We’re a little over half way through our year long study of the book of Matthew! Today we look at Matthew 16:1-28. Jesus is addressing three main groups within religious circles in this passage; Pharisees, Sadducees, and disciples. The traits these groups share are eerily similar to modern society, tell me if you see the correlation!
Pharisees are define themselves with self-righteousness. These are the guys who hold to strict legalism and create new laws to bend the old ones to their liking. Modern Pharisees vomit up barrage of condemnation followed up with a chorus of “Jesus Loves Me”, calling it evangelism.
Sadducees swing to the opposite extreme. Self-indulgence is the defining characteristic of this group. While Pharisees create new laws and follow them strictly, Sadducees “‘re-interpret” the old ones so they fit popular lifestyle trends. If it’s fun, if it feels good, it must be OK with God. After all, God’s number one job is ensuring our individual happiness. Sound familiar? Modern Sadducees turn Grace into grease. “Tolerance” is a popular buzz word for these guys. Their flaw is taking just my toleration to such an extreme that NOTHING is sin. If nothing is sin, everything is God. Our understanding of God depends on whatever shakes our coconut tree that particular day! The Bible is obsolete to a Sadducee.
While their dogmas are in direct opposition, Pharisees and Sadducees share a common trait at their fundamental core. Neither of the philosophies would survive without narcissism. Our physical eyes are designed to communicate one area of focus to our minds at a time. The same is true for our mind’s eye. Focusing on ourselves eliminates the ability to focus on anything else. Selfishness blinds us from the gospel. The disciples combat the selfish tendencies of human nature, which sets them apart from any other religious sect.
The mark of a disciple is complete self-denial. People who live as disciples walk with all eyes open. They value other’s lives and well being over their own and live having been freed from fear of death. For the disciple, death is not the end, it is the start of a new chapter of life. A community of Jesus disciples are obvious by their intimate knowledge of and relationship with Jesus. They don’t just know the Christianese lingo, they live it out in a way that you can see them coming. The legalists’ and grace greasers’ knees tremble when real disciples come into town. Why would anyone fear disciples? Communities of disciples share Jesus confidently. We don’t require political angles or scare tactics to teach the gospel, we simply live it out and attract people by our example. Finally, communities of disciples follow Jesus sacrificially. We give ourselves in service and share all that we own to an extreme that confuses the world. Through our giving we are blessed with resources that allow us to give more; this really blows the cynics’ minds!
Jesus gives sight to the blind. Not by changing our eyes, but by taking off our blindfolds.