If you say, ‘because they stopped being a Pharisees,’ you would be wrong!!
Walk with me as we consider a couple Messianic Pharisees!
John 3:1-21 recounts the story of a Pharisees, Nicodemus, who sought out Yeshua by night to ask a few questions. Nicodemus obviously understood something worthy of investigation was going on, he just did not understand it. It didn’t quite fit his box. Instead of discounting it, he investigated! The result is that he became a follower.
Later we read several places confirming Nicodemus’ devotion. He defends Yeshua before other Pharisees in John 7:40-52 with the telling quote from Vss 50-51,
Nicodemus (he who came to Him before, being one of them) *said to them, 51 “Our Law does not judge a man unless it first hears from him and knows what he is doing, does it?”
John 19:39 again mentions the devotion of Nicodemus at the death of Yeshua. He brought a substantial gift of spices.
While the text is not clear, it would appear he continued to be a Pharisees and follow Yeshua. Clearly, the two (Pharisees and Yeshua) are not mutually exclusive.
Another Pharisee (or possibly Sadducee, religious ruling class member) was Joseph of Arimathea. Interestingly, he is briefly mentioned in all four Gospel accounts. John tells us,
38 After these things Joseph of Arimathea, being a disciple of Jesus, but a secret one for fear of the Jews, asked Pilate that he might take away the body of Jesus; and Pilate granted permission. So he came and took away His body.
Clearly, Joseph is a disciple and has enough influence and authority to enter Pilate’s court and ask for the body. But, there is more,
Mark 15:42-46, the most detailed of the Joseph accounts, gives a few more details,
When evening had already come, because it was the preparation day, that is, the day before the Sabbath, 43 Joseph of Arimathea came, a prominent member of the Council, who himself was waiting for the kingdom of God; and he gathered up courage and went in before Pilate, and asked for the body of Jesus. 44 Pilate wondered if He was dead by this time, and summoning the centurion, he questioned him as to whether He was already dead. 45 And ascertaining this from the centurion, he granted the body to Joseph. 46 Joseph bought a linen cloth, took Him down, wrapped Him in the linen cloth and laid Him in a tomb which had been hewn out in the rock; and he rolled a stone against the entrance of the tomb.
And a man named Joseph, who was a member of the Council, a good and righteous man 51 (he had not consented to their plan and action), a man from Arimathea, a city of the Jews, who was waiting for the kingdom of God; 52 this man went to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus. 53 And he took it down and wrapped it in a linen cloth, and laid Him in a tomb cut into the rock, where no one had ever lain.
Clearly, Yeshua had some Messianic Pharisees friends in high places! They paid a price for their faith, but were willing to do so, as evidenced by the next and most famous Pharisees of all!
“Brethren, I am a Pharisee, a son of Pharisees
What are we to do with this? Is he lying to gain favor? If so, can we trust anything else he has to say? If he is telling the truth, can we categorically denigrate the Pharisees? Paul clearly continues to be one and is of the lineage of Pharisees.
Interesting! What we have is a Messianic Pharisee! (Not a Christian… Read, here.)
In fact, while Paul does say that he ‘counts all things loss for the sake of Messiah,’ therefore denying any special merit from those things, he does affirm that he is a Jew, He is of Benjamin, and he is (not ‘was’) a Pharisee. Further, as this article reveals, Paul never stopped walking in the ways of Torah. He did, however, set aside the very oral traditions Yeshua taught against.
Because the Pharisees were ‘sola scriptura,’ to use a modern Reformed phrase, Paul could attest to being one. Interestingly, the ‘sola scriptura’ guys of his day had a pile of traditions and halachic rulings that sat in judgment over the Torah… Not unlike the ‘sola scriptura’ guys of our day with their pagan traditions of Christmas, Easter, Valentine’s Day, etc., but I digress.
What we see exampled in Nicodemus, Joseph of Arimathaea and Rabbi Sha’ul/Apostle Paul, are three Messianic Pharisees! Men who were willing to lay aside the traditions of their fathers and instead, walk like Messiah… Keeping Torah and having faith in Yeshua! (Rev. 12:17; 14:12; etc.)
Of course, we shouldn’t be surprised. Acts 6:7-8 tells us,
7 The word of God kept on spreading; and the number of the disciples continued to increase greatly in Jerusalem, and a great many of the priests were becoming obedient to the faith.
8 And Stephen, full of grace and power, was performing great wonders and [h]signs among the people.
And in Acts 21:20 we read of the 10-20% of the Jews, maybe more, who were disciples of Yeshua and keeping Torah… Surely, with a number being priests, you can bet many were also Pharisees!
And when they heard it they began glorifying God; and they said to him, “You see, brother, how many [a]thousands there are among the Jews of those who have believed, and they are all zealous for the Law;
The words translated ‘many thousands’ actually say ‘tens of thousands,’ as in multiples of ten thousand! Myriads!!
Yes, there were Messianic Pharisees… those zealous for the fullness of the Torah and for faith in Yeshua! Exactly as we ought to be today!