Could you phariSEE this happening to you?

You hear the word Pharisee---what do you think of?

Chances are you know those guys as the people Jesus threw down with time and time again. You’re probably glad you’re not one of them. I can’t say that I blame you. They come across as being so sure of themselves and very my-way-or-the-high-wayish. And, let’s face the facts; it’s hard to market any good pharisaical material. No one wants to wear a t-shirt that reads: My brood strains gnats and swallows camels. Yo!

“It could be,” one demotivational poster reads, “that the purpose of your life is only to serve as a warning to others.”

You won’t say it, but that’s probably what you think of the Pharisees. Nico and friends, in all likelihood, suffer from the second worst bad rap ever—the first, of course, belongs to Vanilla Ice (Sorry for the ‘90s rap reference).

In John 10, Jesus is presented as the Good Shepherd. Jesus begins that chapter by dropping some sheep knowledge. It sounds like pretty simple stuff: there’s a gate for sheep to come in and out; some people try to steal the sheep; the sheep know who to trust. But John tells us that not everyone was keeping up. Verse 6 says, “Jesus used this figure of speech with them, but they did not understand what he was saying to them.” The “them” John refers to is a group of Pharisees.

The question begs to be asked: Why didn’t they understand?

  • Maybe it wasn't so simple. 
  • Maybe they only knew about gnats and camels and understood nothing about sheep. 
  • Maybe they thought Jesus was talking about someone else. 

Ignore the chapter numbers in your Bible and you realize that John has already told us why they don’t understand. The sheep speech is part of a conversation between Jesus and “some” Pharisees that began in the last section of chapter 9. Take out your at-home pew Bible and I bet you’ll have a heading over that section that reads “Spiritual Blindness.” On the heels of a healing, Jesus has just insinuated the Pharisees’ blindness. So, as far as John is concerned, the reason why the Pharisees couldn’t understand the sheep talk is because they were spiritually blind.

Lesson learned, right? No wonder we don’t want to be like the Pharisees. We sing hymns and praise songs that include verses like, “Open my eyes that I may see,” and “Open the eyes of my heart; I want to see you.” We don’t want to be spiritually blind. So, don’t be like the Pharisees, right? Not exactly. Jesus explained what he meant further. This time there was no confusion at all. They understood him exactly. So much so that John says, “The Jews were divided because of these words.” When John speaks of “The Jews” he is typically referring to the people like the Pharisees; they were religious leaders. You see, not all the Pharisees were Jesus haters. There were some that recognized Jesus for who he was.

Some just needed a few more answers. Others were pretty set in their ways and were unable to phariSEE something new. I imagine there were others who had no trouble believing, but their relationship to other Pharisees made it difficult to follow Jesus fully. Maybe more of us should get fitted for that new t-shirt. Yo!

Quite often we are quick to use our spiritual label makers to define others. Once defined, we know exactly what to do with them. We know how we’ll talk to them (or about them). We know what they believe and why. Well, we’re pretty sure we know, but that doesn’t matter because we’re at least sure of what we really think of them—and that’s all that matters.

Jesus knew his ministry wouldn’t last very long. You don’t go around speaking to power and getting away with it forever. So, Jesus knew there would be plenty of Pharisee barbecues he would not be invited to attend. Still, he spoke and gave them all a chance to hear. Sometimes, apparently, he even repeated himself.

Perhaps we should be so willing, too. Many of the Pharisees you think you know probably share a lot of faith with you. But who’s been willing to listen to them? When someone says, “I know your kind,” what they should do is stick their fingers in their ears, close their eyes real tight and repeat, “I’m not listening; I’m not listening” because that’s what they’re already doing on the inside. You might be right; many of “those people” are going to be just like you’ve imagined or been told. But there might just be those that don’t follow suit like you think.

  • Are you willing to listen to them
  • Could you imagine yourself having a decent conversation with them
  • Would you let them sit next to you at the church potluck? 
  • Can you imagine them as friends? 
  • When was the last time you prayed with them or for them
  • Could you stop calling them "them?"

If anything one of those previous suggestions make you cringe just a bit, you might be more the Pharisee that you thought they were? So, you hear the word Pharisee and you think.............

Stay blessed...john

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