That ye may be blameless and harmless, the sons of God, without rebuke, in the midst of a crooked and perverse nation, among whom ye shine as lights in the world; Holding forth the word of life...
Philippians 2:15-16a

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Thoughts about the Pharisees

The other day I read the end of the Book of Matthew and the beginning of Mark.  Once again, I was struck by the Pharisees.  I've written about the Pharisees before.  You can read it HERE.  It's interesting when you read through the Gospels how much the Pharisees are mentioned.  They were quite a significant group.  In fact, they were the "IT" religious leaders of Jesus' day.  They were the guys everyone looked up to and everyone followed.   However, the Pharisees got a lot of negative attention from Jesus.  You think Jesus would have been on the side of the Jewish religious leaders.  After all, they were the ones who were upholding the Mosaic law and conducting the worship of Jehovah.  Not only that, the Pharisees gave Jesus a lot of negative attention too.  They did not like Jesus AT ALL!  I posted Mark 3:1-5 as my Sunday Scripture this week, but look at what verse 6 of that chapter says.  And the Pharisees went forth, and straightway took counsel with the Herodians against him, how they might destroy him (emphasis mine).  These guys didn't waste any time in trying to get rid of Jesus.  They were pretty nasty about it too.  Destroy Him!  That's harsh! And these were supposed to be the good guys!  This is only one instance of the Pharisees plotting against Jesus.  They tried MANY times throughout His earthly ministry to shut Him up, and get rid of Him.  Eventually they succeeded.  What was it about Jesus that so offended those who claimed to love God???

Sometimes I think we read through Scripture, and we don't really think about what it's saying or what it actually means.  I think we have this pre-conceived idea in our minds that the Pharisees were terrible, awful, wicked men, and how could anyone ever be so blind as to follow them.  I mean, they were religious and everything, but they were SO wrong!  But, think about it.  The Pharisees were trusted by the people, and well they should have been.  They were the ones observing and teaching the Law of Moses, which was God's Word.  They knew the Scriptures.  They weren't some kind of demon worshipping cult.  They were the good guys!  They were supposed to be the ones that the people who wanted to follow God and live for God could trust.  But somewhere a lot of the Pharisees got horribly off track.

Now think about this in today's terms.  We have popular leaders in Christianity today.  Especially in North America.  Men and women who are at the forefront of what's promoted is godly, biblical, and truly Christian.  Men and women who know the Bible (or at least claim to).  I'm talking about the "big-time" leaders.  After all, that's what the Pharisees were.  They were at the top!  People like Billy Graham, Rick Warren, Beth Moore, Joyce Meyer, Joel Osteen, James MacDonald, Mark Driscoll.  Highly, highly influential leaders in evangelical Christianity.  Perhaps comparable in influence and position to what the Pharisees in Jesus day had.  Yet, when you start to compare with Scripture much of what these highly influential supposed godly leaders believe, promote, and teach you're going to find that something is wrong.

I'm not saying influential leaders in Christianity are all bad.  Not at all.  But, I also think not much has changed since Jesus' day and the Pharisees.  We do have instances in Scripture of Pharisees coming to Jesus.  There were some who realized that He was Who He said He was!  If you read my other post on Pharisees, you'll see that Jesus did commend them for some things too.  It wasn't all negative.  But, what went so wrong with these Bible scholars that eventually they killed Jesus?  I think this serves as a warning to us today.  We can THINK we've got everything figured out in our Christianity.  We can THINK we're following the right people, but in reality we're actually horribly wrong!

The truth is that we are all looking for someone to follow.  The Jews looked to the Pharisees.  They were popular, cool,  and influential.   There was a certain amount of prestige attached to following the Pharisees.  They said impressive things about God.  They knew the Scriptures, but simply knowing the Scriptures doesn't make you a true believer.  Sadly many people who were trying to follow God were mis-led to the point of even partaking in Jesus' crucifixion.  Christians today are looking for that same leadership.  Maybe they are being mis-led too?

It's interesting to me how many times in the Gospels Jesus tries to reach out to the Pharisees.  He was around them all the time.  It's like at every miracle and every sermon He preached, suddenly there's a verse about the Pharisees.  They Pharisees tried many times to question Jesus and make Him say something wrong.  Jesus just answered them from Scripture.  I believe Jesus had a heart to see the Pharisees truly repent and put their faith and trust in Him.  Sadly, most of them never understood that, and instead, they ended up killing Jesus.

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