In unmistakable language, Our Lord told the Pharisee’s that their house or Temple worship was being revoked and destroyed. Their sacrifices were no longer going to be accepted. Not until the Jews say, blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord, or when Christ shows Himself to the Jews, will He redeem them to Himself.
He pronounces on them Seven Woes
1. Shut up the Kingdom
“But woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! because you shut the kingdom of heaven against men; for you neither enter yourselves, nor allow those who would enter to go in. Matt. 23:13
Messiah is saying that the Kingdom is present in Him. This kingdom of heaven was spiritual and not a physical building with rituals. What the Jewish leaders were teaching kept the people from entering into a spiritual house of God. Being blind, they did not see the Kingdom that had come.
FYI: The Dispensationalists say, “the Kingdom is delayed” they teach that because the Jews rejected their Messiah that kingdom won’t come till the return of the Lord. However, that is not what Messiah is saying. The dispensationalists have their expectation ahead of the passage just as the Pharisees did. They envision a political kingdom rather than the spiritual one that the Scriptures present. (See Also: The Kingdom Parables)
2. Converts are Twice Sons of Hell
Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for you traverse sea and land to make a single proselyte, and when he becomes a proselyte, you make him twice as much a child of hell as yourselves. Matt. 23:15
They were so intent on the letter of the Law and strict adherence to the rituals, they were missing the foreshadowing of greater things to come. They were teaching others not to see the plain teaching that a Savior was coming to make all things spiritual. Their end is Hell because of their rejection of the Messiah.
3. Blind Guides
16 “Woe to you, blind guides, who say, ‘If any one swears by the temple, it is nothing; but if any one swears by the gold of the temple, he is bound by his oath.’ 17 You blind fools! For which is greater, the gold or the temple that has made the gold sacred? 18 And you say, ‘If any one swears by the altar, it is nothing; but if any one swears by the gift that is on the altar, he is bound by his oath.’ 19 You blind men! For which is greater, the gift or the altar that makes the gift sacred? 20 So he who swears by the altar, swears by it and by everything on it; 21 and he who swears by the temple, swears by it and by him who dwells in it; 22 and he who swears by heaven, swears by the throne of God and by him who sits upon it. Matt. 23:16-22
There are huge discussions in the Talmud about what is, and what is not a binding oath. The scribes and Pharisees were arguing about what objects were the most sacred in the temple, the more sacred the object, the more binding the oath. Messiah simply states that all oaths are binding because everything in the Temple is of God and His Throne.
Believers have no need to swear an oath of any kind. Since we are now the Temple of the Holy Spirit, our yes should be yes, and our no, no.
But above all, my brethren, do not swear, either by heaven or by earth or with any other oath, but let your yes be yes and your no be no, that you may not fall under condemnation. James 5:12
4. The Tithe of Hypocrisy
23 “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for you tithe mint and dill and cumin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law, justice and mercy and faith; these you ought to have done, without neglecting the others. 24 You blind guides, straining out a gnat and swallowing a camel! Matt. 23:23-24
The Law does not speak of tithing herbs, but the Pharisees had burdened the people with such minute nonsense. While they are making sure that they are getting enough herbs for their food, they were ignoring the simple matters of justice and mercy all around them. They were blind guides to the people. (See Also: Tithing)
5. Greedy and Self-indulgent
25 “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for you cleanse the outside of the cup and of the plate, but inside they are full of extortion and rapacity. 26 You blind Pharisee! first cleanse the inside of the cup and of the plate, that the outside also may be clean. Matt. 23:25-26
The Laws of cleansing are some of the most absurd things one will ever study. Especially when observation of the procedures reveals that nothing is getting clean! The water is often in bowls with little two handled cups, rather than the living or flowing water that the Torah requires, “living water” is water that is moving such as a stream. But, they had made all kind of ways around that admonition.
However, Messiah says that the cups are symbols of their spirituality sitting in the filthy water that never flows away, even though they may look clean they are dirty on the inside.
They had rejected the baptism of John, the baptism of repentance, as well as the Kingdom that John announced.
1 In those days came John the Baptist, preaching in the wilderness of Judea, 2 “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” Matt. 3:1-2
6. Whitewashed Tombs
27 “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for you are like whitewashed tombs, which outwardly appear beautiful, but within they are full of dead men’s bones and all uncleanness. 28 So you also outwardly appear righteous to men, but within you are full of hypocrisy and iniquity. Matt. 23:27-28
The scribes and Pharisees are compared to a tomb that has been whitewashed or painted with lime. Though they look white and shiny on the outside, inside their hearts are death and iniquity.
FYI: The Greek word used for iniquity is anomia, it is the same word that is “Lawlessness” or “Torah breaking” in 2 Thess 2:3-8. It used throughout the New Testament in regard to those who do not keep the law [1Cor. 9:21]. The reason for removing the kingdom from the Jews and giving it to another was their lawlessness.
Everyone who commits sin is guilty of lawlessness; sin is lawlessness. 1 John 3:4
7. Dishonoring the Prophets
29 “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for you build the tombs of the prophets and adorn the monuments of the righteous, 30 saying, ‘If we had lived in the days of our fathers, we would not have taken part with them in shedding the blood of the prophets.’ 31 Thus you witness against yourselves, that you are sons of those who murdered the prophets. 32 Fill up, then, the measure of your fathers. 33 You serpents, you brood of vipers, how are you to escape being sentenced to hell? 34 Therefore I send you prophets and wise men and scribes, some of whom you will kill and crucify, and some you will scourge in your synagogues and persecute from town to town, 35 that upon you may come all the righteous blood shed on earth, from the blood of innocent Abel to the blood of Zechariah the son of Barachiah, whom you murdered between the sanctuary and the altar. 36 Truly, I say to you, all this will come upon this generation. Matt. 23:29-36
There is nothing in Middle Eastern culture that is worse than calling someone a snake. It is the ultimate insult and here they are a whole brood of poisonous ones. They were decorating the tombs of the late prophets and denouncing their own fathers for having killed many of these men. But, as Messiah points out they are their fathers sons and that the apples have not fallen far from those trees. A sentence of hell awaits them.
He tells them that all this judgment has been put off for their generation. It was not to be put off any longer, not for some future generation. It was as they say “time to pay the piper.”
‘We piped to you, and you did not dance; we wailed, and you did not mourn.’ Matt. 11:17
. . . and dash you to the ground, you and your children within you, and they will not leave one stone upon another in you; because you did not know the time of your visitation.” Luke 19:44
All this deceitful behavior is about to end. The Lord has had enough. They have but one last great crime to commit. They will kill the King’s Son.
36 Truly, I say to you, all this will come upon this generation.
37 “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, killing the prophets and stoning those who are sent to you! How often would I have gathered your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you would not! 38 Behold, your house is forsaken and desolate. 39 For I tell you, you will not see me again, until you say, ‘Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.’” Matt. 23:36-39
No one sees Messiah till they see Him for who He is and was and will be. Then we know just how blessed it was that He came.
The end of Jewish predominance was final. Every teaching of Messiah in that last week, spoke to the end of their Kingdom and a new Kingdom that had come, one of Spirit not nationality. A nation from all corners of the world, obedient to the Law of Love and not to the rabbinic rules.
Therefore I tell you, the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a nation producing the fruits of it.” Matt. 21:43
In the next chapter, Messiah will explain just how He is going to destroy the people and the temple.
Next Week we start: The Discourse