Jesus had not only rebuked the Pharisee hypocrites, but he doesn’t keep it just between them. he turns to his disciples and says, Be careful of these guys! Jesus’ popularity was becoming an issue all by itself. The Roman government would start to take notice of someone who was drawing such crowds, because they were always on the alert for insurrection. The Jewish leadership would take notice because it would a challenge to their leadership. The people, of course, would notice because of the contagion of frenzied crowd-gathering.
Jesus was not enamored by the crowd, as most people would be, drawn by his pride and the potential power of leading a mass movement. He was not seduced by the masses. His concern, and objective, were still spiritual growth and the dissemination of truth, and the crowd was seldom the place for that. He worked with the few where there was honest interest. Nobody could make this stuff up!
“Be careful of these guys,” he says. It was a teachable moment, because Jesus, as well as the disciples, was feeling the pull of moral corruption in the seduction of the will to power. Moral corruption was crouching at the door, and it wanted to devour them. I can just imagine that Jesus, sensing the temptation in himself and in them, pulls them aside to address it and disarm it. BE CAREFUL OF HYPOCRISY!! It creeps up on us so easily and subtly. It’s hypocrisy because many believers fall prey to the will to power, but they justify it as a good thing since they are supposedly drawing many to the kingdom. But it’s a subtle seduction because it’s natural to want it and so easily defended.
“There is nothing concealed that will not be disclosed.” The teaching is pertinent to hypocrisy because Jesus is telling them that they can’t harbor secret motives about assembling large crowds and the pride of it, or justify the will to power inside, all the while taking on the stance of humility outside. None of this can ultimately be hidden, either from those around you, or more importantly from God.
“Don’t be afraid of those who only have power over your body and physical surroundings.” Servanthood is all that is necessary. All that matters is God’s will and God’s kingdom. There will be a lot of suffering; don’t let it throw you. Jesus was popular, alright, but there was a growing movement for his execution, and his popularity would not protect him. I can picture him receiving the glares of the Pharisees as he talks to his disciples, knowing what they were thinking about killing Jesus, and he is warning his disciples to not fear their hateful hypocrisy which could lead to assassination.
“Instead, fear what has power to throw you into hell.” What they need to fear is sin, in this case illustrated by hypocrisy, and not external threats to health and well-being, or even life itself. Sin was the enemy, not people.
“Don’t five sparrows only cost two cents?” The point here is how worthless they are in the grand scheme of things. He could just as well have talked about mice or insects, because he’s illustrating his point with things that, as we would say here, are “a dime a dozen.” If we lose a sparrow, don’t worry. We’ll make more. We’ll never run out of sparrows. For all intents and purposes (though not ultimately, but for his point), they’re worthless. But not one of them is forgotten by God. Here is a surprise element. They’re worthless to us and easily forgotten; we would expect the same or even more so from God, who is “way up there” and “way too busy” to care about a stupid sparrow. God has more important things to think about and to do. But the surprise here is not a single one is forgotten.
“Even the very hairs of your head are numbered.” Jesus now brings the same point to us. Here is something so numerous as to be virtually worthless. No one cares about one hair. It is less than of little value, less than the value of a sparrow, which can at least be eaten, or at least is a life unto itself.
“I tell you, whoever acknowledges me before men, the Son of Man will also acknowledge him before the angels of God.” What we do in this life echoes in eternity” (Gladiator). “It’s not who you are that defines you, but what you do” (Batman Begins).
A relationship goes both ways. We say, “It takes two to tango.” If God is going to watch over you and take care of you because you are his own, then your part is to acknowledge him, unlike Peter at the fire the night of his trial. It’s your place to stand and acknowledge the relationship. Otherwise it reveals there are other authorities in your life of higher status in your mind than God. But it’s not just an issue of relationship, or authority. It’s really the orientation of your life—what your nature is. Do you have the nature of Jesus in you so that he is your focus as well as your acknowledgement? Is he what brings you significance far deeper than what the word “relationship” can be taken to mean?
“And everyone who speaks a word against Jesus will be forgiven.” It’s not the single incidents or momentary lapses that condemn you. Everyone has those (Peter’s denial). We can’t be expected to be perfect, and we will not be judged for being imperfect.
“But if you blaspheme against the Holy Spirit, that won’t be forgiven.” See, this is not a single event that, once done, is too late to undo. It is not simply making an insulting remark about Jesus or the Spirit. Rather, it is a sustained stance toward Jesus that denies the power of the Spirit of God at work in Him. But none of the gospels says that once this stance is taken it can never be altered. It can be. But if someone persists in this attitude, mindset, and behavior, there is no hope for that person.