Last week I posted about the apparent temper tantrum that Jesus had over not finding fruit on the fig tree. We discovered that it was truly not a temper tantrum but rather a parable and miracle rolled into one teaching the importance of authenticity in the life of the Christian. Its purpose was to admonish the Jewish leaders over their hypocrisy. It also is very viable in admonishing us today.
I’ve been thinking about the parable and miracle of the withered fig tree ever since. The thing that struck me the most was that Jesus was calling out the hypocrisy of the Jewish leaders. I realized that authenticity was something that was important to Jesus. Three other times he addressed the same issue in the gospel of Matthew and each time he became angry while doing so. There aren’t too many places where Jesus showed anger but it often did accompany his reprimanding of the Jewish leaders. Of course, being completely sinless, He was able to be angry and not sin just like we are commanded to do in the Psalms. It is important to know the difference between appropriate and inappropriate anger.
Jesus modeled that for us as he used His anger to provide a miracle and a parable. He took His anger and used it as a teaching opportunity.
So if authenticity means that much to Jesus then it must be something of importance to us as well and something we should take care to address and cultivate in our own lives. Matthew is the only gospel that records the incidents of Jesus calling out the Pharasees but in two different passages we see it happen 3 times.
In Matthew 7:1-5 He uses the parable of the speck and the log. Jesus was calling them out on their hypocrisy and their judgmental attitudes.
“Judge not, that you be not judged. For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and with the measure you use it will be measured to you. Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when there is the log in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye.
The first 36 verses of Matthew 23 records the whole lecture Jesus gave to the Pharisees on authenticity. Jesus gives it to them no holds barred and points out 7 areas they are wrong in their hearts. Two specifically deal with hypocrisy.
In verse 25 He gives the parable of the cup and tells them how they are so busy cleaning the outside that they forget to wash the inside. Jesus was calling them out on their greed and self indulgence.
“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 the plate, that the outside also may be clean.
Then in verse 27 He calls the Jews whitewashed tombs. Jesus was calling them out on their hypocrisy again and lawlessness.
“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs, which outwardly appear beautiful, but within are full of dead people’s bones and all uncleanness. So you also outwardly appear righteous to others, but within you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness.
In all three verses, Jesus was calling the Jewish leaders out on the attitudes of their heart. Their hearts were far from the Lord. Their lives showed the difference.
Clearly, the fruit of the spirit was not present the lives of the Pharisees. Later on in Galatians, Paul talks about the fruit of the spirit and how those traits are present in the lives of those walking with the Lord. Of course, the Holy Spirit hadn’t been given to God’s people just yet when Jesus was calling out the scribes and Pharisees before His death and resurrection. But looking back through the great men and women of the Bible who walked with the Lord you can see the fruits of the spirit Paul lists in their lives. Those traits are simply present when the Lord has influence in your life. The Lord’s influence brings about authenticity in the life of the Christian.
May these verses give us pause in our lives. Lord willing, it will bring us to a place of reflection and a seeking the Lord for areas that we are not being authentic. I don’t know about you, but I surely don’t want to have things in my character that turn others away from Him, cause other people to stumble or, worse yet, separate me from Him!