Wednesday, March 2, 2016, 6:00 a.m. – The Lord Jesus put in mind the song “Oh, to Be Like Thee.” Speak, Lord, your words to my heart. I read Luke 20:20-26 (ESV).
So they watched him and sent spies, who pretended to be sincere, that they might catch him in something he said, so as to deliver him up to the authority and jurisdiction of the governor. So they asked him, “Teacher, we know that you speak and teach rightly, and show no partiality, but truly teach the way of God. Is it lawful for us to give tribute to Caesar, or not?” But he perceived their craftiness, and said to them, “Show me a denarius. Whose likeness and inscription does it have?” They said, “Caesar’s.” He said to them, “Then render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.” And they were not able in the presence of the people to catch him in what he said, but marveling at his answer they became silent.
Why They Hated Him
The religious leaders in the temple did not like Jesus for multiple reasons. For one, they saw him as competition. They felt their own positions of power and influence over the people were threatened by this man who was gaining many followers after himself. They did not like him, as well, because he claimed to be God, their Messiah. They also did not like him because he did not follow their religious customs and the traditions of the elders, and they believed he did not honor the Sabbath Day, because he healed people on the Sabbath. Yet, he clearly pointed out their hypocrisy in this, for on the Sabbath they would rescue a sheep, having fallen into a pit, or they would untie their oxen or donkeys and lead them away to water. They cared more about animals than they did about human beings, it would appear.
Largely they did not like his message, that they must repent of their sins and follow Jesus with their lives. They didn’t like it that he confronted them with their sins of hypocrisy – of looking good on the outside, but of being full of wickedness on the inside. They didn’t like it that he told the truth. His message, which they resented, was the message of the gospel of our salvation. Jesus didn’t die for our sins just so we could escape hell and go to heaven when we die. He died that we might be delivered out of slavery to sin, so that we might become servants of his righteousness. When we believe in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior of our lives, we are crucified with Christ in death to sin, and we are resurrected with Christ in newness of life, “created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.” Jesus said that if we want to become his disciples we must give up everything to follow him.
Because of all these things, and perhaps more, they hated him, and they wanted him put out of commission, either by trying to discredit him via trapping him in some way with his own words, or by falsely accusing him, or by finding a way they might kill him. Basically, their goal was to shut him up, and to remove this competition from their lives so that life could return to normal, or so they thought. Yet, when they finally did get their way, and they hung him on a cross to die, thinking they had finished him, they were in for a big surprise. God the Father resurrected Jesus from the dead. He came back to life, and then he returned to the Father, and then sent his Holy Spirit to indwell the lives of his followers. So, in the power of the Spirit, the gospel message spread, and many people came to believe in Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior. The religious leaders’ actions, which were taken in order to destroy Jesus and his message, only backfired on them.
They Will Hate Us
Jesus told his followers that they would be treated like he was. We, as well, are seen as the competition which must be eradicated. We, as well, will be hated when we speak the truth in love to people concerning sin, judgment, repentance, faith in Jesus Christ, and obedience to his teachings and to those of his NT apostles. We will be rejected, abandoned, persecuted, falsely accused, betrayed, despised, arrested on false charges, and put to death for our faith in Jesus Christ and for our testimonies for the gospel of our salvation. And, it will not just be the ungodly world outside the church who will be our fiercest opponents, either. We will be hated within the confines of organized religion, and we will be cast aside, asked to leave, ostracized, abandoned and rejected for speaking the truth of God’s word in an age when teachers are saying what the itching ears of the people want to hear.
When I first read this passage of scripture, what struck me was that first sentence, where it says that, because of all the things Jesus was doing and saying, which they hated, they sent spies, who pretended to be honest, in order to see if they could trap Jesus by his own words. Do you know this is still being done today? The US government, and other world governments, have encouraged citizens of nations to spy on one another and to report back to the government what they see and hear. They are to report anything which they might consider to be “extreme” behavior or anything they consider to be “suspicious” of extremist, particularly religious extremist, behavior. And, the government is also spying on the people via our emails, phone calls, text messages, and social media site posts, etc., and they are keeping a profile record of each and every one of us, and not for good purposes.
As well, this is happening within the church, and at the level of the leadership, too. I have personally observed how this works. Pastors today are being trained to do away with committees and even elder and deacon boards in favor of a more centralized government structure within the church. They surround themselves with those who are loyal and faithful to them, and who serve as spies within the church to report back any behavior they might consider “extreme” or that might serve as a threat in any way to the power structure of the church. Many church congregations have gone the way of the world, and they are following man’s methods and resources for how to build their churches, i.e. businesses. And, part of their training involves learning what people they want in their churches, and what people they need to discard. I know, I went through some of that training when my husband and I were church planters several years ago. And, I have seen it played out, too, in the church.
So, the reality of all this is that we are being spied on, too, and the spies could be members of our local church congregations, the leadership within our churches, or they could be our neighbors, friends, family members, co-workers, clerks in stores we frequent, etc. They will pretend to be honest (sincere). They will even act like they agree with us, and that they believe what we do, and will seem supportive. They will pretend to be our friends, but then they will stab us in the back. This is not paranoia. This is really happening. Those we trust, and those closest to us may turn against us. Jesus said this would happen. His gospel message turns even family members, one against the other, because those who hate the light will not come into the light, and they will hate those who are bearers of that light, too.
So, How to Respond?
We don’t need to go crawl in a hole somewhere in order to avoid all this, but we need to be wise, and pray for much discernment. Jesus was very wise in how he responded to his accusers. He knew they were trying to trap him. He didn’t give them any more than he needed to give them, though. He chose his words carefully, thoughtfully, and prayerfully.
We need to watch our own lives closely, not just because there are spies watching us, but because God demands it of us, and we should love God and desire to please him in all that we do and say and are. We, as followers of Christ, should be in his word daily, seeking his face, asking for his counsel and wisdom, and then obeying what he teaches us. We should walk in the Spirit, and not according to the desires of our sinful flesh. Daily we should die to sin and self, and follow Christ in obedience. Daily we should be putting on the armor of God with which to fight off all Satan’s evil attacks and his wicked schemes he devises against us. In all of this, we should be relying on the power and working of the Spirit of God within us to empower, strengthen, equip and encourage us in our walks of faith and obedience to Christ and to his word. And, we should pray continually, in the Spirit, with all kinds of requests to God, thanking and praising him for all that he has done and will do.
Then, we should respond to others with the love of Christ, desiring to be like Christ in all that we do and say. When people revile us, we should love them. When they sin against us, we should forgive them. We should pray for our enemies and not wish ill against them. And, we should do good to those who persecute us and who mistreat us. Yet, we should never compromise our faith or the gospel message, and we should, at all times, speak the truth in love when God says to speak. Sometimes he will tell us to remain silent when we are being strongly opposed, but not all times. But, when we do speak, we should ask for God to give us the words to say. And, we should be prepared that living for Jesus and sharing his gospel is not going to win us a popularity contest in this world. We should know that following Jesus means giving up everything to follow him wherever he leads us, so we should go with God, and let him direct our steps, and do what he says, and then trust him with the results.
Oh, to Be Like Thee, Blessed Redeemer
Thomas O. Chisholm / W. J. Kirkpatrick
Oh, to be like Thee! blessèd Redeemer,
This is my constant longing and prayer;
Gladly I’ll forfeit all of earth’s treasures,
Jesus, Thy perfect likeness to wear.
Oh, to be like Thee! full of compassion,
Loving, forgiving, tender and kind,
Helping the helpless, cheering the fainting,
Seeking the wandering sinner to find.
O to be like Thee! lowly in spirit,
Holy and harmless, patient and brave;
Meekly enduring cruel reproaches,
Willing to suffer others to save.
O to be like Thee! while I am pleading,
Pour out Thy Spirit, fill with Thy love;
Make me a temple meet for Thy dwelling,
Fit me for life and Heaven above.
Oh, to be like Thee! Oh, to be like Thee,
Blessèd Redeemer, pure as Thou art;
Come in Thy sweetness, come in Thy fullness;
Stamp Thine own image deep on my heart.