I feel sorry for the Pharisees of Jesus’ day. With all their knowledge and training, they were blind when they met God face-to-face in Jesus.
It often seems that when a gospel references the Pharisees, it’s usually in a negative manner. I wonder if God expected them to recognize Him and He was harsher on them than others. Or was it that — in their hearts — they enjoyed the power and prestige and did not want to change? The people that Jesus helped were the ones who asked it of Him, who believed that He could help them. The Pharisees viewed Jesus and his ways as a threat and judged Him to be a usurper of the order they knew so well. Jesus challenged the people of his day: from speaking to women to giving a new way of living in the Beatitudes. Perhaps there was something stirred in their hearts, as they were angered enough to look for ways to put Jesus to death.
It’s easy to look at the Pharisees as “them,” and say that we’re not like them. However, in saying that, are we any different? In Luke 18:10-14, the Pharisee and the tax collector are praying in the Temple. The Pharisee is praising his own efforts and how much better he is than others, including the tax collector. Christians and Catholics fall into this sort of thinking all too often: the “I” or “we” versus the “they” and “them.” When we pass judgments on others, whether it is true or not, we distance ourselves from them, making them inferior to us. We also distance ourselves from God, as He is the true and only just judge, and we are merely grasping at His power. In our zealousness for the faith, we can create division instead of setting an example of living our faith.
John’s gospel (3:1-21) tells us of one Pharisee who visited Jesus at night, Nicodemus. Jesus gave him the following reminder, “But he who acts in truth comes into the light, to make clear that his deeds are done in God.” Let our deeds be those of the children of God and leave the judging to God alone.