The centrality of Christ’s message is about others: He was the “friend of sinners.” But as the message Jesus preached received more publicity, the background drama paradoxically turns dark, foggy, and ugly. In other words, the more Jesus focuses on reaching out, Jesus’ enemies are out to get Him, and He isn’t even being careful. Instead, it’s as if He climbs out on a limb and hands them a saw.
In keeping with expelling darkness with the true Light, He explicitly confronts the systemic evil within the religious comfort zones. He calls the religious leaders “hypocrites” and “wolves” disguised as sheep. Their violent and hateful actions reveal their true character and confirm Jesus’ assessment of them. Over and over again, His critics interpret His statements in the worst possible light and again, in their ugly response, they show what they are made of and what drives them: Their own agendas!
It is one thing to show the weakness of the apparently powerful (i.e. secular governments); it is another thing to show the evil of the apparently righteous. This is exactly what Jesus does, repeatedly. He dances on their dividing lines, inviting their fury. Their blood pressure rises until their elegant robes can no longer hide their true desires.
When Pilate presented Jesus, they cried: “We have no king but Caesar!” The religious leaders (like so many of us today) have pretended to be about religious piety and national fidelity. They seemed to want liberation from Caesar. But now they manifest their true desire: to affiliate with the powers that be, to maintain sovereignty in their little turf and the continuation of their little religious regime, as if to say, “May OUR will be done!” If Jesus’ message threatens their domain, they will scream for Caesar to bolster their leverage. Their true colors—pale, bilious, gangrenous—have shown through.
Let us not be the pale and pious but rather, let us preach the message of the gospel to the “whole world as a testimony to all nations.” (Matthew 24:14)