Gospels are holy books read in church or in the quiet of our room. But they’re about real human beings, who can get angry and unfair.
When Matthew’s gospel was written, in Galilee or Syria about 90 AD, the pharisees were leading a revival in Judaism after the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 AD, and they were competing fiercely with the followers of Jesus for the soul of Judaism. The fighting wasn’t always fair–on either side.
The pharisees and their allies called Jesus a drunkard who ate too many meals with the wrong kind of people, among other things. His friend John the Baptist was a crazy eccentric, they said.
We don’t like them saying that about Jesus and John the Baptist, of course, but the followers of Jesus said some pretty nasty things about the pharisees, if the 23rd chapter of St. Matthew’s gospel is any indication.
Fairness isn’t easy to come by in human life and relationships. We caricature people so easily, especially when they are on the other side of an argument. Our tongues can become uncontrollable and that goes for our judgments too. We like to win, often at any cost, even by running down someone else.
We don’t like the pharisees we hear about in the gospels, but be careful: look closely, they’re not unlike ourselves.