Sunday Night Live Sermons
WHY THROW STONES
Who He Really Is
Why do well-educated elite people like to stone others? I had a number of reasons to think of this during this week. We live in an era of burning people at the stake with the flames kindled by newspapers and of stoning people who are not politically correct with stones coming from some radio and print journalists. I received a call from an acquaintance of 40 years standing who wanted me to help someone in Sydney in need. It was Dr Peter Hollingworth, the former Governor General. When, as Archbishop of Brisbane he responded to a report on sexual abuse by some Anglican clergy, I criticized him for not doing enough for the victims, and for being too protective of the church. Many others thought that too, but a ferocious feeding frenzy began in the media determined to hound him from office as Governor General. These same people, under the cover of journalism, have done exactly the same in viciously attacking Archbishop Peter Jenson, and Cardinal Pell under the guise of satirical humour. Then the attack turned to Professor David Flint and a dozen others. None of these would have been pilloried if they had been atheists or Muslims. But Christians are regular targets.
Professor David Flint, chair of the Australian Broadcasting Authority and Convener of Australians for a Constitutional Monarchy described them in his book Twilight of the Elites. The “elites”, comprise the “socially liberal left”, entrenched within the media and within academia. They see themselves as the “opinion-makers” demonstrating a culture of intolerance and “political correctness”. You find them entrenched in the bureaucracy of some religious denominations.
They bully the majority, making them feel isolated, and remain silent rather than speak out for what they know to be true. The elites are characterized by a postmodern cultural relativism where everything is regarded as of equal value, where all authorities are to be struck down, and what is true is anything that makes you feel good. Hence, Western traditions, including the foundational role of “Judaeo-Christian ethics” is rejected. The Bible, among the religious elites is rejected, and liberal theology approves immorality among church leaders, liberal abortion practices and same-sex marriages. Bible believing Christians are “fair game” for degrading ridicule and caricature, while other religions and cultures are considered “above criticism” in the name of pluralism and relativism.
What sticks in their craw more than anything, is that despite their strongly promoted opinions and predictions in every newspaper and radio and TV program, they suffered a devastating defeat in the Australian Federal election on November 10, 2001. Concentrated mainly in those inner city electorates in the Sydney-Canberra-Melbourne triangle, they managed to attract no more than 10% of the national primary vote. Since that time, John Howard, his ministers and policies have been the arch enemy. These elites are left-wing on social, political and cultural issues and form the great majority of political commentators and journalists. In the church they support one another into positions of power within our bureaucratic structures. You rarely find them in the parishes serving among people face to face, and meeting with elders who call them to account.
The elites are influenced by post-modernist philosophies and the supreme value of relativism and the rejection of all moral and religious absolutes. Since Marxism imploded, and the Australian Communist Party disbanded, many have joined the Greens. Two such are in our NSW State Parliament. Marx gave the elites their mission. He had written that philosophers had hitherto only interpreted the world: the point now was to change it. And who better qualified to change it than the elites.
In recent centuries, since the enlightenment, civilised society has been based on a search for the truth, either revealed or to be discovered. But our Judaeo-Christian tradition is not only about revealed truth as found in the Scriptures, but also about the search for truth in the sciences and the humanities. But the elites insist all is relative and beyond reason. There are no universal truths. During the week, the elites who decide ABC TV programming decided it was time preschool children learnt about lesbianism and introduced lesbian mothers and their children into “Playschool.” A friend, Bill Muehlenberg of the Australian Family Association, spoke of the importance of showing mothers and fathers, and as a result, he writes, “almost every newspaper in the country has letters and articles on the gay school episode, and I am personally being singled out in many for attack. I have also received many hate letters, hate emails, and very abusive phone calls. The other side champions tolerance, openness and acceptance, but they are often the most hate-filled, intolerant, judgemental and poison-tongued people I know.” Such are their weapons.
The antecedents of the elites are found in the Scriptures. It is not surprising it was the leaders, well educated and morally upright people who were responsible for the death of Jesus. It was not the criminal class who wanted to execute Jesus. They saw Him in prison alongside of them and crucified by the same unjust system. He died between thieves and one of them wished to join Him in His kingdom. Neither was it the poor who rejected Jesus: the poor loved Him dearly and followed Him closely. Neither was it the shopkeepers and tradesmen, because He was one of them. It was the elites who were responsible for the death of Jesus. Why do elite people stone others so viciously?
You will remember the classic account of the woman whom a group of important men were dragging outside the city to stone. She had been caught in the very act of adultery. They stopped before Jesus and asked Him if what they proposed doing was in accord with the Law or not. If He said it was not, then they could accuse Him of not believing the Law of Moses. If He had said it was in accord with the Law, then they would have killed her and the occupying Roman forces would have been told He sanctioned it which was against Roman Law. Either way they had him and they were using a pathetic woman to get Him. But Jesus knowing they were using her to trap Himself, said: “Whichever one of you has committed no sin may throw the first stone at her” and bent down and wrote in the dust. It was a brilliant answer! They were caught in their own argument. Jesus said: “Where are they? Is there no one left to condemn you? Well, then, I do not condemn you either. Go, but do not sin again.” John: 9:1-11
Let me ask: who were these men who were trying to trap Jesus and stone the woman, trying in effect to stone both of them? They were “teachers of the Law and the Pharisees”. In other words the most influential elites in all Israel. They were the highly respectable lawyers, judges, politicians and preachers of their day. They decided the community’s opinion on all matters. Anyone who disagreed with them was criticised, castigated and in His case, crucified! The elites knew best! These elites threw stones at those who displeased them like the woman caught in the very act of adultery, or who equally threatened them by their personal sinlessness and purity, like Jesus. They could not stand either! They had to get rid of both! Why do the elites like to throw stones?
1. THE ELITES HATE THE TRUTH.
They wanted Jesus to state clearly if He claimed to be God’s Messiah asking: “How long are you going to keep us in suspense? Tell us the plain truth: are you the Messiah?” They were not asking because they wanted to proclaim Him to the world, or worship Him as did the blind man He had healed. They wanted an answer to give them grounds for charging Him with blasphemy, the only crime the Romans allowed the Jews to punish with the death penalty. Once more they were trying to set Him up! Jesus was open about Himself to those who sincerely desired to know. But these elites were spiritually dying from hardening of the attitudes! So Jesus replied to them: “I have already told you but you would not believe Me. The deeds I do by my Father’s authority, speak on My behalf; but you will not believe, for you are not My sheep.
“My sheep listen to My voice: I know them and they follow Me. I give them eternal life, and they shall never die. No one can snatch them away from Me. What My Father has given Me is greater than everything, and no one can snatch them away from My Father’s care. The Father and I are one!” John 9:25,30 Jesus clearly speaks the truth.
2. THE ELITES HATE THEIR FACADE BREECHED.
“The people again picked up stones to throw at Him.” That had been their intention all along. They wanted to get rid of Jesus because He made it uncomfortable for them. To make their intentions clear Jesus said: “I have done many good deeds in your presence which the Father gave me to do; for which one of these do you want to stone me?” However they answered that question would break down the facade they had built up and allow their true motives to be seen. Stoning is still the fate of people who speak out on issues, who proclaim awkward truth no matter how uncomfortable it is. The elites cannot stand people who are seen to be better than they. So Socrates dies in prison. John the Baptist is beheaded. St Paul is executed. Gandhi is assassinated. These outstanding men made those about them uneasy. They spoke frankly. They spoke for the sake of others. Their facade is breeched by the good living of others. They cannot stand moral people. Jesus said: “How then can you say that I blaspheme because I said I am the Son of God? Do not believe Me then if I am not doing the things My Father wants Me to do. But if I do them, even though you do not believe in Me, you should at least believe My deeds, in order that you may know once and for all that the Father is in Me and that I am in the Father!” John 9:34,38
There could be nothing clearer. But these people had closed their ears and minds long ago. The true teaching of Jesus breaks the power of the elites. He cares for everyone equally. He breaks social, sexual, religious and racial barriers. He ends their exclusivism. His Father has other sheep outside their fold. They fear His courage. So “once more they tried to seize Jesus, but He slipped out of their hands and went back again across the Jordan River to the place where John had been baptising, and he stayed there.”
The next time Jesus would move, would be with resolution, with His face set towards Jerusalem, towards suffering, and towards the Cross. The elites would have a temporary victory. The time was not yet appropriate. He would die, not at the feast of the Dedication of the Temple, but at the Feast of the Passover, when people remembered the Lamb of God who died, whose blood was shed so that they would live.
Why do the elites throw stones? They damage others because it turns the spotlight away from their own imperfections to those of another. The elites ensure their own standing is maintained in the community by constantly having other people go down about them. The elites hate to have their power and position threatened. So they stone people who stand up for truth and whose lives and morality contrast so much with theirs. The day of stoning is still with us. To proclaim the truth and character of Jesus is to find opposition. May we have courage to stand for truth and Biblical morality as He did despite the stones.