Another post in my “Amazing Meetings” series: It’s about a meeting Jesus had with a Pharisee.
Sir, you had an interesting meeting with Jesus. I get the impression that you weren’t actually expecting it to be a good meeting. You’ve been described as a Pharisee. Can you please tell us what a Pharisee is?
Some people would call us a political party, others a religious sect. We see ourselves as the protectors and upholders of the Rabbinic law. Judaism as you know it depends on our faithfulness over the years to upholding the law.
In my reading of the Bible I get the impression the Pharisees weren’t too supportive of Jesus. Is that right?
You’re right there. The religious law was given to us by Moses and when people break that law or come up with their own forms of morality or religion our whole society is in danger of collapse.
So this meeting you had with Jesus was because you and your friends wanted to challenge him about the way he seemed to be a little loose in his interpretation of the law?
Loose? Man, we figured this guy was an out and out libertarian. The fourth commandment in the law Moses gave us was to observe the Sabbath Day and keep it holy. We developed all sorts of rules and regulations to make sure that this commandment was kept. But this day we spotted Jesus and his disciples walking through this paddock on the Sabbath Day plucking off the heads of grain and eating them.
So this was considered by you to be breaking the Sabbath law?
Well, not so much the rabbinic law, but we had very clear oral laws about the Sabbath. We considered what they were doing as harvesting. They were working on the Sabbath and we didn’t appreciate the way they seemed to be flaunting our authority.
It sounds like it wasn’t the breaking of the law that upset you. It was more to do with your authority being questioned?
Come on, let’s get on with this interview.
OK, what did Jesus say to you when you challenged him and his disciples for plucking grain and eating it on the Sabbath?
He mentioned the story we knew about King David, and how we went into the house of God and ate the holy bread . He even said it wasn’t lawful for David to do that, but he still used it as an example for why he and his disciples were breaking the Sabbath law.
Did you understand the significance of the story about David?
Yes, I did. He made sense. He didn’t excuse David for what he did. He still said it was unlawful, but he pointed out that David was hungry and I think what he was getting at was that there was another law at work here that was probably greater than Moses’ law.
What do you mean? did he explain himself?
Well, then he talked about the priests who work on the Sabbath. He had a point. Someone has to work on the Sabbath, and that’s what the priests did. We were able to get around the law for that one, so I guess we weren’t all that consistent. I suppose that’s the problem with being so fixed on law. If you’re not consistent on everything, you end up getting yourself pretty mixed up.
And was that all Jesus had to say?
He added that something greater than the temple was here. He said he desired mercy not sacrifice.
It sounds to me he was saying that the teachings of Jesus represented a new way of looking at the old law. The emphasis of the new approach was more about mercy than about following rules and regulations? Is that how you understand it?
Listen mate, I’m a Pharisee and my job is to uphold the law. Unfortunately, what Jesus said actually makes sense. It’s left me pretty confused. There’s no freedom or hope in the approach that I take, whereas Jesus and his friends seem to be so happy. Maybe there is something in Jesus teachings…
I agree, it’s worth investigating further.