How to Tick Off a Pharisee

by Ben Sternke on June 8, 2014

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Today is Pentecost Sunday, a seemingly benign celebration in the midst of the church’s liturgical calendar.

But it’s anything but benign. This is nothing less than the beginning of the most stunning revolution in human history, and it really messed with the Pharisees.

You see, the reason the Pharisees and teachers of the law were looking for a way to kill Jesus was precisely because so much of their honor was wrapped up in their position as gate-keepers to God, and Jesus was challenging this by declaring the kingdom of God was now available to anyone through him!

How dare he dish out the blessings of God willy-nilly like that? How dare he circumvent a system of access to God that had been carefully manipulated to benefit those in charge of it? Who does he think he is, offering forgiveness and healing just because people need it? Where is the propriety? This Jesus had to go.

They were so highly invested in the system of religious control they had crafted that murder felt like the only option when it was challenged. They were the gate-keepers to God’s presence, carefully sifting out the unworthy from the worthy. But now Jesus was acting as a gateway for anyone to run straight into the presence of God! They were scared to death that their position as gate-keepers was coming to an end.

So they thought they had solved the problem when Jesus was crucified. But they had actually made things so much worse. They just didn’t know it until the day of Pentecost.

When the Spirit was unleashed on Pentecost, all of the Pharisees’ worst nightmares came true. Now instead of dealing with Jesus, they had to deal with 120 Jesuses! The same things that had happened through Jesus’ life were happening through his followers’ lives! Their ability to control access to God was now even more tenuous than it had been before.

There used to be one gateway, and they thought they had gotten rid of him. Now there were over one hundred gateways, and it turned into thousands on Pentecost. Their position as gate-keepers was crumbling under their feet, because God’s presence and blessing was now radically, readily, and increasingly available to ordinary people who simply trust Jesus through the Spirit.

The virus they thought they had eradicated was now spreading like wildfire, and all their attempts to put out the flames of Pentecost only seemed to pour gasoline on the inferno.

Pentecost meant game over for those invested in maintaining systems of religious control, and it continues to this day! God is radically available to anyone today because the Spirit of Jesus has been unleashed.

“And everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” – Peter’s Pentecost sermon, Acts 2:21


divineconsFor more on God’s radical availability to all who call on him, I’d recommend you read Dallas Willard’s modern-day classic The Divine ConspiracyIt was truly a life-changing book for me, and, in my opinion, will be considered a Christian classic 100 years from now.

Also, I work with 3DM, an organization that trains leaders to put discipleship and mission back into the hands of ordinary people.

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Love this Ben! It made me think that the Sadducees would have been just as ticked off as the Pharisees on the day of Pentecost. While the Pharisees used meticulous observance of the written and oral law as the means of their gate-keeping, the Sadducees used the sacrificial rituals of the Temple as their way of holding on to spiritual power. First the curtain in the Temple was torn from top to bottom and now the Spirit is poured out on everyone--there went their corner on the market! No wonder the Temple went out of business with the destruction of the Romans and has never been rebuilt. Who needs a big, fancy, expensive, elitist Temple, when your own body can now be a temple of the Holy Spirit! Wooohooo, now everybody gets to play! Alleluia! 

bensternke moderator

@BobRognlien Great Bob! (Sorry my commenting system hasn't been emailing me when new comments arrive on the blog!)


Ben -- I'm reposting this article in the "News" section of the blog giving you attribution and a link to your website and original article.  I changed the first sentence slightly as tomorrow is not Pentecost ;-).  Best wishes, Ron <><

bensternke moderator

@ronfurg1 Sounds good rofurg1! Sorry my commenting system hasn't been emailing me when new comments arrive on the blog!

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