|Posted on February 18, 2021 at 11:10 AM|
I find it remarkable that the warnings Jesus gave the religious and political leaders of his day are so applicable to our leaders today. In his scathing rebuke recorded in Matthew 23 he refers to them as “hypocrites”, “blind guides”, “serpents”, and “generation of vipers”. He says they make promises they do not keep, oppressive rules for others to obey, and are preoccupied with their own approval ratings. Rather than serve the people they represent they use their power to advance their own agenda for more personal wealth and power. The corruption of the Pharisees reached its peak when Jesus was slandered, ridiculed, falsely accused, arrested, and crucified. Sadly, the same kind of corruption is found in our nation today as it was in Israel over two thousand years ago.
Since the fall of Adam in the garden human nature (what the Bible refers to as the “flesh”) has consistently proven itself to be totally selfish and self-centered. Add to that the wholesale rejection of God as the ultimate source of protection and provision and trusting humanity to save itself and the world we live in, human nature has become proud. Such selfish pride results in a humanistic philosophy that continues to exclude any need for God while boasting of great accomplishments. Ironically, the same humanistic philosophy that boasts of being able to take care of the world’s problems produces the corruption that Jesus exposed in the “hypocrites” and “blind guides” of his day.
By revealing his law to Moses and the nation Israel God was seeking to expose humanity to their desperate need for his grace to do for them what they could never do for themselves. Although the nation promised they would obey God’s righteous demands, the Old Testament history of Israel proved their repeated failure to do so. Their best effort to keep the law by the rule of the Pharisees resulted in their crucifying God’s only begotten son. The law was never meant by God to be a means by which humanity could save itself, but to prove instead that the world needed a Savior…one who could do for them what they could not do for themselves. Those who fail to recognize that need progressively become more and more corrupt.
The corruption of the Pharisees is also described by Paul as he warns us not to live in the “vanity of their mind”. In Ephesians 4: 17 he describes that corruption as, “Having the understanding darkened, being alienated from the life of God through the ignorance that is in them, because of the blindness of their heart.” The hypocrisy and blindness of the Pharisees as well as modern political and religious leaders is a result of their natural confusion, willful ignorance of God, and the hardness of their blind heart. The end result he states as, “Who being past feeling have given themselves over to lasciviousness, to work all uncleanness with greediness.” In short, the vanity or emptiness of their minds leaves them desperately searching for and trying anything that will ease their personal pain and give them temporary satisfaction they need. Peterson puts it this way in the Message, “They’ve refused for so long to deal with God that they’ve lost touch not only with God but with reality itself.”
At its root, the corruption of the flesh with all of its hypocrisy and blindness is a spiritual problem that can only be delt with by the Spirit of God. Only the sword of the Spirit can cut through the deep layers of corruption and open the eyes of the blind and hardened heart. While some Pharisees like Nicodemas, Joseph, and even the apostle Paul were miraculously delivered from their hypocrisy and blindness, most continued in their corrupt system until it was destroyed along with the temple seventy years after Christ rose from the dead. Only God can put an end to the corruption of this world system. And the good news is that he is right now unfolding his plan to do so.