Have You Met a Pharisee?

“Have You Met a Pharisee?”

luke-18-pharisee-and-tax-collector

Luke 18:13 – October 23, 2016

I’d like to start with a question: has anyone here ever met a Pharisee?

The Pharisees were professional “religious folks.” They were the moral bookkeepers of Jesus’ day, keeping track of right activity and wrong activity. The Pharisees kept an exact mental ledger, and were meticulous about having as little in the “wrong activity” column as possible. They were not only meticulous about their own activity, and went over their own business with a fine-tooth comb, but they gave recommendations to the rest of Israel on how to live, as well.

As this passage mentions in verse 9, righteousness was VERY important to the Pharisees; so much so that “certain ones” even went so far as to trust in themselves that they were righteous, and looked at others with contempt.

I ask again—has anyone here ever met a Pharisee?

Jesus mentions one Pharisee in particular in this parable. From my study and reflection on this text, I see this particular Pharisee being acutely concerned with external activity—wrong activity that was obvious to anyone. Let’s look at verse 11: ”God, I thank Thee that I am not like other people—swindlers, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector .” What can we see? EXTERNAL activity, where this Pharisee looks judgmentally with his lip curled at other people’s external actions. May I suggest that this Pharisee had his eyes focused on the external, visible part, on the wrong-activity part of people’s lives?

If we take a look at the Bible, at both the Old and New Testaments, we can see wrong-headed, external actions being committed time and time again. Over and over and over again. People at the time of the Bible just did not learn. I have a feeling that people today are in a similar situation, making mistakes and wrong decisions on a regular basis.

Certainly, our actions are important to God. Wrong-activity goes against everything we have ever been taught in Sunday school, from the pulpit, in seminary, about sanctified living, and how to present our bodies as a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God. But, a subtext I see here in this passage concerns INTERNAL attitudes and activities: the inside job.

When we talk about the inside job, the internal attitudes and activities, it does not matter whether we consider Bible times or today. People mess up. They have messed up for thousands of years. People not only do bad things, they say and think bad things. They miss the mark.

The Pharisee from this passage in Luke 18 looks at externals, and says to himself, “Gee, I’m not so bad. Matter of fact, I’m pretty good. Come to think of it, I’m doing all right!” See what his thought-process is here? He’s making himself out to be better, superior to other people. Verse 9: “Trusting in himself that he was righteous!”

This “super-righteous guy” was—in reality—anything but. So busy looking at other people’s outsides that he never did a reality check of his own life. Such a self-serving, prideful prayer! He was blind to his own shortcomings, and his own not-so-wonderful position before God. As long as he considered himself to be pretty good, more-righteous-than-thou, that was good enough for him. So much better than the sneer of contempt he expressed for all of the “sinful people.”

What about the contempt and scorn that Pharisees today express for others? Let’s take a similar situation: the one of a high-and-mighty bully on the playground. “You’re not as (good, fast, smart, pretty….)  as me!” Or, “You’re just a (jerk, baby, loser, …) And what about names that belittle – “shorty, four eyes, tubby, pipsqueak, etcetera.” [1]

You get the idea. Let your mind wander to add labels used in your workplace, school, community center, or neighborhood.

We all can feel what is hurtful about these names and labels, even if we cannot rationally identify it. And, these are not the only kinds of phrases Pharisees—those snide, blustering bullies—use. Just reminding us: we need to think ahead about how to handle similar belittling terms, and even worse terms with racial or sexual connotations.

I ask again, has anyone here ever met a Pharisee?

I am not sure whether you all know this, but at seminary, almost everyone who attends classes for a Master of Divinity degree takes at least one preaching class. We learn how to preach, how to bring a sermon to a congregation.

While I was in the Preaching class at seminary, I ran into one of my professors in the cafeteria. He and I periodically talked about my theological background and where I came from, theologically speaking. As we put our trays on the conveyor belt, I mentioned to him that I was working on a sermon for Preaching class. He asked me which text I was working on. I told him, “The Pharisee and the Tax Collector, from Luke 18.” His question—”which are you?” My response—”Oh, the tax collector, of course . . . I’m a reformed theologian.” The professor roared with laughter; he really appreciated that. (That’s theological humor for you.)

But it’s true. I do identify with the tax collector. The tax collector here KNEW he was a sinner. He didn’t have any illusions about himself! He knew what the Hebrew Bible had to say about external activity, and how to approach God. He KNEW that he missed the mark. He was conscious—oh, so conscious–of his sin. As Paul says in Romans 3:23, we ALL have sinned, and fall short of the glory of God. We have turned, EVERY ONE, to his, or her, own way.

But, the tax collector does not stop at just wallowing in sin. Neither should we!!! No–he falls at the feet of God and claims God’s mercy. As Jesus says in this parable, “I tell you, this man went to his house justified.” The Pharisee in this parable couldn’t even see where he had missed the mark. The tax collector recognized his sin, and he knew where to go. He knew he was powerless over sin. He knew his life was unmanageable. He knew where to flee for help and mercy!

Could the contrast between the two men possibly be more clear? Could the difference between the two prayers possibly be more extreme? What about you and me? Are there places where we have not done what God wants us to do? Are there impatient or unkind words that we have said? What about nasty, mean thoughts that have gone through our minds?

The Pharisee trusted in his own flawed and erroneous righteousness; we can certainly learn from his mistakes. The tax collector knew his own sinfulness very well! He threw himself on God’s mercy and forgiveness, wholeheartedly.

“Mercy there was great, and grace was free, Pardon there was multiplied to me. There my burdened soul found liberty—at Calvary!” We can thank God that God does not use a balance sheet for our accounts.

As I say each Sunday, we are forgiven! If we confess our sins, God is faithful and just, and will forgive us our sins and cleanse us from ALL unrighteousness. We can go to our houses justified, through the mercy and grace of our Lord Jesus Christ. What better news can we possibly receive than that? Alleluia, amen!

[1] http://worshipingwithchildren.blogspot.com/2013/09/year-c-proper-25-30th-sunday-of.html ; Worshiping with Children, Proper 25, Including children in the congregation’s worship, using the Revised Common Lectionary, Carolyn C. Brown, 2013.

@chaplaineliza

(Suggestion: visit me at my regular blog for 2016: matterofprayer: A Year of Everyday Prayers. #PursuePEACE – and my other blog,  A Year of Being Kind . Thanks!)

Advertisements

8 thoughts on “Have You Met a Pharisee?

  1. Most people in Evangelical churches meet this one all the time…..

    BOSS PAUL THE PHARISEE
    [sing it to the tune of “Rapture” by Blondie]

    I’m Boss Paul, the Pharisee
    My hypocrisy’s plain for the world to see
    I travel the land and travel the sea
    to make a convert who is just like ME

    “All have sinned” – we know that’s true
    but it never means ME – it only means YOU
    My sins are all theoretical
    “I’m the worst of sinners”- but don’t ask where

    To be more like Jesus is what some strive
    except for me – I’ve already arrived
    I’m the perfect model since the road to Damascus
    What were Paul’s sins? Don’t ask us!

    I justify everything I do
    If I testify about myself it MUST be true
    I’m the only man in all history
    whose testimony doesn’t need two or three

    If I did something it MUST be right
    Don’t use the Scripture to shed any light
    Don’t do as I say, do as I do
    and then you can be a Pharisee too.

    Like

      • Unfortunate but true – instead of listening to Jesus and trying to become more like Jesus was,
        they are ignoring Jesus.
        They are listening to Paul and trying to “be like Paul.”

        Parable of the House Painters

        A homeowner called his friend, who was a painting contractor. “Friend, I want to hire you and your team to paint my house and my garage. Paint the house first, and I’ll stay in the garage until you’re done. Then when the paint is dry, I’ll move back into the house, and you can paint the garage.”

        The painting contractor hired a new foreman named Paul, and gave him the homeowner’s instructions. (Paul insisted that all the workers show respect for him by addressing him as “Boss Paul.”) Paul called the team of painters together and told them:
        “Boys, we need to paint this garage and house. The quicker we do it, the more profitable it is for us. So get to work! Since the garage is smaller, we can finish that quicker. Then those who finished the garage can go help the others finish the house.”

        One worker objected: “But Boss Paul, those were not the owner’s instructions! We are supposed to paint the house first. Only after the house is finished and the paint is dry can we go and paint the garage.”

        Paul replied: “I’m Boss, you work for me, and you do as I say. We are painters, and we paint. We don’t have time for debates about ‘which one is first’. We need to get to work applying that paint to the garage and house as quick as we can. Which owner would be upset if we finished early? The job is to paint the garage and house – what difference does it make ‘which one is first’”?

        “It makes a big difference to the owner,” the worker objected. To which Paul replied, “you’re fired.” Paul then took his team of painters, and started painting the garage and the house.

        When the homeowner returned in the evening, he was furious. He had nowhere to sleep, and had to go stay in a hotel for several days. The homeowner’s friend, the painting contractor, apologized, and explained:

        “I hired a new foreman named Paul, but that was a huge mistake. He ignored your instructions that I passed on to him. You don’t know him, and I’ve just barely met him.
        To be extremely polite, I could say that Paul ‘says some things which are difficult to understand.’ To be more direct, I could say Paul talks like an arrogant megalomaniac with a messiah complex, proclaiming; ‘I am not under the law’ but yet making up his own laws as he goes along, that everyone else has to obey. Paul said: ‘I became your father…. therefore I urge you to imitate me,’ and ‘I have become all things to all men.’ Paul thinks he’s Boss, and doesn’t need to listen to your instructions that I gave him.”

        In Matthew 22 and Mark 12, Jesus identified two commandments, saying one of them is the first and greatest most important one. Which one is it? The one in Deuteronomy 6:4-5, or the one in Leviticus 19:18 ?

        Liked by 1 person

    • But of the two commandments Jesus quoted in Mark 12 from the Law of Moses, which one of the two is the First and Greatest Most Important one? (according to Jesus).

      Poem – What is love?

      Two men came to Jesus
      With different motivations.
      They asked Him the same question
      Relevant to all the nations:

      Which is the Most Important?
      The answer was the same.
      Jesus did not manipulate
      He was not there to play a game.

      “Love the Lord your God” said Jesus
      as He quoted from The Law –
      to fulfill and not abolish
      was His purpose, full of awe.

      Jesus did not make all Scripture
      Into one new great commandment.
      He summarized The Law and Prophets
      “First and Greatest” and “The Second.”

      The Love of God is higher
      Than the love of any man.
      Receive from God, give back to God-
      Then to others, that’s His plan.

      The Love of God involves much more
      Than simply “love your fellow man.”
      Worship, trust, and pray to God,
      and obey Him – that’s His plan

      To worship and pray to neighbors,
      Whoever they may be,
      Or trust and obey our enemies
      Would be idolatry.

      The love of God is first and greatest,
      And the love of man is second.
      “All we need is love” are words
      of dead Beetles on the pavement.

      “The entire law is summed up in a single command”
      are not the words of Jesus our Salvation.
      It’s false teaching of Paul the Pharisee
      an “accuser of our brethren.”

      “Love” without God is Satan’s word through Paul
      in his chapter to the Corinthians.
      “I will show you the most excellent way”
      is the road to eternal perdition.

      Where is God in Paul’s chapter on love?
      Nowhere in view of the eye.
      Paul sings about himself like a Mexican Mariachi
      “I, I, I, I.”

      Jesus is The Most Excellent Way
      Not the words of a Pharisee.
      The words of Jesus are very clear.
      Jesus said, “You must follow ME.”

      Like

  2. The guest on the Sid Roth show tonight, Richard Booker, said we need to start proclaiming “The Gospel of the Kingdom”, not “The Gospel of Salvation.”
    http://sidroth.org/television/tv-archives/richard-booker/?src=banner_tv

    In other words, we need to start preaching the Gospel of Jesus –
    not Paul’s false “gospel” ABOUT Jesus,
    falsely claiming that Jesus “abolished the Law,”
    or falsely claiming that “God doesn’t see the sins of Christians,”
    or the ridiculous idea that there is no need to produce fruit in keeping with repentance, and it makes no difference at all what you do, or how you live in relation to God, all that matters is that one time you repeated “the magic words” of “the sinners prayer” an “altar call” and “made a decision for Christ”….. so that some greedy manipulative faraway stranger at the podium could boast and brag about it.

    Like

  3. Looking forward – Chapter 2

    “I am he who searches hearts and minds”
    says the Risen Jesus Christ
    “Repent and do what you did at first”
    Don’t be lazy since He paid the price

    Yes, Jesus sees our sins today
    Don’t think that He is blind
    But the words of paul the Pharisee
    Will put you in a bind

    Jesus washed away your sins
    Don’t listen to paul the accuser
    paul abandoned the Church in Corinth
    And then paul became an abuser

    When you put your trust in Jesus
    Yes, your stains were white as snow
    You didn’t need to wear a Scarlet Letter
    Everywhere you go

    “I will repay each of you
    According to your deeds”
    This is Jesus speaking to The Church
    Not a business selling felt needs

    For “those who claim to be apostles”
    Jesus said they must be “tested”
    Priscilla, Aquila, and Apollos
    Persevered and were not bested

    They exposed the false teachings
    Of paul the Pharisee
    So the Church in Ephesus rejected paul
    And had a chance to be free

    Bibliography
    All quotes are the words of Jesus, in Revelation Chapter 2

    Like

  4. Happy Pentecost 2017 in the name of Jesus !

    The message of The 11 (“The narrow gate”)

    “The eleven disciples went to Galilee”
    “Where Jesus had told them to go”
    They heard His voice and obeyed His will
    Despite uncertainty down below

    Jesus spoke to them at length
    He wasn’t really a Tweeter
    Only 3 of them wrote Scripture
    Matthew John and Peter

    “Feed my sheep” said Jesus, for though
    “Heaven and earth will pass away”
    I have the words of eternal life and
    “My words will never pass away”

    “Enter through the narrow gate”
    The voice of Jesus through the eleven
    Believe in Jesus “through their message”
    And “eat from the tree of life” in heaven

    Jesus commissioned the eleven
    With “everything I have commanded you”
    “Teaching THEM to obey” Jesus
    And “THEM” means me and you !

    “The command given by our Lord and Savior”
    Is not a Pharisee speaking alone
    It came rather “through your apostles”
    Matthew Peter and John

    If a Pharisee boasts proudly
    Those men added nothing to my message
    He doesn’t speak for Jesus
    His words are nothing more than garbage

    Bibliography
    All “quotes” in “quotation marks” are from the writings of the Apostles Matthew John and Peter in the Bible, mostly the “Red Letter” words of Jesus. [Matthew, John, Revelation, 2 Peter – NIV]

    Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s