Many followers, few disciples – the rise of Pharisaic opposition

Tonight something new developed in our survey of the NT. The tremendous miracles Jesus is performing produce vast crowds to hear him preach and to bring the sick for healing. But a note of opposition clearly begins to emerge.

We began with the healing of the leper, “I will, be thou clean.” Usually, when one should touch or be touched by a leper, it makes the clean unclean. In this case, the clean made the unclean clean. Was this a beginning point of Pharisaic opposition? Did they view Jesus as flouting the law? There is no indiction, but the first mention of the Pharisees comes in the very next pericope, the healing of the man let down through the roof. Here Jesus says, “Thy sins be forgiven thee.” This definitely sets the Pharisees off.

Then come these events: the call of Matthew and the banquet at his house, filled with sinners. Next, the question about fasting (some speculate that the banquet at Levi’s house occured on one of the Pharisee’s regular fasting days, a Monday or a Thursday). Then the Disciples dare to ‘harvest’ grain on the Sabbath and the Lord declares himself the Lord of the Sabbath. But the biggest confrontation is the healing of the man with the withered hand on the Sabbath. The Pharisees are waiting for Christ to do something. (Did they make sure the man would be in the synagogue that day?) But Jesus heals the man with only a word. How can they call it “work”, yet clearly Jesus did something, and he purposely defied them. The Pharisees go out and make an alliance with the Herodians to destroy Christ.

In this atmosphere, with crowds all around who follow superficially, and a new threat of opposition, Jesus names his twelve apostles. He intends that they be with him, to learn of him, that they be sent out to preach, and that they be given signs, marks of their association with him. He is calling them to a life of service in the midst of opposition.

It should be no surprise to us when there is opposition to biblical ministry. “As men come to know Christ, they react to him one of two ways: total devotion or total opposition.” There is no middle ground. The only way to have a seeming middle ground is to preach a phony Christ who is only a caricature of the reality.

Don Johnson
Jer 33.3


  1. Kent Brandenburg says:

    It is refreshing to consider the ministry of Jesus.