There are days I feel sorry for the poor Pharisees. Time after time, Jesus singles out these religious leaders, using them as the butt of his teaching against hypocrisy and adherence to “the law” at the expense of compassion. If Christianity were an infomercial, the Pharisees would be the “before” photograph.
By the usual measures, the Pharisees were the good guys. They were students of Judaism and “the law” was the law handed down to them by Moses and interpreted by the prophets. They were a very important part of preserving and passing along Judaism, the religion which is the foundation of the Christian faith. St. Paul referred to the well-known Pharisee and teacher Gamaliel as his mentor, and this same Pharisee cautioned the other Pharisees not to mess with the Apostles just in case they really were speaking God’s word (See Acts 5:34).
During this morning’s Bible Study discussion, it was suggested that the Catholic hierarchy itself looks an awful lot like the Pharisees would have looked. Source of authority. Teachers and maintainers of the law. Pointer-outers of hypocrisy. Lots of pomp and circumstance. Gulp.
So, here’s an interesting contradiction for you. Why would Jesus, the man who railed against the authority of the church at the time set up pretty much the same sort of authoritative church? Surely, Christ knew that humans would be human and that the Christian Church would soon grow its own crop of hypocrites?
Or is it possible that He did know that, and that when Jesus was chastising the Pharisees in 32 AD he was also chastising us Neo-Pharisees of 2013 AD? Maybe Jesus realized that His children would always have a tendency for self-inflation, so he made sure he left enough “Catholic guilt” behind Him to help us recognize it in ourselves? Sort of a built in humility-regulator.
God’s pretty tricky, isn’t he?
Peace, fellow Pharisees.