As we look at the relationship between Jesus and the Pharisees in the Bible, they certainly appear to have contradictory views. The Pharisees generally seem to be trying to trap, discredit, or even kill Jesus (and eventually, with the help of the Roman Empire, they succeed in that last goal…for a few days.) While there are some exceptions (i.e., Pharisees who were willing, and even interested, in listening to Jesus), most of the specific accounts in the Gospels suggest a more adversarial relationship.
Against that backdrop, the following verse sounds like “some Pharisees” were actually trying to help Jesus out:
At that time some Pharisees came to Jesus and said to him, “Leave this place and go somewhere else. Herod wants to kill you.”
Luke 13:31 NIV
(This is kind of the opposite of Arnold Schwarzenegger’s famous movie quote, “Come with me if you want to live”.)
We could interpret this verse in a couple of ways: Maybe these were Pharisees who genuinely did not want Jesus to be killed by Herod. In the context of the typical messages from the Pharisees to Jesus, though, another interpretation is that the Pharisees who opposed Jesus just wanted to get Him out of town. After all, the influence of the Pharisees was probably most significant in Jerusalem (where the temple was), so having this itinerant rabbi (i.e., Jesus) preaching somewhere else would reduce the threat to their authority and fame.
Regardless of their intentions (whether helpful or just masquerading as helpful), those who want to suppress the message of Jesus Christ will try to separate His followers from those who need to hear it. Much is said about “cancel culture” these days (although boycotts are not a new practice, and both of them can be done for the wrong reasons), but trying to keep the Good News about Jesus away from lost souls is not a new tactic. (Quick question: Are we guilty of the same? If we can’t listen to those who think differently from ourselves, why should we expect them to listen to us?)
So, what should followers of Jesus do when they are excluded from (or asked to leave) a group? This group trying to get rid of believers might be popular culture, social media, or just a clique at school or work. The pressure might be social, economic, or structural. The reasons for excluding specific people might be intentional (from those who oppose Jesus Christ), inconsiderate (where selfish motives exclude all points of view except the holder’s), or inadvertent (where policies meant to achieve a worldly kind of “tolerance” shut out expressions of faith).
Jesus’ response, along with some prophecy, can be found in Luke 13:32-35. A commentary (referenced at the end of this article) makes a key point: in my own words, even death threats aren’t going to stop God’s plan. Jesus went to Jerusalem, anyway, but on His own time and His own schedule.
Notice that Jesus wasn’t flippant or reckless in His decisions. He didn’t resist political, religious, or social rules out of spite or hatred of others. Still, as He (God the Son) spent time with God the Father, and followed God’s perfect plan, others were definitely offended sometimes. And, as we know, Jesus stepped up and faced the corporeal consequences of His choices, even when it cost His life.
I doubt that many (and hopefully none) of my readers will have to decide between following God’s instructions and being tortured or killed today. However, the key drivers (and perhaps the only ones) for Jesus’ choices seem to be God’s will and God’s plan, and not His (Jesus’) own preferences or comfort. That, I think, should be the motivating factor in our choices as well.
So, if you are excluded or warned away from a situation, be wise. Don’t run into danger because of ego or rebellion. Don’t shy away from challenges because others are afraid to step up. Don’t let mere human ideas tell you what the correct moral choices are for your specific situation. Instead, spend even more time in the Bible and seeking the direction of the Holy Spirit, and make your decision based on God’s plan, not any human being’s plan (whether yours or someone else’s).
- The College Press NIV Commentary, Luke, Mark C. Black, © 1996, College Press Publishing Company
- Scripture taken from the Holy Bible, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.