In 2019, a viral video of a woman who was used by ten or more different pastors to stage-manage miracles went viral on the internet.
The woman had a deformed arm, which she claimed was from birth. She can twist her arms in a deformed manner and return them to their original position.
Many self-acclaimed men of God now swooped on this opportunity to use her and stage miracles. This deceitful act continued for a long time and until well-meaning Nigerians swooped into action and dug out other viral videos of her being used by different pastors to perform miracles. After interrogation and some investigations, the truth was let out of the bag.
The ultimate aim was that when people see this miracle, they will troop in their numbers to these churches.
This is just like what Jesus said to the Pharisees in today’s gospel. Jesus says “in the same way you appear to people from the outside like good honest men, but inside you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness”. So, with the above woman, what they present to the public is different from their selfish intention.
Therefore, whenever what we present to the public is not truly who we are, we are like whitewashed tombs.
Today’s gospel continues the seven woes of Jesus against the Pharisees. He grieves over their way of life and calls them white-washed tombs. The reason is because what they show to the public is not who they are.
Jesus says to them “Alas for you, scribes and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You who are like whitewashed tombs that look handsome on the outside, but inside are full of dead men’s bones and every kind of corruption”.
Therefore, when we try to appear good outside but the inside is full of corruption, immorality, hatred, wickedness, envy, jealousy, evil etc. we are like whitewashed tombs.
When we pretend to be friends with someone but inside our hearts we are not, then we are like whitewashed tombs. When we use smiles and gifts to deceive someone into thinking that we love him or her, we are whitewash tombs.
At that time when someone will pretend to be praying in the chapel but deeply in his heart, he knows he went there to steal or for some other intentions very far from what he or she is doing, the person is a white painted sepulchre.
Whitewashed tombs show you another side of them that is good to mislead you but deep in their hearts, they are not what they pretend to be. They have another intention they hide.
According to some historians, on every 15th of the month of Adair, before the Passover, the Jews normally mark the spots where graves were situated by whitewashing or painting them. This will prevent anyone from accidentally coming in contact with the graves, which might lead to religious defilement.
The reason is that the Jews consider anything or anyone touching the dead as unclean (Numbers 19:16, Ezekiel 39:15). So, by whitewashing the sepulchres, they will appear beautiful and distinctly clean.
So what Jesus is saying today is that despite how beautiful these whitewashed tombs seem to appear, within them are still contained the bones and decaying bodies of the dead.
Therefore, like a whitewashed tomb, The Pharisees are good only in outward appearance.
They appear holy, prayerful, good and fervent keepers of the laws but just like the corrupting bodies in the grave, they are spiritually and morally dead.
They like praying in open spaces so that people would see them. Yet, their hearts are full of pride, evil, and selfish desires. Therefore, the outside appears to be clean but the inside is dead.
When We Become White Painted.
In a sense, whenever the reason or the intention of doing what we are doing is different from what we show to the public, to our friends, followers and those who trust us, we become whitewashed tombs.
2.Whenever we appear clean on the outside but the inside is very dirty when we show people that we are prayer warriors, mighty prophets, speaking in tongues ministers, holy men etc but when you come to the inside, our life is very dirty, we enjoy sin more that we enjoy the presence of God then we are whitewashed tombs.
- Whenever we live a life of pretence when we know that this is not truly who we are. Also, whenever we come in the presence of our friends and show them our whitening teeth, laugh with them, smile, eat and crack jokes, sometimes pose as their best adviser and guide while within our hearts, we are planning evil against the person, then we are whitewashed tombs.
4.Whenever we see evil or moral decay within us, in our families and around us and cover it also counts. In fact, whenever we see the truth and also try to cover it, allowing evil to rear its head, then we are also like the pharisees in our actions.
5.Whenever any government showcases only structures but has a selfish intention behind them, they become white painted tombs.
- Whenever we tell lies and pour sweet words to entertain our hearers. We tell them the major works we have done for the state or country. Yet, within our hearts, we know they are all lies. When we do this, then we are pharisaic in our actions. Many people today who see themselves as leaders fall into this category. Many of those who are leading us are whitewash tombs.
Say No to Self Righteousness.
While building the sepulchres of the dead and decorating their tombs, the Pharisees would be claiming that they would never have joined in shedding the blood of the prophets if they had lived in the time of the prophets.
This is why Jesus criticised them today when He says
“Alas for you, scribes and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You who build the sepulchres of the prophets. You decorate the tombs of holy men. Then you say “We would never have joined in shedding the blood of the prophets, had we lived in our fathers’ day.” So! Your evidence tells against you! You are the sons of those who murdered the prophets! Very well then, finish off the work that your fathers began”
Therefore, Jesus is criticising them for appearing self-righteous while they do the worst.
The Pharisees said that they would never have joined in shedding the blood of the prophets. Yet, they are also among those who were planning on how to get hold of Jesus and kill Him.
In a sense, when we criticise what others have done, and see ourselves as better, but yet do the worse, we are also like the Pharisees.
When we see ourselves as the holiest while others are sinners, yet we have hidden skeletons in the cupboard, then we are whitewashed tombs.
Also, when we easily condemn others and forgetting we can also make the same mistake, we become like the Pharisees. Therefore, let us always say no to self-righteousness.
Jesus’ reaction to the Pharisaical attitude was simply “Alas” “Woe” “Azigba” etc. This shows that Jesus is not happy with this kind of life. The exclamation “alas” or “woe” shows a sign of regrets over evil.
It is a sign of serious sadness and grief over a situation. When we live this kind of life, what we bring into our lives are the wrath and anger of God. Let us not forget that God looks into the heart.
Despite how the Pharisees hid their lives, they only received applause from the people but condemnation from God.
We can deceive anyone but not God. We can never deceive God. He sees everything that we do. He sees our hearts and the intention we are doing what we ar doing.
Sincerely, what God wants from us is to work for from the heart. His interest is those who will sincerely worship Him in spirit and truth. Any appearance or play acting we put is only to deceive people and not God. He knows appearance can be deceitful. At last, He shall still reward our efforts. God rewards our sincerity, our motive, and our intentions of doing what we are doing.
Let us then be careful of whatever we are doing. God is watching you (Chukwu na ele gi).
May God have mercy on us dearest, and give us the grace to live a sincere life. May He continue to bless and protect you. Amen.