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We're More Like the Pharisees Than We'd Like to Admit

Throughout the course of Holy Week, I spent a surprising amount of time thinking about the Pharisees.

You know, those religious leaders who hated Jesus and enforced incredibly strict, ritualistic laws. Yes, the ones who got mad because Jesus healed someone on the Sabbath. The ones who arrested and crucified Him.

Those people.

On Monday of Holy Week, I studied how Jesus flipped tables in the temple and drove out all of the merchants. As this was happening, the Pharisees and chief priests were trying to find a reason to convict Jesus and kill Him, but everyone in the temple was captivated by Jesus and what He was teaching. So, they couldn't kill Him with everyone on His side - then they would be the bad guys. There are so many times throughout Jesus' ministry that the Pharisees were searching for a reason to kill Jesus.

Although I've read this story so many times, for the first time, I started thinking about the Pharisee's heart posture that would cause them wanting to kill Jesus so badly. I thought about the thoughts running through their mind, how they justified their actions, what made them feel so angry towards Christ.

And the more I reflected and prayed, the more convicted I felt.

Obviously, I don't know exactly what they were thinking or feeling. But maybe they thought that they were honoring God by getting rid of a "blasphemer". They grew up learning the Old Testament law, and they believed that the more flawless your obedience was, the better off you would be with God. Maybe in their mind, they thought that they were bettering their Jewish community by eliminating all of the little sins - and the problem of many: Jesus.

But perhaps their hearts revealed an insecurity temporarily quenched by the satisfaction of power and authority. Maybe their identity and worth as a Jew was so rooted in the title of "Pharisee" or "religious leader" or "chief priest" that even the smallest threat of it being removed spun them into a crisis, and Jesus was that threat.

Because they were human, too. It's easy to judge and get angry, because we could never do to Jesus what they did to Him.

But in a way, we did. Our sins also put Jesus on the cross. We too reject and deny Him. We sometimes think that our way is better.

And sometimes, my heart posture eerily resembles what the Pharisee's heart posture might have been.

Sometimes I take pride in how "good" of a Christian I am, and sometimes I miss the Lord's voice or direction because I'm convinced that I already know best. Sometimes I strive for holiness and flawlessness instead of accepting grace and choosing relationship. Sometimes I get insecure and I seek confidence in places that are not Jesus. Sometimes I allow my identity and value to be shaken by things that are of this world, and that causes me to spin into anxiety.

And although I'm strong in my faith and I want to live my life for Jesus, sometimes in moments of doubt, a thought crosses my mind, wondering if it would be easier if I didn't choose Jesus.

That is not pretty. Those are incredibly vulnerable observations to make about your own heart, and it's more than humbling.

Even still, the Lord is reminding me that He too still loves the Pharisees. He died for the Pharisees just as much as He died for me or you or anyone else. He chooses both the Pharisees and I. He offers redemption and freedom and hope to us both.

And all of these heart issues, the ugliest parts of my soul and the tender parts of my scars, He sees it all, and He chooses it anyways. He draws me in and invites me to experience healing and transformation. He welcomes me anyways, even though sometimes my heart is bitter and insecure and prideful. He embraces me, even though sometimes my life resembles the Pharisees, the very people who physically nailed Him to the cross.

What miraculous, miraculous love that is. How unworthy I am.

In moments like these, I lose all words. I become speechless, truly in awe of Jesus and the Father and the insane amount of grace that He extends to me. The way He desires a relationship with me, even when I'm broken and failing and sometimes even flailing. It's more than beautiful and more than what my finite, human brain can comprehend. Yet it moves me to worship and gratitude and joy, because even if I don't understand it, that doesn't make it any less true or real or personal.

And it's true for you too. Despite our broken, messy, flawed humanity, Jesus died for us, and He chooses us. He wants us and loves us beyond all imagination. He embraces us and invites us into a forever covenant with Him, where we can dance and celebrate in His arms for eternity.

Let's just sit in that for a moment. I don't want to miss this, to brush over the power and wonder of Jesus and His love. I don't want to try to force a conclusion or the pretty words. So I'd challenge you to spend some time in prayer and stillness. Let His love wash over you and His voice speak to You in this place. Invite Him in and welcome Him into your heart.

Because even if I resemble the Pharisees a little more than I'd like to admit, He loves me still, chooses me still, and forgives me still. And even if my brain insists that I don't deserve this grace (which is correct), I don't want to miss it. I don't want to pass it up, because there's no freedom like this.


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