1In the meantime, a crowd of many thousands had gathered, so that they were trampling one another. Jesus began to speak first to His disciples: “Beware of the leaven of the Pharisees, which is hypocrisy. 2There is nothing concealed that will not be disclosed, and nothing hidden that will not be made known. 3What you have spoken in the dark will be heard in the daylight, and what you have whispered in the inner rooms will be proclaimed from the housetops.
4I tell you, My friends, do not be afraid of those who kill the body and after that can do no more. 5But I will show you whom you should fear: Fear the One who, after you have been killed, has authority to throw you into hell. Yes, I tell you, fear Him!
6Are not five sparrows sold for two pennies? Yet not one of them is forgotten by God. 7And even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. So do not be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.
Passages like this use a Jewish preaching method which was called “stringing pearls.” It is a series of short statements that linked together bring us great wisdom.
When we read them, we must link the ideas together and see their significance. Luke starts by painting the scene of the volume of people, and this is significant when Jesus speaks of the sparrows. God cares for sparrows who are not given much value by tradesman who sell them on a ‘buy four get one free’ basis. The crowd is not just a crowd to God, He cares for the life and soul of each and every individual.
Finding balance in our understanding of the corporate nature of our relationship with God and the individual nature of our relationship with God is an important part of our spiritual journey. We need to understand that we are part of a body, and each part of the body is important to God. Salvation is personal. We live in the corporate body of the Church and society, scripture tells us that the way we treat each other is the way we treat Christ, we can’t hate our neighbour and love God. We live as the body of Christ. But we will be judged individually. And when we face judgement God will examine our hearts and our motives. If we lived concerned about how fellow humans would treat us, if we feared their opinions and power and acted in response to what humans required of us, we will only have protected our worldly life. But our eternal life is not in the hands of people but in the hands of God. It is God who is our judge, and we are to do what is right in his eyes. Therefore, we cannot simply be good people, we need to be godly people.
Luke takes it further. People are not to worried about why we do things as long as our actions benefit them. A hypocrite is an actor, we are happy (us sinners) with actors, people who pretend are fine if their actions suit us, they entertain and please us. But God does not tolerate pretenders. God hates insincerity.
In the crowd, individuals can be caught up in the mood of the mob. In the crowd, one can ‘go with the flow! “ In the crowd, the actions of an individual can be hidden. But Jesus warns that nothing that is hidden will not be revealed. At the Judgement when we stand face to face with God, God will not ask how we faced off or compared or were judged by others. God has His standard and that is what we will be measured against.
But, in this text what is highlighted is that that standard includes two key aspects. Sincerity and repentance.
In the Revelation God, accuses the people of Laodicea (Rev 3:14) of being neither hot nor cold, they were indecisive and insincere. Throughout the Old Testament God spoke through the prophets accusing the people of being adulterous, not trusting in God alone and not being faithful to God. Scripture calls God a jealous God, (Deut 6:15) demanding all of our attention and commitment and trust.
Here Jesus speaks of the yeast of the Pharisees. A complex analogy of how their false teachings and hypocrisy could easily permeate the whole crowd. Yeast works best in a warm environment. Jesus is saying that in the crowd “things heat up easily” and falsehood spreads easily in, soon the whole crowd is deceived. Think of the various crowds throughout the New Testament where this happened. Think of the crowds that you run with and how this affects you. We all have personal experiences of mob mentality. WhatsApp group and Facebook group mentality, the confidence that you have to say things because the rest of the group is thinking that way, speaking that way. Your defence before God cannot be “ everybody else was doing it, so I did too”. If you go along with the crowd and are sucked in by insincerity and self-preservation, if you live to please the mob you will keep your physical life, but run the risk of losing your soul.
Our determining factor should not be – “what will people say?” It should be, “ how will I explain this to God at the judgement” – “how will my actions be presented to God at the judgement.” This will make us rely on the Holy Spirit because we cannot live in fear of our every move displeasing God. But if we say –“I offer myself as a living sacrifice,” I’m not just going to run with the crowd, I want the wisdom of God to be my guide, I want to walk by the Spirit of God, that is true repentance. Repentance is not just saying sorry when we make a mistake. Repentance is yielding our will to God’s it’s turning around and doing things God’s way.
This morning, string pearls! Look at your life and the events and the relationships and the thoughts in your life and seek God’s wisdom to make sense of them. You are worth so much more than a sparrow and God loves and cares for you. Trust God from the bottom of your heart.
Choose faith, not fear.
Today, we remember St Teresa of Avila whose personal life of prayer and her writing on the subject are a great inspiration to us, so let us pray.
God our Father
You inspired Teresa with your love
to accept your calling
and become a burning and shining light in your Church:
grant that we too may be on fire
with the same spirit of discipline and love;
through Jesus Christ our Lord. AMEN.