“It is so easy to feel full of joy and hope when you are on the Mountain top. It is also easy to look away from Jesus while you are up there. Down in the valley is often the place where you experience Me in a much close away, when the sun has grown dim and the way appears rough. Yet it is at those times that I can reveal my peace, strength, My very self to you. So be like the tree in Psalm one, planted by the water – the Living Water which represents Me and allow your roots to go deep down so you can continue to draw that Water of Life into your stem. It will give your stem stability. More than that it will flow out into the leaves and branches and bring forth fruit, the fruit of a fulfilling relationship with me – peace, hope, strength, compassion and much more. So take my hand as we walk together through the valley – remember, “Yet not I but through Christ in me”.
The tide of evil is gathering in Jerusalem, God’s city, against Jesus in Matthew ch 23. Yet in all this Jesus continues to show His compassion in His teaching and attitude. See esp vv 37,38.He is also reiterating the basic Christian message. v 11 “The greatest among you will be your servant. Whoever exalts himself will be humbled and whoever humbles himself will be exalted.
This message is totally counterintuitive and to highlight it, Matthew places it against the backdrop of His talk to the religious leaders, where one can see the real way of the world emphasized.
Just a word about the religious leaders. It is easy with hindsight for us to despise them, however they represented a very respected class of people in the Israeli community. The traits which Jesus points out that they are displaying are a representation of all the worldly traits that we find in our society today. Maybe not expressed in the same way, but nevertheless there, driving our modern society. So while we all join in with Jesus calling out, “Woe to you…” we should stop and look at what they were being accused of. As I read through this chapter several times this week I kept asking myself how much of each trait has been changed or removed from my life.
The main challenge to the these people was one of hypocrisy. Hypocrisy basically means operating behind a mask. Now I believe it is common cause that everyone of us operates behind a mask. We put on a mask when we face the world representing how we would like people to experience us. The question here seems to be, “How much of your life are you hiding behind the mask?”. In other words, “Is what the world sees the real you?” I had to ask myself, “Do the people see the real Ian when they meet me?” I will give an example. Can you be really nice to someone who you actually don’t like, when you stand in front of them, then share a juicy bit of gossip about them behind their backs when you meet someone else?
The Pharisees were demonstrating this in extreme. Showing a face to the world of purity and generosity towards God, while in reality they were filled with dead bones like a mausoleum on the inside. Nevertheless the challenge to us is to bring the inside to Jesus to cleanse it and be renewed so that we can represent Him with genuine love and compassion to others.
Another question that came to me was, “How much of my Christian life is driven by trying to obey the law?” We all have the seeds of that in us, which take over from time to time. It is demonstrated in the way we assume the gospel and live according to it.. That is why I keep reminding myself of this fact. My life in Christ arises from my relationship with Him. It is not driven by doing things to try and please Him.
Other things that spoke to me personally were: 1.How often do I put a burden on people I should help instead of making their burden lighter?
2.How much of my ministry and interaction with others has a modicum of self satisfaction because of the attention I get?
3.. Do I serve with an attitude that arises from humility.
4. And then a timely reminder of what Jesus’ priority was and still is and a challenge to continue be part of His program to seek and save those that are lost.
Why don’t you try and shift the picture of the Pharisees out of the way in your mind and allow Jesus to talk to you about all these attitudes? Have a blessed week.