Yeshua Vs. the Pharisees…the Saints Vs. the Religious Leaders of our Day

Luke 7:36–37, The Pharisees…a woman…who was a sinner. The name Pharisee itself tells much about this sect or denomination within the first-century religious Jewish landscape. It derives from the Hebrew word perushim meaning “separatist,” and was born out of the fact that Pharisees didn’t associate with Am Ha-Eretz or the common people (Yeshua: a Guide to the Real Jesus and the Original Church, p. 86, by Ron Mosely), who in their view who were impure by the standards of the Levitical law (The Jewish Background of the New Testament, p. 203, by J. Julius Scott Jr.), and their high standards of holiness (Mosely, p 86). Acting like an elite religious fraternity (The Sketches of Jewish Life, p. 208, by Alfred Edersheim), the Pharisees were known for their strict observance of the Torah or the law of Moses, as well numerous additional laws or “traditions of the elders” that were added to the Torah along the way (From the Maccabeees to the Mishnah, p. 149, by Shaye J. D. Cohen; Scott, pp, 206–207; Edersheim, p. 217). Though this sect probably numbered only 6,000 at the time of Yeshua (Cohen, p. 146), they wielded a great deal of power and influence in Jewish society, since they were they viewed as the most accurate interpreters of the Torah (Scott, p. 203; Mosely, p. 92), and they were the leaders and teachers of the masses in the local synagogues (Cohen, pp. 147, 148). For the Pharisee, personal holiness was a badge of honor. To remain a member of this elite sect, one was required to maintain a high standard of holiness relating to tithing, piety, cleanliness and ritual purity, or one would face demotion within the social status of this community, or worse yet, face excommunication and shunning (Mosely, p. 86).

It can be safe to say that the Pharisaic religious system promoted an elitist and holier-than-thou religious demeanor among many of its members who hyper-focused on legalism and religious form and trappings. The result was “a system of pure externalism, which often contravened the spirit of those very ordinances, the letter of which was slavishly worshipped” resulting in hypocrisy (Edersheim, p. 217).

For these reasons, this is may be why the woman in Luke 7:37 was labeled as a sinner. It wasn’t that she was a sinner any more than anyone else, but that she was not part of any recognized religious sect that labeled her as being righteous as a opposed to being a sinner. Because she was probably outside of the accepted religious system of her day, she was automatically given the label of a sinner. In our day, this would be like a church-going Christian viewing a non-church going person as a heathen. 

The problem is this. Can we know for certain the condition of a person’s heart and their relationship with the Almighty simply because of their external religious involvements? This is what Yeshua is addressing in this passage—the condition of the heart. To Yeshua, the woman who was labeled as a sinner was much more righteous, in a certain sense, than those of the most preeminent religious club of the day. Look at her humble and repentant demeanor at the feet of Yeshua!

Yeshua was known for shining the precise laser-light of truth on a situation and then turning that situation on its head. The end result was that those who thought they were in first place spiritually, were now in last place, and those who were in last place were first. This gives added meaning to Yeshua’s words, “In the regeneration, when the Son of Man sits on the throne of his glory…many who are first will be last, and the last first” (Matt 19:28–30).

When confronting the religious leaders of his day, Yeshua was a master at upending spiritual apple carts, slaughtering sacred cows, demolishing the wisdom of the world and revealing it for the lie that it was. We are now Yeshua’s representatives on earth carrying out his same work and should be doing the same thing he did. This is because truth doesn’t change over the ages and YHVH is still on his throne regardless of conventional wisdom and popular opinion to the contrary.

 

The Eight Blessings and Eight Curses of Yeshua

Matthew 23:13–33, The Eight Woes. There is a one-to-one correlation between the eight benediction of the beatitudes of Matthew 5:3–12 and the eight maledictions or woes Yeshua pronounces on the hypocritical religious leaders of his day in Matthew 23:13–33.

  1. The kingdom of heaven is opened to the poor, humble or contrite in spirit (Matt 5:3), while the door to kingdom of heaven is shut by and to the prideful and exclusive religious hypocrites (Matt 23:13).
  2. Those who mourn will be comforted (Matt 5:4), while greedy and pretentious religious hypocrites bring grief and sorrow to those they rule over (Matt 23:14).
  3. The meek will inherit the earth (Matt 5:5) versus religious zealots who compass the earth to expand their own kingdoms to make new converts, all of whom are shut out of the kingdom of Elohim and will inherit hell (Matt 23:15).
  4. Those who hunger and thirst for true righteousness will be filled (Matt 5:6) versus those who pursue a false, man-made religious system that involves twisting YHVH’s word for their own carnal purposes (Matt 23:16–22).
  5. The merciful will obtain mercy (Matt 5:7), while the religious hypocrites major in spiritually minor things and overlook mercy and the weightier matters of the Torah (Matt 23:23–24).
  6. The pure in heart will see (the heart of) Elohim (Matt 23:8), while hypocritical religionists put on an outward or superficial show of “purity,” but in reality, they overlook and neglect the inward purity of the heart. This equates to Torahlessness, which is equivalent to spiritual blindness and misses the heart of Elohim (Matt 23:25–26).
  7. The peacemakers will be called the sons of Elohim (Matt 5:9) versus Torahless religious hypocrites whose actions cause strife, confusion leading to spiritual uncleanness and death, which is the opposite of peace or shalom,which is physical and spiritual well-being in all areas of life (Matt 23:27–28).
  8. Those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake will inherit the kingdom of Elohim (Matt 5:10–12) versus religious hypocrites, while claiming to be followers of Elohim, are themselves the persecutors of YHVH’s righteous saints (Matt 23:29–33).
 

Spiritual Nuggets from Luke 13

Luke 13:12, Woman…spirit of infirmity. Sometimes Yeshua healed people who neither asked for it, nor evidenced faith to be healed simply that the glory of YHVH might be manifested. From time to time, we hear of miraculous healings and divine interventions that saved people’s lives occurring for no apparent reason. Perhaps YHVH likes to stir the pot of human affairs occasionally just to draw men’s attention to him, bring glory to his name and to raise men’s hopes a bit in pointing them to the fact that there is an Elohim who is sovereignly orchestrating things behind the scenes and who cares about humans.

Luke 13:15, Hypocrite. Yeshua was able to defend his actions and contradict the leader of the synagogue because he knew the Torah better than they did. This teaches us two things. First, just because one is a church leader doesn’t mean they know the Torah or the rest of the word of Elohim very well. Paul taught the “whole counsel of Elohim,” including the Torah. How many Bible teachers do that in our day? In fact, the New Testament as we know it didn’t even exist in Paul’s day; all he has was the Old Testament from which to teach. More often than not, the church’s modern day Bible teachers know religious tradition and doctrines of men better then the actual word of Elohim. Second, as a minister of the word of Elohim, one will need to defend it against those who are false teachers and  who teach the doctrines of men that make of non-effect the Word of Elohim. To be able to do this, the Bible teacher must study and know YHVH’s word intimately down to the most minute details and better so than one’s opponents. On this score, Yeshua was preeminent, and was able to leave his accusers speechless and without rebuttals. As his disciples, we must endeavor to imitate his example.

Luke 13:18, Kingdom of Elohim. The kingdom of Elohim not only grows from a tiny seed to become like a mighty plant, but with it comes healing for the sick, sight for the blind, food for the hungry, liberty for the captives, happiness for the mourners and freedom for the oppressed. It literally becomes a shelter or a protective covering for those who seek refuge, for now, in its truth and hope, and, eventually, in its universal reality when it is established globally at Yeshua’s second coming.

Luke 13:30, First who will last. Many people have been caught up in religiosity even while professing the name of Jesus (Yeshua), but have not walked in righteousness (i.e. Torah obedience). As Yeshua states in Matt 5:19 and Matt 7:21–23, Torah obedience not only determines the level of one’s rewards in the kingdom of Elohim, but whether our faith in Yeshua is genuine. Its genuineness is determined by the fruits of our actions (John 14:15; 1 John 2:3–6; Jas 2:14–26; Rev 22:14). What we believe in and have a heart for, we will back up with actions. These are those who Yeshua will let into the narrow gate of his kingdom. The workers of iniquity or Torahlessness will be left outside the gate to Yeshua’s kingdom (Luke 13:27).

Luke 13:31, Some Pharisees came. Not all the Pharisees were the evil enemies of Yeshua. Some were genuinely questioning whether he was the Messiah or not. Some later became believers (e.g., Paul and the Acts 15 believers). These Pharisees were warning Yeshua of death threats and urging him to escape his enemies.

 

What is Moses’ seat and should we follow the modern rabbinic Jews?

The seat of Moses in the Chorazin in Israel (bibleplaces.com/chorazin/)

The seat of Moses in the Chorazin in Israel (bibleplaces.com/chorazin/)

Yesterday, a well-meaning reader of this blog posted a question in the comments section. He wondered why I didn’t come to the “higher level” spiritually by following the oral traditions of the modern-day Jews who are the spiritual descendants of the ancient Pharisees of Yeshua’s day. As supposed proof that we should, he quoted Matthew 23:2 and 3 where Yeshua declares that because the  Pharisees sit in Moses’ seat, we will come to a higher level in our spiritual walk do whatever they tell us to do. (My short answer to this questions is this: If they haven’t discovered the most obvious truth that Yeshua is the Messiah, then…well, I’ll let you guess what the rest of my response would be.)

This is, in fact, a fair question, and is one that many who are leaving churchianity find themselves asking when they begin to explore the Hebraic roots of their faith.

Here is my long response.

Matthew 23:2, Moses seat. Here Yeshua is speaking against the leaven of the Pharisees and their non-biblical traditions and doctrines of men. They had omitted the weightier matters of the Torah. Moses’ seat in Matt 23:2 is easily misunderstood today when we don’t have all the facts. Because the Pharisees sit in Moses seat, Yeshua told his disciples to observe whatever they tell you to observe. The problem is that most people have no idea what Yeshua was really saying here. “Moses’ seat” was a colloquial expression that was understood by his listeners of that day, but the meaning is lost to most who read this passage today. Moses’ seat refers to a literal throne-like chair that sat in Jewish synagogues (where the Pharisees were the officiants) from which the religious leaders would make judgments concerning spiritual and civil matters. (One can type in “Moses’ seat” into an internet search engine and find actual photos of these seats that have discovered in ancient Jewish synagogues.) In a modern church, it would be like the pastors and board of elders making decisions for the church body they minister over. These leaders do not have the authority, however, to change the word or law of Elohim—only to administer it. Even the pope has a throne from which he makes rulings for the Roman Catholic Church.

Matthew 23:3, Whatever they tell you. The discussion that follows is in response to the idea that because the Pharisees (and the modern rabbinic Jews who are their spiritual descendants) sit in Moses’ seat, we should do whatever they tell us to do including following their traditions and oral law. Some even have embraced the idea that following rabbinic Judaism is to walk a higher spiritual road (because they ostensibly understand and observe the Torah. What is the truth of the matter and what is Yeshua really saying in this passage?

Admittedly, there is much we can learn from our Jewish brothers. If you have read my Torah study guides and commentaries and my hundreds of teachings, you would know that I draw heavily from the wisdom of the Jewish sages. My approach is very multi-faceted and my learning is very broad. In my mind, and in the mind of Yeshua and apostles (as we shall point out below) the sun does not rise and set on the Jewish sages. Moreover, the Judaism of today is not that of Yeshua’s era. It is true that the rabbinates of today are the direct Continue reading

 

The Eight Beatitudes Versus the Eight Woes

Matthew 23:13–33, The Eight Woes. There is a one-to-one correlation between the eight benediction of the beatitudes of Matthew 5:3–12 and the eight maledictions or woes Yeshua pronounces on the hypocritical religious leaders of his day in Matthew 23:13–33.

The kingdom of heaven is opened to the poor, humble or contrite in spirit (Matt 5:3), while the door to kingdom of heaven is shut by and to prideful and exclusive religious hypocrites (Matt 23:13).

Those who mourn will be comforted (Matt 5:4), while greedy and pretentious religious hypocrites bring grief and sorrow to those they rule over (Matt 23:14).

The meek will inherit the earth (Matt 5:5) versus religious zealots who compass the earth to expand their kingdoms to make new converts, all of whom are shut out of the kingdom of Elohim and will inherit hell (Matt 23:15).

Those who hunger and thirst for true righteousness will be filled (Matt 5:6) versus those who pursue a false, man-made religious system righteousness that involves twisting YHVH’s word for their own carnal purposes (Matt 23:16–22).

The merciful will obtain mercy (Matt 5:7), while the religious hypocrites major in spiritually minor things and overlook mercy and the weightier matters of the Torah (Matt 23:23–24).

The pure in heart will see (the heart of) Elohim (Matt 23:8), while hypocritical religionists put on an outward or superficial show of “purity,” but in reality, they overlook and neglect the inward purity of the heart. This equates to Torahlessness, which equates to spiritual blindness and misses the heart of Elohim (Matt 23:25–26).

Peacemakers will be called the sons of Elohim (Matt 5:9) versus Torahless religious hypocrites whose actions cause strife, confusion leading to spiritual uncleanness and death, which is the opposite of peace or shalom,which is physical and spiritual well-being in all areas of life (Matt 23:27–28).

Those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake will inherit the kingdom of Elohim (Matt 5:10–12) versus religious hypocrites, while claiming to be followers of Elohim, are themselves the persecutors of YHVH’s righteous saints (Matt 23:29–33).

 

The Blood of All the Martyred Saints on the Jewish Leaders?

Luke 11:49–51, I will send them…the blood of all the prophets. How can Yeshua logically lay at the feet of the spiritual teachers of his day the blood of all the prophets and apostles from the time of Abel to Zechariah?

Blood stains

Simply this. In all that the prophets of old did and preached, they pointed the way to Yeshua the Messiah.

For example, Abel preached Yeshua when he brought a lamb offering to Elohim. By the fact that Yeshua’s generation of religious leaders would reject him and condemn him to be crucified, they represented a false, demonic and murderous antichrist religious system that had been responsible for the deaths of all of YHVH’s servants to that time. Instead of repenting of their sins and accepting Yeshua as the promised Messiah to which all the prophets of old had pointed, they joined their voices and forces with the chorus of antichrist rebels and dissenters including with Satan himself—the arch instigator of that rebellion—in rejecting the Messiah.

By rejecting Yeshua, they tacitly approved of the deaths of all those who had gone before him pointing the way to him, and were therefore just as responsible for the deaths of the ancient prophets as if they themselves had been the ones who had actually killed them.

 

Yeshua in the War Zone — A Template for Ministry

Mark 1–3

It is interesting to note the order of events as Yeshua was launching his ministry. He was about to enter a war zone!

After John baptized Yeshua and he received his heavenly empowerment, he first went through a spiritual boot camp before stepping onto the battlefield of public ministry. Once in the “war,” it’s worth noting where the battle lines fell.

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  • His spiritual boot camp was the wilderness where he fasted for forty days and nights to get his body, soul and spirit, and his mind, will and emotions in sync with the will of his Father in heaven (Mark 1:12–15).
  • His first battle was an internal one. The devil tested him in three areas: his body, soul and spirit, or, to put it another way, the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes and the pride of life (Mark 1:13). After overcoming himself and submitting to the will of his Father, he was now ready to launch into the war zone of public ministry.
  • His mission was to preach the message of the gospel of the kingdom of Elohim and repentance from sin (i.e. Torahlessness, 1 John 3:4; Mark 1:14–15).
  • Next he chose his cadre of spiritual warriors — his “army”— the twelve disciples (Mark 1:16–20).
  • Where better to start proclaiming the gospel message than in the local synagogue on the Sabbath (Mark 1:21)? After all, the religious folks there should be overjoyed to hear this good news, fresh message from heaven. Right? Continue reading