Here’s a question: How do you think the large oil companies feel about Elon Musk and his gas-less electric cars? It’s no surprise that they’re cold to the guy. In fact, they like him about as much as you like a pebble in your shoe. The truth is that Musk’s Tesla cars are incredible machines. They provide an ultra-quiet, powerful driving experience that challenges the destructive and unsustainable status quo of the past. Who would ever object to this?
Today’s Power Structures
Oil executives recognize that their power and wealth will continue only so far as the world relies on the resources they control. Anyone or any invention that reduces the population’s reliance on their oil will be seen as a threat — and will be resisted. This said, Elon Musk is certainly not a popular guy in these board meetings.
An Ancient Power Structure in Jerusalem
Now rewind the clocks backwards two thousand years to first century Israel — long before the electricity was discovered and the industrial revolution sparked the lust for oil. Headquartered in the city of Jerusalem was another power structure. As America is led by a powerful congress made up of both democrats and republicans, so Israel had their congress – the Sanhedrin – made of the Pharisee party and the Sadducee party. Here’s a quick overview of what each of these ancient religiopolitical parties believed:
- The Pharisees Party
- Believed that there would be a resurrection from the dead
- Believed in the authority of a massive body of extrabiblical commentaries on God’s laws (called the “Oral Law”)
- The Sadducee Party
- Rejected the idea that there would be a resurrection from the dead
- Rejected the authority of the “Oral Law”
These two parties clearly disagreed with each other on some major policies, and they were constantly trying to shove each other down in order to become king of the mountain.
A Young Man Questions the Status Quo
Along came Jesus — a 30-year-old emerging leader among the Jewish people who did not fit the mold of either political-religious party. In fact, the concepts He pushed were wonderful and in full accordance with God’s will and laws. One of His first moves was to demand that the Sanhedrin-controlled, fully-monopolized, price-gouging markets move out of the Temple — a place that was to be “a house of prayer.” Without a doubt, questioning this financial structure was a dangerous move.
Regarding the theological “sacred cows” of the first century Sanhedrin, Jesus both agreed and disagreed with each of the parties. Let’s compare and contrast Jesus positions with the two major doctrines debated about among the Pharisees and the Sadducees:
- Believed that there would be a resurrection from the dead (agreed with Pharisees; disagreed with Sadducees)
- Rejected the authority of the “Oral Law” when it conflicted with the Scriptures (agreed with Sadducees; disagreed with Pharisees)
Because Jesus agreed with and boldly defended the one of each party’s major doctrines of the day, He would find their support when He happened to argue for their cause. Yet when He would provide biblical arguments against a particular party’s position He would stoke their wrath. Ultimately Jesus would not become a card-carrying member of either of these parties, and many of these parties ended up rejecting this free thinker.
So What Should We Believe?
Like the oil companies and Elon Musk, it should not surprise us that the ancient political parties in first century Israel sought to discredit and silence this young Jewish leader that had to many new and beautiful ideas. What should our opinion about Jesus be today? As prudent and objective thinkers, you and I ought to decide for ourselves what we think about Jesus, and we should do so with the reliable information of a primary source. I encourage everyone to grab a Bible that includes the Old and New Testaments, and read firsthand the values and truth claims that Jesus made.
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