Pharisee

Nov 8, 2021
The Pharisees were a Jewish sect that started two hundred years before Jesus. At times their identity shifted between a political party, a social movement, or a school of thought. They believed in the authority of virtually all of the Hebrew Bible (what we call the Old Testament) and had built an oral tradition of a vast number of interpretations. After the destruction of the Temple in 70 AD, their beliefs became foundational in Rabbinic Judaism.

The Sadducees were another Jewish sect who recognized only the Torah (the first five books of the Old Testament) and rejected the rest as well as oral traditions and beliefs such as the resurrection of the dead. The Sadducees and Pharisees comprised most of the Jewish leadership in the time of Jesus.

Both the Pharisees and Sadducees opposed Jesus and his teachings. Jesus interpreted the Scriptures differently than either the Sadducees or Pharisees, was intent on serving God and not the letter of their laws, and wanted to free the people from the religious rules that the leaders had inflicted on them. Jesus spoke with authority, and the religious leaders feared the people would follow Jesus and reject them. This fueled their jealousy and hatred.

In these chapters, Jesus is headed toward Jerusalem and his death, and Luke seems to be choosing among his many teachings and actions during that period. One of Jesus’ best-known teachings is found in Luke 11:1-4, the Lord’s Prayer. A little longer form of this prayer is found in Matthew 6:9-13. In Matthew, the Lord’s Prayer is given in the middle of the Sermon on the Mount, while Luke places it in response to the request of Jesus’ disciples to be taught to pray, just as John the Baptist taught his disciples to pray. This was not an unusual question by his disciples, since it was the responsibility of every rabbi (teacher) to teach all things to the rabbi’s followers.

As Jesus is heading toward his final week of life, it is sometimes a little difficult to tell how popular he still was with the people. A hint of an answer is found in Luke 12:1 where thousands of people had gathered. The verse isn’t clear how many of these were followers and how many were there just to see Jesus, but either way, the Pharisees would have been unhappy.