Why Did The Pharisees Have Such A Hard Time With Jesus?

One of the things that really bugged the Pharisees when it came to Jesus was that He refused to live in their self constructed religious box. For the Sadducees and the Pharisees life was lived with a legalistic mindset- everything was about laws with them. Jesus had a knack of going beyond the letter of the law and getting to the heart of the matter. This drove the religious crowd crazy!

It’s no surprise that on one occasion when the religious rulers sought to entrap Jesus they sent a lawyer!

“But when the Pharisees heard that Jesus had silenced the Sadducees, they gathered themselves together. One of them, a lawyer, asked Him a question, testing Him, “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” – Matthew 22:34-40

The religious framework of the Pharisees was entirely built upon the law of Moses and more laws that they had piled on top- they could not entertain the idea of grace.

“For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.” -John 1:17

So Jesus was to them what the scriptures called “the stumbling block”. They would cling to Moses and their religious traditions at all costs. Even if God’s very own Son came to earth and stood face to face with them they refused to hear!

Now it wasn’t that Jesus came to disavow God’s Law. Not at all- He actually came to fulfill it. And it was on this very point the religious leaders of the day utterly failed. They didn’t see the need for Jesus, they saw themselves as capable.

The Pharisees didn’t see themselves in the place of need, they thought they were completely capable of fulfilling the Law themselves. They thought they could do what only Jesus Himself could accomplish. They had stumbled on the stumbling stone- Jesus was an offense to them.

But Israel, pursuing a law of righteousness, did not arrive at that law. Why? Because they did not pursue it by faith, but as though it were by works. They stumbled over the stumbling stone.” -Romans 9:31-32

The Sadducees and Pharisees had a religion of works and they were proud of it! They saw themselves as spiritually strong, not weak.

Now, is it really that hard to see that the Church often falls into the same trap today? Sure, we call on the name of Jesus and admit our weakness when we begin this journey, but it doesn’t take long before we are every bit as religious as the Pharisees. How easy it is to fall into the trap! The book of Galatians was written for just that reason. It’s so easy to start out right but end up wrong! Before you know it we’re clinging to our own good works and righteousness and looking every bit the Pharisee to those around us. Before you know it we’re building our own religious box and expecting everyone to live within it.