Day Five (Continues)
The Illegal Trial Of Jesus Christ
The Hypocritical Pharisees
Ms Suzy, Jurist in this courtroom:
Tradition and custom filled a large place in the so-called "religious" life of the Pharisees.
They boasted of superior knowledge and observance of the laws of Moses, according to their own interpretations, which were known as the oral laws of that day and time.
They were called the "separated people," and were known to burn the proverbial midnight oil, studying and examining the ancient and musty scrolls and documents upon which were written the early Jewish laws.
Therefore, they claimed to be the sole custodians of the oral laws and traditions, and demanded strict compliance of them, claiming the origin with Moses on Mount Sinai.
The Pharisees taught that fasting for long seasons, with mournful countenances, was most pleasing in the sight of God.
With them it was a great sacrilege and crime for one to partake of a single meal without having first washed his hands to the elbows; and they never failed to condemn any person found to be ignoring that tradition of theirs.
Of all the people ever to inhabit this earth, since the time of Adam and Eve, to the present day, there has never been a more egotistical and thoroughly hypocritical group!
They were haughty, narrow-minded, overbearing, self-satisfied, and strong in their belief that they, alone, were infallible, impeccable, and better than all the rest-including the Christ!
One could easily recognize them anywhere, for they invariably wore the loudest colored, flowing robes with enormous hems, so as to attract others by their presence.
Loud and long were their prayers in public places, as they sought to impress the bystanders with their pretended righteousness and false piety!
Moreover, they were quick to sharply condemn and criticize all who failed to do the things which they preached and taught, but did not themselves practice.
Their list contained a very limited number of things which one must do, but set forth hundreds of acts which were by them condemned as unlawful, and contrary to tradition and custom!
This explains their persistence in regarding Jesus, with His great message of brotherly love and eternal salvation, as an enemy of their society and their school of thought. Their harboring of malice toward Jesus came, primarily, because of divergence of teachings and thinking.
They could never approve of what Jesus had ever said or done. They would never follow His leadership, because He brushed aside, as being of no consequence, the countless, absurd traditional practices to which they clung with abiding devotion and unswerving faith.
As one checks the record of their activities, they were ever-ready to embarrass the Master, if they could, by seeking to entrap Him with questions which they never dreamed He could either explain, or prove false and absurd.
But, to be sure, their pusillanimous conduct and patient hypocrisy was well known to Jesus, for He could and did read their minds.
They did not fool Him with their repeated acts of great piety and pretended reverence for Godly things!
So keen was His knowledge of their perfidy, that He once said of them, in their presence and hearing:
"The scribes and Pharisees sit in Moses seat. All, therefore, whatsoever they bid you to observe, that observe and do; but do not ye after their works; for they say and do not."
Jesus never wasted any time to argue with them concerning the superficial matter of how thoroughly one should wash his hands and arms before eating; for such was not in any manner related, even momentarily, or remotely, with the kind of religion He taught them to observe and practice.
Jesus made no effort to restrain Himself as He pointed out the absurdity of their devotion to old customs and traditions. Once He told them this:
"Ye have made the commandments of God of none effect by your traditions...teaching for doctrines the commandments of Men."
In other words, the Master said that they thought more of their traditions than of the commandments of God; and that, instead of teaching that one should obey God's commandments, they taught that their substituted commandments, based on those traditions, were superior!
With Jesus it was a matter of deciding which is more important: human traditions and customs or the commandments of God?
Knowing of the shallowness of their false teachings, and that their pitiful efforts at leadership were without any real substance, He expressed His disgust by telling them:
"Let them alone. They be blind leaders of the blind. And if the blind lead the blind, both fall into the ditch."
What a spectacle: The blind leading the blind- until both fell into a ditch! Indeed, the Lowly Nazarene seemed to delight in exposing them to their ignorant followers. Here is another pointed observation the Master made, in their presence, about their conduct:
"But all their works they do for to be seen of men: they make broad their phylacteries, and enlarge the borders of their garments; and love the uppermost rooms at the feasts, and their chief seats in the synagogues, and greetings in the markets, to be called of men, Rabbi, Rabbi!"
Then listen to this courageous tongue-lashing from the Master as He points the finger of guilt into the countenances of those Pharisees:
"Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For ye devour widow's homes, and for a pretense make long prayer: therefore, ye shall receive the greater condemnation. Woe unto you, ye blind guides, which say: Whosoever shall swear by the temple, it is nothing, but whosoever shall swear by the gold of the temple, he is debtor.
"Ye blind guides, which strain at a gnat and swallow a camel.
"Even so ye also outwardly appear righteous unto men, but within, ye are full of hypocrisy and iniquity!
"Ye serpents, ye generation of vipers! How can ye escape the damnation of hell!"
No one, before the era of the Christ, had dared to call the hands of the Pharisees and show them up, in the public places, for what they really were. With the Master there was no middle-ground, no compromise with false piety, hypocrisy or sin. He exposed it and He fought it wherever He found it!
And certainly the better-than-thou Pharisees were to be no exception!
The condemnation of the Pharisees by Jesus came as a consequence of their known efforts to ask Him many questions, all in the hope that, by His answers, they would be able to sustain some criminal charge in the Jewish courts, and thus terminate His great ministry.
Were the Pharisees in good faith when they sought to entrap Him into stating that it was unlawful to continue paying tribute money to Caesar? Certainly not! They hoped that a charge of sedition could be lodged against Him as a result of their inquiries.
Let us turn to the New Testament, and see what took place on the occasion in question, involving this matter of paying tribute to the Roman Emperor:
"Then went the Pharisees, and took counsel how they might entangle Him in His talk. And they sent out unto him their disciples, with the Herodians, saying: Master, we know that thou art true, and teachest the way of God in truth, neither carest Thou for any man; for Thou regardest not the person of men. Tell us, therefore, what thinkest Thou? Is it lawful to give tribute unto Caesar, or not?"
Listen to these hypocrites, calling Christ their "Master," and telling Him that they know He teaches the way of God in truth. Trying to play egotism-with their barefaced lies!
Of course, if Jesus had replied that, in His opinion, it would not be lawful nor necessary to continue paying tribute to the Emperor, Caesar, even though a vast majority of the Jews secretly felt that the requirement was unfair and unjust, they would have then charged Him with preaching a doctrine contrary to the Roman government's laws respecting the tribute money.
Surely they then would be able to prove that the Christ was blocking the efforts of the Romans to collect their burdensome taxes from the Hebrews, and thus succeed in destroying Him.
But the Master was too smart for them. He readily sensed that they were not sincere in making such an inquiry; and, perceiving their wickedness, and lack of good faith, He replied:
"Why tempt Me, ye hypocrites? Show Me the tribute money!"
Ignoring the charge that they were "hypocrites," one of the motley crew quickly produced a penny, handing it to Jesus, as He directed.
"And He said unto them: "Whose is this image and superscription? They replied: It is Caesar's."
Jesus then answered them in such a manner that they could find no offense, when He said:
"Render unto Caesar the things which are Caesar's; unto God the things that are God's."
And when they had heard those words, they marveled, and left Him, and went their way. Another pitiful attempt to trap Jesus was, like all the rest, to no avail.
While it must be admitted that the Pharisees were among the bitterest enemies of the Christ, it can also be admitted that the Christ, with full justification, had no respect of, nor love for them!
Having been truthfully accused of being hypocrites; a generation of vipers; robbers of widow's homes; blind leaders of the blind; men who, for a pretense, make long prayer, and wear loud-colored garments to be seen of men, and serpents who cannot escape the damnation of hell-they readily co-operated with His other enemies, to the end that He might be soon destroyed-upon Calvary's cross!