MIDWEEK LENT 4
March 10, 2021
Pastor Timothy J. Spaude
Text: Mark 14:55-65
“HANDS OF HYPOCRISY!”
Our Lenten services this year have focused on the hands of the passion to help us grow in our appreciation of what our Lord Jesus did for us. Today we are looking at Hands of Hypocrisy. And fortunately for you I can show you exactly what hands of hypocrisy look like. Here. Can you see what my hands are doing? They are holding a mask. That literally is what a hypocrite is, a mask wearer. Someone who pretends to be what they are not like me pretending to be Mr. Walker when obviously, I am not. The word comes from Greek theater where actors would hold or wear masks so they could pretend to be what they are not.
Who would come to your mind as the biggest hypocrite in the Passion of our Lord Jesus? Maybe you think of Judas pretending to be a friend when he betrayed Jesus with a kiss. Maybe you think of Peter pretending to be the unbreakable rock but who broke down after he denied even knowing Jesus. Maybe you think of Pontius Pilate pretending to be a fair governor as he washed his hands of Jesus’ death. But when you look at all of them you see at least some signs of struggle or remorse. Judas gave the money back. Peter wept bitterly. Pilate tried every trick he knew to manipulate the will of the people.
There is one pure hypocrite, a total pretender whose hands were filled with hypocrisy. Caiaphas. The High Priest. As High Priest it was his job, his privilege, his honor to represent the people to God in the Old Testament Covenant set up. His hands were to be busy praying for the people pleading for God to do what was best for them. He also represented God to the people. “This is what God says. This is His will.” His hands were to be busy pointing to the coming Messiah. “This is how these sacrifices point to the coming Messiah. Wait for Him. Look for Him. God has given us the signs.”
Instead they were busy with hypocrisy. “The chief priests and the whole Sanhedrin were looking for testimony against Jesus in order to put him to death, but they did not find any. 56Many testified falsely against him, but their testimonies did not agree. 57Some stood up and gave this false testimony against him: 58“We heard him say, ‘I will destroy this temple made with hands, and in three days I will build another made without hands.’” 59Yet even on this point, their testimony did not agree.” This whole trial was hypocritical. The High Priest was to be the Law upholder but this trial was held illegally in the middle of the night. A trial should try to find the truth but this one’s goal was to find some way to put Jesus to death. The High Priest was supposed to make sure a trial was fair but this High Priest allowed false testimony. Even then it didn’t stick.
So Caiaphas went into action. You wonder if he was thinking to himself, “You bumbling idiots! If you want something done right…” The high priest stepped forward and questioned Jesus, “Have you no answer? What is this they are testifying against you?” 61But Jesus was silent and did not answer anything.” I’m sure Caiaphas was one of those guys who thinks he’s the smartest man in the room. When his first attempt didn’t work, he continued. “Again the high priest asked him, “Are you the Christ, the Son of the Blessed One?” Smartest man in the room had a super smart question. If Jesus says nothing or “No,” they could discredit him. If He says “Yes,” then they could convict him. “I am,” Jesus said. “And you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of power and coming with the clouds of heaven.” 63The high priest tore his robes and said, “Why do we need any more witnesses? 64You have heard the blasphemy! What do you think?” They all condemned him as being worthy of death.” The hands of hypocrisy went into action. Caiaphas tore his clothes in feigned horror. His plan had worked. Jesus was guilty of death. And then for a moment the hypocrites dropped their masks and showed their true colors. “Then some began to spit on him. They covered his face and struck him with their fists, saying, “Prophesy!” The guards also took him and beat him.” Spitting is someone’s face, Beating someone who can’t defend himself who can’t even dodge the blows because he is blindfolded? What kind of people do that to another? And this was the highest religious gathering for the Jewish people. It would be like our Elders doing this or our Synod’s Conference of Presidents. Why? They were hypocrites. The pretended they cared about what God said. They pretended they cared for the people. But what they really cared about was power and honor for themselves. All led by Caiaphas, the High Priest, and his hands of hypocrisy.
Now what can we learn from this? Have you ever heard someone say something like this? “I’d never join a church. Churches are filled with hypocrites.” Why do they say that? It’s because their understanding of a hypocrites is someone who says one thing and does another. And with that definition they are right. This is a church full of hypocrites. We all acknowledge that what God says is right. Everyone should obey his commandments. We say that. But do we always do that? No. Even if we’ve gotten pretty good and cleaning ourselves up on the outside, no obvious sins, controlling our mouths, we haven’t cleaned up the inside. Sinners one and all. Hypocrites by America’s definition.
But not by God’s. Remember a hypocrite is really a pretender, someone who wears a mask. Someone who pretends to be a believer but is not. That’s not you. That’s not me. We do believe in Jesus. We are happy to know He’s our Savior. We look at this account from the passion of Jesus and we see not one, but two High Priests present. There is the faker, the pretender, the hypocrite, Caiaphas. But then our eyes rest on Jesus. He is the true High Priest. He has no hands of hypocrisy. His hands aren’t thrown in the air in mock horror. They don’t tear his robes if faked holy anger. They stay stretched wide nailed to the cross as He went through the horror of Hell. They stayed there unused as soldiers gambled for His robe. Why? Because as the true High Priest Jesus represented people to God. He was on the cross as the substitute for all people. He became the world’s one and only sinner. He continues to plead with the Father for our good. And He faithfully tells us what God wants us to hear. Through word and sacrament, through pastors and teachers, through faithful Christian parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles and friends He says, “God loves you. God has forgiven you. Heaven is your home. Come to the Father through me, your great High Priest.”
Friends let the world call us hypocrites for being what we know we are sinners who can’t save ourselves. Sinners who despite our best intention to follow Jesus faithfully still stumble and fall. But may we never be true hypocrites who pretend to follow Jesus but don’t really at all. For us it won’t be Hands of Hypocrisy, but Hands off Hypocrisy. For the glory of Jesus. Amen.