Religious groups is the third article in the series, The Life of Christ. To read the whole series click here.

In Jesus’ day, the main religious groups were the Pharisees, Sadducees, Zealots, Essenes and the Sanhedrin. Today, these groups are still alive and well in our churches.

Pharisees were the religious people of their day and Christians are the religious people of our day. However, we’re reluctant to identify with the Pharisees because Jesus had such harsh things to say to them. Yet I see Jesus being no less compassionate to Nicodemus than he was to the woman at the well. His rebuke in Matthew 23 carried with it his concern. He wanted them to escape being condemned to hell (v.33). Jesus died as much for the Pharisees as for the people in the crowds. The Pharisees are also described as middle class – a drive by most church car parks on a Sunday morning would confirm that the church in Australia is mostly middle class. If we would rather identify with the crowd, remember that even they stopped following him because of his “hard teaching” (John 6:66).

The Sadducees didn’t believe in divine intervention. Many in our churches don’t believe God would supernaturally heal someone, intervene in the circumstances of someone’s life or even communicate directly with them. Many believe that spiritual gifts ceased with the apostles and there’s no point expecting anything out of the ordinary from God.

In our culture, Zealots don’t come in armed revolt yet some are always ready for confrontation. I’ve attended church meetings where members resigned their membership from the floor of the meeting just to make their point.

Essenes are pacifists and at the first sign of conflict, they decide to stay away from church until things calm down.

The Sanhedrin knew how to use their power for their own means. I’ve witnessed a church board cave into someone who expressed their opinions in an intimidating and domineering way. Some people love power and others are happy to empower them, as it absolves them of the responsibility of making decisions.

Christians today aren’t very different from the religious people of Jesus’ day. We struggle with many of the same issues.