Modern Day Pharisees and Sadducees

  • Jeff Crotts
Glasses showing clear versus blurry letter chart

Solomon’s wisdom states there is nothing new under the sun.  Spoken in modern vernacular, “History keeps repeating itself.”  The older I become the clearer the issues of life seem to be.  Sunday I brought up the two religious slash political groups called the Pharisees and the Sadducees.  These two groups represent two very different ideologies (ways of thinking about the world) which made for two of the chief parties within the Sanhedrin.  The Sanhedrin was like our modern-day Supreme Court, only with seventy-one seats as opposed to nine; a larger body ultimately ruled by a single high priest.  They were a busy group, holding court every day except of course on their Sabbath.  In the days of Jesus, the Pharisees and Sadducees carried significant religious and political weight.  Though Roman government loomed large over Israel and Caesar had ultimate charge, the Sanhedrin was the immediate government over the Jews.  Their double-barreled shotgun was one of spirituality and the law meaning they were both formidable and not be crossed. 

Then there was John the Baptist.  Dressed in camel’s hair with a leather belt around his waist, he saw through their façade and fakery with God-inspired clarity.   

But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees coming to his baptism, he said to them, “You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come?” (Matthew 3:7)

My question for us is whether this brand of dead level discernment manifest in John the Baptist is a bygone gift, left in ancient times.  The Bible says otherwise.  Paul told the Corinthians: 

Now we have received not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might understand the things freely given us by God.” (1 Corinthians 2:12)

This promise is to every believer.  The Holy Spirit enables every Christian to “understand the things freely given us by God.”  This means you can easily detect the difference between what is “natural” and “spiritual” or “human wisdom” and “truth” or “worldliness” and “the mind of Christ” (cf. 2 Cor. 2:13-16).  Can we really see through liberal agendas?  I say, yes and readily.  I fear the more liberal agendas are imposed upon believers, the more sheepish Christians will be tempted to become.

Back to the Pharisees and Sadducees.  What did they stand for and do they really relate to today’s political agendas?

The Pharisees were would-be cult-leaders who reached and represented the Israelite middle class.  The Sadducees were philosophical gurus who reached and represented the aristocratic Israelite upper class.  The title Pharisee comes from a Hebrew term for “separated ones” or the “pious” ones.  They were self-appointed lay-leaders who represented the Jewish middle class.  Their credibility was their strict adherence to the law and extra-biblical tradition.  They represent merit-based righteousness.  Cult-leaders who insinuated into and corrupted the LORD’s Old Covenant system. 

They remind me of the recent soft acceptance of Mormon faith within traditional Christian circles.  In the name of finding common ground on social reform great compromise and confusion have happened.  The effect of mixing gospel truth with error always gives birth to false doctrines while at the same time, endorsing false leaders.  Not too many years ago, my alma mater (Liberty University) hosted Glen Beck in their convocation.  Beck used this platform to speak in terms of common ground with LU on conservative politics but he did not stop there.  He went on to preach to this impressionable group that he shares “the same Christ and same atonement” with conservative Christians, making the difference a one of denomination, not truth!   

Cult leadership, which is the religion of the Pharisee, is always a controlling influence.  Look out for controllers out to bind people’s consciences.  They make you believe you will never measure up to their imposed standard and by default become gatekeepers for acceptance with God.  Modern protests feel cult-like demanding strict adherence to speak up or to bow down, binding people’s consciences with guilt and fear for what they are not guilty of.  A real form of false guilt.  Either submit to an imposed standard or suffer the consequences. 

Sadducees were few in number but no less dangerousSadducees were philosophical gurus who reached and represented the aristocratic Israelite upper class.  They are the behind the scenes intellectual elitists.  Where Pharisees represented the Jewish bourgeoisie, the Sadducees represented an ancient version of Marxist philosophy that was behind it all.  Ivy League thinkers espousing anti-god, anti-supernaturalism. 

Sadducees denied any form of physical resurrection or identity in the afterlife, promoting an ancient brand of secular humanism and narcissism.  Their godless philosophy hardened their hearts into being driven by money and power.   This heart-digression formed them into mafia-like pragmatists running Jerusalem’s temple-like modern-day casinos.  A racketeering scheme to buy and sell “clean” animals to needy Jews on pilgrimage for Passover.  What Jesus rightly condemned, and blew up by overturning tables in “God’s house of prayer!”    

“And Jesus entered the temple and drove out all who sold and bought in the temple, and he overturned the tables of the money-changers and the seats of those who sold pigeons. He said to them, “It is written, ‘My house shall be called a house of prayer,’ but you make it a den of robbers.” (Matthew 21:12-13)

The other night Joe Biden accepted his nomination to be the Democratic presidential nominee.  One thing he said caught my attention.  Biden quipped, “I have news for Trump about Coronavirus.  ‘No Miracle is coming’.” 

Of course, Biden as any politician would be indicting President Trump’s leadership on the Coronavirus.  Wherever you stand on that, please do not miss the fact that Biden was speaking from a very high platform espousing anti-supernaturalism.  I want to be the first to admit that political leaders are not supposed to be pastors.  You might think it unfair to hard critique a statement like this from a politician.  What I do not want you to miss here is what lies beneath a sound bite like this one; when anti-god, Sadducee philosophy populates media waves, it is intentional. 

There truly is nothing new under the sun.  Dangerous, soul condemning ideologies repeat themselves in cycles whether in the form of cult leaders who bear down on the populous or Marxist philosophers trying to erase God from our country and then churches.  Be alert and be confident that you can discern what is going on and that you can stand firm for truth.