The Pharisees were religious leaders during the times of Jesus. They knew and strictly followed the laws of Moses, bit they denied Jesus as the son of God and the Messiah. Looking at the church of today, me included, I really doubt whether most of us would have acted any different. In the book of John it is clearly recorded how Jesus talked about his body and his blood.
John 6:53 Jesus said to them, “Very truly I tell you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood you have no life in you.”
In this scripture Jesus was talking figuratively, but that alone made many who had started believing in Him turn back to their old ways. This is recorded in John 6:7. In today’s church there are some men of God who could come with much anointed messages from God, but since it is not what we are used to, or it looks as strange as the words Jesus spoke to His disciples, then we might end up not believing.
The phrases had read the scriptures and they were eagerly waiting for the Messiah. However when he came they could not recognize him. One Jesus came as a humble man, yet they expected a warrior who would fight their enemies. They also knew from the scriptures that Jesus would come from Bethlehem from the prophets of the Old Testament. It is recorded in the book of John, how some of the phrases asked Nicodemus (the Pharisee who went to visit Jesus at night) to confirm from the scriptures how a prophet could not have come from Galilee. Looking at it, it took revelation to realize that Jesus actually came from Bethlehem.
John 5: 39- 40 you study the scriptures diligently because you think that in them you have eternal life. These are the very scriptures that testify about me, yet you refuse to come to me to have life.
It is easy to read the scriptures and not really get revelation. This scripture just shows how one can be consumed by knowing the word of God, but never getting to know the God of that word. It is easy to memorize scripture but the word does not have an impact in your life. This does not mean that we should not study the scriptures diligently, it means that as we study we should ask God to reveal to us the mysteries in His word. Jesus would tell the crowds that followed Him, God’s word in parables, but later he would sit with His disciples who upon asking He would explain the parables, and their spiritual meaning. We should therefore do the same, ask God for revelation on His word. It does not mean that we should not memorize the word of God, we should however let the word of God speak to our lives first then we can memorize it that at the time of need the Holy Spirit can remind us the scriptures.
Looking at the Pharisees they had many traditions, one example is how they could not eat without washing hands. This is simple hygiene, but at the time this had become a law that was religiously followed. If one did not wash their hands before eating it felt like sin. Today most churches if not all, have traditions that are not necessarily scriptural, but which are religiously followed. Some are based on the way of dressing, how to do praise and worship, how to conduct oneself in the church etc. It is easy for this man made traditions to be made spiritual, such that if one does not follow them they look like sinners. They could even become more important to us than the true doctrine.
We have an example of Saul before he became Paul. Saul tortured the Christians, in the name of serving God. He believed that the Christians were in the wrong, and he could not stand it. This happened before Jesus appeared to him and changed him to Paul. I wonder how many of us may have tortured true believers, socially, emotionally verbally etc. in the name of serving God. You might not have done it yourself, but I bet you have heard someone criticize another believer just because they do not do things the way they do them. The scriptures say that be careful that you do not find yourself fighting against God. It is okay to rebuke other believers in love, even Paul did it in the scriptures, it is okay to identify false teachers and false prophets, but it takes God’s intervention and revelation to know those who are His and those who are not. It is therefore wise to ask God to give you a clarity about various issues before you talk and fight in ignorance.
Above are just a few examples of how we as the church might have transformed from being true disciples to being Pharisees. My plea to you and I is to ask God to help us not to get religious. Religion is very dangerous for the body of Christ, yet it is so easy for one to become religious thinking they are getting more spiritual. Church let’s be careful. The Kingdom of God is righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Ghost, let’s strive to be as per the kingdom we claim to be ambassadors of. Be blessed.