Chan Gin Kai
(All the people, even the tax collectors, when they heard Jesus’ words, acknowledged that God’s way was right, because they had been baptised by John. But the Pharisees and the experts in the law rejected God’s purpose for themselves, because they had not been baptised by John.) (Luke 7:29-30)
It is no longer surprising that the ones we didn’t expect to be open were impacted by Jesus’ words while those we expect to love God were cynical of him.
Luke described the difference between the people, and the Pharisees and the experts in the law. The former were receptive towards Jesus words, but the latter were cynical. Luke noted that the people were open “because they had been baptised by John” while the Pharisees and experts in the law were stubborn “because they had not been baptised by John.”
Therein lies the difference.
John the Baptist did his job preparing the way for Jesus. He preached hard, with a no-holds-barred attitude that convicted some and put off others. Those who saw their sins repented, and their hearts were ready for Jesus. But pride blinded the Pharisees from seeing their sins and hardened their hearts.
Jesus has come and we have his words in the Bible. We have already accepted him too. But we’ll still need the help of people around us to keep our hearts constantly soft for Jesus. Besides our daily Bible studies, we need the sermons, the extra classes, the sharing of quiet times, the confession of our sins, and prayers for each other. It is so easy for our hearts to get hardened.
Jesus went on to say, “To what, then, can I compare the people of this generation? What are they like? They are like children sitting in the marketplace and calling out to each other: “‘We played the pipe for you, and you did not dance; we sang a dirge, and you did not cry.’ For John the Baptist came neither eating bread nor drinking wine, and you say, ‘He has a demon.’ The Son of Man came eating and drinking, and you say, ‘Here is a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners.’ But wisdom is proved right by all her children.” (Luke 7:31-35)
Jesus compared the hardhearted with kids who are not game for anything. They wouldn’t dance to joyful songs nor cry to funeral songs. They were like spoilt kids who distant themselves from others. Nothing works for them. They would find fault with anything. John the Baptist led an ascetic lifestyle and they said he was demon-possessed, Jesus ate and drank and he was accused of being a glutton, drunkard and fraternising with sinners.
That’s what happens when we become hardhearted. Nothing can move us. We become cynical of God’s blessings, attributing our success to hard work and others’ success to luck. We find it hard to be happy for others. When things go wrong, we blame everyone else, including God, but not ourselves. We become numb to others’ misfortune, unfeeling to others’ pain. We have an excuse for everything, and blame for everyone. Every good thing that people do for us gets negated, while the slights that others do get amplified. We interpret what people say in the worst light possible. We nitpick on sermons and turn a deaf ear to advice. We lose our joy, we hate our life, but we still don’t see the problem lies within us.
It is so dangerous when we get hardhearted. It happened to the Pharisees and it can happen to us too. We may have been baptised into Christ, but we are not immune. In fact, it is easier for the righteous to get self-righteous and for leaders to get proud.
If we do not desire humility, pride always lurks just around the corner and a hardened heart follows very closely behind.
Chan Gin Kai
Gin Kai is a film producer who believes in the power of media to inspire positive changes. He has spearheaded disaster relief and capacity building projects in impoverished communities across Asia. In church, he serves as a mentor to young professionals in the EDGE Ministry. He describes himself as "just a sinner who wants to get right with God".