Isn’t it hard to read about Jesus interaction with the Pharisees during Passover week and not judge them for being such… Pharisees?
After cleansing the Temple of the money changers, the target on Jesus’ back grows. The religious leaders continually try and trap Jesus, asking questions that could lead to charges being brought against him. They wanted to know where his authority came from. They questioned him about paying taxes to Caesar. The Sadducees questioned him about the resurrection. A Pharisee asked him what the greatest commandment was. He was questioned about being the Son of David.
Jesus gives his most direct rebuke to the Pharisees here (Matthew 23, Mark 12, Luke 20). Jesus tells the crowd, “Faithfully carry out everything the teachers of the law tell you to do. However, don’t imitate the way they live.” (Ouch)
Regarding the Pharisees, Jesus says:
•Everything they do is to draw attention to themselves.
•They expect a level of righteousness that they themselves can’t keep, and by doing so drive others away from God.
•They are blind to the truth about themselves and about God.
•They do what’s expected by men, but don’t realize that God sees the heart.
•They are more concerned with appearances than with character.
Jesus concludes, “How can you escape being sentenced to hell?”
It’s so easy for me to look at the Pharisees with disdain… and become a Pharisee myself in the process. I look at their actions and compare myself… but isn’t that exactly what the Pharisees were doing? They used men as their standard. Look how good I am. I’m better than you.
Father, keep the cross ever before me, for it is at the foot of the cross that I experience grace. Your grace brings humility. Your grace brings compassion toward those trapped in the hamster wheel hell of a pharisaical works-based spirituality.
It is ONLY by living each day in the transforming power of God’s grace that I escape the trap of becoming a modern day Pharisee.