And That’s How the Pharisees and Sadducees Got Disrupted


When you are talking disruption, God na baba.

Think for a moment about the status quo around the time that Jesus was born. Religious life in Israel was dominated by the Pharisees and Sadducees who inherited their influential religious/civic  positions and passed it down their lineage exclusively. It was essentially a strict caste system.

Religious worship took place almost exclusively in synagogues with the temple of Solomon in Jerusalem being the ultimate ‘cathedral’. Worship services were led by priests dressed in the most lavish attires encrusted with gemstones. These priests had the rarest of grilled steak, and the most vintage of wines, on golden plates and silver goblets.

Then God shows up…

IN THOSE days there appeared John the Baptist, preaching in the Wilderness (Desert) of Judea This same John’s garments were made of camel’s hair, and he wore a leather girdle about his waist; and his food was locusts and wild honey. Then Jerusalem and all Judea and all the country round about the Jordan went out to him Mat.3:1, 4-5 AMP

In one move, God disrupted an entrenched group that had held down people for millenia. The disruption was so sudden, and compelling, that even large blocks within the establishment found themselves powerless against the draw of the new move.

But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees coming for baptism, he said to them, You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee and escape from the wrath and indignation [of God against disobedience] that is coming? Mat 3:7 AMP

In reality, all of this was just the foretaste of what God had planned out. As John confessed, I’m really not the ‘disruption’, I just came to introduce the ‘disruption’.

Shortly after the rebuke (by John) of the Pharisees and Sadducees, Jesus came to Galillee  where he was baptized by John, and also publicly endorsed by God as “my son in whom I am well pleased”.

Were it to have been business as usual, he would have immediately begun his public ministry there. Who wouldn’t after having just been so publicly endorsed by God? But no, this is disruption season. This is paradigm shifting season. While, the religious rulers of his time only needed to claim direct lineage to a priest to qualify for priesthood, Jesus, although publicly endorsed by God as his son, was then led into the wilderness to prepare for his public ministry.

He was given a course of 40 days fasting, and temptation to help him learn to be a “high priest who can be touched by how we feel” (Heb 4: 15). No longer would God have high priests over his people who never knew hunger, because they sat, and gorged permanently at the altar where the people brought their sacrifices.

And the custom of the priests with the people was this: when any man offered sacrifice, the priest’s servant came while the flesh was boiling with a fleshhook of three prongs in his hand; And he thrust it into the pan or kettle or caldron or pot; all that the fleshhook brought up the priest took for himself. So they did in Shiloh with all the Israelites who came there. Also, before they burned the fat, the priest’s servant came and said to the man who sacrificed, Give the priest meat to roast, for he will not accept boiled meat from you, but raw. And if the man said to him, Let them burn the fat first, and then you may take as much as you want, the priest’s servant would say, No! Give it to me now or I will take it by force. 1 Sam 2:13-16 AMP

Having completed his gruelling course (he didn’t get an exemption), he now came to his inaugural sermon, and oh! Every line was DISRUPTION.

“Blessed are the poor in Spirit for theirs is the kingdom of God” is about the most disruptive thing to start off saying in a culture constructed for millenia on the idea that the higher your spiritual ranking in the synagogue, the closer you are to the kingdom. It was a culture in which the Pharisee (clergy) thought himself inherently holy and the Publican (secular worker) inherently unclean.

Jesus thought and taught contrary…

The Pharisee took his stand ostentatiously and began to pray thus before and with himself: God, I thank You that I am not like the rest of men–extortioners (robbers), swindlers [unrighteous in heart and life], adulterers–or even like this tax collector here. I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I gain. But the tax collector, [merely] standing at a distance, would not even lift up his eyes to heaven, but kept striking his breast, saying, O God, be favorable (be gracious, be merciful) to me, the especially wicked sinner that I am! I tell you, this man went down to his home justified (forgiven and made upright and in right standing with God), rather than the other man; for everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but he who humbles himself will be exalted. Luk.18:11-14 AMP

The kingdom belongs to those who recognize their own spiritual destitution and constant need for God not those who are full of their own righteousness, he declares. Like the Pharisees of Jesus’ time, many of us believers today have developed a fine calibration for sin that makes ours light, and those of others, grave. The truth is, just as the ant and roach are alike tiny to the elephant, the ‘small’ and ‘big’ sinners are alike sinners before God.

Throughtout that timeless sermon, and his earthly ministry, Jesus went on and on peppering their calloused hearts with disruptive darts. Rather than sit and hold court like the priests, he went into fields and homes and byways. Rather than take sacrifices, he made them. Rather than lord it over his servants, he called them friends. Rather than ostracize the weak, he strengthened them.

Jesus is still disrupting today. He is disrupting the strongholds of sin, and the delusive grandeur of false doctrines. His words, spoken 2000 years ago live eternally.


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