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  The Great Bible Story #107
Pharisees, Sadducees

Jacob Ninan
In the days of Jesus, the Pharisees were a group of Jewish religious people who were fanatic about the Law. They studied it and formulated applications of the Law for different situations. But where they went wrong was that they kept to the external form of the Law, missing its spirit. They became upset with Jesus who followed the spirit of the Law and in the process exposed their hollowness. Because the Pharisees were leaders the people looked up to, Jesus used many opportunities to show where they were wrong.

Jesus warned the people that the Pharisees paid more attention to defining the Law than in obeying it. They would wear special attachments to their dress to indicate their piety. They wanted to impress the people with their knowledge and craved for their respect, even though there were self-indulgent in the secret of their inner lives, just like polished tombstones with rotting flesh inside. Jesus told them to clean the inside of the cup first without being occupied with the outside. Hypocrisy was one thing Jesus would not tolerate.

The Pharisees would be strict about giving to God one-tenth of even the kitchen herbs they grew. But Jesus pointed out that by focussing on such things they missed out on more important values such as mercy and compassion on others. They travelled around trying to get many followers, but since they themselves were only religious and not spiritual, they ended up making their followers doubly dead--they were already dead and now they believed they were alive! On the other hand they opposed genuine seekers after God who did not join them in their religious rituals.

One thing that irritated the Pharisees most about Jesus was that He repeatedly healed people on Sabbath days. They believed no work should be done on those days. Jesus had great difficulty explaining to them that doing good to people in need was according to a higher law than the one pertaining to keeping the Sabbath.

There was another group of Jews called the Sadducees who did not believe in anything supernatural such as angels, demons or life after death. Once they tried to fox Jesus by asking what would happen to a woman who had married seven brothers in succession when they died one after another. They asked Jesus whose wife she would be in the resurrected life! Jesus said that people would not have any gender in heaven, just like the angels, and there would not be any marriage relationship there!

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Comfort & Counsel