I was thinking about how Jesus said, "If your eye causes you to stumble, pluck it out and throw it away. It is better for you to enter life with one eye than to have two eyes and be thrown into gehenna of fire." (Matt 18:9) and how on the one hand, that is a powerful illustration of how destructive sin is, and yet how that phrase is not literal, but hyperbole.
"But what You said fit right into the way people spoke then; they often used hyperbole in terms of sin and righteousness," I said to Jesus, mostly thinking out loud to Him.
Why was that? Jesus asked, as He often does.
He was leaning back against the couch comfortably, watching me with this loving interest that always seems to have just a touch of humor in it. I had been leaning against Him but at this question, I sat up straight.
"I will tell You why!" I declared, suddenly remembering. (Not that I really know why, but I made a connection that I had not realized before.) "They had been carried away to Babylon! This memory was etched into their identity as a people. They had watched their entire nation and their city fall to ruins. Before, they hadn't taken it seriously; they had forgotten.
"But then they found the book, but it was too late!" I continued, eyes wide. "After that, they were certain to follow those laws and statutes. They wanted very much to avoid the consequences of sin, so even their language illustrated this importance.
"It actually makes me sympathetic toward the Pharisees," I admitted to Jesus. "Under those conditions, who could blame them for going above and beyond, for over doing it in their strict religious performances? They were filled with reverent fear of God..."
They were filled with arrogance, Jesus reminded me gently.
"Yes, that's true," I whispered, remembering that, remembering the parable of the Pharisees and the tax collector. "Because if they had had reverent awe of God in their hearts- as the reverent awe of God is the beginning of wisdom- it would not be long before they would have known His heart, how He is full of mercy and steadfast love and they would have naturally begun to follow after Him because of this love of His, to walk humbly with Him and to love justice and... I forget the rest of that verse... But anyway, I think that's what begins to happen when one has a reverent awe of God. But if one becomes filled with religious arrogance, it's..."
Like walking into an open grave, Jesus said, before I could finish my sentence.
"Yes," I whispered, thinking of how pride goes before a fall, and how Jesus had compared some of the Pharisees to an unmarked grave, that people walked over, becoming unclean without realizing it. I can't help thinking that arrogance is one of the most destructive sins- religious arrogance one of the most insidious, because it's so well disguised.
"But really," I continued sadly, "no one can actually live a perfect life, even the humble ones. Even the humble cannot be successful before God in themselves; no one can do it."
That's why I came, Jesus reminded me, His voice full of love.
"Yes, that is why You came- You came down Yourself," I whispered, throwing my arms around Jesus, filled with love and wonder. "No one else could do it but You, so You did it for us, so we could live in You, in Your finished work, alive in Your perfect, faithful life."