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  • Writer's pictureMarissa Galvan

Hearts of Stone

We Have Met the Pharisees, And They Are Us

In his commentary on Mark’s passage, C. Clifton Black, a professor of Biblical Theology, reminds the reader of two traps to avoid when interpreting the passage. The first trap is dismissing the importance of the Sabbath in first-century Judaism. The Pharisees and other devout followers of Judaism took God's commandment in Genesis very seriously, and they were not making a big deal out of nothing when they scolded Jesus and the disciples for not observing it properly.

The second trap is the temptation to censure the Pharisees or think of them as self-righteous hypocrites. As Black mentions, the Pharisees were regarded as “upstanding, devout, Bible-believing pillars of the community,” so any judgment against them could come back to bite us. Why? Because, as Christians, we might be considered the Pharisees of our era.

Black uses an old Pogo Possum cartoon to explain this further. When seeing that the forest where he lives is full of litter that they have tossed all over the place, Pogo says, “We have met the enemy and he is us.”


He then reminds us that when we get outraged as Christians about forgiveness given to someone we think does not deserve it, or when we pass judgment on someone declaring they are not worthy of God’s love, or when we declare another’s version of Christianity as heresy, then we might look at ourselves in the mirror and say, “I have met a Pharisee… and it is me.”

Black poses the question for us today: “How will we feel when Jesus runs roughshod over whatever we consider definitive of Christian conduct, even when we find it in the Bible?” What would we do if Jesus reinterprets something that we consider an essential tenet of our faith?

Grieved At Their Hardness Of Heart

You might be thinking of people you believe are being challenged by these questions. But I invite you today to look at yourself as the Pharisee. You believe wholeheartedly in the Sabbath. You think Jesus is wrong. There is nothing that Jesus could do to change your mind.

The passage says that Jesus, after two confrontations with the Pharisees, “looked around at them with anger; and he was grieved at their hardness of heart.”

Have you ever been looked at by someone grieved by the hardness of your heart? What would your reaction be when receiving a look like that? Remember, we are the Pharisees. We are the ones with hardened hearts. We are the ones with hearts of stone.

If I must answer this question and self-evaluate… I would say my reaction would be one of sadness. But at the same time, I would have to confess all the times I’ve been stubborn when facing things I feel Jesus has called me to do in my life.

I would have to confess the times where bitterness has gnawed at my hope.

I would have to confess all the times my anger has conquered my call to love and forgive.

I would have to confess the times I have passed judgment on another human being without even talking to them or trying to understand where they come from.

I would have to confess all the times I’ve wanted to delete someone from my Facebook page!

And let me clarify that I believe sometimes erasing someone from Facebook is good for your mental health, and that even Jesus got angry from time to time, as attested by this passage. But he never gave up on love. He never shut a door completely. And he never stopped teaching, healing, and loving. Ask the man who had the withered hand about that.

Love Heals A Heart Of Stone

When I read the verse about hardened hearts, I thought about an old Lucia Méndez song called “Corazón de piedra” (Heart of Stone). The song is about a person who has had to face heartbreak and, as a result, feels their heart has turned to stone, unable to love or feel deep emotions again.

I believe everyone here has faced heartbreak, anger, and grief. But we cannot let our hearts turn to stone. We must remain open to God’s molding and transformation. We must remain vigilant to Jesus running “roughshod over whatever we consider definitive of Christian conduct” because the only conduct we should follow is Christlike conduct. We are Pharisees, after all. We are human, after all… and we must admit our need to learn, to transform, to grow.

There are ways to keep our hearts open. Traci Smith, a Presbyterian pastor and writer, has shared some ways to grow our faith during the summer, and I want to share those with you:

And I would add one more… have conversations as a family with people who have a different point of view than you. Ask questions. Listen with empathy. Speak about things that are familiar. Don’t be afraid to go deeper. And practice honesty. You may feel anger and grief, just like Jesus did. But…don’t give up. Don’t shut people out. That’s one of the differences between Jesus… and ourselves… the Pharisees. And because of that, we, the Pharisees, always have a chance to change, to grow, to learn.

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