Holy Tuesday: questions, authority and hypocrisy
Then the disciples looked one on another, doubting of whom he spake.
Now there was leaning on Jesus' bosom one of his disciples, whom Jesus loved.
Simon Peter therefore beckoned to him, that he should ask who it should be of whom he spake.
He then lying on Jesus' breast saith unto him, Lord, who is it?
Jesus answered, He it is, to whom I shall give a sop, when I have dipped it. And when he had dipped the sop, he gave it to Judas Iscariot, the son of Simon.
And after the sop Satan entered into him. Then said Jesus unto him, That thou doest, do quickly.
Now no man at the table knew for what intent he spake this unto him.
For some of them thought, because Judas had the bag, that Jesus had said unto him, Buy those things that we have need of against the feast; or, that he should give something to the poor.
He then having received the sop went immediately out: and it was night.
Therefore, when he was gone out, Jesus said, Now is the Son of man glorified, and God is glorified in him.
If God be glorified in him, God shall also glorify him in himself, and shall straightway glorify him.
Little children, yet a little while I am with you. Ye shall seek me: and as I said unto the Jews, Whither I go, ye cannot come; so now I say to you (Jn 13:21-33).
As Jesus continued to teach in the Temple, he was questioned by the chief priests and scribes about his authority to teach. He didn’t show his theology degree, his qualified teacher status or his CRB check: instead, he responded to their questions with his own. Their reaction was doubtless one of irritation and embarrassment: doubtless some stormed off, as hypocrites tend to when confronted with their own absurdities: the parable of the wicked tenants (Mt 21:33-45; Mk 12:1-12; Lk 20:9-19) wouldn’t have helped. The Pharisees then tried entrapment, asking whether it was lawful to pay taxes to the Emperor. Aware of their motives, Jesus’ response was unequivocal that taxes must be paid.
The Lord’s authority came from God, but he never used it to subvert the princely authorities of this world. And neither did he run to The Daily Mail with every petty grievance. Our citizenship is in heaven; we are merely passing through the temporal state. And while we journey, we must obey the political authorities and the precepts of our employers. Of course, we may agitate for change, but never without humility or love, which penetrates the souls of men because it is divine.
Religious shows of ostentation and hypocritical piety are antithetical to what the kingdom of heaven is about: by focusing on the letter of the law, we easily forget that the substance is justice, mercy and love; by obsessing about outward adornments, we risk ignoring the spirit, the heart, the purpose of our faith. Indeed, the outward manifestation is hollow when it is more pharisaically obsessed with propriety than with loving one’s neighbour.
Yesterday, one contributor said that His Grace was ‘more Pharisee than Apostle’.
His Grace agrees.
On this Holy Tuesday and all this week and every day thereafter he reflects and will reflect upon his sin, his shortcomings, his hypocrisies and inadequacies. Everything he does is dirty rags before the Lord. His whited sepulchre may be full of dead men’s bones (or, indeed, ash), and he may be plagued by all manner of uncleanness, but he takes the Lord’s warnings about authority and hypocrisy very seriously indeed: he will not be outwardly what he is not inwardly.