The Woes from the King Part 2: Seven Charges - One Verdict | Matthew 23:13-36
Topic: New Testament Passage: Matthew 23:13–23:36
Good Morning! We are in our series on the book of Matthew; the Gospel account of Jesus, the carpenter from Nazareth, as the Christ, the Savior – King of God’s people. This series covering Chapters 21-25 has been titled the Rejection of the King. Jesus triumphantly entered into Jerusalem with crowds cheering with great expectations for radical transformation and restoration in the holy city. However, as Jesus reveals more of his authority opposition to Jesus grows from those currently in power. With his opposition silenced, Jesus turns his attention back to actively teaching his disciples and crows of people gathered to hear him. Sometimes you define who you are by what you are about; but sometimes it is necessary to define what you are against. Last week Jesus focused on training disciples to use discernment with the content of the preaching and character of the preachers they listen to. Disciples are not to let the success and gifting of preachers lead to unwarranted idolatry or submission and they are not to use the failure of preachers as an excuse to discard gospel truth and godly wisdom. Jesus is a preacher, last week was a preamble to the longest sustained righteous denouncement Jesus gives to anyone. This is a full and diverse crowd but now Jesus is specifically targeting the religious Pharisees and scribes (teachers of the law). Seven times Jesus pronounces Woe to these men who are also called hypocrites, blind guides, children of hell, fools, greedy, self-indulgent, lawless, sons of murderers, vipers children who consume their own mothers, and future murders of God’s ambassadors. This section is more lawsuit or legal indictment then a Sunday sermon. Woe is a comprehensive term. It is both a charge and verdict; true evil has been committed and without a change in condition righteous punishment will come; it also includes compassion, sorrow, and regret. It does not delight in destruction or rejoice in condemnation instead it gives an appeal to repent. These chargers are nearly all heart issues and do not seem as overtly serious in our actions only legal system. But the intensity of the language Jesus uses reminds us how seriously God takes sin and cares about our hearts.
Verses 13-15 |Charge #1 and 2 | Jesus-less Kingdom, Jesus-less Mission.
13 “But woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you shut the kingdom of heaven in people's faces. For you neither enter yourselves nor allow those who would enter to go in. 15 Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you travel across sea and land to make a single proselyte, and when he becomes a proselyte, you make him twice as much a child of hell as yourselves.
Since the world has fallen into sin (separating humanity from God and each other) God has given His word, promised salvation from wrath and destruction, and restoration of relationship between God and His people. The embodiment of God and His promises is finally here in Jesus! Religious people and teachers of the law should be more excited about Jesus then anyone!!! Yet, as crowds and disciples are beginning to eagerly follow Jesus, the Pharisees are coming in after and discouraging worship of Jesus. “Hey tone down your affection and excitement for Jesus, he’s not enough to save you. If you trust in him and him alone you won’t experience God’s blessing or kingdom. There is more you need to do!” First Charge: you are keeping people from the kingdom. The kingdom is where there is life, joy, purpose, and you are blocking people from it; that is a crime. Religion should point people to their need for and dependence on God grace. Their teaching becomes a hindrance on the road to the kingdom when it should be a highway. Pharisees are teaching there can be a righteousness, a right-ness with God apart from Jesus. When the gospel becomes something that doesn’t need Jesus, which you can do on your own you’ve missed it.
Romans 10:1-4 Brothers, my heart's desire and prayer to God for them is that they may be saved. 2 For I bear them witness that they have a zeal for God, but not according to knowledge. 3 For, being ignorant of the righteousness of God, and seeking to establish their own, they did not submit to God's righteousness.4 For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes.
Second Charge: Providing False Hope and Full Condemnation. They are on a zealous mission to spread their Jesus-less gospel. For those who think they can get God to owe them for their good works or can become like a god the application of your doctrine, teaching, and mission keeps you out of God’s forever kingdom and shuts the door on those they convert to it. When someone hears this message and sees it dressed up with God’s word, becomes deceived, and buys the lie that godliness is something they can achieve rather than received; they convert to a path that leads only to destruction. The desire and zeal for mission doesn’t matter if it is ultimately the wrong mission. A Jesus-less mission has destructive consequences for the missionary and their converts. It is a tragedy when God’s word is used to draw people to a false sense of security and away from dependence of God. LDS and JW converts are overwhelmingly from Christians who are ignorant of God’s word and are lead away by its distortion. What mission are you on?
What are your greatest hopes for people who don’t know Jesus? Who are hurting or need hope?
Woe to us when we put up barriers to people meeting and following Jesus! Woe to us when we don’t know the truth of gospel and offer people a false hope of self-help. Woe to us when we have no zeal for Jesus’ mission.
Verses 16-22 |Charge #3 | Godless Language
16 “Woe to you, blind guides, who say, ‘If anyone swears by the temple, it is nothing, but if anyone swears by the gold of the temple, he is bound by his oath.’ 17 You blind fools! For which is greater, the gold or the temple that has made the gold sacred? 18 And you say, ‘If anyone swears by the altar, it is nothing, but if anyone swears by the gift that is on the altar, he is bound by his oath.’ 19 You blind men! For which is greater, the gift or the altar that makes the gift sacred? 20 So whoever swears by the altar swears by it and by everything on it. 21 And whoever swears by the temple swears by it and by him who dwells in it. 22 And whoever swears by heaven swears by the throne of God and by him who sits upon it.
Third Charge: Teaching people to lie about God and to each other. Which is greater? Creation or creator? Things you think have value or that God says is valuable? Fundamentally these scribes and Pharisees have decided apart from God what they think is sacred and worthy of pledging allegiance to. They have not only forgotten what is right and of lasting value; but they have forsaken where value, identity, sacredness come from. They come from God. These teachers place a greater value on creation (gold and gifts) then the one who creates. Jesus is charging those who are not concerned with what is actually true; but instead serve what sounds the best when talking to other people even at the expense dishonoring God. Words matter to God. God spoke creation into existence with a word, he speaks to his people He gives us language to communicate what is in our heart, mind, and soul to each other and to God. What we say matters to God. Authenticity matters to God. We are not to call slavery freedom. Jeremiah 6:14 They have healed the wound of my people lightly, saying, ‘Peace, peace, ’when there is no peace. To call what God says is evil and declare it good while deriding what God’s word says is good and virtuous is sin and a rejection of his rule on Heaven’s throne. It does not help or heal anyone it only leads to greater conflict when lies are exposed and promises are broken. There IS truth and there are lies, and we don’t get to define which is which, God does! The scribes and Pharisees were perfectly fine leading people to create “flexible” oaths, truths, or promises which could be shaped to what is convenient or fit their feelings or moods. They engaged in verbal gymnastics to make people say things that sound great but can easily be twisted to their own purposes. Which is greater? Man who measures with a scale that is constantly rebalanced in favor of their moods of the day or the times? Or God, who is the same yesterday today and tomorrow. God witnesses all, he knows all, he sees all in to the very depths of your heart and your baseline motivations at all times. There is no avoiding God. You cannot get off from his judgement on a verbal technicality any more then you can be saved by mere words. We have sold this lie that if you simply feel emotionally stirred for a moment and pray a formulaic pray the rest of your life doesn’t matter to God and you can cash that oath in at the end of your days as a fire insurance policy.
Woe to us when take things made by God and for God and value them more then God. Woe to us when don’t stand for the timeless truths of God’s word and bend “truth” to suit us. Woe to us when we lead people to think God only cares about what we profess with our mouth and doesn’t desire our full devotion and allegiance.
Verses 23-24 |Charge #4 | Misappropriation of Funds
23 “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you tithe mint and dill and cumin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faithfulness. These you ought to have done, without neglecting the others. 24 You blind guides, straining out a gnat and swallowing a camel!
Forth Charge: Tithe Evasion. They are tithing from there spice rack or vegetable garden. This is NOT our issue, we are not hyper-concerned with honoring God, and supporting the local church financially. 4 percent of confessing Christians in the US tithe to a local church; we are gnat sized tithers. (We at Damascus Road as a whole are above “national averages”) The charge is not giving too much but not being comprehensive in our understanding of what God desires our response to be with what he has given us to steward. Every dollar and every day are a gift from God. Micah 6:8 He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God? Jesus is clear, their support of the work of God in the world is not misdirected it is minuscule. From the Sermon on the Mount we know Jesus doesn’t not lower the standards of the law he raises them. We are not to stop contributing in the church and redirect to justice, etc. it is absolutely living lives and stewarding resources to “BOTH/AND”. Gnat is the smallest unclean animal and at camel the largest. They are diligent about the smallest things but are feasting on a dirty animal. Hungry, consuming hoping for life but are filling our inside at the expense of missing the biggest things.
Woe to us when Gospel Community/Mission is something we only consume and not something we contribute to.
Verses 11-12 | Charge #5 and 6 | Greedy Lawlessness
25 “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you clean the outside of the cup and the plate, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence.26 You blind Pharisee! First clean the inside of the cup and the plate, that the outside also may be clean. 27 “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs, which outwardly appear beautiful, but within are full of dead people's bones and all uncleanness. 28 So you also outwardly appear righteous to others, but within you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness.
Fifth and Sixth Charges: Greedy self-indulgence and dead religion. Heart level motives matter. They were complacent with lives which other approved of by others on the outside but were dead and decaying on the inside. When we pursue acting like God has changed us for the acceptance of others or the ease of navigating this world we are robbing God of glory and our desires are only for ourselves. Faithfulness to God in this life and constant comfort is not always compatible. We see trial, suffering, discomfort as things to be avoided at all cost rather than opportunities for growth, character development, and greater reliance on God. So we settle for lives where everything looks good on the outside but when you open it up what comes out is vile. When you find a sealed sippy cup that had milk in it from months ago under a kids bed and open it, it’s worse than opening an old grave. Tombs around Jerusalem were actually white washed weeks before Passover so to travelers wouldn’t accidently go near them and become unclean. Jesus says these teachers are to be avoided not marveled at. The purpose of a whited washing was a warning to avoid contact with death and decay not dressing it up and celebrated. There is a running trail in Stanwood that goes along a beautiful ridge with views of the sound, but in front of it is a huge cemetery. It doesn’t matter how pretty is it is around it, every time I drive by I think of death. No matter how clean or grand you make a tomb is it’s filled with death. The condition of our hearts on our own is dead. We need to be made alive and cleaned from the inside. We all desire a great transformation into our true selves but; we have the wrong order of transformation. We need clean hearts. Clean hearts will not do not lead to filthy lives. Outward transformation will naturally occur when the heart is made clean. (God gave me new desires which transformed my life.) We can scrub and scrub a sealed sippy cup but unless the lids been taken off, the moldy chunks removed, and the inside sanitized; drinking from it will always lead to disease and death. When we are only focused on the outside around others but inwardly and secretly are living for ourselves we really are not honoring God’s law we are actually acting lawless driven by our own fluid desires. Sin at its core is lawlessness believing we are our own authority.
Woe to us when we are satisfied and settle for lives that are easily approved of by other but are not concerned with Gods approval. Woe to us when we believe fixing the outside of lives will clean the inside our hearts.
Verses 11-12 | Charge #7 | Two-Faced Snakes | Final Sentencing
29 “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you build the tombs of the prophets and decorate the monuments of the righteous, 30 saying, ‘If we had lived in the days of our fathers, we would not have taken part with them in shedding the blood of the prophets.’ 31 Thus you witness against yourselves that you are sons of those who murdered the prophets. 32 Fill up, then, the measure of your fathers. 33 You serpents, you brood of vipers, how are you to escape being sentenced to hell?
Seventh Charge: Guilt by association. They like the idea of righteousness but not the application. There is nothing easier and nothing that costs less than saying “I would have done it better or differently those who came before.” To go back and call out the sins of the past as wicked (they are) but to then establish your own righteousness. It’s easy to affirm messages meant for other people and generations, but we run from lighting strikes and thunderbolts that hit too close to our own hearts. We are more than comfortable with calling out slavery, the holocaust, and sit by silently as 3000 children are killed each day out of convenience. Jesus repeatedly calls out blindness to our errors. It is easy to look back and see the fault of previous generations but we are blind to our own wickedness. It is chronological snobbery that says if we were around then we wouldn’t have acted the same way our fore fathers did. It’s an easy way declaring victory of without having to engage with difficult truth and real battles to be faced in the here and now. There is a desire to remove the blood guilt of the sins of our fathers. But rather than embracing Jesus, the promised savior martyred prophets foretold; they are actively plotting his murder. They say they honor rightness more than their fathers but they will perpetrate the greatest act of evil rebellion. Jesus gives the final verdict and the sentence in verse 32-33. Go ahead keep it up and your consequences and destination is sure. Woe to us when we refight the battles of the past and fail to get on the battlefield today.
Verses 11-12 | Righteous Blood Acquits
34 Therefore I send you prophets and wise men and scribes, some of whom you will kill and crucify, and some you will flog in your synagogues and persecute from town to town, 35 so that on you may come all the righteous blood shed on earth, from the blood of righteous Abel to the blood of Zechariah the son of Barachiah, whom you murdered between the sanctuary and the altar. 36 Truly, I say to you, all these things will come upon this generation.
There will be new teachers, prophets, wise men and authors who share and spread gospel truth and they will be met with hostility as they have been with every generation. Abel to Zechariah (A-Z) the rejection of God’s messengers culminates in the rejection of Jesus on the cross. But is not a purposeless suffering Righteous blood cries out for vengeance. God has charges against every one of us. We are all guilty; blood is on all of our hands. Who will you be rescued by? His suffering is what acquits us of all charges. We need Jesus Righteous blood shed on our behalf. His blood covers our guilt. He’s blood cleans the inside of our hearts. 1 Peter 2:24 He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed.
We take communion remembering our guilty verdict was placed on him. He is our substitute. All the woe God has pronounced to us has been placed on him. So we can give tithes generously to our King AND give, strive for, and provide justice, and mercy in our communities. Because Jesus rose we can be a light of faithfulness to our communities and culture. Because Jesus is alive we can go and make disciples of all nations (and all neighbors) knowing as we do we are watching new son and daughters of the king being adopted and saving souls from wrath. Trust Jesus!
More in Rejection of the King | Matthew Part IV
June 14, 2015The Woes from the King Part 3: Forsaken City | Empty Temple - Matthew 23:37 - 24:2
May 31, 2015The Woes from the King Part 1: Unbearable Preachers | Matthew 23:1-12
May 24, 2015Entrapment of the King: Jesus & the Law | Matthew 22:34-46