Seeing the Pharisees Part IV
In Matthew’s account, the Savior shares a parable with this conclusion:
“For I was an hungered and ye gave me meat; I was thirsty and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger and ye took me in: Naked and ye clothed me: I was sick and ye visited me: I was in prison and ye came unto me. Then shall the righteous answer him saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungered, and fed thee? Or thirsty, and gave thee drink? When saw we thee a stranger and took thee in? or naked and clothed thee? Or when saw we thee sick, or in prison, and came unto thee? And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily, I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.” (Matt 25:35-40)
So very many of the Savior’s teachings are intended to connect us to each other and to heaven because that is His work and I think it’s relatively easy to recognize Him as a supporter of souls (Moses 1:39). The Pharisees, intent on disconnection, were hard-pressed to find Christ in isolation. And as He pointed out, but for the beams in their eyes and their inability/unwillingness to see Him clearly, there was no way they would be assisting anyone else with their motes in order to find Him (Matt 7:3). By setting themselves apart as so good and so obedient, they weren’t around to see the encouragement and love extended to those who were working hard to be obedient and still falling short. They weren’t there to share their meal or water with the person who had run out of steps on the Sabbath. They couldn’t offer a ram because they didn’t know whose had run errant. I think they couldn’t see the beauty of the law because they were afraid of being less than perfect. And perhaps association with those who were openly trying hard and falling short felt like guilt by association. And yet, if they thought they were being absolutely obedient, they had to be a little less than honest with their mortal selves. In their devastating pride, they were left wondering, criticizing and scoffing at this Man who meekly went about changing people’s lives. And yet at every junction, he was offering them an invitation to join Him in that gracious work.
I think one of the hardest things for the Savior about the Pharisees was the impact they had on other people. As leaders with the records and oral histories, they were the gate-keepers for the seekers of their day. Having already gifted us with agency, the Savior is long-suffering with those who choose contrary to Him but I think really frustrates Him when we obscure other people’s view of Him. I think that’s one of the reasons He got so angry with the Pharisees, because they held authority among the people and their vocal disavowal of His goodness was making it hard for some people to believe and accept His loving kindness and recognize Him for the beautiful Savior that He was/is. I think that’s an important aspect of His relationships. So many times when He gets really frustrated, I wonder if it’s not necessarily individual choices (although I imagine He’s disappointed), but the impact of an individual’s choices on other people. He paid dearly to give each of us the chance to choose Him and the impingement of another’s agency is really hard to watch. Had the Pharisees been all-in when it came to His ministry, how many more lives would have been enriched by His mercy and sincerity? He didn’t need the recognition for Himself (not puffed-up) and He wasn’t vindictive (rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth in truth). He merely wanted to reach as many people as possible with his message of love and compassion because He taught then, as He teaches now, that it is charity that lifts people. And there is nothing He wants more than for our souls to be lifted to Him. So His ultimate goal is for that honest charity to reach each of us as though from Him. So in the end, if we can learn to offer it to ourselves and each other, it’s loving Him too. (Matt 22:37-40, Matt 25:35-40)