Per Fidem Intrepidus means "Fearless Through Faith". My courage isn't my own, it comes from the Holy Spirit, it's my faith in God and my personal savior Christ Jesus that calms my fears and allows me to move forward in this fallen world. Personally I'm afraid of a lot of stuff, but having the faith that Jesus adopted me as his little, sin filled, brother keeps me going.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

How To Handle A Brood of Vipers

Continuing my Lenten series on hypocrisy - 

It's no surprise that Jesus wasn't happy with the Pharisees, their practice of Judaism was little more than legal wrangling. Their legalism and hypocrisy did more than turn religion into an ancient form of Roberts Rules of Order, it took the love completely out of what is primarily meant to be a loving practice of giving thanks and praise to our creator. Rather than bringing the average man closer to God, the Pharasees were replacing God with rules and regulations. Worse yet, they turned the most holy place on the planet, the Temple, into a sideshow fun house that was mandatory to ride. The once pious sacrifices were now an assembly line meat market.

Jesus had enough, He really laid into those that turned His Father's house into a 'salvation factory' (my favorite insulting term for a megachurch)  based on man-made rules and traditions rather than God's own word. Jesus lashed out and publicly berated them, rebuking the Pharasees for nearly everything they stood for.
But woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites, because you shut off the kingdom of heaven from people; for you do not enter in yourselves, nor do you allow those who are entering to go in." (Matthew 23:13)

Jesus curses the Pharisees for twisting the word of God to the point that they were preventing people from coming to God, much in the way that the modern day apostates and heretics like the Roman Catholic church is today, so you can see why he was angry. They made human traditions and human rules more important than God's word. They block people's entry into heaven by making them think thier own non-scriptural rules and works were more important that God's own love. It's bad enough when someone chooses not to enter heaven, but to block someones entry through false teaching is far worse
“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites, because you travel around on sea and land to make one proselyte; and when he becomes one, you make him twice as much a son of hell as yourselves. (Matthew 23:15)
The Pharisees zeal in gaining converts is second only to today's modern megachurch apostate who will say and do anything, twisting and ignoring the very Word of God just to get 'bodies in seats' in time for the collection plate to be passed. They don't (didn't) care if they converted a sinner to a saint or not, it was (is) all a numbers game based on false messages.

16 “Woe to you, blind guides, who say, ‘Whoever swears by the temple, that is nothing; but whoever swears by the gold of the temple is obligated.’ 17 You fools and blind men! Which is more important, the gold or the temple that sanctified the gold? 18 And, ‘Whoever swears by the altar, that is nothing, but whoever swears by the offering on it, he is obligated.’ 19 You blind men, which is more important, the offering, or the altar that sanctifies the offering? 20 Therefore, whoever swears by the altar, swears both by the altar and by everything on it. 21 And whoever swears by the temple, swears both by the temple and by Him who dwells within it. 22 And whoever swears by heaven, swears both by the throne of God and by Him who sits upon it. (Matthew 23:16-22)
The Pharisees had many oaths, some binding and unbreakable, others not. It's kind of like making a promise with your fingers crossed behind your back. To the Jew an oath is absolutely binding, but the Pharisees added "except when it's not binding" to the tradition. Jesus called out the Pharisees for that. He also emphasizes that the altar, the established meeting place between God and man (and that blessed meeting of God and man at the altar), is so much more important than the sacrifice made on the altar. (Now our altar is Jesus as well as the sacrifice) Finally Jesus reminded them that every oath is binding and God holds the oath-maker to account, regardless of the rules the Pharisees put in place

23 Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you tithe mint and dill and cummin, and have neglected the weightier provisions of the law: justice and mercy and faithfulness; but these are the things you should have done without neglecting the others. 24 You blind guides, who strain out a gnat and swallow a camel! (Matthew 23:23-24)

The Pharisee's were so absorbed in correct tithing that they weighed the spices and herbs gathered from their kitchen gardens down to the last gram to insure that their tithe didn't fall short (or be too excessive) but they ignored the most important parts of the Mosaic law: Justice and Mercy and Faith. Jesus then used a humorous illustration of a Pharisee who would diligently strain out a gnat so he wouldn't swallow it accidently because it wasn't properly prepared to be kosher, yet intentionally swallow an entire forbidden animal in their zeal.

25 “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. 26 You blind Pharisee, first clean the inside of the cup and of the dish, so that the outside of it may become clean also. (Matthew 23:25-26)
The scribes and Pharisees were more interested in an outward appearance of righteousness but inwardly they were sinful and corrupt and didn't care. Jesus did not call them to choose between outward and inner righteousness but to be concerned with both, but to first address inner righteousness. Once you got the inner righteousness right, the outward appearance will follow
27 Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs which on the outside appear beautiful, but inside they are full of dead men’s bones and all uncleanness. (Matthew 23:27-28)
It was the custom of the Jews at the time to whitewash their tombs before passover so that no one would accidently touch one and become ceremonially unclean before Passover. Jesus said that the Pharisees were like these whitewashed tombs, pretty on the outside but dead on the inside. To the average man the scribes and Pharisees looked righteous but God knows better, He sees them for what they are.

29 Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you build the tombs of the prophets and adorn the monuments of the righteous, 30 and say, ‘If we had been living in the days of our fathers, we would not have been partners with them in shedding the blood of the prophets.’ 31 So you testify against yourselves, that you are sons of those who murdered the prophets. 32 Fill up, then, the measure of the guilt of your fathers. 33 You serpents, you brood of vipers, how will you escape the sentence of hell? (Matthew 23:29-33)
The scribes and Pharisees claimed to venerate the dead prophets but they ignore and disdain the living prophets such as John the Baptist and Jesus, thereby proving themselves to be the fitting successors to those that killed the early prophets. When He said "Fill up then the measure of the guilt of your fathers" He was in essence saying "Finish it - kill me."

Jesus really laid a smack-down on these men, he must really have hated them, right? To quote Paul: "Be it not so!" He loved them! These are the people He was sent to save!
Those whom I love, I reprove and discipline; therefore be zealous and repent. (Revelation 3:19)
If He didn't love them He would have left them alone, it's like the age old question "How does one go to hell?" the answer is "Don't worry about it, you're doing fine without directions." If He didn't love them He'd have let them continue on their path to destruction. That's always hard to remember because He also had to use them to God's purpose and goad them into crucifying Him.

Can you imagine how awful He felt to force someone He loved into doing something so horrible? To use them for such a hideous end? And then I think that He did that for me and the tears start to come...

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