When Jesus Was Confronted By The Jewish Leader

BY "My Life With God"

In the last week of His life, Jesus was confronted in turn by the three major factions of the Jewish religious leaders. We read the account of this in Matthew 22. These three groups shared some beliefs in common, but also all existed because they had differing political and religious ideas. The Pharisees seem to have been more convicted about oral traditions and scribal opinion than the written law and prophets. The Herodians were more politically motivated, were Jewish activists, and were not thought to be nearly so strict as the Pharisees in religious matters. The Sadducees, though not at all enamored with the oral traditions of the rabbis, only accepted the books of Moses, the first five books of the Old Testament. This failure to accept the entire Old Testament canon led them to hold false views.

Jesus was confronted in turn by these three groups because, despite their differences, they had one strong, common bond. They wanted to trap Jesus. The Pharisees “plotted how they might entangle Him in His talk” (Matt. 22:15). The Pharisees sent Jesus to the Herodians with the anticipation that they might pose a dilemma for Him that He could not solve, and Jesus regarded the Herodians as wicked in their intention (Matt. 22:15,18). The Sadducees also pose what they thought was an unsolvable problem concerning the resurrection, and Jesus corrects and silences them (Matt. 22:23-34). It is interesting to see what sorts of issues they raised for Jesus to consider. The politically-motivated Herodians had a question about taxes, the doctrinally-prejudiced Sadduccees had a question about the resurrection they already denied, and the traditionally-biased Pharisees asked a question about the law they saw as comparatively inferior. So, they came to Jesus with what they thought they knew best and with preconceived ideas in mind.

Jesus answered each of them masterfully. He gave the Herodians an answer about taxes they could not deny. They were amazed and gave up their efforts. He gave the Sadducees an answer they could not rebut and one that astonished the multitudes. He answered the Pharisee lawyer’s question about the law and then posed a follow-up question to the whole group of Pharisees that was so powerful the Bible says, “And no one was able to answer Him a word, nor from that day on did anyone dare question Him anymore” (Matt. 22:46).

There are several observations that can be made from these confrontations. First, they were the ones with an “axe to grind” and not Jesus. Second, they were the ones filled with animosity and not Jesus. Third, they issued the challenge and Jesus merely met their unbelief with divine truth. Fourth, their efforts to discredit and trap Jesus utterly failed. He shined more brightly after the attacks than before them. Yet, despite all of this, they still placed Him on the cross a couple of days after these events. May we learn from our master example (cf. 1 Pet. 2:21) to always be ready to give an account for the hope that is in us (1 Pet. 3:15), but Peter speaks of this in the context of suffering at the hands of the enemies of Christ (cf. 1 Pet. 4:1). Peter, who was present on the day the events of Matthew 22 occur, goes on to encourage us to focus on living a righteous life even if it means suffering. Jesus had the truth on His side, but His opponents still soon gained a (temporary) victory. Ultimately, though, the truth won and Christ was exonerated by it. May I suggest that the same will happen in our lives, as we stay faithful to Christ and His Word. The truth will make us free (cf. John 8:32) and will ultimately give us the victory (cf. 1 John 5:4). May that support us as we stay true to Him.