Christ The Teacher: Conflict Between Jesus And The Pharisees

Throughout the Gospels, the Pharisees are presented as being antagonistic to Jesus and his message.

We generally think of them as vain and conceited, hypocritical, and the term ‘pharisee’ today has negative connotations.

So it may come as a surprise to know that the Pharisees were actually the ‘good people’ of that day. That they were intelligent, righteous, and observant of the Law in every detail.

In fact, they were so righteous that they became self-righteous. They felt they had no need of God’s mercy or forgiveness, for they performed well all that was required of them. Their rituals saved them, is what they thought.

In today’s Gospel, we have another instance of the deviousness of the Pharisees.

The Law of Moses, as enunciated in Deuteronomy, enjoined the Jewish community to honour and care for their aged parents. This was part of their written scripture. However, during Jesus’s time, an oral convention had come into vogue, namely the use of the word qorban, ‘sacrifice’ as a formula for a sacred oath.

A Jew therefore might say to his parents, “Anything of mine which could be used for your benefit is now set apart as a sacrifice for God.” Thus, says Jesus, you Pharisees use a bogus oath to nullify the demands of Scripture, and to let you off your responsibility for caring for your aged parents. Whereas you pretend that you are offering a sacrifice to God, in actuality you are disobeying one of God’s commandments.

To put it in a sentence: Jesus was sharp in his criticism of those ‘good’ people who claim they are worshipping God when in actuality they despise and dishonour their neighbour.

In another place, he will state categorically: the love of God is love shown to one’s neighbour. And one’s neighbour is not someone related by kinship or geography. One’s neighbour is anyone who has need of my help. No one has been more categorical than Jesus in this.

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