From Matthew 22-23
This post is part of my bible in a year series.
Passage and Comments
In today’s reading I thought we could look at a huge outpouring of condemnation Jesus puts on the Scribes and Pharisees. The religious leaders of the day. Anyone want to be a fly on the wall when this happened?
23 Then Jesus said to the crowds and to his disciples, 2 “The scribes and the Pharisees sit on Moses’ seat, 3 so do and observe whatever they tell you, but not the works they do. For they preach, but do not practice. 4 They tie up heavy burdens, hard to bear, and lay them on people’s shoulders, but they themselves are not willing to move them with their finger. 5 They do all their deeds to be seen by others. For they make their phylacteries broad and their fringes long, 6 and they love the place of honor at feasts and the best seats in the synagogues 7 and greetings in the marketplaces and being called rabbi by others. (Mt 23:1–7)
Phylacteries if someone doesn’t know are little boxes containing parts of the Jewish law worn to remind them to keep the law. Its possible God created this rule because Israel was so prone to forget God’s law, that he created another one so they could stick it to their foreheads and hopefully they wouldn’t forget.
13 “But woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you shut the kingdom of heaven in people’s faces. For you neither enter yourselves nor allow those who would enter to go in.
15 Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you travel across sea and land to make a single proselyte, and when he becomes a proselyte, you make him twice as much a child of hell as yourselves. (Mt 23.13-15)
Jesus is not saying much about their evangelism and church culture. They seem to have a negative effect on the people they touch.
16 “Woe to you, blind guides, who say, ‘If anyone swears by the temple, it is nothing, but if anyone swears by the gold of the temple, he is bound by his oath.’ 17 You blind fools! For which is greater, the gold or the temple that has made the gold sacred? 18 And you say, ‘If anyone swears by the altar, it is nothing, but if anyone swears by the gift that is on the altar, he is bound by his oath.’ 19 You blind men! For which is greater, the gift or the altar that makes the gift sacred? 20 So whoever swears by the altar swears by it and by everything on it. 21 And whoever swears by the temple swears by it and by him who dwells in it. 22 And whoever swears by heaven swears by the throne of God and by him who sits upon it. (Mt 23.16-22)
Here are some of the hypocritical teachings and practices of the blind guides. Swearing by gold, neglecting the altar. They forgot who they were making their vows to and whose altar it was.
23 “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you tithe mint and dill and cumin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faithfulness. These you ought to have done, without neglecting the others. 24 You blind guides, straining out a gnat and swallowing a camel! (Mt 23.23-24)
This part is interesting, note what they were observing and considered important. ‘Tithing mint and dill and cumin’. Basically they had gone beyond the call of the law here. Perhaps people pleasing. Jesus however values the weightier things of the law, ‘justice, mercy, faithfulness’.
25 “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you clean the outside of the cup and the plate, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence. 26 You blind Pharisee! First clean the inside of the cup and the plate, that the outside also may be clean.
27 “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs, which outwardly appear beautiful, but within are full of dead people’s bones and all uncleanness. 28 So you also outwardly appear righteous to others, but within you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness. (Mt 23.25-28)
Jesus uses this analogy because of the cleanliness laws. They stressed outward cleanliness not inward. The people should have known they pointed towards inward realities, however it is clear here Jesus says they didn’t see them that way. Again, I think they put most of their attention on outward appearance rather that real devotion to God and what pleases him.
29 “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you build the tombs of the prophets and decorate the monuments of the righteous, 30 saying, ‘If we had lived in the days of our fathers, we would not have taken part with them in shedding the blood of the prophets.’ 31 Thus you witness against yourselves that you are sons of those who murdered the prophets. 32 Fill up, then, the measure of your fathers. (Mt 23.29-32)
The sins of their fathers should have made them ashamed of their lineage.
33 You serpents, you brood of vipers, how are you to escape being sentenced to hell? 34 Therefore I send you prophets and wise men and scribes, some of whom you will kill and crucify, and some you will flog in your synagogues and persecute from town to town, 35 so that on you may come all the righteous blood shed on earth, from the blood of righteous Abel to the blood of Zechariah the son of Barachiah, whom you murdered between the sanctuary and the altar. 36 Truly, I say to you, all these things will come upon this generation. (Mt 23:33–36)
The associates the religious powers of his day with the all the people through the ages who have rejected the LORD and opposed his plans. They will continue to encounter God’s people. They will persecute them and kill them. For these reasons they themselves will be condemned.
Jesus doesn’t hold back on his judgment. This is a huge condemnation and a big warning for us. I guess we need to be aware that Jesus takes these seriously, keep listening to him and asking difficult questions of ourselves. He doesn’t condemn his disciples here, so follow their example. Follow Jesus and keep listening to what he says. The consequences of Jesus’ actions here will precipitate his death.
Copyright © Joshua Washington and thescripturesays, 2014. All Rights Reserved.