A WARNING AGAINST HYPOCRISY
Hostility toward the person of Jesus was on the rise. The last chapter closed with the enemies of Jesus coming together to plot His demise. But they were not open about such plans. They recognized His popularity among the people and so they hid their true motives beneath a mask of hypocrisy. Luke draws us to this situation with his opening verse:
Under these circumstances, after so many thousands of the multitude had gathered together that they were stepping on one another, He began saying to His disciples first of all, "Beware of the leaven of the Pharisees, which is hypocrisy" (Luke 12:1).
What are the circumstances to which Luke refers? He refers to the previous verses where the scribes and the Pharisees began to plot against Jesus as to how they might catch Him in something He said (11:53-54).
Jesus speaks to the Pharisees and experts in the Law
Jesus speaks to His disciples about the Pharisees and experts in the Law
Jesus has already addressed the scribes and Pharisees in the preceding chapter. He gave them six woes. Now He addresses His own disciples. Why? Because they run the danger of being caught in the middle of the storm. They are going to be hearing accusations and they are going to be seeing the traps that are set forth to trip up Jesus. The temptation that will face them will be to fall into the trap into which the scribes and the Pharisees have already fallen - the trap of hypocrisy.
IN BOTH HYPOCRISY AND LEAVEN, A LITTLE GOES A LONG WAY
Under these circumstances, after so many thousands of the multitude had gathered together that they were stepping on one another, He began saying to His disciples first of all,"Beware of the leaven of the Pharisees, which is hypocrisy." (Luke 12:1).
Leaven is something that you use in baking. Iím not much of a cook and I know little to nothing about baking, but I understand that leaven is that little bit of yeast that is added to bread to make it rise. You put in the leaven and it influences the bread. For this reason, the Bible regularly uses leaven to describe the idea of INFLUENCE. Influence can be good and influence can be bad. The Bible uses the idea of influence in both ways.
What was the leaven of the Pharisees? Jesus tells us. It was hypocrisy. The word "hypocrisy" is a compound word in the Greek. It comes from the joining of two words together.
a. Hupo is the Greek word for "under."
b. Krino, "to separate or judge."
The resulting word was used in the Greek theater of the actors who would speak their parts behind a mask. When used in that regard, it had a positive idea of one who answers a dialogue. But when used in the negative sense, it describes one who says one thing while believing another.
One of the charges that I often hear against the church is that it is full of hypocrites. This is something that unbelievers say and it often has a certain element of truth. My standard response is that we can always use one more.
But the truth of the matter is that Christianity is diametrically opposed to hypocrisy. The reason this is the case is because Christianity strips away the mask. It says that you are a guilty sinner who is not worthy of the grace of God. It says that you are a real sinner who commits real sins. It suffers from no illusions as to any inherent goodness on the part of its members.
A hypocrite is a person who pretends to be good when he is not. A Christian is one who has confessed that he is a sinner and who has agreed with God that he is deserving only of death and who has then cast himself upon the mercy of the court and has found such mercy at the cross.
The problem arises once we come into the church and get around all of these other nice-looking Christians. It is at that moment that we face the temptation of the leaven of the Pharisees. It is at that time when we are tempted to pretend that we are not quite so bad any longer. We are tempted to conform on the outside and to let it stay there and to go no further.
HYPOCRISY DOESNíT STAY HIDDEN
"But there is nothing covered up that will not be revealed, and hidden that will not be known.3 Accordingly, whatever you have said in the dark shall be heard in the light, and what you have whispered in the inner rooms shall be proclaimed upon the housetops." (Luke 12:2-3).
Christianity is all about truth revealed. A part of that revelation involves who you are and what you are really like. This is stated as a simple truism -- whatever is soon becomes known. Anyone with kids knows this principle. Secrets never stay secret. Trying to conceal the truth is a bit like trying to conceal a pregnancy. It will eventually be known.
The sins of some men are quite evident, going before them to judgment; for others, their sins follow after.
It doesnít matter what you do, it will eventually become known. This applies to the good that you do as well as to the sin that you commit. It even applies to the things that you say. It applies to that which you yell from the rooftops and it applies to that which you whispered in a back room.
Do you remember Adam and Eve in the garden? They had no sooner tasted of the forbidden fruit than their eyes were opened and they were hiding from the presence of God. But you cannot hide from the presence of God. Soon there was an insistent call, "Adam, where are you?" It was not as though God had lost track of Adam. Rather, He asks the question to bring Adam face to face with his own sin.
God does that with us, too. He asks, "Where are you and what are you doing?" But when He does, He isnít asking for His own benefit, but for yours.
HYPOCRISY IS AFRAID OF THE WRONG THING
"And I say to you, My friends, do not be afraid of those who kill the body, and after that have no more that they can do.5 But I will warn you whom to fear: fear the One who after He has killed has authority to cast into hell; yes, I tell you, fear Him! (Luke 12:4-5).
At the root of hypocrisy is fear. It is a fear that someone might think poorly of you. That is why people play the "mask" game. We put on our masks while thinking that people will be impressed with the mask that we wear instead of seeing the real person behind the mask. In doing so, we are being afraid of the wrong person.
Fear is not necessarily a bad thing. A proper fear can keep you out of trouble. Little children are often in danger because they are not properly afraid of the right thing. We have to keep them away from the stove or the oven or sharp objects because they do not have a proper fear of these things.
The Bible tells us that the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom. It is appropriate to have a proper fear of God -- not a fear that drives us away from Him, but a fear that draws us close.
This has a specific correlation to the previous verses. If we are not afraid of the wrong thing, then we will also not be afraid to speak that which is to be revealed -- the Gospel.
The word translated "hell" is the Greek word gehenna. It is actually a transliteration of the Hebrew name for the Valley of Hinnom. This was the deep ravine on the southwest side of Jerusalem that served as the city garbage heap. In the dark days of Israelís history, it had been used as a place to sacrifice babies to pagan gods (2 Chronicles 28:3; 33:6). The name had come to have reference to the place of future divine judgment.
HYPOCRISY IS UNNEEDED
"Are not five sparrows sold for two cents? And yet not one of them is forgotten before God.7 Indeed, the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Do not fear; you are of more value than many sparrows." (Luke 12:6-7).
Hypocrisy wears a mask so that people will see the mask and will be impressed and will come to like the mask and will think that the mask is a true representation of the person wearing it.
When you come to Christ, you find that you need no mask. You find a God who has already seen you the way you really are and who loves you and values you anyway.
That is what happened to the Samaritan woman. She came to the well that day with her mask firmly in place. When Jesus stripped off her mask, she must have been terrified at the condemnation that she thought would follow. But instead she found love and forgiveness and acceptance.
The references to sparrow and the hairs of your head is an argument from the lesser to the greater. If God is concerned with such minor things such as sparrows and hair, how much more shall He show concern and demonstrate His love for those who are His people?
HYPOCRISY CAN BE SEEN BOTH IN SILENCE AND IN SPEAKING
"And I say to you, everyone who confesses Me before men, the Son of Man shall confess him also before the angels of God;9 but he who denies Me before men shall be denied before the angels of God.
"And everyone who will speak a word against the Son of Man, it shall be forgiven him; but he who blasphemes against the Holy Spirit, it shall not be forgiven him." (Luke 12:8-10).
In the last chapter, we saw the Pharisees accusing Jesus of casting out demons by the power of Satan. They saw the miraculous power. They could not deny that it was supernatural. So they did the next best thing. They attacked the source of that power.
It was a hypocritical attack. They were hiding behind a mask because they had been confronted by One who had exposed their own weakness and sinfulness. Their attack was a smoke screen. It was a mask behind which they could hide. And in formulating this mask, they had not only spoken against Jesus, but they had also spoken against the Holy Spirit of God.
Why does Jesus make a distinction between one who speaks a word against the Son of Man versus one who blasphemes against the Holy Spirit? It is because it is possible to see the man Jesus and to initially not recognize Him for who He is. But when you see the power of Godís Spirit at work and reject that power, there is no higher realm of evidence or influence that can guide you to the truth.
WHILE HYPOCRISY HAS NO DEFENSE, GODíS PEOPLE NEED NO DEFENSE
"And when they bring you before the synagogues and the rulers and the authorities, do not become anxious about how or what you should speak in your defense, or what you should say;12 for the Holy Spirit will teach you in that very hour what you ought to say." (Luke 12:11-12).
When you come to Christ, you find that you are relieved from worry about what God is thinking of you. But that is not all. You also find that you are relieved from worry about what people are thinking of you. Why is this? It is because you have a new advocate. You have someone who will be with you. It is the very Spirit of God.
Scribes and Pharisees
Followers of Christ
Blasphemed the Holy Spirit
The Holy Spirit serves as their Helper
Spoke those things against God that they should not have said
Will be taught by the Holy Spirit that which they should say
The words of Jesus here were not theoretical. They were prophetic. The book of Acts tells us of the early Christians being brought before both synagogues and rulers to answer for their faith. A great deal of the book of Acts takes place within various law courts of the ancient world. The book of Acts is the official account of those who were witnesses for the defense in those courts of law.
Does this mean that preachers should never prepare before they preach or that Bible teachers should avoid studying that on which they plan to teach? No, I donít believe it does. But it does mean that when you are caught by surprise the Lord hasnít been similarly surprised and that He is able to stand by you and to speak on your behalf.
It means that when you have opportunity to speak in the name of Christ, you can do so with confidence, for you do not speak alone.
The story is told of a famed concert pianist who was scheduled to play for a packed concert hall. All of the seats had been sold out for weeks and everyone who was anyone had gathered to hear the recital. At the appropriate time, the lights dimmed and the curtain rose and everyone was horrified to see a little boy who had wandered away from his parents and who had taken his seat at the grand piano. Not noticing the crowd, he began to play "Chopsticks." The concert pianist strode out onto the stage and saw this little upstart performance. The audience was hushed as he stepped up behind the little boy and could see him bend over and whisper, "Keep on playing." Then, before an amazed audience, he added his own two hands to the playing of the little boy and he filled in the base and treble parts. Together, they played through the rest of the piece and then were met with the thunderous applause of the crowd.
That is what God does for us. He comes and He gives us the message and the means by which to speak it and then He allows us to share in the applause of heaven.