Friday, November 11, 2016

For the Love of Pharisees

The disciple who, in the Garden of Gethsemane, pulled his sword and slashed at the ear of the servant of the chief priests was guilty of the same fallacy that haunts us all - in his zealousness for his Lord, he failed to understand his brother.

He looked at the mob that had come to arrest this Man who had performed so many miracles, healed so many sick, taught so many elders, loved so many friends, called this band of brothers, and he saw only someone who was against all that he had come to understand of the world. He saw someone coming against him, not just against Jesus, because the way that this mob came after Him felt so very personal.

What he didn't see, or what he refused to see, was the very same zealousness in his brother. See, the Pharisees, for whatever bad rap they get in the Gospels, were not anti-Messiah. Quite the contrary - they were anxiously awaiting, as were all of the Jews, the coming of the Promised One. They were living with eyes wide open, as were all of the Jews, scanning the horizons for the embodiment of God's hope. They, too, longed for the fulfillment of God's Word. They just didn't see it in front of them.

And the Pharisees loved their people, as well. They come off as harsh and controlling and destructive, but their hearts were for the Jews. Their hearts were for the pure keeping of Jewish law, for they knew that it was the only way they had to righteousness and ritual purity. Their hearts were on getting their doctrine right. They burned with passion for their people Israel. They just didn't see that Jesus did, too.

For everything that the Pharisees failed to see in Jesus, the disciples failed to see almost the exact same things in the Pharisees. Yet, we are taught to believe that they were sworn enemies. We can't - we mustn't - think this way.

Because this is the trouble that we still face.

We have brothers and sisters all around us who share our burning passion for God, but who do not, necessarily, share our theology. They're looking for Jesus with a holy fire, but they just don't see Him the same way that we do in our flame. They're longing for hope, but they haven't found it yet. And we say to them how wrong they are. We say to them how condemned they are. We set ourselves up against them, believing they are against us, when nothing could truly be further from the truth. 

We're all just asking the same questions.

We're all asking the same questions, and some of us are more sure of the answer to day than others. Should we fault them for this? Of course not. But we do. All the time. The disciples looked at the crowd and saw a bunch of people who just didn't get it, and they saw nothing else. So the disciple drew his sword and put an end to the whisper. 

What if he didn't? What if, instead of condemning, he pulled his brother close and said, "Thank you"? Thank you for caring so much about purity. Thank you for longing for us to get it right. Thank you for praying fervently for the fulfillment of God's promise. Thank you for praying fervently for me. Thank you for asking, seeking, knocking. Thank you for aching for the very same things I ache for. Now, brother, may I respond to your aching? 

At this point, he uses one arm around his brother's shoulder to pull the Pharisee flush to his own side. With a steady finger, he motions in the direction of Jesus and whispers, "This is what you've been aching for." 

We can't be so naive as to think that the Pharisee, just at this, would have understood. We can't be so naive as to think that this is all it would take. But what good does it do to cut off a man's ear? What good does it do to take a swipe at him with a sword? You could argue, sure, that the Pharisee truly encountered Jesus that night when the Son of God reached out and healed his wounded ear. But does that mean we should go about wounding the world so that Jesus can heal them? As Paul emphatically repeats in Romans, by no means!

When the world is longing to hear from God, when they are fervently after Him with aching hearts, this is no time to damage their ears. Rather, we must lean in and become a whisper, starting with an acknowledgment not of what separates us, but of what joins us together.

Thank you, brother, even though I don't agree with you. Thank you. Now, let us look together and see what we may find, even in such a place as this.... 

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