Why did Jesus shame Jerusalem’s leaders? (Matthew 23:13-32)

Hypocrisy: the shame of acting as if you’re in charge when that honour is reserved for God’s Son. That’s how Jesus used the word in Matthew 23.

Asked to describe his music career, James Morrison began, “Well, I don’t want to blow my own trumpet.” Tall poppies promoting their own honour don’t go down well in Australia. We honour those whose actions speak, like the 500+ firefighters fighting a blaze just a few kilometres from my home (Feb, 2021). 86 homes have been lost, but no lives. You guys are our heroes.

We react instinctively to honour or shame people. Check your social media account to see who you’ve honoured or shamed. Honour/shame is a big deal in our culture, and an even bigger deal in many others.

But when it comes to the gospel, Christians often think in terms of guilt/innocence rather than honour/shame. We’re guilty (sinners), yet God declares us innocent (justification), so that’s good news for us. That is a part of what’s going on, but the gospel addresses so much more than individual guilt. It’s good news for the world that’s being restored to God’s sovereign authority (the gospel of the kingdom), through his anointed (the gospel of the Christ) who is Lord of all (the gospel of the Lord). Ultimately, the gospel is about honour (the glory of God). The gospel brings God’s honour to the realm that has not always honoured him.

Try reading Scripture from that angle and you’ll see fresh things. When Jesus called the Pharisees hypocrites, was he assigning them personal guilt, or was he undermining their honour in the eyes of the community? There may be some of both, but what was Jesus’ primary intention? Guilting them, or shaming them?

Continue reading “Why did Jesus shame Jerusalem’s leaders? (Matthew 23:13-32)”

Leadership is supporting people, not social climbing (Matthew 23:1-12)

Leadership: it’s all about who you’re serving.

On Jesus’ final journey to Jerusalem, the crowds love him, but the leaders feel threatened. After silencing his enemies, Jesus turns to the crowds and explains the reason for this conflict. What he says about the leaders isn’t pretty.

We shudder at the word hypocrite. Who wants to be accused of duplicity? It’s hard to defend against the accusation that my inner intentions don’t match my actions. But that understanding of hypocrisy reflects our culture of individualism, where personal authenticity is the greatest virtue. There’s a bit of that in Jesus’ critique of the Pharisees and Torah scholars, but that wasn’t his main concern.

Continue reading “Leadership is supporting people, not social climbing (Matthew 23:1-12)”

Authentic or acting? (Matthew 6)

In speaking against hypocrisy, Jesus undermined those masquerading as rulers.

Open Matthew 6.

Up to 5 years jail for wearing a mask? Hypocrites, look out!

Ironically, actors are among the most highly regarded people in our culture. Martin Sheen was paid far more to act the president in The West Wing than the president who faced the real issues of American society every day. Why do we honour actors above the real thing?

At the other end of the scale, calling someone a hypocrite is about as low as it gets. A hypocrite is someone who pretends to be someone they’re not. Someone who isn’t real: they just act. In Greek culture, hypokritēs was the word for actor or orator. So if you thought someone was a really good actor, you could say they were a really good hypocrite. Continue reading “Authentic or acting? (Matthew 6)”