Once you have heard the word ‘Pharisee’ before, you know one thing for sure; it carries a negative connotation.
They were the religious leaders that sought to ensure the people obeyed the commandments. The problematic aspect, of course, was how super rigid they were, and how arrogant and pompous they became as a result of having a ‘perfect appearance’, when in reality many of them broke those laws they brutally enforced in different ways.
If their spirit was made apparent in any way, it was definitely in John 7.
They had sent officers to grab Jesus for His many speeches that got under their skin. Unfortunately for them, these officers returned empty-handed. Well, not just empty-handed, but full of awe at the magnificence and greatness of this Teacher, which they voiced out in verse 46. The Pharisees, however, were far from impressed, and lambasted them, claiming they were on the verge of being deceived, and that the rulers and Pharisees were not believing on Him. And the point of attention for this article…
But this people who knoweth not the law are cursed. (John 7:49)
Sounds nasty enough, but there’s a deeper aspect to it. There are 3 things to be noted about this statement, which make for the 3 elements of a toxic Pharisee spirit…
- They thought very lowly of the regular folk.
Per Matthew Henry’s Commentary: ‘this people’. It is not laos, this lay-people, distinguished from them that were the clergy, but ochlos outos, this rabble-people, this pitiful, scandalous, scoundrel people… Clearly, that explanation shows how they considered the people as trash that were way below their level and not fit to stand with them. With such a mentality, love can’t even get in through the back door.
2. They believed their knowledge of the law made them better than the regular folk.
So they knew the laws, and the people didn’t know them too well. For that, they considered themselves to be far better than the people. This is clearly manifested in chapter 9, where the blind man who was cured gave them his piece of mind concerning Jesus’ innocence, and they kicked him out, proclaiming him to not be fit to teach them since he was born in sin. Indeed, knowledge can puff one up and lead him to think himself a more superior human being to another.
3. They passed judgment on the people.
In the opinion of these leaders, the people were cursed good-for-nothings, far away from hope of any kind. To them, there was no need to help anybody in any way. As far as they were concerned, their ignorance was not something to be cured, but something to condemn them for.
Is it any wonder why Jesus clashed with them so often? He came to reveal the heart of the Father, that Elohim is a God of mercy and compassion who for all His majesty and awesomeness has no qualms with making us His own. This was nowhere on the agenda of the Pharisees; it was all about self-righteousness and harsh treatment of those who didn’t measure up to their standards.
Even as believers, there are times when this toxic spirit will seek to take hold of us. We must resist it at all cost! We must not live as loveless beings only interested in completing religious acts that make us look prim, proper and religious, but as children of God who love all and look down on nobody, and who seek to strengthen the weak and get the lost sheep back on track, instead of turning their noses up at them and declaring them as inhabitants of the ‘No Hope’ dumpster.