Pharisee, Sadducee and Franchisee.

Back in the day when the Roman Empire ruled the world there were two classes of ‘professional Jew’, the Sadducees and Pharisees.

The Pharisees and Sadducees.

The Pharisees, and their sidekicks the Scribes, were the dominant professional class. They ruled the roost in every town and village, from the fertile fields of Galilee to the scorching deserts of Judea and all across the Roman Empire. In fact, anywhere a few law-abiding Jews could be found, you can be sure a Pharisee or three would be calling the shots. They were also the dominant party in the Sanhedrin, the Jewish religious council in Jerusalem.

The Sadducees were a small, aristocratic priestly class who ruled the roost in Jerusalem and claimed their pound of flesh every time a law-abiding Jew visited the temple to worship God.

While the Sadducees majored on ‘form and function’, the Pharisees were all about ‘The ‘Law and Traditions’.

The Pharisees were the ‘thought-police’ and ‘fact-checkers’ of their day. They followed Jesus as he travelled through Galilee and Judea teaching about the new covenant while purposefully ignoring the Pharisees’ petty ‘Traditions’. Their attacks earned Jesus Christ’s harshest condemnations; here are just three examples;

“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you tithe mint and dill and cumin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faithfulness. These you ought to have done, without neglecting the others.

 

“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you clean the outside of the cup and the plate, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence.”

 

“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs, which outwardly appear beautiful, but within are full of dead people's bones and all uncleanness.

According to Bible commentator, F.B. Meyer, the Pharisee,

Stands for the unloving and self-righteous, who are ignorant of the love of God. They may be respectable in life, rigid in morality, unquestioned in orthodoxy, but what are these without love?

It was the Pharisees, supported by the Scribes and Sadducees, who demanded that the Roman governor, Pontius Pilate, crucify Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ was a threat to the very system from which they derived their privileges and power. He posed absolutely no threat to the Roman Empire but, seeking to avoid a Jewish riot in Jerusalem, Pontius Pilate authorised Jesus’ crucifixion.

Fast forward two thousand years.

The heirs of the Sadducees and Pharisees have plagued the Christian church from its very earliest days. From the 'Circumcision Party that plagued the early churches, through thirteen hundred years of Roman Catholic domination to the modern-day Bible-punching Evangelicals and Pentecostals, the Sadducee and Pharisee classes have flourished.

The modern-day Sadducees and Pharisees are easy to spot in the Christian churches.

The Sadducee class rules the roost in the ecclesiastical denominations (more correctly ‘sects’) while the Pharisee class hold tightly to the reins of power in the Reformed, Evangelical and Pentecostal sects.

Like the Sadducees of old, the Christian Sadducees love their ‘form and function’ religion with its liturgies, rites and rituals. The professional class hold tightly to their lofty titles; pope, cardinal, bishop, priest etc. The Sadducees don't really care what you believe or how you behave outside of church  as long as you 'show up and shut up' on important days and put money into the collection.

And like the Pharisees of old, the Christian Pharisees have the Bible as their ‘Law’ and a compendium of their peculiar form of orthodoxy, as their ‘Traditions’; the latter usually in the form of a sectarian constitutions and ‘Statement of Faith’. They are the modern-day thought-police and religious fact-checkers; constantly disagreeing with each other over petty issues being generally unloving towards anyone who thinks differently.

What would Jesus say today?

Personally, I have no doubt that these modern-day Christian Pharisees and Sadducees would attract the same condemnation as their forebears.

In their lust for power and control, they have ignored the New Commandment to “Love one another” let alone loving their neighbours and their enemies! Instead they have carved up the ‘Body of Christ’ into hundreds of sects and personality-cult churches. See my blog “Message to Ordinary Christians”.

The Jesus Franchisee.

There is a third type, the true disciple of Jesus Christ, the individual 'Jesus Franchisee'.

I like the term Franchisee! It not only rhymes nicely with Pharisee and Sadducee but, more importantly, it accurately conveys the idea of a true disciple of Christ; an ambassador of Jesus Christ in the world. That is something the word Christian fails to do; see my article “The Christian franchise is meaningless” in which I demonstrate why Christianity has lost all credibility outside its own echo chambers.

In fact, I believe that a disciple of Jesus Christ should give up the Christian label altogether;

I also like the term Franchisee because it recognises Jesus Christ as the Franchisor of his Church, a spiritual community, not a human organisation. It also recognises that the individual disciple is the real franchisees; each one "an ambassador of Christ" (2 Corinthians 5.20).

The Holy Spirit is the ‘Custodian of the Jesus Franchise’ in the world.

Jesus told his disciples that the indwelling Holy Spirit will teach you all things and remind you of everything that I have told you.” (John14.26)

No intermediaries required. No dogma, no orthodoxy, no heresy, only truth and error.

Although it is easy to recognise a Jesus Franchisee when you see one, most live quiet lives, their loving influence experienced in the intimacy of meaningful relationships where it really matters.

The Jesus Franchisee is like a lamp on a lampstand, not a blaring foghorn on a clear night nor a clanging cymbal in an already-noisy world.

The Jesus Franchisee understands that actions speak louder than words.

They understand that sacrificial love is the distinguishing feature of a disciple of Christ and not some sectarian dogma preached from a soapbox by a hypocrite, no matter how elaborate or humble that soapbox may be.

Jesus Franchisees can be found everywhere. As in Jesus’ day, many are found within the ranks of the modern-day Sadducee and Pharisee sects as well as outside those ranks, among ordinary people living ordinary lives in an extraordinarily loving way.

Ordinary disciples of the Lord Jesus Christ, living Spirit-filled lives outside the control (aka ‘covering’) of some organisational structure led by hireling shepherds (John 10.12), is a terrifying prospect to the Pharisees and Sadducees but a joy to Jesus Christ.

What are you, Pharisee, Sadducee or Franchisee?

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