Caution: Poisoned Religion

Week 72 | Sections 80, 81a,b
Recorded 11/20/15

Caution: Poisoned Religion

More than two and a half years into his ministry1 and the Pharisees still resist Jesus’ person, claims, and authority. Their behaviors indicate that they are more concerned with maintaining power than proclaiming the truth. Their’s is a hazardous and poisoned religion – man-centered, and destructive to the soul.


Section 80 | Return to Galilee and encounter with the Pharisees and Sadducees

[one_half last=”no”]Matthew 15:39,16:1-4
39 Then2 he sent away the multitudes, got into the boat, and came into the borders of Magdala.3 1 The Pharisees4 and Sadducees5¯6 came, and testing him,7 asked him to show them a sign from heaven .8¯9  2 But he answered them, “When it is evening, you say, ‘It will be fair weather, for the sky is red.’ 3 In the morning, ‘It will be foul weather today, for the sky is red and threatening.’ Hypocrites! You know how to discern the appearance of the sky, but you can’t discern the signs of the times!10 4 An evil and adulterous generation seeks after a sign, and there will be no sign given to it, except the sign of the prophet Jonah.” He left them, and departed. [/one_half]
[one_half last=”yes”]Mark 8:9b-12
9b Then he sent them away. 10 Immediately he entered into the boat with his disciples, and came into the region of Dalmanutha. 11 The Pharisees came out and began to question him, seeking from him a sign from heaven, and testing him.

12 He sighed deeply in his spirit, and said, “Why does this generation seek a sign? Most certainly I tell you, no sign will be given to this generation.” [/one_half]

Section 81a | Warning about the error of the Pharisees, Sadducees, and Herodians

[one_half last=”no”]Matthew 16:5-12
5 The disciples came to the other side and had forgotten to take bread.11 6 Jesus said to them, “Take heed 12 and  and beware of the yeast of the Pharisees and Sadducees.” 13  7 They reasoned among themselves, saying, “We brought no bread.” 8 Jesus, perceiving it, said, “Why do you reason among yourselves, you of little faith, ‘because you have brought no bread?’ 9 Don’t you yet perceive, neither remember the five loaves for the five thousand, and how many baskets you took up? 10 Nor the seven loaves for the four thousand, and how many baskets you took up? 11 How is it that you don’t perceive that I didn’t speak to you concerning bread? But beware of the yeast of the Pharisees and Sadducees.”

12 Then they understood that he didn’t tell them to beware of the yeast of bread, but of the teaching of the Pharisees and Sadducees.[/one_half]
[one_half last=”yes”]Mark 8:13-21
13 He left them, and again entering into the boat, departed to the other side. 14 They forgot to take bread; and they didn’t have more than one loaf in the boat with them. 15 He warned them, saying, “Take heed: beware of the yeast of the Pharisees and the yeast of Herod.” 16 They reasoned with one another, saying, “It’s because we have no bread.” 17 Jesus, perceiving it, said to them, “Why do you reason that it’s because you have no bread? Don’t you perceive yet, neither understand? Is your heart still hardened? 18 Having eyes, don’t you see? Having ears, don’t you hear? Don’t you remember? 19 When I broke the five loaves among the five thousand, how many baskets full of broken pieces did you take up?” They told him, “Twelve.” 20 “When the seven loaves fed the four thousand, how many baskets full of broken pieces did you take up?” They told him, “Seven.” 21 He asked them, “Don’t you understand yet?”[/one_half]

Section 81b | Healing a blind man at Bethsaida

Mark 8:22-26
22 He came to Bethsaida. They brought a blind man to him, and begged him to touch him. 23 He took hold of the blind man by the hand, and brought him out of the village. When he had spat on his eyes, and laid his hands on him, he asked him if he saw anything. 24 He looked up, and said, “I see men; for I see them like trees walking.” 25 Then again he laid his hands on his eyes. He looked intently, and was restored, and saw everyone clearly. 26 He sent him away to his house, saying, “Don’t enter into the village, nor tell anyone in the village.”

Group Dialog:

  1. As most medicinal products and treatments available have labels warnings and negative side effects, what side effects and warnings are inherent to a) religion and b) being a disciple of Jesus.
  2. In what ways have routines and temporal needs impeded your focus on things eternal, and interrupted a missional life (phase 5)?
  3. How do people today trade the God’s mercy, truth, and grace for man-made traditions and rituals? In what way have you done this?
  4. Are the decisions you make in life for your own benefit or for God’s glory? Are there ‘benefits’ which you would be wiser to forfeit rather than forfeit the well-being of your soul?

Learning Objectives:

Photo: A warning label on an auger. Here are a few more humorous warning labels:

  • A fishing lure: Harmful if swallowed.
  • An electric router: This product not intended for use as a dental drill.
  • Underarm deodorant: Do not spray in eyes

Study Notes:

Lectionary Series

Twenty Fourth Sunday after Pentecost (B)

In This Sunday’s Gospel reading we find an exemplary reason for devoting oneself to a chronological study in the Harmony of the Gospels.  While the lectionary reading is from Mark 12:38-44, this can be found in Sections 137a and 138 (which begs the question of what happened in Section 137b. While our timelines are not not yet complete (at the writing of this post) they will prove helpful in future years. The whole sequence of events in our study today takes place at the Temple in Jerusalem on Tuesday of Holy Week (sections 131-140) just after Jesus’ triumphal entry and days before his crucifixion.  As you can see in the pdf handout of our mini-series, it was a busy day in the life of Christ. Read the lesson, study notes, and further thoughts then open up a lively conversation in your weekly Bible Study or Sunday school class about the day’s events and the pangs that strike the depths of your heart while reading this passage.


Section 137a | Seven Woes against the Teachers of the Law and Pharisees
[one_third last=”no” class=”” id=””]Matthew 23:1-36
Then Jesus spoke to the multitudes and to his disciples, saying, “The scribes and the Pharisees sat on Moses’ seat. 3 All things therefore whatever they tell you to observe, observe and do, but don’t do their works; for they say, and don’t do. 4 For they bind heavy burdens that are grievous to be borne, and lay them on men’s shoulders; but they themselves will not lift a finger to help them. 5 But all their works they do to be seen by men. They make their phylacteries broad, enlarge the fringes of their garments, 6 and love the place of honor at feasts, the best seats in the synagogues, 7 the salutations in the marketplaces, and to be called ‘Rabbi, Rabbi’ by men. [/one_third]
[one_third last=”no” class=”” id=””]Mark 12:38-40
38 In his teaching he said to them,“Beware of the scribes,





who like to walk in long robes, and to get greetings in the marketplaces, 39 and the best seats in the synagogues, and the best places at feasts: 40  those who devour widows’ houses, and for a pretense make long prayers. These will receive greater condemnation.”[/one_third]
[one_third last=”yes” class=”” id=””]Luke 20:45-47
45 In the hearing of all the people, he said to his disciples, 46 “Beware of those scribes




who like to walk in long robes, and love greetings in the marketplaces, the best seats in the synagogues, and the best places at feasts; 47 who devour widows’ houses, and for a pretense make long prayers: these will receive greater condemnation.”[/one_third]
Mt 23:8 But don’t you be called ‘Rabbi,’ for one is your teacher, the Christ, and all of you are brothers. 9 Call no man on the earth your father, for one is your Father, he who is in heaven. 10 Neither be called masters, for one is your master, the Christ. 11 But he who is greatest among you will be your servant. 12 Whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted. 13 “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you devour widows’ houses, and as a pretense you make long prayers. Therefore you will receive greater condemnation. 14 “But woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! Because you shut up the Kingdom of Heaven against men; for you don’t enter in yourselves, neither do you allow those who are entering in to enter. 15 Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you travel around by sea and land to make one proselyte; and when he becomes one, you make him twice as much a son of Gehenna as yourselves. 16 “Woe to you, you blind guides, who say, ‘Whoever swears by the temple, it is nothing; but whoever swears by the gold of the temple, he is obligated.’ 17 You blind fools! For which is greater, the gold, or the temple that sanctifies the gold? 18 ‘Whoever swears by the altar, it is nothing; but whoever swears by the gift that is on it, he is obligated?’ 19 You blind fools! For which is greater, the gift, or the altar that sanctifies the gift? 20 He therefore who swears by the altar, swears by it, and by everything on it. 21 He who swears by the temple, swears by it, and by him who has been living in it. 22 He who swears by heaven, swears by the throne of God, and by him who sits on it. 23 “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you tithe mint, dill, and cumin, and have left undone the weightier matters of the law: justice, mercy, and faith. But you ought to have done these, and not to have left the other undone. 24 You blind guides, who strain out a gnat, and swallow a camel! 25 “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you clean the outside of the cup and of the platter, but within they are full of extortion and unrighteousness. 26 You blind Pharisee, first clean the inside of the cup and of the platter, that its outside may become clean also. 27 “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitened tombs, which outwardly appear beautiful, but inwardly are full of dead men’s bones, and of all uncleanness. 28 Even so you also outwardly appear righteous to men, but inwardly you are full of hypocrisy and iniquity. 29 “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you build the tombs of the prophets, and decorate the tombs of the righteous, 30 and say, ‘If we had lived in the days of our fathers, we wouldn’t have been partakers with them in the blood of the prophets.’ 31 Therefore you testify to yourselves that you are children of those who killed the prophets. 32 Fill up, then, the measure of your fathers. 33 You serpents, you offspring of vipers, how will you escape the judgment of Gehenna? 34 Therefore behold, I send to you prophets, wise men, and scribes. Some of them you will kill and crucify; and some of them you will scourge in your synagogues, and persecute from city to city; 35 that on you may come all the righteous blood shed on the earth, from the blood of righteous Abel to the blood of Zachariah son of Barachiah, whom you killed between the sanctuary and the altar. 36 Most certainly I tell you, all these things will come upon this generation.

Section 137b | Jesus’ Sorrow over Jerusalem
Matthew 23:37-39 
37 “Jerusalem, Jerusalem, who kills the prophets, and stones those who are sent to her! How often I would have gathered your children together, even as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you would not! 38 Behold, your house is left to you desolate. 39 For I tell you, you will not see me from now on, until you say, ‘Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!’ ”

Section 138 | A Poor Widow’s Gift of All She Had
[one_half last=”no” class=”” id=””]Mark 12:41-44
41 Jesus sat down opposite the treasury, and saw how the multitude cast money into the treasury. Many who were rich cast in much. 42 A poor widow came, and she cast in two small brass coins, which equal a quadrans coin. 43 He called his disciples to himself, and said to them, “Most certainly I tell you, this poor widow gave more than all those who are giving into the treasury, 44 for they all gave out of their abundance, but she, out of her poverty, gave all that she had to live on.”[/one_half]
[one_half last=”yes” class=”” id=””]Luke 21:1-4
He looked up and saw the rich people who were putting their gifts into the treasury. He saw a certain poor widow casting in two small brass coins.

He said, “Truly I tell you, this poor widow put in more than all of them, 4 for all these put in gifts for God from their abundance, but she, out of her poverty, put in all that she had to live on.”[/one_half]

Group Dialog:

coming soon

Further Thoughts:

While Holy Week isn’t for months (March 27, 2016), there no bad time to ponder the lessons in today’s Gospel reading. When hearing the clergy read the Gospel we ought to be struck by the message of faithful giving, but even more the widow put in everything she had – as would Jesus when he laid down his life on the cross. The moment must have been bearing down upon him, and ruminating in the minds of his disciples as they discussed and shared the events of that week and recorded them with great detail in their writings.

While some might like to focus the lesson on giving, the real theme of this day in the life of our Lord is about our posture and relationship to Jesus. We see this especially in the narrative sequence (sections 131-140) in the Harmony of the Gospels, in which our reading appears to take place about mid-day, and a significant lesson is captured by Matthew 23:8-39 wherein Jesus exposes the hypocrisy of the religious leaders.

Study Notes:

coming soon