Tag Archives: Pharisee

Saturday in the Fourth Week of Lent

Living Water vs. the Dead Sea

The Dead Sea is not really a sea at all. It is more like a lake, a landlocked lake. It is in a region of little rain. Fresh water cannot run in nor is any water drained out. No form of life can live in it.

Is that the nature of our cherished religious traditions? It was for the Pharisees at the time of Christ’s ministry on the Earth. They were not open to any thinking that did not meet their ironclad criteria.

The Pharisees had sent the temple police to arrest Jesus:

Then the temple police went back to the chief priests and Pharisees, who asked them, “Why did you not arrest him?” The police answered, “Never has anyone spoken like this!” Then the Pharisees replied, “Surely you have not been deceived too, have you? Has any one of the authorities or of the Pharisees believed in him? But this crowd, which does not know the law—they are accursed.” Nicodemus, who had gone to Jesus before, and who was one of them, asked, “Our law does not judge people without first giving them a hearing to find out what they are doing, does it?” They replied, “Surely you are not also from Galilee, are you? Search and you will see that no prophet is to arise from Galilee.”   (John 7:45–52)

If we hold on to the old wine so tightly we will never experience the new wine. We will miss out on the gift of God that brings new life and vitality. Jesus had gone up to Jerusalem with his disciples for the Feast of Tabernacles. Risking his life he spoke these words in the temple:

On the last day of the festival, the great day, while Jesus was standing there, he cried out, “Let anyone who is thirsty come to me, and let the one who believes in me drink. As the scripture has said, ‘Out of the believer’s heart shall flow rivers of living water.’” Now he said this about the Spirit, which believers in him were to receive; for as yet there was no Spirit, because Jesus was not yet glorified.   (John 7:37–39)

Are we ready for living water? It is not a one time occurrence, but water that continually flows. Traditions and doctrines attempt to damn it up or cut it off, but these waters are meant for those who believe in the words of Jesus.

For those who do not believe, this water must be stopped at all cost:

“Let us destroy the tree with its fruit,
let us cut him off from the land of the living,
so that his name will no longer be remembered!”   (Jeremiah 11:19)

Today, Jesus still crie out:

“Let anyone who is thirsty come to me, and let the one who believes in me drink. As the scripture has said, ‘Out of the believer’s heart shall flow rivers of living water.’”

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Saturday in the Third Week of Lent

A Broken and Contrite Heart

How do we approach God? Like the Pharisee?

Jesus told this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous and regarded others with contempt: “Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee, standing by himself, was praying thus, `God, I thank you that I am not like other people: thieves, rogues, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I give a tenth of all my income.’   (Luke 18:9–12)

Or like the tax collector?

But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even look up to heaven, but was beating his breast and saying, `God, be merciful to me, a sinner!’   (Luke 18:13)

King David’s 51st Psalm describes the heart of the penitent:

Had you desired it, I would have offered sacrifice,
but you take no delight in burnt-offerings.

The sacrifice of God is a troubled spirit;
a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.   (Psalm 51:17-18)

Our giving to God is important, but it does not buy us salvation or even miracles. God is looking for more than our giving and our sacrifices. Through the Prophet Hosea God tells us:

I desire steadfast love and not sacrifice,
the knowledge of God rather than burnt-offerings.   (Hosea 6:6)

Do we love God? If so, our love for him should lead us to repentance. He is a holy God and we are all sinners, including the Pharisees among us.

Jesus finished the parable:

I tell you, this man went down to his home justified rather than the other; for all who exalt themselves will be humbled, but all who humble themselves will be exalted.”   (Luke 18:14)

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Conversion of Saint Paul

the-conversion-of-saint-paul-bartolome-esteban-murilloA Conversion Experience

Saul was on the road to Damascus to arrest Christian believers. While in route he experienced one of the most dramatic conversions recorded in the Bible. In his own words:

“I was traveling to Damascus with the authority and commission of the chief priests, when at midday along the road, your Excellency, I saw a light from heaven, brighter than the sun, shining around me and my companions. When we had all fallen to the ground, I heard a voice saying to me in the Hebrew language, `Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me? It hurts you to kick against the goads.’ I asked, `Who are you, Lord?’ The Lord answered, `I am Jesus whom you are persecuting. But get up and stand on your feet; for I have appeared to you for this purpose, to appoint you to serve and testify to the things in which you have seen me and to those in which I will appear to you. I will rescue you from your people and from the Gentiles– to whom I am sending you to open their eyes so that they may turn from darkness to light and from the power of Satan to God, so that they may receive forgiveness of sins and a place among those who are sanctified by faith in me.’ ”  (Acts 26:12-18)

Well, that was Saul. He was persecuting Christians. Do we have any zealous people in the Church today who are persecuting their fellow parishioners? Well, that is another story.

What about those who have grown-up in the Church? Do they need a conversion experience? We need to understand that the Apostle Paul did grow-up in the Church. He grew up in Judaism which was the only church in his day. The rest of the world was pagan. He was living by the rules. He was educated in the best rabbinic tradition. Here is how he described himself:

circumcised the eighth day, of the nation of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; as to the Law, a Pharisee; as to zeal, a persecutor of the church; as to the righteousness which is in the Law, found blameless.  (Philippians 3:5-6)

I was advancing in Judaism beyond many Jews of my own age and was extremely zealous for the traditions of my fathers.  (Galatians 1:14)

We understand, of course, that this was the way Saul described himself before his conversion. How did he describe himself after his conversion?

I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do. And if I do what I do not want to do, I agree that the law is good. As it is, it is no longer I myself who do it, but it is sin living in me. I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. For what I do is not the good I want to do; no, the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing.  (Romans 7:15-19)

Paul goes on to say:

Wretched man that I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!   (Romans 7:24-25)

Conversion opened Saul’s eyes to reality. His religion had failed him. He needed more than religion. His his Lord Jesus Christ did not fail him:

But whatever things were gain to me, those things I have counted as loss for the sake of Christ. More than that, I count all things to be loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them but rubbish so that I may gain Christ, and may be found in Him, not having a righteousness of my own derived from the Law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which comes from God on the basis of faith, that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death; in order that I may attain to the resurrection from the dead.  (Philippians 3:7-11)

Saul become the great Apostle Paul who wrote two-thirds of the New Testament. Does his testimony speak to us today? What is our testimony? Are we merely rules enforcers or are we ambassadors for Christ? The lost in this world is counting on us give witness to the love and mercy of Jesus Christ.

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