People can be extremely observant and incredibly blind at the same moment! The manner in which humans can be extremely sensitive to their environment and incredible clueless about eternal realities at the same moment can be frustrating in the extreme. All of us can have acute awareness of matters of [at most] limited significance while being completely oblivious to matters of eternal significance.
This quirk in human sensitivity profoundly frustrated Jesus. He said, “You people can predict weather occurrences for the near future by observing the clouds or the wind’s direction. You are aware of God’s incredible acts in the sky and wind. Yet, God’s most profound acts occur this moment all around you. Yet, in these activities of God, you do not have enough curiosity to observe, ‘These happenings are profoundly significant!’ or ask, ‘What is God doing?’ What you observe in the sky or the wind only affects a day. What is occurring around you affects physical life now and life after death!”
Consider! Through experiences passed from one generation to another, when they saw clouds gathering in the West, they said, “Rain will be here soon,” and they were right. If they felt the wind blowing from the South off the dessert, they said, “It will be a hot day!” and they were right. Yet, for centuries God declared He would act in special ways of eternal significance when He sent Israel a Messiah.
Incredible things had happened and were happening! John’s ministry stirred Israel’s conscience. He stressed he was not the Messiah, but the Messiah was coming soon. Above all, he stressed Israel’s need to repent to prepare for the Messiah’s coming.
Jesus’ ministry produced incredible happenings! Things considered impossible occurred in public for all to see. These happenings were not a matter of secret rumors occurring in the mystical place of “somewhere,” witnessed by only a privileged few. These happenings occurred in public throughout Israel where even the most insignificant people were witnesses. The lame walked. The blind saw. Those with leprosy were healed. The demon possessed were freed from demons. Jesus’ message was not “look at me and my power.” Jesus’ message was, “God’s kingdom will soon be reality.” Very soon God would keep His promises!
Note Jesus’ remarks in today’s text were addressed to the multitude, not to a religious group. This time Jesus’ focused on the hypocrisy of the common Israelite. It was a form of hypocrisy, when understood, that should cause terror in today’s Americans.
In broad context, people clamored to be close to Jesus to secure physical advantages, not to learn more about God and thus learn more about themselves. It began with a large multitude gathering. Instead of addressing the multitude, Jesus warned his disciples to avoid prevalent “expedient” influences. Someone in the multitude urged Jesus to force his brother to divide the family inheritance. Jesus responded with a parable that illustrated the foolishness of greed. Jesus used the request to instruct his disciples about the deceitfulness of material security. Peter was confused! In his confusion he asked if Jesus was talking about everyone or only to the twelve. Jesus responded by stressing two realities: (1) the foundation of discipleship is faithful service to God, and (2) Jesus would be a source of division, not of peace.
In this context Jesus declared the multitude was guilty of hypocrisy. What hypocrisy? The hypocrisy of believing lasting security was achieved by satisfying material expectations. Or, the deceit of believing life’s highest purpose is to achieve material desire/expectations. We American Christians face an extreme challenge in grasping this type of hypocrisy. Jesus said to live life as if life is primarily about “right now” in a physical world is hypocrisy. Why? Jesus taught, “Life is about something much greater and more important than the physical! The physical is temporary! Life is about the permanent!”
In America even poor benefited by incredible blessings and opportunities. Poverty is always undesirable! Yet, in America poverty does not exclude opportunity! Americans have little or no experience existing where there is no opportunity. Why do so many people who are not Americans crave to live in America? Opportunity! Why do so many immigrants succeed in conditions we would not touch? They see opportunity in circumstances we consider failure.
For the American, too frequently life is about “me.” For the immigrant, life frequently is about family. For Jesus’ disciple, life is about God. Selfishness is destructive. Family is limiting. God is eternal. There is something more important than “me.” There is something more significant than family [that will actually bless family]. God is the origin of human life, and human life will return to God.
In modern terms, Jesus said, “You talk about the advantages of various kinds of education. You read stock market trends. You distinguish between wise and unwise business opportunities. You discuss the impact of global events on the economy. You stay aware of the best way to invest. You aspire to great wisdom in using the physical. However, your concept of reality deceives you. You ignore death as if ignoring it eliminates it. You use life primarily for the physical. To you God exists to serve you instead of your existing to serve God. You are the victim of hypocrisy because you “see” the temporary and do not “see” the permanent.
- Why is it so easy to look at the physical as being “the ultimate reality”?
- Why is it difficult to see the spiritual as “the ultimate reality”?
- Discuss the temptation to focus on the physical above everything else.
- Why is it difficult to make God life’s number one priority?
- Why do you think that Jesus found Israel’s primary focus on the physical extremely frustrating?
- What primary mistake did Jesus say people commonly made?
- What do you think Jesus would say about our focus in life?
- How can American Christians make God the ultimate reality?