Sunday, June 15, 2008

Matthew 23:13-15


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. 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.

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.

Here Jesus directs a series of seven woes against the Scribes and Pharisees. Each one begins with "Woe to you!" The word connotes anger and sorrow. The word hypocrite occurs here several times. In the Greek, the word 'hupokrites' had to do with a dialogue on stage, which described an actor. Later, the word had a negative connotation which meant a pretender, one who acts a part, one who wears a mask to cover his true feelings, one who puts on an external show while inwardly his thoughts and feelings are very different. 

To Jesus the Scribes and Pharisees were men who were acting a part. Their whole idea of religion consisted in outward observances, the wearing of elaborate phylacteries and tassels, the meticulous observance of the rules and regulations of the Law. But in their hearts there was bitterness and envy and pride and arrogance. To Jesus these Scribes and Pharisees were men who, under a mask of elaborate godliness, concealed hearts in which the most godless feelings and emotions held sway. 

There is even an earlier understanding of 'hupokrites' and that is to be hyper-critical. This is precisely what these religious leaders were all about. When people tried to find entry into the Kingdom, the Pharisees presented them with these hypercritical rules and regulations, which was as good as shutting the door in their faces. 

Jesus accused these Pharisees of being missionaries of evil. The sin of the Pharisees was that they were not really seeking to lead men to God, they were seeking to lead them to Pharisaism. This is the same as being more concerned about getting people into church rather than being into a personal relationship with God.

The greatest of all heresies is the sinful conviction that any Church or people has a monopoly of God or of his truth, or that any Church is the only gateway to God's Kingdom. We must come to grips with the fact that Christianity doesn't own Jesus! Jesus is God's Messiah to the entire world-to every culture and to every people group.

Matthew 23:1-12


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.

The Pharisees did three things that were a constant distortion of following the Christ:

FIRST--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.

SECOND--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.

THIRD--They elevated one above another! They lifted up the "holy" ones who performed this externalism best. They graded totally on the curve.

Do you see any of these things going on today?

Jesus' classic statement, "Whoever exalts himself shall be humbled; and whoever humbles himself shall be exalted." Is forever true. Humble yourself and be exalted by God Himself or exalt yourself and be humbled by God Himself!

Matthew 22:41-46


41 Now while the Pharisees were gathered together, Jesus asked them a question: 42 ``What do you think about the Christ, whose son is He?'' They said to Him, ``The son of David.'' 43 He said to them, ``Then how does David in the Spirit call Him `Lord,' saying, 44 `THE LORD SAID TO MY LORD, ``SIT AT MY RIGHT HAND, UNTIL I PUT YOUR ENEMIES BENEATH YOUR FEET'''? 45 ``If David then calls Him `Lord,' how is He his son?'' 46 No one was able to answer Him a word, nor did anyone dare from that day on to ask Him another question.

We have seen again and again that Jesus refused to allow his followers to proclaim him as the Messiah until he had taught them what Messiahship meant. Their ideas of Messiahship needed the most radical change.

The most common title of the Messiah was Son of David. Behind it was the expectation that one day a great prince would come of the line of David, who would shatter Israel's enemies and lead the people to the conquest of all nations.

The Messiah was most commonly thought of in nationalistic, political, military terms of power and glory. Here is another attempt by Jesus to alter that conception. 

He asked the Pharisees whose son they understood the Messiah to be: they answered, as he knew they would, "David's son." Jesus then quotes Psalm 10:1: "The Lord says to my Lord; Sit at my right hand."

All accepted that as a Messianic text. In it the first Lord is God; the second Lord is the Messiah. David calls the Messiah Lord. But, if the Messiah is David's son, how could David call his own son Lord? 

The clear result of the argument is that it is not adequate to call the Messiah Son of David. He is not David's son; he is David's Lord. When Jesus healed the blind men, they called him Son of David (Matt 20:30). When he entered Jerusalem the crowds hailed him as Son of David (Matt 21:9). Jesus is here saying, "It is not enough to call the Messiah Son of David. It is not enough to think of him as a Prince of David's line and an earthly conqueror. You must go beyond that, for the Messiah is David's Lord." 

What did Jesus mean? He can have meant only one thing--that the true description of him is Son of God. Son of David is not an adequate title; only Son of God will do. And, if that be so, Messiahship is not to be thought of in terms of Davidic conquest, but in terms of divine and sacrificial love. Here, then, Jesus makes his greatest claim. In him there came, not the earthly conqueror who would repeat the military triumphs of David, but the Son of God who would demonstrate the love of God upon his Cross-His sacrificial love for the entire world.

Matthew 22:23-40


23 On that day some Sadducees (who say there is no resurrection) came to Jesus and questioned Him, 24 asking, ``Teacher, Moses said, `IF A MAN DIES HAVING NO CHILDREN, HIS BROTHER AS NEXT OF KIN SHALL MARRY HIS WIFE, AND RAISE UP CHILDREN FOR HIS BROTHER.' 25 ``Now there were seven brothers with us; and the first married and died, and having no children left his wife to his brother; 26 so also the second, and the third, down to the seventh. 27 ``Last of all, the woman died. 28 ``In the resurrection, therefore, whose wife of the seven will she be? For they all had married her.'' 

29 But Jesus answered and said to them, ``You are mistaken, not understanding the Scriptures nor the power of God. 30 ``For in the resurrection they neither marry nor are given in marriage, but are like angels in heaven. 31 ``But regarding the resurrection of the dead, have you not read what was spoken to you by God: 32 `I AM THE GOD OF ABRAHAM, AND THE GOD OF ISAAC, AND THE GOD OF JACOB'? He is not the God of the dead but of the living.''

33 When the crowds heard this, they were astonished at His teaching. 

34 But when the Pharisees heard that Jesus had silenced the Sadducees, they gathered themselves together,. 35 One of them, a lawyer, asked Him a question, testing Him, 36 ``Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?'' 37 And He said to him, `` `YOU SHALL LOVE THE LORD YOUR GOD WITH ALL YOUR HEART, AND WITH ALL YOUR SOUL, AND WITH ALL YOUR MIND.' 38 ``This is the great and foremost commandment. 39 ``The second is like it, `YOU SHALL LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF.' 40 ``On these two commandments depend the whole Law and the Prophets.''

NOTE Jesus was very simple and straight-forward as He was attacked by differing factions: 1. You are mistaken. 2. You don't understand the Scriptures. 3. You don't understand the power of God. 4. God is not the God of the dead, but of the living! 5. The bottom-line is to LOVE GOD AND TO LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOU LOVE YOUSELF.

There is nothing complicated about Jesus or His message. He is irresistibly simple, just the opposite of what our nature seems to be-to complicate most everything. This is why Jesus always unites and religion always divides!

Matthew 22:15-22


15 Then the Pharisees went and plotted together how they might trap Him in what He said. 16 And they sent their disciples to Him, along with the Herodians, saying, ``Teacher, we know that You are truthful and teach the way of God in truth, and defer to no one; for You are not partial to any. 17 ``Tell us then, what do You think? Is it lawful to give a poll-tax to Caesar or not?'' 18 But Jesus perceived their malice , and said, ``Why are you testing Me, you hypocrites? 19 ``Show Me the coin used for the poll-tax.'' And they brought Him a denarius . 20 And He said to them, ``Whose likeness and inscription is this?'' 21 They said to Him, ``Caesar's.'' Then He said to them, ``Then render to Caesar the things that are Caesar's; and to God the things that are God's.'' 22 And hearing this, they were amazed, and leaving Him, they went away.

There is nothing like a stroll into the Jewish Quarter of the Old City of Jerusalem to be able to picture this encounter! The competition among the rabbis in much the same way as we all experience the constant comparison between theological positions. Jesus refuses to be caught up into the fray. He uses what I call a CS approach to the question-COMMON SENSE. Jesus goes right to the heart of the issue and blows away their pretence and all of their traps and theological positions by pointing out the down-to-earth, obvious. Jesus refuses to step in the crapola they are spreading before Him, but answers the question cleanly and clearly!

NOTE they were amazed! They weren't used to this kind of CS approach. I see it more clearly every day. Jesus is the irresistible One! So, lift Jesus up whenever you can without any religious trappings and you will be amazed at how attractive He really is.