|Posted on February 11, 2021 at 1:40 PM|
The harshest words Jesus spoke here on earth were recorded by Matthew in the 23rd chapter of his gospel. They were an indictment against the religious politicians who ruled Israel with their own interpretation of the Law of Moses and claimed to be serving God for the welfare of the nation under Roman rule. The leading party was known as the “scribes and Pharisees” which had a long history of seeking to protect the nation Israel from God’s wrath by practicing and teaching rule keeping. They were convinced that keeping the 10 commandments and all of their related 613 rules and telling others how to act would garner God’s blessings and hopefully avoid his cursing’s.
Jesus begins his indictment by describing the heart motivations of the scribes and Pharisees as: 1) “they say, and do not” 2) “they bind heavy burdens and grievous to be borne and lay them on men’s shoulders” and 3) “all their works they do for to be seen of men”. Sounds like he is talking about our modern Congress today especially as he goes on to describe their self-absorbed efforts to make themselves look great in outward appearance, public events, powerful positions, titles, and reputations. But as he gets into the specifics of his indictment he calls these religious politicians hypocrites no less than six times.
The word hypocrite comes from the Greek word “hupokrites” which referred to the masks worn by actors in the Greek plays to denote various characters. In the Greek theater a hypocrite was one who wore a huge and ornate mask to play the part of the assigned character by imitating the speech, mannerisms, and conduct of someone he was not. Jesus used the word to reveal the true character of the Pharisees who pretended to be charitable and godly but were blind to the truth of God and self-serving. He further exposed them as “blind guides” and “serpents, generation of vipers” hiding behind their masks of concern for God and their nation.
The institutional church today has often been accused of being full of hypocrites. And to some extent that is true. All of us are prone to putting on “masks” of one sort or another to cover our own perceived shortcomings or failures. We naturally want to “look good” in the eyes of our peers and sometimes go to great lengths to build elaborate facades to hide the things we do not want others to see in our lives. Rather than let God deal with the darkness of our own flesh we prefer to cover it over and pretend it is not there. The real problem with such efforts is not the nastiness and filth of our own flesh nor the masks we hide it with, but the lack of faith in the cleansing power of the blood of Jesus Christ.
Because of the sacrifice of Christ on the cross our old person was put to death forever. The leftover conditioning and habits of that person (our natural identity in the flesh) is no longer who we truly are. The way to deal with such ugliness is not to cover it with a mask, but trust God to remove it from us. Instead of trusting Jesus to save them from their natural self-centered flesh the scribes and Pharisees trusted in their masks and crucified the Lord of glory. Faith in Jesus requires laying aside our masks and trusting what God has done for us to make us secure in his love and significant in his plan.