Wednesday, May 12, 2004

Counting Sins the Pharisee Way

Continuing through the historical backup for Luke, William Barclay gives some vivid examples of just how nitpicking the Pharisees were about sin. The modern equivalent of this is "more Catholic than the Pope." We all know people like this and we are lucky if we are not one of them. It is a natural human tendency to want it to be easy to know what to do and what to avoid. Unfortunately, it becomes all too easy to focus on the letter of the law and forget the big picture that led to it in the first place. That leads to hard hearts and lack of forgiveness. No wonder Jesus kept placing such emphasis on prayer and living our faith from the heart.

The basis of the law was the Ten Commandments. These commandments are principles for life. They are not rules and regulations; they do not legislate for each event and for every circumstance. For a certain section of the Jews that was not enough...From the Ten Commandments they proceeded to develop and elaborate these rules...

To heal on the Sabbath was to work. It was laid down that only if life was in actual danger could healing be done; and then steps could be taken only to keep the sufferer from getting worse, not to improve his condition. A plain bandage could be put on a wound, but not any ointment; plain wadding could be put into a sore ear, but not medicated. It is easy to see that there was no limit to this...

The name Pharisee means "The Separated One"; and the Pharisees were those who had separated themselves from ordinary people and ordinary life in order to keep these rules and regulations. Note two things. First for the scribes and Pharisees these rules were a matter of life and death; to break one of them was a deadly sin. Second, only people desperately in earnest would ever have tried to keep them, for they must have made life supremely uncomfortable. It was only the best people who would even make the attempt.

Jesus had no use for rules and regulations like that. For him, the cry of human need superseded all such things. But to the scribes and Pharisees he was a law-breaker, a bad man who broke the law and taught others to do the same...the tragedy of the life of Jesus was that those who were most in earnest about their religion drove him to the Cross...

No comments:

Post a Comment

Post a Comment