The Distinctive Communication Style of Pharisees

Pharisees have a distinctive style of communication. We see it play out repeatedly in their interactions with Jesus.

It’s important in our efforts to fight our inner Pharisee to be aware of how Pharisees behave. In my first post in this series, I mentioned three things you notice right away about Pharisees. This time, it’s important to listen to what they say and what they don’t.

Because, the next thing you notice about Pharisees is that they can’t hide from Jesus.

Several times the gospel writers tell us that the religious rulers were watching Jesus at work, and they had thoughts about it that they wouldn’t express, but Jesus addressed them.

In Matthew 9, Jesus told the paralytic on a mat that his sins were forgiven. Matthew tells us, “And behold, some of the scribes said to themselves, ‘This man is blaspheming.’ But Jesus, knowing their thoughts, said, ‘Why do you think evil in your hearts?’”

He knew their thoughts. He knows what’s in a person and what’s on a person’s mind.

That hits close to home. I’ve walked with Jesus a lot of years so I’m pretty good at keeping my mouth shut. But, that’s not enough for Jesus.

Jesus doesn’t give a fig what we appear to be thinking – and there isn’t any half-credit for not letting sinful thoughts emerge from our mouths. He calls us to an inside-out obedience – primarily, you have to imagine – because that requires us to absolutely rely on Him and not on our own strength.

Jesus isn’t bothered by sincere questions asked directly of Him. In the same chapter of Matthew, John the Baptist’s followers ask Jesus why His followers don’t fast. Jesus gives them a straight answer. When the woman at the well questions Jesus and Nicodemus (a Pharisee) comes to Him alone in the night with hard questions, Jesus patiently answers.

The problem lies in having questions, opinions, and disagreements with Jesus, while trying to appear like “it’s all good.” The problem lies in hypocrisy, masks, and hidden agendas.

It makes sense that Jesus doesn’t want followers who try to look like they’re on board while inside they harbor evil they believe they disguise. Disguises are a form of deception and deception is the enemy’s territory, not ours.

We show our cards. We reveal our hearts. We live with transparency, completely reliant on Jesus. As soon as we slip on a mask, we take a step away from the freedom He died to deliver.

There’s no hiding from Jesus, loved ones. He’ll find us out, every time.

It’s also clear in Matthew 9 (as it is in other gospel stories) that the Pharisees tend to talk about Jesus, not TO Jesus.

HUGE difference.

It’s easy enough for any of us to fall into this. We can spend hours teaching others the Bible, witnessing, preaching, writing, sharing on Facebook, defending the faith, or ministering in His name, and yet, at the end of the day, realize we can’t recall the last time we prayed (no, grace before meals doesn’t count.)

Read the gospels and prove me out. The disciples and true seekers (even Gentiles) spoke TO Jesus – frequently. The Pharisees talked about Jesus incessantly, but rarely spoke directly to Him.

In our efforts to flee from our inner Pharisee, prayer is key. Talk TO Jesus more than you talk about Him – that’s a solid start.

Finally, there are three verses toward the end of Matthew 9, that reveal another problem with being a Pharisee. Anything they can’t explain or haven’t seen before or that disrupts the norm, they immediately suspect is evil.

As they were going away, behold, a demon-oppressed man who was mute was brought to him.  And when the demon had been cast out, the mute man spoke. And the crowds marveled, saying, ‘Never was anything like this seen in Israel.’ But the Pharisees said, ‘He casts out demons by the prince of demons.’” Matthew 9:32-34

Of course, Christians must be discerning. Of course, the actions of the church – including new initiatives and practices, must be weighed against God’s Word.

But with each new age, with each new season of faith, with each generation that hurtles nearer and nearer the end, there will be new works, signs, and demonstrations of ministry.  We cannot stiffen our spines or our hearts to where we aren’t open to new works of the Holy Spirit through the next generation.

There are challenges in every season of a believer’s life. Before we know Christ, the challenge is to find Him. When we are new to the faith, the challenge is to learn and grow. As we mature in our faith, the challenge is to boldly exercise our freedom and experience without losing sight of our first love. We must fight our inner Pharisee – but don’t be afraid. Jesus knows exactly what to do.

Keep your eyes and hearts open to Him, loved ones. It’s a long way from the ground to glory.

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1 Comment

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  1. Thank you so much for this, Lori.