Matthew 23

Then spake Jesus to the multitude, and to his disciples, Saying

The scribes and the Pharisees sit in Moses’ seat: All therefore whatsoever they bid you observe, that observe and do; but do not ye after their works: for they say, and do not. For they bind heavy burdens and grievous to be borne, and lay them on men’s shoulders; but they themselves will not move them with one of their fingers.  But all their works they do for to be seen of men: they make broad their phylacteries, and enlarge the borders of their garments, And love the uppermost rooms at feasts, and the chief seats in the synagogues, And greetings in the markets, and to be called of men, Rabbi, Rabbi.

But be not ye called Rabbi: for one is your Master, even Christ; and all ye are brethren. And call no man your father upon the earth: for one is your Father, which is in heaven. Neither be ye called masters: for one is your Master, even Christ.

But he that is greatest among you shall be your servant. And whosoever shall exalt himself shall be abased; and he that shall humble himself shall be exalted.

But woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye shut up the kingdom of heaven against men: for ye neither go in yourselves, neither suffer ye them that are entering to go in. Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye devour widows’ houses, and for a pretence make long prayer: therefore ye shall receive the greater damnation. Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye compass sea and land to make one proselyte, and when he is made, ye make him twofold more the child of hell than yourselves.

Woe unto you, ye blind guides, which say, Whosoever shall swear by the temple, it is nothing; but whosoever shall swear by the gold of the temple, he is a debtor! Ye fools and blind: for whether is greater, the gold, or the temple that sanctifieth the gold?

And, Whosoever shall swear by the altar, it is nothing; but whosoever sweareth by the gift that is upon it, he is guilty. Ye fools and blind: for whether is greater, the gift, or the altar that sanctifieth the gift?

Whoso therefore shall swear by the altar, sweareth by it, and by all things thereon. And whoso shall swear by the temple, sweareth by it, and by him that dwelleth therein. And he that shall swear by heaven, sweareth by the throne of God, and by him that sitteth thereon.

Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye pay tithe of mint and anise and cummin, and have omitted the weightier matters of the law, judgment, mercy, and faith: these ought ye to have done, and not to leave the other undone. Ye blind guides, which strain at a gnat, and swallow a camel.

Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye make clean the outside of the cup and of the platter, but within they are full of extortion and excess. Thou blind Pharisee, cleanse first that which is within the cup and platter, that the outside of them may be clean also.

Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye are like unto whited sepulchres, which indeed appear beautiful outward, but are within full of dead men’s bones, and of all uncleanness. Even so ye also outwardly appear righteous unto men, but within ye are full of hypocrisy and iniquity.

Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! because ye build the tombs of the prophets, and garnish the sepulchres of the righteous, And say, If we had been in the days of our fathers, we would not have been partakers with them in the blood of the prophets.

Wherefore ye be witnesses unto yourselves, that ye are the children of them which killed the prophets. Fill ye up then the measure of your fathers.

Ye serpents, ye generation of vipers, how can ye escape the damnation of hell? Wherefore, behold, I send unto you prophets, and wise men, and scribes: and some of them ye shall kill and crucify; and some of them shall ye scourge in your synagogues, and persecute them from city to city:

That upon you may come all the righteous blood shed upon the earth, from the blood of righteous Abel unto the blood of Zacharias son of Barachias, whom ye slew between the temple and the altar.

Verily I say unto you, All these things shall come upon this generation.

O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, thou that killest the prophets, and stonest them which are sent unto thee, how often would I have gathered thy children together, even as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, and ye would not!

Behold, your house is left unto you desolate. For I say unto you, Ye shall not see me henceforth, till ye shall say, Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord.

Well we see now Jesus really letting loose on the Pharisees and religious leaders.  If anyone needs a reminder that while Jesus is love, but also the righteous judge, only need to read the full judgement He makes here against those who weighed the people down in religion and laws which they saw no need to obey themselves.

It’s interesting though that Jesus doesn’t direct his judgement at the pharisees, but instead to the disciples and people because they have been led to believe that the leaders were righteous and modeled godly behavior which needed to be practiced. Instead Jesus warns the crowds not to be like them at all.

This is also a good reminder for Christians throughout history including our time, that just because we have leaders, doesn’t mean that they are more worthy or deserving of honor and prestige, especially if their teachings are contrary to the Gospel.  Just as there were in ancient Israel, a good, just and worthy office of teacher & judge with greedy and arrogant men holding it, there always will be good offices with bad leadership (kind of like our government) and good laws/truths taught by bad teachers which leads people down the wrong way if they don’t learn to discern, study and apply the things they have been handed down and taught.

Jesus tells the people basically to do as they are taught, but not do as the leaders do.  This is easily done if one discerns and studies for oneself.  I’m reminded of the Bereans here, when Paul and Silas went to Berea “These were more noble than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness of mind, and searched the scriptures daily, whether those things were so.”  Acts 17:11

Not only did the pharisees, scribes and Sadducees impose God’s law, they added to it in many cases (eg. Sabbath practices) and bound the people in chains of more strict laws and traditions than even God intended.  The stories of Jesus’ healing on the Sabbath and gleaning wheat as they walked are good examples of this- which Jesus reminded that even David when hungry went in and took bread from the Temple, and that the leaders themselves if they had lost an animal, would go and rescue it on the Sabbath.

The leaders were great at showing how devout they were, and many still do. Yet when one considers the phrase, to whom much is given, much is required, they don’t give nearly as much as what others sacrifice in time, money and devotion. When one has plenty, giving the required isn’t much of a sacrifice, hence the widow and her mites.

Openly doing works for all to see and get praises for it.  To God be the glory, not to ourselves. The leaders had a form of godliness, but without the Spirit of God their works were and are worthless.

Jesus teaches His disciples not to take titles that can lead to arrogance and pride. Teacher, Rabbi, Master… He reminds us that while men do share the Gospel and teach Scriptures, we only have one true Teacher, Rabbi, Master and Priest, in Christ Jesus.  For any leaders to assume they are anything but messengers of Christ and the Scripture, is to assume for themselves a supremacy, an infallible position over the masses, and that belongs to Christ alone. All ye are brethren.  Hard to consider one a brother when one is lording his position as if he is our Father.  * personal note from me, I think this is why I have, even growing up within churches where there is such pomp and ceremonial tradition where the leaders are called Reverend or Father. I understand that tradition we ought to be respectful of those who have worked and studied to teach and lead, however those titles seem to go beyond respect in many circumstances and enter into an area which should be reserved for Jesus and our Lord God alone.

Jesus then reminds the disciples that those who are leaders shall be servants. A reminder of humility, that the least shall be first and the first least.  He reminds them that being arrogant and proud has consequences. If one recognizes their sin, and repents of it, they detest it (I know I do of my own- and I also have Paul’s words running through my head as I type this).  If one doesn’t see their pride as a sin and repent, God has a way of making it known “out loud” for all to see. Remember Nebuchadnezzar being made to eat grass and roam the wilds as a beast.

Next we see eight woes, which is interesting considering the opposite in the eight beatitudes. Again this shows the contrast of Jesus’ nature in that He blesses, but He also righteously judges.

They despised the Gospel message, therefore they despised and rejected teaching the people the way of salvation. They despised Jesus for setting the people free, thereby exposing their hypocrisy, arrogance and dictates; stripping them of their honor and glory that they coveted.

This chapter is so full that it could take another article to write but most of us here can understand and see that what it all boils down to,  is that Jesus  taught the people that His way liberates people from man made traditions and rules.

Jesus truly is a

Have a blessed Wednesday all!

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