34 Then said Jesus, Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do.
King James Version (KJV)
“The Smiles Of The Pharisees”
DORSEY STOCKTON HAMILTON
From the July 26, 1947 issue of the Christian Science Sentinel
* Painting – Eugene Delacroix’s Christ at the Cross – Courtesy of allposters.com
One of the questions asked and answered on a lesson card of an orthodox Sunday School which the writer attended when a small child was:
Question: Why did Judas betray Christ Jesus?
Answer: For thirty pieces of silver.
Our beloved Leader, Mary Baker Eddy, looking more deeply into the weaknesses of mortal mind, tells us in “Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures” ( p. 47), “The traitor’s price was thirty pieces of silver and the smiles of the Pharisees.” It was “the smiles of the Pharisees”—the approval of those who were in power—as well as the paltry silver, that incited Judas to treachery.
The adherence of others of that day to Jesus’ teachings was veiled by their moral cowardice. In John ( 12:42, 43) we find the significant statement, “Nevertheless among the chief rulers also many believed on him; but because of the Pharisees they did not confess him, lest they should be put out of the synagogue: for they loved the praise of men more than the praise of God.”
Nicodemus, himself a Pharisee, was perhaps one of those referred to in this quotation. It is quite evident from the Bible account in the third chapter of John that he recognized the truth in the Master’s teachings, the same truth found today in Christian Science. He went secretly to Jesus by night to inquire more fully into the deep things of God. The Bible states that he was a ruler of the Jews—a man highly esteemed by his fellows. What an opportunity was his to be a blessing to others! Had he come out boldly for the doctrine that Jesus was expounding, his influence as a leader would have impelled many, we may reasonably suppose, to investigate the Master’s teachings and thus to experience the power and gladness that Christ, Truth, brings to all. But it is not recorded that Nicodemus ever acknowledged to others his visit by night to the Master’s abode.
Almost two thousand years have gone by since Judas’ dastardly deed and Nicodemus’ lost opportunity, but the carnal mind still claims to operate in much the same way. The influence of Pharisaism—fear of what those who would influence public opinion may think, say, or do—has persisted through the centuries. There are many who have found Christian Science and are daily being blessed by their study of its authorized literature who are still unwilling to come out boldly and take a definite stand for the truth and join the ranks of those who are helping to promote the kingdom of heaven on earth by extending and supporting the organized activity of the Church of Christ, Scientist.
Whether one stands high in the opinion of men, like Nicodemus, or occupies a more humble place in life, as did the disciples, God, Truth, has need of him.
“From duty’s claims no life is free, Behold, today hath need of thee.”
Until one has the courage to “come out from among them, and be … separate,” there is little one can do in His service.
Error may argue many excuses for delay in thus definitely taking our stand before those who do not understand or practice the teachings of Christian Science, but who may often otherwise command our affection and respect. Perhaps the suggestion comes to us that it will be better to wait for a larger understanding, or until it will be less difficult to attend services and business meetings; or it may be that the Readers are not those we think should have been chosen. Can it be that the real reason for our reluctance is hidden from us? May it not be well for each one to ask himself, “Am I delaying to take my stand against the current of popular opinion because of fear of losing ‘the smiles of the Pharisees’—the good opinion of those critics of Christian Science whom I wish to please?”
This error—the desire to be approved by others, rather than by God—is subtle, and may not be recognized promptly for what it is. However, if one is sincerely desirous of following the Christ-way, and is striving as best he knows how to gain a higher sense of being, the mistaken sense that obstructs his upward path will be removed, and grace will be given to continue the ascent heavenward. Divine Love is ever near.
An experience of a student of Christian Science may be helpful to those who have not yet reached the valley of decision spoken of by Joel ( 3:14): “Multitudes, multitudes in the valley of decision: for the day of the Lord is near in the valley of decision.” After seeing the healing of a friend brought about by simply reading the Christian Science textbook, and witnessing a remarkable healing in her own household, this woman began a diligent study of Mrs. Eddy’s writings. In the small town where she then lived there was great opposition to the teachings of Christian Science, and from the first there was much unfavorable criticism of the course she was pursuing. Relatives and friends alike made an effort to sway her from “that foolishness,” as some chose to label it. One came from another part of the state to admonish her. A longtime friend deliberately turned her head as they passed on the street. The pastor of her church spent the greater part of an afternoon lovingly trying to show her that the church of which she was then a member contained all that she was seeking in Christian Science. Even a member of her own household was openly displeased at her investigation of the maligned religion.
But the student had already gained enough from her study to be convinced that she had found the way. She was determined to cling to the light she had gained, and therefore continued steadfastly to seek a larger understanding. However, when a friend who had begun the study of our Leader’s writings at the same time as she recommended that together they make application for church membership, she replied, “No, I’m not ready yet.” She seemed to be willing to gain all the good she could from Christian Science and give nothing of herself in return, though at that time she was not conscious of the error that was influencing her.
One afternoon some friends whom she had not seen in recent months came to call. In the course of the conversation, one remarked laughingly, “I hear you have become a Christian Scientist!” The answer came promptly, “Oh, no, I haven’t; I’ve just been looking into the teachings.” She was instantly conscious that her denial had been pleasing to her callers. When the door closed behind them, the error that handled her was laid bare. Her remorse was great. She told herself that she had been a coward for failing to acknowledge the good she had received from Christian Science; that she had betrayed the Christ. She had sold out for less than had Judas. His reward had been thirty pieces of silver besides “the smiles of the Pharisees;” she had received only the smile of popular opinion. She saw that she had been trying to hold on to God with one hand and the world with the other. She had been hiding behind the false reply that she was not a Scientist, but just investigating.
She remembered that when the ten lepers were healed, one returned to give thanks. She resolved to follow his example. She saw that “the smiles of the Pharisees” must not allure, nor must their frowns disturb her, if she was to make progress in the things of Spirit. She sent up a silent prayer to the Father asking forgiveness, and the following Communion service found her name included as a member of the local Christian Science organization. A proof of God;s loving care and protection of those willing to take His hand and go forward was shown in the fact that all outward opposition to her faith ceased. Some who had thought themselves antagonistic became sincere students. Others refrained from any further mention of the subject when in her presence.
On page 452 of the Christian Science textbook Mrs. Eddy says: “When outgrowing the old, you should not fear to put on the new. Your advancing course may provoke envy, but it will also attract respect.” The fact that a grain of this truth as revealed in Christian Science has taken root in one’s consciousness is a positive proof that God has an important work for one to do in helping to forward this glorious Cause. “Many are called, but few are chosen” ( Matt. 22:14). The work especially designed for each one can be accomplished by no other—it is his alone; and this puts upon him a grave responsibility. Our beloved Leader states on page 570 of Science and Health: “Millions of unprejudiced minds—simple seekers for Truth, weary wanderers, athirst in the desert—are waiting and watching for rest and drink. Give them a cup of cold water in Christ’s name, and never fear the consequences.” She further assures us: “Those ready for the blessing you impart will give thanks. The waters will be pacified, and Christ will command the wave.”
Those who are willing to renounce the approval of those still critical of Christian Science, and to take up the cross and follow the Christ-way openly, faithfully, gratefully, will find a peace and satisfaction, a joy and protection, which is of God’s bestowing. They will be able to exclaim more and more understandingly with the apostle of old ( Phil. 3:7, 8): “But what things were gain to me, those I counted loss for Christ. Yea doubtless, but I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord.”