Matthew 23 is Jesus’ scathing indictment of the Scribes and Pharisees. What exactly was He so upset with them about?
1. They preached, but did not practice. (vs. 3) As a regular preacher of God’s word, I can say with authority that this is a great temptation, and that in small ways or large, preacher or no preacher, we are all guilty.
2. They did all their deeds to be seen by others. (vs. 5) Short-term payoff, long term foolishness. You gain man’s approval and lose God’s. That strikes me as a bad trade-off (see Matthew 6:1).
3. They were full of pride. (vss. 6- 10) I introduced myself to a pastor in town once (he has since moved away) saying, “Hi, I’m Roger Knowlton, pastor at Edgewood Church.” And he said with a bit of superiority, “I’m Reverend (Last Name).” I wanted to say, “Hey, it’s okay – we’re all in the pastor’s club.” But I kept my mouth shut. Anyway, I think it’s fine to be called “Pastor,” though “Rog” is absolutely great too. And my kids are still getting my attention with “Hey Dad!” I’m pretty sure it’s not wrong to use titles; rather, I think Jesus’ point is the spirit in which the title is used.
4. They kept people from going to heaven. (vss. 13 – 15) Anti-love your neighbor as yourself. Consider – could we do anything worse to a fellow human being?
5. They created extra laws to obey which were not from God. (vss. 16 – 22) We call this legalism. The owner’s manual says change your oil every 3,000 miles, but the Pharisees said, “Hey, if you really love God, you’ll do it every 1,000…and rotate your tires while you’re at it.” Thus they made the people tired…and broke.
6. They disobeyed God. (vss. 23, 24) This tends to be the outcome of legalism. You create extra laws and in so doing, fail to perform the important ones. You can’t say it better than Jesus: “Strain out a gnat – swallow a camel.”
7. They gave attention to outward appearance, and ignored the state of their insides, their souls. (vss. 25 – 28) From Tim Keller’s new book, Prayer: Experiencing Awe and Intimacy with God: “If we give priority to the outer life, our inner life will be dark and scary…our lives will lack integrity. Outwardly, we will need to project confidence, spiritual and emotional health and wholeness, while inwardly we may be filled with self-doubts, anxieties, self-pity, and old grudges…In short, unless we put a priority on the inner life, we turn ourselves into hypocrites.” The application is undoubtedly a deep life of secret prayer.
8. They rejected the Prophet(s). (vss. 29 – 36) Look at the previous seven. I imagine we’ve all played the Pharisee at one time or another. So go ahead, put on your phylacteries and fringes, but if you miss #8, there are no second chances. For in shedding the blood of the Prophet Jesus, the Scribes and Pharisees failed to see that He had shed His blood for them.
Tomorrow, Tuesday, February 3rd: Matthew 24