He gets up to speak, and the words flow smoothly. They are well-chosen, rehearsed, and timed to perfection. He knows the hot topics. He’s conducted surveys and conferred with experts. There is a level of eloquence, confidence, and assertiveness that is convincing. Allowed to pick the moment and the setting, he gets his message across and connects with the people with ease. Yet, get him out of his element, ask for the proof behind his confident assertions or present evidence that even refutes his claims, and the well-oiled speech skips a beat. It stutters and stammers to a halt.
Whom am I speaking of? Do you think you’ve figured it out? Is he a politician? Republican? Democrat or Independent? Actually, I didn’t have a specific person in mind. Still, you had no trouble visualizing such a person. The point is that such people are among us, and they utilize their communications skills to draw a following. They may be political, but not necessarily. They’re persuasive and if you dared to admit it, they may have persuaded you at some point. Yet, a piercing question went unanswered. A proof that refuted their points could not be disproven. A truth hidden behind their rhetoric is now easily seen. You never again felt the same amount of admiration or respect for that person. Something was lacking. It had been all along, but now you realize it—and their hold is never the same. Examples of such people are found in the New Testament.
Most are nameless, and no one passage of Scripture sums up their nature and their methods in a nice neat little package. You’ll have to spend some time in the Gospels and in Acts to get the complete picture. Yet, with one word, I can bring that picture into focus for you: Pharisees. They held the people’s attention. And they used a variety of ways to get and keep that attention. They did it by assuming “the chair of Moses,” an accurate analogy to describe their belief in their right to teach and to judge. When their deeds were held to the same standards they meted out, their image was tarnished (Mt. 23:1-4). They did it by posturing in public at every opportunity. They loved to pray loudly at the street corner and to humbly blush when, at their instruction, the horn was blown to draw attention to the alms they gave (Mt. 6:1-5). In short, they did their deeds to be seen of men (Mt. 23:5). They did it by encouraging men to offer to them words of praise and respect. When seen in public settings, they wanted the places of honor (Luke 11:43; 20:46). They did it by accepting, with false humility, the titles conferred on them that denoted their learning and their ability to have a following (Mt. 23:7-12).
That seemingly rock-solid genuineness proved to be a brittle facade when Jesus took His proper place as Rabbi and Teacher. No one with an honest heart who listened to His teachings could doubt Him. The Bible says that His authority was seen in the words He spoke. “When Jesus had finished these words, the crowds were amazed at His teaching; for He was teaching them as one having authority, and not as their scribes” (Matthew 7:28,29).
It was to those who can be amazed at His teachings that Jesus said, “You shall know the truth and the truth shall set you free.” (Jn. 8:32).
The truth be known, no one can handle the truth until they first know the truth (2 Tim 2:15). That’s our task! To know the truth and then spread the truth is our mission (2 Tim 4:2-5).