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Matthew 5:3-12-Matthew 23:13-33Rather than make our way through each of the woes of Jesus in the 23rd chapter of Matthew, I want to briefly compare the 8 beatitudes and the 8 woes. Both were taught by Jesus-the beatitudes were given as a picture of what a blessed follower of the Kingdom was to look like and the woes are a description of the religious leaders who were living just the opposite of the Kingdom principles.
Beatitude #1 is "Blessed are the poor in spirit" which opens up the Kingdom to the poor. Woe #1 is against the leaders who have shut the poor out of the Kingdom: 13 But woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites, because you shut off the kingdom of heaven from people; for you do not enter in yourselves, nor do you allow those who are entering to go in.
Beatitude #2 is "Blessed are those who mourn" for they will be comforted. Woe #2 is against the leaders who distressed the mourners rather than comforting them: 14 Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites, because you devour widows' houses, and for a pretense you make long prayers; therefore, you will receive greater condemnation.
Beatitude #3 is "Blessed are the meek" for they will inherit the earth. Woe #3 is against the leaders who were not meek, but pompous fanatics who encompass the earth with their show: 15 Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites, because you travel around on sea and land to make one proselyte; and when he becomes one, you make him twice as much a son of hell as yourselves."
Beatitude #4 is "Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness" for complete satisfaction. Woe #4 is against the leaders who make up a false righteousness by trickery: 16 Woe to you, blind guides, who say, `Whoever, swears by the temple, that is nothing; but whoever, swears by the gold of the temple is obligated.' 17 You fools and blind men! Which is more important, the gold or the temple that sanctified the gold? 18 And, `Whoever swears by the altar, that is nothing, but whoever swears by the offering on it, he is obligated.' 19 You blind men, which is more important, the offering, or the altar that sanctifies the offering ? 20 Therefore, whoever swears by the altar, swears both by the altar and by everything on it. 21 And whoever swears by the temple, swears both by the temple and by Him who dwells within it. 22 And whoever swears by heaven, swears both by the throne of God and by Him who sits upon it.
Beatitude #5 is "Blessed are the merciful" for they will receive mercy. Woe #5 is against the leaders for omitting mercy altogether for things of lesser importance: 23 Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you tithe mint and dill and cummin, and have neglected the weightier provisions of the law: justice and mercy and faithfulness; but these are the things you should have done without neglecting the others. 24 You blind guides who strain out a gnat and swallow a camel!
Beatitude #6 is "Blessed are the pure in heart". Woe #6 is against the leaders who were spotless on the outside and without purity on the inside: 25 Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you clean the outside of the cup and of the dish, but inside they are full of robbery and self-indulgence. 26 You blind Pharisee, first clean the inside of the cup and of the dish, so that the outside of it may become clean also.
Beatitude #7 is "Blessed are the peacemakers". Woe #7 is against the leaders who are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness: 27 Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs which on the outside appear beautiful, but inside they are full of dead men's bones and all uncleanness. 28 So you, too, outwardly appear righteous to men, but inwardly you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness.
Beatitude #8 is "Blessed are those who are persecuted for the sake of righteousness". Woe #8 is against the leaders because of their actions of being the persecutors against Kingdom people: 29 Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you build the tombs of the prophets and adorn the monuments of the righteous, 30 and say, `If we had been living in the days of our fathers, we would not have been partners with them in shedding the blood of the prophets.' 31 So you testify against yourselves, that you are sons of those who murdered the prophets. 32 Fill up, then, the measure of the guilt of your fathers. 33 You serpents, you brood of vipers, how will you escape the sentence of hell?
I don't know about you, but the beatitudes, which form the manifesto for the Kingdom of God, seem to be far away from my life so much of the time. And, the woes against the religiosity, pompousness, majoring in the minors and minoring in the majors, looking good on the outside while being empty and dirty on the inside seem a little too close to me and how easy it is for me to fall into that non-Kingdom lifestyle.
This all just hits too close to home. We are the only message of Jesus and the Kingdom most people have today. They will either see and feel this message clearly or they will have a poor caricature of it through us. So, are you a clear light that attracts others or do you stand as a hindrance to the good news message of all time?