Jesus’ ministry centered around his association with two critical groups: sinners and self-righteous. To understand these complex dynamics reveals the nature of Jesus’ approach.

The Sinners

  • Jesus was the easiest on the sinners and the toughest on the self-righteous.
  • Jesus was often criticized for his association with sinners.
  • While forgiving and polite towards sinners, he also called for repentance. He was gracious but not soft (John 8:2-11).
  • One of the most significant misrepresentations of Jesus was that he taught not to judge others. That is simply untrue (Matt. 7:1-5; cf. 1 Corinthians 5).

The Self-Righteous

The Identity of the Pharisees

  • The Pharisees were a fellowship of serious-minded Jewish men who were committed to the Old Testament Law.
  • Unfortunately, they began holding to extensive extra-biblical traditions and would frequently let their traditions stand in the way of obeying the truth (Matthew 23).
  • The Sadducees were wealthy priests who were unfriendly and unpopular among the masses.
  • They rejected the extra-biblical traditions of the Pharisees and did not believe in the resurrection from the dead (Mark 12:18; Acts 4:1-2; 23:6-8).
  • The Essenes were another community that lived communally and emphasized strict purity.
  • These groups had a common enemy: Jesus. They would work together and with Rome in an attempt to trick Jesus (Matt. 22:15-46).

The Respect They Had for Jesus

  • Many of the Pharisees would appear to respect Jesus, but they would use a compliment in an attempt to soften him before trying to catch him in his words.
  • Some Pharisees, like Nicodemus (John 3), realized something was different about him.

The Reason They Wanted to Kill Jesus

  • They were following a biblical command (Deut. 13:6-10; 17:3-5).
  • They thought Jesus was blaspheming (Mark 2:5-7; John 8:56-59; 10:28-31).