Sermon: Do not practice what the Pharisees do, but follow their teachings (Pentecost 21)

The Rev. Miguel Hernandez

In the reading of the New Testament story this morning, we heard that Jesus instructs the people to follow the teachings of the Pharisees, but not to follow their example.

Who were the Pharisees?

Josephus, a Roman-Jewish scholar and historian in the first century, informed us that there were five major Jewish sects: Pharisees, Sadducees, Essenes, Zealots and Sicarii.

Each group had its characteristics.

The Pharisees were very close to the teachings of the Torah.

The Sadduccess were very involved in the activity and functioning of the Temple.

The Essenes were dissatisfied with the religious activities of all other groups and as a result of that they secluded themselves to an area call Qumran near the desert.

The Zealots  and the Sicarii were nationalists who were preoccupied with fighting the imperial Roman forces.

In the passage that was read this morning, Jesus mentioned the Pharisees.  Jesus tells the hearers to follow the teachings of the Pharisees  And Jesus makes a strong point when He says:

Do not do as the Pharisees.

The Pharisees were very familiar with the oral law, and they were versed in the Law of Moses - the Torah.

Thus, Jesus is telling the hearers of the story to listen to the pharisees as they know the Law, however, Jesus instructs them not to do what they practice.

You see, the Pharisees were demanding that people adhere to the written Word and to obey it, but they were not to observing it themselves.

This is the reason why Jesus refers to the Pharisees as hypocrites and blind leaders.

For those of us who are in some kind of leadership, we must watch what we ask people to do or to follow.  Also, we most watch how we act.  Our behavior is being watched at all times.

A leader in any setting, especially in church leadership should lead by example. What is this? You may ask. Well, this means that if we  promise something, we must keep that promise. It means that we do what we say we will do.

In other words, I must walk the talk. We know the expression, talk is cheap.

And you know that it is true. It is more difficult to walk the talk than to just talk.

If we follow Jesus's teaching, we are going to find that we must keep what is good and profitable for our spiritual lives.

Our Christian behavior should be a guiding light to our children and to those around us.

Most of us had had models, perhaps a mother, a father, an uncle, an aunt or a person who had moved to be with the Lord who reminded us of those examples that they provided for us.

Their teachings are still with us. We perhaps can recall what they taught us.

We must keep their traditions alive today more than ever in our minds and our hearts. 

Let's recognize that our ancestors have contributed to our well-being and that with their examples we can also lead the new generations that are coming up so that we can continue the tradition of developing loving Christian followers of Jesus.  Amen.