Seeing the Pharisees Part I

As the Savior worked to teach the people about His true nature, He was met with varying responses.  One of the strongest oppositions He faced in mortality was from the Pharisees.  This group, far from being ignorant to teachings about the Savior, was so well-read that they could readily rattle off scripture about the Son of God.  However, they struggled to see the in-the-flesh version when He repeatedly stood in front of them.  Once I stopped writing the Pharisees off, I realized that I may have more in common with them than I thought.  This week I want to peek into their relationship with Christ and try to glean any gems there are to be found.  Please know that I am uncomfortable grouping them all under one title but since so many of the scriptures mention “Pharisees” and “scribes” I am looking at the relationship from that angle.  I think there was a fairly long continuum when it came to these folks.  I imagine some of them were uncomfortable with the actions of the group, some were curious about the Savior, and some were even hesitant believers.  What I am repeatedly amazed about is their struggle to recognize Jesus Christ when He was with them.   He offered parable after parable to try to help them see their oversight.  He offered direct counsel.  But none of it seemed to penetrate their staunchly held beliefs.  Anytime He validated someone for their efforts or offered compassion, the Pharisees were quick to pounce, questioning the Savior’s motives and power.  Why?  Can you imagine being in the presence of the Son of God and not seeing Him for who He is?  I want to understand how that happened.

The Law of Moses had prepared them for a number of things but His compassion was not one of them.  Now, have you read about the Law of Moses?  It’s pretty weighty and I could see how it would be hard to see the Savior if you thought it just entailed a myriad of rules.  And it would also be hard to imagine Him as loving and merciful if you were stressed out about counting your steps and striving to make sure the sacrificial blood hit it’s mark every time.  And I think that’s part of the crux of the whole thing.  Could anyone have been 100% obedient to that law relying solely on their own efforts?  I doubt it.  And yet these folks, the scribes and Pharisees, staked their future on their stated, self-reliant obedience.  I imagine many in the house of Israel were all too happy to jettison that way of life for something a bit more forgiving.  But the Pharisees weren’t.  Why on earth wouldn’t you let go of an exacting way of life and trade it in for a more comfortable  model?

9 thoughts on “Seeing the Pharisees Part I

  1. Interesting you wrote this post today since our lesson in Seminary this morning was on John 9 with the story of the man born blind being healed by the Savior. We talked about who were really blind in that chapter. Sometimes I guess we all can be blind, only seeing what we want to see.

  2. I think the “Pharisee” way of life is really easy to fall into…I think of it as the “checklist” approach to the gospel…if I do x, y, and z, then I can expect this result. It’s predictable. It’s quantifiable. It’s easy to see if you are doing your job or not. I’ve been there at different points in my life (and sometimes find myself falling into that way of thinking). I think the love, the compassion, the non judgment, and the acceptance of the Savior must have felt foreign to them. They probably didn’t even know what to do with it.

    I do wonder how people could have walked with the Savior HImself and not feel or understand His mission or majesty. I wonder if He veiled their minds from more knowledge since maybe they just weren’t ready….you’ve given me lots to think about. Thanks so much for this.

  3. Pingback: Seeing the Pharisees Part II | Extending Understanding

  4. I can totally relate Anne Marie. It was kind of shocking for me to find all of the things I had in common with them at various points in my life. You bring up a good point though, I wonder about “that point” for them. Like, if the Savior had come on the scene a few years earlier or later, would He have found them in a more receptive state. I love the idea that we all ebb and flow when it comes to this deep understanding.

  5. Ohh, that’s a good example too. I like that Mom, just seeing what we want to see. It’s so easy and so natural to gravitate towards comfortable and familiar. I’m trying to take small steps into discomfort and it’s been rewarding and taxing at the same time. 🙂

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  8. I find myself sometimes feeling like a Pharisee, wanting the check marks of good things in my day to make me feel spiritually fulfilled…I read my scriptures today, said all my prayers, check them off and I am spiritually fulfilled until I realize that I am not because the action is just a place holder for the experience. Does that make sense? I can do those things and hope it counts but then I realize unless I do them meaningfully and with the intention of feeling His grace, they are empty, or at least just a shell of what they could be. But I think sometimes its easier to just do and check off than to stop and feel. I think they were so busy doing that they didn’t make time to stop and feel. Hopefully that makes sense. Thanks Linda xoxo

  9. Well put, Al. I love the idea of the actions being a place holder for experiences. Sometimes I think about all the prayers we offer that way. Like asking a blessing on the food, is it really just a reminder to think heavenward because we have to eat? I loved all the discussion on here. Thanks for adding your perspective to it!

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