Jesus, The One and Only

Posts tagged ‘Pharisee’

“Seen at the Time”

Read Acts 7:54-8:1

“They threw [Stephen] out of the city and began to stone him.  And the witnesses laid their robes at the feet of a young man named Saul.” (vs. 58)

You know sometimes I just would love to skim over stories like this.  The bible is not explicit with every single detail, we don’t have all the answers and we sure aren’t God to know all the reasons behind the whys. 

“But Stephen, full of the Holy Spirit, looked up to heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God. “Look,” he said, “I see heaven open and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God.” (vs. 55-56 NIV)  This part I do love!

Can you imagine!  What revelation! What vision! Stephen who was hated so much and yet so “full of the Holy Spirit” that when he looked up he saw heaven open and Jesus standing at the right hand of God.  If there is any consolation to this story at all for me, it would be that God unveiled his eyes to see this vision right before he was going to die.

“At this they covered their ears and, yelling at the top of their voices; they all rushed at him, dragged him out of the city and began to stone him. Meanwhile, the witnesses laid their coats at the feet of a young man named Saul.”(vs. 57-58 NIV)

Beth states this is the first Saul’s name is mentioned.  Saul was a bystander in this passage, but he cheered the others on in the stoning of Stephen.  Remember we’ve been reading he was a Pharisee and lived the letter of the law.  Saul persecuted the followers of Jesus.  

“As Jesus watched, He didn’t miss a single nod of Saul’s phylacteried head.  Remember, Christ was up on His feet at the time.  Can you imagine the alloy of emotions He must have experienced as He looked on the two key players in the kingdom that day?

  • One covered in blood; the other covered by prayer shawls.
  • One who could not save himself from men; the other who could not save himself from sin.
  • One dead in the body but alive in spirit; the other alive in body but dead in spirit.
  • One loved by God; and the other loved by God. Grace, grace, God’s grace.(1)

Vicky

A prayer for all of you … 

When you are in difficult trials, I hope that you will lift your head and

“look up to heaven and see the glory of God”.

(1) Paul, 90 Days of His Journey of Faith/Beth Moore/B&H Publishing

“Soul Strangulation”

Read Philippians 3:2-11

“A Hebrew born of Hebrews; as to the law, a Pharisee; as zeal, persecuting the church; as to the righteousness that is in the law, blameless” (vs. 5-6 NIV)

“I believe Saul had set sail to Jerusalem as a young adolescent with a pure heart; but somewhere along the way the negative influences outweighed the positive, and his purity began to erode.  The law became his god.  That’s what happens when you take the love out of obedience.  The result is the law.  Without love for God and His Word, we’re just trying to be good.  Nothing will wear you out faster.”(1)

“In Phil. 3:6, Saul said his zeal was so great that he persecuted the church, and that this legalistic righteousness was ‘blameless’”(2)  Blameless in that he thought he was so right that he couldn’t be wrong?

“His entire day was filled with ritual, and at night he took off his shoes and garments in the prescribed order.’ ‘These daily rituals paled in comparison to all the laws regarding the Sabbath.  Restrictions existed from almost everything’ … from cutting his fingernails to burning them, ‘avoiding spitting in a place where the wind could scatter the saliva so he would not break laws concerning sowing on the Sabbath. The first century Jew became so obsessed with identity boundaries that they forgot their purpose. They argued endlessly about washing hands or observing the Sabbath, but they forgot about loving God.’”(3)

“Saul was strangled by the letter of the law.  He tried to keep all the outward acts of obedience while his heart slowly eroded. Saul gradually became the model for Isaiah 29:13: ‘These people approach Me with their mouths to honor Me with lip-service, yet their hearts are far from Me, and their worship consists of man-made rules learned by rote.’ Inevitably, Saul’s faraway heart would turn to faraway actions.”(4)

Does this feel like freedom or bondage?  It sounds so much like some one who is trying so hard to do their very best to be the right person ALL THE TIME, to do the right thing ALL THE TIME, to be everything that you could be ALL THE TIME … but how can that even be possible? Sounds like the inevitable circle of “perfection” of trying to please with outward expressions but for what reason?  Where’s the heart?  Read the first paragraph again.

“If you could summarize your life in a few short lines and thoughts, what are some of the words you would use?  Assuming that some of your answers reveal a few mistakes and regrets, how do you wish your life could be summarized? (5)

Vicky

“Oh God forgive us when we act like modern-day Pharisees.  Convict us at the very moment of our departure from the law of love You have written on our hearts.  Give us hearts of devotion, not heads full of religion.” (6)

(1-6) Paul, 90 Days of His Journey of Faith/Beth Moore/B&H Publishing

“You Don’t Mean It”

Read Mathew 23:1-36 “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! You clean the outside of the cup and dish, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence!” (vs. 25)

OUCH! Rephrased …“You look good on the outside, but on the inside you are full of greed and selfishness!”  They didn’t practice what they preached.  They would say one thing, but not mean it.  They would pretend to be this or that for selfish motives.  Jesus isn’t messing around with these verses.

“Soon after Saul finished his education in Jerusalem and presumably headed back to Tarsus, John the Baptist began to “prepare the way for the Lord” (Math. 3:3) In no time at all, Jesus was on the scene, teaching the same synagogue where Saul had recently stood.”(1)  Saul had great leaders like Gamaliel but there were other influences. The Pharisees and members of the Sanhedrin were some of Saul’s teachers and classmates.  These were the groups Jesus is referring to in the scripture reference above.

“The term Pharisee was meant to represent genuine piety and deep devotion to God.  Although exceptions certainly existed among the Pharisees, in the days of Jesus and Saul the term had become synonymous with hypocrisy and cynicism.”(2)

As you read through the scripture, there are 7 “Woes” and references to being hypocrites and then Jesus refers to them as snakes! Beth points out some of the ways they were hypercritical (3):

  • They made demands of others that they themselves didn’t keep - “They tie up heavy, cumbersome loads and put them on other people’s shoulders, but they themselves are not willing to lift a finger to move them.” (vs. 4)
  • They made their religious actions into show to impress others - “Everything they do is done for people to see…” (Vs. 5)
  • They loved to be the center of attention – “they love the place of honor at banquets and the most important seats in the synagogues” (Vs. 6)
  • They loved their titles – “they love to be greeted with respect in the marketplaces and to be called ‘Rabbi’ by others” (Vs. 7)
  • They wouldn’t be allowed into the kingdom of God, but they prevented others from entering – “You shut the door of the kingdom of heaven in people’s faces. You yourselves do not enter, nor will you let those enter who are trying to.” (Vs. 13)

Hypocrites, blind guides, blind fools, blind men, snakes, brood of vipers!  OUCH! Do you see a pattern… they were “blind”… they judged only by “the law” and lived their lives reflecting an outward appearance to impress others. Their hearts may have become calloused as well. Jesus was standing right there in front of them but they didn’t recognize Him or what He was bringing them.  The Jews were looking for someone to save them, they were looking for someone to set up their kingdom, and they never thought that He would have been “the carpenter’s son”. 

How do you respond to hypocrisy?  Have there been times that you have been disillusioned by Christians … Others … Yourself?  How do you respond?

May I never get so full of myself that I forget to whom I belong!

Vicky

(1-3) Paul, 90 Days in His Journey of Faith/Beth Moore/B&H Publishing

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