Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Pharaoh and the Pharisees

Long ago in Egypt, the Pharaoh of the nation held the people of Israel captive as slaves, building whatever public works were going up at the time (exactly which Pharaoh and which buildings, is not the point here). He had a captive labor force and he wasn't about to give them up. Moses showed up and said "My God is telling you and your pitiful
little idols to let my people go!" Pharaoh, being high-and-mighty, refused, and Moses showed him a plague or two or ten, including turning water into blood and inflicting the land with sores, flies, frogs, locusts and darkness; but Pharaoh still refused to admit he was beaten. The last straw was when the Lord's angel killed all the firstborn sons of Egypt. Then, and only then, were the people set free.

Fifteen hundred years later, Jesus came from God. He, like Moses, saw the people in pain and slavery, and brought the solution -- the real, permanent solution, this time. Jesus showed up with the power of God, doing miracles and teaching the people - just like Moses did. Like Moses, he had opposition from the parties in power -- the Roman occupiers and the Pharisees, local right-wing religious types, neither of whom was going to give up easily. Early in his ministry, Jesus turned water into red wine (John 2), and he later named wine a symbol of his blood, given to set all people free (Matt. 26:27-29). He raised the dead, fed the people with bread and fish, and healed many diseases. When he healed a man's crippled hand (compare Luke 6:6-11 with Exodus 4:6-7), his opponents were filled with rage (Luke 6:11). At other times they accused him of having a demon instead of admitting he was from God. Finally on the cross, after a time of unearthly darkness, (Luke 23:44) the Firstborn Son of the Father died, and all people were set free by his death (Romans 8:34).

The Pharisees, and their earlier counterpart Pharaoh, were unwilling to see what was right in front of them. Perhaps it was from pride of position, or perhaps fear of losing what they thought they owned. Whatever the reason, both stood against God and eventually lost.

So what's the lesson for us? Same thing. We too can have pride, or fear of loss leading to selfishness, that fool us into thinking that we can or should hold back part of ourselves from the healing intrusion of Jesus. Sooner or later, in his patient and loving grace, he will point out to us where that place is. Through his love, he will draw that unbelief out into the open, as a poultice draws infection out of a wound, and that place in our souls will be set free. Until he does, we're still hurting by our own unbelief.  We're still missing out on being set free for greater joy and love in our own lives, and blessing those around us by a life filled with Christ's love. Can we stop and sincerely ask the Lord to show us where we're still being Pharaoh or the Pharisees?

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