Free Indeed – My Daily Bread!
The grace to desire God is taken from His Word in John 12:42-43 which tells us: “Nevertheless even among the rulers many believed in Him, but because of the Pharisees, they did not confess him, lest they should be put out of the synagogue; for they loved the praise of men more than the praise of God.”
The scripture above explores the importance of picking good role models as we journey toward eternity and the consequences of focusing on the wrong people and or concerns. In the passage above, we are confronted with the response of some Jewish religious leaders while Christ was on earth. They had been eye witnesses in most cases to His miracles and teaching, but in the end, although they believed, they did not confess Christ for fear of losing their prominent positions in the synagogue and the esteem of other men.
What was it about these leaders, the synagogue and the ‘praise of men’ they so desired that ultimately lead to their rejection of the Messiah? To understand this, we must learn a little bit about the Pharisees, the people they looked to please more than Jesus. The Pharisees were religious leaders in the Jewish society at the time of Jesus. They believed in strict observance of the law and Jewish oral tradition and frowned down upon mixing with the Roman culture which ruled Jerusalem during that time.
The Pharisees were also the leaders in the local synagogues; which were meeting places in the Jewish communities that are believed to have sprung up at the time of the Jews captivity in Babylon. They were centers of worship and fellowship where scripture was taught and read, and where matters of Jewish law were settled. They were the center of Jewish life so much so that Jesus (Luke 4:16-21) and Paul (Acts 13:5; 14:1) actually read the Scripture and taught the gospel message in the synagogues. With the influence of the synagogue in the life of the Jews, some of the religious leaders feared being thrown out of the synagogue by the Pharisees.
The Pharisees opposed Jesus and were particularly appalled at his acts of healing people on the Sabbath and his claims of being the Son of God. Jesus had many harsh words for them as well. He perceived them to be concerned about their outward appearance to others, while having a corrupt heart. Luke 11: 37-53 records Jesus accusations against them and those who supported them in the synagogue when he said:
- “you Pharisees clean the outside of the cup and dish, but inside you are full of greed and wickedness” (when they expressed chagrin at Jesus because he did not wash his hands before a meal – concern about washing the outside but not the inside);
- “because you give God a tenth of your mint, rue and all other kinds of garden herbs, but you neglect justice and the love of God”; (concerned with weighing herbs to be handed over to God but not concerned with weighing out God’s justice and love for his people)
- “because you love the most important seats in the synagogue and meetings in the marketplaces”; (loved praise and attention from others)
- “because you load people down with burdens they can hardly carry and you yourself will not lift one finger to help them”; (the burdens refer to the other laws that the Pharisees had added to God’s law, for example to the law “Remember the Sabbath”, they had added laws about how far a person could walk on the Sabbath and which kinds of knots could be tied. They charged Jesus with healing a person on the Sabbath as something unlawful, but allowed for the rescue of an animal. Breaking these instructions was on par with breaking God’s law in their eyes)
- and the most damming accusation “because you have taken away the key to knowledge. You yourselves have not entered, and you have hindered those who were entering.” (they did not accept the truth of Jesus and actively prevented others from believing as well)
However, the Bible does tell us that some Pharisees were converted believers in the Jerusalem Church, so not all were like the ones Jesus referred to in the passage above. In the end, Jesus called the ones in this passage hypocrites, and just like us today when confronted with our sin we will do either one of two things: (1) get right or (2) get worse. Well they chose to get worse and conspired to have Jesus killed.
The religious leaders, who believed but did not choose to follow Christ, desired to be associated with the Pharisees, men who were opposed to Jesus and what He stood for. They wanted to be considered important and have their acts praised by other men. They could not conceive of letting go of what defined who they were – their place in the synagogue. In the end they let themselves be robbed of their salvation in Christ, the true treasure of God.
There is a bit of a ‘Pharisee‘ in each one of us. This occurs when we mistakenly uphold tradition, customs, structural institutions and legal requirements for obeying God. Paul cautions us saying: “see to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the basic principles of this world rather than on Christ.’ (Colossians 2:8)
Today Saints we need to be careful that we do not favor the religious traditions of men more than the commands of God; thereby undermining the importance of desiring God. Do not let others weigh your faith down with things that God does not command in His Word. Let Christ be your role model Fix your eyes on the Savior who emptied himself that you might be free, yes free indeed!
Copyright© 2011 Colleen Holton All Rights Reserved.