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Jesus versus the Pharisees and Sadducees Matthew 21 to 23
Jesus versus the Pharisees and Sadducees
Matthew 21-23

When you think of Jesus what character traits, what qualities come to your mind? What's the portrait of Christ that exists in your mind?

One of the many good things of studying the Gospels is that we are re-introduced to Jesus-- for sometimes we forget things about Jesus and begin to develop a picture of Jesus that we want versus who he really is. This explains why our being in the Bible regularly is so important.

Last week we considered something about Jesus that we don't often think about-- In particular, we saw Jesus frustrated. The key thing about Jesus when he was frustrated was this: He didn't sin. What frustrated Jesus the most? Lack of faith! Not trusting Him. Conversely, what pleased Jesus the most? FAITH. We need to trust Christ. Nothing is too hard for him.

This morning we are going to consider another side of Jesus that we sometimes forget. The texts that will guide, lead, and inform us are found in Matthew 21-23

Matthew 21-23 focuses on Jesus' conflict with the Pharisees and Sadduccess-- a conflict which came to a head during the last week of Jesus' life (which is the focus of Matthew 21-28)

When it comes to Jesus, we don't often think of him in conflict with people.

-Sometimes when I think of Jesus and songs we sing of and to him, songs like "Gentle Shepherd" or "Fairest Lord Jesus" pop into my mind.
-No doubt about it, Jesus is the most gentlest of people - for a bruised reed he did not break (a prophecy referring to his dealings with fragile and broken people) YET when it came to people who rejected him, attributed his work to the work of Satan, and who opposed Him, His teachings, His claims at every turn Jesus was strong, forceful, blunt, unbending, responsive.

Throughout the Book of Matthew, Matthew details a running conflict that Jesus had with the Pharisees and Sadducees during his 3 year ministry. See Matthew 5:20; 6:1-18; 7:15-29; 9:27-34; 12; 15:1-9; 16:1-12; 17:14-23; 19:1-11; 21-23

Who were the Pharisees and Sadducees

The Pharisees

-Highly regarded by the people
-Very concerned about outward righteousness and obedience to God's laws
-Taught the people about God and instructed the people in the Word
-Had a penchant for adding to the commands of God (Ironically, so that one wouldn't break God's commands)
-High regard for Old Testament Scriptures
-Believed in the resurrection of the dead, angels, demons, the judgment to come
-Paul was once a Pharisee
-Though some became followers of Jesus, for the most part they, along with the Sadducees, vehemently opposed Jesus at every turn-- attributing his work to Satan, trying to trap him in his words, plotting to arrest and kill him. In the end they did arrest, horribly mistreat, and killed Jesus-- having him hung on a cross

The Sadducees

-Opponents of the Pharisees
-In league with the Romans
-Not very well liked by the people
-Denied the resurrection, angels, and demons.
-Only considered to the Books of Moses (first 5 books of the Bible) to be God's Word
-Along with the Pharisees, they occupied and controlled the Temple and formed the religious governing body in Israel.


Matthew 21

-Jesus enters Jerusalem triumphantly as a king, fulfilling an ancient prophecy of the Messiah entering Jerusalem on a donkey
-Jesus cleanses the Temple for a second time
-The chief priests and scribes oppose Jesus, decrying the praise the people were giving to him v.15
-Jesus curses a fig tree (a tree which stands as a type for the Pharisees and the Sadducees). The tree should have been bearing fruit, but it wasn't.
-Chief priests and elders challenge Jesus as it regards his authority (v.23-27)
-Jesus tells three parables aimed at the unbelief of the Pharisees and chief priests. Parables of rebuke and judgment v.23-46 (READ v.33-46) ; Matthew 22:1-14

Matthew 22

The Pharisees and Sadducees take turns trying to trap Jesus in his words. READ v.15-22 and ask whether or not people are up to date with their taxes

SPECIAL NOTE on the Pharisees and Sadducees trying to trap Jesus in his words

I am reminded of Jesus words from Matthew 12:42 wherein Jesus says to the Pharisees and teachers of the Law "One greater than Solomon is here"

Solomon was known for his wisdom. People journeyed from all over the earth to go and see Solomon and to learn at his feet and at times to test him with hard questions. Solomon answered them all and they were awe. Here the Pharisees and Sadducees come to Jesus to trap him in his words by asking hard questions-- that they might find reason to arrest and kill him. Jesus, being greater and wiser than Solomon answers them all and then finishes by turning the tables on them and asking them a question they could not answer (v.41-46). Such is the wisdom of Christ.

Matthew 23

An announcement of 7 woes of judgment on the Pharisees and Sadducees. "Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites!....."

In these declarations Jesus left no doubt as to their spiritual estate and their eternal destination for note what Jesus says in verse 15 "Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you travel across sea and land to make a single convert, and when he becomes one, you make him twice as much a child of Hell as yourselves"

YET NOTE THIS VERY IMPORTANT POINT: The attitude of Jesus' heart towards them READ V.37-39

QUESTION: Based on what you just heard Jesus say to and about the Pharisees and Sadducees, what do you think Jesus would say to the leaders of Atheism, Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism, etc.?

Richard Dawkins constantly derides Christ, denies God's existence, teaches that we are evolutionary accidents, and whose philosophies are a major reason for the persecution of the church in the last 100 years.

First off: Jesus says, just like he did to the Pharisees and all people: REPENT. Turn from your sin of rebellion and unbelief. REPENT and you will be forgiven and you will experiences times of refreshing and eternal life.

Further: Jesus would and does assert that their is only one way to be reconciled to God "I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life; no one comes to the Father but by me" John 14:6

Note Jesus' heart: Willing to forgive any who would confess and repent of their sins, proclaiming Jesus as the only Lord and Savior (i.e 1 John 1:9, Romans 10:9)

Important point: Though he is gracious and forgiving beyond compare, we must not forget Jesus' determination and fierceness towards those who persist in being His enemy, who blaspheme His name, persecute His children, and oppose His rule.

Psalm 2 does not close with "Kiss the Son, lest he be angry with you and you perish in the way" for no reason. It consists of a call to willing submit to the Lordship of Christ-- that we might experience His favor and grace and know Him and His joys. It also consists of a solemn warning of the consequence of rejecting the gift of eternal life and the forgiveness of sins and of rejecting Christ and his Kingship.

Jesus' conflict with the Pharisees and Sadducees is not at odds with the Scriptures exhortation for us to be peacemakers and to live at peace with others (Romans 12:18)

Just as we learned about war in Deuteronomy 20 and how sometimes it is necessary and justifiable, not all relationship and philosophic, ideologic, and theologic conflict between us and other people can be avoided-- nor should it be

Paul opposed Peter to his face in Galatians 2:11-14

Important: Conflict with others is inevitable. Why, over what, and how we have conflict with others is critical. We never to resort to violence. Reconciliation the goal. Having the same heart that Jesus had towards the Pharisees is vital.


Though Jesus had no qualms about rebuking the Pharisees, provoking them, exposing them before the people as blind guides and hypocrites, and condemning them to Hell, what was it that He did for them?

Jesus died for their sins!

Jesus died by their hands, for their sins. "Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do" is what he said from the cross. TRANSLATION: Forgiveness was available to them and all who would and will repent of their sins and put their faith in Christ as Savior and Lord.

Since Jesus died for the sins of his greatest enemies, though there be many who oppose us, what are we to do?

"Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you!" Matthew 5:44

"Forgive, as we have been forgiven" Ephesians 4:32, Matthew 6:12


I began todays lesson by asking you what image and picture of Jesus comes to your mind when you think of him.

It's vital that we stay in the Word, that we might have a Biblical view of Christ

This morning we have learned that Jesus, the Prince of Peace, the Gentle Savior, the one is humble and meek, and who stood silent and not retaliating when in the presence of his accusers, was not a pushover who shied away from conflict.

However, when in the midst of conflict, Jesus never sinned. That's a problem you and I have. Sometimes when you and I are in conflict we say and do things that are most definitely wrong and then we bear grudges and refuse to forgive. This is not to be.

We are not to be ones who seek out and look for conflict, however we also must not be afraid to engage and refute those who deny Christ, teach that their are other ways to God, teach evolution, etc. However: in entering into this arena, we need to pray.

We must not forget that we are involved in a spiritual struggle and that the eternal souls of people hang in the balance and so we must carry on in presenting Christ to those who hate Him and us-- for Jesus died at the hands and for those who hated Him.