When a story is written, there is always a protagonist (hero/heroine) and the opponent (villain). Many of the stories have hero transformed into a super-hero and villian transformed into a devil incarnate. When we read the gospel, there is definitely a hero, who is Jesus. It is difficult to call him super-hero as he ends his earthly life on the cross. And there could be many villains, one of the most popular ones being the pharisees. Now these pharisees come quite often in the gospel readings of the Holy Eucharist…
I consider most of the pharisees as normal people who were happy with the power and authority they possess (most like it that way). There was a system, which they have developed over the course of time.Some pharisees (may be a minority in the total number of pharisees) throughout the centuries have given oppressive interpretations to laws of Torah and most other normal pharisees thought that it was their responsibility to follow it. When Jesus came with an alternative (liberative) interpretation of the laws, it is difficult for the traditional pharisees to accept them. Why? Probably they never thought that the new interpretation was required for their own salvation. If they thought, they would have changed.
Essentially the law could be boiled down to 2, the love of God and love of neighbour. [I know the word law has a slight negative connotation. It could be replaced by essential charism or the essence of teaching]
So where they went wrong?
I don’t have a perfect answer. But, my simple inclinations are discussed a little later. I discuss one more issue so that conclusion could sum up all the points.
The two laws of the Old Testament (same is repeated in New Testament) along with the community were supposed to form the conscience of the person. Later, laws were codified into complicated rules and pharisees were the only person who were able to interpret for others. So in a way, the place of conscience formation was taken by pharisees or later pharisees became the consicence [this is a claim; not substantiating with much historical evidence].
Each of us are called to be guided by the conscience (which is the sacred place where God speaks). The church is called to form the conscience of the person. But many a times, priests and their interpretations do take the role of conscience. (Pope Francis’ Amoris Laetitia is a welcome move in this direction). So I think the 4th invitation from Jesus is
Each and every story or narrative between Jesus and Pharisees is an invitation from Jesus
- ‘to think for yourself’ — to think for oneself, whether the expressions or the manifestations of the law does make sense or not. To ask, whether traditions hinder or helps our vision of the source. It is special invitation to all, especially teachers, to be thinkers and not mere parrots.
- ‘to reclaim the original sense of the laws’ — do this if possible, else go to the next level.
- ‘to invent relevant and contemporary expressions of law’.
- 'to form consciences of the people and not to replace them'. — it is not that they become alienated from community, but the final decision has to be taken by the person (and not dictated by others).