The Pharisees actually weren’t the horrible people we might make them out to be in comparison to us today. They were striving to hold their society to Biblical standards in an ever changing world.
However, they were doing this through politics and force. They were well versed in the scriptures and knew well there would be a Messiah coming from the line of David. Jesus didn’t fit the bill for the conqueror they were expecting, one who would put all those sinful heathens in their place once and for all and establish Christians Israel as the dominant force in the world.
The Messiah that came brought a message of love. He taught that the Kingdom was open to everyone, and that the gatekeepers were the ones who weren’t allowing people in (Matt 23:14). In fact, even though they were teaching the Law, they were making converts twice the sons of Gehenna as they were (Matt 23:15). Ouch.
Are we still missing the point?
Are we still insisting on politics and law as the way to be a Christian?
What if we focused on loving our enemies like Jesus taught us (Matt 5:44), even if it costs us our life? Maybe then the political spectrum would begin to change because of us showing Jesus’ love. If we insist on doing it by political means, then we have to play by worldly rules. This alienates us from what Jesus taught and defiles our message to the rest of the world. If anyone is to blame for the state of the world, it’s Christians that refuse to be the salt and light. We can’t serve two masters….
Jesus had some harsh words for the Pharisees, but it was because he loved them and was trying to break through the callous exterior of stubborn religion they had erected around their hearts. For some, like Nicodemus, it seems to have worked to an extent. Others continued as they had always done and riled the other Israelites to rebellion.
Is that our goal? To rile Christians to rebellion? Is that what Jesus taught? Take a look at what happened to their rebellion in 70 AD. Is that the direction we want to go? Is this the same hateful stubbornness that we’re heading for? It seems history is starting to repeat again and we refuse to learn the lessons relayed by our own religious text.