Oo-oo, that smell
I’ve come to realize that I resonate with Judge Jesus more so than with Jesus meek and mild. And whatever that says about me is probably also why I miss Simon Cowell on American Idol and have not much enjoyed the program since the current judges began taking a cue from The Voice and regularly heap copious (and, in my opinion, often undeserved) compliments on virtually all the contestants. But I digress.
Yes, I love that Jesus welcomes little children, but also that he chastised his disciples for hindering them. And I love that he had compassion on the crowds who were like sheep without a shepherd , but I also love the way he gave them up to their stubborn, stomach-centered cluelessness with a stomach-churning judgment against them. And, of course, I love that he loves me and has prepared a place for me in heaven, but also that he has prepared a place for the wicked in hell.
Some people think that the God revealed through Jesus in the New Testament can’t be the same God revealed in the Old because the OT God was regularly raining judgments on various people groups while Jesus, the Son of God, was all about love and mercy. I just finished going through the OT book of Jeremiah again and have irreverently subtitled it “God is ticked” (except I actually used an even less reverent word than “ticked”), so I get why some come to that conclusion. But the Old Testament is also where we read that God is “slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love,” and where we are first told to “love your neighbor as yourself.” And though in the NT we read of Jesus telling us to love our enemies and turn the other cheek, we also have Matthew 23.
I could subtitle Matthew 23 the same way I did Jeremiah because it records Jesus angrily pronouncing woe after woe on the teachers of the law and the Pharisees for their hypocrisy, blindness, and evil deeds. Again and again he calls them hypocrites, and for good measure throws in snakes, vipers, blind guides, and sons of hell. But his repeated charge of hypocrisy makes clear that this sin is a singularly noxious stench in God’s nostrils. And unfortunately it’s one that he, and we, have been smelling a lot lately.
As I read Matthew 23 I can’t help but wonder if God can be any less angry with the “teachers of the law” and people of influence in this country for doing “all their deeds to be seen by others” but not practicing what they preach. For chastising others for being intolerant while being the most intolerant bullies of all. For tying “up heavy burdens, hard to bear, and lay[ing] them on people’s shoulders” (or faces) while throwing them off their own, and “outwardly appear[ing] righteous” but inwardly are full of “hypocrisy and lawlessness.”
God does not change, so if he was repelled and angered by rampant hypocrisy characterizing a nation’s leaders which stunk to high heaven in the first century, surely he’s similarly angered by it in the 21st. Those who lead and have influence bear an additional responsibility that those who follow do not. Individuals are accountable for their own stinky sin but leaders also share in the accountability of those whom they lead astray by their lying, self-serving duplicity.
Judge Jesus has something to say to all the current phonies in positions of power and influence who reek of hypocrisy. I won’t put words in his mouth…I don’t need to. I can use the words he’s already spoken to these phonies’ predecessors.
How are you to escape being sentenced to hell?