NEW TESTAMENT TIMES
the Law a great mass of oral "tradition," which ostensibly consisted of interpretation of the Law, but really meant an enormous and oppressive addition to it. The Pharisees were opposed to Jesus for at least two reasons. In the first place, they were envious of his success in teaching, which endangered their own position. In the second place, they were opposed to the contents of his teaching; he rejected their interpretation of the Law, and rebuked them for paying such attention to the detailed rules which were set forth in their tradition as to forget the weightier matters of justice and mercy.
The conflict of Jesus with the Pharisees was precipitated particularly by the attitude of Jesus toward the Sabbath. The Sabbath controversy was carried on partly in Galilee and partly, John, ch. 5, during a visit of Jesus to Jerusalem. The Pharisees had developed for the preservation of the Sabbath an elaborate set of rules which went far beyond what was set forth in the Old Testament. They were offended, therefore, when Jesus refused to rebuke his disciples for plucking the ears of wheat on the Sabbath Day, and when he himself insisted on using the Sabbath to perform works of mercy like the healing of the man that had a withered hand.
But for the present the opposition of the Pharisees was held in check by the favor which our Lord had among the people.
This favor was due partly to the teaching of Jesus and partly to his miracles. He interpreted the Scriptures in a fresh, original way; "He taught as one having authority and not as their scribes." And he had power to heal every manner of disease and to cast out demons. It was no wonder that the crowds followed so wonderful a teacher.
The Galilæan teaching of Jesus began with the proclamation of the Kingdom of God. The message sounded at first somewhat like the message of John the Baptist. Quite like John, Jesus came forward with the summons, "Repent ye; for the kingdom of heaven is at hand." But the new teacher differed from John in the more complete account which he gave of the nature of the Kingdom, and especially in the central place in the Kingdom which he assigned to himself.
Matthew, Chapters 5 to 7
The nature of the Kingdom of God is set forth in the great discourse of our Lord which is commonly called the Sermon on the Mount.