The Thing about Pharisees
by Britney Baer
It has stuck with me that when Jesus showed up in Nazareth, they refused him. He arrives on the scene, enters their town, their streets, their lives, and they say “thanks but no thanks” and also a little of “…, you crazy homeless guy.”
Contrast that to what I just read in Matthew 15 where Jesus goes away and hikes up a mountain and just “sat down there.” (Maybe I’m just imagining things here, but Jesus is such a baller*. He just oozes confidence. He’s like the 1st century Jew version of the Most Interesting Man in the World, without the Dos Equis.) Anyways, he travels up the mountain and takes a seat and great crowds follow him.
Unlike the way it happened in Nazareth, these people have sought him out, chased him up a mountain carrying their lame, blind, mute and crippled.
They are seeking miracles.
And they receive them, which is awesome. They put them at his feet and healed him. For three days, he performs miracles among the people.
Then he goes into a new region where he is approached by Pharisees and Sadducees. They have come to test him, to ask him for a sign from heaven.
They are seeking miracles, but this one plays out differently.
Jesus says, “An evil and adulterous generation seeks for a sign, but no sign will be given to it except the sign of Jonah.”
Basically… No. And he left.
Its worth mentioning that after Jesus spent three days with the crowds on the mountain performing miracles, he says, “I have compassion on this crowd because they have been with me for three days with nothing to eat. I am unwilling to send them away.” He is actually worried that they might faint from hunger. So again, he feeds the people supernaturally with a few loaves and fish.
I have to admit, I’ve been a Christian for ten years and I didn’t realize he did this same thing twice.
But, it’s such a difference, isn’t it? Between the religious leaders and the crowds?
The people on the mountain spend three incredible days with Jesus in which they get to see their mute speaking, their lame walking, the crippled healthy and the blind seeing. They are full of wonder and glorifying the God of Israel.
They are also exhausted, sleeping on the ground without so much as an REI tent, and not eating.
But they have heard the testimonies and seen his power so they are willing to do whatever it takes to be the next in line. To do lay their burdens at the feet of Jesus.
And then there’s the Pharisees and the Sadducees who have also heard tell of Jesus and his “abilities.” They hear he is nearby and they seek him out, too. They approach him so that they can test him.
They stroll onto the scene in their fancy robes (or whatever nice things Pharisees and Sadducees wore, I’m not really sure) and full bellies and suspicious hearts. And they say, “Go ahead, Jesus. Let’s see what you can do.”
And Jesus, of course, knows how very different it is because he says, “You must be crazy if you think you’re gonna see something special right now. Peace out.” And he leaves, telling his disciples on the way out, “Beware of them.”
Because here’s thing about Pharisees: they ask the same questions, say the right things, appear to be seeking the same God. But it’s a satisfied comfort, spiced with a desire for control and a subtle lust for some kind of power, that drives their religion—not brokenness.
They are not coming to Jesus because they are blind, crippled, broken, and want to be healed. (Even though Jesus says, in their hearts, they are sicker and blinder than anyone.) They aren’t about to be exhausted for him. Hungry, stretched, far from home with nothing to sustain you but the hope that Jesus is here and he might meet your needs. Their hearts and the hearts of the people are different.
So when I come to Jesus, when I approach him, I want to remember the difference.
I want to remember that sometimes I must be willing to carry my burdens further than I think I can, but Jesus will receive them.
Sometimes I must wait for longer than I like, but meanwhile still full of wonder at what Jesus is doing all around me.
And sometimes the hunger in my belly might drive me to the point of faint, but Jesus knows -he knows- and he is unwilling to ever send me away.
*Jesus was living large and Britney gives us a new word for the week!
Britney is wife to a handsome, bearded, pilot-turned-engineer husband and mother to a wild and wonderful four year old daughter. She blogs about the wanderings of her heart and little tribe at Bare Tribe Blog. (www.baretribe.blogspot.com) You can find her on Twitter at @BareTribe and on Instagram at @tatanzambe.