Wednesday, 25 April 2018

Whited sepulchres

Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye make clean the outside of the cup and of the platter, but within they are full of extortion and excess. Thou blind Pharisee, cleanse first that which is within the cup and platter, that the outside of them may be clean also. Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye are like unto whited sepulchres, which indeed appear beautiful outward, but are within full of dead men's bones, and of all uncleanness. – Matthew 23.25-27

The Pharisees would have fooled anyone. The way they dressed and the way they acted and the standards they kept and their religious activities were all spot on. On the outside they were spot on.

It must have shocked them when they heard Jesus say ‘woe onto you…’ and the next words must have really hit them. ‘You clean the outside of the cup…you are like whited and clean sepulchres that look beautiful on the outside.’ In others you have done everything right on the outside. You would pass any external inspection.

It is what follows those words that nails the problem. While the outside of the cup is spotless in the inside is filthy. To be specific your inside is full fo extortion and excess. The sepulchres are beautiful, but the inside is filthy with dead men’s bones.

The reality is that we can’t just fix the outside. All of us can play the conformity game. We can dress right, act right, go to the right places and avoid the wrong places, and make everyone think we are spiritual. We can all play the Sunday morning church game.

But that doesn’t tell the whole truth, by far. How we look and how we play the game is never enough. I’ve been in some situations where outer conformity was forced without ever seeking to make the heart right. It is not enough to change the shirt, we need to change the heart because eventually what is on the inside is going to leak out. The dirty inside of the cup is going to spread the outside. The stench of death will seep out. Our hearts are still prone to filth and if we don’t sort that the filth will one day be revealed.

We could all use occasional self-examination. Is Christ real only on the outside or does the reality of Christ change us from the inside out.

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