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August 13, 2011
PLAINER WORDS ONLINE … THE PHARISEES – PART 6
The Colleges of Theology, in Israel, were managed and operated by the Pharisees. “Forgiveness” was not a doctrine advanced by these schools of divinity. Nor, was “forgiveness” part of the moral code followed by these paragons of virtue. This high sect of scholars were strict devotees of “The Tradition of the Elders.” This was the Law that they upheld. It had preeminence over the Law of Moses. During the New Testament times which concern us, at this time, we recognize that the “Oral Law” had not yet been committed to writing. It was, verbally, transmitted from the Teachers or Rabbis to the students.
The Sermon on the Mount was replete with instructive maxims and satirical aphorisms. These were not given to a closed company. But rather, as it was during His early ministry, the Lord Jesus spoke to multitudes. His audience, upon the Mount, was made up of publicans, “sinners,” priests, Sadducees, lawyers, scribes, and Pharisees. His Irony and Sarcasm were directed at the elite followers of the “Tradition of the Elders,” namely, the Pharisees.
The Pharisaical Doctrine of Forgiveness was bound up in the idea that they never forgave anyone who did not bow their knees to their Tradition. Once excommunicated, life, at best, became very hard.
The Lord emphasized the forgiving spirit in His “Sermon on the Mount” as a direct contradiction to the Pharisees’ doctrine of no forgiveness to those who were “cast out.” Notice what Christ said when He taught His Disciples:
“Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be Thy Name. … Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors… For if ye forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you: But if ye forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses” (Matthew 6:9, 11- 12, 14-15).
In the space of these verses, the Lord mentioned “forgive” six times. As far as the Pharisees and scribes were concerned, the word, “forgiveness,” was not in their canon. This is why He emphasized “forgiveness” in the Sermon on the Mount. The Lord “rubbed their noses in” their no-forgiveness doctrine.
“Forgive us our debts” primary meaning was “forgive us our sin-debt.” The Companion Bible’s note on Matthew 6:12 states, “our debt. Sin is so called because failure in this obligation involves expiation and satisfaction.” The debt and debtors, in the context, turn out to be “trespasses” (Matthew 6:14).
The Lord Jesus Christ spoke these words as Irony. These words did not, actually, present His “plan of salvation.” Christ spoke these words in sarcasm since Pharisaical Doctrine was not concerned with pardon or forgiveness. Is it any wonder that the Lord Jesus Christ sought out the “publicans” and “sinners?” The Pharisees were outraged that Jesus was receiving men whom they REJECTED and OSTRACIZED.
The Pharisees never sought a “sinner” and never brought one back to God. The “sinners” had no hope until John the Baptist began his ministry. When Jesus Christ announced “the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand,” then, He told His Disciples to go to those in Israel who were without hope of forgiveness. That was when the Pharisees really began to take notice.
No-one cared about the plight of the “sinners.” According to the Doctrine of the Pharisees, the “sinners” were “lost” and had no hope of forgiveness. But, the difference between Christ and the Pharisees was a stark contrast, for He told His Disciples …
“ … Go not into the way of the Gentiles, and into any city of the Samaritans enter ye not: But go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel” (Matthew 10:5-6).
The “lost sheep” were the “sinners,” the outcast-ones whom the Pharisees had ostracized. The “lost sheep” were not “lost” in the sense of modern evangelical terms. In the language of that day, the “lost” were those who had no hope, or expectation in Israel because of the censure of the Pharisees.
“For the Son of man is come to save that which was lost” (Matthew 18:11).
The “chief of the publicans,” in Jericho, was Zacchaeus. He was rich. However, the Pharisees branded him as a “sinner.” When “Jesus entered and passed through Jericho” (Luke 19:1), there was a throng waiting to see Him. The crowd was so great that Zacchaeus, who was small in stature, had to climb a tree in order to see Him when He passed by.
When Christ came to the place where the tree was, He looked up and said, “Zacchaeus, make haste, and come down; for to day I must abide at thy house” (Luke 19:5).
“And when they saw it, they all murmured [including the Pharisees], saying, That he was gone to be guest with a man that is a sinner. And Zacchaeus stood, and said unto the Lord; Behold, Lord, the half of my goods I give to the poor; and if I have taken any thing from any man by false accusation, I restore him fourfold. And Jesus said unto him, This day is salvation come to this house, forsomuch as he also is a son of Abraham. FOR THE SON OF MAN IS COME TO SEEK AND TO SAVE THAT WHICH WAS LOST” (Luke 19:7-10).
Previously, it was pointed out that the Pharisees branded anyone as a traitor who worked for the Romans, as did Zacchaeus. The Oral Law even condemned them, such as Zacchaeus, as not even being a Jew. But, notice that the Lord Jesus acknowledged that this Tax-Collector was “A SON OF ABRAHAM!” This acknowledgement was a repudiation of the Law of the Pharisees. What a great opportunity for the Pharisees to step forward and embrace Zacchaeus and issue him a formal pardon. They never had the idea of seeking and saving the “lost.”
THE SELF-RIGHTEOUS ALWAYS MURMUR
We read in Luke 15 that the publicans and “sinners” drew near in order to hear Him:
“Then drew near unto Him all the publicans and sinners for to hear Him. And the Pharisees and scribes murmured, saying, This man receiveth sinners, and eateth with them” (Luke 15:1-2).
The self-righteous Pharisees and scribes murmured; “murmured” is Strong’s NT #1234
“diagogguzo (dee-ag-ong-good'-zo); to complain throughout a crowd.” To our way of thinking, the Pharisees and scribes complained “in stage whispers” so the “lost sheep” could hear them mock Christ. Christ spoke the following parable to the self-righteous-murmuring scribes and Pharisees in Luke 15:3-7 (He spoke this parable in Matthew 18:12-14 under different circumstances):
THE PARABLE OF THE ONE LOST SHEEP
“And He spake this parable unto them, saying, What man of you, having an hundred sheep, if he lose one of them, doth not leave the ninety and nine in the wilderness, and go after that which is lost, until he find it? And when he hath found it, he layeth it on his shoulders, rejoicing. And when he cometh home, he calleth together his friends and neighbours, saying unto them, Rejoice with me; for I have found my sheep which was lost. I say unto you, that likewise joy shall be in heaven over one sinner that repenteth, more than over ninety and nine just persons, which need no repentance” (Luke 15:3-7).
The publican and the “sinner” are seen as having a place of greater importance, in the eyes of Christ, than a Pharisee or a scribe. Here, we read where one sheep is obviously “lost.” Whereas, in the different account in Matthew 18:12-4, the one sheep was “gone astray.” In this parable, we notice that Christ uses the rhetorical device of Irony.
This is an “Irony of Situation” in which the opposite of what is expected occurs. In this the unexpected is—the shepherd goes after the one “lost sheep.” The Irony is that the unexpected happens, because a good shepherd would not leave his helpless flock of 99 sheep alone in the wilderness until he finds the “lost” one. The Irony of this parable is the fact; the Shepherd [who is Christ] and the “lost sheep” is an outcast Jew—a “sinner”—one who is lost with no hope of pardon, or forgiveness in the life of Israel. The Irony is that the shepherd goes after the lost sheep and finds it—the sheep is saved! In this story, the 99 who were left alone were the Pharisees who, in their eyes, were righteous and in no need of help. Especially, no need of help from this “Sinner” called Jesus of Nazareth—who was born of fornication, according to the Pharisees (John 8:41).
The Pharisees were more keenly aware to what Christ meant than most 21st Century Bible believing Christians. Let it be said that “Irony” is a form of speech where the surface meaning is different from that which was intended by the speaker. The Irony in the One Lost Sheep Parable is the opposition between the overt sense of the words, spoken, and the intended meaning. Most of those present, then, did not get the significance of what Christ really meant, just as many Bible advocates of today −− “do not get it.”
Set forth here, the scribes and Pharisees (supposedly, the “just” persons) should have been overjoyed over the saving of one publican or “sinner,” even as the heavenly hosts rejoiced. Instead, they held themselves aloof. In Israel’s “caste system,” it would be inappropriate for them to rejoice when an outcast was reinstated and became one of them.
The Pharisees were “just” in their own eyes. The Lord, in this ironic account, certainly did not suggest they were “just.” The beauty of Irony is you can say one thing, but mean another. An understanding of this parable shows that Christ was explaining that God was pleased to call the “sinners” to repentance. Upon a “sinner’s” repentance, according to the parable, there is rejoicing in heaven. This was to bring shame to the Pharisees.
They never sought a “sinner.” Therefore, they never brought one back to God. According to the Doctrine of the Pharisees (which was really “leaven”), there was a great chasm that existed between the Pharisees and the “sinners,” and no-one dared to cross-over for the fear of the Pharisees. This irrevocable separation was maintained by the teaching of the “Oral Law.” The Lord Jesus Christ ignored their caste system and went to the aid of the “lost.”
This fact aroused the Pharisees’ bitter hatred because they, simply, could not tolerate anyone who would “step-over-the-line” in order to alleviate the harsh punishment imposed upon the “outcast.”
While they never allowed a “sinner” a place for repentance, the Pharisees would expend an untold amount of energy and money to make one convert to their “religion.” Knowing this, the Lord Jesus Christ pronounced the following “Woe” upon them and their converts.
“WOE unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye compass sea and land to make one proselyte, and when he is made, ye make him twofold more the child of hell [Gehenna] than yourselves” (Matthew 23:15).
What a Friend the “sinners” had in Jesus!
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From Plainer Words
The Pharisees - Part 6
Posted in: 2011
By Tom L. Ballinger
Aug 15, 2011 - 11:51:49 AM
Aug 15, 2011 - 11:51:49 AM
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