“Woe to you scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you clean the outside of the cup and the plate, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence. You blind Pharisee! First clean the inside of the cup and plate, that the outside also may be clean.” Matthew 23:25, 26
I don’t know if you like Jesus or not but one thing that attracts me to this righteous and compassionate man was His undistracted focus on what He came to do. Scripture indicates that Jesus’s mission entailed 21 assignments. I won’t go over all 21 of them but here are a few that can give us a glimpse into His passionate heart:
Matthew 11:27 He came to reveal the nature of His Father (God)
Matthew 18:11 He came to find the lost.
Mark 10:45 He came to serve not be served.
John 10:10 He came to give us a fulfilled life.
Hebrews 10:9 He came to do His Father’s will.
1 John 3:8 He came to destroy the works of the devil.
1 Peter 2:21 He came to give us an example to live by.
I appreciate that Jesus didn’t show up on the scene to win friends and influence people through false pretense. Unlike the deceiver, the devil. John 8:44
Jesus could be a hard Man to follow. And if I were honest, sometimes He still can be. I’m not alone in that feeling as many of His disciples walked away and even His closest companions had their doubts and considered it.
Maybe you’ve had yours?
“So Jesus said to the Twelve, “Do you want to go away as well?” Simon Peter answered him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life, and we have believed, and have come to know that you are the Holy One of God” (John 6:67-69, ESV)
My struggle hasn’t been so much walking away from Him but wanting to stay with Him and bend the “rules.” I know rules aren’t popular anymore but try raising your kids without some rules for their safety and see how that goes.
It always starts with going back to God as our Creator.
I just can’t get it out of my soul that God created me, loves me, has my best interest at heart, knows me better than anyone…like He really, really gets me and He sent His Son Jesus to show me how to not only get through this life but to overcome trial and hardship with joy woven into them.
He also graciously forgives me and restores me when I decide to do things my way, only to find out my way is never the fulfillment I was looking for.
He’s so kind and patient.
Jesus’s words to the scribes and Pharisees in the above passage must have felt harsh. They eventually got Him murdered. But Jesus wasn’t okay with lies. He knew the Pharisees weren’t practicing what they preached.
Here are just a few things Jesus said about them:
“They do all their deeds to be seen by others.”
“They love the place of honor at feasts.”
“They love the best seats.”
“They loved to be greeted in the marketplaces.”
“They shut the kingdom of heaven in people’s faces.”
The Pharisees were an interesting crew but maybe not so different from us at times.
They appeared righteous but they weren’t right with God.
Jesus echoed the words of Isaiah when He quoted,
“This people honors me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me” (Matthew 15:8).
He was speaking of those who held onto an outward tradition, holding others to that standard but not living it themselves from the heart…and Jesus tells us why.
Their insides hadn’t been cleaned up yet. It was impossible for them to do otherwise.
So let me get personal.
I spent years keeping the tradition of marriage because it was the right thing to do but on the inside despising my husband. I felt gripped. There was no way, no how I was going to confess those feelings. To bring that into the light would mean we were frauds. (When actually what made us frauds was the pretending.) Don’t misunderstand me; I sincerely wanted a good marriage. I had just given up. So instead of coming clean and getting real help, I chose to handle it my way.
The Pharisees didn’t know their own hearts. They didn’t know their motives. They were blind, truly.
They thought if they could just keep it under control on the outside, they were good with God. And of course everyone else was wrong.
Our Pastor preached on motives yesterday. My ears were especially attentive because I often ask myself why I am doing or not doing something.
What is my why?
What is my motive?
Do I need to be seen by others to feel validated? Does my voice need to be heard to be understood? Do I need to be recognized to feel important?
Or do I feel I have a message born from the fire of God’s love and pursuit and He wants me to share it, giving others hope through Christ?
A message of the inside of my cup being baptized through painful surrender and self-awareness…to come out of that fire with cleaned up insides?
A message of mercy that when our eyes are opened that we haven’t truly loved Jesus, His love for us leads us to repentance and a new beginning?
I’ve got to confess a very real struggle I feel at times…the motive questions can distract me. As much as I feel all my motives are pure and right, I can slip back. Only now, I recognize it, mostly. I recognize it because I start to care what others think in an unhealthy way. (Yes, there is a way to care in a healthy way.) I start to feel needy for affirmation and I look for it. I start to feel discontent and irritated. I have also noticed that these moments come when I allow working for God to be more valuable than being with God.
When I see these “signs” I do a few things that bring me back to rest. I call it rest because it ALWAYS leads me back to breathing deep and receiving my beloved-ness, my accepted-ness and my chosen-ness in Christ. It gets my eyes off of myself and back on the race set before me with Jesus as my reward, not the applause of man.
If the Pharisees would have believed that Jesus was the One True Honor-Giver, they could have rested too. Jesus words were hard because He loved them and He loved those they were hurting.
Jesus’s harshness was not mean; it was firm because of love.
His humble and gentle disposition was not set aside when He had to say hard words. His truth came from a heart that’s clean on the inside and perfectly pure…void of self-serving motives. (That’s why we can trust Him 100%!)
One more kind thing Jesus came to do was to baptize us with fire. (Matthew 3:11)
I know this is an odd way to end… because that’s a mouth-full but fire purifies and it feels harsh. It removes the impurities and brings forth pure gold. The fire Jesus came to bring transforms our very desires. It goes beyond external appearances and cleans out our insides. And when we trust Him, it’s just natural that we keep asking Him to send fire. We want pure motives. We want impurities that creep in to be burned up sooner than rather later.
We want to be like Jesus, gentle and humble in heart.