Wednesday, January 23, 2008

What Is A Pharisee?

So many times, I look at an activity in a lesson book and say to myself, “My students would not resonate with this activity.” So many times, fewer than I’d like to admit, I do the activity anyway. And there are so many times my students surprise me, in turn, teaching me to look at the Bible in a fresh way. Last Sunday was one of those times.

We were studying John 9 in my combined junior high/high school class. I was to have the students read John 9;13-36. Then I was to read three paragraphs that described the three different groups of people in the story – the man born blind, the parents, and the Pharisees. Now, my group of kids are a little low on the Bible academic challenge scale. I wasn’t even sure they could pronounce the name “Pharisee” much less, know what one was.

I read the description for the parents. My high school senior daughter guessed that one correctly. Thank you, sweetheart, for giving the rest of the class the idea behind how we do this activity. Whatever am I going to do without you next year when you leave for college? The next description was that for the Pharisees. To me, the answer was obvious. Would it be to them?

An eighth grade girl raised her hand. “That’s the snotty people in the synagogue,” she answered. I think I actually took a step back. Her answer was brilliant. It was beautiful! It so aptly depicted who these guys were! A lot of times, kids in Sunday School parrot back the right answer without making head connect with heart. This little gal didn’t give the correct word, but she gave a fitting description of the Pharisees’ attitude in words with which she could connect.

Better yet, I was able to use her description in the end of the lesson. We talked about how the blind man could see better spiritually because he showed he understood his need for Jesus while the Pharisees didn’t. We talked about how if we are willing to humbly admit who we are before God, He will accept us as we are. I said, “Even if the ‘snotty people’ at school, at home or wherever you are don’t accept you, God will.”

My students discovered how to translate Pharisees into “snotty people in the synagogue.” In that moment, I understood far better than I had before what Jesus was explaining about spiritual blindness. And I also learned a new turn of phrase that has kept me smiling all week long! Teaching truly is a never ending learning process.

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