If the Pharisees had felt energized as opposed to threatened by learning things they didn’t know or if they had understood that the Savior’s principles could remain the same even if the outward expression of them looked different, they may have been able to see Him. In other words, if they had had a relationship with Christ, they probably would’ve, at least faintly, recognized His principles in action. I sincerely believe that Heaven operates by a handful of key spiritual principles which are manifest in a myriad of mortal observances. And as we come to know the Savior those principles become more defined. But the Pharisees had relied on their actions almost exclusively and when it came to recognizing the Savior those actions weren’t enough. It seems heartbreaking that they could watch the sacrifice of animal after animal under the Law of Moses and then witness the crucifixion without even a twinge of familiarity.
I think the parable of the wise man and foolish man can illustrate the difference between lonely actions and actions tied to relationships:
Therefore whosoever heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them, I will liken him unto a wise man, which built his house upon a rock:
And the rain descended and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon that house; and it fell not: for it was founded upon a rock.
And every one that heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them not, shall be likened unto a foolish man, which built his house upon the sand:
And the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon that house; and it fell: and great was the fall of it. (Matt 7:24-27)
If we’re going to invest the time and resources into building a house, especially one that we want to occupy and invite others into, it would be wise to identify the most solid foundation possible. I imagine we’d look for something steady, something that will only change minimally over the passage of time. For the Pharisees, the foundation was all of the tiny little things that they did in the name of religion. They built on the sand which may have come from the rock but was not ever going to be the rock. The acts were a mortal cue for their spirits to seek Him, to understand Him and build their lives on that knowledge of Him, not solely on His rules.
That foolish man the Savior spoke about, I don’t think he started out foolish. His foolishness was only revealed when the storms came. Perhaps the blurry line between the place where the infinite slab of rock ended and the sand started was hard to identify so it was hard to know where to build. And maybe the foolish man had some concerns about the steadfastness of his dwelling or maybe he’d experienced some slight shifting but it wasn’t until the large challenge came that he realized his foundation was simply unequal to the demands of a heavy storm. I’d like to think that after that awful storm, when he sat in the ruin of his house, he gave himself some space to come to terms with what had just happened. Sometimes tumultuous storms strip away the periphery of life so completely that we are left with a focus on the things which are the most important…which oftentimes are our relationships. Amidst the devastation of his surroundings, it seems like the once-foolish man would have a choice to make. He could give up and determine that rebuilding wasn’t worth the effort for something that could be so easily destroyed. Did he walk away feeling understandably frustrated, angry or betrayed? Or did he look around and realize he could try again?