In Greece and Rome, it was very common for the actors on stage to wear masks. By wearing a mask, the actor could hide his true identity and portray the hero or villain the role called for. Most people don’t realize that our English word “hypocrite” comes right out of the stage plays of Greece and Rome. The actors were called hypocrites, which could best be translated by our English word “actor.”
So when Jesus called out to the scribes and Pharisees, addressing them as hypocrites, He was literally calling them actors or pretenders. He was pointing out a fact that was obvious to everyone except the “actors” themselves. “You are not real. You are living your life pretending to be something you are not. You are only playing a role.” And as Jesus pointed out, they were not succeeding at it.
Jesus sternly warned His followers not to be like the actors. “They love to pray, standing on the street corners in their decorative robes, to be seen by others. I tell you the truth, they already have all the reward they will ever get.” Their reward: To be seen, recognized and honored by men.
We love to wear masks as well. We want to convince others that we are something we are not. We want them to believe that we are better than we are. So we put on the mask. Our mask is painted on to either convey something we don’t feel or to hide something we are feeling.
Our happy face. We can be dying on the inside, living on the edge of personal despair, someone will ask us, “How are you today?” and we’ll say, “fine.”
Our proud face. We love to wear this one with the appropriate costume (clothing). This mask says, “I’m successful. I’m prosperous. I don’t need anything. I’m better than you.”
Our religious face. “I have it all together. You know that whole ‘sinner’ thing? Well, I’ve put all that behind me, and I’m a good person now. When you get your act together, you will look and sound like me!”
Hideous isn’t it? Jesus never wore a mask and was totally intolerant of those who did. You see, part of repentance is taking the costume and mask off and finally admitting to ourselves, others and to God who we really are. Our world needs to see Christians who are real, not some painted, decorated, caricature. It’s time to take off our masks and costumes. Until we take them off, the world can’t see Jesus. The world needs to see someone who has the same problems and needs they have, yet real on the inside because of the real work of a real savior.