I fear that sometimes the phrase “Pharisees and Sadducees” must go through Jesus’ mind when he sees what we say and do. This would not be a good thing.
The Pharisees and the Sadducees were religious sects within Judaism, similar (at least to my Gentile mind) to denominations within Christendom today. Each sect had its rules and regulations, its basic tenets, its defining characteristics. Like denominations today, they probably considered themselves distinctly different from each other, but perhaps in the world’s eyes they all looked much the same: snooty people who say they follow God, but can’t get along together, don’t know so much, and nevertheless think they’re better than the rest of us.
In the twelfth chapter of Mark’s gospel, as Jesus is teaching in the temple, He is barraged with tricky questions from both camps. The Pharisees try to trap him with a tax question, and the Sadducees describe an absurd scenario involving one woman and seven husbands, to prove their opinion that resurrection is ridiculous. Jesus’ patient answer to the Sadducees’ riddle is so wise, and such a timely word for believers today.
“Are you not deceived,” he asks the Sadducees, “because you don’t know the Scriptures or the power of God?”
The Greek word translated deceived is planao, which in this context means to be led astray, away from the truth, into error. We like to think we have things pretty much together, that we’re right in our opinions and that we know truth and error when we see it. But what if we’re deceived in this? Let’s examine ourselves and make sure that we haven’t slipped into one (or both!) of the major errors Jesus so succinctly names.
First, do we know the Scriptures? Not just the Lord’s Prayer and John 3:16, but the whole counsel of God? If following Christ is what our lives are about—and please tell me He’s not just a beneficial add-on to the life you’re orchestrating, but that He is central to all you are and think and do—then soaking up as much of His word as is possible should be a foundational priority in our daily lives. Otherwise we might come up with mistaken bits of theology, like “people turn into angels when they die,” or “babies who die go to Hell,” or “just follow the ten commandments the best you can and you’ll be right with God.” Oh, sisters, we must know the Scriptures or we will be led astray, and in danger of leading others astray. Worse, we will not be able to defend our faith. If we are not thoroughly familiar with God’s message to the world, how will be able to explain it to seekers, or show attackers the baselessness of their objections?
Second, do we know the power of God? This is the worse of the two errors. If you don’t know Scripture, you’re just ignorant, and that is easily corrected with diligent study. However, if you don’t know the power of God, that is evidence of unbelief. Can you say “hypocrite?”
No matter if you’ve memorized the entire New Testament, if you don’t recognize the tremendous power of God—His inherent power, strength and ability because of who He is—you are not in a good place. You may not truly believe that God is real, or perhaps you think that He’s not paying close attention, or that as long as you follow the rules and look righteous to those around you, who you are when you’re alone doesn’t matter. Please don’t settle into that place. Fall on your knees before God and ask forgiveness for your unbelief. If you’ve been pushing God to the margins of your life, repent of that, too, and begin to take your walk with Jesus seriously. Your relationship with Him should be what your life is all about, with your family nestled in closely, your brothers and sisters in Christ a high priority, inviting others into the Kingdom an urgent concern, and all else fit in where there is room, if there is room.
I’ve just written Mark 12:24 on a sticky note, and posted it near my desk to remind me to immerse myself in Scripture, and to learn to look for and recognize the power of God throughout the day. Maybe you want to do that too? I’d love to hear what happens in your heart and your life if you do. Let me know in the forum thread for this article.