READ | SERMON NOTES
Summary l Today’s passage centres on Jesus addressing the crowd and His disciples regarding the spiritual leaders of His time- the Scribes and Pharisees – and His judgement on them, and their imposture of faith.
Scholars agree that Pharisees emerged as teachers of the law within Judaism and their greatest concern for temple worship was purity. The Pharisees claimed to have special knowledge outside the written Torah, originating from Moses. And with this claim they began to identify religious rules and by laws that were the only way to achieve purity as someone who worshipped God in his temple. The commentaries stated that there were as many as 613 laws on top of the 10 commandments.
The Scribes and Pharisees were spiritual leaders. This is acknowledged by Jesus as in v2 ,3 “sit on Moses seat”. However, in the same verse, Jesus commented that “… they do not practice what they teach.” This is the essential meaning of hypocrisy and also the main theme of this passage – Jesus’ judgement for their faith posture. Then, with great emotion, Jesus spelt the seven woes on them: Hypocrites, Blind, Child of Hell, Brood of Vipers, Snakes. Jesus also compared their spiritual posture to cups and whitewashed tombs.
Though they knew all the laws, the Scribes and Pharisees did not act by what they believe nor do they behave like spiritual leaders. They were described as lovers of money and stood among those who crucified Jesus and were concerned only for themselves, not for God’s people and they did not tend to God’s sheep. At the end of the chapter, Jesus lamented in v37 ‘Jerusalem, Jerusalem…” Because at the end of the day, the shepherds were absent, and the city of God’s people turned away from God, they did not experience the glory of God, they did not know God, as well as the love and grace through the spiritual leader that did not share God’s heart but gathered them to themselves.
Here are the 3Bs of the Pharisees imposture of faith to teach us our own posture in faith and in worship:
1. Blocking the way to God’s kingdom (Matt 23: 13-14)
The hypocrisy of the Pharisees is that while they were spiritual leaders, they did not seek God but were concerned with the fulfilment of the requirement of God to alleviate themselves. All the knowledge of the scriptures and God’s laws became spiritual gantries blocking people away from God. Perhaps this became their spiritual goal in competing for righteousness so that few could reach. Righteousness that is based on our ability to do better than another is not correct. Righteousness is about serving and journeying with one another without the need to put on a show, being vulnerable and being authentic in our discipleship. The veil has been broken – we can access God through our Lord Jesus Christ.
2. Blinded of their spiritual condition (Matt 23: 23-24)
Jesus emphasized how blinded they were when it comes to differentiating between what was more important- being religious versus being true worshippers. Jesus did not criticize the religious leaders on their extensive teaching but on their focusing on small matters and abandoning the key matter of the faith. Our discipleship journey is always about us reflecting the character of our Lord Jesus Christ, to love what God loves, to hate what God hates.
3. Bound to being religious rather than to God’s kingdom (Matt 23: 27-32)
Living out our faith to impress others is a worldly response and thus binds us to the world instead of to God. This behaviour does not result in an inside-out transformation.
In the season of Lent, let us consider our own life in relation to how the Scribes and Pharisees behaved.
- Are we merely following a set of rules with no transformation of our heart and faith?
- Is there an opportunity for greater surrender before Christ our king?
We are going to stand before God, that searches our hearts, nothing will be hidden before Him. We are people that declared that God is the only one to clean the inside of our hearts and hands. Only God can bring life to someone dead in the tombstone that is the power of the gospel of Christ.
(Semon notes by Caesiapeah Lim)
PONDER | REFLECTION QUESTIONS
Let’s recall, reflect, consider and commit.
- Recall when was the last time you meet with a hypocritical person.
- If the person is a fellow Christian, how did it affect you in your faith and walk with God?
- Reflect on Matthew 23:29-39. How did Jesus respond to these teachers of the law and Pharisees?
- What can we learn from Jesus’ responses?
- Consider our own life in reflection to these teachers of the law and Pharisees.
- Are we merely following a set of rules with no transformation of our heart and faith? And are we doing the same with others?
- Commit to the Lord an area of your spiritual life that you are still struggling in. Is it something that you found yourself trying to get around or promise that you made with the Lord?
- Is there an opportunity for greater surrenderence before Christ our King?
Take some time to pray and seek Him for the next step in your discipleship with the posture of your faith before God and man.