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URC Daily Devotion Tuesday 1 March 2022

Meanwhile, when the crowd gathered in thousands, so that they trampled on one another, he began to speak first to his disciples, ‘Beware of the yeast of the Pharisees, that is, their hypocrisy.  Nothing is covered up that will not be uncovered, and nothing secret that will not become known.  Therefore whatever you have said in the dark will be heard in the light, and what you have whispered behind closed doors will be proclaimed from the housetops.

‘I tell you, my friends, do not fear those who kill the body, and after that can do nothing more. But I will warn you whom to fear: fear him who, after he has killed, has authority to cast into hell. Yes, I tell you, fear him!  Are not five sparrows sold for two pennies? Yet not one of them is forgotten in God’s sight.  But even the hairs of your head are all counted. Do not be afraid; you are of more value than many sparrows.

‘And I tell you, everyone who acknowledges me before others, the Son of Man also will acknowledge before the angels of God; but whoever denies me before others will be denied before the angels of God.  And everyone who speaks a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven; but whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven.  When they bring you before the synagogues, the rulers, and the authorities, do not worry about how you are to defend yourselves or what you are to say;  for the Holy Spirit will teach you at that very hour what you ought to say.’

Reflection

Jesus has confronted the religious leaders and made them an object lesson for the disciples.  He sums up what’s wrong in one word – hypocrisy.  The hypocrisy of the Pharisees is like yeast which spreads and changes the dough:  regulations about divorce increased adultery; practices of vows increased lying; practices of revenge and hating enemies were contrary to God’s commands of mercy, forgiveness and love. Not that Jesus is saying that all Pharisees are hypocrites, or vice versa, but the Pharisees practiced religion to be seen by the world. They valued other’s opinions over God’s. Hypocrisy changed the truth of God’s Word.  
 
But God is not fooled. The opposite of hypocrisy is truth, freedom and repentance:  remember nothing is hidden. In a time when the Church is at odds with the world, as disciples, we must be true to who we are.  Remember our lives are always in the hands of God whose sovereignty alone is to be feared.  The perfect love of God casts out all other fears which debilitate and enslave.  Remember God’s care for all those who belong to Him even the most insignificant of us and in spite of our actions.  Repentance means accepting the truth about who you really are.
 
For disciples, truth is embodied in Jesus. The Pharisees’ response to Jesus proved their hypocrisy. They professed to be followers of God, but very few were willing to confess their loyalty to Jesus despite his miracles and teachings.  And those who continued to profess this defiant hardening of heart would commit the unforgivable sin against the truth of the Holy Spirit.
 
But those who are not afraid to acknowledge their loyalty to Jesus on earth will be accepted in heaven as the people of God. For now, all you really need to do is keep faith with God and God will keep faith with you through his Spirit, giving us the truth to speak in his name.

Prayer

God, you promised that Your Holy Spirit would guide Your children into all truth. It is sometimes hard to know what is true in a world when everything to do with you is being challenged.
 
Give me a discerning heart  and help me to hear Your Word of Truth so that I may grow in grace and in a knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christin the power of the Holy Spirit. 
 
In Jesus’ name I pray, Amen.

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