Pharisees: I relate to them. Do you?
Remember when you and I used to sit on folding chairs in slightly stale church offices and learn about those strange men? With pocketfuls of goldfish we listened about their hard hearts, their judgmental thoughts, and their general rejection of Jesus. In case you slept through Sunday School (holla at the back row), the simplest definition of a pharisee is an overly self-righteous person, a hypocrite, a person who beats you over the head with his or her own religious superiority. In biblical times, pharisees formed a Jewish sect that prized strict adherence to religious law, and they consistently challenged Jesus.
In the pictures we saw, Jesus was the man with the long brown beard and the kind eyes – he was the new kid on the block. Meanwhile pharisees huddled to the side, one big knot of insecurity and jealousy.
My heart is not to be a pharisee, especially as a Christian in the twenty-first century. My heart is not to live hypocritically or belittle those who are new to this faith thing.
Yet there are many days when my feet walk me into pharisee territory.
Let me explain.
Pharisees never stopped talking. They encountered God’s one and only son in the midst of his ministry, but they were so busy proclaiming their perfection that they missed Jesus’ redeeming love. They wrote fat checks to the church, they fasted, they avoided unclean foods, they prayed extra loud so that everyone could hear. According to religious law, they were pros. But they were consumed with themselves.
Pharisee problem #1: desiring self-glorification.
I don’t know about you but that stings a little.
How often do we seek to advance our kingdoms instead of giving honor and glory and praise to Jesus? How often do we make others feel unworthy, portraying ourselves as all-star Christians?
There is so much truth found in Jesus’ conversations with the pharisees and I encourage you to read them.
His shepherd’s heart looks upon their pride and says don’t you know I love you? You are enough and I love you. Just as you are.
The pharisees made a lot of noise and I think that’s because they were afraid of what they might hear if they were quiet.
The very presence of Jesus forced them to ponder. Forced them to consider their struggles with temptation, their mistakes, their failures. And they didn’t like that.
If you’re in that place, a place where the very mention of Jesus offends you, won’t you admit your curious? Curious to know what it is he’s been trying to tell you all this time?
God is a bit like a freight train. And you and I are sleepy little towns.
He suddenly barrels through the quiet of humid July nights, breaking through the crickets and the cicadas and the street lights. He is equally intriguing and awe-inspiring. God whirs through our hearts, his boldness running parallel with our quietness. He becomes our sound and our fury: our power.
He is an interruption, he makes us wait, and he calls to us in the dark of night.
When you hear that train whistle coming on by, don’t ignore it. When God’s voice urges you to fix your eyes on heaven, draw near to him.
If we as Christians would only pause and let Jesus speak, we would realize that he is for us. He is on our side, he is worthy of our trust, and all he asks is that we acknowledge him.
Our Father, in heaven,
hallowed be your name.
Your kingdom come,
Your will be done,
on earth as it is in heaven.