The Gospel of John: Hypocritical Holiness!

“Then they led Jesus from the house of Caiaphas to the governor’s headquarters. It was early morning. They themselves did not enter the governor’s headquarters, so that they would not be defiled, but could eat the Passover.” (John 18:28)

What do I mean by the title hypocritical holiness? Let’s unpack the title before we examine today’s test.

To begin with, the word holiness is a noun. It means to be set apart from sin and to be set apart unto what is pure. The adjective, hypocritical, means to pretend to be something you are not. In other words, to act out a part.

The religious leaders who took Jesus from Caiaphas’ house to the headquarters of the then Roman Governor, Pontius Pilate, were displaying hypocritical holiness. While they were pretending to be holy, they were in reality committing a great evil. How?

To begin with, they did not want to enter into the governor’s headquarters. Why? They believed that they would be ceremonially defiled by doing so and therefore unable to eat the Passover meal. But why did the Jewish leaders have to bring Jesus to the governor’s headquarters in the first place?

Dr. R. C. Sproul states that, “The problem for the Jewish leaders at this point was that they did not have the legal authority to execute Jesus. Although the Romans allowed the Jews to follow their traditions in many areas, in the vast majority of cases, only a Roman ruler could execute criminals. (The first-century Jewish historian Josephus notes that the Jewish authorities could put to death a gentile who entered the inner courts of the Jerusalem temple.) This explains why Jesus was brought to the Roman governor Pontius Pilate (John 18:28–29).

Dr. John MacArthur explains that, “The headquarters of the Roman military commander or governor (i.e., Pilate), who was normally in Caesarea, but made sure to be in Jerusalem during the feasts in order to quell any riots. Jerusalem became his praetorium or headquarters. Jewish oral law indicated that a Jew who went into a Gentile house or dwelling was considered ceremonially unclean. They (the religious leaders) stayed outside in the colonnade to avoid being tainted. “

I trust that the irony of this situation is apparent to you. While on the one hand, the religious leaders did not want to taint themselves by entering into a Gentile house or dwelling, they defiled themselves in a greater way by abusing and seeking to execute the One, True God in the flesh: Jesus Christ.

Dr. MacArthur comments that, “John loads this statement with great irony by noting the chief priests’ scrupulousness in the matter of ceremonial cleansing, when all the time they were incurring incomparably greater moral defilement by their proceedings against Jesus.”

Jesus was always aware of the hypocritical behavior of the Jewish religious leaders. He condemned them as hypocrites in Matthew 23:13-30. Seven times He called them hypocrites. He not only condemned their outward behavior before  their fellow men but also their inner disposition before God as being full of extortion and self-indulgence.

He summarized His condemnation of them in Matthew 23:31-36. “Thus you witness against yourselves that you are sons of those who murdered the prophets. Fill up, then, the measure of your fathers. You serpents, you brood of vipers, how are you to escape being sentenced to hell? Therefore I send you prophets and wise men and scribes, some of whom you will kill and crucify, and some you will flog in your synagogues and persecute from town to town, so that on you may come all the righteous blood shed on earth, from the blood of righteous Abel to the blood of Zechariah the son of Barachiah, whom you murdered between the sanctuary and the altar. Truly, I say to you, all these things will come upon this generation.”

John Calvin writes, “To the defiled and to unbelievers, says Paul, nothing is pure; because their minds are polluted, (Titus 1:15). But these hypocrites, thought they are so full of malice, ambition, fraud, cruelty, and avarice, that they almost infect heaven and earth with their abominable smell, are only afraid of external pollutions. So then it is an intolerable mockery that they expect to please God, provided that they do not contract defilement by touching some unclean thing, though they have disregarded true purity.” 

Many times believers in Christ are more concerned with their outward righteousness before their fellow men then they are with their inner righteousness before God. Let us resolve to be pure in heart as we seek to be pure in deed and behavior.

May God’s truth and grace reside here.

Soli deo Gloria!

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