The Sunday of the Publican and Pharisee

The Sunday of the Publican and Pharisee

First Sunday of the Prelenten Period

 Epistle Reading: 2Timothy 3:10-15

Gospel Reading: Luke 18:10-14


Glory to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit

The gates of repentance, do Thou open unto me, O Giver of Life, * for early in the morning my spirit seeketh Thy holy temple, * bearing the temple of my body all defiled. * But as One who art compassionate ** cleanse it by Thy loving-kindness and mercy.


Now and ever and unto ages of ages. Amen

Guide me on the paths of salvation, O Theotokos: * for I have polluted my soul with shameful deeds * and wasted all my life in slothfulness. ** but by thine intercessions * do thou deliver me from all impurity. 

Have mercy upon me, O God, * according to Thy great mercy: * and according to the multitude of Thy compassion * blot out my transgressions

As I the wretched one ponder the multitude of evil deeds I have done, * I tremble for fear of the dread day of judgment. * But trusting in Thy compassionate mercy, * like David do I cry unto Thee: ** 'Have mercy upon me, O God, according to Thy great mercy'.


The Pharisees

The word "Pharisee", of Aramaic origins, means "separate", that is, one who segregates others as sinners.

These Pharisees were priests and lay people who among the Jews who began their ministry in the period between the Old and New Testament. They separated themselves into groups as they were profoundly concerned about the decline in religion and the neglect of God’s law among the Jewish people at that time.

They began teaching accurate observance of the Jewish law (the Torah) in an effort to restore godliness to the people, but in a short time, they became so caught up with their desire to be righteous that they soon had confidence in their own interpretation of the Law rather than learning from what it was designed to teach them.

They boasted about keeping the Law and knowing it by heart, teaching it and putting it into literal practice. However, their behavior was only external, for the Lord said to them: “You have forsaken truth, mercy, and faith”. They were keeping the Sabbath, the Ten Commandments, and the tithes just an appearance. That is why the Lord compared them to whitened tombs: white from the outside and rotten from inside.

Most of them boast about their authority and run after money, positions, and cheap earnings, and do not sympathize with the people, especially the poor.

As for their doctrine, the Pharisees acknowledged all the books of the Old Testament (The Torah, the Prophets, and the other historical and literary books), as well as the Talmud and other written teachings of Moses. They also believed in the resurrection, reward and punishment, and angels, in contrast to the Sadducees. They were expecting the coming of a Messiah, a Savior of Israel, as a great king to lift them above all the peoples of the world.

They were accusing Jesus of violating the Sabbath and mixing with sinners and tax collectors (Matthew 11: 9).


The Publicans (Tax Collectors)

The word Publican or “tax collector” comes from Latin publicum: ‘public revenue’. It is used to indicate the tax collectors who collected tithes. Tithes (one tenth) is cited of the Old Testament (Leviticus 27: 30).

But the tax collectors did not respect nor implement the Law. As they were levying taxes imposed on the Jewish people by the Romanian authorities, they were ruthless, often adding to their collections and skimming some off the top for themselves as they bled the people dry. They made huge profits from this job, and they scrutinized people to earn more.

Tax collectors were most hated and despised by the Jewish people because they represented the oppressive Roman government and were considered traitors. Teachers of the Law equaled them with thieves, as it is said in the Gospels (Matthew 9:10; Marc 2:15; Luke 5:29)

The Lord Jesus gave them in example in His Sermon on the Mount: “For if you love those who love you, what reward have you? Do not even the tax collectors do the same?” (Matthew 5:46)

The Lord Jesus spoke about three tax collectors:

- Levi who left everything and followed Him becoming Matthew the Evangelist (Luke 5: 27-28).

-The tax collectors who went home justified (Luke 10:18).

- Zacchaeus the Chief tax collector (Luke 19:2).


Fasting: The Jews fasted according to their Law, which required fasting on the Day of Atonement from sunset to sunset on the tenth day of the seventh month (Yom Kippur) of the Hebrew calendar (Leviticus 23:26-32). Other pious occasional fasts were practiced too.

History shows us that the Pharisees practiced normal pious fasts on the second and fifth day of every week (Matthew 9:14; Luke 18:12). 


The Temple 

It is known as Solomon's Temple Solomon built it in Jerusalem the first time.

There were two main divisions in the temple: the first main section is only entered by the priests and is called the Holy place, and it contains the Holy of Holies, where only the great priest can enter once a year to offer a sacrifice for his sins and the shortcomings of the people. The second major section is for Jews only. The temple also contained an inner yard with a place for women and an outer court with porticos, some of which were open to non-Jews.

Note: The Temple is the only place where Jews offered sacrifices for their sins, and every Jew was required to visit the Temple at least once a year.