(Original series written Easter of 2020 during the beginning months of COVID-19.)
The human expressions of Jesus are simply beautiful as you read through the Gospels. The God who became human and made his dwelling among us experienced joy and pain, laughter and tears. One emotion that I love to read within these narratives is when Jesus gets angry but his anger is righteously directed. It can be hard to read because perhaps we like nice Jesus better but we can’t gloss over these verses, they are chalked full of righteous anger and for a good reason too.
Read: Matthew 23:25-28
I have to confess that I love angry Jesus. These are not the common pictures we see of Jesus in art or movies. In these passages, I imagine him beet red in the face, spitting on the front row of listeners with fists in the air. HE. IS. PISSED. OFF. And for good reason. The Pharisees were specifically called by God to model and teach the ways of the Torah to the people, but instead they had become drunk on their high position, self-righteous in their works and absent in their care for the people. They busied themselves on the ladder of power and position, while leaving the hungry unfed and the lame unhealed.
When it comes to the Gospel passages around the Pharisees, we are often tempted to apply these passages broadly by suggesting that we can become Pharisees ourselves, but that’s actually minimizing the point. Jesus is straight up condemning a very specific group of people! However, the critiques Jesus is giving are still very relevant for us today and can help us understand what made him so angry. The Pharisees were given a position of power that they used for selfish gain.
“Everything they do is done for man to see…” 23:5 – They are focused on self-image.
“They love the place of honor at a banquet…” 23:6 – They take pride in their position.
“You tithe a tenth…but you have neglected justice…” 23:23 – They have neglected the marginalized.
Jesus’ critique condemns their elaborate displays of righteousness, designed to cover up their lack of it. This isn’t just a case of “fake it till you make it”. This is intentional deceitfulness, self-promotion, misuse of power and oppression. Yet we can see that Jesus desires for these men to see their wickedness. Even in this harsh scene, Jesus is still offering opportunity for repentance and to receive grace. He’s not letting them hide any longer. I hear him saying to them, “clean the inside of the cup first, guys! Come on, you know this!”.
Jesus offers the same grace to us today. We can read these passages and hear Jesus’ warning, but we should not miss out on the invitation to spiritual health. Take this as an opportunity to confess our self-image focus, our pride and the ways we have turned away from the poor. God is not looking for a perfectly clean outside, he’s looking for faithful hearts on the inside. Clean the inside of the cup first!
- Put out a cup of dirt to serve as a confessional. Take a moment to confess anything that keeps you focused on looking clean on the outside and then receive the forgiveness of God that is eternally available to you.
Haven’t started the Stay Holy, Stay Home series yet?
Blog Edited by Jessica Wilson