Why are religious elites accusing Jesus of being demon-possessed?
Pharisees (religious elites) opposed Jesus the Messiah during his ministry and were among those who brought about his crucifixion. Some Pharisees, however, accepted the Messiah’s teaching and believed in him.
The Pharisees (religious leaders and elites) were an influential religious sect within Judaism in the time of the Messiah and the early church.
We need to be careful. There is a slippery slope where being a religious zealot moves quietly into religious rule keeping. Has it happened to me? Yikes! I resemble that remark.
The religious elites were known for:
- Their emphasis on personal piety (the word Pharisee comes from a Hebrew word meaning “separated”).
- Their acceptance of oral tradition in addition to the written Law, and their teaching that all Jews should observe all 600-plus laws in the Torah, including the rituals concerning ceremonial purification.
- That is a whole lot of hypocritical rule keeping.
- Am I a religious rule keeper? Do I look down on those who don’t seem to care about religious rules?
Now here this from Jesus!
He then left them, got back in the boat, and headed for the other side. But the disciples forgot to pack a lunch. Except for a single loaf of bread, there wasn’t a crumb in the boat. Jesus warned, “Be very careful. Keep a sharp eye out for the contaminating yeast of Pharisees (religious leaders and elites) and the followers of Herod.Mark 8:13-15 (The Message Bible)
Accusing Jesus the Messiah of being demon-possessed: Now this is bold. This took some chutzpah.
The Pharisees (religious elites) were mostly middle-class businessmen and leaders of the synagogues. Though they were a minority in the Sanhedrin and held a minority number of positions as priests, they seemed to control the decision-making of the Sanhedrin because they had popular support among the people.
- Matthew 9:32–34 — As they were going out, a mute, demon-possessed man was brought to Him. After the demon was cast out, the mute man spoke; and the crowds were amazed, and were saying, “Nothing like this has ever been seen in Israel.” But the Pharisees were saying, “He casts out the demons by the ruler of the demons.”
- Matthew 12:22–24 — Then a demon-possessed man who was blind and mute was brought to Jesus, and He healed him, so that the mute man spoke and saw. All the crowds were amazed, and were saying, “This man cannot be the Son of David, can he?” But when the Pharisees (religious leaders and elites) heard this, they said, “This man casts out demons only by Beelzebul the ruler of the demons.”
- Mark 3:22 — The scribes (religious leaders and elites) who came down from Jerusalem were saying, “He is possessed by Beelzebul,” and “He casts out the demons by the ruler of the demons.”
The Pharisees are often presented as hypocritical and proud opponents of Jesus. The Master stated it bluntly: “They do not practice what they preach” (Matthew 23:3).
As a general rule, the Pharisees were self-righteousness and smug in their delusion that they were pleasing to God because they kept the Law — or parts of it, at least. Deluded so much as the thought our Master Jesus was demon possessed. Imagine!
As Jesus pointed out to them, however scrupulous they were in following the finer points of ritualism, they failed to measure up to God’s standard of holiness: “You have neglected the more important matters of the law — justice, mercy and faithfulness” (verse 23).
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