Does Jesus Love The Pharisee?

Pharisees

Why was Jesus fully human?*  Jesus was tempted by the Devil.  Jesus knew hunger, pain, frustration, anger, compassion, betrayal, and death.  Before betrayal and death, Jesus turned our understanding of righteousness on its head.  He would, to the dismay of the Pharisees, go among the sinners, the tax collectors, the prostitutes.  Why would he even touch her?  The Pharisees would ask in disgust!

Jesus taught us to love even our enemies.  It’s easy to love those who love you.

Jesus sure loved to preach, didn’t He?

In some of my debates with my brothers on the Christian left, I’ve found myself in the role of the Pharisees’ defendant.  They chastise the religious right for being much like the Pharisees.  They are judgemental, they love to point to this part of the Bible, and that part of the Bible, but they miss the big picture.  As Saint Paul taught us, the law condemns, but Christ has fulfilled the law.

But Jesus, can you practice what you preach?

Jesus loved to call the Pharisees hypocrites, and lecture us on loving even our enemies.  He loved to bring tax collectors and prostitutes into the light, partly out of compassion, but partly to show the failures of the Pharisees as spiritual guardians of the Jewish people.  But is Jesus any better than the Pharisee if he does not love the Pharisee?  Are my brothers and sisters on the Christian left any better if they love the world – the prostitutes, the tax collectors, the secularists, the globalists, the hedonists – and do not love the Pharisees of our time?

Jesus loved the Pharisees

St Paul the persecutor was a cruel and sinful man; Jesus hit him with a blinding light and then his life began – Rolling Stones (Saint of Me)

Hypocrisy?  Not Jesus!  Perhaps the greatest temptation was the temptation to hate the Pharisee, or to stand smugly over them when they come to the father.  But yet on the cross, Jesus even prayed for His crucifiers**.  “Forgive them Father, for they know not what they do!”

Jesus loved not only the poor, the oppressed, the prostitutes, the tax collectors; Jesus loved the centurian who took part in His crucifixion.

Jesus’s love for the Pharisees didn’t end there.  Saul was one of the worst of those stuffed robbed Pharisees, not merely upholding the parts of the law that they were hung up on, but going to great lengths to persecute early Christians.  I wonder how many Christians, being fully human, but not fully divine, cursed Saul’s name.  But even after the crucifixion, even after the beard was ripped from His face, the crown of thorns placed upon His head, and the nails driven into his wrists; Jesus loves the Pharisees.

Instead of leaving Saul to pile sin upon sin, thinking he did so in the name of God, Jesus came to him.  Why do you persecute me?

On the cross, when Jesus prayed for His crucifiers, He overcame a temptation that is hard to imagine any human, not divine, overcoming.***  After His resurrection, He continued, and loved Saul, who became Paul.

Even Paul was still, in some ways, a Pharisee.  My Christian left brothers have their reservations about Paul, for as we know, the only mentions of homosexuality in the New Testament come from Paul.  Jesus never touched that issue, nor did His apostles.  As many on the Christian right focus on this issue, therefore, I’d remind my friends on the Christian left the great lengths that Jesus went to, to bring that lost sheep back to the flock.

I’ve been there too

If I sound preachy, rest assured, I’ve been there too.  I grew up on the edge of the Bible belt, in Jacksonville, Florida.  I’ve been preached at by my share of fundies too.  I’ve been ridiculed by a Baptist preacher for my Megadeth tee-shirt, and silenced in my effort to explain that the leader, Dave Mustaine, actually converted to Christianity.  Jesus dwells with the heavy metal bands, just as He dwells with the tax collectors.  I was only a teenager then.  This isn’t the only run-in I’ve had with Bible Belt Pharisees, but it’s the one I remember most vividly.

I admit, being fully human and not divine, I might not be able to do as Jesus.  If I met that Baptist preacher**** today, I’d have to pray for the strength to not just tell his self-righteous arse to get his robe stuffed!  But even Peter lacked the courage to go to the cross with Christ.  Jesus loves Peter, too.

We pray for forgiveness of our sins, known and unknown.  If we wish Christ to forgive us, we must strive to show the same forgiveness to the Pharisees.  We must love the Pharisee, as Jesus loves us.

 

I also recommend “Go Love a Pharisee” by Insanitybytes22.  This article focuses more on the hypocrisy of the Pharisee, but as you can tell by the title, draws the same conclusion.

Note(s):

*Jesus was fully human and fully divine.  I’m merely examining the human qualities of Jesus in this article.

** To my Jewish friends, some may take these references so many of us Christians make to the Pharisees the wrong way.  I know there’s a long history of self identified Christians taking the story of the crucifixion to blame the Jewish people and justify atrocities against the Jewish people.  But this is not the purpose of this story in the Gospels.  Our faith teaches that we ALL have crucified Him.  We say this on Palm Sunday.  Any who would use the story of the crucifixion to justify anti-semitism have corrupted our teachings.

*** Before find his way back, Dave Mustaine found it hard to believe that Jesus could truly be that forgiving, and in one of his first songs with Megadeth, “Looking Down The Cross”, Mustaine speculated that Jesus was internally condemning His crucifiers.  FYI, Mustaine later found his way, for Jesus loves the Heavy Metal singers too.

**** No offense to my Baptist brothers and sisters.  He was just one Baptist preacher of a rather small, but very loyal congregation.  But I do not see him as a reflection of Baptists in general.  In fact, my practice of referring to “brothers” and “sisters” I picked up from another Baptist I greatly admire, Dr. Cornell West.

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