The Hypocritical Belief of the Scribes & PharaseesVolume 3, Number 61
Created Date: October 5, 2012
Posted Date: October 5, 2012
“Believe” in Matthew, Mark & Luke - Part 28:
Israel’s Chief Priests, Scribes & Pharisees, 2 of 2:
Five (5) passages in Matthew, Mark and Luke record the Chief Priests, Scribes and Pharisees as having uttered the word “believe” during two incidents. Both occurred during the third and last Passover week of Jesus’ three-year ministry. Our last study examined the first incident and today we go to the second. Briefly reviewing the first incident from our last study: Jesus rode into Jerusalem on a donkey while being acclaimed by throngs of people shouting “Hosanna to the Son of David: Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord; Hosanna in the highest.”. He then went into the Temple and drove out those who bought and sold, overturned the tables of the moneychangers and healed the lame and blind, . This angered the Chief Priests and Scribes, , and the next day when Jesus returned to the Temple they asked Him by what authority He had done these things. He answered with a question, which He said if they answered, He’d tell them by what authority He was operating. He asked whether the baptism of John was from heaven, or of men. They reasoned among themselves, recognizing that if they said it was from heaven then Jesus would ask why they didn’t believe John, but if they said John was of men they feared the people because the people believed John was a prophet. So they answered that they couldn’t tell. Jesus responded that neither would He tell them by what authority He did these things. ; ; .
The second incident occurred a short time later. The Chief Priests, Scribes and Pharisee’s resentment and hatred of Jesus drove them to incite public sentiment against Him and manipulate the Roman authority with trumped up charges to have Him crucified as a criminal. Then, while our Savior hung on the cross about to give up His life they mocked Him: “And they that passed by reviled him, wagging their heads, And saying, Thou that destroyest the temple, and buildest it in three days, save thyself. If thou be the Son of God, come down from the cross. Likewise also the chief priests mocking him, with the scribes and elders, said, He saved others; himself he cannot save. If he be the King of Israel, let him now come down from the cross, and we will believe him. He trusted in God; let him deliver him now, if he will have him: for he said, I am the Son of God.”. Mark’s account also reports they used the word “believe,” . And although Luke records this incident he does not mention they said, “believe,” .
The actions of these leaders of Israel illustrate how mankind is instrumental in carrying out God’s plans. They didn’t believe John the Baptist’s message, or that Jesus was the Son of God; they believed in their own righteousness. Jesus could have escaped them as He had done before,, and as the song goes, He could have called 10,000 angels to His rescue. But this was His time and He voluntarily gave Himself as He said previously: “I am the good shepherd, and know my sheep, and am known of mine. As the Father knoweth me, even so know I the Father: and I lay down my life for the sheep. And other sheep I have, which are not of this fold: them also I must bring, and they shall hear my voice; and there shall be one fold, and one shepherd. Therefore doth my Father love me, because I lay down my life, that I might take it again. No man taketh it from me, but I lay it down of myself. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again. This commandment have I received of my Father.” . Although Jesus willingly laid down His life, it’s never-the-less sobering to think that those culpable in sending Him to the cross will, unless they repented later, spend eternity in hell with the knowledge they mocked Him while He hung and died, potentially for their sins.
They were like all unbelieving intellectuals. They rejected God’s Word as truth, coming up through the educational process and conforming to societal standards to gain their prominent positions in the community. They strove on their own to meet the standards set by the Law given to Moses but never learned the purpose of that law, as explained by the Apostle Paul: “Wherefore the law was our schoolmaster to bring us unto Christ, that we might be justified by faith.”. Instead, they hypocritically went through the motions of keeping the law, never recognizing it was teaching them they were sinners. They set their own standard of what to believe and what not to believe, as illustrated by their statement that if He came down from the cross they would believe.
Throughout His ministry Jesus had taught the requirements to enter His Kingdom while pointing out the hypocrisy of these leaders: “Therefore when thou doest thine alms, do not sound a trumpet before thee, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may have glory of men. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward.”. “And when thou prayest, thou shalt not be as the hypocrites are: for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and in the corners of the streets, that they may be seen of men. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward, . See also ; 23:1 - 8. Jesus set the standard for righteousness in His believers: “All therefore whatsoever they (the Chief Priests and Scribes) bid you observe, that observe and do; but do not ye after their works: for they say, and do not.” . (See the complete context of this statement beginning with .) “For I say unto you, That except your righteousness shall exceed the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, ye shall in no case enter into the kingdom of heaven.” .
Jesus had previously told the Pharisees they would die in their sins if they didn’t believe He was who He said He was,, and “Ye are of your father the devil, and the lusts of your father ye will do. He was a murderer from the beginning, and abode not in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaketh a lie, he speaketh of his own: for he is a liar, and the father of it. And because I tell you the truth, ye believe me not.” . After He arose from the dead and ascended into heaven as the Lord Jesus Christ the leaders of Israel continued to persecute those who believed in Him, as recorded in the first part of the book of Acts. And so Israel was set-aside for a while as the Apostle Paul explains: “But Israel, which followed after the law of righteousness, hath not attained to the law of righteousness. Wherefore? Because they sought it not by faith, but as it were by the works of the law. For they stumbled at that stumblingstone; As it is written, Behold, I lay in Sion a stumblingstone and rock of offence: and whosoever believeth on him shall not be ashamed.” .
We have found that out of all 35 times the word “believe” appears in Matthew, Mark and Luke, only these Chief Priests, Scribes and Pharisees used it in the context of human reasoning: 1) trying to decide how to answer Christ’s question based on their own expediency and 2) establishing criteria they set themselves for believing. In other words, they proved themselves self-righteous hypocrites, spinning the law of Moses to their own advantage. This is Satan’s method, just as Jesus had pointed out to them in John 8:44, as quoted above, that they were of their father, the Devil.
The good news is that as a result of the Nation of Israel rejecting their Messiah, the door for salvation was opened to Gentiles, as revealed to and through the Apostle Paul: “I say then, Have they stumbled that they should fall? God forbid: but rather through their fall salvation is come unto the Gentiles, for to provoke them to jealousy.”. “For this cause I Paul, the prisoner of Jesus Christ for you Gentiles, If ye have heard of the dispensation of the grace of God which is given me to you-ward: How that by revelation he made known unto me the mystery; (as I wrote afore in few words, Whereby, when ye read, ye may understand my knowledge in the mystery of Christ) Which in other ages was not made known unto the sons of men, as it is now revealed unto his holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit; That the Gentiles should be fellowheirs, and of the same body, and partakers of his promise in Christ by the gospel: Whereof I was made a minister, according to the gift of the grace of God given unto me by the effectual working of his power.” .