Who were these amazing people?
They were the leaders of Judaism and 'kept the law" of Moses. They were so 'good' at it they became wholly devoted and aligned to it. So devoted in fact that they became extremist in limited parts of the law plus adding to it as they saw fit.
They were like the 'policemen' of the law and were down, like a ton of bricks, on anyone that dared step out of line. So you can imagine their surprise when Jesus came along.
Here He was, the very Messiah in their midst, performing miracles aplenty and changing lives radically. But instead of embracing the truth with joy - what did they do?
They killed Him of course - what else could they do? Jesus brought a message of love, hope, forgiveness, mercy and grace which was utterly opposed to the harsh, unforgiving, merciless and "you must do as we tell you unless damnation awaits" message portrayed by them.
We stand aghast at what the Pharisees eventually did to Jesus - our minds can't grip the truth of the whole deal of Jesus' death and why?
They were a sad yet zealous lot - forever searching for the wrong in peoples lives and dragging them over the coals for breaking the law no mater how trivial.
Thing is - Are we in danger of becoming a "Pharisee"? I have become somewhat concerned looking around churches of late where there seems to be a "spirit of the Pharisee" among a lot of us. Me included unfortunately!
How did this happen?
Years ago when Sue and I were fortunate enough to run a Youth Group, a lot of the young people on most Sunday nights after church would visit a fish and chip shop to hang out and eat. No a bad idea - but the place was filthy - the kids used to call it "Chips Diarrhoea" for obvious reasons - SO why OH why did they keep going back to such a "dive"? Asking them once the answer I received was "I don't know it just sort of happens?"
Shaking my head I couldn't believe that answer - surely there were heaps of other places to hang out? I couldn't believe they would even dream of darkening the door.
But sadly I reckon it is a bit like a lot of Christians today when it comes to being a 'modern-day Pharisee'. "It just sort of happens".
Lots of people have distorted views on God. The truth is that everything He arranges in life is wrapped in mercy! He is good and filled with such love, mercy and grace. God wants the very best for us - He doesn't WANT to judge and punish.
Jesus whole ministry was based solely on love and forgiveness, giving hope and encouragement. The Pharisees on the other hand wanted to punish, judge and condemn.
We can so easily fall into the habit of condemning people, looking down our noses at others judging people, speaking unkindly and in effect ruining reputations and lives.
It's so easy to point out the sin in someones life - in our churches - in our work places - of course there is sin there - we all do it! We all sin consciously or unconsciously
Of course there is sin in our lives and that on-going sin produces deep condemnation and a constant nagging worry that somehow we may have crossed an invisible line with God - Have we gone beyond Gods' grace? Having said that we continue to make very poor choices often many times a day.
Satan loves to 'get at us' this way. He loves to warp God's truth in order to lead people away from the very grace and mercy that can save them from him. God speaks to us of deliverance and His amazing plan of Salvation not of Wrath!
"Guilty, Condemned and Damned" cries the voice of the Pharisee - "Forgiven and Forgotten" whispers the voice of the grace of God.
On saying all of that, one day we will all stand before our God and King and if we haven't given our lives to him in trust and commitment then we can be truly terrified to meet Him - but God doesn't want to judge - He is NOT a Pharisee - He wants to have a relationship with us through His amazing love, mercy, grace and forgiveness.
So how are you? Are you a modern day Pharisee, even unintentionally? Are you always ready to judge others? pointing out their shortcomings to your friends.
In Proverbs 6: 16-19 there is a list of things that God hates and top of that list is what the KJV says is "Proud Eyes" - the ESV describes verse 16 as "Haughty Eyes". Either way top dog on Gods "anger" list is looking down on others, being dismissive, judgemental and arrogant.
So again. How are you shaping up? How am I shaping up?
But don't despair, good news awaits. It's not too late we can turn back to Jesus - even well-intentioned as you may be - the spirit of the Pharisee is wrong and so sinful.
Turn back to Jesus - take a detour - make a U-turn, back track, turn around or go in reverse - whatever you do climb back up the slippery slope and I can guarantee that Jesus in His great love and mercy will be there welcoming you.