Every plant which my Father in heaven did not plant will be pulled up. Don’t worry about them! They are blind leaders of the blind; and when one blind man leads another, both fall into a ditch.
After Jesus finished chastising the Pharisees for questioning him about why his disciples don’t wash their hands before they eat, the Bible says, “the disciples came to him and said, ‘Do you know that the Pharisees had their feelings hurt by what you said?’”
The disciples are concerned about the feelings of the Pharisees. Jesus isn’t. He doesn’t care. He tells his disciples that they shouldn’t worry about the Pharisees. He says that the Pharisees are blind and that they are going to be pulled up and thrown out. Like yesterday’s trash.
Seriously, this is not very sensitive and he made the disciples uncomfortable. Once again it strikes me that Jesus was not particularly polite. Remember on Day 120 he calls the Pharisees snakes, and on Day 121 he calls them evil and godless. Jesus is passionate and apparently he just says what he thinks. He doesn’t hold back. I think he really wants to shake the Pharisees up so that they will see the light and change their ways.
As for the substance of the scripture, I will never be able to read this one about the blind leading the blind without thinking about Steve Hill. He was the evangelist who was speaking at Brownsville Assembly of God in Florida when revival broke out on Father’s Day 1995. More than 4 million people from all over the world visited the church over the next few years to attend the nightly revival services. We visited the church for a pastors’ conference in 1997 and Steve Hill was one of the speakers.
One night when we were there Steve preached on this scripture, asking the question, “Who are you following?” He asserted that we are all following someone most of the time. We are acting out of the beliefs that have been passed on to us by someone else. It could be someone we know, like a mentor, teacher, friend, pastor, or relative. It could be a public figure like a writer, celebrity, musician, or sports figure.
Steve Hill liked to use visual aids so he put on some big old sunglasses, picked up a white cane, started wandering around, tapping. “Who are you following? Where are they leading you? What is their vision? Who are THEY following?” All the time he was saying this he was tapping, tapping, tapping with his cane. He an amazing speaker. He took off his sunglasses and looked around the huge crowd. His gaze was really penetrating. Even though he was a long ways off, I could see his eyes. It was like he was looking right at me. I wondered, “Who am I following? Where did I pick up my values? Am I following Jesus? Do I even know who he is?” I think about these kinds of things……
This question that Steve Hill challenged us with that night always stuck in my mind because I want to know God and his will for my life. I love the Bible, but I have always felt a big disconnect between the Gospels and what I would hear Christians saying. I also perceive a disconnect when I compared the Gospels to the other books in the New Testament. Once I get past Acts it all seemed to change radically. I have never been able to reconcile myself with this. And most of the teaching, most of the sermons, most of the quotations you hear in churches and everywhere else are not based on the words of Jesus. Mostly churches like to rely on the Letters, not the Gospel. It seems like everyone is a lot more comfortable with Paul than Jesus.
One of the questions I have is why they rarely if ever quote Jesus in the other books of the New Testament. Jesus quotes from the Old Testament all the time to support his positions; why don’t the writers of the New Testament quote Jesus? Why don’t they ever refer to the stories of his life or the example that he set? Yes, they talk about his death all the time, but not his life. Why don’t they explain how their own goals and objectives are supported by the life and words of Jesus? Does a ministry today have credibility if they never mention Jesus, his life, his message, and his commands? If they just throw his name around without providing evidence that their ministry connects with his? Well, that’s what happens in the rest of the Bible after the Gospels. Who are the writers of those letters and other works following? Jesus? Or each other?
I believe that they didn’t want to know the real Jesus or listen to what he had to say. I believe they put him on a pedestal, made him equivalent to God, and dismissed most of the wisdom he wanted to share with the world. They spiritualized him and repackaged him to make him more marketable. They rationalized his death, making dying his greatest accomplishment, as though nothing before the crucifixion and resurrection really mattered. That’s what people today do with celebrities. They strip them of their humanity. They remake them into 2-dimentional fictional characters. They make them into what they want them to be. They see what they want to see and ignore everything else.
So my problem is that I find it very hard to follow Jesus and Paul et al at the same time. It’s like being torn in two separate directions and it just doesn’t work for me. For example:
- In the Gospel Jesus has a great passion for the Law of Moses and its underlying truth. In the rest of the New Testament they pretty much dismiss the Law by saying that it was somehow fulfilled through Jesus’ death.
- In the Gospel Jesus keeps trying to empower those around him. In the rest of the New Testament everything we do becomes somewhat irrelevant, again because of Jesus’ death.
- In the Gospel Jesus called himself the ‘Son of Man’ (Everyman). In the New Testament Jesus becomes the ‘Christ,’ a god-like messiah who is perfect and therefore has nothing in common with us.
- In the Gospel God is ‘Our Father,’ the father of us all. In the New Testament Jesus is ‘God’s only Son.’
- Jesus wasn’t big on theology that didn’t translate into action. He said the Pharisees were phony because they were all talk and no action. In the rest of the New Testament theology is everything.
- The concerns in the letters are not Jesus’ concerns. Their main concern was to recruit both Jews and Gentiles with the goal of establishing an institution that was to become Christendom. Jesus’ main concern was to reveal to people the secrets of the Kingdom of God so that it might be established here on earth.
Eventually I decided that I had to pick between the two, and I have chosen the Gospels, I have chosen Jesus. I am doing this blog to help me study and savor the words of Jesus and become fully grounded in them. I have chosen the book of Matthew because he knew Jesus personally and I think he’s a credible witness, unlike Luke who didn’t know him. Matthew’s book is almost like a documentary and he doesn’t over-spiritualize everything like John does. Even within the book of Matthew, there is in my mind a distinction between the actual deeds and words of Jesus and Matthew’s own “explanations” and “contextualizations.” Like “he did this or that so that (whatever) could be fulfilled.” Those are Matthew’s own interpretations. Those parts are like Matthew’s blog. To me the holy parts, the exciting parts, the inspiring parts, are the JESUS parts. What he said and what he did.
I’m not saying that the rest of the New Testament is useless. There are wonderful, beautiful, inspiring things in there. But to me, they are not the Gospel. They are like blogs, all of them. Just like this blog you are reading – with opinions, personal revelations, and subjective conclusions all over the place. Not necessarily eternal truth like the teachings of Jesus. Well intended instructions and whatnot, definitely worth reading. But not worth following. Not for me. Not compared to Jesus.
I don’t want to believe in Jesus. I want to follow him. That’s what Jesus said he wanted us to do (See Day 76). I think Paul all the rest of those folks had blind spots and I think that he may have led the church into a ditch. Personally, I don’t want to end up in a ditch. I’ve sure seen a lot of ministries end up in the ditch following the New Testament writers. I’ve seen a lot of Christians in the ditch who have no idea why they ended up there. So sad. I do not believe that Jesus will ever lead me into a ditch. Ever.
So who am I following? I am trying hard to follow Jesus because I think he leads me to God, and God is my goal. I want to be led into the heart of God.
What does this scripture say to you?