Jesus and The Pharisees

Lately every time I read the book of John, (and I’ve been doing it a lot), I see Jesus seriously headbutting the Pharisees and the religious system of his time.

I thought maybe it was just me and my own disdain for pharisaism that was shaping what I see, but I’m not sure that’s it any more. Over the first 10 chapters of the book Jesus just seems to be in constant conflict with them and at times he is vitriolic in his critique. In fact Jesus is hardly ever gentle and understanding in these conversations / confrontations.

Its been a while since I have read John in great depth, but I have been deeply impacted by how strong Jesus’ opposition to them is and how hard he goes at them. I’ve found myself wanting to focus on something else in my teaching, but its hard to avoid the dominance of this group if you approach the book systematically.

Over the last week I came to the conclusion that maybe we just need to face the significance of Jesus’ concern and recognise that all of our communities are inherently prone to head in this direction if we lose touch with the gospel of grace and with our own identity. Perhaps Jesus hits this so hard is because it is so deeply a part of a fallen human psyche to make rules and then beat people into submission with them, or to want to control others in the name of God.

You certainly couldn’t say we no longer do that as churches…

In all of that I am aware of my own inner Pharisee who sometimes creeps up and bites me on the butt. Hypocrisy and self righteousness can be hard to shake unless we live in communities where authenticity is permitted and where failure is not seen as the end of the world. If we aren’t allowed to be real then the only option we have is that of pretense followed by grappling with the inner demons of deception that remind us of who we really are.

I have been reminded again that for us to be any use at all as a community we must start by acknowledging that we are broken, messed up people and while we are created in God’s image we so easily veer away from there.

I am starting to wonder if one of the biggest assets a Christian community can have is authenticity and then one of the most serious cancers would be pretense. No great surprise there, but perhaps the question that arises is why (if we know this) we still don’t do it more fluently.

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