Focus on Jesus Series
Jesus on the Offense
Notes on Matthew 22:41-23:39, Mark 12:35-44, Luke 20:41-21:4
by Ed Vasicek
One of the best ways to determine whether you are interpreting Scripture correctly is to do what I call the “deductive check.” In mathematics, we can check a subtraction problem by adding the answer to the amount we subtracted. The result should match our beginning number. In the Bible, we can draw our conclusions and then see if Jesus (or other key characters) always practiced those principles as we understand them.
When you come to a verse like Philippians 2:14, “Do all things without complaining....” and you conclude that one should never complain, you can check that against the life of Christ. Did Jesus complain? Certainly. How about Mark 9:19, “O unbelieving generation...how long shall I put up with you?” Oops, there goes our conclusion. Better adjust it to “the Christian should not be characterized by complaining.”
Some people have adopted a “Mr. Rogers” view of Jesus. They distort the true Jesus and believe He never raised His voice, never confronted anyone, never got angry. But this is not the Jesus of the Bible. In our text today, Jesus goes on the offense. He presents a puzzling question to His adversaries as opposed to merely fielding their inquiries. The Pharisees have been putting Jesus down. Now in Matthew 23:13-36, He calls them all sorts of unpleasant names, like: hypocrites, sons of hell (what would you think of me if I referred to a false teacher by that name?), blind guides, blind fools (after Jesus warned us about calling someone a fool!), white-washed tombs, descendants of those who murdered the prophets, snakes, and brood of vipers. Whew—that’s name calling.
This is the real, sinless Jesus of the Bible. Yet His labeling and “judging” others would not meet modern popular “ethical” standards. There is something wrong with modern standards if Jesus does not live up to them!
We cannot speak with the authority in which Jesus spoke. God the Son is perfect, our hearts are corrupted by sin. But two things are clear: 1) it is not necessarily sinful to label, nor 2) is it wrong to expose and condemn lies and error. Indeed, a willingness to tell it like it is can be defined as part of Christ-likeness. Unlike Jesus, we must guard our inclination to turn loving the truth into mere sinful slander.
Since we are sinners, we must be careful that our attempts to discern truth from error do not cross the line into reckless arrogance, as Jude warns us, "...these dreamers...reject authority and slander celestial beings...” (Jude 1:8). We had better be sure before we condemn. But sometimes to do less would be cowardly. Being Christ-like does mean having compassion, but does not mean being wimpy.
Highland Park Church
516 West Sycamore Street
Kokomo, Indiana, USA