Pharisees receive messages from the sharper side of Jesus’ tongue

The compassion and care of Christ is clearly and repeatedly displayed in the Gospels.

The compassion and care of Christ is clearly and repeatedly displayed in the Gospels.

This is consistent with His stated mission in Luke 2:18, which says, “The Spirit of the LORD is upon me, for He has anointed me to bring Good News to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim that captives will be released, that the blind will see, that the oppressed will be set free” … and He did that!

Jesus loved people. He, “… was moved with compassion on the multitudes, because they fainted, and were scattered abroad, as sheep having no shepherd.” (Matthew 9:36)

He shared His life and knowledge with, and showered personal attention upon His disciples. He showed compassion to an adulterous woman, healed and encouraged thousands and granted forgiveness to anyone who would repent of their sins and turn to Him.

However, there were some, most notably the Pharisees, that received messages from the sharper side of His tongue. And in sharp contrast to the seven blessings that Jesus promised the children of His kingdom in Matthew 5:3–10, we find seven woes proclaimed upon the Pharisees in Matthew 23:13–36.

Interestingly, those He addressed in this passage were religious leaders.

Jesus warned His disciples in Matthew 16:6 about the deceitfulness of the Pharisees and in Luke 18 He taught a compelling parable about them. The story is about two men praying in the temple. One was a haughty Pharisee, the other a despised tax collector. As we read the account it’s clear that the men’s prayers were as diverse as their positions.

“Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, ‘God, I thank You that I am not like other men—extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I possess.’ And the tax collector, standing afar off, would not so much as raise his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me a sinner!’ I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other; for everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.” (Luke 18:9–14)

I’m certain that by the time we read to the end of this passage we are feeling sympathetic toward the tax collector and indignant toward the Pharisee. How dare he thank God that he is not like other men, or that tax collector!? But, remember … Christ’s teachings are straightforward, but His lessons are remarkably profound. So, be careful …

Did you find yourself thanking God that you are not like the Pharisee?

Pastor Ross Helgeton is senior pastor at Erskine Evangelical Free Church.

— Faith & Reflection

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