The Hypocrisy of the Pharisees – Matthew 23

After stumping the Pharisees with His question, Jesus proceeded to call them out on all their wrongdoings. Jesus turns to the crowds and His disciples and listed down everything that was being corrupted due to the hypocritical nature of the pharisees. The people who were supposedly ordained by God to bring people closer to Him were actually driving people far away from Him in the hands of satan.

…you must be careful to do everything they tell you. But do not do what they do, for they do not practice what they preach.

Matthew 23:3

Jesus warned the people saying that even though the pharisees are in the order of Moses and technically know all the commands that the people were supposed to follow, no one should emulate their lives. Rather than helping people obey the laws, they used the laws to burden people with guilt and shame. They themselves desired respect and admiration of the commoners and all their actions are done with the intention of their gratification.

Our Recognition

Wanting recognition for something that God has done is not only dense but also is us not using a God given opportunity to praise His name. If you believe that your getting up in the morning being able to walk or anything else that we undertake is only because of God’s grace on us, then we will not want recognition for anything that we do.

But you are not to be called ‘Rabbi,’ for you have one Teacher, and you are all brothers. And do not call anyone on earth ‘father,’ for you have one Father, and he is in heaven

Matthew 23:8-9

We are very quick to give titles of honor to mere mortals without realizing that it is God who uses these people. Rather than praising anyone else let all our praise be directed to the source of Grace. Jesus did not mince words as the pharisees were taking undue advantage because of the immense respect people gave them. In our lives, are we following the path of God or are we elevating someone who God is using?

Conversion for the Sake of it

You travel over land and sea to win a single convert, and when you have succeeded, you make them twice as much a child of hell as you are.

Matthew 23:15

Missionary work was as prominent as it is today, but there were still many interactions between the Jews and the Gentiles even in the Old Testament that warranted the latter to convert from their old ways. This was usually done by the act of circumcision or immersion in water. The pharisees spent their energies in chasing down a person and convincing them to change their religion without changing their hearts. The pharisees again were interested in outward appearances and gaining followers rather than saving a soul for Christ. Converting someone’s religion does not ensure that their heart is transformed but only an outward ceremony. The pharisees delighted in these outward ceremonies while the soul of the person was rotting away. Perhaps this is why Jesus compares them to whitewashed tombs as they were interested in only optics and not what was inside a person.

You are like whitewashed tombs, which look beautiful on the outside but on the inside are full of the bones of the dead and everything unclean.

Matthew 23:27

Killers of Prophets

God sent countless prophets to warn Israel and its various leaders to turn away from their sins. But they ignored their warnings and to avoid a guilty conscience killed many of God’s men. The blood of those men was on the pharisee’s hands as it was their tribe that was responsible for killing prophets. Jerusalem had turned from being the city of God to the city that killed God’s men.

Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you

Matthew 23:37

You build tombs for the prophets and decorate the graves of the righteous.

Matthew 23:29

Even after being responsible for the deaths of the men of God, Israel still gave them a state funeral and inscribed the tombs with meaningless words and worthless decorations. Again the hypocrisy of the pharisees is blatant as they remembered the fallen men of God even though they did not agree with their message. Are we aware of our hypocrisies or are we turning a blind eye to the warning that God is sending our way?

Discussion Questions

  • What does Jesus mean by Moses’s seat?
  • Is it wrong to want recognition?
  • Should we not be calling anyone on earth as father?
  • How are the Pharisees making new converts child of hell?
  • Can we examine our hypocrisy when it comes to our stand for God?

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