When the Jewish leadership were out to kill Jesus they realized this could not be accomplished unless the various religious sects and political factions were united. The Pharisees joined with the Sadducees to plot against Jesus. This made for a strange alliance. At one time these Jewish sects were engaged in a civil war against each other. They were religiously diverse in doctrine. The Sadducees only believed that the books of Moses were inspired. And they were sad you see, because they did not believe in angels, the human soul, or the resurrection. However, these two opposing sects hated Jesus and His teachings far more than they had a disdain for each other.
At another time Jesus was in the Synagogue on the Sabbath when he saw a man with a withered hand. The ubiquitous Pharisees were present to see if they could catch Jesus breaking their rules concerning the Sabbath. Bringing a man forward, Jesus asked if it was better to do good on the Sabbath or evil. When he healed the man “the Pharisees went out and immediately plotted with the Herodians against Him, how they might destroy Him” (Mark 3:6).
Later, the leaders among Jews heard Jesus proclaim His parable of the wicked husbandman. “And they sought to lay hands on Him, but feared the multitude, for they knew He had spoken the parable against them. So they left Him and went away. Then they sent to Him some of the Pharisees and the Herodians, to catch Him in His words” (Mark 12:12,13). These two opposing Jewish sects joined forces to question Jesus on whether a faithful Jew following the Law of Moses should pay taxes to Caesar. Now the Pharisees were opposed to paying taxes to Rome while the Herodians were supportive of the Herodian dynasty and would have agreed with paying taxes to Rome. In fact, the Herodians were very political and secular. They had little regard for the traditional Jewish religion and were most likely not well-versed in the Old Testament. After Jesus was arrested and found guilty of blasphemy by the Sanhedrin, He was sent on to the Roman governor Pontius Pilate. As soon as Pilate learned that Jesus was a Galilean, he sent Jesus to be judged by Herod. After Herod sought a miracle to no avail from Jesus, he allowed his soldiers to mock and abuse Jesus before sending Him back to Pilate. The Gospel of Luke adds, “that very day Pilate and Herod became friends with each other, for previously they had been at enmity with each other” (Luke 23:12).
These three Jewish sects made for strange bedfellows when they banded together to destroy Jesus. The phrase “strange bedfellows” means an odd couple or an unlikely, opposing relationship between two people, groups, etc. William Shakespeare used this phrase in The Tempest: “Misery acquaints a man with strange bedfellows” (The Tempest, 2.2). Charles Dickens, in The Pickwick Papers, 1837: “adversity makes for strange bedfellows.” Later in 1849 in The Caxtons, Edward Bulwer-Lytton wrote: “Poverty has strange bedfellows.” Today, the proverbial saying “strange bedfellows” is used when two or more opposing politicians and political parties join forces to form an alliance for or against another group or issue.
Many examples of this proverbial expression are played out when Muslims, Democrats and Jews join in political association. Muslims in the United States are overwhelming in favor of supporting the Democratic Party and so are the many American Jews. However, Muslims are often anti-Semitic. For example, congresswoman Ilhan Omar has made explicit anti-Semitic statements via Twitter: “Israel has hypnotized the world, may Allah awaken the people and help them see the evil doings of Israel.” She also enraged Jews by making comments about how American Jews are supporting Israel. Michigan representative Rashida Tlaib tweeted “From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free” promoting the elimination of the state of Israel. Even stranger is the conflict with Muslim’s treatment of women and their views on homosexuality which still results in the death penalty for offenders in five Muslim nations. These are in stark contrast with the political platform with which they associated.
Among denominational churches there is the example of the ecumenical movement. This is an attempt to down play the doctrinal differences between churches on subjects like: abortion, homosexuality, divorce, etc.
It is true, that Jesus’ selection of disciples made for some strange bedfellows. After all, the fisherman Peter, Andrew, James and John would have been at odds with the customs tax collector, Matthew. And Simon the Zealot would have had even greater issues with this traitor who collected taxes for the Romans. However, it is the motive behind the formation of these odd associations which is important. Jesus used these men to spread the Gospel around the world. Whereas, the Pharisees, Sadducees, and Herodians joined forces to trap and kill the innocent Son of God.
As Christians we need to be careful that we do not associate or align ourselves with those who have an evil or unscriptural agenda. Paul wrote, “for you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light (for the fruit of the Spirit is in all goodness, righteousness, and truth), finding out what is acceptable to the Lord. And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather expose them. For it is shameful even to speak of those things which are done by them in secret. But all things that are exposed are made manifest by the light, for whatever makes manifest is light” (Eph. 5:8-13). And he warned, “Do not be unequally yoked together with unbelievers. For what fellowship has righteousness with lawlessness? And what communion has light with darkness? And what accord has Christ with Belial? Or what part has a believer with an unbeliever? And what agreement has the temple of God with idols? For you are the temple of the living God” (2 Cor. 6:14-16).
– Daniel R. Vess