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Religious Masks

Religious Masks

Words of Faith 8-24-18

Dr. Jeffrey D. Hoy © 2018

Faith Fellowship Church - Melbourne, FL

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Luke 12:1-2

    Meanwhile, when a crowd of many thousands had gathered, so that they were trampling on one another, Jesus began to speak first to his disciples, saying: "Be on your guard against the yeast of the Pharisees, which is hypocrisy. [2] There is nothing concealed that will not be disclosed, or hidden that will not be made known. [3] What you have said in the dark will be heard in the daylight, and what you have whispered in the ear in the inner rooms will be proclaimed from the roofs.


      A "warning" is not something we really like to receive, unless we consider the alternative. 

      A warning from a traffic cop is far preferable to the ticket!  Even a ticket is a great blessing if it slows us down and prevents a tragic accident.  Chest pain that leads to a doctor visit and needed changes is much preferable to a massive heart attack.  Okay.  So warnings are certainly a good thing even if they sting. 

      As Jesus was on His way to Jerusalem, He issued a series of warnings to a crowd that was growing with each day. 

      Jesus had spoken to the "religious people" with seven strong criticisms.  These words of woe were still ringing in their ears.  Now there was a crowd of thousands.  All sorts of people.  They may have just come to see miracles, but they also may have come precisely because of the strong words Jesus had addressed to the religious people.  This was a rabbi who told the truth.

      The crowd got so large that folks were trampling on one another.  Jesus had some words of warning, but in a wonderful expression of grace, each warning also had a promise.  The first warning and promise was addressed to the disciples.

       Be on guard against hypocrisy.  Remember what hypocrisy is?  The word comes from the word for Greek drama or theater.  Hypocrisy is literally acting or "mask-wearing", portraying something on the outside that is different from the inside.  The goal of theater is to make an audience suspend their disbelief for a while, to believe something that is not true, and then be moved by that experience.  We find this entertaining and meaningful.  

      Theater can provoke thought and discussion toward discovering a greater truth.  Elaborate effort goes into making the illusion complete.  Today we use special effects and lighting but in the ancient world masks were used to convey character qualities such as virtue and evil.  In the theater setting, we "suspend our disbelief" and we applaud the actor that can move us deeply.  But we always understand that the actor is not genuinely the character portrayed.

       Jesus was not criticizing theater.  He was criticizing religious lies.  The greatest concern Jesus had for His disciples was that they would become "religious actors" like the Pharisees who acted religious on the outside when in fact there had been no genuine change on the inside.  Jesus warned against the danger of acting like someone you are not and doing the very things you forbid or condemn in others.

       Jesus called this "yeast," the yeast of the Pharisees. Yeast was a symbol of sin in Judaism. At every Passover, during the Feast of Unleavened Bread, all yeast was removed from the house as a way of symbolizing the cleansing of sin and the leaving behind of the past.  But even that had become nothing more than a ritual. No one was more meticulous about "yeast cleansing" than the Pharisees, yet they had missed the point. 

       For the disciples, Jesus was saying that the most dangerous "infection" of the spirit is not the decay of morals in society.  It is not the influence of mystic cults and religions or veering into false doctrine. The thing Jesus warns disciples against is the kind of religious hypocrisy that was practiced by the Pharisees. 

       Yeast was a powerful symbol because it only takes a tiny bit to work through an entire batch of bread dough. Hypocrisy is a remarkable infectious disease of the spirit.  It can work its way through a group or church or segment of society.  Religious mask-wearing eats away at the foundations of genuine faith and builds barriers that get in the way of a genuine experience with God.  There is nothing that is quite as destructive in the larger Christian community that the accusation of hypocrisy.  It is the most common excuse for why people won't hear the Gospel.  Watch out for it.

        So what is the promise?  There is nothing concealed that will not be disclosed, nothing hidden that will not be made known.  What you have said in the dark will be heard in the daylight, and what you have whispered in the ear in the inner rooms will be proclaimed from the roofs.

      This promise is one that cuts both ways.  We are all troubled by hypocrisy in religion, government, business, and all walks of life.   Jesus says, "Don't worry over that."  Nothing concealed will not be disclosed.  Nothing hidden will not be made known.  Things said in the dark will be heard in the daylight.  Things whispered in inner rooms will be proclaimed from roofs.

          There are no secrets.  Hypocrisy will be revealed.  You don't have to worry over these things.  You don't have to expose such things.  All will be revealed.  The biggest worry in government is not the finding of an independent counsel.  There is a truly independent counsel that comes at the end of time. The biggest worry of a large ministry is not an investigative report by a newspaper or television show. The big worry is the truly final report.  Everything will be known.

         This cuts both ways.  There is some comfort in this promise.  Things will be set right.  But there is also a bit of concern for each and every one of us.  Be careful when there is a temptation to whisper, or hide or make a secret.  There are no secrets.


        Lord, thanks for the warning, and the promise.  Give me the grace to remove any religious mask I have been wearing and to get beyond any religious acting I have portrayed.  Make me real in every way.  Reveal the secrets of the wicked and the unjust.  Keep me from hypocrisy.  Keep me from secrets and whispering.  Forgive me of my sin that I may walk in newness of life with You today-- no masks.  Just You and me.  In Jesus' name.