Discipline or Arrogance

Why does Jesus seem to aggressively confront the Pharisees throughout the Gospels? In this episode, Mike Gormley explains why Jesus appears goad the Pharisees by what he says and does. Mike shares what this reveals about Christ’s mission and how Christians are meant to live today.

Snippet from the Show
Conversion might mean leaving behind old sins, but it is principally the getting of a new heart.


  • You should have moved on to the Gospel of Luke!
  • Since Jesus is the standard, the Beatitudes depict his charity, his countenance, and his attitudes and actions
  • The Beatitudes also depict the disciples’ vocation to become like Christ.
  • We saw how the Beatitudes rightly order the very human desire for happiness with the truth that Christ came to reveal.
  • Finally, to sum up the episodes on prayer, the vice Christ attacks, and the Beatitudes, we can say that God “starts with the heart.”
The Question

Why does Jesus Christ so aggressively attack the Pharisees? 


We know that his enemies were always looking for opportunities to destroy him, but why does it seem like Jesus goaded them into a confrontation instead of trying to win over the Pharisees and the scribes?


The anti-establishment of Christ’s earthly ministry was precisely because those “tenants” of God’s Promised Land did nothing to foster love of God, only obedience to the Torah. And as the subject becomes more faithful, more strict, more disciplined, they become less compassionate, humble, and loving. 

First Point: The New Exodus Series, Revisited

Jordan Peterson and the objections around Christ’s interpretation of the Sixth Commandment against adultery – “with lust has committed adultery in his heart”. Dennis Prager, a conservative Jew, takes umbrage with the emphasis on the internal as opposed to the external. He brings the weight of Judaism to bear on the issue, but he revealed, too, the Christian difference. Christ starts with the human heart. So must we. 

Second Point: The Constraining of the Messiah
  • Luke 12:50: “and how I am constrained until it is accomplished!”
  • Luke 20:40-41: “And I begged your disciples to cast it out, but they could not.” Jesus answered, “O faithless and perverse generation, how long am I to be with you and bear with you? Bring your son here.” 
  • Measure his resolution at the level of attacks he made on the establishment. Jesus, gentle, meek, and mild? That description would shock every Pharisee, Sadducee, Herodian, moneychanger, Pontius Pilate, priest, scribe, even Peter and the Twelve.
Third Point: Why Jesus Attacks the Establishment
  • Mark 3:1-6: Jesus was angry, grieving over their hardness of heart 
  • Jesus didn’t attack the bad scribes and bad pharisees, but all of them as a category
  • Jesus’ criticism, as Frank Sheed points out, of Israel is the heart of Judaism as the Pharisees understood it. The principal concern was always the outward action. 
  • Majesty is easier to handle legally than God’s attribute of love. Duty matters the most. 
  • As Christian theologians have God Himself as the object of our theologizing, the Jews focused upon the commandments of God. 
  • A scribe’s job was to apply the Torah to ever-more minute situations and circumstances
  • Strictest Pharisees kept them all. There is a real self-discipline involved, a nobility of spirit in the highest form of this externalism. But, at its lowest, the external observances, too highly rated, miss the point of the self-discipline, twisting the precepts into self-serving interests.
  • Election by God can lead to Exclusivism, Elitism. The Pharisees not only thought themselves better than others, but that their less noble fellow Jews were accursed by their ignorance. 
Fourth Point: Jesus wants a Change in Heart
  • We’ve said it before, but Christ starts with the Heart, especially your desires, your innermost life, that center of your personhood. 
  • The “heart” focus is found in the OT as much as the NT.  Isaiah in 29 and 58 put the emphasis on false worship – externals are there, but the internals aren’t or the love of neighbor isn’t. 
  • Psalm 50 and 51 talk about how ritual worship is meaningless without sacrifice of thanksgivings or burnt offerings are meaningless without a broken, contrite heart. 
  • Both Ezekiel and Jeremiah stress the promises of God’s faithful getting “a new heart” in which to love the Lord God. 
  • Jesus wants metanoia, “going beyond the mind/heart”. He wants first and foremost a conversion of heart and your most basic desires. 
Conclusion: Luke 20 is FILLED with Confrontations

The attack on the Establishment was necessary for the newness of life of the gospel. The NT can only be lived out in the atmosphere of the Primacy of the Spirit and the Equality of All. Jesus skipped the Rulers and Officials and went right to the people, the crowds, the Jews. 

  • Luke 20:1 – it’s Jesus vs. the chief priests, scribes, and elders,
  • Luke 20:9 – which Jesus tells the Parable of the Wicked Tenants. 
  • Luke 20:19 – the scribes and chief priests sent in craft spies to test him
  • Luke 20:25 – Jesus speaks, “Then render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s…” 
  • Luke 20:27 – Jesus is against the Sadducees who deny the resurrection
  • Luke 20:39 – “Some scribes answered: Teacher, you have spoken well.’ For they no longer dared to ask him any question” because they were being humiliated! 
  • Luke 20:45 – “In the hearing of the people, he said to his disciples, ‘Beware the scribes…”


Meet Your Hosts


Michael “Gomer” Gormley

Michael spent 17 years in full-time parish ministry and is now the Mission Evangelist for That Man Is You!, a men’s apostolate for Paradisus Dei. Michael is a frequent speaker at conferences, retreats, and parish missions all over the US and Canada.

He is the founder and creative director of LayEvangelist.com, and hosts three Catholic podcasts: Every Knee Shall Bow, Catching Foxes, and Becoming God.

He is married to his college sweetheart, Shannon, and has four beautiful and hilarious children: Kateri, Cecilia, Noah, and Thomas.


David “Dave” VanVickle

Dave VanVickle

Dave VanVickle fell in love with the Lord at the age of fourteen and has since dedicated his life to bringing others into a radical relationship with Christ.

He is a speaker and retreat leader who focuses on proclaiming the universal call to holiness, authentic Catholic spirituality, spiritual warfare and deliverance. Additionally, Dave has over ten years of experience assisting Priests with their ministries of exorcism and deliverance.

Dave married his late wife Amber in 2010. He now resides in Pittsburgh with his five children: Sam, Max, Judah, Josie and Louisa.

Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


Never Miss an Episode!

Get show notes, exclusive bonus content, and more sent straight to your inbox.