In view of numerous Tweets and comments from several people who were outraged and angry about Friday's post, we take up the subject only obliquely today. Most of my critics since Friday have regarded it as a given that Jesus would never, evereverbe anything but friendly, deferential, polite, and sweet-tempered to men of stature who teach in religious settings. Here's a reminder that such a saccharine view of Christ by no means reflects who He really is. In fact, the opinions of today's evangelicals about what constitutes "civility" and authentic Christlikeness are sometimes about as far from reality as it is possible to get.
ear the conclusion of The Jesus You Can't Ignore, John MacArthur makes this observation about Matthew 23:
The other word that dominates this sermon besides "woe" is "hypocrites"which likewise appears eight times. In the course of pronouncing those eight woes, Jesus was addressing many of the doctrinal and practical errors that illustrated what deplorable hypocrites [the Pharisees] were. These included their pretentious praying (v. 14); their misguided motives for "ministry" to others (v. 15); their tendency to swear casually by things that are holy, plus the corresponding habit of playing fast and loose with their vows (vv. 18-22); their upside-down approach to priorities, by which they had elevated obscure ceremonial precepts over the moral law (vv. 23-24); and above all, their blithe toleration of many gross, often ludicrous, manifestations of hypocrisy (vv. 27-31).
One other characteristic that makes this sermon stand out is Jesus' liberal use of derogatory epithets. Those who think name-calling is inherently unchristlike and always inappropriate will have a very hard time with this sermon. In addition to the eight times Jesus emphatically calls them "hypocrites!" He calls them "blind guides" (vv. 16, 24); "Fools and blind!" (v. 17, 19); "Blind Pharisee[s]" (v. 26); and "Serpents, brood of vipers!" (v. 33).
This was not an attempt to win esteem in their eyes. It was not an attempt to persuade them with smooth words a friendly overture. It was not the kind of soft word that turns away wrath.
But it was the truth, and it was what the Pharisees, as well as those potentially influenced by them, desperately needed to hear.
Just before closing that final chapter of the book, MacArthur writes,
In fact, the very last thing we can afford to do in these postmodern times, while the enemies of truth are devoted to making everything fuzzy, would be to pledge a moratorium on candor or agree to a cease-fire with people who delight in testing the limits of orthodoxy. Being friendly and affable is sometimes simply the wrong thing to do (see Nehemiah 6:2-4). We must remember that.
Punctuating the chapters in this book are call-out quotes from famous authors of the past who likewise pointed out that the popular conception of Jesus often fails to appreciate just how militant He was in defense of the truth. In one of them, for example, J. B. Phillips writes, "Why mild? Of all the epithets that could be applied to Christ this seems one of the least appropriate."
We have all heard people say a hundred times over, for they seem never to tire of saying it, that the Jesus of the New Testament is indeed a most merciful and humane lover of humanity, but that the Church has hidden this human character in repellent dogmas and stiffened it with ecclesiastical terrors till it has taken on an inhuman character. This is, I venture to repeat, very nearly the reverse of the truth. The truth is that it is the image of Christ in the churches that is almost entirely mild and merciful.
G. K. Chesterton (The Everlasting Man)
You really ought to read The Jesus You Can't Ignoreespecially if you are the type who thinks theological disagreements should never be brought out into the open until they have been delicately spun into pretty clouds of cotton-candyand then handled only by people who have carefully painted phony clown-smiles on their own faces.