Wisdom 2:1a, 12-22 (NRSVCE)
For they reasoned unsoundly, saying to themselves,
“Let us lie in wait for the righteous man,
because he is inconvenient to us and opposes our actions;
he reproaches us for sins against the law,
and accuses us of sins against our training.
He professes to have knowledge of God,
and calls himself a child of the Lord.
He became to us a reproof of our thoughts;
the very sight of him is a burden to us,
because his manner of life is unlike that of others,
and his ways are strange.
We are considered by him as something base,
and he avoids our ways as unclean;
he calls the last end of the righteous happy,
and boasts that God is his father.
Let us see if his words are true,
and let us test what will happen at the end of his life;
for if the righteous man is God’s child, he will help him,
and will deliver him from the hand of his adversaries.
Let us test him with insult and torture,
so that we may find out how gentle he is,
and make trial of his forbearance.
Let us condemn him to a shameful death,
for, according to what he says, he will be protected.”
Thus they reasoned, but they were led astray,
for their wickedness blinded them,
and they did not know the secret purposes of God,
nor hoped for the wages of holiness,
nor discerned the prize for blameless souls;
Today’s reading is powerfully prophetic! You can see Jesus in every line! Jesus is the righteous man who opposes the actions of sinners, who has knowledge of God, who is the Son of God, and who was rejected to the point of torture and death because the world did not believe. He was mocked and insulted, because He was an offense to the ways to the ways of the world.
This all speaks to what we heard Jesus say yesterday, regarding why He was rejected. He was offensive. “The very sight of him is a burden to us.” And why? “We are considered by him as something base, and he avoids our ways as unclean.” Jesus does not hold back when it comes to sin. Everyone’s sin is laid bare before Him, and He makes clear that there is no place for sin in the Kingdom of God. He stands as judge over the world, and this judge has the power of perfect justice. There will be no sin unpunished, no offense unreconciled. But this means that even the most self-righteous “holy” men will be held to account. This is offensive to our pride. We tend to think of our ourselves as holy, and I don’t mean that in a “We can do no wrong” kind of way. I mean that we overlook our own sins, we hide them from each other and more importantly from ourselves, because we think “Well, it wasn’t that bad.” But God sees these sins. He exposes them for what they are, and that reality deals a massive blow to our pride.
“For their wickedness blinded them, and they did not know the secret purposes of God, nor hoped for the wages of holiness.” Like those who had Jesus tortured and killed, we are blinded by our sin, by our pride. They thought themselves masters of the Law and the supreme exemplars of righteousness. They had no interest in true holiness, for their blindness led them to think they already had it. It is the same with us. We whitewash our sin, we blow it off like it’s no big deal. Worse, we make a habit out of doing this. It becomes easier every time, and once you have become habituated into doing this you become blind to the reality of your sin. Now your conscience is malformed, and you no longer even recognize that what you are doing is wrong. So when someone comes along (e.g., Jesus) and tells you that you are sinning, you become defensive. How dare he?! I am not a sinner! Who is he to judge me?!
This is why we have practices like penitential seasons. We are very good at whitewashing our sin, and it takes a concerted effort to overcome that. It takes allowing God into your life, so that you can begin to heal. God can heal your blindness, and it is only then that we will be able to see Jesus for who He is: the righteous man, the Son of God who leads us to the Father. His presence is not offensive to those who can see. Rather, it is a blessing.