The Pharisees Weren’t All Bad, How to Have Actual Communion with the Living God (Lenten Scriptural Commentary #31)
by Erik Ritland
“We should show compassion and love for those who think differently than we do, while also holding fast to the truth.”
Fully Alive’s Lenten Scriptural Commentary helps Christians get more out of Lent by taking God’s word seriously.
Mostly avoiding personal stories and anecdotes, our commentary dives deeply into the scripture readings for each day and applies them to the broader context of Lent. We use the daily Mass readings from the Catholic lectionary.
If possible, read each passage slowly, taking in each word. If you find that you’ve hurried through a reading, read it over a few more times. Let the words reverberate in your heart. After you’ve let it sink in, read our Lenten Scriptural Commentary.
Friday of the Fourth Week of Lent
In today’s readings, the Book of Wisdom clearly foretells the response of the authorities to Jesus, and Jesus speaks with authority about His identity.
Readings: Wis 2:1a, 12-22/Jn 7:1-2, 10, 25-30
Click here to read the complete text from the USCCB website
The wicked said among themselves,
thinking not aright:
"Let us beset the just one, because he is obnoxious to us;
he sets himself against our doings,
Reproaches us for transgressions of the law
and charges us with violations of our training.
He professes to have knowledge of God
and styles himself a child of the LORD.
To us he is the censure of our thoughts;
merely to see him is a hardship for us,
Because his life is not like that of others,
and different are his ways.
He judges us debased;
he holds aloof from our paths as from things impure.
He calls blest the destiny of the just
and boasts that God is his Father.
Let us see whether his words be true;
let us find out what will happen to him.
(cf. Wis 2:1a, 12-22)
This reading so perfectly describes the response of the religious authorities to Jesus that it’s almost uncanny.
Let us not, as so many do, pretend that all of the religious authorities in Jesus’ time were terrible people, or that we are so far from them.
They thought logically, they were trying to protect their political and religious interests. To them, Jesus was a huge threat, and just a small amount of empathy should help us understand why. They simply cared about their traditions and their way of life.
That’s not to say that there weren’t bad religious authorities in Jesus’ time. The Sadducees were notoriously out of step with true Judaism, were basically in the pocket of the worst of the Roman hierarchy. Many Pharisees, too, were too rigid in their following of ceremonial laws and closed off to the idea of God speaking to anyone but them.
The lesson that we should take away from this? We should show compassion and love for those who think differently than we do, while also holding fast to the truth.
So Jesus cried out in the temple area as he was teaching and said,
"You know me and also know where I am from.
Yet I did not come on my own,
but the one who sent me, whom you do not know, is true.
I know him, because I am from him, and he sent me."
(cf. Jn 7: 1-2, 10, 25-30)
The Gospel of John emphasizes that Jesus gets His power from God the Father. Jesus is one with God the Father, His divinity comes from His unity with Him. Even as a human being who walked this earth, He still had that power of divinity.
We see that same divinity, and have just as intimate of an experience with Him as His apostles did, every time we receive the Eucharist, or meet Him in Eucharistic Adoration.
We commune with the God who created us, who created the universe! What an awe-inspiring gift.
Erik Ritland is a writer and musician. The founder of Fully Alive Christian Media, he also created The Minnesota Sport Ramble and is a writer and copy editor for Music in Minnesota. He was Lead Staff Writer for Minnesota culture blogs Curious North and Hometown Hustle. Reach him via email.
Erik Ritland received his MA in Theology in 2017. He's the founder and content manager of Fully Alive Christian Media and Rambling On, copy editor and writer for Music in Minnesota, and an acclaimed songwriter.