Twist and shout — Jesus, the Pharisees, and our ideas of moral ethics

What do these guys have in common (besides culturally relevant clothing)?

Matthew 12

What do these guys have in common (besides culturally relevant clothing)?

After reading the gospels several times, we get comfortable with Jesus’ routine of healing, teaching, and proclaiming His deity.   But episodes like this one fascinate those who look for a pacifist, glowing-countenanced Savior, because it contrasts so sharply with what we’d expect.  Jesus is playing by His own rules.

Take a look at some of the things Jesus does to the religious leaders in this chapter:

Intentionally draws their attention.  (v. 1) You think Jesus had the disciples eat in that grain field on purpose?  You betcha.
Already has a reputation (v. 2) It’s clear that the Pharisees were looking for a reason to “get him.” As soon as they saw something, they pointed it out.
Uses their stuff against them. (v. 4-5) Jesus knows the Jewish law.  He knows that they know it.  He almost presents the material in a condescending fashion.
Thwarts their authority. (v. 6, 8) Jesus doesn’t even bother acknowledging their leadership — He puts Himself above the Pharisees outright.
Challenges their knowledge. (v. 7) Despite their familiarity with the law, the Pharisees still don’t get it, according to Jesus.  He decides to call them out on it.
Confronts them head on. (v. 9) After insulting the Pharisees in just about every way, Jesus heads to their house (the synagogue) and continues.
Provokes their ire. (v. 10) According to this account, Jesus asks a question just to get them upset.
Rewrites their law. (v. 12) Your book isn’t good enough, Jesus says.  It IS lawful to heal on the Sabbath.  Deal with it.
Incites anger. (v. 14) Jesus peeves the Pharisees so much that they want to kill Him.

Before you guys head to Washington to pick a fight, it’s important to understand what Jesus is really doing here.

The problem is the legalistic position of the Pharisees. They are overly concerned with their own version of righteousness, enforcing their personal moral standards upon everyone, and making sure no one else has a say.  Jesus is looking to destroy all of that, letting the righteousness of God supersede the righteousness of man.

We should also recognize that this inspires great anger in Jesus because the religious leaders are essentially insulting His Father.  They distort the intended meaning of God’s words and laws, augmenting them to benefit themselves. Jesus’ chief concern is glorifying the Father — and apparently, eliminating the Pharisee’s standards in the process.

I hope, rather than looking at this list and thinking of your next controversial cause to contest, you examine your own life and your view of this world.  Are you pursuing the righteousness of God, or the righteousness of man?  What would Jesus say to you?


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