Monday, July 23, 2007



Matthew 23:1-12

In the 23rd chapter of Matthew Jesus zeroes in on the pompous leadership of the Pharisees. I want to move through this chapter to get a feel for what displeased Jesus most about the religious of His day. These attitudes and actions pose the greatest threat to living out the Kingdom lifestyle of Jesus.

In this first section Jesus sort of introduces who He is going to discuss: The scribes and the Pharisees. 1 Then Jesus spoke to the crowds and to His disciples, 2 saying: "The scribes and the Pharisees have seated themselves in the chair of Moses; 3 therefore all that they tell you, do and observe, but do not do according to their deeds; for they say things and do not do them. 4 They tie up heavy burdens and lay them on men's shoulders, but they themselves are unwilling, to move them with so much as a finger. 5 But they do all their deeds to be noticed by men; for they broaden their phylacteries and lengthen the tassels of their garments. 6 They love the place of honor at banquets and the chief seats in the synagogues, 7 and respectful greetings in the market places, and being called Rabbi by men.

8 But do not be called Rabbi; for One is your Teacher, and you are all brothers. 9 Do not call anyone on earth your father; for One is your Father, He who is in heaven. 10 Do not be called leaders; for One is your Leader, that is, Christ. 11 But the greatest among you shall be your servant. 12 Whoever exalts himself shall be humbled; and whoever humbles himself shall be exalted.

Remember that Jesus grew up in the Pharisaical culture of Judaism. He knew it well and is here beginning to point out the distortions.

NOTE He says to do what these teachers say, but do not practice what they do. The Pharisees did three things that were a constant distortion of following the Christ.

1-They made religion a burden upon everyone! Their whole outlook on religion had one fundamental effect. It made it a thing of thousands upon thousands of rules and regulations; and therefore it made it an intolerable burden.

2-They made religion into a show! The religion of the Pharisees became almost inevitably a religion of ostentation. If religion consists in obeying countless rules and regulations, it becomes easy for a man to see to it that everyone is aware how well he fulfills the regulations and how perfect is his piety. Jesus selects certain actions and customs in which the Pharisees showed their ostentation.

3-They elevated one above another! They lifted up the "holy" ones who performed this externalism best. They graded totally on the curve. They loved the position and title of Rabbi.

However in the Kingdom Jesus makes it clear not to call anyone Rabbi or Teacher or leader. This is a tough word for those of us who have worked and trained to become the "leader" or the "teacher"-to serve in a position in the church.

Some take this to an extreme and glory in leaderless movements. God has never moved among His people without leadership. Here's the difference as I see it.

FIRST-A leader God raises up is usually an ordinary, uneducated person. He picks out a Gideon, the small boy with a lunch bag, the poor, young virgin to serve as the mother of the Messiah, the common stone-cutter to serve as the Messiah's earthly father, ordinary fishermen to launch a global movement, or the speaking donkey. And, in the weakness and brokenness of these chosen ones God does amazing things.

SECOND-A leader God raises up is equipped by God Himself to lead, no matter his giftedness.

THIRD-A leader God raises up doesn't think in terms of exalting himself, but views himself as a servant of God who is called by God to serve all who God brings his way.

FOURTH-A leader God raises up is a learner from all who are in fellowship together. He knows the Lord is in the process of teaching him lots through the others who are walking together.

FIFTH-A leader God raises up goes into gatherings with others expecting Jesus to show up and minister in a meaningful way among those gathered.

SIXTH-A leader God raises up is not all wound up with his own vision and mission, but waits and listens for Jesus to lead out with His opportunities and orders.

SEVENTH-A leader God raises up hangs on to the bottom-line theme of Jesus about humility and exaltation. Jesus' classic statement, "Whoever exalts himself will be humbled; and whoever humbles himself will be exalted." is in the context of His teaching on leadership.

So, humble yourself and be exalted by God Himself or exalt yourself and be humbled by God Himself! YOU CHOOSE!