Matthew 15:10-14

Then he called the crowd to him and said to them, “Listen and understand: it is not what goes into the mouth that defiles a person, but it is what comes out of the mouth that defiles.”

Then the disciples approached and said to him, “Do you know that the Pharisees took offense when they heard what you said?”

He answered, “Every plant that my heavenly Father has not planted will be uprooted. Let them alone; they are blind guides of the blind. And if one blind person guides another, both will fall into a pit.” Matthew 15:10-14

Those poor Pharisees. We know that they meant well. They really did see themselves as the protectors and defenders and champions of true, authentic, heartfelt devotion to Yahweh. They didn’t run for the hills and disassociate themselves from life like the Essenes. They didn’t cast their faith aside for political expediency like the Herodians. And they certainly didn’t sell themselves out as pawns of the state like the Sadducees. They really did mean well.

They meant well when they offered their strict interpretation of the law to the people. When they warned the people of the judgment to come, the final resurrection, where a good life on earth would take you to the bosom of Abraham and a bad life to the lake of fire.

They meant well when they cautioned the people against pinning their hopes on all of the obviously false messiahs who were peddling their misguided ideas in the marketplace. They opposed them in the name of their old time religion that was good enough for their forefathers so it was good enough for them. Tradition! Tradition!

Those poor Pharisees. They meant well. They certainly had the ear of the people. But when it came to Jesus – who he was, what he taught, what he meant for the world – they were dead wrong. They were blind guides. Blind because they could not see. Blind because they refused to see. And dangerously blind because they led those who followed them into the very pit that they were trying so hard to avoid.

Today the issue is eating kosher. Dietary regulations. Understand that those were traditions that reached back as far as anyone could remember. But they were not rules rooted in good health. They were arbitrary traditions rooted in tribal identity. We are who we are because we are not like other people. No bacon for us! As long as we stick to our rules, we will be OK. The rules are what matter because there is nothing more important than tribal identity. We are not like those dirty Gentiles, we are the people of God. We are special. We are chosen.

It was exactly that mindset that drove the Pharisees to oppose Jesus because of the threat that he posed to their whole system. The same mindset that allowed them to create all sorts of self-serving legal loopholes to twist the faith to their own advantage. They could cling to their precious principles regardless of the havoc that might have created in the lives of people.

Yes, it is hard to admit when we are wrong. It is hard to admit that we have bought the wrong farm, polluted our minds with the wrong ideas, let our hearts follow the wrong loves that led us into holes rather than into wholeness.

Those poor Pharisees. Can we see them? Can we see how they saw the world? Can we see them within us? Or are we blind to the many ways we do the very same things? For the see Jesus clearly means we also see the Pharisees within us clearly as well. If we don’t, then we will channel Jesus through our own self-serving lens and we too will stumble into the pit.

Let us pray: Dear Lord, who should we trust? Where should we turn? What should we follow? How should we change our minds, alter our behaviors, adjust our attitudes? Dozens more innocent people were killed in a hail of bullets this past weekend. Your people. Our brothers and sisters. What voices will lead us out of darkness of blindness and despair into the light of hope and promise? Give us answers and direction, and open our hearts and minds to follow. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

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