Are You A Follower Or A Pharisee?

Reading through the gospels, I’m reminded again that Jesus has a way of producing strong reactions in people. You might think you can be neutral about Him, but you can’t.

In Mark 3, we read about the same events we read in Matthew 12 (see my post on January 9). Incidentally, my Bible study group covered this same material in-depth in this week’s lesson. I think God must want me to pay attention!

The Pharisees had a lot of opportunities to see Jesus at work and to hear His teaching. He had spoken clearly about who He is, and His words and actions continued to fulfill the Messianic prophecies with which the Pharisees and scribes were very familiar. He claimed authority as God’s Son and stated without reservation His authority over the law. The miracles He performed gave credence to His words, revealing He had indeed come from God and possessed the power of God. The religious leaders have had enough; they are angry and afraid for their position. In this chapter, Mark exposes the character of a Pharisee. Notice, it is progressive, as sin always is.

* They were constantly watching Him, not to understand or believe, but to accuse Him (3:2).

* Their desire to discredit Jesus superseded their compassion for the suffering of their fellow man (3:4).

* Their hearts were hard (3:5).

* They abandoned their role as spiritual leaders to conspire with political allies, in order to destroy Jesus (3:6).

* They resorted to blatant, obvious lies, even though they were well aware of the truth (3:11,22).

This moment is pivotal for the Pharisees. They deliberately and openly blaspheme against God, telling the people that Jesus is casting out demons by the power of Satan (Beelzebub, ruler of the demons). They accredit the work of the Holy Spirit to Satan, not in ignorance, but in direct rejection and rebellion to lead the people away from Jesus. From this moment on, Jesus changes His style of teaching to parables, as a means of judgment against the religious Jews. No longer would He make the truth plain; it would be spiritually discerned only by those who desired to follow Jesus and would believe in Him.

Jesus makes two important statements in the middle of these events, but we have to go back to Matthew to catch them. First, Matthew 12:30 – He who is not with Me is against Me; and he who does not gather with Me scatters. There is no neutral position about Jesus. We are either with Him or against Him. We cannot sit on the fence of indecision; there is no spiritual Switzerland.

The second statement is in Matthew 13:12 – For whoever has, to him more shall be given, and he will have an abundance; but whoever does not have, even what he has shall be taken away from him. Jesus says this in the context of explaining why He has switched to teaching through parables. The religious Jews had enough truth to recognize who Jesus was, but they denied it. They closed their eyes and ears and refused to listen; therefore, what truth they knew would be taken away from them. God would turn them over to the deception of their own hardened hearts.

It is a scary thing to know the truth and turn away from it. The enemy would like nothing more than to cause you to doubt God’s Word, doubt who Jesus is, doubt creation, doubt the testimony of changed lives. If you doubt, you will debate from your human-centered thinking and will go deeper into deception. That deception can lead you to eternal destruction and spiritual death (yes, hell, according to Jesus).

While none of us are walking around in fringed robes with phylacteries bound to our foreheads, those who reject Jesus are spiritual Pharisees in character, relying on good works and self-righteousness and denying their own sin and need for Christ. The gospel calls us to a decision about Jesus. As Jesus asks His disciples, Who do you say that I am? (Matthew 16:15).

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