Thursday, January 10, 2008

The Cure for Hypocrisy - "How Many Baskets?"

Jesus was patient with many sins, but not hypocrisy – “faked devotion to God.” I don’t want Jesus talking to me like he spoke to the hypocrites surrounding him in his day! In Mark’s Gospel, there is a remarkable series of events that points to the cure for hypocrisy.

Jesus feeds 5000, then walks on the water, then heals a crazy number of sick people until running into some Pharisees that hypocritically point out that the disciples of Jesus are not following “the traditions of the elders.” Jesus tells them they are wrongly concerned with outward actions over inward devotion – going so far as to label them “defiled.” (Which, in a Pharisee’s world, is about as offensive as you can get.) Then, Jesus leaves them to remove a demon, cure a deaf mute, and feed 4000.

These two massive, miraculous feedings form bookends to the one big point. After the second feeding, more Pharisees come and demand from Jesus a sign. Hello! Feeding thousands, healing the sick, casting out demons and restoring some guy’s hearing is not enough? He turns away from those hypocrites in disgust.

Then, He warns his followers not to be like them.

As usual, the Twelve miss the point and think the “leaven” Jesus speaks of is actual yeast! But Jesus is using leaven as a metaphor of hypocrisy – it is the silent killer of all true religion spreading its poison throughout!

But what is the cure?!

Jesus pulls the Twelve to him and asks one question, two times. At each big feeding, there were leftovers. Baskets of leftovers. More leftovers than the few loaves and fish He started with! And so He asks them, “How many baskets... how many baskets?”

The point? I will sustain true religion in you! The cure to hypocrisy is to feed on Christ. It is to “beware of leaven,” and feed on the bread of heaven. It is to find your spiritual sustenance on Jesus – not outward actions. It is to trust in the sustaining grace of God, day by day, to His glory. It is to seek first His kingdom and righteousness.

I am a hypocrite when I seek to live my life apart from His power and grace. And Jesus looks to me and says, “Paul, how many baskets? How many baskets? How many times have you seen my provision in the past? Look to Me! I will give you the grace you need.”

The cure for hypocrisy, like the cure to all else that ails us, is Jesus.