Jesus Rebukes the Pharisees

I. A chapter of woes
A. Although Jesus was kind and compassionate to everyone who was honest and
sought the truth, He was universally critical of the Pharisees. No other
group so opposed Him, and no other group drew His ire like they did.
B. In Matthew 23, Jesus issues a series of woes upon the Pharisees and scribes
for their improper attitudes and actions. It is a blistering rebuke that
shows us truth sometimes requires saying harsh things.
C. We must examine these passages as well as ourselves to be sure we are not
guilty of the same things.

II. Hypocrisy (v. 2-4)
A. This is the classic "Do as I say, not as I do" problem. The Pharisees knew the
law, and much of what they spoke was good. They sat in Moses' seat,
meaning they taught the law (v. 2). However, they did not live it.
B. It is a hypocritical, heartless teacher who will teach harsh restrictions and not
try to live them (v. 4).
C. Rom 2:17-24. It is this hypocrisy that causes others to blaspheme the name of
God. Preachers in the movies are almost always dirty hypocrites.
D. Understanding God's will comes with a difficult but vital obligation: living it.

III. Working to be seen by men (v. 5-12)
A. All the works here described (v. 5-7) are attempts to make others acknowledge
their righteousness. Phylacteries were tiny boxes containing bits of
Scripture and garment borders were used to count the number of prayers
recited. It is easy to see how such outward signs could be abused to gain
glory.
B. Especially titles like "Rabbi," "Teacher"(v. 10), and "Father"(v. 9) could be
abused to show superiority of these teachers to others. "Reverend" or
"Doctor" are similarly used today.
C. Matt 6:1-4, 5-7, 16-18. Jesus wants us to do our good works so God sees, not
men. Sure, others may see, but this is not our motivation. We would do it
anyway.

IV. Keeping seekers out of the kingdom (v. 13, 15)
A. Not only were the Pharisees not entering the kingdom, but they prevented
others who were attempting to do so. The phrase "shut up" means to close or lock. Their teaching kept others from reaching God.
B. Their doctrines were based on their own traditions and self-righteous
hypocrisy, so that when people were converted (v. 15), it didn't do them
any good!
C. Jesus' statement is one of the most damaging a religious person could hear:
your life and teaching lead others to hell rather than God.
D. More than that, it reveals that the Pharisees' zeal was for their own cause-not
for God's (John 16:2-3, Rom 10:1-3).

V. Taking advantage of the helpless (v. 14)
A. It is unclear exactly how the Pharisees would "devour widows' houses," but
the image is clear. Their piety masked evil, corrupt deeds.
B. Specifically, they lacked the love that God commands His people to have
toward the helpless, seeing them only as a means of gain (James 1:27,
Titus 1:10-11).

VI. Legalistic hairsplitting and reasoning (v. 16-22)
A. The Pharisees judged the same act right or wrong based on the words spoken
along with it (v. 16). Some say the oath situation in the first century
reached the point that one's word could not be trusted without the proper
oath attached.
B. Jesus says very clearly that such distinctions are foolish and misplaced. He
expects His people to not need oaths to ensure their word is sure (Matt
5:33-37, James 5:12).

VII. Missing the point (v. 23-24)
A. Jesus criticizes the Pharisees for paying attention to tithing law above justice,
mercy, and faith, which He calls the "weightier matters"(v. 23).
B. He makes it clear that God did not want them to ignore tithing law ("without
leaving the others undone", v. 23). Rather, He wanted them to understand
that tithing was less important than understanding God's nature and living
like Him!
C. Micah 6:6-8. Is God as pleased with exact fulfillment of the law as He is with
us being like Him? Can we read a passage like this and think God only
wants rote obedience to a certain set of commands?
D. Yet the Pharisees demonstrated time and again that they didn't understand
God's nature. When they did so, Jesus rebuked them with this very
passage from Micah (Matt 9:11-13, 12:1-8).
E. When the Pharisees so misunderstood God's nature, it was as if they were
straining a gnat out of their drink while swallowing a camel! (v. 24)

VIII. Inner corruption (v. 25-28)
A. How often we think outward appearances are the most important thing! Jesus
tells us that if we cleanse our inward man, our outward man will follow
suit (v. 26).
B. The reason is our outward deeds spring from our inward man (Matt 15:10-20,
Matt 12:33-35). Inner corruption, though unnoticed, is far more dangerous.

IV. Rejecting God's word and messengers (v. 29-36)
A. Because they misunderstood God's nature and were consumed with their own
righteousness, the Pharisees rejected God's Son. They fell in line with their
ancestors, who persecuted and killed God's prophets (v. 31-32).
B. Acts 7:51-53. How can we escape if we reject God?___Jacob Hudgins