Dealing with the Pharisee in us – Mark 2:23-28

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We are continuing with our passage from Mark and today we will look at chapter 2:23-28.

One Sabbath he was going through the grain fields, and as they made their way, his disciples began to pluck heads of grain. And the Pharisees were saying to him, “Look, why are they doing what is not lawful on the Sabbath?” And he said to them, “Have you never read what David did, when he was in need and was hungry, he and those who were with him: how he entered the house of God, in the time of Abiathar the high priest, and ate the bread of the Presence, which it is not lawful for any but the priests to eat, and also gave it to those who were with him?” And he said to them, “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath. So the Son of Man is lord even of the Sabbath.”

Just like the issue with the fasting that we looked at last week, again in this passage we see how the Pharisees try to impose their way of interpreting the commandment regarding Sabbath.

Here we see … On the day of Sabbath Jesus was going through the grain fields, and as they made their way, his disciples began to pluck heads of grain (probably because they were hungry and wanted to eat) and the Pharisees asked Jesus “Why are they doing what is not lawful on the Sabbath?”

This nagging attitude of the Pharisee started from Mark 2 when Jesus heals the paralytic man who was brought by his friends and Jesus heals him by saying your sins are forgiven… to which the Pharisees comment by saying who is this guy who can forgive sins.

Followed by Jesus’s visit to Levi the tax collectors (a sinner) house… to which the Pharisees accuse him of eating with sinners.

Followed by their question regarding fasting which we saw last week.

Can you for a moment feel the tension in the atmosphere? Where Jesus and the Pharisees are head-butting with each other.

Firstly, it is so irritating to have these Pharisees follow Jesus and keep pointing fingers at everything that is said and done.

In the corporate world, it’s like the boss or his men sitting over our head to make sure that we don’t break the rules, the culture and the traditions laid down by the management.

Isn’t that such an irritating thing?

Secondly, Jesus is constantly trying to explain to these Pharisees and even help them see HIM as the fulfillment of the promise made by God through his prophets. And instead of responding with reverence they choose to ignore him because of their pride, ego, and position in the society.

Even this time with the issue of Sabbath Jesus points them to David saying “Have you never read what David did, when he was in need and was hungry, he and those who were with him: how he entered the house of God, in the time of Abiathar the high priest, and ate the bread of the Presence, which it is not lawful for any but the priests to eat, and also gave it to those who were with him?”

Jesus is pointing to an incident that was written by Samuel in 1 Samuel 21:5-6 where David was running from Saul who was the King of Israel at that time and wanted to kill him. David and his men enter the temple hungry, but because there was no bread to eat except for the bread that was offered to God which only the priests were allowed to eat, David and his men ate that bread and carried on with their journey to a place called Gath.

Jesus talks about David to remind them that even after eating the holy bread from the presence of God which was unlawful to do, God didn’t punish them, like in the case of the prophet Aarons sons Nadab & Abihu who were struck dead for bringing an unauthorized fire before the Lord.

Jesus then goes on to make a point regarding Sabbath and says “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath. So the Son of Man is lord even of the Sabbath.”

You see, the Sabbath was not supposed to be considered as a ritual or tradition that supersedes human needs. Sabbath is, in fact, a gift from God and sadly it has become a bondage & oppression, been manipulated from its right intentions that were meant for man’s good.

If we read the context of Sabbath, we will know that it was given to bring rest, healing & joy. But in the case of the Pharisees they created their own version and dictated people to follow them as traditions and rules, but completely missed the point. And here’s what they failed to see.

  • They failed to see God’s love and care for his people in the commands and laws he gave them.
  • They failed to see Jesus as the lord over Sabbath – Who himself was God in the form of a man standing right next to them.

Instead of recognizing Christ the savior who came to make everything new, they mistreated him, questioned his intentions and even called him an agent of the devil.

At this point, it is easier for us to look at the Pharisees and say how wicked and manipulative these guys were and completely ignorant to see the Pharisee in us who behaves just like them and sometimes even worse.

You may ask how are we like the Pharisees.

There are a number of ways in which we carry the attitude of a Pharisee –

Firstly, when we fail to see the commandments of God as a delight and instead look at it as a burdensome rulebook that needs to be kept to gain approval from God like the Pharisees did.

Burdening ourselves and others in a way distorting the original intent of God when he gave it to us.

Instead of confessing like David in

  • Psalms 119:103: “How sweet are your words to my taste, sweeter than honey to my mouth!”,
  • Psalms 119:130: “The unfolding of your words gives light; it gives understanding to the simple.”
  • Psalms 139:6: “Such knowledge is too wonderful for me, too great for me to understand”
  • Psalms 119:9-16:
    How can a young man keep his way pure?
    By guarding it according to your word.
    10 With my whole heart I seek you;
    let me not wander from your commandments!
    11 I have stored up your word in my heart,
    that I might not sin against you.
    12 Blessed are you, O Lord;
    teach me your statutes!
    13 With my lips I declare
    all the rules[c] of your mouth.
    14 In the way of your testimonies I delight
    as much as in all riches.
    15 I will meditate on your precepts
    and fix my eyes on your ways.
    16 I will delight in your statutes;
    I will not forget your word.

Instead of looking at the beauty of God’s heart towards us in his precepts … we see it as burdensome and task oriented. To the extent where now some of us have even given up reading our bibles because we think it is hard to keep up with obedience when the Spirit of God convicts us of our sins through the scriptures.

On the other extreme, there are some who to follow the law to the dot as it is written without experiencing a true heart transformation which only Christ and his sacrifice on the cross offers.

Let’s ask ourselves this morning – What is our attitude when it comes to God’s holy laws and commandments in the Scripture?

  • Do we see that God’s desire for us to a live Sanctified life by living in obedience to his commandments is meant for our own good?
  • Do we see them as instructions given to us, to follow wholeheartedly with joy & delight and not under pressure & fear?
  • Do we see the wonderful promises associated with true heart transforming obedience?

    The one promise that comes to my mind is Psalms 1:2-3 which says “Blessed are those who delight in the law of the Lord, and on his law he meditates day and night. He is like a tree planted by the streams of water that yields its fruit in its season, and its leaf does not wither. In all that he does, he prospers”

Remember also that, our law-keeping has nothing to do with our salvation and gaining approval from God. God approves simply because of our faith in his son Jesus.

Trying to gain approval from God by our self-righteous acts are seen as filthy rages by God.

We receive approval from God not by our law-keeping or good works but by admitting that we are sinners just as the bible describes every human being to be, and by believing in Jesus, the son of God who came down to earth for our sake, lived a righteous life on our behalf, took the punishment that was upon us, suffered a horrible death on the cross to redeem us from the wrath of a holy God.

Rising up from death after three days he proved to the world that he is God indeed and has won victory our sin and broken the chains of slavery to sin and has set us free forever.

All because he loved us and meant everything for our good from the beginning – Even the laws, the commandments, instructions from the scriptures, leading of the Holy Spirit convicting our hearts of sin that needs to be dealt with.

All of his precepts are the evidence of his loving pursuit of our hearts meant for his Glory.

So, let us not be like the Pharisees who failed to see God’s heart of love in passing on his commandments and let us stop treating his words as a rule-book that’s burdensome and heavy. But instead delight in them, know the heart of God and walk in obedience persuaded by his love.

The second way in which we behave like the Pharisees is when we judge others like the Pharisees did. Judging others for their words, actions, and attitudes just because we think we’re doing it right, and fail to see them through the merciful eyes of God.

The perfect example is the ender brother in the story of the prodigal son. He failed to understand his Father’s heart of love, even though the younger son rebelled and went away with the Father’s wealth and misused them for his own pleasures, the Father still loved him.

Romans 5:8, Paul reminds “While we were sinners

(the time when we hated him, the time when we were committing adultery or fornicating with the opposite sex and even with the same sex, while we were indulged in watching sinful pornography, while we will expressing our hate towards another human by robbing and killing them, while we were high on alcohol and drugs, while we were worshipping idols made of mud, worshipping animals & birds and defaming God)

…Paul says God showed his great love for us by sending Christ to die for our sins for which we deserved the punishment but Christ took it upon himself.

What right do we have to look down and judge others?

The Pharisee like attitude shows up in subtle ways in our case and we take it lightly. Here are some of the things we say that show the Pharisee-like attitude in us.

“If He Knew The Bible As Well As I Did, His Life Would Be Better.”

Judgement and self-righteousness rolled up in a neat little package

“I follow the rules and that is what makes me a true Christian”

Instead of humility, we carry an air of being a rule keeping Christian, isn’t our attitude be one of gratitude, amazement and, humility.

“You Shouldn’t Hang Around People Like That.”

This comes mostly from parents. I understand that we have to choose friends for our kids carefully. But when applied to adults, this thought process is unscriptural.

The other way of expressing the same condition is when people say “I’m Simply More Comfortable With People From My Church Than I Am With People Who Don’t Go To Church.”

But, look at the kind of people Jesus hung out with.

One of the reasons many churches aren’t growing is because Christians don’t know any non-Christians. They think they are holy and have nothing to do with the unholy people of the world.

“God listens to my prayers”

That’s boasting!

In Matthew 6:5-7 Jesus says “And when you pray, you must not be like the hypocrites. For they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and at the street corners, that they may be seen by others.”

The biblical portrait of prayer is as much about broken people embracing the mystery and majesty of a forgiving God as much as it is about anything.

“Sure I Have A Few Issues, But That’s Between Me And God.”

Perfect on the outside and flawed on the inside—but that’s the accusation Jesus pushed against the Pharisees.

A biblical way of dealing with internal issues is not by keeping secrets that no one knows but it is transparency, vulnerability, and honesty.

These are just a couple of examples to help you see how subtly we carry the attitude of a Pharisee and fail to see the other person from Gods perspective, through his eyes of love, grace, and mercy.

As I conclude, I think this passage is a beautiful reminder for us to keep a check on our heart from a Pharisee like mindset.

Knowing that Jesus doesn’t appreciate or approve of it. Instead, he wants us to see him as the Lord over everything and to appreciate his sacrifice on the cross with humility and reverence.

And also to see the heart behind the warnings, rebukes, instructions, commands written in the bible as one given to us with love and for our benefit and well-being and not to burden us, and therefore delighting in them, obeying them so we bear fruit in season and out of season.

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