Summary: The Pharisees of Jesus' day died long ago. But their spirit lives on in congregations across the land. How can we recognize if we have become like the Pharisees, and what did Jesus teach us about what we need to know to avoid becoming like those men?
(Before reading the text I noted that the stories in this section of Mark detailed the conflict between Jesus and a religious group known as the Pharisees… and I emphasized the word "Pharisees" as I read through the text)
OPEN: Back in the 1980’s, the Minnesota Twins had this description of the game of baseball in their program:
“You have two sides, one out in the field and one in.
Each man that's on the side that's in goes out
and when he's OUT he comes in
and the next man goes in until he's out.
When 3 men are out, the side that's out comes in
and the side that's been in goes out and tries to get those coming in… out.
Sometimes you get men still in and not out.
When both sides have been in and out 9 times including the not outs,
that's the end of the game.”
Baseball can be a confusing game. There are so many rules to understand that it can be hard on new players. One man shared how this especially can affect kids that play in Little Leagues
“There are always new players who do not know or understand the rules and the game becomes confusing and frustrating for them.
If you don't hit the ball you are out.
Unless you get 4 bad pitches before you get 3 good ones.
And you need to run really fast if you hit the ball.
Unless you hit it on the wrong side of the white line.
Or unless they catch it.
But they have to catch it before it hits the ground.
You can run past first base and home plate, but not 2nd or 3rd base.
And if you’ve got the ball, you need to step on the base to get someone out.
Unless you have to tag them.
He observed: “If children only see baseball as a bunch of rules that everyone knows but them it is easy for them to get discouraged and just quit. When they get confused and do the wrong thing, everyone seems to get mad and and upset. It is easier to just not play.
But with patience and teaching, children learn to love the game of baseball. They learn that the rules make sense and that those rules even make the game more fun.”
Now, that brings us to our text this morning.
As Christians we have “rules” God expects us to follow.
And where do we find these rules? What is our “rulebook?”
That’s right; the Bible is our rule book.
The Bible tells us everything we need to know about what God wants from us and what is right and wrong for His people to do. We have no other rulebook. We have to Creeds, no Catechisms, no books of Doctrine. It’s the Bible and the Bible alone.
What is found in this book are the rules of our “game” of Christianity.
Now in our text this morning, we’re introduced to the Pharisees. The Pharisees were men who knew the rules of the game. They had less Bible to work with than we do (the New Testament wasn’t written yet), but they loved the Scriptures and studied the Bible intently to discover God’s will for their lives.
But the Bible was never quite enough for them. The Bible didn’t have enough rules. They felt that God wasn’t explicit enough on certain matters. They felt He didn’t spell out how His people were intended to behave in any and every situation.
So the Pharisees decided to help God out a little bit. If there wasn’t a rule for something in Scripture … they made one up.
They weren’t in this religious thing for the fun of it. For them everything had to be played by the book. That is - played by THEIR book. And their "rulebook" (the rules they added to the Scriptures) had a benchmark to measure how successful their rules were. The way they knew their religion was successful was if they succeeded in making sure that everyone didn’t smile too much during church.
ILLUS: Erma Bombeck tells about a little boy at church with his mother. He was a good little boy, quiet and well behaved. He didn’t cause any problems. But every once in a while he would stand up in the pew, turn around look at the people behind him and smile at them. His smile was infectious, and soon everybody behind him was starting to smile back at him, too.
It was all going fine until the mother realized what the little boy was doing. When she did, she grabbed him by his ear and twisted it a bit told him to sit down and remember that he was in church.
Then he started sniffling and crying, and she turned to him and said, "That’s better."