Having so strongly critiqued the Pharisee, Jesus now exposes the heart of the matter. The real center of the problem for the Pharisee is “hypocrisy” (12:1). This is the “leaven,” the part that seeps through everything else and gives power to everything else. Hypocrisy is the tendency to think of ourselves as who we are in public, to focus on what others think of us, rather than to take a good, long, hard, carefully introspective look at what we are really like behind closed doors. We should not, as it were, believe our own press. People may say wonderful things about us, but we know better. We are only sinners, saved by grace; nothing more. To think that we can cover up this reality is foolish—it will be proclaimed from the housetops. One day, what we are will be revealed as it is. So let us make sure now that who we are is in a right relationship with Christ.
This sounds frightening, and it is. It gives a real sense of who we should fear: not those who can kill the body (surely a frightening enough prospect), but the one who has authority to cast into hell. We are to fear God, therefore. The beginning of wisdom is to fear God. This kind of righteous fear releases us from fearing people. If we struggle with fearing what people think about us, or what our reputation is, or whether we are pretty enough or bright enough in the eyes of our peers—if we struggle with these things, the remedy is to think about what we should really fear. Not what people say about us on Facebook, but the Living God himself.
In fact, fearing God then allows us, in another sense, not to fear! When we are in a right relationship with God, fear him in that way, then we can be assured “we are of more value than many sparrows” (12:7). God cares about us; knows about us; protects us. Do not fear, therefore!
This right orientation to God, and his Son Jesus, means that we are to acknowledge Jesus before men (12:8). Nothing is more important than our commitment to Christ: on this stands our eternal destiny. Fear him, acknowledge him before men, even if it costs us in the world’s eyes, and temporarily in the here and now. The Son of Man will acknowledge us before the angels of God.
Some are concerned about the “blasphemy against the Holy Spirit” (12:10). As Jesus explains in Mark 3:22-30, such blasphemy against the Holy Spirit is not merely saying something wrong in a moment of pique about the Holy Spirit. No, to blaspheme against the Holy Spirit is deliberately, finally, and unrepentantly to knowingly attribute the work of Christ and salvation to the work of the devil. It is an extreme form of saying no to Jesus. And the only sin that cannot be forgiven is the sin of not asking for forgiveness.
Such is the Holy Spirit’s comforting power that when we are brought before rulers, attacked in courts of law, there is a special promise for that moment that the Holy Spirit will teach us right there what to say. That does not mean that we would not make use of appropriate legal preparation, but that we can expect that the moment itself will come with special power to say what needs to be said. We are not to worry, which is not the same as not preparing!
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