I don’t have much time or energy to post this right now, but I wanted to write a little something about today’s scripture… (for the Easter Scripture Study Series, click here.)
While in the temple, the Lord directed some of His teachings to the Pharisees after they asked the Savior what the source of His authority was. Interesting, really, when you think of it. They claimed to have authority because they were leaders of the Jews, and where did they get their authority? From Jehovah? Christ was Jehovah. they proclaimed to be members of the House of Israel, awaiting the Messiah, their God. And when Jesus came, not only did they not recognize Him, but they hated him. It is a horrible paradox. There is too much I don’t understand about the Pharisees, so I can only guess. But we don’t need to know much about them – we can still learn from them.
“Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye are like unto whited sepulchres, which indeed appear beautiful outward, but are within full of dead men’s bones, and of all uncleanness.
Even so ye also outwardly appear righteous unto men, but within ye are full of hypocrisy and iniquity.” – Matthew 23:27-28
The Pharisees look great on the outside, yet within they are horribly disgusting. They have no integrity, are not honest, and are judgmental. In some ways it seems like their sins are worse than someone who is at least honest about his sinning (not sure if this is making sense).
I think that the reason why the rebuking of the Pharisees really hits home to me is because it is easy to be like a Pharisee. It is easy to become proud of supposed righteousness. We begin to get so caught up with our own “goodness” that we begin to judge others, make assumptions, strain at gnats, and swallow camels. I know that I have a tendency to do this.
The Pharisees were completely void of Charity. They were absolutely un-Christlike. Even though proclaimed to know that gospel, hung out at the temple, wore broad phylacteries, they didn’t have the gospel written on their hearts. The Pharisees sacrificed their time and paid tithes, but they forgot the weightier matters of the law. Those weightier matters are the ones that matter!
The Pharisees were like the wicked husbandmen, corrupt and bent on usurping power from the Lord of the vineyard. The Lord tells the Pharisees the parable:
“Hear another parable: There was a certain householder, which planted a vineyard, and hedged it round about, and digged a winepress in it, and built a tower, and let it out to husbandmen, and went into a far country:
And when the time of the fruit drew near, he sent his servants to the husbandmen, that they might receive the fruits of it.
And the husbandmen took his servants, and beat one, and killed another, and stoned another.
Again, he sent other servants more than the first: and they did unto them likewise.
But last of all he sent unto them his son, saying, They will reverence my son.
But when the husbandmen saw the son, they said among themselves, This is the heir; come, let us kill him, and let us seize on his inheritance.
And they caught him, and cast him out of the vineyard, and slew him.” – Matthew 21:33-39
This is just the saddest parable! It is mostly sad because it directly reflects what happened with the Lord’s kingdom and some of the wicked Jews and People of Ancient Israel. They killed the prophets, and they crucified the Lord – their God.
So…I don’t want to be like that. I know that I have the gospel, and consider myself to be a member of the House of Israel now. How do I ensure that I don’t fall into the same trap as the Pharisees? I have to work hard to keep my inner vessel clean. I have to repent and pray daily. I need to be willing to look inside of myself and identify my sins and do all I can to repent and be forgiven.
I have to admit, I don’t know the hearts and thoughts of the ancient Pharisees. Perhaps they misunderstood and truly thought that Christ was an impostor. Maybe they meant well in their vehement hatred of Him. This idea is also problematic for me, though. How do you go about worshipping a God, then unable to recognize Him when He comes?
Again, it goes back to keeping our inner vessels clean. If we stay close to the Lord, keep our hearts pure and full of purpose, then we can have the Spirit to be with us. Then we will not be deceived. We will receive witness of Christ. When we have the Spirit, we will receive gentle correction as needed, we will be able to have our hearts full of God’s love, and we will not be like the Pharisees.
So…this Easter, I’m going to try to remember the teachings that Christ gave at the temple to the Pharisees. I’m going to do what I can not to be like them, but to keep my covenants with inward integrity and devotion.
What do you do to keep yourself from being like a Pharisee? What did you learn from the teachings that Christ gave in the temple?