October 23, 2016
Introduction: It may be tempting to look down upon the Pharisees who not only oppose Jesus they seem to be against the common people. So often they are depicted focused solely on the law and not on the importance of a man’s soul. The Pharisees were the pastors of Israel in Jesus’ day. They cared for the flock and many were determined to care for them not only using the law as their guide, they also used compassion. An example might well be Nicodemus who comes to Jesus at night perhaps out of fear of what his fellow Pharisees might think of him coming to Jesus for council (see John 3). He would not see Jesus again until he came to help bury his body (John 19:39).
I) All of us want to be special. Indeed we are, as God’s beloved. I believe the Pharisees saw themselves as God’s special or even consecrated class. They were after all, at least in their own eyes, those who had been set apart and made a holy to be God’s representatives on earth.
II) The people believed that this was true of the Pharisees. So Jesus tells a tale about a Pharisee who goes to pray. He goes and prays in some translations with himself. He has no need to really be with God. Instead he is concerned with all the acts he accomplishes that will please God and then after reassuring himself that he is not like other people naming notorious sinners and finally even notes that thank God he is not like that tax collector.
III) One might have thought just looking at this scene with the tax collector who was disdained by the people and the Pharisee who the people looked up to and admired, especially in a day when most could not read and write. When most had little schooling and here was someone who would read and think preparing for their teaching on the Sabbath. They were also known for their being the political leaders and even judges in their communities. So ere was Jesus showing them in a negative light, just who did this teacher think he was? Yet Jesus points out what it really means to put yourself in the place of another. Instead of looking down on someone because of their overt occupation, he encourages the people to look at others as God might well see them. For here was a man not interested in impressing God with his many good works and the supposed fact that he was better than those around him noting that not only those who were in his eyes evil, but noting that there right in front of him was someone that he was the spiritual superior, at least in his own eyes. Jesus warns us to watch how we see ourselves. For as he pointed out in an earlier parable all we can say for all we have done is that we are worthless servants.