Luke 20:20 (CEV)
20 Jesus’ enemies kept watching him closely, because they wanted to hand him over to the Roman governor. So they sent some men who pretended to be good. But they were really spies trying to catch Jesus saying something wrong.
Pretending To Be Good
This last year has been hard for a lot of people in the church in North America. There have been statements issued from the left and the right trying to clarify who is ‘in’ and who is ‘out’. From twitter wars to tiki torch rallies to arrests of peaceful protestors at the American Senate, issues that have long-festered in the background of North American Christianity have come to the surface.
Tied up in all of these conversations are the age old questions of whether we as followers of Jesus should side with the powerful or with the oppressed; whether we should be exclusive or inclusive; whether we should be more concerned about racial and sexual purity or about justice.
And I think this is a bit like the situation we find ourselves in here in Luke 20. The pressure has been building now for three solid years, but Jesus’ teaching at the Temple over the previous few days has been the last straw. The gloves have come off, and Jesus’ enemies are actively looking for a fight – they’re actively looking for a way to bring Jesus down.
So they send in some guys to pretend to be good. They’re spies. They’re posers. They’re anything but good. But they’ve spent their entire lives in a world that was all about pretending to be good – so they’re good at this deception; they’re practiced in their rouse; they know how to lay it on thick.
Maybe the crowd is fooled by them – after all, these are the voices they’ve been listening to all their lives!
But Jesus seems to have no problem seeing through their deception.
He knows what they’re trying to do.
They don’t fool him.
And I think it’s important to hear this today.
Because there are those pretending to be good today, and so we need to think carefully about who we will follow, and who we will listen to and how we will live.
Because there are those pretending to be good today, who have loud voices and big names and long histories of being listened to within the church community who would nevertheless like to lead people in directions they never said they wanted to go.
Because those who are pretending to be good today (and those of us who follow them) aren’t fooling Jesus any more now than they did back then. Jesus can see through the veneer of acceptability to spot the misogyny, the racism, and the desire for power and prestige. He sees the exclusivity and the oppression and the injustice. He knows exactly what’s going on.
But here’s the remarkable thing. As we’ll see in the next study, his response is not one of condemnation. His response is yet again – even to those pretending to be good – to offer a way out. To offer grace and love and compassion and mercy. One. More. Time.
- Are there people or organizations who have disappointed you this year? Doors of exclusion that have been closed in your face or the face of someone you care about? Have the #metoo and #churchtoo campaigns, the violent white supremacy, the Nashville Statement or maybe something closer to home and more personal revealed fault lines you didn’t previously know existed, or had hoped were smaller and less dangerous than they turned out to be?
- Do you find yourself doubting Jesus or Christianity as the curtain has been pulled back and we’ve seen just how many are pretending to be good?
- What would it change to realize that Jesus sees through all of this pretence too? That none of this is a surprise to God, even if it’s been a surprise to us?
- Have you realized in the midst of all of this that you’ve been “pretending to be good” – even accidentally? Even in just one area of life? Are you worried that it’s too late?
- What if there is still grace available – for all of us – to learn more deeply, more humbly how to follow Jesus more completely into this Kingdom of peace, of wholeness, of inclusion, of justice, and of shalom?