducees and all the other enemies that He had realize that he was backed by the real power of God. How else could it happen?
But you know what? It only made them jealous. They did not have this power. How much they envied Him His power! So He had a huge following. Everybody loved Him, He healed people, and it was real. That really sets them on edge.
3. They hated Him because of His claim to be able to forgive sin, which they understood was a power and prerogative of God alone. He claimed that He could forgive sin and He was basically telling them, "I can forgive sin, your sins are forgiven you." And what He was saying, the subtext of that is, "I am God, I can forgive sin." And this of course was blasphemous to them, so they could conclude only one of two things: One, that, yes, Jesus was declaring Himself to be God. And of course they latched on to that. But I do not think necessarily that they believed it. I think they thought He was declaring it, but not that He was God. They would not go that far this soon.
But the second thing is they could conclude that He was a charlatan who said this to trump their power. He was just getting in their faces, He was throwing down a gauntlet, if you will. Like I said, at this point in His ministry, very early, I think they likely considered Him a charlatan of some sort and they thought that His power came from the Devil. That it was demonic power that He was healing with, not godly power. Actually, they claim this in chapter 3, verse 22. I will just read that.
Mark 3:22 And the scribes who came down from Jerusalem said, "He has Beelzebub," and, "By the ruler of the demons, He casts out demons."
So either way, whether they thought that He was saying that He was God, or that He was a charlatan and He and he got His power from the Devil, it did not matter. He was still encroaching on their territory, He was still contending for the power that they thought they had.
4. They hated that He claimed to have authority to forgive sins. Little bit different. One is the ability, the other is the authority. Two different things, although they are very much connected. This implies that there had been, at some point, a direct passing of power from God alone to Him. And it also hints that Jesus had a special place before God and that He had come from God.
What Jesus is saying when He says "that you may know that the Son of Man has power or authority on earth to forgive sin" and then He healed the paralytic there. What Jesus is saying, again the subtext is, that He has legitimate authority from God Himself. It was not presumed or assumed authority. He was not filling a power vacuum of some sort, just by His own actions. He was saying that He had been given this power from God Himself, while He is also implying that the scribes and the Pharisees had assumed their authority over religious matters, including judging people's sinfulness.
Now we know that took place. Pharisees were well known for being critical of everybody and looking down their noses at people who were not as righteous as they were, who were not fulfilling the oral law as well as they could, who were not wearing those broad phylacteries like they did. So they were judging people sins all the time. But Jesus is saying, "Look, I can judge people's sins and forgive them of them rather than condemn them like you guys do." I mean, what does He tell the paralytic? He tells him to "Arise, take up your bed and walk." But the first thing that He had told him was, "Your sins are forgiven." What a merciful, compassionate Man! Very, very different from the Pharisees.
5. They hated His linking of healing with the forgiveness of sin, especially that the healing visibly proved that He had indeed forgiven the man's sin. That is why He was saying, "Which is easier, to say, 'Take up your bed and walk,' or, 'Your sins are forgiven you'? And He very easily says, "Look, I can prove to you that his sins are forgiven by telling him 'take up your bed and walk.'" Because if his sins were not forgiven him, he would just lie there as he has been doing as a paralytic. But the healing shows the forgiveness of sins. That is what He said. In a way, it is a in your face comment that He makes to them. Because He was saying, "You Pharisees can reason and bluster all you want about My authority to forgive sins. But here is proof that I do have authority to forgive sin. The paralytic can now walk. There he goes."
You cannot deny that! The man was brought in, lowered on a bed through the roof, and he is leaving this place out the door, under his own power. That is the proof that he had been forgiven. So He challenges them to dispute the evidence that everybody plainly sees. He is saying, "Okay, fish or cut bait, boys. You must either accept it and Me, or you must reject it and reject Me." And of course, they chose the latter. They chose not to accept Him and His power, and His closeness to God, and all the other benefits that they could have gotten from Him. Instead, they decided to continue hating Him.
6. They hated that He calls Himself the Son of Man. This is the first time He uses this title in the gospel of Mark, and it is loaded with meaning. Now, the scribes and the Pharisees were very well-versed. I use that not as a pun. It is actually true in the Bible. They knew the Bible, the Old Testament front to back. They probably, like Paul, had quite a bit of it memorized. So when He says, "The Son of Man has power on earth to forgive sins," as He does there in verse 10, they knew exactly what He was referring to. They knew exactly that He was, almost, quoting from Daniel 7:13-14. He was telling them, this is who you are dealing with, guys.
Daniel 7:13-14 [This is part of Daniel's dream.] "I was watching in the night visions, and behold, One like the Son of Man, coming with the clouds of heaven! He came to the Ancient of Days, and they brought Him near before Him. [Remember I talked about His special position with God. Well, this is partly where it comes from.] Then To Him [the Son of Man] was given dominion [How about power and the right to rule, authority.] and glory and a kingdom, that all peoples, nations, and languages should serve Him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and His kingdom the one which shall not be destroyed."
This is what Jesus was telling the scribes and Pharisees in Mark 2. "Guys, do you know who you're talking to? Do you know who you're contending with? The Son of Man has the power on earth to forgive sin." So He is making them go back in their minds and think about what is said here in Daniel 7, that the Son of Man is a human, Son of Man, with divine powers and majesty coming from heaven and being given eternal dominion and judgment, and an everlasting kingdom. We read there in verse 13, like God, as He is seen throughout the Old Testament, the Son of Man rides the clouds and stands right next to the Ancient of Days. He is the right hand man, if you will, of God the Father.
This is what Jesus is claiming. It would not have been difficult for the Jewish authorities to conclude that Jesus was saying that He was indeed this Son of Man. And if you know the Son of Man from Daniel 7:13-14, you know that God has given Him all this power and that includes the power to forgive sin. And of course, they saw it as a challenge, that He was throwing down the gauntlet.
Now, their hatred and their condemnation, their rejection of Him, which Jesus perceived supernaturally, (it tells us there in the middle of Mark 2 that He knew this from their hearts), that stands in stark contrast to the peoples' reaction to what they had seen. The people did not have all these axes to grind like the Pharisees did. They saw wonders, they saw people being healed. They saw sins being forgiven and the proof of it walking out the door. This was a wonderful thing, and they were amazed and they glorified God. Without any skin in the game, they saw things more clearly than their leaders did, and had therefore a better and more appropriate reaction.
Unfortunately, the Jewish leaders got to these people, and by the time we get to three and a half years later they are standing with their leaders saying, "Crucify Him! Crucify Him!" But it is an amazing thing to look right now and see the contrast here between the people and their leaders at this point. Because the leaders understood what Jesus was actually saying and the people had not yet put things together.
Let us go to Matthew the 12th chapter and see another one of these. This is where they clash on the Sabbath. We will read the first 14 verses here and then go back to Mark 2.
Matthew 12:1-14 At that time Jesus went through the grainfields on the Sabbath. And His disciples were hungry, and began to pluck heads of grain and to eat. But when the Pharisees saw it, they said to Him, "Look, your disciples are doing what is not lawful to do on the Sabbath!" Then He said to them, "Have you not read what David did when he was hungry, he and those who are with him; how he entered the house of God and ate the showbread which was not lawful for him to eat, nor for those who were with him, but only for the priests? Or have you not read in the law that on the Sabbath the priests in the temple profane the Sabbath and are blameless? Yet I say to you that in this place there is One greater than the temple. But if you had known what this means, 'I desire mercy and not sacrifice,' you would not have condemned the guiltless. For the Son of Man is Lord even of the Sabbath." Now, when He had departed from there, He went into their synagogue [this is just afterwards, going into the lion's den, as it were]. And behold, there was a man who had a withered hand. And they asked Him, saying, "Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath?"—that they might accuse Him [trying to set Him up]. Then He said to them, "What man is there among you who has one sheep, and if it falls into a pit on the Sabbath, will not lay hold of it and lift it out? Of how much more value then is a man than a sheep? Therefore it is lawful to do good on the Sabbath." Then He said to the man, "Stretch out your hand." And he stretched it out, and it was restored as whole as the other. Then the Pharisees went out and plotted against Him, how they might destroy Him.
Back to Mark 2. I just want verses 27 and 28. It is a little fuller version of what He said to them.
Mark 2:27-28 And He said to them, "The Sabbath was made for man, and not man for the Sabbath. Therefore the Son of Man is also Lord of Sabbath."
He knew there was going to be a clash at some point over the Sabbath. So after the disciples go through the field there and they pluck the grain and they blow off the chaff and they eat it, the Pharisees accused Jesus of allowing His disciples to break the Sabbath. He is the Rabbi, if to them, their actions meant that He had taught them to do this and so He was guilty of Sabbath-breaking. As with the student, so with the master, as it were.
Now we know how strict the Pharisees were about keeping the Sabbath. In their response to the fall of Jerusalem and their exile to Babylon about 500/600 years earlier, their ancestors had formulated their own set of rules, laws, regulations, and traditions to keep the Jews from ever breaking the Sabbath again. Because the prophets had told them, you can read it back in Ezekiel, that idolatry and Sabbath-breaking were the main causes of their troubles, and so they thought that if they put a wall, planted a hedge around the Sabbath, that they could somehow keep people from sinning—from breaking the Sabbath—and therefore they would not be overcome by another outside power like Babylon. Well, they should have just looked around. They had the Romans breathing down their neck every day. So it obviously had not worked.
But these traditions had become so entrenched that they became basically the religion of the Pharisees, what is now, its descendant, orthodox Judaism. But these rules that they had made 400 and 500 years before had been passed down. They had been added to and strengthened through these four or five centuries. So this oral law had taken precedence over Scripture, and its caretakers, the ones who knew it best, were the lawyers. When you see that in the gospels that there were lawyers that were talking to Jesus, are contending with Him, that is what they knew. It was not that they knew what you go down to the courthouse to argue about. This was the law that they knew. Supposedly they were supposed to know the biblical law, but it was the oral law that they were experts at because it was mostly passed down by word of mouth. It was their baby and they would protect it with all that they were worth.
Now, Jesus comes on the scene and He starts undercutting this oral law left and right because they had put strictures into place. Remember He talked about the heavy burdens being put on people and they would not use one of their fingers to lift them. This is what He was talking about, these burdens that the oral law put on the people so that they could not enjoy the Sabbath, they could not get anything out of the Sabbath. They were basically homebound. They could go no farther than whatever it was, so many fifths of a mile or whatever. I cannot remember how much it was. They could only carry the amount of two or three little beans in their hand. They could not carry a needle and thread. They might be able to carry a thread, but not the needle because if you had those things you might be tempted to sew something. That was kind of how it was. They made these rules so that you could not be accused of breaking the Sabbath for any reason.
But Jesus comes on the scene and He starts loosening all these things. They thought He was a flaming liberal because He was giving people freedom. And what He was doing was actually restoring the Sabbath commandment to its original intent. But they saw Him as a destroyer of this house that they had built—their house of cards. So He defends Himself here with three points.
He says, look, you guys know the Old Testament. David ate the showbread that he was not allowed to eat, but he was not considered to have sinned and that one happened on the Sabbath! He says the priests, they work on the Sabbath and are blameless, showing that doing God's work is fine on the Sabbath day. That is work, that is a good Sabbath activity to do God's work. And the third thing He says, look, if you go back and read the prophets, you know that they said, mercy triumphs over all of this ritual and sacrifice. God would rather have mercy and not sacrifice.
And that is the key to understanding the first two examples that He gave. David's men were hungry, they needed to eat, the showbread was available. It had already run its seven days there, so the priest gave it to them. It was fine. It was something that was a good work that could be done. Same with the priests and the Levites. The work that they do on the Sabbath, that is a merciful work. The work of God. It is fine that they do this. They do a lot of hard, heavy work. I mean, butchering animals and such, putting them on the fire, that is not easy. But they did it on the Sabbath and it was not sin.
In all, Jesus is saying that their knowledge of the Old Testament should have guided their Sabbath observance, but instead they always fell back on tradition and human reason and fear.
At the base of all this is the fact that God has authority of what is proper to do on the Sabbath. God created the Sabbath, did He not, at creation by resting. And He tells us we need to keep the seventh day and He codified it in the Ten Commandments. Big number four, "Remember the Sabbath day, keep it holy." Now by saying that He, Jesus, the Son of Man, has authority over the Sabbath, guess what? Jesus is saying once again that He is God. He is the Lord of the Sabbath. He makes the rules. And He judges those of us who try to keep the rules, or do not. So He has authority to make rulings like He did with the disciples going through the grain fields, that it was okay. They could go through and pluck the grains and eat them on the Sabbath because they were hungry. They had probably done a fair amount of work that day, not just in traveling from one place to another, but they probably had assisted Him in His preaching and teaching and healing. So He allowed them to eat. What is so bad about that?
To the Jews, they had a big problem with it. But not to Him. And He was saying, "Look, I made a decision, it's good." You cannot argue. He cuts them right off at the pass and said, "Look, I'm the Lord of the Sabbath. What you think doesn't make any difference in the matter."
Now they might have conceded the examples He gave from the Old Testament, but this claim that He was Lord of the Sabbath to them went too far. They saw it as Him taking their authority over the Sabbath from them because they had led the Jews around by the nose for centuries, by these silly little traditions about the Sabbath. That is how they kept people in their place. And then Jesus goes right into their synagogue and rubs their noses in it by healing, by doing a good work in their very midst on the Sabbath! He stood behind His arguments. They did not like to be shown up, especially on their home turf. It says at the end of that in Matthew 12:14, now they were out for blood.
Let us go to Matthew 15, and we will get into another one of these.
Matthew 15:1-14 Then the scribes and Pharisees who were from Jerusalem came to Jesus, saying, "Why do your disciples transgress the tradition of the elders? For they do not wash their hands when they eat bread." He answered and said to them, "Why do you also transgress the commandment of God because of your tradition? For God commanded, saying, 'Honor your father and your mother'; and, 'He who curses father or mother, let him be put to death.' But you say, 'Whoever says to his father or mother, "Whatever profit you might have received from me is a gift to God"—then he need not honor his father or mother.' Thus you have made the commandment of God of no effect by your tradition. Hypocrites! [or he should have said "Shysters!"] Why did Isaiah prophesy about you, saying: 'These people draw near to Me with their mouth, and honor Me with their lips, but their heart is far from Me. And in vain they worship Me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.'" When He called the multitude to Himself, He said to them, "Hear and understand: Not what goes into the mouth defiles a man; but what comes out of the mouth, this defiles a man." Then His disciples came and said to Him, "Do You know that the Pharisees were offended when they heard this saying?" [Is the Pope Catholic? Ha!] But He answered and said, "Every plant which My heavenly Father has not planted will be uprooted. Let them alone. They are blind leaders of the blind. And if the blind leads the blind, both will fall into a ditch."
Here in this section, Jesus dismisses their ritual washings and all of their other added ritual practices that their elders had instituted to maintain ritual purity. Now what they had done was they had taken the priestly practices of bathing and handwashing that they were commanded to do by God before they did their service in the Temple. These were the priests and the Levites that had to be clean. But what they did is they made the same washings obligatory for everyone, not just the priests and the Levites doing their duties in the Temple.
We need to understand something here. The Jewish practice of handwashing before a meal was not a hygienic practice. It had nothing to do with getting rid of germs. It had everything to do with being ritually pure. It was a rite, it was like Catholics crossing themselves. It was something they did superstitiously. It had no value in terms of any kind of godliness. They were not concerned about dirt, they were concerned about appearing to be concerned about holiness. It was all outward. It was all a front. It was an essentially meaningless formality, like the sign of the cross is. I mean, batters get into the batter's box at baseball games and they cross themselves before every pitch. God, let me hit a single, please. I mean it is useless. But that is kind of how the ritual handwashing was. It was just Jewish rather than Catholic.
So in His argument here that we just went through Jesus leads with a "gotcha!" question. He has had it. I do not think He had gotten impatient. But this was a time not to quibble about things. He says you are so worried about us transgressing this unwarranted ritual, but you are not concerned at all about your traditions, disobeying God's commandments? Guys, do you not see the hypocrisy here. And what He does is He cites their tradition of deliberately dedicating certain funds to the Temple. This is what is called corban, an offering to God. But once they were dedicated as corban, they were unavailable to be used to help their parents. It was like putting your money in the bank and saying, "This is off limits, Dad. Off limits, Mom. If you guys get in trouble, you can't have that money. It's going to the Temple." So their widowed mothers get to old age and they need help, "Mom, Dad, the money just isn't there. You know, I gave that $5 million dollar offering to the Temple. Sorry."
This seems to have been done quite a bit. They had done it originally to be seen giving a large offering to the Temple! It was as simple as that. "I'm the great benefactor of Israel." So they shouted out that they just gave all this money to the Temple. Yet their mother, who is in her old age and needs the help, does not get a shekel. Evidently this was done often enough that it was a problem and it caused a lot of hardship.
Mark 12:40 [He describes them as those] "who devour widows' houses, . . ."
They were rapacious in their greed, and they would run their grandmothers over if it was going to make them some money, or if it was going to give them some acclaim on the street, give them some street cred, as it were. That is what He is talking about here.
So Jesus calls them hypocrites and He was right, because they were trying to appear ritually righteous before the public. Yet internally, as we saw in Matthew 23, they were neglecting a God-given responsibility to care for their needy parents, thus breaking the fifth commandment. Further, the Pharisees approved of this tradition, ruling that corban overrides God's commandment.
Now we know this hit a nerve because Jesus was talking money and their judgment and their appearance of righteousness before men. This made them mad. Reach into a guy's pocketbook, he is not going to be nice. Jesus turns around and tells His disciples that the Pharisees and their traditions were not of God and they would be uprooted. He is talking about 70 AD. Their time was coming, He told His disciples.
Let us quickly go to another one. I still have two more. This one is a little bit shorter. This was getting into the triumphal entry here.
Luke 19:35-40 Then they [His disciples] brought him [the donkey] to Jesus. And they threw their own clothes on the colt, and they set Jesus on him. And as He went, they spread their clothes on the road. Then, as He was now drawing near the descent of the Mount of Olives, the whole multitude of the disciples began to rejoice and praise God with a loud voice for all the mighty works they had seen, saying: "Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the Lord! Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!" And some of the Pharisees called to Him from the crowd, "Teacher, rebuke your disciples." But He answered and said to them, "I tell you that if these should keep silent, the stones would immediately cry out."
Now this is an obvious one about encroaching on their power as He comes in and people declare Him to be king. This fulfills the prophecy in Zechariah 9:9. Jesus does nothing to stop the people from declaring Him king. In fact, His instructions to His disciples had ensured that it would come to pass, that it would fulfill all the details of the prophecy. Now, the Pharisees, perhaps in their fear of Rome, perhaps in real, true indignation, or both, tell Him to stop the charade and rebuke His disciples for stirring up the crowd, but He doubles down. He is not taking it any more. He says that if the people did not shout their hosannas to Him, all creation would respond with praise for Him. Why? Because He is their Creator. This was His time.
Just a little interesting detail here is that Jesus does not come into Jerusalem as a conquering king, but He comes as a humble, righteous creature—a preaching king, if you will. He comes speaking peace as Zechariah 9:10 describes Him. The Pharisees wanted a messiah that would stand in front of an army and kick the Romans out. And by claiming authority over the Kingdom and coming in, lowly on a donkey, Jesus was slapping down their hopes and dreams of power under the new Messianic order. You see, His Messiahship, and the way He was conducting Himself, did not fit their plans, which is another reason why they hated Him and wanted to get rid of Him.
I will just tell you the next one because we are running out of time. But you can write down Matthew 21:12-17 and Mark 11:17. And this is the final straw. The final straw is that Jesus goes into the Temple and He cleanses it again. This was the second time He had done this. He came in, it says in John 2:15 that He came in with the whip of cords and He just got everybody—all the animals, threw the tables of the moneychangers over, He cleaned the place up. He said, essentially, "I'm the new sheriff here." One of the things that He said is in Mark 11, and I want to read that one.
Mark 11:17 Then He taught, saying to them, "Is it not written, 'My house shall be called a house of prayer for all nations'? But you have made it a den of thieves."
Now the Sadducees controlled the Temple concessions and the moneychangers and the sale of animals and probably trinkets and souvenirs for all the visitors from afar. And again He hits them in their pocketbook and he criticized their stewardship, calling them thieves, and claiming that He has sole authority over what occurs there because it is "My house," He said. He was taking the center of Israelite religion away from them—the Temple that stood for everything that was godly, the source of their power, as they saw it. He is saying, "I'm God, this house was built for Me. I'm its resident." So in a sense, you could say, He kicks the priests, the Sadducees, the Pharisees, and all the rest right out the door and says, "Don't come back until you change!" He reclaims His house from them.
Like I said, by doing so, He claims authority over all Israelite religion because the Temple was its premiere symbol. It was a bold, bold, bold move when they were in this attitude already. They were ready to kill Him and now He goes and takes the Temple keys from them? Uh uh! And it seals His fate.
Let us finish in John 15. This is where we come back into the picture. Jesus counsels us here as His disciples.
John 15:18-20 "If the world hates you, you know that it hated Me before it hated you. [We have just seen five examples of that.] If you were of the world, the world would love its own. Yet because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you. Remember the word that I said to you, 'A servant is not greater than his master.' If they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you. If they kept My word, they will keep yours also."
Have you ever thought about this? Like Jesus, we say certain things that make people mad, if they think about them. Have you ever thought about that? God's people make claims that the authorities of this world do not like, especially the religious ones.
For instance, we say we were chosen personally by the Father, not in some call of everybody. We say that God reached down and chose you, you, you, you—everyone—personally and brought them to Jesus and into the church. We say that we alone have put God's truth together in the right way, that we know the whole counsel of God. We may have things wrong, but we have got it better than they do, truer than they do.
We say we alone have God's Spirit because only those who have been personally called by the Father and gone through repentance and baptism and that sort of thing, and accepted Jesus Christ as their personal Savior, get the laying on of hands and the Spirit comes then. We alone, we say, will be in the first resurrection and nobody else—not the supposed Holy Father who sits in supposedly Peter's seat in Rome, he will not be there. But we people from the back of nowhere, we will.
You see how that might stick in people's craw.
We say that we alone, once we are glorified when Christ returns, will rule with Him for 1,000 years in His Kingdom. And where are those other people? Well, they probably all died in the Tribulation and the Day of the Lord, unsaved, and they will have to come up in the second resurrection.
You see how that might make people a little mad, a little envious?
These kind of things can turn up a lot of hatred and resentment, and ultimately violence. When push comes to shove, the authorities, the people of this world will treat God's people just as the Jews treated Jesus because they feel that we are taking too much upon ourselves.
But, like Him, we need to show the same faith. We need to show the same resolve to carry God's work through to the end. It was not easy for Him. He took a lot of grief. He is a man of grief, a man of sorrows because He had to face that every day.
But you know how He got through? He was close to His Father. He knew He had a job to do. He kept at it and He tells us—this is the advice I want to leave you with as we think about this later on. Remember what He said in Matthew 24:13, "He who endures to the end shall be saved."