Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Matthew 23 - False versus True Righteousness

LINK: Matthew 23

BACKGROUND

Tuesday Morning of Holy Week


Uploaded on March 12, 2007 by quemas™
197. Jesus warns against the religious leaders: Matthew 23:1-12, Mark 12:38-40, Luke 20:45-47

198. Jesus condemns the religious leaders: Matthew 23:13-36

Matthew's gospel gives the most thorough account of these events. Jesus goes for the jugular by calling the teachers of the Law and the Pharisees hypocrites. They did everything for show like wearing phylacteries, but they did not practice what they preached.  Phylacteries were little leather boxes containing Scripture that they wore on their forehead and arms in keeping with Deuteronomy 6:8 and Exodus 13:9, 16. Jesus proclaimed that the way to exaltation is via humility. 

A good portion of these two combined events includes the "eight woes" directed at the religious leaders. (The NIV version has seven woes because it leaves out verse 14 which is not included in early manuscripts.)  A good way to look at these "woes" is to contrast them with the eight beatitudes in Matthew 5:1-12. In the beatitudes, Jesus is talking about true righteousness. In the "woes" He is talking about false righteousness. 

Here are the contrasts from The Bible Exposition Commentary by Warren Wiersbe:

1) Entering the kingdom -- shutting up the kingdom (Matthew 23:13, 5:3) 
2) Mourners comforted -- destroyers condemned (23:14; 5:4) 
3) Meek inherit the earth -- proud send souls to hell (23:15; 5:5) 
4) Hungering for holiness -- greedy for gain (23:16-22; 5:6) 
5) Obtaining mercy -- rejecting mercy (23:23-24; 5:7) 
6 & 7) Pure in heart -- defiled in heart (23:25-28; 5:8) 
8) Peacemakers and persecuted are God's children -- persecutors are the devil's children (Matthew 23:29-33; 5:9-12) 
(Volume 1, p. 84-86)  
199. Jesus grieves over Jerusalem again: Matthew 23:37-39

On the heels of the eighth woe, Jesus closes by lamenting over Jerusalem, wanting to gather her up in His arms like a mother bird does her chicks. This city had killed the prophets, and they would soon reject and kill Him. As a result, they would be destroyed, and this came true when the temple and the city was destroyed by invading Roman armies in A.D. 70. Despite this, there is a promise that He will return again (Psalm 118:26; Zechariah 12; Roman 11:25-27). 

REFLECTION

Warren Wiersbe writes:
As we review these tragic woes from the lips of our Lord, we can see why the Pharisees were His enemies. He emphasized the inner man; they were concerned with externals. He taught a spiritual life based on principles, while the Pharisees majored on rules and regulations. Jesus measured spirituality in terms of character, while the Pharisees measured it in terms of religious activities and conformity to external laws. Jesus taught humility and sacrificial service; but the Pharisees were proud and used people to accomplish their own purposes. The holy life of Jesus exposed their artificial piety and shallow religion. Instead of coming out of the darkness, the Pharisees tried to put out the Light; and they failed. 
(The Bible Exposition Commentary, Mt 23:13)
APPLICATION

How do you measure your spiritual life?

Have you become more involved in perfecting the practice of religion than living a holy life?  

Go through the eight contrasts between the woes and beatitudes and evaluate your life before God.

PRAYER

Lord, teach us to be like Jesus. Amen. 
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