Sunday, Jul 8, 2018AM Service
Hypocrisy: Straining Out Gnats, Swallowing Camels
Speaker: Jerry Wragg
Passage: Luke 13:10-17
Listen to this Sermon Download Sermon

In our on-going study of our Lord Jesus Christ as He makes His way to the cross, the controversy is ramping up. It is the gospel of grace vs. the pharisees’ gospel of self-righteousness. Christ confronts hypocrisy with severity because of the destructive nature of this sin and the blindness that results. He has to put a stop to it for the protection of those whom He is saving. Hypocrisy devastates the truth of the gospel and generations of people.

When sin began in the garden, Adam and Eve fell into immediate hypocrisy. Adam rebelled, and sin entered his life. The first thing he tried to do was cover his own sin, instead of running to God as the only source of help, mercy, and grace. This was rebellion, phariseeism, and hypocrisy. It is hypocritical to imagine anyone could atone for their sin in front of a holy God.

When Christ labels someone a hypocrite, He calls out a particular kind of weakness. In Israel, there was an immediate collision of views. For example, in Luke 6:46 and following, they call Him Lord, Lord, but they do not do what He says. This illustrates the core issue of hypocrisy: on the outside a person say one thing, but on the inside, they are something else. There is no desire to deal with the inside condition of the heart and soul. The hypocrite dresses up the outside and offers it to God as something adequate. This condition will crush the soul forever. At the ground floor level, the heart of hypocrisy says one thing and never ultimately deals with the substance as God defines it. They claim to be one thing, while their actions portray the opposite.

Some additional descriptions of hypocrisy in scripture:

1 John 4:20 – Anyone who claims to love God, but hates his brother or sister is a liar.

Mark 7:6 – These people honor Me with their lips, but their hearts are far from Me.

Matthew 6:1 – There is no eternal value or relationship with God, if you practice your religion in front of men to appear a certain way, but you never really deal with the condition of your eternal soul.

Titus 1:16 – They claim to know God, but by their actions they deny Him.

Matthew 23:1-36 – The hypocrites appear to be righteous on the outside, but they are full of wickedness (v.28).

Luke 20:45-47 – Jesus said to beware of the teachers of the Law, they like places of honor, but they devour widows. These will receive great condemnation.

James 1:22-23 – Don’t merely listen to the word and deceive yourselves, do what it says.

Matthew 6:16 – They disguise their faces, while fasting, to appear more earnest in their religious efforts. It’s all about the appearance of spirituality in hypocrisy.

Matthew 7:21 – Not everyone who says, “Lord, Lord,” will enter the kingdom of heaven.

Worse still, hypocrisy in its most sophisticated forms, pridefully puts on religious mask which is a veneer of spirituality. This outside appearance gives an impression that they are close to God. Then, they use this appearance of spirituality to elevate themselves over others.  The sophisticated hypocrite teaches others to do the same. The have conjured up their own standard for spirituality and have invented a feeling of being close to God. The religious hypocrite elevates themselves above other people and looks down at others for their “worse” sin.  

Jesus has a showdown in Luke 13 with the synagogue leaders. At this time in history, Israel was in full-scale sophisticated religious hypocrisy. They puffed-up themselves with pride by conforming to the little traditional details. These traditions were placed over God’s Law in order making it easier to obey. Thus, they made themselves feel closer to God and they used that appearance of closeness to elevate themselves over other people.

Jesus dealt with this hypocrisy straightforwardly because it was so dangerous, blinding, self-righteous, and destructive to the soul and future generations of families and communities. Pharisees would strain to obey the smallest little tradition, but they ignored what the Law said about the heart. As scripture says, they were straining out gnats, while swallowing camels (Matthew 23:24). They were careful to remove small details out of their lives, while letting massive problems come in the back door.

Religious hypocrites desire form over substance and Christ confronts that very thing in this passage. Don’t miss the key point, they actually desire this form of spirituality, because they do not want to confront the weightier matter of their heart condition. The hypocrite wants the easier way, a form of spirituality, instead of what God says the sinner must confront – their heart. They don’t want to face the inside condition.


Even after coming to Christ, hypocrisy must be jettisoned fast and hard in a Christian’s life. We said in song this morning that we loved Christ more this week, did we? What happened inside your heart? What did we really desire? Was it just the appearance of closeness with God? We must not join the Pharisees in a desire for form over substance. Hypocrisy is not just a problem outside the church, it is a problem here in the Christian church, too.

The religious hypocrite tries to dress up what cannot be made beautiful. You can never make yourself right before God, we need a substitute, Christ had to die. We admit everyday that Christ had to bring the beauty to our ugly sin-filled lives. If you try to be righteous without Christ, you are doing what the religious hypocrite does. Any eternally valuable righteousness cannot be accomplished without Christ. And worse, if your appearance of spirituality goes far enough, you will start leading others in the practice of it and become what Christ calls in Matthew 23, “blind guides.”

We must recognize that even a little hypocrisy in our lives, without a serious heart-level battle plan, can bring serious soul threatening trouble to our lives. As James said, once sin is conceived it gives birth to more sin; hypocrisy has a trajectory. There are four characteristics or realities about hypocrisy that we must know. These are always true of hypocrisy and this is its trajectory.

  1. Hypocrisy is spiritually barren.
    • Backing up to Luke 13:6, Jesus teaches a parable of a fig tree that produces no fruit. This is God’s patience on display.
    • Luke records the fig tree parable before this scene in the synagogue, so we can see a contrast side-by-side. God is patience vs. what ultimately happens when there is no fruit – that thing gets cut down.
    • Remembering Isaiah’s prophecy (Isaiah 5), God planted a vineyard and wanted fruit. He planted Israel and she produced nothing; calling evil good and good evil.
    • Hypocrisy produces no fruit, they are wise in their own eyes, only.
    • Hypocrisy is always barren. It produces nothing in your children. It always leads people astray; it blinds you and blinds those around you.
    • We see the same in our own Christian lives, in the places where we are a phony, it causes those around us to get in the same mess; splashed on, trashed!
    • As a Christian, you must fight and battle against your own hypocrisy.
    • Works-based religions demand that the God accept what they offer. They are blind and the influence spreads to families and generations.
    • Luke 13:10, we see that Jesus was invited to teach in the synagogue, which further shows their hypocrisy.
      1. Jesus message was consistently – the gospel of grace is repentance and faith in Him alone. Other religious systems say that they do not have to repent or place faith in Christ alone.
      2. The Pharisees likely wanted to expose Jesus in some kind of error and expose him as a spiritual fraud.
      3. The Pharisees are spiritually barren, fruitless, and blind. Jesus produces a stark contrast.
      4. Jesus is invited to teach under false pretense, but He gets very proactive about meeting an immediate need.
    • Jesus is always involved with the spiritual needy (v.11).
    • Thank God that we have a proactive Savior! (v.12) He releases her from her frailty, immediately.
    • (v.13) He lays His hands on her to display His power over sin, evil, and physical bondage. She is loosed and immediately glorifies God.
    • There is no evidence in the text that she was saved, but if He has that kind of power over physical suffering, Jesus can take care of your spiritual life. Jesus alone has the power to change hearts.
  2. Hypocrisy is loveless.
    • Luke 13:14 – What happens next is absolutely stunning. The synagogue official is hardened, dead, and lifeless.
    • As author Kent Hughes says,
      1. No heart to pity the poor woman’s plight.
      2. No eye to appreciate the beauty of Christ’s compassion.
      3. No soul to rejoice with the woman’s deliverance.
      4. No ear for the music of her praise.
      5. He was a chicken-hearted religious snob.
    • The hypocrites game plan:
      1. They begin with ignoring the facts. The official cites the crime of healing on the Sabbath. But, Jesus healed (period).
      2. The religious hypocrite’s game plan includes citing scripture in general; he says of the law, “six days you can work”.
        1. He ignores context.
        2. He ignores clarity.
        3. He ignores what the Law’s true meaning and purpose.
        4. He only pretends to be concerned about the truth.
      3. When there is vagueness about scripture, pretense is present. The scriptures go down deep exposing the thoughts and intentions of the heart.
    • Hypocrisy doesn’t love others, it just loves itself and its own opinions.
    • Hypocrisy also attacks subtly or not so subtly:
      1. Notice, the official blames the woman – she should not have sought healing, telling the people they have six days to seek healing.
      2. He implicates her for seeking a healing on the Sabbath, which she didn’t.
      3. Notice, he doesn’t talk to Jesus, but explains to the crowd that Jesus is not obeying the Law, while the official is.
    • Hypocrisy has no true care for others, which requires personal sacrifice for the sake of others in need.
    • Hypocrites have no real interest in applying the truth, because that would mean that they have to practice the truth.
  3. Hypocrisy has a disdain for the truth covered in pretense.
    • Luke 13:15-16 – Christ asks two questions:
      1. Don’t you untie your animals on the Sabbath to water them?
      2. Shouldn’t this bound-up woman also be released on the Sabbath?
    • The hypocrite thinks he is exposing Jesus, while Jesus exposes that the Sabbath never made an issue about the things the official claims.
    • Jesus says, in essence, “You do for animals what you refuse to do for human beings on the Sabbath.”
  4. Hypocrisy is deserving of humiliation and disdain.
    • Luke 13:17 – The clarity of Christ’s words humiliates His opponents.
    • When the pretense of hypocrisy is unmasked, it is just plain ugly.

The goal was not the woman’s healing, but the goal was praise and rejoicing over all the glorious things that God was doing (Luke 13:17b). Some leaders in the grace of God, may have come out of their hypocrisy and met with Jesus, we don’t know for sure. We do know that hypocrisy never does anything, except spread destruction. Don’t believe the religious pretense of those who parade themselves as being better than others! And, run from that same type of pretense in your own Christian lives.