The Pharisees sought to prepare the people of Israel for the coming of the Messiah by emphasizing the idea that every Jew, not only the priests, should live in purity and obedience to the Laws of God. While the New Testament portrays them as Jesus' mortal enemies, a deeper study of their history and true character reveals the Pharisees to be Jesus' natural allies. Like Jesus, they were critical of the Temple of Jerusalem and its Sadducean priestly elites, and they emphasized that everyone, not only those born to certain privileged families, should live in harmony with God in every aspect of daily life. Unlike the Sadducees, they also believed ardently in the Messiah's coming and emphasized, as Jesus himself did, that personal righteousness before God was more important that offering tithes and sacrifices.
Indeed, Jesus sometimes sounded very much like a Pharisee. In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus encouraged his disciples to follow the Mosaic Law strictly in their personal lives, as the Pharisees did, and even to go beyond their high standards of piety:
Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. I tell you the truth, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished. Anyone who breaks one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever practices and teaches these commands will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. For I tell you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law, you will certainly not enter the kingdom of heaven. (Mt. 5:17-20)
Jesus may actually have been a hearer of the great Pharisaic sage Hillel, as evidenced by his paraphrasing one of Hillel's famous sayings. Where Hillel had said, "what is hateful to you, do not unto your neighbor," Jesus said, "do unto others as you would have them do unto you." Hillel's broadminded attitude towards the Law and his willingness to associate with Gentiles is similarly reflected by Jesus' teachings and actions on these subjects.
The Reverend Sun Myung Moon reveals that Jesus' parents failed to take God's perspective toward the young Jesus when they left him alone in Jerusalem for three days after Passover. The encounter of the boy Jesus with the teachers in the Temple courtyard (Luke 2:41-50) provides fertile food for thought. The Bible reports that these teachers—who were probably in fact Pharisees—were "amazed" at Jesus. If Jesus had been allowed to continue his dialogue with them, it stands to reason they would have adopted him as a student, and that he would have won disciples among them. What would have happened if Mary and Joseph had not forced Jesus to return immediately with them to Nazareth at that pregnant moment?
The Divine Principle also makes it clear that, because of the failure of John the Baptist to act publicly as Jesus' "Elijah," it became virtually impossible for Jews who believed in the scriptures—as the Pharisees did—to accept Jesus' claim to be the Messiah. However, regardless of the circumstances, the fact remains that the Pharisees, despite the efforts of their Sanhedrin members such as Nicodemus, did not protect Jesus from his ultimate fate. Indeed, the Gospels portray the majority of the Pharisees as opposing him.
Whether or not this is an anachronistic depiction, as some scholars suggest, it is likely that those Pharisees most offended by Jesus' teaching were those of the House of Shammai. In the end, Shammai's strict interpretation of the Law lost out to the House of Hillel's more broad-minded attitude. It would be Hillel's spirit that predominated after the destruction of the Temple of Jerusalem spelled the end of the Sadducees and the Zealots.
In the meantime, however, Christianity had ceased to be a movement within Judaism and had defined itself as a religion primarily for Gentiles, centered on the doctrines of the Incarnation, the Trinity, and the Virgin Birth, all of which are incompatible with Judaism, Pharisaic or otherwise.
The Pharisees, in the final analysis, were a movement that tragically missed its opportunity to fulfill its primary mission of preparing the people of Israel to welcome the Messiah by purifying themselves as a "kingdom of priests and a holy nation." However, they went on to establish the foundations of Rabbinic Judaism, and thus the opportunity to welcome the Messiah on earth is thus not lost to them forever.