Matthew 15: 1 - 6, Then the scribes and Pharisees who were from Jerusalem came to Jesus, saying, "Why do Your disciples transgress the tradition of the elders? For they do not wash their hands when they eat bread." He answered and said to them, "Why do you also transgress the commandment of God because of your tradition? For God commanded, saying, 'Honor your father and your mother'; and, 'He who curses father or mother, let him be put to death.' But you say, 'Whoever says to his father or mother, "Whatever profit you might have received from me is a gift to God" -- then he need not honor his father or mother.' Thus you have made the commandment of God of no effect by your tradition. NKJV
Where did the Pharisees come from? They are a sect of Jews, who were wealthy and who saw themselves as better than their fellow countrymen. The Hebrew word for Pharisee means: separatists or to be separated. They sought the accolades of man more than God. The entirety of their worship was the outward expression of certain customs and practices. The earliest record that I have found dates the emergence of this sect of Jews and their customs as far back as 150 years before the birth of Christ.
By the time Jesus had arrived on the scene, this group of self-righteous men had found prominence in the eyes of both the Roman and Jewish leaders. Through their vain form of worship of God, they had greatly influenced the Jews and led them astray from the true meaning of God's Laws. They took upon themselves the role of interpreting and enforcing the Laws of Moses which they felt were applicable to their own philosophies. Today, we would call it "picking and choosing" the parts of God's Word that we desire to keep and being dismissive of the rest. It was amid all of this confusion that God sent Jesus to begin to preach "THE TRUTH" to His people.
God, through Jesus was calling His people back to Himself to worship Him in Spirit and in truth, so He could, once again, bless them. As Jesus went about preaching the truth, many times He would reference the "false beliefs and teachings" of the Pharisees and the scribes. Throughout the gospels, you can read where Jesus would dispute the teachings and the traditions of the elders, Pharisees, and scribes by preaching the truth according to the Law of Moses and the faith of their father Abraham. As Jesus' influence grew among the Jews and especially among the poor, the Pharisees watched as their power and influence began to erode. This "threat" caused them to begin to devise plots where they could trap Jesus in His own words. However, when their feeble attempts to discredit Jesus failed, they sought ways that they might destroy Him and bring an end to His earthly ministry.
The people of Jesus' day who listened to His teachings were set free, not only from their sins against God, but were also set free from demonic possession and oppression. Consequently, the people experienced the freedom that obeying the truth can provide. Through these encounters with the power of the living God, Israel began to be torn between the traditions of man and the truth of God. Today, that same battle is still being raged in the world, the battle between religion and the truth. Jesus tells us in John 8, if we will continue in His teachings, we will come to know, or recognize the truth, and the truth that we know will set us free from bondage. God desires for His people to be free to worship Him with their whole hearts... not according to man's traditions.
You Shall Know the Truth,
Pastor Asa Dockery