Faith of A Mustard Seed

Barbara Woods Washington

Barbara Woods-Washington, M. Div.

“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! . . .” (Matt 23:23).

Most prominent among the ‘denominations’ of Judaism in Jesus’ times is the Pharisees.  Although Paul has identified himself as a Pharisee, the verdict is still out on Jesus’ sect.

When Israel returned from Babylonian exile, there is no attempt made to restore the monarchy.  Under the leadership of Ezra— the ‘New Law Giver’, a ‘theocratic rule’ is re-established; with responsibilities for guidance given to the high priest.  The ‘new law’— Leviticus, incorporated ‘The Priestly Code’, and speaks to a ‘new people’:  “You shall be holy to me; for I, the Lord am holy, and I have separated you from the other peoples to be mine.” (Leviticus 20:26)

The Pharisees— ‘those who are separated’ adopted the principles of ‘holiness’ prescribed to the ‘letter of the law’; and regarded themselves the ‘heirs to Ezra’s teachings’.  Their beginnings as a movement date to the Maccabeean times and can be accounted for in the ‘Apocryphal/ Deutrocannonical’ Books of Scripture— “a company of pious Jews, brave men from Israel, none but those who willingly submitted themselves to the law.” (I Maccabees 2:42).  ‘Separating lines’ are subsequently drawn from the Hasmoneans who sought political power.  The Pharisees became known for their pious living, prayers and fasting in preparation for the ‘Kingdom of God’. Although there were priests among the Pharisees, it was their scribes who held the positions of leadership.

Perhaps it was because of their lack of participation in the political life, that by the time Jesus of Nazareth appears in the Roman Empire, the Pharisees have become a religious force to reckon with— and ‘reckon with them’ Jesus does.  In the presence of the Pharisees, Jesus: sat at dinner with the tax collectors and sinners (Matt 9:10f); allowed his disciples to pluck grain to eat on the Sabbath (Matt 12:1f); allowed his disciples to eat without washing their hands (Matt 15:1f); and  upbraided the Pharisees for their hard-heartedness in questions of divorce (Matt 19:3f).  In the presence of the Pharisees, Jesus speaks two of the three most important Parables of his ministry, both of which took aim directly at them— the ‘Parable On Defilement’ (Matt 15:1f) and the ‘Parable Of The Vineyard’ (Matt:20:1f); both of which led to the intensification of the plot by the Pharisees to take his life.

I am beginning to question many things concerning Black America as the 2020 national life has ‘stripped bare’ so much of the things that have been held as near and dear.  Back in March when the Church was closed under orders of the State; and the Schools and Universities were closed, also by the hand of the State, I first questioned the Leadership of these national life Institutions.  Had they each been ‘bought’ or perhaps, ‘sold out’?  Was the Theological and Philosophical Voices of the Times so impotent in content that there was no Salvation left in the Words of their Life; nor the Life of their Words?  Even with the ‘banning’ of these “Two of the Five” Institutions of national life into “Cyberspace”… a new ‘Alternate Truth’;  the theological and philosophical word… remains the same.  With full view of the Political Life now on stage, with total control of the ‘National Voice’: The ‘Real’ for me, becomes this Word from the Text of Scripture, “Woe to you, scribes (Universities) and Pharisees (Church), hypocrites!”

‘Weighty’ among the matters of conflict between the Pharisees and Jesus are the ‘Purity Laws’ and the ‘Tithe of The Seeds’.  Here, and now, Jesus approaches the ‘Tithe of the Seeds’.

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