Holy Tuesday: questions, qualifications, hypocrisy
When Jesus had thus said, he was troubled in spirit, and testified, and said, Verily, verily, I say unto you, that one of you shall betray me.
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 about the Kingdom of God, he talked about fig trees and throwing mountains into the sea. All you have to do is believe, he said, and what you ask will be done.
He was questioned by the chief priests and scribes about his authority to teach. He didn’t show his theology degree; instead, he responded to their questions with his own. Where did John's baptism come from? They could not answer, so neither did he. There were parables about disgruntled labourers in the vineyard and harlots in heaven. The reaction to these must have been one of irritation and embarrassment: doubtless some of Israel's spiritual leaders stormed off, as hypocrites tend to do when confronted with their own inadequacies and absurdities. The Pharisees then tried entrapment, asking whether it was lawful to pay taxes to the Emperor. Aware of their motives, Jesus’s response was unequivocal - taxes must be paid.
The Lord’s authority came from God, but he never used it to subvert the princely authorities of this world. Our citizenship is in heaven; we are merely passing through this 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 we must never do so without humility or love, which penetrates the souls of those who are being lost, for 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 true 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.
On this Holy Tuesday, let us reflect upon our blindness and deafness; our shortcomings, hypocrisies and inadequacies. Everything we do is dirty rags before the Lord. We construct our own whited sepulchres full of dead men’s bones, and are plagued by all manner of uncleanness, so let us take the Lord’s warnings about authority and hypocrisy very seriously indeed: we must not be outwardly what we are not inwardly, and our outward must be faithful to the inward. Many are called, but few are chosen.