Those helpful Pharisees. The Pharisees sometimes get a bad deal. They weren’t all bad. There was Nicodemus (John 3), Joseph of Arimathaea many say was a Pharisee (John 19:38). I mean we give them a pretty hard time - of course - so did Jesus.
And I’ve been thinking about today’s Pharisees and what they’ve offered me. I suppose they’ve helped me keep from enjoying my faith too much by always being there to assure me that there is always a problem or issue that ought to demand my sober assessment. But most of all have helped me to what is a sin that God forgot to tell me. For instance I would not have known it was a sin to lead in worship without a tie on if they had not let me know it. Or I would never have known there were places a preacher of the Word should not preach the Gospel had they not rebuked me for places I’ve tried to preach truth. I would not have known that I can’t be involved in two acts of worship at the same time. I would have never known that a preacher has to wear a white, long-sleeved shirt to be a good preacher. Had it not been for the insight of the Pharisees in my life I would never have understood that when writing the “proper” name for a congregation the “C” in “Church” isn’t supposed to be capitalized. I would have missed out on Jesus or the apostles teaching that it is wrong to teach the children in a congregation an age appropriate lesson while I preach to the adults. I might have eventually figured it our but not nearly as soon that it is OK to eat a meal on property that the church owns as long as you don’t put a roof and walls over and around it. I mean, these guys (and gals) have made my life so much richer. Thank you.
In the first century they were the self-appointed fact checkers always asking open ended, leading and condemning questions: Why does, why would, “oh, we’re JUST asking” - but with motive that was unsure (Matthew 9:11; 12:2; 15:1-2; 16:1; 19:3; Mk 2:16; 2:18; 2:24; 7:5; Lk 5:21). They were the ones who went to hear the preacher just hoping He’d misstep or they could find something to twist (Mk 12:13). They were the ones who, while denying it, believed they were as wise as God (1 oCr 1:18:30). And in the 21st century they still ARE and they still DO!
Now, you know (surely) that I speak in jest about all of that stuff I’ve “learned” from them. I don’t suppose anyone wants to be a Pharisee today. I’ve seen actual ones in Israel and they’re a pretty miserable lot. And, truth be told, I imagine at times I lean toward being one. Let me quickly say how you become a Pharisee. You develop an opinion based on your understanding of scripture and what is best. We all do that and we also try to live out those understandings. You are OK to that point. But when we cross the line is when we take those ideas and whether literally or figuratively engrave them into the margins along side God’s Words and think our opinions and wisdom is as good as His.
God, help us never to think we are as wise as You are and help us to handle even our studied and strong opinions in ways that do not cause harm or division to Your Body the church. Amen.