Woe to the Scribes and Pharisees
This selection from Matthew’s gospel, below, is like that to me. I never heard this talk from Jesus growing up in the Catholic church. I was so surprised that the “gentle Jesus” that I had heard about in Catholic school would say these things. They are so powerful. They are really important for us – it spells out that which God hates. More importanly, it shows how the LORD sees right into the thoughts and intentions of our hearts. We can compare our own attitudes to those of the Scribes and Pharisees, to check ourselves for rotteness. Also - in a real way, we can see into the LORD’s heart in this passage.
I am going to insert a few thoughts within the passage below. It looks like a long post, I know, but I am including the whole chapter 23 from Matthew. It is worth a minute to read today!
1 Then Jesus spoke to the multitudes and to His disciples,
2 saying: “The scribes and the Pharisees sit in Moses’ seat.
3 Therefore whatever they tell you to observe,that observe and do, but do not do according to their works; for they say, and do not do.
4 For they bind heavy burdens, hard to bear, and lay them on men’s shoulders; but they themselves will not move them with one of their fingers.
5 But all their works they do to be seen by men. They make their phylacteries broad and enlarge the borders of their garments.
6 They love the best places at feasts, the best seats in the synagogues,
7 greetings in the marketplaces, and to be called by men, ‘Rabbi, Rabbi.’
8 But you, do not be called ‘Rabbi’; for One is your Teacher, the Christ, and you are all brethren.
9 Do not call anyone on earth your father; for One is your Father, He who is in heaven.
(no wonder the Catholic's do not read this to their charges)
10 And do not be called teachers; for One is your Teacher, the Christ.
11 But he who is greatest among you shall be your servant.
12 And whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.
Good principles for us in this dispensation.
Look out, here is where it gets really intense:
13 “But woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you shut up the kingdom of heaven against men; for you neither go in yourselves, nor do you allow those who are entering to go in.
WOE! That is a serious charge! How does this mesh with the unalterable will of God? (just a side thought)
14 Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you devour widows’ houses, and for a pretense make long prayers. Therefore you will receive greater condemnation.
15 “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you travel land and sea to win one proselyte, and when he is won, you make him twice as much a son of hell as yourselves.
Man! They go to all the trouble to "win souls" but then they teach them to be spiritually wicked.
16 “Woe to you, blind guides, who say, ‘Whoever swears by the temple, it is nothing; but whoever swears by the gold of the temple, he is obliged to perform it.’
17 Fools and blind! For which is greater, the gold or the temple that sanctifies the gold?
18 And, ‘Whoever swears by the altar, it is nothing; but whoever swears by the gift that is on it, he is obliged to perform it.’
19 Fools and blind! For which is greater, the gift or the altar that sanctifies the gift?
20 Therefore he who swears by the altar, swears by it and by all things on it.
21 He who swears by the temple, swears by it and by Him who dwells in it.
22 And he who swears by heaven, swears by the throne of God and by Him who sits on it.
They had a faulty foundation. Their precepts were off!
23 “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you pay tithe of mint and anise and cummin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faith. These you ought to have done, without leaving the others undone.
They were all about the outward show. We shan't be like that, brothers and sisters!
24 Blind guides, who strain out a gnat and swallow a camel!
Oh my! I find this humorous and cutting to the bone all at once. Our LORD really had a way with words. Is this the gentle Jesus of the Catholic church? No, certainly not. Here is a picture of a person fussing over a barrel of water or wine and trying to pick out a little dead gant floating on the surface because they don't want to drink something impure, but .... there is a giant animal in his beverage. The LORD gives this increbible picture of a man with a camel going 'down the hatch' - a man who was worried over a little gnat in his drink! Are we ever like that with our religion - with our theology? We gotta check ourselves.
25 “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you cleanse the outside of the cup and dish, but inside they are full of extortion and self-indulgence.
26 Blind Pharisee, first cleanse the inside of the cup and dish, that the outside of them may be clean also.
The Wonderful LORD - he was even trying to tell these fools how they could go about it the right way. I hear such compassion even in the midst of this stinging rebuke.
27 “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs which indeed appear beautiful outwardly, but inside are full of dead men’s bones and all uncleanness.
28 Even so you also outwardly appear righteous to men, but inside you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness.
29 “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! Because you build the tombs of the prophets and adorn the monuments of the righteous,
30 and say, ‘If we had lived in the days of our fathers, we would not have been partakers with them in the blood of the prophets.’
They certainly patted themselves on the back, no?
31 “Therefore you are witnesses against yourselves that you are sons of those who murdered the prophets.
32 Fill up, then, the measure of your fathers’ guilt.
Now He ratchets it up a bit.
33 Serpents, brood of vipers! How can you escape the condemnation of hell?
34 Therefore, indeed, I send you prophets, wise men, and scribes: some of them you will kill and crucify, and some of them you will scourge in your synagogues and persecute from city to city,
35 that on you may come all the righteous blood shed on the earth, from the blood of righteous Abel to the blood of Zechariah, son of Berechiah, whom you murdered between the temple and the altar.
36 Assuredly, I say to you, all these things will come upon this generation.
How dreadfully sad that must have been to have had to deliver that message to those who were supposed to lead the chosen people. I feel the sadness of the LORD as I read that.
This is so moving:
37 “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the one who kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to her! How often I wanted to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing!
God wanted ... they were not willing. How does the determinist deal with that statement? I have always wondered. Do any of you Calvinists want to explain?
38 See! Your house is left to you desolate;
39 for I say to you, you shall see Me no more till you say, ‘Blessed is He who comes in the name of the LORD!’”
He turns to the Gentiles. After He is crucified, risen, and the Holy Spirit comes, the church is born - made up of Jew AND Gentile. But the church is not the end of the story. I see hope for Jerusalem. They will say "Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord."
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