I'm reading a really terrific book right now called "Simple Church", by Thom Rainer and Eric Geiger. My friend Mike made a comment about Pharisees on the "chainsaw" entry from the Convergence blog that made me think about something these guys wrote about, and I thought I'd share a little piece of it with you.
If you like the History Channel, this stuff is right up your alley. If not, well, you could always watch Andy McKee playing guitar again!
The Revolutionary (Taken from "Simple Church", by Thom Rainer and Eric Geiger Copyright 2006. B & H Publishing Group, Nashville, TN)
"If anyone knows simple, it is Jesus.
If anyone is a revolutionary, it is Jesus. He is the original simple revolutionary. He stepped into a complicated and polluted religious scene. It was cluttered with Sadducees, Pharisees, Herodians, Zealots, and Essenes. He did not play by their rules. He could not stand their hypocrisy. He preferred spending time with tax collectors and sinners.
The religious leaders had developed a religious system with 613 laws. They chose the number 613 because that was how many separate letters were in the text containing the Ten Commandments. Then they found 613 commandments in the Pentateuch (the first five books of the Old Testament). They divided the list into affirmative commands (do this) and negative commands (don't do this).
There were 248 affirmative commands, one for every part of the human body, as they understood it. There were 365 negative commands, one for each day of the year. They further divided the list into binding commands and nonbinding commands. Then they spent their days debating whether the divisions were accurate and ranking the commands within each division.
Enter Jesus. Jesus has the ability to take the complex and make it simple. A prime example is Matthew 22:37-40, where Jesus gives what has become known as the Great Commandment..."
Sorry- I'd better stop there. I'd definitely recommend checking the whole book out. Especially if you are hungry for a simple perspective on what it means to be the church.