We’ve all heard about the Pharisees. The religious leaders of Jesus’s day who clung to the letter of the Law and placed heavy, over-reaching rules on the people. What is interesting is that the beginnings of this group come out of the Babylonian exile. The Israelites believed that their banishment from the promised land came from a lack of obedience to the Law. While that is only partially true, many clung to a strict adherence to the Torah as a means of getting back into God’s favor.
Over the centuries, right up to the birth of Jesus, these religious leaders used tradition and interpretations of the Law which developed into a body of rules and regulations called the Mishnah. Their man-made rules were sometimes even in contradiction to the Torah. In Mark 7 Jesus rebukes the Pharisees for not honoring their mother and father, the fifth commandment. You see they would ignore their obligation to take care of their parents by invoking their rule of Corban. This would designate any resources they had for helping their family as something given to God, so the family was out of luck. But the Pharisees used this for their own gain…not for God.
It is not surprising that just before this incident Jesus lays a heavy indictment on them by quoting the words of Isaiah, “This people honors me with their lips, but their heart is far from me.” The Pharisees stripped God’s Word of all grace. They relied solely on the Law and rules to make themselves right with God and rejected Jesus, because he turned everything they were about upside down.
In today’s world there are a lot of people trying to twist and turn Scripture for their own benefit just like the Pharisees did, by adding things that Jesus would reject, just like he did with the Pharisees. So, let’s make sure we are not hoping in man-made layers of religiosity to save us, but are relying instead on the grace of God through faith in his son Jesus.