Hypocrisy is an old game. At the bottom, it means being an impostor, a deceiver. And there are many ways to express it. It is easy for modern Americans to limit the idea of hypocrisy to the kind expressed by those great modern philosophers the Beastie Boys: “Your pop caught you smokin’ and he said no way, that hypocrite smokes two packs a day.” And they are correct; that is one of the worst forms of hypocrisy.
This was alive and well in Jesus generation, “ “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you cleanse the outside of the cup and dish, but inside they are full of extortion and self-indulgence” (Matthew 23:25). Consistently Jesus opposed hypocrisy. In modern parlance, He is the “anti-hypocrite.” It occurred to me with some freshness that Jesus is not just opposed to this kind of deceitfulness with his words. He opposed hypocrisy by the way he lived His life.
I was reading Mark chapter 10 this morning and saw something important. James and John were trying to position themselves for greatness as cabinet members in what they thought was Jesus coming administration, “Grant us that we may sit, one on Your right hand and the other on Your left, in Your glory” (v. 37). Jesus dialogues with them, and concludes with some magnificent words on greatness. “You know that those who are considered rulers over the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. Yet it shall not be so among you; but whoever desires to become great among you shall be your servant” (v.42-43). Translated into modern language, everyone wants to call the shots. Power is the world’s view of greatness. Jesus almost always turns things on their head. Real greatness comes from being a humble servant.
Here is where we see Jesus as the “anti-hypocrite.” Jesus is not prescribing medicine that He won’t take. He concludes this discussion with these words, “For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many” (v.45). First Jesus tells them how to be great, and then he shows them. Jesus is the ultimate servant, and the best example of greatness. Jesus is the perfect example of sincerity. There is no show or deception with Christ. He is exactly what he appears to be. No pretense, no stage. He is the embodiment of virtue!
But there is something else. Jesus opposes hypocrisy by His teaching and life, but he also promises to render a full accounting to every hypocrite on the last day. “Beware of the leaven of the Pharisees, which is hypocrisy. For there is nothing covered that will not be revealed, nor hidden that will not be known” (Luke 12:1-2). Hypocrisy thrives in the shadows. The same Jesus who preached against hypocrisy, and lived a life of sincerity, will one day broadcast the truth on the evening news of the judgment day for every hypocrite. Jesus already knows what goes on behind closed doors, and he will one day pull back the curtain for the whole world to see. He elsewhere said, “the master of that servant will come on a day when he is not looking for him and at an hour that he is not aware of, and will cut him in two and appoint him his portion with the hypocrites. There shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth” (Matt 24:50-51).
When I read this, I rejoice that I have such a savior. It is no wonder to me that Paul says of Jesus, He has been given the name that is above every name (Philippians 2:9-10).