Not much ever changes — human behavior remains basically the same over thousands of years. Sure we give it different names and labels, but underlying behavior doesn’t change much. Thus, when Jesus walked the earth we’d expect to see Him encounter groups similar to groups today.
Three main groups He encountered were Pharisees, Sadducees, and Herodians, and their basic philosophy still exists today — we simply call them by different labels. Let’s take a 20,000 foot look at these groups, and who might represent them today.
The Pharisees ideology can be summarized in one sentence “I don’t smoke and chew, and don’t go with girls who do.”
They represent the idea if I keep a long enough list of rules, I’ll be in good with God. That’s why they took a simple command like obey the Sabbath and turned it into hundreds of rules, believing if they kept their made-up rules, they’d be righteous before God.
Today you’ll find those saying never have a sip of beer or wine, don’t ever smoke, no dancing or electric guitar music (and drums are from the devil everyone knows), and so on. They may (but not always) become a cult with strict rules.
Sure, we still have Pharisees today, a group who fails to understand the difference between grace and legalism.
Sadducee (Liberals, Progressives)
These are the spiritual liberals. They denied the resurrection, and much of the Old Testament (basically accepting only the five books of Moses). Sadducees generally don’t accept all of the Word of God, and what they do accept they’ll modify to suit their liberal beliefs.
This group continues to expand today. They’ll tell you the Gospel doesn’t really mean what Paul said, they’ll redefine sin and other things, all using tactics of rebellion.
Many post-modern groups fall into this category — progressives, liberals, emerging-this, post-modern that, social justice, common good, etc.
It could be popular with people who want to say they’re Christian, without actually being Christian. Using post-modern philosophy and it’s denial of absolute truth, “Christians” can thus live anyway they like, simply by using liberal theology to deny any or all of the Bible they don’t like.
Unfortunately, those seeking to deny parts of God’s Word are becoming more popular.
Herodian (Political Action Group)
Herodians aligned themselves politically with the government.
Some groups today look to involve government in various ways to accomplish their goals. From the fad of social justice to those attempting to set up a theocracy, to those who believe people must set up a perfect government before Jesus can return, Herodian ideas still tempt many.
Those trying such ideas miss a simple point: government involves the affairs of men, not God. Yes, they should use Godly principles to govern by, but theocracy and other mingling usually won’t end well.
What is Truth?
Even Pilate wanted to know.
Jesus was a conservative against the hyper-legalism of the Pharisees, the liberal, progressive Sadducees who “modernized” the Word of God, and the Herodians seeking to use political power to accomplish their goals.
All those groups were wrong then, and still wrong today.
It’s a shame we can’t simply use the Word of God, but the one thing we learn from history is man learns nothing from history, as the groups Jesus squared off against still exist today.