Oct 26, 2020
Join us as we explore God’s ancient wisdom and apply it to our modern lives. His word is as current and relevant today as it was when he inspired its authors more than two and a half millennia ago. The websites where you can reach us are alittlewalkwithgod.com, richardagee.com, or saf.church.
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Thanks for joining me today for "A Little Walk with God." I'm your host Richard Agee.
It seems the more things change, the more they stay the same. We think we progressed so much over the last centuries, but I'm not so sure. When we think of Jesus' day and the early Christian church, we too often think of the Middle-ages with its feudal systems and the monks and monasteries. But the first century found itself embroiled in Rome's politics, and in Israel, the fight between the different factions within the Jewish religion.
We think we have a divide between the Republicans and Democrats here, and we do. In recent years, we managed to tear each other apart until now we have come to the point of both extremist sides protesting anything the other says with violence, riots, burning down innocent victims' property, shootings, and killings. We have become maniacal in our drive to push our agenda without listening to the other side.
Jesus' day didn't appear much different. The Sadducees held the seats of power. They had the honored seat of the priesthood and the powerful reign as chief priest. What the chief priest decreed; the people obeyed at risk of their eternal soul. But problems erupted in the politics of the arrangement.
The Sadducees gained their position through violence when the Maccabees overthrew the Seleucids, and the Hasmonean dynasty began. The Pharisees and Sadducees' views were about as opposite as the Democrats and Republicans. And they hated each other about as much as the two parties seem to hate each other today.
The Sadducees, considered conservative among Jews because of their strict adherence to the Law of Moses, accepted only the first five books of scripture as authoritative. They believed heartily in an eye for an eye, tooth for a tooth punishment. They did not recognize a final resurrection or many other rituals or details of the Law the Pharisees believed because they accepted only the Torah.
Despite their conservative approach to Judaism, their wealth, power, and cooperation with Rome labeled them Hellenistic. The people despised them and looked for ways to overthrow their tight rule over the priesthood. Several sects grew out of the populace, including the more familiar Essenes and Pharisees.
If the Sadducees were the far-right in Jesus' day, the Pharisees represented the far-left. They wanted to overthrow the current reign of the Sadducees and take control of the priesthood. The Pharisees believed in all the scriptures' authority in the current Hebrew Bible, which includes the Wisdom Books and the Prophets. They believe in bodily resurrection, after which a final judgment will separate God's chosen people and proselytes to Israel's God and reward them in the 'age to come.'
While appearing pious and godly in public, the Pharisees funded, plotted, and planned several revolts to overthrow the Sadducees and the Roman occupation to rid the nation of both entities. The Pharisees would gladly break their own laws to rid the country of their enemies, no matter who they were.
Politics! Isn't amazing how we have not changed in 2,000 years—party attacking party. Behind the scenes, action stirring up trouble to do more name-calling and pointing out flaws than announcing what the party stands for and how it will accomplish what it says it will do for the people. Dirt uncovered or made up and splashed across whatever grapevine is handy. Say it enough times, and it must be true, right? Have the right person announce it, and it must be true, right? Put it on the right platform, and it must be true, right? We have become so gullible on both sides; quite frankly, we are pretty pathetic as a nation when it comes to politics.
One difference between the Sadducees and Pharisees and our political parties now is that at least they came together for one purpose – to get rid of Jesus. Here's one example out of many that didn't work.
When the Pharisees heard that Jesus had silenced the Sadducees,
they gathered together,
and one of them, a lawyer, asked him a question to test him.
"Teacher, which commandment in the law is the
He said to him," 'You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.'
This is the greatest and first commandment.
And a second is like it: 'You shall love your neighbor as yourself.'
On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets." (Matthew 22:34-40 NIV)
The Sadducees tried to trapped Jesus with their question about marriage at the resurrection. Jesus confirms the resurrection but blasts their misunderstanding of what the resurrection is like and their misunderstanding about scriptures, declaring God is God of the living, not the dead. The Sadducees slink away defeated. So their enemies, the Pharisees, take up the battle against Jesus at the Temple.
This scene is different to me because I see so little common ground among the people we send to Washington, the politicians. I know it is not true of the neighbors around me, or the people who live across town from me, or the owners of the stores downtown or their workers. I know it's not true of the average American citizen. I believe deep inside, most of us have a lot more in common than we have against each other.
Like the people in almost every country I've visited, I believe most of us want a few things in life. We want a stable economy and standard of living that makes us comfortable, not necessarily rich or wealthy. We want our kids to have a better life than we did. We want to know we can walk the streets at night without the risk of being mugged or killed. We want to sleep at home in safety. We want to worship in the way we choose without ridicule, harassment, or government involvement. We want basic services at a reasonable cost, police, fire, water, sewage, healthcare, and the like. We want honest men and women in elected positions who serve the people instead of growing their bank accounts on the people's backs.
Christians should live as good citizens of the country where they live, act as the voice for those who cannot speak for themselves, and do something about injustice, poverty, and crime. But Christians must also live as citizens of the Kingdom of God first. That is our true citizenship, and it means we must live by Jesus' commands. All authority in heaven and earth is placed in him, and his command is given in the verses we just read. Love God and love your neighbor. Elsewhere Jesus tells us you can't love the invisible God you can't see; if you don't love your neighbor, you can see.
Does name-calling fall within the rights of a Kingdom of God citizen? I don't think so. Does rioting fall within those rights? I don't think so. Does violence against another meet the criteria? Again, not according to what I see in Jesus. We need to stand up for what is right, but not in the way it happens on Facebook or some of our streets today. Even what we see on C-Span or the news outlets, how interviews, or more like interrogations, are handled, they do not reflect a citizen of the Kingdom spirit. Am I judging? Yes. I think when we see behavior clearly violating the spirit of God's law, that's not judging the heart. I can't see a person's heart and cannot evaluate a person's state before God. But I can certainly identify behavior so outlandishly against what Jesus would accept in his Kingdom.
It's time we stop and think before we act. If we are children of the Kingdom, we need to act like it. We need to share the gospel, not hatred. We need to remind ourselves and others that Jesus was crucified, died, and buried. He was raised from the dead and is alive, sitting as King of the world. Put your faith and hope in him. Pray a lot about this election. Go and vote your conscience. Someone will win, someone will lose in this election, but it doesn't change the real ruler. That will never change. Jesus is and always will be the King of kings.
One day, 'every knee will bow, and every tongue will confess, that Jesus is the Lord.' There is no other.
You can find me at richardagee.com. I also invite you to join us at San Antonio First Church of the Nazarene on West Avenue in San Antonio to hear more Bible-based teaching. You can find out more about my church at SAF.church. Thanks for listening. If you enjoyed it, tell a friend. If you didn't, send me an email and let me know how better to reach out to those around you. Until next week, may God richly bless you as you venture into His story each day.
Scriptures marked NIV are taken from the NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION (NIV): Scripture taken from THE HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION ®. Copyright© 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.™. Used by permission of Zondervan