John 12:1-11 | Beauties and the Beasts Part 2 | Andrew Gutierrez
Topic: Worship Gatherings Passage: John 12:1–12:11
Please open your Bibles to John 12. As I mentioned last week, this is part 2 of the message that we started last week, so we’ll kind of pick up midway through the passage. As you’re turning, just to remind you, or if you’re new, just to know that the normal practice at our church is to preach through a book verse by verse so that we don’t leave anything out. We have to say the hard things and say the easy things and everything in between. We want to know exactly what our Lord says at all times about all things and so we’re doing that and we’re in a series in John, an extended series through the book of John, and we find ourselves in John 12.
At the end of chapter 11 and throughout the rest of John 12, you see Jesus and how he relates to Israel and the rest of the world. And in this particular passage, John 12:1-11, we see Jesus relating to a couple types of people: worshipers and hypocrites. So let me read the text for us and we’ll continue on in this sermon. John 12:1-11:
Six days before the Passover, Jesus therefore came to Bethany, where Lazarus was, whom Jesus had raised from the dead. So they gave a dinner for him there. Martha served, and Lazarus was one of those reclining with him at table. Mary therefore took a pound of expensive ointment made from pure nard, and anointed the feet of Jesus and wiped his feet with her hair. The house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume. But Judas Iscariot, one of his disciples (he who was about to betray him), said, “Why was this ointment not sold for three hundred denarii and given to the poor?” He said this, not because he cared about the poor, but because he was a thief, and having charge of the moneybag he used to help himself to what was put into it. Jesus said, “Leave her alone, so that she may keep it for the day of my burial. For the poor you always have with you, but you do not always have me.”
When the large crowd of the Jews learned that Jesus was there, they came, not only on account of him but also to see Lazarus, whom he had raised from the dead. So the chief priests made plans to put Lazarus to death as well, because on account of him many of the Jews were going away and believing in Jesus.
As I mentioned last week, I’ve entitled this message “Beauties and the Beasts.” You see beauties in Martha and Mary and their worship and devotion to the Lord. Martha in her service. Mary in pouring out this year’s worth of perfume on the feet of Jesus and wiping his feet with her hair. Shows her humility, her adoration of Christ. You see beautiful acts of worship in these ladies.
But we also see hypocrisy. Hypocrisy from people who claimed to want to lead people to a deeper knowledge of God: Judas and the chief priests. And the last part of the morning last week, we started focusing on the ugly characteristics of hypocrites and will continue on with that focus this morning. But just to kind of rehearse where we’ve been, we started looking at the contrast between worshipers and hypocrites. And I told you sometimes when you see two opposite things or even two people that stand for opposite positions, when you see them side by side, their differences become more pronounced.
So, about a week and a half ago or so now, you saw an exchange of power in the United States. You saw President Obama leave and President Trump come into power. And depending on where you are in the political spectrum, some saw President Obama leave and then saw President Trump and were discouraged by that because they like President Obama; and when the two of them are standing there, you kind of see both of them, and you think, I like him; I don’t like him. Others saw President Trump come in, and they thought, yes, out with the old; in with the new. That’s good.
My point—when you see them side by side, their differences are more pronounced. And that’s what the Holy Spirit does in John 12. I told you Matthew and Mark—this account of Mary anointing the feet of Jesus, the head and the feet of Jesus, Matthew and Mark don’t talk about Judas. Matthew and Mark say that some people grumbled, or one of them says that the disciples grumbled. Well, John specifically tells us it was Judas. And then John starts to talk about the chief priests, and John actually gives more ink to them than Mary and Martha.
So the Holy Spirit, through John, is trying to show us something about religious hypocrisy. And so we started last week by just looking at some characteristics of worshipers, the beautiful characteristics of worshipers. And we said that worshipers serve, worshipers give their best, worshipers selflessly and humbly adore.
And then we went to the ugly characteristics of hypocrites found in verses 4 through 11. And we said a few things about them. We said, first, hypocrites are not what they look like. Hypocrites criticize worshipers. Hypocrites fake empathy, and hypocrites are selfish. This morning we pick up on that list and we’ll finish the final three in our time this morning. And what I want to point out first of all is that hypocrites flee from rebuke.
1. Hypocrites Flee From Rebuke
Verse 7: “Jesus said,” in response to what Judas said publicly. As Mary is, perhaps, on her knees and wiping the feet of Jesus with her hair, the feet of Jesus that would have contained mud and dirt and grime. She’s wiping it with her hair, and Judas, the hypocrite, condemns her, criticizes her, publicly, out loud to other people, trying to get them to agree with him about how foolish she’s being. “Jesus said [to Judas], ‘Leave her alone, so that she may keep it for the day of my burial.’”
So she’s anointing my feet with oil, because that’s what you do to people who are dead. Jesus knows he’s about to die. Jesus knows what she’s doing. “Leave her alone [Judas], so that she may keep it for the day of my burial. For the poor you always have with you, but you do not always have me.”
Jesus indicates that this is the season for his burial. He’s about to die. He knows what’s happening. Mary and Martha and the disciples would have known because he’s been talking about the fact that he’s going to die. They might not have understood completely. They might not have liked that idea. But she understood and she’s anointing him for burial.
The house is celebrating a resurrection of Lazarus. In Jesus’ mind, there’s a death coming and it’s his own. And Jesus defends Mary to Judas. Jesus, the good shepherd, immediately comes to the defense of one of his sheep who is attacked. Just like Jesus always does. But Jesus tells Judas, leave her alone. What she’s doing is appropriate. And remember Judas had said, shouldn’t we give this to the poor, making Judas look like the greatest person in the world. Like, if it were me, I would give this all to the poor. No, you wouldn’t; you’d steal it.
But Judas says, shouldn’t we be giving this to the poor, and Jesus says, listen, the poor you have with you always. You don’t always have me. And by the way, that’s not an excuse to not give to the poor. If you look at progressive revelation, Jesus goes to heaven. He now intercedes for us. He tells us through the epistles, care for those in need, care for those in need, care for those in need. James, his own brother, even says, if you don’t care for those in need, we could even question whether you have real faith.
So Jesus is saying, but now, while you have me in your presence, she’s devoting herself to me. So think of me first right now, because I’m here. You don’t always have that. And Jesus is really referring back to Deuteronomy 15 where the nation of Israel was told, you care for the poor because they’re always there with you. Jesus rebukes Judas publicly.
Now, it’s interesting to note about this—remember, put yourself in the sandals of Judas—you take regularly; you steal. No one knows it. None of the disciples know it yet. You are trying to elevate yourself above Mary, and you’re criticizing her, expecting that everyone will say, yeah, you know, she is wasting that. We should give it to the poor. Good Job, Judas. You are wonderful. You must be a godly follower of Christ. That’s what he expects would happen. Something like that.
But Jesus publicly rebukes him. Jesus tells him, in essence, be quiet—publicly. Have you ever been publicly rebuked? It’s not fun. It’s embarrassing. You’re ashamed. And you can do one of two things: agree with the rebuke, if it’s appropriate—you’re right; I shouldn’t have said that. I shouldn’t have thought that. Or you can hate the one that rebuked you publicly. Well, Judas hates the one who rebuked him publicly.
I want you to listen to Mark’s account of this. In Mark 14, Jesus has rebuked Judas and then Judas goes and does something after that. Mark 14:8-10, Jesus said:
She has done what she could; she has anointed my body beforehand for burial. And truly, I say to you, wherever the gospel is proclaimed in the whole world, what she has done will be told in memory of her. [That’s verse 9. Verse 10: Immediately after Jesus puts a period on the end of that sentence, what does Judas do?] Then Judas Iscariot, who was one of the twelve, went to the chief priests in order to betray him to them.
What was the trigger? We all know that Judas went and betrayed Jesus, but what was the last conversation he had with Jesus that would trigger that in his heart to go and want to have Jesus executed, turn him over to the chief priests? Well, what it was is, he was publicly rebuked, and Jesus was right in his rebuke; and Judas hated it so much, that was it. He went and denied Christ and in fact was a means of his execution.
Judas should have said, you are right. I’ve stolen, I’ve made her look lower than me, but I’m lower than her, and throw himself on the mercy of Christ. He didn’t do that. Why? Because hypocrites run away from rebuke. They don’t like to be thought of as lower than they’re making themselves look to be.
2. Hypocrites Major on Looking Good
Today, just like then, hypocrites major on looking good. When they’re exposed, they are willing to attack those who have exposed them. When they are exposed, they are willing to attack those who have exposed them, even if those who have exposed them are right. They will attack a previous church. They will attack their family. They will even attack the word of God if it exposes their sin. They’re embarrassed because they’ve kept up a charade that they are free from sin or don’t have as much sin as you do. But then when it’s brought to them—no, you actually do—they start attacking and they run away from that type of environment.
A year ago or so we put in your worship guide a series of blogposts by Kevin DeYoung called “The Ministry of Rebuke.” The importance of that ministry in the church. It’s a three-part series. I’d encourage you to Google that at some point. “The Ministry of Rebuke” by Kevin DeYoung. But one thing he says in here I want to read to you.
We will never benefit from rebuke (and our friends will be scared to tell us the truth) if we are never open to the possibility that we might have sin that needs rebuking. There are few things more necessary in a child of God than being teachable.
That’s a profound statement. “There are few things more necessary in a child of God than being teachable.”
“A rebuke [and he quotes Proverbs 17) goes deeper into a man of understanding than a hundred blows into a fool” (Prov. 17:10). Or more to the point [DeYoung says, Proverbs 12:1]: “He who hates reproof is stupid” (Prov. 12:1).
That’s Judas, and sometimes me, and sometimes you. DeYoung, Solomon in the Proverbs, the Holy Spirit here in John 12, I think would shout to us: Embrace rebuke. As hard as it is, embrace rebuke. Because when you embrace rebuke, when you acknowledge who you are, that’s when you enjoy Christ more. That’s when you need Christ more.
Judas doesn’t need Christ. I don’t need you to tell me when I’m wrong. That’s basically what Judas is saying. And so I’m going to kill you. That’s what he says. That’s what he does, in fact.
Verse 9: “When the large crowd of the Jews learned that Jesus was there, they came, not only on account of him but also to see Lazarus, whom he had raised from the dead.” Now remember, Jesus is at Bethany, about two miles away from Jerusalem. What’s happening in Jerusalem? Well, it’s a few days before—the six days before—the Passover festival when people would have come from miles around. Maybe a million filling the city of Jerusalem.
They come to be in Jerusalem for about a week, and some of them would have stayed in Jerusalem that week. Some of them would have gone to the outer towns and everything at night. And so this crowd learns Jesus is just a couple miles away and he’s at Lazarus’s house or Simon the Leper’s house. There’s a reception and Lazarus is there. So they hear about this and people leave Jerusalem before the festival and go to this house. They want to see Jesus and they want to see Lazarus. They heard this story. Lazarus was dead; now he’s alive.
So that’s what’s happening here. And John isn’t criticizing this large crowd. There’s no criticism here. They’re just fascinated that there might be a man that was once dead who is now alive and the one who raised him from the dead is having dinner, so let’s go find out if he’s really there. Let’s go see for ourselves.
He isn’t speaking of the crowd negatively, but John does speak about the chief priests negatively. They’re in the next verse and they really show us our next point about hypocrites. Hypocrites justify their sin. Hypocrites justify their sin.
Verse 10: “So the chief priests …” The “so”, by the way, is there because it’s saying, in response to the people leaving Jerusalem and going to see Jesus and Lazarus, the chief priests “made plans to put Lazarus to death as well.” You know what that’s called, that act of wanting to put Lazarus to death? Illegal. They’re not allowed to do that. Lazarus has done nothing wrong. But they’ll sin because Lazarus’s sin is greater. He’s causing people to go after that other one who calls himself a rabbi and a son of God. Jesus.
So a hypocrite will sin because other people’s sins are worse. That’s what the chief priests do. Lazarus hasn’t actually done anything wrong.
Now, it’s interesting, many of the chief priests—there were kind of two religious parties in Israel: the Pharisees and the Sadducees. Many of the chief priests were Sadducees. The Sadducees did not believe in the resurrection of the dead. Lazarus has been raised from the dead. Problem. That’s why they were sad, you see. Sunday school. Remember that?
The Sadducees—one commentator said, “They experienced double embarrassment. One, he’s alive. Two, people are going after Christ.” That’s a double embarrassment. The Sadducees didn’t believe the people would be able to be resurrected from the dead. Lazarus was. The Sadducees controlled the religious system of Israel. People are starting to leave that system and go to Christ. Double embarrassment for the Sadducees.
So they sin in planning to kill Lazarus. Again, hypocrisy majors on other people’s faults while minoring on our own sin. Judas is a hypocrite. The chief priests are hypocrites in this account. They major on the problems of others without attacking their own sin first. They major on the speck in the other person’s eye and don’t even acknowledge they have a plank in their eye, let alone a speck. Hypocrisy.
You know, hypocrites often justify their sin. I think most hypocrites would acknowledge, ahh, I’m sinful; but they justify their sin. Make excuses for their sin. So their apologies look something like, well, the reason I did that—I’m sorry; the reason I did that was because you …, which is not an apology. It’s saying, you’re the problem for their sin, which isn’t true. Their heart’s the problem for their sin.
Justifying sin is like, it’s like being told you have bad breath an hour after you brush your teeth. Someone says, oh, man, you need a breath mint; and you say, I just brushed my teeth an hour ago. That’s what justifying sin is like. You think, well, I’m fine; and someone’s telling you, you’re not fine. And so you get angry at the one telling you that, instead of just dealing with the reality, no one wants to come close to your space. That’s what justifying sin is like. Everyone knows it around you, but you act like it’s not there.
There’s a book that I recently finished called Reaching Your Prodigal. I would commend it to you. There are a couple of things I would find a little concerning in it, but overall, I think it’s a very helpful book, especially for those of you who may have prodigal children. But there’s a section in there where the author is calling parents to really examine themselves and examine their own hearts and even their spiritual hypocrisy. I want to read you a few paragraphs from one account.
The author says this. He had interviewed a young lady who was a prodigal just to kind of hear her story and hear about her home and things like that. So the author writes this:
Too many people will not enter a church because of their father. Maybe he was an elder or deacon, but he was mean to them. One woman told me that her mom viciously spanked her if she failed to perfectly memorize her assigned Bible verses. In most of these cases, the parents have reputations in the community as paragons of Christian virtue. Family members fear exposing the lie and incurring even more wrath. They feel trapped.
Jill, a woman in her forties, told me that her father was a leader in their church. He taught Sunday school and served on several committees and boards. People saw him as a godly leader. Jill revered her father, but she felt little love from him. She told me [Jill says this:],
What my father said was the law around our house. He wouldn’t tolerate anyone questioning his authority. Not at all. He read the Bible to us every night, but it seemed he loved the Old Testament best—you know, the stories about wars and God’s judgment on the people when they were disobedient. I can’t remember him laughing and smiling around the house, and I can’t remember him hugging me. When I was a little girl, I was terrified of him. I loved him dearly, but I was so afraid of him.
When I became a teenager, I was like any other adolescent. I wanted to wear the latest clothes and new hairstyles and hang out with friends, but Dad would have nothing of it. He told me I was being worldly, and he warned that I would go to hell if I didn’t do what he said. I wish I had a nickel for every time he quoted Exodus 20:12: “Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be long upon the land which the LORD your God is giving you.” It got to where I couldn’t stand it anymore.
One night I went out drinking with some friends, and when I got home you’d have thought I had worshiped Satan or something. Dad came unglued! He told me I had sinned against God and against him, and he was ashamed of me. [Listen] He didn’t speak to me for a month after that. [I have to pause this for a moment. Romans 5:8 says that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Christ didn’t wait for us to clean our act up and then save us. He pursued rebellious children. Jill continues.] And when he did start speaking to me again, I wished he hadn’t.
The author, interviewing Jill, says,
“How did your relationship with your father affect your walk with God?” I probed. [Jill says:]
“What relationship with God? I was just as terrified of God as I was of my father. I believed God was good and kind to other people, but I couldn’t believe He loved me—not after all the verses about judgment my father quoted over and over again. And not after the way he treated me and my mother.”
And this man is teaching Bible studies and a leader in the church. Listen, Jill’s account is common. The father majors on the sins of the daughter; but all the while, the father has sinned because he exasperates his child, which is a sin in the Bible. The father fails to teach his daughter grace. Judgment is real in the Bible and people should know judgment is coming. But the message of the gospel is that there is grace. The one who will be judge will also be savior. There’s a fuller gospel message that is more than just judgment.
The father failed to teach his daughter that. She didn’t know God. She didn’t know what the character of God was like because her father didn’t represent God to her. This father abandoned his daughter for a month. That’s sin. But it’s okay, because she did something worse. Religious hypocrisy.
Justifying our sin kills relationships with other people and with God—sometimes for decades and sometimes for an eternity. Listen, think of all the positions you’re in of leadership. Some of you are teachers, substitute teachers, coaches, parents, employers. Many of us have leadership positions somewhere and positions where we have to tell people, oftentimes, you’re wrong about something. We have to do that carefully.
Now, it’s wrong to not tell people when they’re in sin. We can see a number of places in the New Testament for that. But we have to do that very carefully with humble hearts ourselves, hearts that often confess sin before the Lord. And if you’re not a leader in some sense, at the very least you’re a Christian and Christians admonish one another (Colossians 3). They speak the truth in love to one another (Ephesians 4).
That’s what we do as believers when people are in error. But we have to do that while majoring on our own sin first, repenting first. Lord, is there any way I do something similar to what they’re doing? Let me be more affected by that than their sin. Let me deal with me. You deal with me before I go and put my arm around them and tell them where they’re in error and how I long to be a help to them.
We have to humble ourselves first, regularly, because religious hypocrites won’t. They just slice people to shreds, all the while having sinned themselves. But it doesn’t matter because the other people are worse. We, of all people, must be careful when we engage in the ministry of rebuke.
Proverbs 21:2: “Every way of a man is right in his own eyes, but the LORD weighs the heart.” I bet if you asked this father, he would give you a defense on why he handled this the way he did. And that reminds me of Proverbs 21:2. “Every way of a man is right in his own eyes, but the LORD weighs the heart.” It doesn’t matter if we think we’re innocent in a matter. That doesn’t mean we are. The LORD weighs the heart.
So my question is, based on Proverbs 21:2, okay, Solomon, wisest man to ever live, how does the Lord show us what he knows is in the heart? How does the Lord show us things so that we can be free from religious hypocrisy? Well, the Lord chiefly does that in two ways: through his word and through other people.
Through his word. I want you to turn to Psalm 19, if you would, to see this. Again, this is all under the umbrella that hypocrites justify their sin, so now we’re examining ourselves and saying, Lord, I don’t want to do that. How can I have a soft heart to your rebukes? The first is by having our hearts open before the word of God. Psalm 19.
Psalm 19 is that great Psalm about God’s revelation, and it starts off by saying, the Lord has revealed himself in creation. He is revealed when you look outside. And then it gets to the specific revelation of God—his word. His specific revelation. And we see in verse 7 where that starts.
The law of the Lord is perfect, reviving the soul; the testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple; the precepts of the Lord [these are all synonyms] are right, rejoicing the heart; the commandment of the Lord is pure, enlightening the eyes; the fear of the Lord is clean, enduring forever; the rules of the Lord are true, and righteous altogether. More to be desired are they than gold, even much fine gold; sweeter also than honey and drippings of the honeycomb. Moreover, by them [by the word of the Lord, by his precepts, by his commandments, by his rules, by his laws, by them] is your servant warned; in keeping them there is great reward.
And then the Psalmist asks this very appropriate question which is what I hope would be our spirit, our mindset anytime we do anything with the word of God. Men’s Bible study, women’s Bible study, youth Bible study, quiet time at home, preaching of the word on Sunday—anytime we come into contact with the word of God, let us have this mindset at the end of Psalm 19.
Who can discern his errors? Declare me innocent from hidden faults. Keep back your servant also from presumptuous sins; let them not have dominion over me! Then I shall be blameless, and innocent of great transgression. Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in your sight, O Lord, my rock and my redeemer.
The Psalmist knows, when I come into contact with the word, I want it to examine me, find me out. Teach me things that I didn’t previously know about myself. Teach me that I’m not—maybe I don’t maybe have it all together like I thought I did or at least I portray to other people. There’s this openness. Search my heart.
You hear Psalm 139 in this, right? Search me, O God, know my anxieties. See if there be any grievous way, wicked way, in me and lead me to the way everlasting. It’s the Hebrews 4 passage. Let the word get in there, do heart surgery, open up the little recesses of the heart and show me what’s in there. Let me know my heart and the corruption that still sometimes is in there.
See, worshipers talk like that. Worshipers think like that. Hypocrites sit there in a message like this and say, stop talking about sin. You need to talk about sin to people who aren’t in this church service right now. You go deal with them. We’re a righteous group. That’s what hypocrites do. Hypocrites justify their sin.
So how does the Lord show us what he knows? He shows us through his word, but he also shows us through people, through one another. Proverbs 9:8-9:
Do not reprove a scoffer, or he will hate you; reprove a wise man, and he will love you. Give instruction to a wise man, and he will be still wiser; teach a righteous man, and he will increase in learning.
See, what I love about this is you have the picture of a righteous, wise man; and what does Solomon say will be true of this righteous, wise man? He will always be learning about himself. He will always be open to correction. I don’t care if you’ve been a Christian for 80 years or 8 seconds, all of us should be teachable to other people’s corrections, because they can see some things more clearly than we can because we are biased in our own favor. Well, the only reason I did that was because I had a good motive over here. Yeah, but you still did that and that’s disobeying the Lord. Other people can show us those things and there’s a way to do that in the body.
Now, hypocrites justify their sin; and if you’re like me at this point, you feel the weight of your hypocrisy. I get it. But I want to tell you, this message is not about just convincing you that you’re a hypocrite and convincing me that I’m a hypocrite. That’s not the goal. The goal is for us to open our hearts before the Lord, nod in agreement with him, and then take those hearts and lay them before the cross of Jesus Christ. Say, Lord, forgive these hearts. Forgive these hearts. Change these hearts. Keep changing these hearts. That’s the point.
David sinned against his nation. David sinned against the family of Bathsheba. David killed Uriah. David sinned greatly. Adultery and murder within the span of a few days. And he hid it for about a year. And when Nathan the prophet, in the name of the Lord, came to him to rebuke him, Nathan the prophet said, hey, I’ve got a story to tell you. There was a rich man who had a lot. He stole a lamb from a very poor man. David was incensed. Religious hypocrisy. David was mad at that man but wasn’t mad over his own sin of actual murder and adultery and misleading a nation. David is a religious hypocrite.
But listen to what happened when David confessed his sin to the Lord. Psalm 32:3-5:
For when I kept silent [about my sin], my bones wasted away through my groaning all day long. [By the way, hypocrites aren’t happy.] For day and night your hand was heavy upon me; my strength was dried up as by the heat of summer. I acknowledged my sin to you, and I did not cover my iniquity; I said, “I will confess my transgressions to the Lord,” and you forgave the iniquity of my sin.
You forgave the iniquity of my adultery. You forgave, because I confessed the iniquity of my murder. That’s the forgiveness of God. Our God forgives murderers, adulterers, leaders who mislead a nation. He forgives them when they humble themselves and say, yes, I am who you say I am.
The beauty is the one who confesses has all of those things wiped away and will never pay for them in heaven. The religious hypocrites just act like they’re not there. And Judas would pay for his sin. He’s still paying for his sin. Hypocrites justify their sin.
3. Hypocrites Need a Following
Third and finally, or I think it’s seventh overall and finally: Hypocrites need a following. Verse 11. Why were the chief priests trying to kill Lazarus? Well, because they weren’t the only show in town anymore. People were turning their sites on this man from Nazareth, called Jesus. Verse 11. They’re trying to kill Lazarus because on account of him many of the Jews were going away and believing in Jesus. They’re losing people to Christ.
Chief priests need a following. Why did they need a following? Well, when you have fewer people, fewer worshipers, you have less money. You have less money. They were constantly mistreating widows, making widows give the last amount of what they had to continue their religious system, even if that widow was going to die.
Remember, hypocrites aren’t empathetic. They fake that they are. They needed every single person in Israel to be under their system because they needed every single person in Israel’s money. And remember, Rome allowed the nation of Israel to exist at this time. You’re allowed to exist as long as you do what we say. So when you got people submissive to your theocratic government—theocratic in quotes, because it wasn’t actually from the Lord—when you have people submitting to your false representation of God and your false religion, people are under control; and you can say, see, Rome, everybody’s behaving.
But when people start to leave your control and go to this man named Jesus, who doesn’t do things the way the Mishna says we’re supposed to do it, who doesn’t always wash ceremonially before he eats, who heals people on the Sabbath, this guy’s a rebel. And when people leave to go to a rebel, maybe Rome looks down and says, this whole thing is chaotic. You’re all done.
So people leaving to go to Christ isn’t just, oh, they found another church. It’s not just that. This is a problem for the chief priests. Jesus is their enemy because he’s keeping people from following them. And it’s interesting to note: They are the ones that were teaching people how to be right with God. That’s hypocrisy. And they’re denying the actual way to the Father—capital W.
False, heavy-handed religion pressures people to conform outwardly to the system. Some of you know that. You come out of those environments. False, heavy-handed religion pressures people to conform outwardly. Listen, false religion needs followers. They need followers. There’s no guarantee that any false religion will succeed. There’s no guarantee. Why? Because it’s all from Satan. All false religion is from Satan. There’s no guarantee that it will flourish.
Followers of Christ, Christ’s kingdom, Christ’s church will flourish. We don’t need to manipulate, pressure people into the kingdom of heaven. We can’t do it. It’s all his work. Salvation is from the Lord. Jesus said, I will build my church. So when we hear about persecution, we don’t worry. Oh, my goodness, will Christianity be stamped out forever? No, I’ll tell you right now, no. It will thrive because Jesus promised it.
It’s wacky. Sometimes like in Newsweek or Time—is Newsweek still around? I don’t know. Sometimes in those magazines you’ll have articles like, is this the end of Christianity? And it’s like, I can save you a lot of ink. No! No! It will not end. But false religion can’t promise that. They need to keep pressuring people to stay in the system, keep guilting people.
Remember John 9? The man who was born blind, who was healed. Remember how the religious leaders of the day treated him? Instead of saying, you can see; let’s throw a party. Tell us who did this. They start attacking him publicly. That man in John 9 said, never since the world began has it been heard that anyone opened the eyes of a man born blind. If this man were not from God, he could do nothing. This man’s like, Jesus is different than anybody else who’s ever lived. He healed me. I can see. You all know me from birth. This has never happened.
They answered him: You were born in utter sin and you’re going to teach us? And they cast him out. That doesn’t mean they sent him out of the room. They sent him out of the synagogue, out of the whole synagogue life. You’re not a part of us anymore. You’re as good as dead to us. That’s how false religious teachers treat people who leave their movement. They attack. They guilt.
You see this even today in forced conversions of other religions. When people pressure someone to either stay in their religion or they force people into their religion, which is hilarious to Christianity because we can’t do that. We can’t make anyone a Christian. I can’t make my sons Christians. Oh, but you’re the preacher. You got the Bible. You got sermons. I can’t make them. I can’t change their hearts. I can’t make them believers. Only the Holy Spirit of God can do that. It’s all in his hands. I can’t make anyone do anything.
But false religion thinks they can. We can make people do whatever we want. They give negative incentives. If you convert to Christianity, we’ll kill you. Sometimes they give positive incentives. Recently, it was reported that eighteen people in Nigeria received the equivalent of $81,000 U.S. dollars for converting to Islam. So they can give negative incentives or positive incentives, but they’re going to keep people in their system. Christians don’t teach that we can convert people.
I had a friend who I was sharing the gospel with, and he said, you’re just trying to convert me. And I was like, that’s partly true. I can’t convert you, but I’m trying to tell you the message so that God will convert you. God converts people. And yes, I want you converted. Christians can’t convert anyone. Salvation is from the Lord. He will accomplish his sovereign purposes in his sovereign timing. We can’t manipulate anyone. So Christianity is different.
When people say they’re leaving the faith or leaving Christianity, we know that they’re in the hands of Lord as judge. We can’t make them do anything. We can do what the New Testament tells us to do—give them a warning. Don’t go down that path. Don’t go down that path. Come back to the fold. Don’t make that decision. But it’s ultimately in the hands of God.
False religion will go to your house, knock on your door, take away your social status in the community. False religion will find a way to get at you. And that’s what these people do. They’re going to kill Lazarus. Why? Because they need a following. They need to be seen as the best show in town. These people claim to be able to lead people to God, but they pressure and attack people who embrace Christ as the only way to the Father.
Hypocrites need a following. There are the characteristics that the Holy Spirit has shown us in John 12. He showed us the beauty of worshipers and he has also shown us the heinous, beastly characteristics of religious hypocrites.
I want to close by just giving us some pastoral thoughts as we go. If you’re like me, we come to a passage like this, and I’m saying, Lord, I don’t want to be a religious hypocrite. Lord, I want my heart soft towards you, towards your word, toward other people. I don’t want to be a religious hypocrite. I have four take-aways for you. Four exhortations. You can call them whatever you want. I have four for you. Okay? How to kill hypocrisy. Just four pastoral thoughts. There you go. Four pastoral thoughts.
1. Be the chief repenter wherever you are. Be the chief repenter wherever you are. Whatever team you’re on, whatever business you’re in, whatever family you’re in—don’t be afraid of saying, hey, I blew it here, guys. I made a mistake here. I don’t care whether that’s in the lunch room at work or around the dining table at home. Kids, your dad blows it. Your dad blew it here. Kids, your mom made a mistake. I sinned against the Lord. Be the chief repenter. Be humble before the Lord.
2. Be aware of your need for Christ. Christ, I need your word to teach me. I need your word to show me my heart. I need your word to show me your grace that forgives my sin. I am needy for you. I need help if I’m going to live this day righteously in your sight. I need your help and your strength. I need the humility that you give. I need you. So be the chief repenter wherever you are; be aware of your need for Christ.
3. Be careful of the claims you make. The religious hypocrite always talks a good game and oftentimes publicly fools people that he lives a good game, but certain people around him know better. Be careful of the claims you make.
And I think that even comes down to our singing. Please be thoughtful of the words that we sing and be careful of some of them. “Amazing love, how can it be that you, my King, would die for me? Amazing love, I know it’s true; it’s my joy to honor you in all do.” Be careful of that lyric. I would encourage you to sing that lyric as a prayer. Lord, I want this to be true of my heart, but you know that’s not always true.
Listen, religious hypocrites spend years going through motions. They sing songs they don’t mean. And with every song they sing that they don’t mean, another layer of hardness gets added to the heart. Calloused. Calloused. Calloused. Calloused. Calloused. Pretty soon they feel nothing for the Lord. But when you can sing a lyric like that and say, Lord, that’s what I want to be true of my heart, and you can do that in me.
So pray when you sing. Be careful of the claims you make. Be careful of what you sing. Be careful of making yourself sound more spiritual than you are. Just be honest with people. Tell them, I need Christ. I need him every day to forgive me, to empower me. I need him.
4. See yourself as nothing and Christ as irresistible. I wonder if when I tell this group, see yourself as nothing, I wonder if that offends anyone. I’m not trying to be offensive just for the sake of offending someone. But the Scriptures would call us to think very little of us apart from Christ, of ourselves apart from Christ. John the Baptist knew that. John the Baptist knew he couldn’t do anything apart from Christ, the power of God. See yourself as nothing and Christ as irresistible. That’s what Mary did. Mary got lower than the lowest servant and washed and anointed Jesus’ feet and took her hair, not a towel. Some of us wouldn’t even have taken a towel and cleaned up all that grime on Jesus’ feet. She took her hair and cleaned them. She was saying, I’m the lowest of the low and I adore you. That’s the posture of a worshiper. And the one who humbles himself will be, in due time, in Jesus’ own way, exalted. So let’s let Jesus exalt us rather than exalting ourselves. Because the one who exalts himself will be humbled, like Judas.
So just four thoughts on killing hypocrisy. As we’ve mentioned before, that book, Valley of Vision, is our book of the month. You can see it in your worship guide, the name of it. It’s just a book of Puritan prayers, wonderful prayers to take your heart through. There’s one prayer called self-knowledge and I want to read just the first two lines of it in closing. Because I think it’s appropriate for these last couple weeks.
The Holy Spirit has preached to us John 12. Worship and hypocrisy. The Holy Spirit is preaching to us, Canyon Bible Church of Prescott. The first two lines of this prayer makes sense this morning. It says this: “It is a good day to me when you give me a glimpse of myself. Sin is my greatest evil, but you are my greatest good.”
That’s a great place to end our morning. Lord, thank you for giving us a glimpse of ourselves. Sin is our greatest evil, not our bosses, not a political party, not our neighbor. Sin is our greatest evil, but you are my greatest good. Let’s pray.
Lord Jesus Christ, your Spirit has taught us a lot in John 12. There’s not a lot about you in this passage. You’re the object of worship. You come to the defense of one of your dear sheep. But Lord the same one who was the object of worship will just a few days later be the one crucified on a cross for hypocrites all throughout the centuries. Lord, we bring any amount of spiritual hypocrisy before your cross and ask that you would forgive that sin and continue to change us.
And Lord, we bring any good that we’ve even done as worshipers, and we take all of it and say, it’s all because of your doing. The only reason we’ve ever had a godly thought, a godly motive, a godly act of service is because you’ve given us that grace. You’ve made us alive. Your Holy Spirit is strong in us and we praise you for giving us righteousness and we praise you for forgiving our sin. There’s no one like you. We trust our entire lives to your gracious care. Lord, thank you for teaching us this morning. Amen.
More in Jesus, Israel, and the World
March 12, 2017John 12:44-50 | The Final Appeal | Andrew Gutierrez
March 5, 2017John 12:37-43| A Pathology of Unbelief | Andrew Gutierrez
February 19, 2017John 12:27-36 | The Victorious Death of Christ | Andrew Gutierrez