The Gospel reading this week is about Jesus teaching about the Law of Moses. The Pharisees were very strict about the Law, and they wanted everyone else to follow it, too. But Jesus saw something in the Pharisees that they couldn’t see.
The Law that they loved so much had become more about legalism, and less about God’s purpose for his people. The Pharisees put the Law above our Lord by judging those who did not abide by it.
He called them hypocrites because they were very careful about outward appearances, but inwardly they were corrupt. A hypocrite is one who wears a mask to hide their true motive, like an actor in a play who pretends to be someone else.
They were so concerned about how others followed the Law, they projected their own faults on them. This is also how they treated Jesus. They judged him as inferior to themselves because he did not follow the Law in a manner that suited them.
Instead of celebrating the coming of the Messiah, they rejected him because he did not fit into their own narrow set of beliefs.
The Gospel reading today has been written about, and received comments from many people. Most of them say that Jesus is teaching that to be a true follower of God, one must follow the Law better than the Pharisees. Christians are to be perfect, they say, and if one violates the spirit of the Law, not just the letter, then they are not fit for the Kingdom of God.
Jesus said, “You have heard that it was said, `You shall not commit adultery.’ But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lust has already committed adultery with her in his heart. If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away; it is better for you to lose one of your members than for your whole body to be thrown into hell. And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away; it is better for you to lose one of your members than for your whole body to go into hell.”
Some commentaries seem to suggest that Christians are supposed to be more righteous than the Pharisees. This has always intrigued me, as I have said before,
I do not think that Jesus was suggesting that we need to cut off our hands and pluck out our eyes. St. Paul wrote that Christians no longer need the Law as a tutor.
I think there are two ideas at work here. First I think Jesus was indicting the Pharisees for their hypocrisy. The Pharisees were so strict about the Law that they looked down on anyone who wasn’t as perfect as they. In fact, the Pharisees were projecting their own deceit onto others. They were so afraid in their hearts that they were not as good as they pretended to be, they feared they were also guilty of breaking the Law.
When one group of people looks down on another, it is likely they are hiding from their unconscious nature by projecting it onto whom they see as the enemy. Instead the enemy is hiding within themselves. I believe Jesus was telling them that if they never recognized this and accepted the bad parts of themselves, there could be no true repentance.
The Pharisees could not accept that they also needed to repent of their sins. Jesus taught his disciples, “Beware of the leaven of the Pharisees, which is hypocrisy. Nothing is covered up that will not be revealed, or hidden that will not be known. Therefore whatever you have said in the dark shall be heard in the light, and what you have whispered in private rooms shall be proclaimed on the housetops.” (Luke 12)
Jesus is saying that on the day of judgment, there will no longer be any secrets.
I also believe that Jesus was telling his disciples that the Law of Moses would never make anyone righteous with God. The Law was so strict that the average person never had any hope of fulfilling it, so why even try.
Jesus told them that they could only be righteous by believing in and following him. Jesus said, “I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life.” Not the Law, not your church, but Jesus only.
We, too, can follow Jesus as the disciples did. We, like the Pharisees, have an unconscious self that we need to confront and reconcile so that we can truly repent of our sins. Remember, the words of Jesus, “Nothing is covered up that will not be revealed, or hidden that will not be known.”
When we can truly repent, confess our sins, and accept the forgiveness of our Lord, He will lead us into righteousness and receive us into the kingdom of heaven. Amen.