Are we much different from the Pharisees who looked for a reason to accuse Jesus of being an impostor?
The obvious happy ending of this story was the healing of a man’s hand. The power of God is demonstrated and a new chapter begins for the healed man. But, the tragic tension lies in the story of the Pharisees. This is a story of a religious conspiracy of the darkest variety.
Let’s investigate the forensics of bigotry that would ultimately lead to a hate crime of the highest order. As we look at the Pharisees, the Scriptures are a mirror to show us our own potential for being conspiratorial.
Jesus is a guest rabbi in their synagogue and they immediately are at work to find a reason to reject him. Conspiracies start with a mindset that is ready to reject and accuse.
If you want to prove that someone is wrong, you will ask leading questions to get them to reveal who they really are and how different they are from the accepted position. Conspiracies are built on the threat that the enemy is hiding the truth from you. In fact, the enemy is so devious they appear to be your friend. We will provoke them to unmask their secret agenda.
3. The Log and the Speck
Elsewhere Jesus spoke about our need to remove the log from our own eye, before trying to remove the speck from our brother’s eye. The log in the Pharisees’ collective eye is astounding. The issue about working on the Sabbath varied in definition depending on which group you belonged to.
The Essenes were the strictest sect of Judaism and included John the Baptist as one of their members. They would not even rescue an animal on the Sabbath day. Most Pharisees and Jewish people did not see rescuing the sheep in a pit as a Sabbath violation. Jesus makes the point that people of are greater worth than animals and healing the man would not be wrong in this context.
In the worst cases of breaking the Sabbath, the Law prescribed public execution[i] as the punishment. Roman law would not allow the Jews to practice capital punishment since their authority presided over Israel. Even the strictest group of Essenes would not execute Sabbath breakers, but instead hold them in detention.
In the Pharisees, we see a self-righteous attitude that goes beyond civility. They look for ways to kill Jesus. They are prepared to commit murder in the name of protecting their interests. In protecting the Law, they will become Law-breakers. They cannot see the log in their own eye and neither can people who zealously embrace conspiracy.
4. Opinion Trumps Truth
Unable to outwit Jesus and validate their case against him, they went away and began to plot his death. The truth of the debate was settled when God healed the man’s hand. But conspiracy lovers will go to any length to be validated. Their own ‘truth’ was more powerful than the Truth.
5. Unstopped Conspiracies End Badly
This story was not the end of the story. The Pharisees eventually had their day in court leading to Jesus being crucified as an innocent man.