Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Wrong

If you've read the Gospels, you know the Pharisees and Sadducees, the religious leaders of Jesus's day. You know they were hypocrites (Matt 23:2-39). That was bad. Jesus pronounced some of His worst curses on them for it. Bad. You also know that they were more righteous than most (Matt 5:20), that they gave to the poor (Matt 6:1-4), that they prayed diligently (Matt 6:5-6), and that they fasted (Matt 6:16-18). (How many of us do that?) They tithed (Matt 23:23) and they searched the Scriptures (John 5:39). Lots of good things there. So they had that hypocrite thing wrong, but all that other stuff right ... right?

As it turned out, of course, they got all that other stuff wrong, too. They searched the Scriptures and missed the One about whom the Scriptures spoke (John 5:39-40). They tithed on the little things and neglected the weightier things (Matt 23:23-24). They fasted, prayed, and gave to the poor as a matter of show, for which they already received their reward (Matt 6:2,5,16). Despite getting so many things "right", they were constantly wrong and, therefore, their "righteousness" wasn't so right after all.

So we come to the delightful story of Jesus raising Lazarus from the dead. You know the one. They begged Him to come because Lazarus sick, so Jesus ... didn't (John 11:1-6). He waited until Lazarus died, then went. He told His disciples, "For your sake I am glad that I was not there, so that you may believe." (John 11:15). Well, they went to the mourning; Lazarus had been buried for four days by the time they arrived (John 11:39). Jesus had them move the stone, then He called Him out of the tomb, and Lazarus emerged alive. Amazing stuff. Perhaps more amazing was the reaction of some of the eyewitnesses who went and complained to the Pharisees (John 11:45-46) who saw the event as a good reason to put Jesus (John 11:53) and Lazarus (John 12:10) to death.

It is here that we read of John's account of the Triumphal Entry (John 12:12-15). Crowds gathered to see Jesus and Lazarus (John 12:9) and gave Jesus a parade, calling Him, "King of Israel!" (John 12:13) And then we read this.
So the Pharisees said to one another, "You see that you are gaining nothing. Look, the world has gone after Him." (John 12:19)
If you've been paying attention, I've been pointing to the errors of the Pharisees. Notice that they got it wrong again. The world had not gone after Him. They just wanted to see the "cool signs". It was more of a circus atmosphere -- "Look at the guy raised from the dead!" -- than a gathering of believers. And in the week that follows this "whole world" that had "gone after Him" would vote to have Him executed.

It turns out that it is very possible to look very good without being close. Sure, they had hypocrisy, but look at how good they were. Jesus spoke of their righteousness, their prayer and fasting and giving, their tithing, and their dedication to Scripture. And they were wrong. Dead wrong. We don't want to be Pharisees, I know. But when we say that, we're talking about the over-emphasis on religious rules or the hypocrisy. We might also want to make sure we're right with God -- genuine followers of Christ -- rather than going through the motions. Because the world is not going after Christ, but we must.

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