After the 70 years of Babylonian captivity when the Judeans returned to their home land, there arose two major Jewish religious sects i.e. the Sadducees and the Pharisees. The Pharisees were deeply entrenched in Jewish tradition in addition to the law given to Moses. They considered such religious traditions to be as binding as the law itself.
According to the Bible during the life of Christ the Pharisees refused to acknowledge Jesus as the Son of God. They were also flagrantly opposed to the concept of grace and the dialog between them and Jesus was anything but politically correct. The Pharisees believed that being descendants of Abraham was sufficient for God’s approval and acceptance. They would not budge from their belief that God’s favor was attained exclusively by obeying the law and adhering to the hundreds of additional traditions.
The Pharisees rejected Jesus’ claim of being the Son of God even though He was announced by several prophets in the Old Testament, even detailing His genealogy and birth place.
The Bible records several lively discourses between Jesus and the Pharisees relative to Jesus’ deity and His purpose.
“‘I know that you are Abraham’s descendants, but you seek to kill Me, because My word has no place in you. I speak what I have seen with My Father, and you do what you have seen with your father’… Then they said to Him, ‘We were not born of fornication; we have one Father – God.’” John 8:37-41
“Jesus said to them, ‘If God were your Father, you would love Me, for I proceeded forth and came from God…You are of your father the devil, and the desires of your father you want to do. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth…for he is a liar and the father of it…’” John 8:42-44
At the end of this particular discussion Jesus firmly proclaimed His deity.
“Jesus said to them, ‘Most assuredly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I AM’. Then they took up stones to throw at Him…” John 8:58-59
There were, however, many other Jews who witnessed this conversation that believed. Such believers were in fact the beginning of the ‘Church’ on the day of Pentecost.
Jesus had much more to say about the doctrine and influence of the Pharisees in other gospel records.
“But woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you shut up the kingdom of heaven against men; for you neither go in yourselves, nor do you allow those who are entering to go in.” Matthew 23:13
When Jesus began His earthly ministry, He introduced the teaching that sin is not limited to outwardly acts, but includes the innermost thoughts of one’s heart. He taught that no one could ever fulfill the ‘law’ except the Son of God.
“Do not think that I came to destroy the Law or the Prophets, I did not come to destroy but to fulfill…For I say to you, that unless your righteousness exceeds the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven.” Matthew 5:17, 20
The Apostle Paul when writing to the Roman Christians after the death, burial, resurrection, and ascension of Jesus expounded on Jesus’ teachings.
“…they are not all Israel who are of Israel, nor are they all children because they are the seed of Abraham; but, ‘In Isaac your seed shall be called.’ That is, those who are the children of the flesh, these are not the children of God; but the children of the promise are counted as the seed.” Romans 9:6-8
Israel’s greatest days lie ahead when Christ returns. At that time Israel will reap all the blessings of the covenant God originally made with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. The descendants of the Pharisees will have a change of heart.
“Also the sons of those who afflicted you (City of Zion) shall come bowing to you, and all those who despised you shall fall prostrate at the soles of your feet; and they shall call you the City of the LORD…the Holy One of Israel.” Isaiah 60:14