5. JESUS GETS DEEP UNDER THE SKIN
It all goes much deeper than the traditional explanation that we have just examined to sufficiently understand the Jewish loathing of Jesus, valid as that argument seems to be. Haven’t you ever heard somebody say of someone else, “He’s really starting to get under my skin!” In other words, “He is starting to bug me, bother me, get to me, annoy me, and irritate me.” But Jesus wasn’t just getting under the Jewish skin. He was getting way under, even to the marrow of their bones!
What are we saying? We have to set the stage for this! The far bigger and more violent earthquakes of rancor were yet to take place deep down in the Jewish soul. The tectonic plates of their consciences were about to be shaken and convulsively disturbed by the most painful inward penetration of the Lord Jesus’ words. Jesus had a way, and still does today, of instigating earthquakes which are 8.0 on peoples’ “Conscience Richter Scale.” Very frightening! Very disconcerting! Very irritating! Follow along closely now.
The Jewish religion was for the most part all surface, epidermis and outwardly oriented. Everything was evaluated by outward actions and visible appearance. The holier they acted and looked, the holier they were viewed to be by themselves and others too. Hey, let’s face it, in the world and in religion as well, men are either approved or disapproved upon the basis of their external demeanor and appearance. So the Jews made sure that they appeared holy. Religion in itself tends to be liturgical and legalistic – outward in its emphasis. An unerring principle is this:
“IT IS MOST NATURAL FOR MAN, EVEN FOR RELIGIOUS MAN, TO ESTEEM THAT
WHICH LOOKS GREAT RATHER THAN THAT WHICH IS INHERENTLY GOOD.”
We are not making this up, are we? God said it first to Samuel in I Samuel 16:7,
“…FOR GOD SEES NOT AS MAN SEES, FOR MAN LOOKS AT THE OUTWARD
APPEARANCE, BUT THE LORD LOOKS AT THE HEART.”
For instance, in Judaism the Pharisees were one of the three major Jewish groups or parties, the other two being the Sadducees and the Essenes. The Pharisees were what we might call the straightest or the strictest group, and they made very sure to appear and present themselves with the air of sterilized spiritual superiority. Their main concern was how they presented themselves to others. For after all:
“WHAT GOOD IS THERE IN APPEARANCE IF THERE IS NOT SOMEONE
TO APPEAR TO?”
They were the show-time glory boys of Judaism. They made very sure to appear on stage every day! People then as now are so easily taken in and swayed by appearances. It is amazing how this continues to work and sucks people in. Look holy as you preach by wearing dazzling and glistening white apparel, and you are on your way to capturing the adoring minds of people. In fact:
“FALSE APPEARANCE LEADS TO FALSE APPREHENSION.”
In short, as we are about to see, the Pharisees were not so much appearances as they were downright spectacles. In attempting to render themselves as righteous, they instead rendered themselves as ridiculous. History tells us that there were competitive groups within Pharisaism who vied each day of their lives for the “Holiest-In-Appearance-Oscar!”
For instance, there was a division of the Pharisees known as “The Bleeding Pharisees.” They were really something! I mean, appearance is everything, and they had their own peculiar way of showing just how holy they were. They never looked at a woman, as least not as you could notice. They accomplished that by walking around in public with their heads bowed down, so that they could not see the opposite sex. Of course, they could not see where they were going either. They then would bang into walls, and their heads would bleed. They would have a constant scar on the top of their foreheads. It was their badge of holiness, and if you didn’t have this bleeding sore on the upper part of your forehead, you were simply an inferior, unholy non-bleeding woman-gawker. They never looked in the face of a woman. Therefore they were living a holy life.
Then there were “The Shuffling Pharisees.” They would walk with their hands folded, and always tried to appear as if they were in prayer and deep meditation and communion with God. But the outstanding mark that set them apart from all others was the shuffling of their feet as they moved along. All the while, what they were trying to communicate to others was, “Notice me! I’m so holy! I’m so humble! So humble, that I dare not even lift my feet.” While “The Bleeding Pharisees” kept the doctors in business, so “The Shuffling Pharisees” kept the sandal makers in business. While “The Bleeding Pharisees” couldn’t tell where they were going, “ TheShuffling Pharisees” knew where they were going but always got there late.
Then there were “The Praying Pharisees.” They were known not only for their praying, but for praying on heavily trafficked street corners where they could be seen of men. They were as hilarious looking as all the other brands, for they would pray much of the time with one eye open to make sure they were being noticed. If they were not getting top billing, they would change locations so as to get better exposure. These are the Pharisees who would pray the so-called prayer that the Pharisee prayed in the temple in Luke 18:11,
“…GOD, I THANK THEE THAT I AM NOT LIKE OTHER PEOPLE….”
By other people they meant the rest of mankind, including those who were adulterers, swindlers, unjust etc. They never did those things, so they thought, and considered themselves far above those who did. They blew their horns about it all to God in the disguise of a prayer, when in fact they were exalting themselves to God and to others who they made sure could hear them clearly.
Oh yes, you should know something else as well. As if all of these external neon signs of holiness were not enough, the Pharisees always wore bright blue garments, which of course is the color of the heavens. And if that was not enough, their bright blue robes also had swinging tassels! Just some more attention-getters, as if they needed more fanfare. They would always be separate from others, for that is what their name literally means – separated, whether they were bleeding, shuffling or praying. In their blue-tasseled robes, they were the New Testament “Blues Brothers” of religious comedy. I am sure by now that you get the picture of the Jewish religion of the day which was embodied in these leading groups. It was designed primarily for display purposes.
On top of all of this, but always in keeping with their external spirituality, the Jewish religion was a religion of laws. As a matter of fact, the Pharisees had made 2000 laws on top of the ten laws that God gave to Moses. They kept them all perfectly! So they said! They were completely blameless. Remember what the Apostle Paul said about himself as a former Pharisee in relationship to the law in Philippians 3:6,
“…AS TO THE RIGHTEOUSNESS WHICH IS IN THE LAW, FOUND BLAMELESS.”
When they gave sacrifices to be offered up to God, they were not sacrifices for sin, but they were only to please God, which of course they were convinced they always did. For the rest of the hoi polloi Jews, the animal sacrifices were for sins, but not so for them. After all, if you kept the law perfectly, you were obviously perfect yourself and therefore sinless. This entire Gospel thing that Jesus saves people from their sins infuriated them. They didn’t need a Savior, and furthermore the very notion of a Savior from sin messed up their entire religious system and their perfect image.
Robert Ingersoll was a famous agnostic. He enjoyed arguing, particularly with Christian clergymen. One day Ingersoll was conversing with Charles Horace Talmage, one of the great preachers of the day, about Connecticut’s blue laws – forbidding certain activities on Sunday. Ingersoll asked Talmage, “Would you like to live in a community where not one cigar could be smoked and not one drop of liquor could be drunk?” Talmage said, “Certainly, that would be a social Heaven.” Ingersoll continued, “Would you like to live where no one could play on the Sabbath day, and where everyone had to go to church?” Talmage responded, “Yes sir! That would suit me. It would be paradise to live in a community where everyone was compelled to go to church on Sunday, where no one could drink a drop, and where the law would make everyone good.”
Ingersoll pursued Talmage and asked him, “And do you think that such a man would be a good Christian, a man better than I am?” Talmage said, “Why, of course?” “Then,” said Mr. Ingersoll, “I advise you to go to the penitentiary, for at Sing Sing there is a community of fifteen hundred men and women governed in precisely that manner. They are all good by law.” Such was the case with the Jews, who were self-righteous prisoners of their own legalistic religion.
Then along comes this Jesus of Nazareth Who claims to be the Son of God and the Jewish Messiah. And without delay He begins to not only get under the Jewish skin, but in fact He begins to skin them alive. Remember now, the Scribes and Pharisees were the great doctors of the Jewish law, and they expounded upon a religion that went no deeper than external observance.
In other words, they considered no man to be a murderer but he who stuck a knife into his neighbor’s heart. Moreover, no man was considered to be an adulterer but he who went to bed with his neighbor’s wife. And in those cases, they made sure that the murderers and adulterers would be prosecuted with the severest retaliation and punishment. It was an airtight system, and then Jesus let all the air out of their high-flying, self-righteous, blue, religious balloons.
How? Jesus went after the most inward desires and thoughts of the human soul. He walked among them and taught that a man who had deep-seated anger and spoke harsh and hateful words was a murderer. Wham! Thud! A slamming punch to the Pharisaical gut! He walked among them and taught that a man who had deep inner sexual lusts and thoughts of intercourse as he looked at a woman was an adulterer. Double wham! A one-two punch to the Pharisaical legal solar plexus! In other words, a man may assassinate with his mind, stab to death with his tongue, have adulterous relationships through his desires, and forfeit eternal life by a suggestive wink of his eye.
Or if you will, a man can outwardly look like a saint, and inwardly be a devil. The Pharisees along with their entire religion are now knocked down for the ten-count as Jesus gave a whole new interpretation to the Ten Commandments.
Christ’s words must have felt like a bucket of ice cold water dumped on the heads of those who were sleeping warm and cozy in the free religious enjoyment of their hatreds and lusts. Remember His words which shot the entire legal system to death? How could they or we ever forget them? His words must have gone through them like armor-piercing bullets that penetrated the shields of their self-righteousness. He taught in Matthew 5:21-22,
“YOU HAVE HEARD THAT THE ANCIENTS WERE TOLD, ‘YOU SHALL NOT COMMIT MURDER’
AND ‘WHOEVER COMMITS MURDER SHALL BE LIABLE TO THE COURT.’ BUT I SAY
TO YOU THAT EVERYONE WHO IS ANGRY WITH HIS BROTHER SHALL BE
GUILTY BEFORE THE COURT….”(GUILTY OF MURDER)
Or again, Jesus shoots off another cannon in Matthew 5:27-28,
“YOU HAVE HEARD THAT IT WAS SAID, ‘YOU SHALL NOT COMMIT ADULTERY’; BUT I
SAY TO YOU,THAT EVERYONE WHO LOOKS ON A WOMAN TO LUST FOR HER
HAS COMMITTED ADULTERY WITH HER ALREADY IN HIS HEART.”
Well now “Blues Brothers,” see if you can bleed, shuffle and pray your way out of that. Everyone of them is shuffling now and doing the soft shoe. So much for appearing honest, virtuous, happy and blessed, when in fact not one corrupt thought or appetite has ever been confessed, mortified or denounced. Suddenly the true deep inner sense of the law could no longer be suppressed, as Jesus took off the veil that they had put on Moses’ face not only, but had draped over their own hearts as well.
6. JESUS STICKS THE KNIFE IN DEEPER STILL
Jesus then added insult to their injury on an ever-deepening level. They thought that they could be the darlings of Heaven when in fact they were more like demons from Hell. So Jesus starts launching at them some laser-guided missiles tipped with powerful spiritual nuclear warheads. I don’t have space or time for all of them which you can read about in Matthew 23. He unloads on them and us all in Matthew 23:27-28,
“WOE TO YOU, SCRIBES AND PHARISEES, HYPOCRITES! FOR YOU ARE LIKE WHITE-
WASHED TOMBS WHICH ON THE OUTSIDE APPEAR BEAUTIFUL, BUT INSIDE THEY
ARE FULL OF DEAD MEN’S BONES(GRAVE ROT) AND ALL UNCLEANNESS. EVEN
SO YOU TOO OUTWARDLY APPEAR RIGHTEOUS TO MEN, BUT INWARDLY
YOU ARE FULL OF HYPOCRISY AND LAWLESSNESS.”
Do you feel it? Jesus was telling them that walking in their midst was like walking through a graveyard. Here were these blue-robed paraders, and Jesus would not and could not be fooled by their dress, their paint and their varnish. All of them He likened to graves (in those days tombs) which were all so nicely manicured and clean, but inside they were all rotting and stinking corpses. They thought that they were the sweet aroma of sanctity, and Jesus tells them that they are stench of decaying flesh. Today’s seeker-friendly religion is all about how to win friends and influence people. Jesus here was all about speaking the truth even though it meant winning enemies and alienating religious people!
Do you feel it? Lawlessness! He actually said to these students of the law that they were lawless. Calling these legalistic purveyors of laws lawless! Are you kidding? He was telling these religious lawyers that their lives were botched lectures on law. That is like calling those who confess every Sunday their faith in the Apostles Creed faithless! Amazing! That is like telling a great musician that he robs music of it melody. That is like telling a great novelist that he has gutted his novel of its meaning. This also just goes to show you that external obedience and profession of faith cannot in themselves make a man right with God. Tragically however, there is nothing in the religious world that men throughout the ages have so much fooled themselves with.
Again and again and yet again Jesus said to them, “Woe to you, woe to you, woe to you!” Pow! Pow! Pow! As in Matthews 23:25-26,
“WOE TO YOU SCRIBES AND PHARISEES, HYPOCRITES!FOR YOU CLEAN THE OUTSIDE
OF THE CUP AND OF THE DISH, BUT INSIDE THEY ARE FULL OF ROBBERY AND SELF-
INDULGENCE. YOU BLIND PHARISEE, FIRST CLEAN THE INSIDE OF THE CUP AND
OF THE DISH, SO THAT THE OUTSIDE OF IT MAY BECOME CLEAN ALSO.”
Wow! Likening them to cups and bowls that were clean on the outside but full of gunk on the inside. What was that gunk? You know how dirty cups, dishes and bowls look on the inside! Full of stains and smears and residue! Nauseating! They cleaned, dried and polished the surface of their conduct, but inside they were full of filth. They really weren’t good men at all, just good sights. In their case, their inside waste was robbery and self-indulgence which apparently they were totally blind to. So he calls them “Blind Pharisees.”
All they thought about was fulfilling their material and carnal desires, and looking out only for #1. They did not tend to the needs of others, and in some cases not even to the needs of their parents. It would do well to study the issue of “Corban.” (Mark 7:11) A practice arose among the Pharisees that they would not give money or service to their parents, under the pretense that this money or service had been dedicated to the Lord. When in fact neither their parents nor the Lord saw a dime or a sweat bead of it! According to Jesus, they did many things like that. (Mark 7:13) Jesus therefore accuses them of being robbers and self-indulgers.
We can visualize them standing in front of Jesus and saying to Him, “We have prayed often, fasted twice a week, and paid tithe of all that we have.” What will He answer? Something like, “But what have you done for your distressed father and mother? You have locked your purses to your nearest kindred, and you have not relieved the poor, you robbers and self-indulgers!” Listen now, the performance of one duty cannot be a cover for the omission of another.
Need we look any further as to why they ultimately conspired with the Roman authorities in the killing of Jesus? Their fathers before them had killed the prophets who God sent unto them to speak the truth. Like fathers like sons! It runs in the family! So we hear Jesus words to them in Luke 11:47,
“WOE TO YOU! FOR YOU BUILD THE TOMBS OF THE PROPHETS, AND IT WAS YOUR
FATHERS WHO KILLED THEM.”
So we are no longer shocked to read again and again words like those in Mark 3:6,
“AND THE PHARISEES WENT OUT AND IMMEDIATELY BEGAN TAKING COUNSEL…AS
TO HOW THEY MIGHT DESTROY HIM.”
7. THE EXTERNALIZING OF MODERN CHRISTIANITY
Well now, the puzzle pieces are rapidly snapping into place, and we are well on our way to solving the mystery of why such murderous animosity against Jesus. Nothing worse than a mob of skinned-alive, exposed and guilty-as-sin self-righteous religious fanatics!
I wonder then, would the modern church react the same way to the authentic Christ today? Would much of the contemporary ecclesiastical scene erupt in pretty much the same tones? I have no doubt in my mind about the answers to those questions. Yes! Yes! Yes! Without a doubt!
Why? Tragically, much of modern Christianity, has once again become a surface, epidermis religion. The form of godliness! The current religious scene in large segments is one in which an entirely different Christ has been invented, and a completely different Bible has been written in order to suit the carnal and material desires of mammon-worshipers who are passing themselves off as Christians. The catastrophic result is a:
“CARNALIZED, MATERIALIZED, EXTERNALIZED AND COUNTERFEITED RELIGION
BEING PASSED OFF ON THE MASSES AS CHRISTIANITY.”
The false and shallow prosperity gospel has now massively inundated the church scene, and has corrupted the Christian faith by turning it into a cosmetic belief system. Christianity is now nothing more than religious cosmetology. Now it is riches and no longer righteousness! Now it is cash and no longer character. Now it is success and no longer salvation. Now it is self-realization and no longer self-denial. The temporal, external and surface realities now receive top billing.
Materialistic Americans love it when they are told that they can have the best of both worlds. In short, they can hang on to Heaven with one hand and hang on to earth with the other, and serve the temporal and the eternal at the same time. As the old saying goes, “They can now have their cake and eat it too.” All the while sin festers inwardly and rots the soul of America and the American church. And Jesus asks us again in Mark 8:36,
“FOR WHAT DOES IT PROFIT A MAN TO GAIN THE WHOLE WORLD, AND
FORFEIT HIS SOUL?”
How far has this carnalized-caramelized religion decayed the sweet tooth of the masses? Farther than you can even begin to imagine! Sugar-Daddy religious teachers abound today, and are in greater demand than ever before just like the Apostle Paul said they would be. Why? II Timothy 4:3 talks about candy-cane parishioners of our day who will gather to themselves Sugar-Daddy preachers to satisfy their carnal cravings. More exactly it says:
“FOR THE TIME WILL COME WHEN THEY WILL NOT ENDURE SOUND DOCTRINE; BUT
WANTING TO HAVE THEIR EARS TICKLED, THEY WILL ACCUMULATE FOR THEM-
SELVES TEACHERS IN ACCORDANCE TO THEIR OWN DESIRES.”
Where we read sound doctrine, the adjective sound comes from the Greek hugiaino from which we get our English word hygiene. Hugiaino means most literally soundness of health, and in this case, spiritual health. The Sugar-Daddy preachers are unloading truck loads of sweetsies for peoples’ soulies and are making the modern church terminally soul-sick.
Where we read that religious people will accumulate these ear-tickling preachers who tell them what they want to hear, it literally means that they shall pile up higher and higher these soul-decaying pulpit personalities. Today the piles are getting so high you can’t see over them. It is best just to go around them by turning off your TV candy-factory religious programming.
Where do we begin? The materialistic marmalade preachers today are legion, particularly in the southern and western United States and working their way northward and eastward like locusts. Such as the many major TV teachers who convince their many deceived fleshly followers that the primary reason that Jesus came to earth was, mind you, to eradicate poverty. The Bible tells us in no uncertain terms in Matthew 1:21,
“…AND YOU SHALL CALL HIS NAME JESUS, FOR IT IS HE WHO WILL SAVE HIS
PEOPLE FROM THEIR SINS.”
“Wrong,” say the false teachers. Rather his name shall be called Jesus Greenspan, for He shall save His people from their debts and lead them into great wealth. In fact, send in your money to religious television, and God will cancel all of your debts. When they receive your first of 12 monthly checks, they will have a burn-your-debt ceremony on TBN. It is the worse religious scam I have ever seen in my lifetime. Protestant Indulgences are now sold 24/7 on religious television. Johann Tetzel sold “Get Your Loved Ones Out Of Purgatory Indulgences.” The money-monger ministers today are selling “Get-Yourselves-Out-Of -Debt Indulgences.” Same damnable deal!
Externalized, materialized Christianity! Prosperity gurus on TV such as Jesse Duplantis present the Messiah as a “ DesignerJesus” with a Christian Dior and Yves Saint Laurent wardrobe. Wouldn’t you just know it, men’s clothing designers called Christian and Saint! The hip materialistic religionists just love it! And to prove this, prosperity gospellers intrude upon and rape the sanctity of Calvary’s Cross where Jesus shed His precious blood and died for the sinful hearts and deeds of mankind, and turns it into a fashion show. To do so they point to the soldiers who gambled for Christ’s seamless tunic, and try to make the point at blood-soaked Golgotha that the reason the soldiers gambled for it was because Jesus had expensive designer clothing. After all you don’t gamble for Wal Mart duds.
The point being that since Jesus stepped out of Esquire, we should too! Calvary proves it. Blasphemy! Damnable blasphemy! What we have on Calvary is not a designer wardrobe, but the Designer, one-of-a-kind bloody sacrifice conceived and produced by the Holy Spirit as the only hope for the salvation of a sin-sick and Hell-bound world.
The truth of the matter is that the soldiers were merely vultures preying upon the spoils. They were sharks who smelled blood in the water and came to devour whatever they could find. They were nothing but souvenir hunters who wanted what was left of this laughable King of the Jews who in their eyes had become the joke of the century, and they then would have something to show others for a rip-roaring laugh.
You better believe that if the Biblical Christ came preaching in this modern mockery of an externalized and worldly-values church scene, He would be at the least vilified, scoffed at and driven out of the churches and out of town, if not crucified on the spot. They would not even be able to see what He is wearing as He proceeds to spiritually undress them!
I can plainly here Jesus woeing them and saying:
“WOE TO YOU CHARISMANIACS, HYPOCRITES! YOU ADORN THE OUTER MAN WITH
RICHES AND SILK, WHILE THE INNER MAN IS DECAYING AND ROTTING
CLOTHED IN FILTHY RAGS OF UNRIGHTEOUSNESS.”
8. JESUS TURNS THEM INSIDE OUT AND UPSIDE DOWN
Well then, as we have seen, Jesus literally turned their religion and their souls inside out. It was so frustrating and infuriating to be around the authentic Jesus. It always is! By the time the “Biblical Jesus” got done with the Jewish leaders and the Jewish laity, they were so furiously offended and irate over the feeling that:
“WHAT THEY THOUGHT THEY WERE THEY WERE NOT, AND WHAT THEY THOUGHT
THEY WERE NOT THEY WERE.”
The Jesus of the Bible always does that. Always! The Biblical fact is that no one is ever saved or sanctified without these unnerving reversals. Jesus frankly turned them all inside out! All of their subterfuges, all of their camouflages, and every pretense of their sanctimonious pride ripped off by the light of His fiery holiness. It was and is maddening to say the least.
For you see, Jesus always stings and hurts and wounds before He saves and heals and frees, and only those who are humble enough to submit to the discomfort of His inspection will walk with Him in the ecstasy of His deliverance. Jesus never neutralizes, for with Him there is no neutral ground. He always antagonizes the proud and attracts the humble. Always!
The majority of the Jews and their leadership would not endure the scorching sense of shame that He brought, so that they never experienced the joy and peace of forgiveness and guiltlessness that His salvation brings. Some initially sort of believed, but later left Him. Most never made it, but instead they were more and more alienated from and hostile towards Him, for they would not allow Him to expose them. They didn’t realize it fully themselves, but what they were terribly allergic to was this:
“JESUS CHRIST ALWAYS EXPOSES THE REALITY BEHIND THE APPEARANCE
OF THINGS. ALWAYS!”
His ripping off of hypocritical external religious facades and His exposing internal corruption was and is relentless. This caused His disciples to say to Him one day in Matthew 15:12,
“…DO YOU KNOW THAT THE PHARISEES WERE OFFENDED WHEN THEY
HEARD THIS STATEMENT?”
What statement? Matthew 15:11,
“NOT WHAT ENTERS INTO THE MOUTH DEFILES THE MAN, BUT WHAT PROCEEDS
OUT OF THE MOUTH, THIS DEFILES THE MAN.”
Oh did that tick them off! It was another attack on their external legalized religion. They had oodles and oodles of kosher laws as to what the Jewish people could wear and not wear, and what they could eat and not eat. Kosher simply means fitting. There were and there still are kosher laws for everything from menstrual blood to underwear to food. The Jewish rabbis had set in stone that every generation should be duty-bound to eat only boiled dough, stale breads and potato pancakes just for starters. The Pharisees, who were the Sanhedrin’s hit-men, made sure that the kosher laws were strictly enforced. Jesus in essence tells them that it isn’t what they are eating but what is eating them from the inside that is defiling them.
Put that in your kosher pancakes and chew on it. Judaism was an outside-in religion, and Christianity is an inside-out cleansing. They were so at ease, and His x-ray ministry caused them such dis-ease.
Jesus’ methods here remind me of the story of the couple who was traveling in Alaska by dog sled. It was 40 degrees below zero. He walked with the dog team, while she sat comfortably on the sled. He kept an eye on her and noticed her beginning to doze. Suddenly he took hold of the sled, jarred it violently, shook her off, and drove the dogs on. She of course woke up and called out. He did not stop. She picked herself up, started running, calling all the while. Half a mile later he stopped the sled. She climbed aboard, visibly annoyed, but she didn’t say a word. They arrived home. She could not contain herself any longer. She finally blurted out, “Why did you do that to me?” “Because,” he said, “if you had fallen asleep, you would have frozen to death.”
Agony before ecstasy! Upsetting and unsettling before peacefulness. As a matter of fact, Jesus keeps on disturbing us all our life long, but if we hang in there with Him, we find out that it was and is the ultimate and indispensable good for us. All of this is in the mix of the seething caldron of their hatred for and anger against Him that led to His crucifixion. It was all part of their murderous madness. He would not let them sleep the death of their self-contentment.
However, before we get all down on the Jewish leaders and laity, let’s try to be honest about ourselves as well. Think about how we all by nature just love to think of ourselves as good and decent. When it comes to everything that is positive and virtuous, we tend to think, “This is what we are.” When it comes to those things that are bad and indecent, we tend to think, “This is not what we are but what they are.”
In fact, people generally think of themselves as good enough to impress people not only, but God Himself in the event there is one. After all, they are kind, they are generous, they help their neighbors, and they give to Cancer and MD Drives. They help Jerry’s kids and send donations occasionally to Saint Jude Children’s Hospital. In fact, they are more than good and generous enough thank you. Into that very self-satisfactory world then and now comes One Who exposes our most unflattering selves.
He not only turned them inside out, but upside down. He drove them crazy! He still does! He turned on its head everything that they and we by nature live for. How did he do that? By those radical and ridiculous teachings! Remember them? The first shall be last, and the last shall be first. (Matthew 20:16) Those who exalt themselves shall be humbled, and those who humble themselves shall be exalted. (Matthew 23:12) Oh how He drove them up the wall, or was it down the wall? The first last and the last first! The high low and the low high! The Pharisees thought that they were spiritual giants, and He left them feeling like they were religious dwarfs. Just when they thought they had their chariots in high gear, they now felt like they were going in reverse.
And then we remember those strange and confusing words of Jesus, “I lay down my life that I may take it again.” (John 10:17) And again, lose your life to find it, but find your life and you will lose it. (Matthew 10:39) So He still teaches today that Christians are living always a dying and a rising life. Because of Jesus, we die everyday and rise every day. Sounds like a rebel religion spawned by a lunatic. Lose your life to find it? That really did it! But after a while, what didn’t? He was just too radically topsy turvy! He reverses everything we live for. That is why we read stuff like we do over and over again in the Gospels as in John 10:19-20,
“THERE AROSE A DIVISION AGAIN AMONG THE JEWS BECAUSE OF THESE WORDS.
AND MANY OF THEM WERE SAYING, ‘HE HAS A DEMON AND IS INSANE.
WHY DO YOU LISTEN TO HIM?’”
The Jewish outrage and furor continued to crescendo. Just when they were simmering down a bit after being enraged by one of His volatile statements, He spoke another one that turned them upside down and inside out and cut them to the quick. They could no longer feel that God was lucky to have them and that He made a wise choice when He chose them. At least, not as long as this Jesus was around!
And He continued to back up all of this by His miracles which they could not deny, but which they tried instead to degrade and demonize. What were they to do? They could not silence it all unless they silenced Him. They could not stop it all unless they stopped Him. It came down to either Him or them. They could not coexist with this Jesus and still preserve their self-image.
9. JESUS INFURIATES THE COVETOUS
Covetousness is not only an inordinate desire for money and things. It is also so very easy and common to covet high positions, lofty status, and strong recognition in the atmosphere of religious pomp and circumstance. Yes, religion can be full of religious pride and covetousness, and it can be seen in every denomination!
For example, just look for a moment at Roman Catholicism as Pope Benedict IV walks with his golden staff, draped in his papal flowing and less than modest garments, and crowned with his three foot whatever-it-is on his head. People bow before him, kiss his ring, and literally worship him as if He was Jesus Christ Himself. It certainly does draw attention! As one little girl recently stated on CNN about the Pope’s visit to New York City, “It was as if I was looking at Jesus Christ.” No man, and I mean no man should be worshipped, fawned over and exalted like that.
Then following are the blazing Red Cardinals flying in formation behind the Pope as his very own “Red Angels” other-worldly entourage, all pomping and circumstancing as the greater among the lesser! So we read our Master’s words in Luke 16:15,
“…FOR THAT WHICH IS HIGHLY ESTEEMED AMONG MEN IS DETESTABLE IN
THE SIGHT OF GOD.”
Now you are getting the picture of the Judaism of Jesus’ earthly ministry! Pharisees parading in blue-robed splendor as people yielded to them and bowed their heads in humble reverence. Wherever they walked it was as if they were parting the sea of humanity. Hey, you and I must not miss this. Those for whom Temple doors are opened before them, and the religious crowds part the way for them, can so easily get the idea that one day the gates of Heaven will be flung open by angels for them too.
So Jesus unloaded on them again one day, and said to them in Luke 11:43,
“WOE TO YOU PHARISEES! FOR YOU LOVE THE FRONT SEATS IN THE SYNAGOGUES,
AND THE RESPECTFUL GREETINGS IN THE MARKET PLACES.”
Get the picture? The religiously proud person is inescapably a most covetous person. He covets and feeds off the reverence and adoration that others give to him, and his appetite for the same is never satisfied. He’s addicted to the whole recognition thing. He always needs more. He can never get enough. You can’t get that by sitting in the back of church. Rather, sit in the front seats for everyone to see, and come in late so that all can see your grand entrance. Whether in the temple or in the market place, Jesus says about them in Matthew 23:5,
“BUT THEY DO ALL THEIR DEEDS TO BE NOTICED BY MEN….”
In short, it could be said of them:
“IT WAS THE EYES OF THE WORLD THAT THEY COVETED, AND NOT THE EYE OF
HEAVEN THAT THEY FEARED.”
Oh come on now, it is but a short step to where the Pharisees were. Some of us are educated not so much that we may know but that we may be known. Same deal McNeal! Some preach not that spiritually blind men may see Jesus, but that they may themselves be seen.
More than that, human recognition and reverence is visible, tangible, and delicious. Therefore the Pharisee would much rather have the fame and honor that is from men who they can see, than seek the glory or honor that is from God Who they could not see. So Jesus in John 5:44 said to the Jews and their rulers who were addicted to human honor and applause:
“HOW CAN YOU BELIEVE, WHEN YOU RECEIVE GLORY FROM ONE ANOTHER,
AND YOU DO NOT SEEK THE GLORY THAT IS FROM THE
ONE AND ONLY GOD?”
God will share His glory with no man, for it all is rightfully and exclusively His. For Thine is the Kingdom, the power, and the glory forever, Amen! Now then, those words of Jesus in John 5 beg the question, “How could these covetous glory-seekers wrap their self-centered and covetous minds around a new religion that taught and demanded only humility, self-denial and a cross?” Their covetous religious pride was vehemently opposed and hostile to this humble and lowly Nazarene.
But they were also covetous in the more traditional sense of the word. We read in Luke 16:14,
“NOW THE PHARISEES, WHO WERE LOVERS OF MONEY, WERE LISTENING TO ALL
THESE THINGS, AND THEY WERE SCOFFING AT HIM.”
Where we read the words lovers of money, it is the Greek word philarguros which can also be translated covetous as it is in the KJV. Most literally it means lovers of silver. Where we read the word scoffing, it also means to deride or to mock with contempt. When Jesus was teaching about being merciful to the poor and the less fortunate, the Pharisees literally were sneering at Him and taunting Him with derisive comments. They loved money, and when they heard Christ’s emphasis throughout His ministry on sharing their bounty with the down and out, they grew to hate Him even more.
Like in Luke 16 He tells the Pharisees and the religious crowd about a very rich fella who lived and ate and slept in splendor every day of his earthly life. And then he tells them about the poor beggar at the rich man’s gate all covered with sores and longing for the crumbs that fell from the rich guy’s table. But the rich man never came to his rescue, though the dogs came and licked the sores of this homeless and destitute wretch.
Shocking stuff, but even more unsettling was when Jesus said in His story that when the poor man died the angels came and carried him up into Heaven, but when the rich man died, he went to Hell. How is that for rocking their and our worlds? I mean, the funeral of the rich man was most likely held in grand style with gobs of mourners. The beggar when he died was probably buried by some other castaways of society who took pity on their brother. You see, we bestow honors where God pronounces judgment. We pity where angels sing. The first are last after all, and the last first.
Jesus clobbered the covetous religious lovers of silver in His day. And once again the lovers of silver in the religion of our day are out of control. Covetousness in religion has again corrupted the heart and practice of the Christian faith. For Christ’s true disciples, the light of His truth breaks forth brilliantly like the dawning of a new day. For them, Christ’s teachings enlighten. But for the covetous-religious, the light of His truth blinds them and they turn away from it in pain and disgust. For them, Christ’s teachings scorched. It surely did not endear Him to them, but turned them against Him ever more intensely!
In fact, we have a plague of false covetous teachers who under the guise of Christianity are turning churchgoers into covetous lovers of silver. Like Creflo Dollar they teach their very large churches that you cannot have love, joy and peace until you get some dollars. You got to get some dollars first. Not according to the Word of God. Not at all! The Apostle Paul tells us that love, joy and peace are the fruits of the blessed Holy Spirit in our lives. Here religious covetousness perverts Scripture, materializes the spiritual, puts a price tag on God’s graces, and leads people into a totally false notion of what Jesus meant by the abundant life. (John 10:10)
Follow along closely now, for this is urgent and critically important stuff in this hour. The Apostle Paul describes the true abundant life in Christ in II Corinthians 6:10,
“…AS HAVING NOTHING YET POSSESSING ALL THINGS.”
You’ve got to be kidding Paul! Are my eyes deceiving me? Is the Apostle Paul simply trying to be clever with his words, or is he simply engaged in gross overstatement to make a point? How can you have nothing and still have everything? Wild stuff! Sounds that way, but he is stating the case just as it is in truth. With Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior, only then can life go from emptiness to fullness, and from nothing to everything. Paul is talking about a life in which it is possible to look at all that the world offers and not need or desire one bit of it. Blows your mind! It ought to!
Let’s put it this way! The abundant Christian life is the only life in which you are totally fulfilled internally even though you may have nothing externally. It is the only life in which you can have half a body with no legs, and yet have fullness of life. Religious covetousness means by the abundant life – I must have lots of silver and things, and if I give to Christian causes, I will get them. The old get-rich scam! Christianity means by the abundant life – I don’t need anything, for I have in Christ a super-abundance of everything I could ever long for and more.
But let Christ put the true zapper on all this in Luke 12:15 from the KJV,
“…TAKE HEED, AND BEWARE OF COVETOUSNESS: FOR A MAN’S LIFE CONSISTETH NOT
IN THE ABUNDANCE OF THE THINGS WHICH HE POSSESSETH.”
Whamo! There you have it! The abundant life in Christ has absolutely nothing to do with earthly deficiency, sufficiency, or excess. This is the severest sentence of judgment that can and must be passed upon these religious-coveting purveyors of this rampant and rotten-to-the-core prosperity gospel today. Jesus declares it to be completely bogus.
What then according to Jesus Christ is the abundant life? It is not what but Who! Jesus said in John 10:10,
“…I CAME THAT THEY MIGHT HAVE LIFE, AND MIGHT HAVE IT ABUNDANTLY.”
The abundant life comes immediately from Christ Himself, and is not mediated from Him through cash or stuff or anything else. Every man in this world is empty or full depending upon the absence or presence of Christ in his heart. For you must understand that only the Son of God, like the rays from the sun warming the earth, shines forth unspeakable joy, incomprehensible love, and surpassing peace into the human heart. He does all of this and more in ways that the fullest bank accounts, biggest houses, and the most luxurious cars cannot even begin to do. Jesus said so. He ought to know, for He alone is the abundant life.
How long did it take for the religious covetous back then to kill Jesus? About 3½ years, though they plotted and schemed countless times before, but could never quite pull it off, for His time had not yet come. How long would it take to kill Him today if He came into this present religious and covetously huckstering environment preaching the same way He did in his earthly sojourn? Each one of us must answer that for himself or herself.
Doubtless however the stage would be set for another crucifixion scene if He showed up in these covetous lovers-of-silver churches and pounced on them as he did on 1st century Judaism. When you expose people’s hearts, and hit the nerve of their covetousness, it is showdown time at the not-okay Jerusalem corral. He that has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit is saying to the church. Amen!