Image of man looking worried as he realises that he lives hypocritically

I am a modern Pharisee (Matthew 12:38-50)

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The Pharisees in the time of Jesus were admired because they tried to put into practice a life that was worthy of respect, that didn’t hurt others and that allowed  actions and sense of being to be integrated. They took seriously that their way of life should reflect their values. They were the equivalent of the modern person who buys only ecological, sustainable and ethical products, who protests against the abuses of power, who practice piety, for example yoga, to feel good inside. That’s a bit strong, Andrew! Well, do not look at the surface, look at the motivation of the two groups, which is the desire to be whole (to be sacred) in the environment of being accepted (to be loved). We understand. Our culture expresses this desire in a different way, but the same motivation. At the moment I’m not talking about crowds, people who seem to live without thinking, I’m talking about people who do think about life and how to develop it. That is to say, I see myself as having the capacity to be a modern Pharisee. I want to live in an integrated way, the way that adds together my emotions, my thoughts and my whole being. And you? Are you in a crowd? I’m sorry, I won’t be talking to you much today. Are you a person who wants to be whole and accepted with integrity to your being? Come with me and explore Jesus’ compassion for us.

The problem is not that the Pharisees are bad but they are hypocrites. They are warriors for a cause but they do not put it into practice in all of life, and the truth is, others see this. The reason is simple: I try to be both the defendant and the judge of life. That is to say, I am the person who lives the life for which I have to give an account, and the judge of this testimony. I’ll explain it to you by the way of Jesus in the encounter.

The Pharisees ask for a miraculous sign for themselves (verse 38). That is, let’s judge who you are by what you show us. They want to be the judges of life.

Jesus answered them by saying they are infidels or adulterers (verse 39). That is to say, you want to judge me but you do not live it. You live with contradictions in life and you judge me to avoid that the focus being put there.

The Pharisees of each generation want to judge that they are right, that is, to be defendant and judge and the result is being judgmental of others, even God. Can’t you see it?

If you try to live life with integrity, are you willing to see that you actually can’t? That you eat organic food and then you don’t remain loyal to relationships? That you care for the refugees and then get angry with the person who speaks in a way that is not your liking? And then, look at your attitude to God. Do you see your tendency to judge whether God deserves your respect? That’s a bit strong, Andrew! Yes, I am a Pharisee by nature and I know if someone does not speak to me that way, I will find a way to justify myself and the contradictions between my actions and my attitude. I ask you to see how Jesus, in these two verses, wants to love you. His desire is to rescue you from a very serious mistake. If you try to be defendant and judge of your life you will also be hypocritical.

Has Jesus got your attention? He doesn’t want to leave us defeated. He gives us the only sign we need to understand his pure motives (v 40).

In the account of Jonah, he was thrown from the ship to save others. He sacrificed his life and judgment fell on him. But God rescued him in a spectacular way.

Jesus says that it’s a reference to his death on the cross. The way God deals with our hypocrisy is to make himself guilty. He will throw himself into death to save us!

This is difficult to understand because it is the opposite of what we do by nature (remember the Pharisees). We think it’s better to be the judge. But we can’t carry the judgment that comes on our hypocrisy.

Do you want to prove that Jesus comes from God with all compassion? (v 38). Well, there is no stronger proof.

If you do not think that the posture of God is like this, of all compassion for his creation, you will not stop being defendant and judge of your life. You’re still looking to justify your own life and you’re hurting others.

So, stop and listen for a moment: Jesus wants to give us two warnings and two encouragements in the context that he bears the guilt of our being hypocrites, unfaithful to God and to ourselves.

Verses 41-42

The first warning is stop being the judge. Repent means changing the way you think. The people of Nineveh did not think that they were under a more powerful judge. Life seemed good, until Jonah explained the reality that their reality was not everything. We have to remember that I am not the judge. That’s a bit strong, Andrew! Remember the context: Jesus says this after saying he will take our guilt.

Verse 42

The first encouragement is we can know the deepest wisdom. What a relief! Wisdom is another way of thinking about a life of integrity. Wisdom is not being smart. Wisdom is about a life that has peace with itself. Jesus wants us to understand that he wants the same that we, who are Pharisees, are looking for. Jesus does not ask us to give up our desire for an integrated life but to help us find it in the deepest way. By letting go  of being the judge, because I am already accepted without guilt, I can focus on the true wisdom that comes from our creator.

Verses 43-45

The second warning: if you still think that you do not need someone to give his life for you, then Jesus wants to ask you: if you are going to fix your life, how will you fill it?

The context is the spirit of God (vv 31-32). Life is more than material. If you are a modern Pharisee, you know it. There are only two possibilities: a bad spirit or the spirit of God.

Our solutions do not not fulfil what they promised (v 45)

Do you want more hypocrisy and worse?

So, how does he fill me with his pure spirit? Verses 46 to 50.

The second encouragement is that Jesus accepts me as his own family when I follow him in his wisdom. It’s another way of talking about the spirit. To say that we are family is to say we also have the same spirit. Jesus uses the situation to explain this, not to reject his earthly family. Begin to listen to what Jesus says: he loves us as a family, a spirit in common. God has no desire to judge us, he wants to love us, to hug us, to say “Hello son, hello daughter.”

Two warnings and two encouragements in the context of God’s sacrificial love. What are the steps to stop being a modern Pharisee?

Realise that there is a judge bigger than us and we are outside his rhythm (v 41).

Listen to the wisdom of God that we see in Jesus (v42).

Do it so as not to leave yourself in danger of a worse situation (v 43-45). Seek the spirit of God.

You do this by accepting that God loves you as a family, by listening to Jesus, and being filled with his pure spirit (v 50).

There is a solution to our hypocrisy. Jesus does not want us to be modern Pharisees but his own family, as pure as he is. Hear the warnings, take the encouragement.

Image: Photo by Nik Shuliahin on Unsplash