Someone was shown by a TV News reporter, standing at a busy intersection of a Washington DC suburb. He was wearing a large sign: “I cheated. This is my punishment.”
When interviewed the man said that he wore the sign as punishment for being unfaithful to his wife. “I thought she was kidding.” he said. After a pause, he added: “She wasn’t kidding!” Later he said that in order to make things right, he figured he had to do whatever is necessary.
Jesus was angry.
In chapter 23 of Matthew Jesus was angry at respected religious leaders called Pharisees. Why? Because they too cheated: They were unfaithful to their calling before God. Seven times, Jesus said, “How terrible it will be for you.” Why?
- Everything we do is for show to make us look good.
- We are too quick to condemn and too slow to praise.
- We place higher priority on serving ourselves before serving God.
- Our word is no longer sacred. Even our contracts have escape clauses.
- We major in the minors and completely miss the foundations of our faith.
- We may be clean on the outside but inside we are filthy.
- We may look good on the outside but inside we are dead.
How did the Pharisees, the religious leaders respond to this tongue-lashing? Jesus was later arrested, whipped, beaten and murdered. Is that the right answer? Of course not.
How should we respond? Maybe we should stand on a crowded street with our own sign: “I cheated on God. This is my punishment.” Is that what Jesus wants us to do? No, again.
One response by email: As it was then, it is now. PRIDE! It causes us to do things to make ourselves look good but doesn’t do a thing for those in need.” Another: “While I believe I’m trying as hard as I can to fulfill His plans for my life because I love Jesus, He knows that I can do more – love Him more fully. He understands that I will never be perfect, but I must keep striving to be more like Him.”
Another email: “Jesus did not come to judge but to save. Had these leaders acknowledged their sin they would have been freely forgiven, cleansed and made right with God. Instead, they clung to their own works as if they were righteous and refused to come to Jesus for forgiveness.”
After chastising the religious leaders Jesus cries out: “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones God’s messengers! How often I have wanted to gather your children together as a hen protects her chicks beneath her wings, but you wouldn’t let me. And now, look, your house is abandoned and desolate. For I tell you this, you will never see me again until you say, ‘Blessings on the one who comes in the name of the LORD!” (Mat. 23:37-39)
“You kill the prophets.” God is looking for courage not excuses. Face your wrongdoing! Confess!
“How I have wanted to gather your children together.” We deserve God’s wrath. But we receive love and protection. Confession restores God’s love.
“But you wouldn’t let me.” An unwillingness to confess is worse than the sin itself because you deny God the opportunity to be a loving parent. Refuse to confess and you reject God.
“Your house is left to you, empty and desolate.” As wrongdoing accumulates, friends disappear, leaving you to face your consequences alone. Rejecting God leads to isolation.
“Bless the one who comes in the name of the Lord!” Who is in charge of your life? Confession places ultimate authority with God.
- Face your wrongdoing. Confess.
- Confession restores God’s love.
- Refuse to confess and you reject God.
- Rejecting God leads to isolation.
- Confession places ultimate authority with God.
Can you picture Jesus with tears in his eyes as he describes a mother hen shielding her chicks beneath her strong wings? God longs to comfort, protect and restore you and me. The alternative is to refuse to confess, reject God’s love offering and face a future of emptiness and isolation.
Rather than face an angry Jesus, we can be restored and renewed when we have the courage to confess and a sincere desire to change.
Sure beats standing on a street corner with a sign proclaiming to all: “I cheated. This is my punishment.”