January 19, 2022
Each day, I reflect upon a word or a phrase from the readings of the day. I encourage you to do the same and perhaps incorporate that word or phrase into your daily prayer.
Looking around at them (the Pharisees) with anger and grieved at their hardness of heart… (Mark 3:1-6)
HARDNESS OF HEART: Before we dismiss the Pharisees as unintelligent, radical, or simply anti-Jesus, I think it is important to understand their perspective.
Let’s begin with the recognition that the Pharisees were anything but unintelligent; they were the most learned of Jewish scholars. For hundreds of years, the Jewish people awaited the Messiah, a great Savior that would wipe evil from the face of the earth and take his rightful place as king.
And then along came Jesus. He attracted many followers and those followers believed Jesus may be the long-awaited Messiah. The Pharisees immediately wanted to shut that down – not because of the good things Jesus was doing, but because he didn’t fit the image of what they had in mind.
They believed the Messiah would come into Jerusalem on a white horse and an army of soldiers. They wanted him to defeat their enemies and put sinners to death. They pictured him as a mighty and powerful king that would reward the Pharisees for their faithful adherence to Jewish laws and customs.
However, Jesus did not fit the mold. He was not a warrior king. He was gentle and loving and compassionate. He did not put sinners to death; he ate with them and allowed them to be his followers. He didn’t even follow Jewish customs himself! How could he be the Messiah?
What angered Jesus was not the intelligence of the Pharisees or their strict adherence to Jewish law. He was angered by their hardened hearts. He was angered that they would not allow their hearts to be open to the possibility that their image of the Messiah was faulty.
He was angered that the Pharisees were more concerned with being right than they were in appreciating all that Jesus had to offer.
That’s our takeaway. Do we accept Jesus for what he is and what he offers to us? Do we appreciate the sacrifice he made for us and the many gifts he bestows on us?
Or do we accept only parts of Jesus? We like the kind and loving Jesus, but not the one that challenges us to live a life of holiness. We like the Jesus that forgives our sins, but not the one that challenges us to sin no more. We want to be loved unconditionally, but are not willing to love others in that same way.
Are we like the Pharisees? Do we only accept a Messiah that fits our image of what he should be? Do we just want to be right?