If you were taught as I was, your opinion of the Pharisees may not be a good one. While Christendom loves to focus on the passages of Scripture wherein Yeshua is dressing down the religious leaders, this is not a very balanced understanding of who they were and what they professed. Nor is it a good understanding of why Yeshua occasionally addressed them the way He did
A study of First Century Judaism reveals a very divided religious system not unlike modern Christianity. There were dozens of sects, or divisions, much like modern denominations. Major dividing lines were based on the teachings of recognized authorities such as Gamaliel, Hillel, and Shamai. These groups, typically called ‘houses,’ were the major influencers of the day. Each had many beliefs that were right and some that were wrong… not unlike Reformed/Arminian, or Presbyterian/Baptist groupings with many subdivisions and peripheral denominations such as Wesleyan, Lutheran, Nazarene, etc! Of course, if you speak to any of those denominations today, you would find pulpits full of pastors utterly convinced they have it all right, or at least the closest system of scriptural understanding known to man.
Yeshua moved within these circles participating at many points in the vigorous sectarian debates of the First Century. As such, we often see Him in sharp disagreement with scribes and Pharisees, however we do not stop and consider the many times He ate and fellowshipped with them in a non-confrontational manner, simply teaching and revealing truth.
Generally speaking, the Pharisees were passionate about Scripture and righteousness, but along the way, most sects/denominations had incorporated teachings and traditions of men that were counter to, or an impediment to the simple truth of God’s Word. Examples of these traditions abound. Matthew 15:1-14 dealing with Yeshua’s opinion of their tradition of hand washing is one oft misused passage. Yeshua exposed and addressed the error of allowing or using traditions to judge the Torah causing many religious leaders/rulers of His day to be angered by Him. Rather than inspect the traditions and re-evaluate what they had inherited, they sought to put the White-hot Light of Truth to death. Exposing tradition for the fallacy that it is, is never well received. Just ask the prophets.
Little has changed in 2000 years.
We have many sects or denominations and most all think they have a corner on handling Scripture rightly. Most all denominations have men who profess to seek righteousness and, indeed, display aspects of it. Like the Pharisees of old, they have many things right!
Unfortunately, as far as I can tell, many filter their version of Scripture through their traditions, or to use their term, ‘doctrines.’ They have fine sounding justifications for overturning God’s Word, -you know, things professed to last forever, like the Sabbath, or Torah. They argue vigorously against the clean and unclean Laws of Leviticus 11 using faulty interpretations of Scripture. These same ‘scholars’ defend clear pagan connected practices such as Christmas, Easter and Lent, regardless of our Father’s Law saying NOT to worship Him as the pagans do. They set aside the Feasts of the Lord, labeling them ‘Jewish.’
While they lift themselves in the people’s eyes, they work overtime to undermine any who would point back to God’s eternal standard, the Torah, and offer justifications for why it is not valid for them. And, they seek the lives of the prophets.
It is an amazing parallel!
Yes, there were Pharisees who turned and became followers of Yeshua in the First Century. (We’ll talk about these paradigm-breakers in the next couple days.) Today, there are Pharisees in church pulpits who are turning back to the ancient paths and Yahweh’s everlasting covenant. But, in both cases, those who break rank are the exception. Not the rule. Again, just like the First Century.
The reason, Yeshua said, that the religious leaders in His day did not recognize Him at His first coming was because they did not believe ‘Moses’ (Torah), though they professed to. The parallel being so similar, we might surmise, the reason they’ll miss Him in His return is because they do not believe Moses.
Does not Yeshua say, “Many will say to Me ‘Lord,Lord…’ and I will answer them saying, ‘Depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness?’ Throughout Scripture, lawlessness is defined as ‘breaking Torah,’ the very Law Yeshua upheld at every turn!
Indeed. Our ‘halachah,’ or ‘walk,’ should match His, simple obedience to the Father. We are saved by grace through faith to be obedient!
We must be careful not to be like many Pharisees of Yeshua’s day who heard/saw the message of the Mashiach and, rather than sacrifice position and turn in humility, instead, hardened their hearts to the message and gripped all the tighter to traditions over simple Truth. We should be diligently studying and asking very hard questions of ourselves, or our traditions, and of the Scriptures. When we find we are in the wrong, we must side with Scripture over tradition.
May we, and particularly those in the pulpits, be challenged to turn away from tradition and self-protection and rather, pursue truth at all cost.