An Updated Rerun Series
What was Jesus’ main problem with the Pharisees? Most of us would answer, “Hypocrisy.” Right?
Yet, when I look in the mirror every morning, I see the biggest hypocrite in the whole world, the one who I intimately know inside and out better than any other possible hypocrite. And guess what? Every believer, without exception, has this same problem at sometime or another.
Hypocrisy cannot be the answer. So, what was Jesus’ main problem with the Pharisees?
And He said to them, “Rightly did Isaiah prophesy of you hypocrites, as it is written: ‘This people honors Me with their lips, but their heart is far from Me. But in vain do they worship Me, teaching as doctrines the precepts of men. ‘ Neglecting the commandment of God, you hold to the tradition of men.” (Mark 7: 6 – 8)
Did you know the Pharisees had ushered in a Judaic revival just before John the Baptist and Jesus arrived on the scene? Josephus, the historian, who estimated the sect at 6,000 strong, stated that the Pharisees were considered “the hope of Israel” and were the dominant spiritual influence for the Jews.
In fact, the Pharisees held many beliefs in common with Jesus. They believed in the resurrection of the dead, the Messiah’s soon arrival, angels, a day of judgment, a person’s free-choice and God’s sovereignty. They taught that God was a loving, all-knowing, just and merciful Creator. They called for Jews to live a life of obedience.
And yet, Jesus found fault with them.
Can you imagine how shocked the people were when they heard Jesus rake these so-called holy men over the coals?
For I say to you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven. (Matthew 5:20)
What was it about these traditions that bugged Jesus so much?
In their zeal for God, the Pharisees came up with rituals and programs to protect people from disobeying the Torah, and thus, reaping the wrath of God. For instance, the Sabbath Day’s Journey or just how far could a Jew walk on the Sabbath without sinning against the Law.
At first, the Pharisees determined a Jew could, in good conscience, walk within the boundaries of a city, especially to a synagogue or the Temple. Then, later Pharisees, determined they could walk 2,000 cubits (cubit = approx. 18 inches) outside the city. Later, this was upped to 4,000 cubits, or about one mile.
This minuteness to detail was carried over by the Pharisees into every area of daily life for the Jews. It became known as “the yolk of the Torah.” It was an impossible burden for anyone to carry.
Jesus exposed the traditions for what they were: a man-made religion filled with rituals, programs and traditions.
Now, what if Jesus visited the American traditional church system today, what would be the first thing He would point to as a man-made tradition? Maybe, the office of the pastor.
So, what about the separation of clergy and laity? Is it scriptural?
(Continued in Part 10)