Matthew – Day 31 – The Pharisees

 In Bible Studies, The Book of Matthew

lease begin by reading the Shema out loud and continue trying to memorize it.

“Hear, O Israel. The LORD is our God. The LORD alone. Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. Amen.”

Also, recite The Beatitudes (Matthew 5:1-12).

“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted. Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the land. Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be filled. Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy. Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God. Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called sons of God. Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you, and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.”

On Day 30, we talked about the meaning of “coming to fulfill the Law and the Prophets.” We talked about the final meaning of “fulfilling the law” as being one that was common with the rabbis (teachers). For a rabbi to fulfill the law, he would give a complete and accurate explanation of it. Today we begin looking at Jesus’ teachings on the law. We will pay close attention to His explanation of God’s original intent.

Read Matthew 5:19 (out loud).

What was Jesus focusing on in this verse? The commandments. Was His approach, “I know these are hard to keep, so don’t worry about it because I am going to die on the cross?” Did He say, “It doesn’t matter what you believe or what you teach others, because everything is acceptable?” No. He clearly wanted His disciples to know that this was important.

Now read Matthew 5:20 (out loud).

Here Jesus gave a benchmark… a level to aim for. He said that our righteousness must surpass, or go beyond, that of the Pharisees. Wait a second. I thought the Pharisees were bad people that Jesus was frequently criticizing. Maybe we need to learn a little bit more about the Pharisees to understand what Jesus was saying.

The Pharisees believed in angels. They believed in life after death (which was different than the Sadducees). They believed that the Jewish Bible promised a Messiah that would restore freedom for Israel. They believed that God was supreme and man had free will. Most importantly, they believed that the Old Testament Scriptures were the Word of God. However, they also believed that Moses had communicated an oral law that was just as important as God’s Law.

According to Josephus, there were only about 6,000 Pharisees during Jesus’ day. They lived incredibly disciplined lives. They focused on understanding the correct meaning of Scripture and on living exactly as the commandments instructed. Therefore, they lived very godly lives. But there were two problems. First, they had placed this oral Law of Moses at the same level of importance as the very Word of God. Jesus tried to explain that the Word of God could not be replaced by the traditions of any man.

Read Mark 7:8-9 (out loud).

Secondly, Jesus tried to explain that God’s intention for the law was to be a guide for the condition of the heart – not a list of rules to obey. Jesus was telling them that purity and righteousness come through faith in Him where the believer is transformed into a truly good person – in the heart. The Pharisees were living a life of legalism – trying to keep a set of rules – and becoming very proud, arrogant, and judgmental. They were so focused on their rules and their understanding of the Law that they missed God’s way – the Messiah. Furthermore, they were so threatened by Him, that they “plotted how they might kill Jesus” (Matthew 12:14).

So how can our righteousness surpass that of the Pharisees? By having a righteousness resulting from a changed heart rather than from keeping the Law. By having a righteousness that is a result of the blood of Jesus rather than my “perfect” behavior.

We cannot be righteous as a result of our own effort… it is not possible. But if we allow Jesus to be the Lord of our lives and are baptized into Him, we are transformed by the Holy Spirit and are made clean before the LORD.

Today is the perfect time to stop and take a look at our lives.

Are you putting your faith in Jesus and allowing Him to transform you and make you righteous? Or are you putting your faith in yourself and your ability to keep a set of rules?

Are you full of pride because you are so holy? Are you judgmental because you are more godly than others? Or, have you just given up trying to live a righteous life?

How do you compare to the Pharisees? Are you one of them? Does your righteousness surpass theirs? Don’t give up. Rely on Jesus to transform you – don’t try to do this by yourself.

Revell Bible Dictionary


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Matthew Bible Study Series Day 32