“Christmas morning” came and went. The baby grew to become a man. He was about His Father’s business and people began to glimpse what the Kingdom of God was about…
Some were elated—a widow’s son is raised from the dead and the people proclaim: “God has visited His people!” (Lk.7:16).
Others were confused—John the Baptist, imprisoned, asks: “Are you the One who is to come, or shall we look for another?” (Lk.7:20).
And yet others are infuriated—the Pharisees and experts in the law see their whole way of life threatened with extinction. Who does this man think He is?!
Already the spokesmen for this Kingdom are being rounded up and put to death… These were radical times. The old wine and its skins were not sufficient to hold this new wine. Jesus came asking pointed questions of those who thought themselves closest to God and most knowledgeable in His Word.
Everyone had questions, but His were the most penetrating of all…
“Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye?” Lk.6:41
“Why do you call me ‘Lord, Lord,’ and not do what I tell you?” Lk.6:46
Good questions. Easier to answer when they’re addressed to someone else! So I sit here looking at the Pharisees and teachers of the law. They were the Bible experts of their day. True, they only had the Old Testament, and were particularly adept at interpreting the books of the Law. They had analyzed and dissected and critiqued the Law boiling down its inconceivable standard into minute external details one might attempt to keep…They had created a standard of righteousness all their own. When John the Baptist came to help them get ready for a paradigm shift, calling them to repentance from dead works, they would have none of it. They knew they were right; why repent?! And so Luke says, they “rejected the purpose of God for themselves not having been baptized by [John].” (Lk.7:30)
OK, so now here comes Jesus proclaiming the GOOD NEWS of the Kingdom of God and what is their reaction? To the Pharisee, even the Good News is heresy! In their careful study and dissection of the Law, they missed the very point of it. It was to be for them a tutor to bring them to Christ (Gal.3:24), a standard so high they would repent in dust and ashes of their inability to keep it and be ready to welcome a Saviour with a plan of redemption!! But no, they missed Him. They judged Him, condemned Him, and sentenced Him to death. They were not ready to part with their own plan of ‘righteousness’ or to debate its adequacy. They were far too busy examining the dust specks in others’ eyes to see how blinded they were by the log booms in their own!!
And here comes Jesus with His pointed questions…
Do I know anyone remotely like those Bible experts who might benefit from a reminder of the truly Good News Jesus was bringing?!
‘For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith, as it is written, “The righteous shall live by faith.”’ Rom.1:17. Without a lifestyle of repentance and the necessary log removal there is no seeing to help a brother with his ‘speck’. Without cultivating an honest and good heart, there is no soil to grow a healthy crop from the seed of the Word (no matter how much of it I know!) (Lk.8:15)
I am reminded of these things today as one gifted with the eye of a critic, and involved in reading and reviewing works of others…Always good to come back to the heart of the Gospel—a God who loved and died and gave the gift of righteousness not based on merit—and who patiently continues to extend mercy, not based on merit, and who calls me to critique with an eye to restoration, not condemnation. He is after all, the One who came to seek and to save the lost, not denounce and condemn them to the death they deserved! This Jesus who grew from the baby in Bethlehem brought a profoundly different way of living, and it began with hard questions…
I commend to you a fresh reading of Luke’s Gospel and the questions of Jesus as we all commence a new year of seeking first ‘the Kingdom of God and His righteousness’ (Mt.6:33).