What the Pharisees Got Right

To lay a trap for an animal there has to be some truth to attract him. It must at least look like a meal even if the iron clamps lie just beneath. Mark says the Pharisees came “to trap" Jesus. So they put some truth over the trap. They said,

“Teacher, we know that you are true and do not care about anyone’s opinion. For you are not swayed by appearances, but truly teach the way of God.” (Mark 12:14)

This is amazing insight coming from those who do not live it. Appearances were everything to the Pharisees. “They do all their deeds to be seen by others” (Matthew 23:5). It is frightening how much theological and moral wisdom can be spoken and not lived.

Twice they say that truth-telling depends on freedom from the fear of man.

  1. “We know you are true and do not care about anyone’s opinion.” Truth is compromised where we fear man’s disapproval. Is our finger in the text or in the wind?
  2. “You are not swayed by appearances, but truly teach the way of God.” Literally: “You do not look at a man’s face, but teach the way of God in truth.” In other words, we will not be reliable truth tellers if we keep one eye on the facial expressions of people we need to please.

So let the hypocrites be our teacher today. Do as they say, not as they do. Fear no man. Tell the truth. Be like Jesus.

John Piper (@JohnPiper) is founder and teacher of desiringGod.org and chancellor of Bethlehem College & Seminary. For 33 years, he served as pastor of Bethlehem Baptist Church, Minneapolis, Minnesota. He is author of more than 50 books.