PHARISEE OR PUBLICAN
By Janice Price
Where is he going in such a hurry, I wondered. The police car slowly passed me, and suddenly the flashing lights blazed and the car zipped left at the corner. As I turned left at the stop sign, I realized the blinking lights were now behind me, following me through the intersection. I pulled over to the curb to allow the car to pass. It rolled to a stop behind me.
I reached in my purse for the driver’s license and vehicle registration tucked inside the wallet. Wait a minute, I thought. Why am I being stopped? I didn’t do anything illegal. I wasn’t speeding or weaving. And I stopped at both stop signs.
The officer approached, smiling kindly. “Good evening, ma’am.”
I was calmer than I would have thought possible under the circumstances. Perplexed, I shrugged my shoulders and threw my hands in the air, palms up. “What did I do wrong, officer?”
“You nearly blinded me. You must have your bright lights on.”
“I do?” I stared at the dashboard, trying to remember where the high beam indicator was located. I stared at the red emergency brake light instead. “I guess I do. But I don’t want to use my bright lights. I don’t even know where they are.”
I had a vague memory they were located on the turn signal/windshield wiper spindle, which I must have bumped while getting into the car. I had a clear memory of bumping them once before, and driving down a deserted country road trying to figure out how to turn them off before I met another car. Most of my night driving is done around town, where turning on the high beams could get a person stopped by a police officer.
The officer was already returning to his car. Rapidly, I ran through my options. I could unbuckle the seat belt, find the owner’s manual somewhere in the container on the passenger floor and read it by flashlight to find the bright light switch. Or I could eventually find it by a process of elimination. But there was a better option. I swallowed my pride.
“Officer,” I called. “I really don’t ever use the bright lights. Will you show me how to turn them off?”
He looked doubtful, as if I were pulling his leg. But he returned, reached a hand in the window and flipped the turn signal/windshield wiper spindle. The high beams went off and he walked back to his car.
This incident brought to mind the Pharisee and the publican in Luke 18. Both went to the temple to pray. One was a man of religion; he prayed with the assurance of one who believed himself innocent of any wrongdoing. He knew in his heart he kept the Sabbath, tithed to the “anise” degree and obeyed all the commandments. He unabashedly tooted his own horn.
When God turned on his flashing lights and pulled over the Pharisee, the Pharisee threw up his hands and asked, “What did I do wrong, God? I haven’t broken any law.”
God answered, “Your arrogant, legalistic high beams are shining in the eyes of the oncoming publicans and Jews, blinding them to the road ahead and causing them to crash.” The Pharisee ignored the warning.
The publican knew he was imperfect. When God turned on his flashing lights and pulled over the publican, he swallowed his pride and cried, “I really don’t want to use the high beams and sin. Will you show me how to turn them off?” And God showed the humble publican how to turn off the high beams and become a secure driver.
Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light. Matt 11:28-30.
Copyright 2005 Janice Price