THE GOSPEL ACCORDING TO MATTHEW
Explanations Matt. 23:1-36
Matthew 23:1-39 WOES TO THE SCRIBES AND THE PHARISEES
A. Jesus rebukes the scribes and the Pharisees.
1. (1-4) They lay oppressive burdens on others.
a. Then Jesus spoke to the multitudes and to His disciples: Jesus spoke to these groups, but He spoke about the scribes and Pharisees. Of course, these hardened opponents of Jesus listened; but in a sense Jesus was finished speaking to them. Instead he intended to warn the people and His followers about them.
1). The true target of the whole discourse is the crowds and disciples who need to break free from Pharisaic legalism.
. The Talmud describes seven different types of Pharisees; six of the seven are bad.
· The Shoulder Pharisee, who wore all his good deeds and righteousness on his shoulder for everyone to see.
· The Wait-a-Little Pharisee, who always intended to do good deeds, but could always find a reason for doing them later, not now.
· The Bruised or Bleeding Pharisee, who was so holy that he would turn his head away from any woman seen in public – and was therefore constantly bumping into things and tripping, thus injuring himself.
· The Hump-Backed Pharisee, who was so humble that he walked bent over and barely lifting his feet – so everyone could see just how humble he was.
· The Always-Counting Pharisee, who was always counting up his good deeds and believed that he put God in debt to him for all the good he had done.
· The Fearful Pharisee, who did good because he was terrified that God would strike him with judgment if he did not.
· The God-Fearing Pharisee, who really loved God and did good deeds to please the God he loved.
b. Whatever they tell you to observe, that observe and do: Jesus said that respect was due to the scribes and the Pharisees; not because of their conduct, but because they sit in Moses’ seat. They should be respected because they hold an office of authority, ordained by God.
c. They bind heavy burdens, hard to bear, and lay them on men’s shoulders: The scribes and Pharisees were bad examples because they expected more of others than they did of themselves. They set heavy burdens on others, yet they themselves will not move them with one of their fingers.
d. Heavy burdens: The burden of the religious leaders contrasts sharply to Jesus’ burden. His burden is light, and His yoke is easy (Matthew 11:30). These religious leaders were burden bringers; Jesus was a burden taker.
2. (5-10) They do their works to be seen, and they live for the praise of men.
a. All their works they do to be seen by men: The religious leaders were guilty of advertising their righteous deeds. They acted out the religious spirit Jesus spoke against in the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 6:1-6).
Reminds me of the Widow’s mites. Luke 21:21-4 And He looked up and saw the rich putting their gifts into the treasury, 2 and He saw also a certain poor widow putting in two mites.[a] 3 So He said, “Truly I say to you that this poor widow has put in more than all; 4 for all these out of their abundance have put in offerings [b]for God, but she out of her poverty put in all the livelihood that she had.”
She did this not to be seen of men.
b. They make their phylacteries (a small leather box containing Hebrew texts on vellum, worn by Jewish men at morning prayer as a reminder to keep the law)
broad and enlarge the borders of their garments: Both the phylacteries (small leather boxes with tiny scrolls with scriptures on them, tied to the arm and head with leather straps) and the borders of their garments were worn in the attempt to conform to the Mosaic Law (Deuteronomy 11:18, Numbers 15:38-40).
c. They love the best places… greetings in the marketplaces: Not content to display their supposed spirituality, the religious leaders loved it when people admired their supposed spirituality. They coveted the seats of honor at banquets and at the synagogue, and they loved the honoring titles such as Rabbi and father.
d. But you, do not be called Rabbi; for One is your Teacher, the Christ, and you are all brethren: Jesus warned the people that they should not imitate the scribes and the Pharisees at this point. His followers should always remember that “you are all brethren” and that one should not be exalted above others by titles that are either demanded or received.
1). “An exhortation which today’s church could profitably take more seriously, not only in relation to formal ecclesiastical titles (Most Reverend, my Lord Bishop, even as called today Master Prophet and Chief Apostle etc.)
e. Do not be called Rabbi. Do not call anyone on earth your father ( source) do not be called teachers: Jesus warned His listeners and us against giving anyone inappropriate honor. One may have a father or teachers in a normal human sense but should not regard them in a sense that gives them excessive spiritual honor or authority.
1). All titles and honors which exalt men and give occasion for pride are here forbidden.
· Jesus was called Rabbi: Matthew 26:25 and 26:49; John 1:38 and 3:26.
· Paul called himself a father: 1 Corinthians 4:15, Philippians 2:22.
· Paul called other Christians his children: Galatians 4:19.
· Paul called himself a teacher and an apostle, but you don’t see a title in front of his name in the Bible. 1 Timothy 2:7, 2 Timothy 1:11.
2). That which he forbids is,
1. An affectation of such title and hunting after them, 2. the exercise of an absolute mastership, or a paternal, absolute power.
3. (11-12) The way of Jesus: service and humility.
a. Whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted: This promise is absolutely true, but sometimes is only known in the measure of eternity.
B. The eight woes to the religious leaders.
These woes stand in contrast to the eight beatitudes of Matthew 5:3-11. Jesus spoke harshly here, yet this was not the language of personal irritation but of divine warning and condemnation. Such series of woes are familiar from the Old Testament prophets (e.g. Isaiah 5:8-23; Habakkuk 2:6-19), where the tone is of condemnation, and that is the emphasis here too.
1. (13) Woe to those who shut up the kingdom.
a. Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! Literally, the word hypocrites refers to an actor, someone playing a part. Jesus exposed the corruption covered by the spiritual image of the scribes and Pharisees.
b. You shut up the kingdom of heaven against men: The religious leaders kept people from the kingdom of heaven by making human traditions and human religious rules more important than God’s Word. This was clearly seen in the way that they opposed and rejected Jesus; if they had opened the kingdom of heaven to men, they would have welcomed and received Jesus as the Messiah and Son of God.
c. You neither go in yourselves, nor do you allow those who are entering to go in: It is bad for someone not to enter into heaven themselves, but it is far worse to prevent another person from entering in (Matthew 18:6).
2. (14) The religious leaders steal from the vulnerable.
3. Even if it does not belong in Matthew 23, it is certainly present in the Mark 12 and Luke 20 passages.
a. You devour widows’ houses: Using clever and dishonest dealing, the scribes and Pharisees stole widows’ houses – careful to cover it up in the name of good business or stewardship.
b. For a pretense make long prayers: Their long, falsely spiritual prayers were used to build a spiritual image, often for the sake of big donations.
c. Therefore you will receive greater condemnation: The greatness of their sin demanded a greater condemnation than others will endure. Under this concept we can say that no one will have it good in Hell, but we can trust that some will have it worse than others will.
4. (15) The religious leaders led their converts on the wrong path.
a. You travel land and sea to win one proselyte: Their zeal in evangelism did not prove they were right with God. These religious leaders went to great lengths to win others, but they brought people to darkness, not light.
b. Through their great energy they could win some, but to no lasting good to those who were won.
5. (16-22) The religious leaders made false and deceptive oaths.
a. Whoever swears by the temple, it is nothing: Out of obedience to God’s Word they refused to swear by the name of God (as commanded in Exodus 20:7). Yet they constructed an elaborate system of oaths, some of which were binding and some were not. It was a way of making a promise while keeping fingers crossed behind one’s back.
b. For which is greater, the gift or the altar that sanctifies the gift? Here Jesus emphasized that the altar itself is greater than the sacrifice made upon it. The altar is the established meeting place between God and man, and our altar is Jesus Himself and His finished work on the cross.
1). It is worthy to think of the greatness of the Old Testament altar: But, the Finished Work declares the altar now in your heart.
c. He who swears by the temple, swears by it and by Him who dwells in it: Jesus reminded them that every oath is binding and God holds the oath-maker to account, even if they excuse themselves.
5. (23-24) The religious leaders are obsessed with trivialities, and ignoring the weighty matters.
a. You pay tithe of mint and anise and cummin: Their tithing was meticulous and noteworthy; but hypocritical because it served to sooth the guilt of their neglect of the weightier matters of the law. It is both possible and common to be distracted with relatively trivial matters while a lost world perishes.
1).The weightier matters do not refer to the more difficult or harder but to the more central, most decisive.
b. Blind guides, who strain out a gnat and swallow a camel: Jesus illustrated their folly with a humorous picture of a man so committed to a kosher diet that he would not swallow a gnat because it was not bled properly in accord with kosher regulations. Yet the same man would swallow a whole camel instead. (camels are hooved animals, unclean according to Levitical law)
6. (25-26) The religious leaders are impure both inside and out.
a. You cleanse the outside of the cup: The scribes and Pharisees were satisfied with a superficial cleansing and the appearance of righteousness.
b. Inside they are full of extortion and self-indulgence: While greatly concerned with their outward appearance of righteousness, they were unconcerned with an inside full of sin and corruption.
c. First cleanse the inside of the cup and dish, that the outside of them may be clean also: Jesus did not call them to choose between outer righteousness and inner righteousness. He called them to be concerned with both, but to first address the inside. True outward righteousness starts on the inside.
7. (27-28) The religious leaders have the appearance of good, but without spiritual life in the inner man.
a. You are like whitewashed tombs: It was the custom of the Jews of that time to whitewash the tombs in the city of Jerusalem before Passover so that no one would touch one accidentally, thus making themselves ceremonially unclean. Jesus said these religious leaders were like these whitewashed tombs – pretty on the outside, but dead on the inside.
b. You also outwardly appear righteous to men: Men might see them as righteous, but God did not. God is never fooled by what we show on the outside. He sees what we actually are, not what we appear to be to other men.
God looks on the heart. 1 Sam. 16:7
8. (29-36) The religious leaders honor dead prophets but murder the living prophets.
a. You build the tombs of the prophets and adorn the monuments of the righteous: They professed to venerate dead prophets, but they rejected living prophets. In doing so they showed that they really were the children of those who murdered the prophets in the days of old (you are sons of those who murdered the prophets).
b. Fill up, then, the measure of your fathers’ guilt: Jesus prophesied about how these leaders would complete the rejection of the prophets their fathers began by persecuting His disciples, whom He would send to them.
c. Serpents, brood of vipers: This phrase has the idea of family of the devil. These religious leaders took an unmerited pride in their heritage, thinking they were spiritual sons of Abraham. Instead, they were more like sons of the devil, not of Abraham.
Paul admonished us: Eph.
d. From the blood of righteous Abel to the blood of Zechariah, son of Berechiah: Jesus here spoke of all the righteous martyrs of the Old Testament. Abel was clearly the first, and in the way that the Hebrew Bible was arranged, Zechariah was the last. 2 Chronicles is the last book of the Hebrew Bible, and Zechariah’s story is found in 2 Chronicles 24.
HOW TO RECOGNIZE PHARASAICAL SPIRITS
Pharisaical Spirit: “The letter kills, but the spirit gives life” (2Co 3:6) who also has made us able ministers of the new covenant; not of the letter, but of the spirit; for the letter kills, but the Spirit makes alive.
1. The Pharisees were a self-righteous group.
There are still those today who measure themselves by others, rather than by the Word of God. They seem to think if they are just a little better than someone else, then they are right with God. They may be right with God, but it is not because they are more righteous than someone else, but rather because they know the Truth and are obeying the commands of the Father. The Pharisees elevated themselves above all others; they were a self-righteous group.
2. The Pharisees were desirous of doing their religious acts to be seen of men. (Matthew 23:5). (Matthew 6:2). The Pharisees wanted someone to pat them on the back and pronounce them righteous. They wanted the praise of men. There are a lot of showmen in the religious area where I live., those who love the praise of men. Jesus said the Pharisees, “said and did not do.” Hear Him in Matthew 23:3, “all things therefore whatsoever they bid you, these do and observe; but do not ye after their works; for they say and do.
3. The Pharisees had made the commandments of God of none effect by their traditions. The Pharisees had placed their own ideas over and above the revealed truth of God’s Word. Their traditions had made void the word of God.
Mark 7:13 making the word of God of no effect through your tradition which you have handed down. And many such things you do.
4. Another error of the Pharisees was that they drew near to the Lord with their mouth, but their hearts were far from Him. (Matthew 15:7-9).
5. The Pharisees loved the titles and the chief seats in the Synagogues.
6. Lastly, the Pharisees rejected the counsel of God, “But the Pharisees and the lawyers rejected for themselves the counsel of God, being not baptized of him” (Luke7:30).
Counteracting the Pharisaical spirit
1. Put on His righteousness.
2. True and pure hearts of humility.
3. Grace, mercy, forgiveness, yielding to the Holy Spirit, not traditions or law. See Gal. 1:13-14
4. True worshippers in Spirit and in Truth.
5. Take the last place; be a servant.
6. Take up the full counsel of God (walk in love).
We release the apostolic and prophetic anointing/utterance, discerning of spirits, and the spirit of John the Baptist to prepare the way of the Lord. We release revival, the move of God, a visitation of God and the Spirit of Truth. We are His habitation and out of that comes signs, wonders and miracles.
Explanations for Matt 23: 37-39 next week.
We will continue with Les.7 next week.
The blessings of the Lord are upon you whether by blood, adoption/sonship or assignment. The blessing of the LORD makes a person rich, and he adds no sorrow with it. Prov. 10:22
David & Mary Sue