Matthew 23

jerusalem2.jpg

Greetings,

The “Seven Woes” denounce false religion in the strongest possible terms.  Jesus hammers the Jewish leaders relentlessly.

Seven Woes

 1Then Jesus said to the crowds and to his disciples: 2“The teachers of the law and the Pharisees sit in Moses’ seat. 3So you must obey them and do everything they tell you. But do not do what they do, for they do not practice what they preach. 4They tie up heavy loads and put them on men’s shoulders, but they themselves are not willing to lift a finger to move them. 5“Everything they do is done for men to see: They make their phylacteries wide and the tassels on their garments long; 6they love the place of honor at banquets and the most important seats in the synagogues; 7they love to be greeted in the marketplaces and to have men call them ‘Rabbi.’

 8“But you are not to be called ‘Rabbi,’ for you have only one Master and you are all brothers. 9And do not call anyone on earth ‘father,’ for you have one Father, and he is in heaven. 10Nor are you to be called ‘teacher,’ for you have one Teacher, the Christ.[ 11The greatest among you will be your servant. 12For whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted.

This is a classic case of someone saying, “Do as I say, not as I do.”  The Pharisees acted in grossly  hypocritical fashion.  As He often did, Jesus turns things upside down and says that if you exalt yourself you will be humbled, but if you humble yourself you will be exalted.

 13“Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You shut the kingdom of heaven in men’s faces. You yourselves do not enter, nor will you let those enter who are trying to.

 15“Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You travel over land and sea to win a single convert, and when he becomes one, you make him twice as much a son of hell as you are.

Teaching false doctrines is a sin because it leads people away from the truth.  There are many verses in the Bible emphasizing the importance of sound doctrine

 16“Woe to you, blind guides! You say, ‘If anyone swears by the temple, it means nothing; but if anyone swears by the gold of the temple, he is bound by his oath.’ 17You blind fools! Which is greater: the gold, or the temple that makes the gold sacred? 18You also say, ‘If anyone swears by the altar, it means nothing; but if anyone swears by the gift on it, he is bound by his oath.’ 19You blind men! Which is greater: the gift, or the altar that makes the gift sacred? 20Therefore, he who swears by the altar swears by it and by everything on it. 21And he who swears by the temple swears by it and by the one who dwells in it. 22And he who swears by heaven swears by God’s throne and by the one who sits on it.

These leaders focused on the details so much that they even tithed on the spices from their gardens!  However, they ignored major issues such as justice, mercy and faithfulness. 

 23“Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You give a tenth of your spices—mint, dill and cummin. But you have neglected the more important matters of the law—justice, mercy and faithfulness. You should have practiced the latter, without neglecting the former. 24You blind guides! You strain out a gnat but swallow a camel.

It is much easier to clean up our “outside” – that is, our public behavior – than it is to change our hearts.  But if our hearts change then the behavior will follow. 

 25“Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You clean the outside of the cup and dish, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence. 26Blind Pharisee! First clean the inside of the cup and dish, and then the outside also will be clean.

 27“Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You are like whitewashed tombs, which look beautiful on the outside but on the inside are full of dead men’s bones and everything unclean. 28In the same way, on the outside you appear to people as righteous but on the inside you are full of hypocrisy and wickedness.

 29“Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You build tombs for the prophets and decorate the graves of the righteous. 30And you say, ‘If we had lived in the days of our forefathers, we would not have taken part with them in shedding the blood of the prophets.’ 31So you testify against yourselves that you are the descendants of those who murdered the prophets. 32Fill up, then, the measure of the sin of your forefathers!

 33“You snakes! You brood of vipers! How will you escape being condemned to hell? 34Therefore I am sending you prophets and wise men and teachers. Some of them you will kill and crucify; others you will flog in your synagogues and pursue from town to town. 35And so upon you will come all the righteous blood that has been shed on earth, from the blood of righteous Abel to the blood of Zechariah son of Berekiah, whom you murdered between the temple and the altar. 36I tell you the truth, all this will come upon this generation.

Jerusalem was the capital city of Israel, the land of God’s chosen people.  It should have been the place where people got it right.  But the leaders put their own interests first and committed all sorts of sins. 

 37“O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing. 38Look, your house is left to you desolate. 39For I tell you, you will not see me again until you say, ‘Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.'”

What passages stood out to you, and why?

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3 Responses

  1. v.5 – Phylacteries are small leather boxes worn on the forehead and left arm containing four Scripture verses written on strips of parchment paper. Jewish men wear these before their morning prayers.
    The first set of verses is Exodus 13:1-10 (Consecration of the firstborn). Verse 9 of this reading says, “This observance will be for you like a sign on your hand and a reminder on your forehead that the law of the Lord is to be on your lips. For the Lord brought you out of Egypt with His mighty hand.”
    The second set of verses is Exodus 13:11-16. Verse 16 says, “And it will be like a sign on your hand and a symbol on your forehead that the Lord brought us out of Egypt with His mighty hand.”
    The third set of verses is Deuteronomy 6:4-9 also known as the Shema in Hebrew for “hear”. It has become the Jewish confession of faith, recited daily by the pious. “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength…..Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads.”
    The final set of verses is Deut. 11:13-21. “Fix these words of mine in your hearts and minds; tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads.”
    Many Jews take these verses literally. They also attach mezuzot (small wooden or metal containers in which passages of Scripture are placed) to the doorframes of their houses. But a figurative interpretation is supported by Deut. 11:18-20 and Ex. 13: 9, 16.
    God’s intended meaning was for us to practice loving Him and our neighbor so that it would become a way of life for us and our children, which in turn would yield many blessings. It would also be an indication of who we are; namely, a child of God.
    The teachers of the Law and Pharisees did not care so much about being a reflection of God’s love, but rather to draw attention to themselves as being great.

  2. 13“Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You shut the kingdom of heaven in men’s faces. You yourselves do not enter, nor will you let those enter who are trying to.

    15“Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You travel over land and sea to win a single convert, and when he becomes one, you make him twice as much a son of hell as you are.

    Especially the part about shutting the door in people’s faces. i have seen preachers do this to people who would have listened, and were looking for answers, real answers. Especially ones that preached fire and brimstone at the university I went to (ohio state). They would condmen everyone as they walked by. some would stay and listen to heckle, but sometimes there were few that WERE looking for anwers only to be told how evil they were and how they needed to be perfect to enter the kingdom of heaven. we used to try to engage these poeple in conversation and invite them to bible studies.

  3. “The teachers of the Law and Pharisees did not care so much about being a reflection of God’s love, but rather to draw attention to themselves as being great.”

    Yes, that was their big problem.

    Mommyzabs – I’m glad you were there for the honest seekers. I hate seeing preachers like the ones you described. What do they think they are accomplishing? There is no Biblical precedent for such a thing.

    I’m sure I have shut the door in people’s faces over the years (though not deliberately). May God forgive me for that and to help me keep the door open for others in the future.

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