Sunday, February 24, 2013

Maybe Pharisees Weren't All That Bad

Or at least that is the impression I got from the first sentence in today's Gospel reading from Luke 13:31-35,
At that very hour some Pharisees came and said to him, ‘Get away from here, for Herod wants to kill you.’ He said to them, ‘Go and tell that fox for me, “Listen, I am casting out demons and performing cures today and tomorrow, and on the third day I finish my work. Yet today, tomorrow, and the next day I must be on my way, because it is impossible for a prophet to be killed away from Jerusalem.” Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it! How often have I desired to gather your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you were not willing! See, your house is left to you. And I tell you, you will not see me until the time comes when you say, “Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord.” ’
Those Pharisees appear to be looking out for Jesus. Of course, they might have just been wanting Jesus to leave town because he was getting under their skin, but that might be my predjudice speaking. I must admit that when I was growing up, Pharisees got a bad rap, and things haven't really changed much for the better since "pharisaical" is still considered a pejorative term. Merriam-Webster on-line defines it as,
"marked by hypocritical censorious self-righteousness."
This probably comes from the picture painted in Matthew 23:1-7
Then Jesus said to the crowds and to his disciples, "‘The scribes and the Pharisees sit on Moses’ seat; therefore, do whatever they teach you and follow it; but do not do as they do, for they do not practise what they teach. They tie up heavy burdens, hard to bear, and lay them on the shoulders of others; but they themselves are unwilling to lift a finger to move them. They do all their deeds to be seen by others; for they make their phylacteries broad and their fringes long. They love to have the place of honour at banquets and the best seats in the synagogues, and to be greeted with respect in the market-places, and to have people call them rabbi."
Kinda hard to defend those particular Pharisees, but maybe they weren't all that bad. Who knows, some day broad phylacteries might come back into fashion.

or maybe not...

On second thought, I wonder if Matthew 23 might say something about our own peculiar forms of religious fashion.

Do not do as they do... for they make their miters bright and their cassocks long so that people might call them bishop...

For more discussion, check out Ken Collins' page: "Jesus Endorses the Pharisees" or from a Mormon perspective, Donna Neilsen's "The Good Pharisees" at "Connections".

No comments:

Post a Comment