The Pharisees were rule-followers, obsessive rule-followers. But their hearts were not changed one wit by all their legalistic observance. They were not kind-hearted, but proud.
Do you ever rub shoulders with any Pharisees? Some may point to the dreaded “Religious Right,” those no-fun-allowed teetotalers who ban dancing and card playing, but honestly I am blessed to know no one like that. My Christian friends are not remotely pharisaical — thank God. No, I think the rampant self-righteousness of today is secular. It’s the I’m-a-good-person person who is the Pharisee. They boast: “I’m a law abiding citizen, I recycle and I respect a woman’s right to choose.” There is a look-down-your-nose-at-others pride in rule following, a puffed-upness that is readily identifiable. This person hasn’t received grace, and baby, they don’t give it!
But Jesus broke the rules, and boy did it make those rule-followers mad! In fact, it made them so mad they had him killed, in an unbelievably gruesome and cruel way. Yet it is by His death and resurrection we are redeemed. At least we can be. That’s the free offer Jesus makes to every single person. But we have a choice. Either we can follow rules, but let’s please not kid ourselves that it gets our hearts anywhere. Or we can admit we fall short, and accept the grace Jesus longs to give us (Ephesians 2: 8-9).
The promise of the Bible is that God will give you a heart transplant — replacing your heart of stone with a heart of flesh (Ezekiel 11:19). I hope you know that heart-softening balm called grace.