Acts 22:30-24:27, Psalm 38
You have at this juncture seen the words “Pharisees” and “Sadducees” quite often in our New Testament readings. Today’s scripture features both of these groups accusing Paul of various misdeeds. Though Paul initially appeals to the shared belief in resurrection between he and the Pharisees, such goodwill is short lived as the Pharisees in particular grow in hostility towards Paul to the point of having many in their midst vow to take Paul’s life. Considering their respective importance in the New Testament, it is worthwhile to answer the question: “Who are the Pharisees and Sadducees?” Just like Christians include Protestants and Catholics, so there were different groups within the Judaism of Jesus’ day like the two already mentioned, not to mention others like the Essenes and Zealots. Jesus and the early Christians seem to have interacted most with the Pharisees who, like the early Christians, believed in angels, the resurrection from the dead, and were known to hold to more supernatural readings of the Jewish scriptures than their Sadducee counterparts. In short, the early Christians would have read the Old Testament much more like the Pharisees than the Sadducees. One of their points of common ground, like already mentioned, is the resurrection of the dead. Both Christians and Pharisees, unlike the Sadducees believed God would bring everyone that has ever lived out of their graves at the end of time to judge the righteous and the unrighteous. Now I have gone over this before by emphasizing how Christians believe Jesus kickstarted the resurrection, that the final judgement in space and time by rising from the dead and ensuring all found in Christ are already declared righteous. This will come up often in Paul’s writings. What I think is interesting is that though the Pharisees and Christians have more in common than the Christians and Sadducees, there were many reasons the Pharisees were more opposed to followers of “The Way”. In fact, these disagreements, though smaller on one level, were so great the Pharisees wanted to see the Christians wiped out. Many today are weary of religions placing such emphasis on beliefs that they harm one another. Certainly as followers of “The Way” (John 14:6), we should remember our forebears suffered greatly at the hands of their opponents and reject a faith that calls for violence against those with different beliefs than ourselves. At the same time we recognize Paul and early believers thought Jesus worth dying and bleeding for as ambassadors. We do not inflict suffering in following Jesus, but by following the Way, we will be recipients of mistreatment. In light of the resurrection reality which makes us alive with Jesus now, we should like those who have gone before us be willing to suffer for the Name above all names.