9.7 -- Ezra vs Jesus?
This is why Jesus' reaction to the leaders of Israel is incredible. One of the constant themes of the Gospels is Jesus' attack on the political and spiritual leaders of Israel -- scribes, Pharisees and Sadducees:
"Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites!" (Mat 23:29)
How could he attack them in this way, when they were all that stood against the tide of Greek polytheism and Roman oppression? How could Israel have survived without these traditionalists? Wasn't Jesus in agreement with them in the common purpose of bringing God's rule among men? Did they not all venerate the promise of Abraham and yearn for its realization in Israel? How could Jesus and the Pharisees end up such bitter enemies? This is a critical question when we are considering the transition between the Old and New Covenants.
From the New Testament perspective, the words of Jesus against the Jewish leaders represent the judgment of God against the religious status quo. They thought they represented the core, the kernel, of a 2000 year old religious tradition, they believed themselves to be the holy remnant, set apart within the holy nation itself. They were the guardians of the sacred Law of Moses and the vanguard of the restored Kingdom of David. They were successors to the reformation enacted by Ezra and Nehemiah. And then Jesus challenged them in the name of the very Authority they claimed to represent. They thought they were in control of the geopolitical situation, but He outmaneuvered them in a cosmic drama that they completely misunderstood. Jesus forced the elders to choose between submitting to His Messiahship or repudiating and killing Him. And the very moment of their triumph -- His Crucifixion -- was not only foreseen and planned by God, but was also the moment that the Old Covenant ended and the New Covenant was inaugurated.