Chapter 9 is not the first sighting, but it is where Jesus taught me two lessons about Pharisees. Before I start on that, below is a partial definition of a “pharisee” from Strong’s Concordance:
They sought for distinction and praise by outward observance of external rites and by outward forms of piety, and such as ceremonial washings, fastings, prayers, and alms giving; and, comparatively negligent of genuine piety, they prided themselves on their fancied good works…According to Josephus they numbered more than 6000. They were bitter enemies of Jesus and his cause; and were in turn severely rebuked by him for their avarice, ambition, hollow reliance on outward works, and affection of piety in order to gain popularity.
I did some looking around for definitions of a “modern day Pharisee”, so that I could try to see what it might look like to be one today. I found some interesting definitions on various websites, primarily Wikipedia.
Someone that attends church every time the doors are open, yet doesn’t put what is taught into practice. They may know the Bible front to back, and back to front, but not really get the meaning of it all. They look at others, and wonder why they don’t know as much as they do about God.Their hearts are not in it, although their actions are doing all the right things, so they think. Jesus said they were clean on the outside, but dirty on the inside.
the word “Pharisee” has taken up a connotation that means a person who self-righteously follows minute religious regulations and feels holier than those who don’t.
I am going to add to these my own definition: Someone who studies scripture and knows it well, but uses it primarily for the purpose of pointing out the “sins” of others. They hold the Word of God up to everyone’s heart but their own.
Now, onto my lessons. In chapter 9, Jesus continues to heal, teach, and cast out demons. Everywhere He was, Pharisees were close by. They accused Him of blasphemy (v.3), questioned His association with sinners (v.11), and decided that He drove out demons by the “prince of demons” (v.34). As I read and re-read these passages, I noticed something. The Pharisees themselves never questioned or commented directly to Jesus. They said things to themselves, and they questioned His disciples. Yet, every time, Jesus stepped in and did the answering. I asked God, “what is it that You want me to see in this?” And He asnwered.
“Pharisees are everywhere. Do not defend yourself against their questioning or their accusations. Leave that to Me. Just keep following.”
There is a difference between the loving rebuke of a brother or sister in Christ, and the accusation of a Pharisee. One will bring conviction and the encouragement to keep following Jesus, and the other will bring condemnation and the desire to give up.
So my first lesson was that they are everywhere, so just keep walking. Leave them to God. What was my second lesson?
I sometimes have the heart of a Pharisee. If you see me coming with that heart, just keep walking. Follow Jesus.