March 28, 2021
And the Pharisees and Sadducees came, and to test him they asked him to show them a sign from heaven (Matthew 16:1).
Pharisees and Sadducees. This is the first time we read of these two religious parties associating with each other. They hated each other. Quite frankly the word ‘hate’ is not strong enough. They were Satan to each other. And yet, “hate makes strange bedfellows.” We see that a lot in our modern culture.
What was their motive for joining forces? They hated Jesus more than they hated each other. Their hostility toward each other did not decrease during the time Jesus had been out of the country ministering to the Gentiles. Now that He was back in Israel, they set aside their differences and made an alliance to kill the object of their hatred.
The evil irony is that the religious elite of God’s chosen people joined together to kill God’s Son. Those who were looking for the coming Messiah were plotting to kill the Messiah. Those who believed they were the only ones in Israel who knew God personally didn’t know Him at all.
They came together to ‘tempt’ Jesus. The word has a wide range of meanings depending on the context. Here it means they were out to trap Him. They feigned the desire to see evidence that Jesus was the Messiah, but their real desire was to see Him make the attempt to work a miracle and fail so they could discredit and ruin Him.
What sign would they want to see that Jesus hadn’t already produced? Besides, the Scribes and Pharisees had already asked Jesus for a sign (Matthew 12:38). Jewish apocalyptic literature spoke of spectacular displays of power by the Messiah. Satan had suggested that Jesus let the people see Him float gently down from the pinnacle of the Temple. The people expected the Messiah to come from an unknown source (John 7:27) and would do great signs (John 7:31). The Pharisees and Sadducees were demanding such a sign, but this time in the heavens - maybe causing it to thunder in a clear sky (1 Samuel 12:16-18), causing the shadow to reverse ten degrees on the sundial (Isaiah 38:8), or causing manna to drop from heaven (Exodus 16:4; John 6:31). Regardless, Jesus was not about to bow to their demands.
This proves the religious leaders of Israel had no real faith, no personal relationship with God, their eyes were spiritually blind, their hearts were stone, their spirit was dead in trespasses and sin, and their understanding was void of any spiritual truth. “In time we hate that which we often fear” (William Shakespeare, Antony and Cleopatra). Then again, Jesus knew this.
“Jesus, You said, we should love You with all our heart, soul, and mind, and we should love our neighbor as ourselves. The Pharisees and Sadducees knew this from the Law they loved, yet they refused to obey their own law. Forgive us Lord for our disobedience, hypocrisy, and sin in treating You with such contempt. Amen.”