Heard of any of these lately? Atkins diet, Jenny Craig, South Beach diet, Weight Watchers, Kava pills, Ephedra weight loss pills, etc. Diets can be dangerous. Dangerous because these diets take it to the extreme. They miss the whole picture because they restrict you to eat only certain food groups. These diets compartmentalize our eating habits, and then what happens to you? You crash and burn.
Our bodies were meant to have the five basic food groups and in proper portions.
The same can be said of our spiritual life: We need balance. Wholeness. This is exactly what Jesus was saying when he said: "Do not think that I have come to abolish (get rid of) the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them (to live them out).” The people of his time were missing the point. They took parts of the law that were intended for wholeness and went to the extreme by compartmentalizing them.
Like our five basic food groups, in Jesus’ time, there were five main religious sects. But just as we found out, if we consume food out of proportion, our pyramid comes crumbling down. It was the same way with these groups. The Pharisees, Herodians, Sadducees, Essenes and Zealots were the law, and they had their one little way of handling the Torah. But they went to the extreme.
1. Pharisees and Scribes: They were concerned about being legally pure and therefore separated themselves from any form of defilement. They knew the Holy Scriptures really well. But the downfall was that they got so hung up on the definition of what was "clean" and "unclean."
2. Herodians: They took care of Herod’s family. In other words they were in politics. But when Jesus came on the scene, they disliked His teachings because they were probably afraid they would lose their status quo.
3. Sadducees: They were interested in what was going on "here and now." They embraced their current culture and probably were very relevant to it as well. But because they only lived for the "here and now," through the years they stopped believing in fundamentals like the resurrection, the judgment or the afterlife.
4. Essenes: They had separated themselves from the community as a whole and did a lot of work for the "ministry." They were good to the earth, they farmed, took care of the poor, the orphans, etc. But at some point in time they started believing that God would bring the evil age to an end due to their good lives, good works and their prayers.
5. Zealots: They were very zealous (passionate) for the things of God. They wanted to rule with power and by power. Even if it meant death.
After looking at all of this I have figured out that when Jesus said He came to fulfill the law; He was not only showing us how to live the Torah out, but was also showing the good in these other groups. Wholeness is what Jesus was after. After all, originally these religious sects were fulfilling the Law, but only certain parts of it.
We should strive to have the strengths of all these groups without inheriting the negative parts. We should be like the Pharisees and Scribes and separate ourselves for God and learn what He says in the book. We should be like the Herodians and lift up our politicians in prayer. We should be like the Sadducees and be relevant and embrace our culture. We should be like the Essenes and love the people, pray for them, love and take care of our earth, take care of orphans and do the work of the ministry. We should also be like the Zealots and be passionate about the things of God and not be lukewarm. But if you notice, in Jesus’ life and His ways, He encompasses all of these characteristics.
Be complete and whole in His ways. Take up Jesus’ persona and imitate Him. Don’t settle for a diet portion of Jesus. Go for the whole thing.