The Pharisees who Opposed the Word of Life
Translated by Allan Liang
Mark 8:11-13 Today we shall learn about a biblical passage regarding the opposition of the Pharisees towards Jesus. Jesus, who traveled in all directions, performing miracles wherever he went, was met with the temptation of the Pharisees who desired for Jesus to show them a miracle. Yet Jesus did not fall prey to such temptation. Jesus performed miraculous acts of healing and exorcism because he was a merciful and loving God, the giver of life. But in response to the demands of the Pharisees, Jesus did not give them what they wanted. He “sighed deeply” and “left them”. As the only Son of the Father, Jesus the Word Incarnate, came among man knowing all things and knowing the end of all things, and naturally knew about the Pharisees and their ultimate destiny. The four gospels speak of the Pharisees more than 80 times, particularly noting their prideful and God opposing nature, their hardness of heart and resistance to truth, as well as their hypocrisy which was the subject of repeated rebukes by Jesus (Mathew 23: 13, 15, 23, 25). Sometimes we may not understand why the Pharisees were so frequently and strongly rebuked by the Lord (they were even worse than the tax collectors, Luke 18:10-13). Were they not familiar with the Scriptures and appeared pious? Why were they cursed by the Lord? The bible tells us that they had a heart of stone, uttered false prayers, did not pursue the truth, were blind to the Messiah, wrongly used the law to condemn, walked in a direction completely contrary to the Word of God, and did not know God. Although Scripture was always at their lips, because of their opposition to the way of truth, they allowed their own lives to shrivel and die. Mathew 23:27 has such a description: “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You are like whitewashed tombs, which look beautiful on the outside but on the inside are full of dead men’s bones and everything unclean.” Finally, they nailed Jesus to the cross, and in God’s judgement, were wholly cut off from life. In response to the tempting demands of the Pharisees, Jesus sighed and left, for being the Lord of all life, he did not have to respond to such temptations. All miracles he performed ultimately pointed to the salvation of life - the cross. We must not regard the Pharisees as a group of people existing at some point in history. In reality, there can reside a Pharisee in all of our hearts: we may have lived out our faith through religious rituals or other meaningless practices, or perhaps our hearts may have already been hardened by self-righteousness, unable to listen to the Word of God and repent. Perhaps we no longer offer up our lives to be renewed by God, no longer, through the lens of grace, look at the power of lives transforming lives, and no longer manifest the glory of God in our reborn lives. The latter part of the words of our Lord is particularly intriguing, “Why does this generation ask for a miraculous sign?” Truly, what is this generation like? Can miracles save one from perishing? We likely know that this is a world filled with sin, sin inherited from the original sin of Adam’s disobedience and sin from the evil ideas, systems, governments and corporations of this world. We must repent of all these sins. This age is not filled with many miracles but is overflowing with God’s grace. May God hide not his face from us, and may his light shine into our darkened hearts, so that we may understand that sinners cannot save themselves through their own self-righteous deeds, but only God’s grace can separate us from sin and join us with Christ, the source of life. Please meditate with prayer: what sins have we directly or indirectly partaken in, sins that until today, we have not repented of? How does the life of God water our lives and allow us to experience a renewal of heart?