Jump Start # 3062
Luke 20:20 “And they watched Him, and sent spies who pretended to be righteous, in order that they might catch Him in some statement, so as to deliver Him up to the rule and the authority of the governor.”
Our verse today follows a blistering parable that Jesus preached before the crowds. In that parable, a man rented out his vineyard to others. At harvest time, he sent a servant to collect his share of produce. It was his land that they were using. It was his vineyard that they were renting. But instead of giving a share of the produce, they beat that servant. A second and then a third servant were sent. They were also beaten, wounded and thrown out. The owner then sent his son, thinking that they will do what is proper and right. Instead, they killed the son. The wrath of the owner results in destroying those wicked renters.
As this parable ends, the chief priests and scribes realize that Jesus was talking about them. The owner of the vineyard is God. The multiple servants were the prophets. They were abused, mistreated and beaten. God then sent Jesus, whom they killed. This parable is a prophecy about what was soon to take place. Jesus knew.
It is here that our verse falls into place. They watched Jesus. They sent spies to Jesus. They sent those who pretended to be righteous. They sought to catch Jesus in a statement which could be used against Him. They wanted Jesus out of the way.
Spies pretending to be righteous caught my attention. That is an interesting expression.
· NIV: spies who pretended to be sincere
· Phillips: spies pretending that they were honest men
Pretending to be righteous, give that some thought:
First, they had to have some idea of what righteousness looks like. The wolf in sheep clothing, looks like a lamb from a distance. If they had no idea what a disciple was like, their cover would have been exposed and they would have been known as imitators, fakes and spies. What they wanted to accomplish would have failed. Today, the expression, a mole, is used to describe someone who works undercover to infiltrate a crime family or drug cartel. They have to look the part. They have to talk the language. They have to know what others do and how they behave.
It seems that these religious spies spent some time watching Jesus and the others. They had to fit in and know what to do. Studying righteousness without becoming righteous, is a sad statement. It’s similar to those who study the Bible, only to ridicule it and pick it apart.
Second, pretending to be sincere when you are not is nothing more than hypocrisy. Pretending to be interested when you are not interested, is what these fakes were all about. I’ve been there in other settings. I have listened to sales presentations, car salesmen, insurance salesmen, who were trying to get me to buy. I wasn’t interested. I sat and watched, even smiled, nodded my head a few times, while thinking, just get done so I can leave. I’m not interested. I’m not buying. You are not convincing me. Pretending to be sincere, when you are not.
I wonder how many that describes on a Sunday morning worship? They have assembled, but they really do not want to be there. It’s a girl friend or a wife that made them come. Some have come, kicking and screaming and complaining the whole way. They seem to be glad to be there before services begin. But once worship starts, the pretending begins. So many times I have heard some say, “Just how could anyone sit there through a sermon like that and not respond?” How? If they are not engaged they can. If they are pretending they can.
Third, as sneaky as these Jewish spies thought they were, Jesus saw right through them. He knew. They may have fooled the disciples around them, but they didn’t fool Jesus. He knew who was serious and who was pretending. He knew who wanted to know and He knew who wanted to trap Him. And, it’s no different today. He knows who assembles to honor Him and who has shown up just because they had to. He knows who loves Him and He knows who uses Him to just be allowed to date.
Fourth, there won’t be anyone in Heaven who got there because he was faking things. There won’t be any pretenders in Heaven. Our hearts reveal the truth. We can walk through life living a double life, fooling our family and our brethren, but it will catch up with us. It usually catches up with us on this side of life, but even if it doesn’t, it will always catch up with us on the other side. Always.
Spies pretending…I wonder if any changed their minds and their hearts seeing Jesus as He truly was. Watching His compassion, caring for those who were plagued with diseases, listening to His words about righteousness, did any of these spies have a change of heart? Did they realize, as Judas did, and as Pilate did, that the Lord was innocent? The Lord was about goodness. The Lord was about helping us connect with God.