The Pharisees and Scribes continued to plot against Jesus. They sought to trap Him with questions so they could silence Him. Meanwhile, Jesus continued to preach the Good News to the people and bring healing to the broken. Surely the disciples understood that loyalty to Jesus meant that their own lives were at risk. So Jesus taught them the right way to understand powerful men with malicious plans. He told them to look up to an even greater Power:
“‘Be on your guard against the yeast of the Pharisees, which is hypocrisy. There is nothing concealed that will not be disclosed, or hidden that will not be made known. What you have said in the dark will be heard in the daylight, and what you have whispered in the ear in the inner rooms will be proclaimed from the rooftops.
“‘I tell you, my friends, do not be afraid of those who kill the body and after that can do no more. But I will show you who you should fear. Fear him who, after killing the body, has power to throw you into hell. Yes, I tell you, fear him.
“‘Are not five sparrows sold for two pennies? Yet not one of them is forgotten by God. Indeed, the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Don’t be afraid: you are worth more than many sparrows. I tell you, whoever acknowledges Me before men, the Son of Man will also acknowledge before the angels of God. But he who disowns Me before men will be disowned before the angels of God.’”
Imagine this scene. You are standing before the throne of the Living God. The brilliant pure, white light of the Lord’s holiness and glory radiates everywhere. Thousands upon thousands of angels, the seraphim, and the twenty-four elders fill the room with the worship of the Lord in continual praise. And there you stand.
In your life on earth, you sinned in many ways. You did not always treat people with the love that God asked of you, and there were parts of you that did not love the Lord with all your heart, soul, mind and strength. You know that you do not deserve to live in the wonderful lightness and purity of God’s presence forever and ever. Your sin and failure are like filthy weights that drag on your soul. But there, at the right hand of God, sits your Savior, your Rescue.
It is Jesus, now reigning in magnificent power with all glory and honor and praise. As you bow your knees to Him, you are full of relief that this is not the first time you have proclaimed Him as King. In your life on earth, you were told the Good News, and God opened your eyes to see that the stories of Jesus in the Bible were true. You put your faith in Him. Now, as you stand before God’s mighty throne, the righteousness of Christ covers you. His blood paid for your sin, and you have been totally and completely forgiven. God the Father only sees the goodness of His Son when He looks at you. You have been made white and clean because you did not fail to acknowledge Jesus Christ as Lord in your life on earth. And so Jesus, before all the angels of Heaven, before all of heaven and earth, and before God the Father, claims you as His own. You belong to Him forever and ever.
Now, we are not sure if this is exactly how it works, but let us try to imagine. Picture that you are still at the throne of God, safe and secure in your position with Jesus. Imagine that one of those Pharisees, who fought against Jesus in His life on earth and who helped get Him killed on the cross. is brought before the Throne of Heaven, where Jesus sits at the right hand of His Father. This man rejected Christ in his life on earth, and now Christ will reject him before the angels of God. It is too late, he is going to have to face the full wrath of God on his own. Jesus tried to make a way for him, but he refused, and so the Lord says, “Very well, you can have your way. The separation from God’s way that you demanded on earth is yours.” The place of that separation is Hell.
God is the only source of what is good and pure and life, so the place of separation from Him is a place of utter misery. Imagine the Pharisee now, as Jesus disowns him before the whole universe. Imagine as he is cast into Hell forever and ever, in permanent isolation from God and all the good that He brings.
These future events seem remote and far away to us, but Jesus was able to see these things with perfect sight. He understood exactly what was at stake for those who accepted Him and those who rejected Him. It was more loving to warn them harshly of the horrible fate that awaited them than to let them to continue to be deceived by their own lies.
But in warning them by describing the future horror that their hypocrisy and unrepentance would bring, Jesus openly declared His opposition to their leadership. He denounced them in the starkest terms and created a dividing line. The nation would have to decide who defined their faith. Would they follow their Messiah and honor the new thing that God was doing? Or would they cling to the twisted distortions of their leaders? Most of the religious leaders of Israel were already confirmed in their rebellion. They were on the path to killing God’s Son…and anyone who sided with Him.
In this passage, Jesus told the people not to be afraid of leaders that can harm the body but do nothing to the soul. Our souls are eternal, they will go on forever and ever. Making sure our souls are right with God is far more important than pleasing leaders who have the power to kill our bodies. And even more so, Jesus reminded His followers of the great worth they have to God…the Lord who cares for the sparrows treasured them beyond measure…He kept track of how many hairs were on the their heads! Yet faith in a God we cannot see can be challenging, especially when we are faced with enemies we can see. What would the followers of Christ do? Would they remain loyal to the name of Jesus? Or would they allow fear and faithlessness to overtake them?
The beautiful truths for the followers of Christ 2,000 years ago are still true for us today. God knows how many hairs are on your head…and though He cares for every sparrow, you are of far greater worth. God has ordained the time of each one of our lives to be a time of choosing. If we keep the vision of the Time to Come…the glorious day when we will stand before our Savior, we can draw hope and courage. We can stand in faith against whatever the enemies of God are that come against us, and we can be true to Jesus’ precious name.