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Matthew 23

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The Scribes And Pharisees

Matthew Twenty-Three

The wrath of that meek and lowly man of Galilee burned hot as He pronounced "WOES" against the Scribes and Pharisees. These are the leaders that were in charge of teaching people the law of Moses. Nobody should have been closer to God than they. However, Jesus referred to them as "Hypocrites." Both the wrath and the compassion of Jesus are pictured in Matthew twenty-three. His compassion was seen as He wept over the city of Jerusalem that had been so adversely affected by these pretenders of religion. These Pharisees, with all their regulations, had made the Jewish religion an impossible burden.

Jesus wanted His disciples to be warned about these Pharisees and teachers of the law. Their hypocrisy had caused many unbelievers to be hardened. Jesus lamented that these unbelievers have no hope of being in His heavenly kingdom. He pronounced several woes on these people that He identified as "scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites." He mourned deeply over the unbelief that He observed in Jerusalem. He wanted to gather them and save them, but they refused. He grieved because He knew that their house would be left unto them desolate. They were giving up the hope of eternal salvation.

Verses 1-12

Woe to those that are religious for the wrong motives Mat_23:1-12 : Jesus taught His followers to "observe and do" what the Pharisees taught as they, "sat in Moses' seat." They knew and understood the law well enough to explain and teach it to people. But the warning also followed, "Do not do according to their works: for they say, and do not do." ( Mat_23:3 )

The Pharisees were guilty because they made religion an impossible burden, "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." ( Mat_23:4 ) They loaded the people with impossible encumbrances, however they refused to carry those burdens themselves.

These religious leaders became a stumbling block to the person that wanted to learn and live in God's way. They did this because their spiritual motives were all wrong: (1) Their works were to be seen of men ( Mat_23:5 ), (2) They loved the chief seats ( Mat_23:6 ), and (3) Religious titles had a great appeal to them. ( Mat_23:7-10 ) They were proud and arrogant. They were haughty and self-righteous, and they had little or no respect for the common people. Jesus taught them the lesson of true greatness by saying, "He who is greatest among you shall be your servant." ( Mat_23:11 ) Christians should always remember that, "Whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted." ( Mat_23:12 )

Verses 13-24

Woe to you scribes, Pharisees, hypocrites Mat_23:13-24 : Woes were pronounced because the Pharisees would not enter the kingdom themselves and hindered those that would enter. ( Mat_23:13 ) They did this by perverting what the prophets had foretold about the Messiah, and then teaching their perversions to people. Imagine a religion that would allow you to make long prayers and at the same time steal houses from widows. ( Mat_23:14 ) They would steal the widows house in the self-righteous pretense that it was for God.

The Pharisees would go around the world to make a proselyte and when he was made he was worse than they. ( Mat_23:15 ) They go out for converts and bring them under their own evil doctrines and practices of thievery. Just look around you in our modern day religious orders, the rip-off artist demand a high price in this day and use much of the contributions on themselves. Their schemes hammer on your emotions while they steel you blind. These people quote the scripture, however they never teach the scripture and are never touched by the scriptures.

The Pharisees even found ways to break their promises to God. "Whoever shall swear by the temple it is nothing" ( Mat_23:16-22 )...etc. God is greater than anything. Therefore, those that serve Him are faithful to their word. The Pharisees got little things correct but fail in matters of mercy, faith and judgment. Jesus said that they were good about doing things that the law had not even expressly commanded, but when it came to doing the greater things they had omitted them! ( Mat_23:23-24 )

Verses 25-33

More woes for the Scribes, Pharisees, Hypocrites Mat_23:25-33 : The scribes and Pharisees were not clean on the inside, in their heart, where it mattered. They were religiously beautiful on the outside but were very corrupt within. They pretended to have such respect for all the prophets that their fathers had killed! They honored the prophets and built their tombs. They would even garnish their sepulchres. They did all of this but they were still corrupt on the inside. God wants the outside right, but that begins with a change from within.

Jesus saw straight through the Pharisees. He looks at the heart of man! They looked beautiful on the outside but inwardly, they were full of hypocrisy, envy, haughtiness, lust, and malice. He pictured the result of the Pharisees religion in these shocking words, "Serpents, brood of vipers! How can you escape the condemnation of hell?" ( Mat_23:33 ) They rebelled against the Light of Christ Himself, that He still brings into the world today.

Verses 34-39

Weeping over the city of Jerusalem Mat_23:34-39 : God had done much to lead the Jews religiously. He sent prophets, wise men and scribes. The Jews rejected God's way and God's men. "Some of them you will kill and crucify, and some of them you will scourge in your synagogues and persecute from city to city." ( Mat_23:34 ) They now stood guilty before the Creator. "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." ( Mat_23:35 )

Jesus did not give up on the Jews. He looked at them with love, mercy, compassion, and a desire that they would repent of their sins and live godly for Christ Jesus. He compassionately lamented the fact that Jerusalem had rejected God. He wept and said, "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!..." ( Mat_23:37-38 )

Bibliographical Information
Box, Charles. "Commentary on Matthew 23". "Box's Commentaries on Selected books of the Bible". https://studylight.org/commentaries/eng/box/matthew-23.html. 2014.
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