Jesus: His World & His Message Part 5 (Devotion from the Pastor)
You know who the people were that seemed to really bother Jesus? Who Jesus was never careful with? The self-righteous scribes and Pharisees. Jesus had no problem calling them “hypocrites” and also comparing them to clean dishes and cups on the outside, and filthy on the inside. Meaning that they make great proclamations but are worthless in their practice of what they claim. Jesus also compares them, in an extremely harsh way, to well-groomed graves, which appear to be beautiful on the outside, around the grave stone with flowers and well-groomed grass, but down below nothing but bones and rot and bugs. Or the time when Jesus was declaring who He was and that His ministry had begun, and Jesus gets up in the synagogue and reads from the scroll of Isaiah, and all the people look around at each other joyously thinking that the Messiah has now arrived and He has come for them. Then Jesus starts to talk about the prophet in Elisha’s time, when God saved the widow in foreign Sidon, and God saved the dirty leper in Syria while everyone in Israel died. The people in the synagogue knew what this meant. Jesus meant I didn’t only come for you people, but also for all of those who had been excluded by you people. Yeah Jesus was not real careful about the things He said. Actually the people tried to throw Him off a cliff for that one.
You see, Jesus had a real problem with the contradiction between the claim to virtue and the person or church that uses that claim to hurt or keep others away from God. However, Jesus confronting institutions, the religious, and those who claim virtue, calling them hypocrites, and dirty, and rotting, was really doing it for their own good. Author Francis Spufford puts it this way: for Jesus, being sure you’re righteous, standing on your dignity as a virtuous person, comes precious close to being dead. If you won’t hear the bad news about yourself, you can’t know yourself… And you’ll do harm. You’ll be pumped up with the false confidence of virtue, and you’ll think it gives you a license, and a large share of the all the cruelties in the world will follow, for evil done knowingly is rather rare compared to the evil done by people who are sure that they themselves are good…
This kind of talk doesn’t make Jesus popular, but He is never careful about what is right. He usually eats with sinners and public enemies like tax collectors and prostitutes—those who are particularly viewed as disgusting to the world in which He lived. The one time Jesus comes in contact with a solid citizen who abided by all the rules and laws, a very wealthy successful rich man. The righteous rich guy ask Jesus what he has to do to be saved, and Jesus looks at all this man’s lavish possessions that are the best that money can buy. Jesus looks at all these expensive things and says basically “ Well, you could start by getting rid of all this stuff” because Jesus knows that the possessions own the man and not the other way around. The rich man walks away, because he can’t follow Jesus away from comfort and self-indulgence. Jesus was careful about nothing, almost every word He said pierced someone with truth, and today, we still read these stories. you know why? Because they are meant to pierce us too. And if they aren’t. Then we are not reading careful enough.