Matthew 26:60-61 But they did not find any, though many false witnesses came forward. Finally two came forward and declared, “This fellow said, ‘I am able to destroy the temple of God and rebuild it in three days.'”
I was struck as I read this at how the devil’s tactics haven’t really changed over 2000 years. This particular “testimony” is proof that more than just the 12 apostles were hearing Jesus when He talked about His death and resurrection, but what they reported was twisted just enough to make it seem false. Some of what Jesus had said might have been taken exactly as these men reported it, but in context, it is clear that he was talking about His own body, and not the architectural temple. Exactly the same thing is done today. The example that jumps out at me is Donald Trump’s “very fine people” remark in talking about the Charlottesville incident in 2017. In context, he condemned the white supremacists, but the Press edited his remarks to make it seem that he was praising them, and it was used as a major weapon against him. That’s not in the least to put Donald Trump on the level of Jesus, but it is to say that the devil has always used, and will always use, twisted “facts” to try to pull people down. I think most people have experienced committing a sin and having the devil jump on it and issue a blanket condemnation, saying, “Since you did that, you have no right to call yourself a Christian and you might as well give up.” It’s no accident that “satan” means “accuser.” In contrast, the Holy Spirit will shine light on our sins, but He’s always quite specific as to what needs to be repented of, and never issues blanket condemnations.
This is something I deal with frequently. I’ve experienced it myself, and as a pastor I couldn’t count how many times I’ve tried to help people understand this in their own situation. I haven’t run into this particular case, but I’m reminded of the story of the pastor who was counseling someone who had grown up in a Christian home but had gone far afield, and was distraught that they had “committed the unforgivable sin.” That pastor very wisely said, “If you’re worried about the unforgivable sin, then you haven’t committed it.” One strong memory from my childhood was when the pastor of our church (after my father had turned it over and was focusing on his school responsibilities) came before the church to report on one result of his prison ministry. He had been visiting the Fukuoka Penitentiary, and had been allowed to minister on death row. One condemned murderer had responded in repentance and faith, and though prison rules did not allow for the physical contact involved in baptism, he had written out his confession of faith, and the pastor read it to the church. We voted unanimously to accept him as a member of the church, a brother in Christ. Japan has a very interesting policy of not publicizing executions until after the fact, and indeed, the prisoner is not informed until that very morning. However, in a distinct departure from that, the pastor was called to be at the prison very early one morning, and was allowed to see the prisoner and shake his hand before he was put into the van to take him to the place of execution. I have absolute confidence I will be able to meet that man in heaven. The devil uses elements of truth in his accusations, but God’s grace in the cross and resurrection of Christ is greater than it all.
Father, thank You for this strong reminder. I hadn’t thought of that incident with Pastor Kishida for a while, and it’s a very moving memory. Help me be an effective instrument of Your truth and Your grace, so that the lies of the devil may be exposed and defeated and many set free to receive Your full salvation. Thank You. Hallelujah!