THE LIFE OF CHRIST
In our last lesson, we began looking at Matthew 23 and we covered the first 12 verses. In these verses, Jesus taught His disciples to follow the teaching of the Scribes and Pharisees when they teach the Law of Moses, but not to follow their examples because they do not practice what they preach.
In this lesson, we will pick up where we left off and we examine the 8 woes that Jesus gives to the Scribes and Pharisees. Our first woe is as follows:
Matthew 23:13 "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.
The word woe is an interjection used to express extreme displeasure. So, all these woes, shows how displeased Jesus is with the Scribes and Pharisees. Jesus is saying that these Jewish leaders are making the kingdom of heaven inaccessible for others because they are standing against the will of God. They continue to reject Jesus as being the Son of God, and they continue to do everything in their power to make sure that others reject Him as well. He makes it clear that these Jewish leaders are not entering into the kingdom of heaven. In other words, they are lost.
Our second woe is:
Matthew 23:14 "Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you devour widows' houses, and for a pretense make long prayers. Therefore you will receive greater condemnation1.
We covered this woe in our last lesson as I pointed this teaching out in from Mark’s and Luke’s account. These men would take advantage of the widow and get them to sign over their deed to the temple, but they would end up taking their house for themselves. One other thing that is included in this is them taking advantage of the widow’s hospitality.
They also made long prayers, but we get better of picture of what Jesus is saying here when we know what the word pretense means. It means to pretend to be engaged in a particular activity for appearance. So, they only did these long prayers for show and not out of sincerity.
Notice, those who do this will receive a greater condemnation. This is just another text that indicates that there will be different degrees of punishment in hell. If you have a more modern translation, you will see that verse 14 is not in there or has some kind of footnote. The reason for this is because this particular verse is not found is some of the older manuscripts, though it is found is some of them, so they chose to leave it out. Whether it belongs there or not does not really matter because the same teaching is found in in Mark’s and Luke’s account and there is no dispute about these verses in those accounts.
Our third woe is:
Matthew 23:15 "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.
The problem with these Pharisees is that they will do just about anything to increase their numbers. They tried hard to get Gentiles to convert and become part of their sect. The problem was, they were willing to go to great lengths to bring others to their sect, but not to God. Since they were more concerned about their traditions and their hypocrisy, when they converted someone, they tried to make them more of a fanatic for their ways than themselves, which is why Jesus said they become twice as much a son of hell as them. So, basically, Jesus is saying that these Pharisees and Scribes and their converts are hell bound if they do not change their ways.
The fourth woe is:
Matthew 23:16 "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 sanctifies1 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 dwells1 in it. 22 "And he who swears by heaven, swears by the throne of God and by Him who sits on it.
While these Jews should have been great leaders who led the people by the truth, they were not, which is why Jesus calls them blind guides. Jesus also reveals some dirty tactics that were being used by these men so they could lie about doing something depending on what they specifically swore the oath on.
You see, they thought they could swear an oath on the temple or the alter and that it meant nothing. However, if they swore on the gold, which perhaps was the money given in the treasury or the gold plating that was found on the outer walls of the inner sanctuary, or on the sacrifice made for the alter, then they had to keep their oath.
This would be kind of like the person who crosses his fingers behind his back and somehow thinks that justifies him lying to you, but if he doesn’t cross his fingers then he obligated to keep his word. However, Jesus takes away their supposed loophole by pointing out that the temple is greater than the gold, and the alter is greater than the gift. If you swear by the temple or the alter, then you are swearing by everything on it and in it, and also you are swearing by God because His presence was in that temple.
In the Mishnah, which was a collection of the Jew’s traditions from generation to generation, it says that those who swear an oath by heaven and earth are exempt. However if they invoke God, then they are bound by their oath (Mishnah Shebuoth 4. 13).
However, you can see what Jesus said in verse 22, which closes another loophole because he said, "And he who swears by heaven, swears by the throne of God and by Him who sits on it.
So, basically when they would swear by the temple, the alter or heaven and then did not keep their oath, they were taking the Lord’s name in vain. What I think we should get from this is that if you tell someone that you are going to do something as Christian, then do it. Don’t try to play word games or twist things to get out of doing something you said you would do. Let your word be your bond.
Now, let’s take a look at our fifth woe.
Matthew 23:23 "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. 24 "Blind guides, who strain out a gnat and swallow a camel!
These Jewish leaders were meticulous when it came to tithing. They would carefully count out the leaves and the seeds to make sure they gave a tenth of these things. However, when it came to the weightier parts of the law, which means more important parts of the law, they neglected them. They had no problem focusing on those things they deemed important while ignoring those thing they did not want to do.
So, whatever you do, do not miss this. Please note that Jesus did not say that they should not concern themselves with those things that were not weightier matters of the law, but that they should be doing both things.
We can learn from this that there are all kinds of easy things we can do that the N.T. teaches, but to only practice those parts of the Law of Christ that we like while neglecting those parts that seem hard to us is wrong. We must do our best to keep the easy and the hard parts of the Law of Christ.
Another idea I want to bring out from this example is something that people accuse preachers of sometimes. When a preacher preaches on a topic that seems like a minor thing in their minds, they will complain and say the preacher is majoring on the minors and he should not be doing that when there is more important things to preach on. Now if a preacher is only focused on minor things, I would agree, but that is not usually the case. When a preacher preaches the whole counsel of God, he is going to preach on the minor and the major because everything needs to be preached on. As I already pointed out, Jesus did not tell these Pharisees to stop doing the minor and only focus on the major, He said do both.
You have to love the visual contrast Jesus makes in verse 24 as He is pointing out how lopsided the Pharisees and Scribes were. They would strain a gnat out of their drink, but at the same time they would swallow a camel.
Our sixth woe is:
Matthew 23:25 "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-indulgence1. 26 "Blind Pharisee, first cleanse the inside of the cup and dish, that the outside of them may be clean also.
These Jews had all kinds of ceremonial washings of themselves and their dishes. So, Jesus used this to teach them a lesson they needed to hear. They were so focused on looking good on the outside, but they needed to work on what was on the inside because on the inside, they were full of extortion, which carries the idea of being greedy to the point you will steal from others. They were also full of self-indulgence, which means lacking self-control and can include sexual immorality.
So, Jesus tells them that they need to clean the inside of the cup first so the outside will be clean as well. In other words, they need to get right with God by not playing the hypocrite and actually upholding His Law instead of just trying to look good and sound good on the outside, which will not help one bit as long as the inside is not pure.
We have to be careful about this as Christians. We cannot be the kind of people who just say the right things and look the part, we have to have our hearts right with God as well. Only then can be clean on the inside and the outside.
Our seventh woe is:
Matthew 23:27 "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.
This all goes back to Numbers 19:16, which states that a person will become unclean for 7 days if he touches a grave. Since that was the case, the Jews would paint the tombs white so they could easily be seen, which is why Jesus makes the reference to whitewashed tombs. So, Jesus was saying that the Pharisees looked righteous on the outside, but they were unclean on the inside because they were full of hypocrisy, lawlessness, and full of dead men’s bones.
Jesus is saying since these men appear to be righteous on the outside but are really corrupt on the inside ,so when men come in contact with them, they have no idea that they are corrupt and, if they listen to them or follow them, then they can cause them to become corrupt without even realizing it just like a man could become unclean for stepping on an unmarked grave without knowing it.
As Jesus said in another place:
Matthew 15:14 "Let them alone. They are blind leaders of the blind. And if the blind leads the blind, both will fall into a ditch."
There are always going to be people like this who you will meet that act like righteous people, but they are full of sin on the inside. Hopefully, we will never find ourselves being like this. One thing we must not do as Christians is to make other men or women our rock no matter how righteous they seem to be because men and women can fail us. So, always make God your rock because He will never fail you. That way, when someone you respect goes in the wrong direction, you will not follow them because you are rooted and grounding in the way of God.
Our eighth and final wow is:
Matthew 23:29 "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.' 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. 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.
He talks about the tombs they were building for the prophets their fathers killed. I think Coffman explains this woe well. He writes:
The hypocritical conduct of lawyers in building impressive tombs to the honor of God's prophets whose words they themselves despised and were in the process of violating (through their opposition to Jesus) was one and the same quality of action as that of killing the prophets. The character of those tomb-builders made the tombs they built monuments to the killing, and not to the prophets! It was in that light that Jesus looked upon those tombs, viewing them as evidence that the evil generation before him was of the same perverse and rebellious nature as that of their ancestors. Summers observed that "The lawyers kept the view alive (that God's prophets should be killed) by building the memorial reminders." Phillips' translation catches the spirit of the Lord's word in this place thus: "You show clearly enough how you approve your fathers' actions. They did the actual killing and you put up a memorial to it." (Coffman’s commentary on Luke)
Some of the Jews would be the very ones who would be responsible for having Jesus arrested and put to death. Not only that, they would make sure that many Christians were put to death as well. So, they would indeed fill up the measure of their fathers’ guilt. Since, they are unwilling to listen to Jesus and change their ways, there will be no escaping from hell for them. There will be no escape for anyone today who rejects Jesus.
He also lets them know that their generation is going to pay for all the righteous blood that has been shed. Of course, this is referring to the wrath of God on Jerusalem because in 40 years, the Romans will come along and destroy the city and kill many of these rebellious Jews. We will see more about this as when get into Matthew 24.
Can you image how angry these Pharisees and Scribes must have been after Jesus laid down these eight woes on them. I can imagine the scowls on their faces. Finally, Jesus says this:
Matthew 23:37 "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! 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 LORD1!'"
This is key to understanding the motivation behind all that Jesus has said in these woes. The fact that He said, O Jerusalem, Jerusalem indicates a deep emotional response. This city was in important one and stood for the entire nation of Israel. Many prophets were either killed in Jerusalem itself or orders came from those in Jerusalem to kill certain prophets.
Jesus had made many trips to Jerusalem teach the people, and He would have loved for His people to wake up and stop rejecting Him because if they would turn to Him, He could protect them and care for them like a hen protects its young. If you have ever spent any time around a hen and her young, you would know that she is very protective of them. If danger comes, she will call them to her and put herself in harm’s way.
Just think about how many Jew’s could have had their lives
spared in A.D. 70 if they had not rejected Jesus and His message. Though the
city would fall, they could have listened to Jesus’ warnings of when to flee
the city, but over 1 million Jews died during that time. What a shame because
not only did they lose their physical lives, they died outside of Christ as well.
We should really think about this idea of how Jesus was willing to be like a hen with her young because this means He is the same with us. Those who will listen to Him will be under His protection and He will always be there for us. He has already proven that He was willing to die for us, so we should have great confidence in our Lord. Let’s look at those last two verses again:
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 LORD1!'"
used to be God’s house, but it was no longer God’s house because the Jews had
made it into their house and now it is left to them desolate or we could say
empty. They basically had pushed God out of their lives and so there was no
reason for Him to be present where He was not wanted.
There are many churches in our nation that this happening to as well. While they assemble together and call themselves Christians, they do their own thing. They invent their own way of worship and they create new traditions to follow after, so God has not reason to be in their assemblies. In fact, I would say that their lamp stand was removed a long time ago as talked about in the Book of Revelation. I believe the last part of our verse refers to when Jesus will come again at the final judgment.
We have one last event that took place before Jesus leaves temple area, It is found in Luke 21 and Mark 12. We will look at Mark’s account.
Mk. 12:41 Now Jesus sat opposite the treasury and saw how the people put money into the treasury. And many who were rich put in much. 42 Then one poor widow came and threw in two mites1, which make a quadrans. 43 So He called His disciples to Himself and said to them, "Assuredly, I say to you that this poor widow has put in more than all those who have given to the treasury; 44 "for they all put in out of their abundance, but she out of her poverty put in all that she had, her whole livelihood."
Many had come to Jerusalem for the Passover as the Law commanded, and they were supposed to bring their gifts to God as can be seen in Deut. 16:16-17.
So, Jesus was sitting opposite of the treasury and He was watching the people put their money into the treasury. Now the word “saw” or “beheld” in the KJV means to look with great attention. He noticed how the rich gave much. I wonder if they were making a show of it like some of the Jews had done with their prayers. As Jesus was watching carefully, along came a poor widow who threw in two mites.
Jesus used this opportunity to teach His disciples and us about the proper attitude about giving. Jesus points out how the rich were giving out of their abundance, but this poor widow had given all that she had because of her giving spirit and the trust she had in God. Even though she had not given much money, Jesus said that she had given more than the rich had because she freely gave all she had even though she was poor. This is the same principle used to describe what Jesus did for you and me according to:
2 Corinthians 8:9 For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though He was rich, yet for your sakes He became poor, that you through His poverty might become rich.
When it came to giving, this lady had the same attitude that Christ did with His life.
The widow only gave 2 mites, which was the smallest Jewish coin there was and two of them together was only worth about half a cent. The common wage during the first century was denarius a day, which was for unskilled labor. So, a normal days wage was approximately 100 times more than what the widow had, and that was all she had to live on. Yet she was willing to give it all to God and to begin again. She understood what sacrificial giving was all about.
Because of her attitude, she raised the value of those two mites beyond what everyone else had given. The significance was not in what she gave, but in what she did not keep. Jesus is teaching us that no gift is too small if it given with the right heart. It is also important to see that no matter how poor a person is, they are never too poor that they can’t give to God. It certainly didn’t keep the poor widow from giving. Instead, she gave just as we are commanded to give today.
We don’t read about this woman being embarrassed or ashamed of such a small gift, and she shouldn’t be. Some people might consider her foolish for giving all she had to live on to the Lord, but Jesus didn’t say that she gave too much, and she didn’t worry about tomorrow. Instead, she was just concerned about today and she wanted to give her all to God.
Just as Jesus watched the givers of the temple, God is watching how we give as well. He is not looking at the amount we are giving, He is looking at our hearts, and He knows whether or not we have a giving spirit and if we are giving as we should. You may hide your feelings from your brothers and sisters in Christ, but God knows whether you are giving out of your abundance or giving Him your leftovers or whether you are giving with the spirit of the widow. I hope that all of us can learn to have the same faith and giving spirit of this widow.
In our next lesson, we will be examining the Olivet Discourse.