Sunday May 4, 2008 | Greg Boyd
1 Meanwhile, when a crowd of many thousands had gathered, so that they were trampling on one another, Jesus began to speak first to his disciples, saying: “Be a]"> on your guard against the yeast of the Pharisees, which is hypocrisy. 2 There is nothing concealed that will not be disclosed, or hidden that will not be made known. 3 What you have said in the dark will be heard in the daylight, and what you have whispered in the ear in the inner rooms will be proclaimed from the roofs.
4 “I tell you, my friends, do not be afraid of those who kill the body and after that can do no more. 5 But I will show you whom you should fear: Fear him who, after your body has been killed, has authority to throw you into hell. Yes, I tell you, fear him. 6 Are not five sparrows sold for two pennies? Yet not one of them is forgotten by God. 7 Indeed, the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Don't be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.
8 “I tell you, whoever publicly acknowledges me, the Son of Man will also acknowledge before the angels of God. 9 But whoever publicly disowns me will be disowned before the angels of God. 10 And everyone who speaks a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven, but anyone who blasphemes against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven.
11 “When you are brought before synagogues, rulers and authorities, do not worry about how you will defend yourselves or what you will say, 12 for the Holy Spirit will teach you at that time what you should say.”
Some of Jesus' words were very challenging to the people of his time, and for us. One of the traits that he gave strong warnings about was hypocrisy – when our “public” lives don't match who we really are. Keeping these parts of our lives aligned is a major challenge and it almost always requires sacrifice. We don't like to move outside our comfort zones, but it's what is required if we want to partner with God to build his Kingdom.
In this passage, Jesus is as confrontational as you will find him. In the previous, he confronts the religious leaders. But here, he confronts the disciples and in doing so, he confronts modern disciples in some unexpected ways. If we read carefully and listen to what Jesus was saying, we can see how his words confront American Christianity in some very uncomfortable ways.
Jesus challenges His followers to stand guard against hypocrisy. The major point of this passage is that living for God without hypocrisy means willingness to be rejected, suffer and die. The Pharisees of Jesus’ day were professional hypocrites because they were consumed with appearances, approval and comfort. Jesus wants his followers to understand that it is impossible to live for God authentically and be concerned with appearances, approval and comfort.
In the first century, there was a very concrete application of Jesus’ words. Followers of Jesus would have their lives threatened for aligning themselves with the Kingdom of God. Early followers of Jesus were tortured and killed for their faith. If Jesus warned people facing torture not to become hypocritical by putting fear of suffering and death before him, how much more do His words of warning apply to us American Christians who have trouble sacrificing anything for Christ?
Most of us say we’d sacrifice our lives for Christ, but we have tremendous trouble sacrificing anything in our lives for him. The idea of sacrificing our life is acceptable because it is not a reality, but when we get practical and think about the stuff in our lives, we want to enjoy these.
Such a challenge directly confronts the American dream that leads to an addiction to appearances and comfort. This is exactly what Jesus was confronting in the Pharisees. We need to listen to these words and allow them to challenge the nature of our discipleship and see how we need to change how we live.