Matthew 15:12-14 (NIV) Then the disciples came to him and asked, “Do you know that the Pharisees were offended when they heard this?”
He replied, “Every plant that my heavenly Father has not planted will be pulled up by the roots. Leave them; they are blind guides. If a blind man leads a blind man, both will fall into a pit.”
The Pharisees really were offended by Jesus’ teachings, and with good reason: He had aimed those teachings right at them. The Pharisees were the most righteous people of Jesus’ day from the standpoint of strict obedience to God’s law. They studied the Scriptures constantly, and knew all of the best commentaries on those Scriptures by heart. Paul’s reflection on his own life as a Pharisee, that as far as legalistic righteousness he had considered himself faultless (Philippians 3:6), was a very typical attitude of the Pharisees.
But Jesus saw them differently.
When Jesus talked about plants that His heavenly Father had not planted, He was not talking about the Pharisees, but about their teachings and man-made rules that increased the weight of the yoke of the law on God’s people exponentially. Jesus knew that all of those extraneous rules, interpretations, and man-made requirements would be uprooted; they would quickly fall away in the new kingdom era that He was even then initiating, leaving only God’s real requirements for His people to obey. Jesus called the Pharisees “blind guides,” a term of pity more than condemnation. He really wanted these religious leaders, who wanted so badly to please God, to open their eyes and see who it was who was standing right in front of them. He wanted them to learn from Him how to really live in God’s favor. But the Pharisees were unwilling to open their eyes so that they could see. And they were so sure of their knowledge of God and His ways that they wouldn’t bother listening to other teachers, not even the Teacher that God had sent to them.
Jesus’ call to His disciples was to steer clear of the Pharisees, and of their teachings. (see also Matthew 16:6.) If they tried to follow them, to live life their way, they would end up following them right into the spiritual pit that lay right in their path. Instead, they needed to follow Him, the real Way.
Father, it is very easy for us to be lured into following teachers other than You, especially those who have charismatic personalities, or who make grand claims for their ministry. But You are to be our teacher, and You have graciously handed down Your teachings to us in the Scriptures. Help me to look to those Scriptures for what YOU want to show me each day, and to never convince myself that I know enough so that I don’t have to keep reading. Help me to allow Your voice to speak to me through those words. And help me to allow them to continually mold and shape me into Your image.