The Pharisees were a prevalent Jewish sect that sought to separate themselves from others.
Compare to Sadducees.
Doctor Luke records a curious line when writing about the early church. He says “…some of the believers who belonged to the party of the Pharisees…” That means some Christians were also Pharisees. How strange. Isn’t that a contradiction?
Judaism at the time was comprised of two main groups, the Pharisees and the Sadducees. They had vastly different theologies about the same God and for that reason they didn’t get along too well, but they did manage to coexist within the same religious and societal context.
Most all of the original followers of Jesus (that is, early Christians) were Jewish. That implies some of them would have backgrounds as Pharisees and others, backgrounds as Sadducees. They maintained much of their culture as they grew in their new faith. While some of their practices needed to be re-examined, they could sustain other aspects. Clearly, some retained their identity as Pharisees.
For them, becoming a Christian occurred within the context of Judaism; it was not so much a conversion, but a transformation. In fact, there’s the implication that, for a time, some considered the early Christian movement, also called “The Way,” as another sect of Judaism.
What if that continued, comingling Jewish tradition with Jesus faith? For some it has and the results are Messianic congregations (Messianic Judaism). It’s certainly something to contemplate, connecting – or perhaps reconnecting – Judaism with Christianity.
Whether or not we realize it, all aspects of our lives include traditions: unexamined habits and mindless rituals. But perhaps traditions most often exist in our approach to God and our worship of him. While some traditions had a positive origin, others were misguided from the start. With little thought we pass our traditions from one person to the next, one generation to another.
Churches often protect their traditions with adamant, unyielding passion – sometimes at the expense of obeying God and doing what the Bible says. This is not a new problem. Jesus addressed this two thousand years ago.
The religious leaders of the day (the Pharisees) were quick to point out that Jesus’ followers (disciples) broke from tradition. They didn’t bring this up to provide correction but to pronounce condemnation. They thought they could discredit Jesus and embarrass him in front of the people.
Their plan didn’t work. Jesus foiled them. He declared that what the Bible said took precedence over their traditions. Jesus put his detractors and their ideas of what was important in their place.
What are some traditions or rituals that you have jettisoned? What are some traditions that might warrant reconsideration?