If Jesus came and visited my church would I recognize him? Would you? Most of the religious people missed him last time.
The Pharisees were some of the religious elite. They looked good on the outside. They not only followed the rules in the Law, they made up more rules and followed them too. They read and taught the Scriptures. But when God showed up, the promised Savior of the world, these same religious people missed him. In fact they didn’t just miss him, they claimed that he was a drunkard and that he was possessed by a demon! God, the Creator of the Universe!
Ironically, these “good” Pharisees were the only people Jesus condemned. He spent a lot of time telling parables about them, ignoring their rules, and challenging their ideology. Why? Jesus met “sinners” in the dirt, loved them, forgave them, and set them free. Why was he so confrontational with the Pharisees? Would he be confrontational with me? I think this is the answer.
The sinners knew they were sinners. The Pharisees thought they were good enough. Grace is only good news if you know you need it.
When I am in the dirt (like the woman caught in adultery in John 8), totally aware of my sin and my mess and my unworthiness, Jesus can sit down there with me and show me grace. He loves me and forgives me even though I don’t deserve it. Jesus overwhelms me with grace because that’s who He is, and I stand in awe and can’t help but love Him in return.
But, if I think that I am good enough because of the list of rules that I am following, if I think that my outward performance is impressing God, if I am standing in pride, then Jesus can’t show me grace. Grace means nothing if we think that there is something we have done to earn it.
I really believe that Jesus’ motivation behind every confrontation with the Pharisees was to show them their sin, to show them that they weren’t good enough, that they would never be good enough.
These religious people thought that God gave the Law so that people would follow it and be good enough to impress Him. They thought it was a checklist to perfection. But Paul tells us in Galatians 3 that God gave the Law to show us our sin, to show us that we couldn’t do it, and to remind us that we needed a Savior.
God’s standard is perfection. In order to be with Him, we have to be perfect. (Psalm 5:4) Yeah, I don’t know about you, but I’m out of luck! Still, He wants us! God wants a relationship with us! That has always been His goal. The consequence of sin, disobedience to God, is death. (Romans 6:23) But God loved us so much that He came to die in our place (John 3:16). If we believe this, that Jesus died in our place for our sins, then God forgives us, adopts us as His children, and gives us eternal life! (John 3:16-18 Jesus is talking to a Pharisee!) That is good news! There is nothing that we can do to earn forgiveness. And there is nothing we can do to earn God’s blessings or impress Him once we are saved.
I’ve met a lot of Christians who look more like Pharisees than Jesus followers. And I can say this because I was one once.
If Jesus showed up at your church with shaggy hair, maybe an earring or two, wearing a t-shirt, jeans, and flip-flops, with Christian rap music blaring out of his rolled down car windows, would you recognize Him? Does this description make you angry? Uncomfortable? Does it make you laugh? Let me know what you think!
I’ll be sharing some personal stories in the next few days about how I stopped being a Pharisee and embraced being a sinner.