Lo, I will send you the prophet Elijah before the great and terrible day of the Lord comes. He will turn the hearts of parents to their children and the hearts of children to their parents, so that I will not come and strike the land with a curse. Malachi 4:5-6 NRSV
Four hundred years passed between Malachi, the last prophet in the Old Testament, and the events recorded in Matthew, leaving a conspicuous gap in Israel’s relationship with the Lord.
In those days John the Baptist appeared in the wilderness of Judea,
proclaiming, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.” This is the one of whom the prophet Isaiah spoke when he said,
“The voice of one crying out in the wilderness:
‘Prepare the way of the Lord;
make his paths straight.’ ” Matthew 3: 1-3 NRSV
Now when Jesus heard that John had been arrested, he withdrew to Galilee. He left Nazareth and made his home in Capernaum by the sea, in the territory of Zebulun and Naphtali, so that what had been spoken through the prophet Isaiah might be fulfilled:
“Land of Zebulun, land of Naphtali, on the road by the sea, across the Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles—
the people who sat in darkness
have seen a great light,
and for those who sat in the region and shadow of death
light has dawned.”
From that time Jesus began to proclaim, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.” Matthew 4:12-17 NRSV
“Do not think that I have come to abolish the law or the prophets; I have come not to abolish but to fulfill. For truly I tell you, until heaven and earth pass away, not one letter, not one stroke of a letter, will pass from the law until all is accomplished. Therefore, whoever breaks one of the least of these commandments, and teaches others to do the same, will be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever does them and teaches them will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Matthew 5:17-20 NRSV
Three groups of people opposed Jesus: the scribes, the Pharisees and the Sadducees.
The Sadducees and the Pharisees are both mentioned in Matthew 3:7 when they came to be baptized by John.
The Sadducees were wealthy, religious, elite people who served as priests in the temple. They were firmly committed to the Torah (the first 5 books of the Bible). They did not believe in the resurrection, life after death or prophecy. They were politically involved with the Roman leaders.
The Scribes knew the law and the prophets well, as they did the copying of the scrolls that would have been used in the synagogues that spread around the country. They could teach the words, but their lives didn’t match what they said.
The Pharisees were conservative zealots of the middle class. They taught in the synagogues and they knew the law and the prophets well, but they, along with the scribes, had amended the law without regard to God’s concern for and care of the people.
On the Website, “gotquestions.org“, I found much history about what was happening to the Jews during those 400 years. I recommend checking out the intertestamental period.
As you continue this week, praying the Lord’s Prayer, imagine how each of these three Israeli groups would respond to Jesus telling them that this was how they should pray.