The Messiah Who Confounded the Wise: Eleazor
The Messiah Who Confounded the Wise: Eleazor
Luke 11:37-54; Mark 11:27-12:17
Major Stephen R. Kelly
Finance Secretary, Command Privacy & Information Security Officer
Southwest Ohio & Northeast Kentucky Division
USA Eastern Territory
Eleazar the father of Matthan...
It was at this time that the Greek powers have collapsed and Judea had a time of relative peace, and much of the credit goes to a high priest named John Hyrcanus. To the west a new power has emerged – Rome.
Hyrcanus is a Pharisee – and the minority party is the Sadducees – the very same two parties that were thorns in Jesus’ side. The Pharisees emphasized a strict reading of the Holy Scriptures and took the text literally as much as they could. This group held sway over most common people.
The rival party, the Sadducees, were primarily the party of the wealthy and powerful, and preferred a looser interpretation of the biblical texts. They believed in unrestricted free will – that God didn’t really care about human behavior. The only exception was issues of ritual purity, which allowed them to keep running the Temple and keep the shekels flowing into their coffers.
[Hyrcanus] once invited them to a feast and entertained them very kindly, and when he saw them in a good humor… he requested, that if they observed him offending in any point and straying from the right way, they should call him back and correct him. On that occasion they attested to his being entirely virtuous, and with this commendation he was very pleased. (Josephus’ Antiquities, XIII, 288-290)
Here John Hyrcanus is falling into a trap of pride in his own righteousness, and his Pharisee comrades are setting him up.
But there was one of his guests there whose name was Eleazar, a man of evil nature, who delighted in seditious practices. This man said, “Since you desire to know the truth, if you are righteous in earnest, give up the high priesthood and content yourself with the civil government of the people… We have heard it from the elders that your mother had been a captive during the reign of Antiochus Epiphanes.” This story was false, and Hyrcanus was furious with him, and all the Pharisees were very indignant against him. (vv. 291-292)
The implication here is that “your mother got pregnant with you while she was held prisoner by Antiochus Epiphanes. You’re the illegitimate son of that awful king who ruined our Temple.” Or at the very least, “your mother wasn’t a virgin when she got married,” which would have disqualified him from the priesthood under Leviticus 21:13-14.
Hyrcanus went into a terrible rage at this defamation of his character. He ended up switching parties and joined the Sadducees. By Jesus’ day, the high priests Annas and Caiaphas were both Sadducees.
The infighting between the two parties was still going strong in Jesus’ day. In Matthew 22, the Sadducees tried to trip Him up with a question about a woman being successively married to seven brothers who had each, in turn, died.
“So tell us, whose wife will she be in the resurrection? For all seven were married to her.” Jesus replied, “Your mistake is that you don’t know the Scriptures, and you don’t know the power of God.” (vv. 28-29)
At this point the Pharisees see an opportunity. Not only could they trap Jesus with His words, but they could also kick their rivals while they were down.
But when the Pharisees heard that he had silenced the Sadducees with His reply, they met together to question Him again. (v. 34)
But His answers stumped the Pharisees as well. The coming Messiah confounded both Sadducees and Pharisees, and they both hated Him for it. Extinguishing this threat to their power moved them to a rare moment of cooperation.
Jesus wasn’t about law, but about grace. The Pharisees couldn’t get it. But He also emphasized that human behavior, especially how we treat our neighbors, matters to God. So, the Sadducees couldn’t fathom Him, either.
The Christ was bringing something new that wouldn’t stay in the old wineskins. Imagine if they knew He would arrive in a stable!
Consider: Do you align yourself with groups, denominations and parties to the extent that there’s no room in your faith for Christ to do the unexpected?
Our Corporate Prayer
Dear God, It is so easy for us to be drawn away by partisanship. We feel strongly about issues, and some of these are very important. We care about the world we live in, about our government, about our schools and so many other things but, dear Lord, please do not let these things become more important to us than You or Your people. Remind us always that there is only one Family of God, that we are brothers and sisters in You. We cannot all agree on all things but we can love You supremely and love each other as members of Your body. Keep us focused on You. We pray this in the name of Your blessed Son, Jesus. Amen.
Reaching Out to Others
As we approach the Thanksgiving season, is there something you can plan to do now anonymously for someone else in need?
Few things make a mockery of Christianity more than disunity among believers.
- General Frederick Coutts
We would appreciate any feedback and/or suggestions on how to improve these devotionals. Please email comments to: [email protected]
Allen Satterlee, Lt. Colonel
Territorial Spiritual Life Development Officer/THQ Chaplain
USA Southern Territory