Jesus And The Pharisees

Johnny Ramsey

(Editor's note: Brother Johnny Ramsey died October 5, having faithfully preached the gospel for 57 years. The Pennsboro church of Christ invited brother Ramsey to speak at their 2003 and 2005 lectureships. In notes to us, he wrote, "Here is some material for the booklet you will have for the lectures in Pennsboro. You may chop it up and use it as you wish." We published eight of his articles. Here is one we did not use.)

In Luke 12:1, the Savior made it very clear that "hypocrisy" and "Pharisees" went together. In fact, in Matthew 23:3 He stated, "They say and do not ..." Christ denounced that sect of the Jews for external religion without heart, compassion, or concern for others. What they believed sounded good, but their actions were detrimental and selfish. "You can fool the hapless public, You can be a subtle fraud, You can hide your little meanness, But you cannot fool God!"

In Matthew 23, our blessed Lord rebuked these keepers of orthodoxy for shameful self-righteousness and inhumane treatment of others. In a little poem we have an exact analysis of their daily problem. "You will fail no matter what you do, Unless you cleanse the inside, too!" "Rend your hearts and not your garments ..." was the message of Joel 2:13. They forgot.

In Matthew 6, the Master made it clear that to fast and pray to be seen of man was a serious mistake. In Mark 7, Jesus taught that defilement comes from within a man's heart and not from what he puts in his mouth. Yes, as Titus 1:15 declares, "Unto the pure all things are pure." If we fail to get attitude, motive, and emphasis right, we will be estranged from God! In a classic verse from Matthew 5:8, we must be pure in heart if we would see God! Therefore, we must think on things that are pure (Philippians 4:8).

The Pharisees added 1,100 traditions to the Law and seemed to exalt those beyond the Law that Jehovah gave through Moses. Notice what the Savior talked about in Matthew 23 as He thoroughly exposed their folly: They were very materialistic; they loved pre-eminence; they mistreated widows; They had forgotten what service was; They enjoyed converting others to themselves; They truly loved to show off; They overlooked mercy, justice, and faith in violation of Micah 6:8. Jesus stated clearly that they would strain out a gnat and then swallow a camel.

Paul made it clear that being a Pharisee was far better and more accurate than other groups of the Jews. Read Acts 26:5-7 and Acts 23:6. When the Savior mentioned that we should exceed the righteousness of the Pharisees, He was speaking of sincerity in contrast to the duplicity of those folk who were "acting on a stage." Of all the sins Christ hated, hypocrisy was at the top of the list.

One of the most shameful actions of the Pharisee was robbing widows' houses. In Mark 7 we find the calloused nature of children who not only would not come to the aid of parents but even invented a word, Corban, to excuse their lack of compassion. That expression meant, "We have already put that money into the Treasury." As a result of these ungodly attitudes, our Lord finished Matthew 23 by reminding them of His broken heart because they would not let Him into their lives (verse 37). As a result, their temple would be left desolate. All of this reminds me of Ezekiel 33:31. Their heart was not in it.

In Job 22:22 we find salient words to counter the indifference of the Pharisees. "Receive, I pray thee the law from his mouth, and lay up his words in thine heart." If the sentiment of the following passage had guided the Pharisees they would have had a bright future. "One thing have I desired of the Lord, that will I seek after; that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to behold the beauty of the Lord, and to inquire in his temple." Psalm 27:4

When we truly seek God with our whole hearts (Psalm 119:2), we will shuffle off the coils of hypocrisy and walk joyously in the path of righteousness!


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