We see the Pharisees repeatedly playing "gotcha" with sinners as they judge and condemn them. They love nothing better than to criticize, fault-find and judge others. And they were good at it. I imagine they, like drug addicts, experienced withdrawals when they weren't out and about catching people breaking the traditions of their forefathers. You see, criticizing others and fault-finding becomes habit forming. It is what stimulates their existence and gives them a "buzz".
They hated Jesus for His ministry and for not affirming their "Search and Judge" ministry. Jesus didn't come to "judge the world, but to save it". His was, and is, a "Search and Rescue" mission.
Jesus' ministry to the demon-possessed, blind, lepers, and (heaven forbid) prostitutes embarrassed the Pharisees. Jesus came to deliver them from darkness while the Pharisees reinforced their captivity in darkness by their condemnation and rejection. Their ministry was tame, civilized, and domesticated while Jesus' was unpredictable, wild, and extreme.
I wonder, would Jesus fit in with the ministry focus of most of our churches today? Or, would we find ourselves attacking (certainly not funding) His radical "Search and Rescue" tactics?
A revealing test to see which group you are in:
- When was the last time you engaged in meaningful or redemptive conversation with a multi-pierced, multi-tattooed, hair-dyed, and attitude-wearing teen?
- Do people know you "for the distance you keep" from people unlike yourselves?
- Do you home school your kids, not watch TV or not do some other convictional activity because the Lord told you to or because it is the "spiritually-elitist and Christian-cultural thing" to do in your church or denomination?
- Do you have any lost friends?
- Do you know your lost neighbors?
- Does your life (kid's sport teams, exercise program, hobbies, etc) revolve totally around your church friends?
- Do you avoid secular events (4th of the July, etc) because people may drink, smoke, or use inappropriate language?
- Do "sinners" feel loved or judged by you?
- Have you ever had people from another culture over for dinner?
- Do your kids have friends who are from another culture?
- Is your church filled with people just like you (socially, financially, worship preferences, etc.) or is your congregation diverse?
Bottom line: Am I a "card toting" Pharisee or "sleeves rolled up" Search and Rescue team member?
It is difficult, but not impossible, to leave the comfortable team membership of the Pharisees. And, there is a price to pay. Just as those who believed in Jesus would not confess their belief for fear of being kicked out of the temple by the Pharisees so we will be rejected by modern Pharisees. Why do so few pay the price to be involved in radical "Search and Rescue" missions? Because, like the Pharisee, "they love praise from men more than praise from God" (John 12:43).
Questions for today's Chronological Bible reading:
- List the characteristics of true followers of Jesus Christ.
- How does Jesus describe His mission and the mission of His followers?
- Why do many of the people refuse to believe in Jesus?
- Who are those who will one day be judged?
- What is the basis of Jesus' judgment?
- Where does that leave the Pharisees?
- Why are the chief priests and teachers of the law so careful in their dealings with Jesus?
- What does this tell you about the priests? the people?
- How do the disciples respond to the woman and the out-pouring of her alabaster box?
- How does Jesus honor this woman?
- What does this tell you about Jesus' view of women?
- Why does Judas betray Jesus?
Ask the Lord to alert you when and where you respond as a Pharisee. Ask Him to show you ways you can be involved as a member of His Search and Rescue team.