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How Should We Approach the Pharisees’ Resistance of Jesus?
By Liu Xiao
In a Bible study meeting, Brother Zheng, Sister Zhang and several other brothers and sisters had a talk about why the Pharisees wildly resisted the Lord Jesus.
Brother Zheng asked in puzzlement: “From the records of the Bible, we can see that the Pharisees were very familiar with the Bible and also yearned for the coming of the Savior Messiah. However, when the Lord Jesus appeared and worked, although they clearly saw that the words of the Lord Jesus carried authority and power and were beneficial and edifying to man, not only did they not accept them, but they arrogantly resisted and convicted the Lord Jesus, and didn’t give up until they put Him to death. But why did they do so? What do you think of this problem?”
Brother Li said: “In the past, I was also puzzled about it. But recently I read a spiritual book, the words in which thoroughly reveal the root of the Pharisees’ resistance to the Lord. There are three main reasons why the Pharisees wildly resisted and condemned the Lord Jesus.”
Brother Zheng’s eyes lit up and he said eagerly: “Oh! Thanks be to the Lord! Hurry to fellowship with us.” “Yeah, Brother Li, please tell us,” other co-workers also chimed in.
“Okay. Before we fellowship, let me read a passage.” Brother Li took out a book and said: “The book says, ‘Do you wish to know the root of why the Pharisees opposed Jesus? Do you wish to know the substance of the Pharisees? They were full of fantasies about the Messiah. What’s more, they believed only that the Messiah would come, yet did not seek the truth of life. And so, even today they still await the Messiah, for they have no knowledge of the way of life, and do not know what the way of truth is. How, say you, could such foolish, stubborn and ignorant people gain God’s blessing? How could they behold the Messiah? They opposed Jesus because they did not know the direction of the Holy Spirit’s work, because they did not know the way of truth spoken by Jesus, and, furthermore, because they did not understand the Messiah. And since they had never seen the Messiah, and had never been in the company of the Messiah, they made the mistake of paying empty tribute to the name of the Messiah while opposing the substance of the Messiah by any means. These Pharisees in substance were stubborn, arrogant, and did not obey the truth. The principle of their belief in God is: No matter how profound Your preaching, no matter how high Your authority, You are not Christ unless You are called the Messiah. Are these views not preposterous and ridiculous?’”
Then Brother Li started fellowshiping: “From this passage we can see the main reason why the Pharisees resisted the Lord Jesus is that they believed in God without seeking the truth or life, but only focused on the letters of the Scripture. They didn’t know the substance of the Messiah prophesied in the Scripture or what He has and is, but held to the letters of the scriptures about the coming of the Messiah and were full of imaginations about Him. When the work of the Lord Jesus did not match up with their notions and imagination, they didn’t let go of themselves to seek God’s work. Instead, they desperately denied and resisted the Lord Jesus. The Bible prophesied, ‘For to us a child is born, to us a son is given: and the government shall be on his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counselor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace. Of the increase of his government and peace there shall be no end, on the throne of David, and on his kingdom, to order it, and to establish it with judgment and with justice from now on even for ever’ (Isaiah 9:6-7). Based on the literal meaning of the prophecies, the Pharisees believed that since the Messiah would come to power, without a doubt He would be born into a royal palace and would look extraordinary, and possess unusual talents. In addition, He would be good at fighting like King David, lead them to overthrow the rule of the Romans and rescue them from the oppression and misery inflicted by the Romans. However, the truth was that the Lord Jesus was born in a manger, lived in a very average carpenter’s home, and looked no different from the most ordinary man. What was particularly out of line with their notions, was that the Lord Jesus did not act as their king and lead them to overthrow the Romans’ rule as they had imagined. Instead, He taught them to be tolerant and patient, and to love their enemies. Because there was nothing in the work of the Lord Jesus that was in line with their imaginings, they could not acknowledge at all that the Lord Jesus was the Messiah they had been waiting for, and they refused to accept and strongly resisted and convicted His work.”
Brother Zheng said excitedly: “These words are so good. They truly reveal the root of the Pharisees’ resistance to the Lord Jesus. Without this fellowship, we really would have never understood this.” “Yes,” the other brothers and sisters all said.
Brother Li continued with his fellowship: “The second reason why the Pharisees resisted the Lord Jesus is that they were stubborn and conservative. They did not understand the principles or direction of the work of the Holy Spirit, so they delimited God’s work within the Old Testament. When the work of the Lord Jesus exceeded the Old Testament—on a Sunday, for instance, the Lord Jesus didn’t go into the temple to observe the Sabbath but worked with His disciples, and when the disciples were hungry, they plucked and ate ears of grain—the Pharisees condemned the Lord Jesus for His not keeping the laws and commandments, and denied that His work was from God. They said, ‘This man is not of God, because he keeps not the’ (John 9:16). In addition, they tried to find all kinds of accusations against the Lord Jesus and blasphemed and condemned His work. They said that He was deceiving man and that He relied on the prince of the devils to cast out demons, and so on. In the end, they used the excuse that ‘the Lord Jesus has betrayed the Bible and has not obeyed the law’ to nail the merciful Lord Jesus to the cross. So, if we believe in God without knowing His work or seeking the truth, but we judge the new work of God based on His work of the past, we will defy God far too easily.”
Others nodded their heads thoughtfully.
Brother Li continued to say: “Furthermore, there is another reason why the Pharisees wildly resisted the Lord Jesus. Let me read a passage before we communicate: ‘Those who read the Bible in grand churches recite the Bible every day, yet not one understands the purpose of God’s work. Not one is able to know God; moreover, not one is in accord with the heart of God. They are all worthless, vile men, each standing on high to teach God. Though they brandish the name of God, they willfully oppose Him. Though they label themselves believers of God, they are ones who eat the flesh and drink the blood of man. All such men are devils who devour the soul of man, head demons who purposefully disturb those who try to step onto the right path, and stumbling blocks that impede the path of those who seek God.’ We can see from these words that what the Pharisees treasured were not God’s words but status and people’s adoration. They put their status and interests above all else. When the Lord Jesus appeared to do His work, they saw that more and more Jewish people followed the Lord Jesus, which posed a great threat to their status and interests. Since these Jewish people followed the Lord Jesus, they no longer entered the temple to offer sacrifices or a tithe. The Pharisees couldn’t enjoy the sacrifices in the temple that the Jewish people offered to God, so they developed a hatred for the Lord Jesus. They did all that they could to resist Him and wanted to get rid of Him. As the Bible says, ‘Then gathered the chief priests and the Pharisees a council, and said, What do we? for this man does many miracles. If we let him thus alone, all men will believe on him: and the Romans shall come and take away both our place and nation. … Then from that day forth they took counsel together for to put him to death’ (John 11:47-48, 53). Therefore, we can see that outwardly the Pharisees were serving God, but actually, they were serving their positions and livelihoods. To protect them, they would rather let Pilate release a robber and nail the Lord Jesus to the cross. Finally, they became the people who served God but resisted Him.”
Brother Zheng sighed: “Thank the Lord! Through this fellowship, my heart is brightened. Oh, that the Pharisees became the people who served but resisted the Lord gives us a warning. We should draw a lesson from their failure. If someone testifies that the Lord has returned, no matter whether it conforms to our notions and imaginations or not, we should humbly investigate it. We can’t blindly follow the words of pastors and elders or randomly convict and resist God’s work.”
They continued fellowshiping …
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