"Woe Upon Woe" Matthew 23: 13-36

* There is silence on recording from 1.30 to 4.37

This Week’s Core Belief: Authority of the Bible I believe the Bible is the Word of God and has the right to command my belief and action.

2 Timothy 3:16-1716 All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, 17 that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.

Text: Matthew 23:13-36

13 “But woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you shut the kingdom of heaven in people’s faces. For you neither enter yourselves nor allow those who would enter to go in. 15 Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you travel across 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. 

16 “Woe to you, blind guides, who say, ‘If anyone swears by the temple, it is nothing, but if anyone 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 anyone swears by the altar, it is nothing, but if anyone 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 whoever swears by the altar swears by it and by everything on it. 21 And whoever swears by the temple swears by it and by him who dwells in it. 22 And whoever swears by heaven swears by the throne of God and by him who sits upon it. 

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 faithfulness. These you ought to have done, without neglecting the others. 24 You blind guides, straining out a gnat and swallowing a camel! 

25 “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you clean the outside of the cup and the plate, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence. 26 You blind Pharisee! First clean the inside of the cup and the plate, that the outside also may be clean. 

27 “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs, which outwardly appear beautiful, but within are full of dead people’s bones and all uncleanness. 28 So you also outwardly appear righteous to others, but within you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness. 

29 “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you build the tombs of the prophets and decorate 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 flog in your synagogues and persecute from town to town, 35 so that on you may come all the righteous blood shed on earth, from the blood of righteous 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 these things will come upon this generation. 

The Message of this Passage: 

From the Ligonier Ministry: “The Greek word from which hypocrisy comes refers to the play-acting involved in the theater. A good actor was a hypocrite, but in time, the word came to describe people who are guilty of intentional forms of deception. More specifically, then, a hypocrite is someone who publicly and indignantly denounces certain sins, while secretly he does them himself. A hypocrite pretends either to be more righteous or less sinful than he really is.

In this sense, we do indeed see a lot of hypocrisy in the church. The problem of this kind of hypocrisy has been aggravated in recent years by the scandals that have emerged around a few (not all) television preachers. The world is only too ready to remind us of this.

The Christian church is the only institution in the world that declares itself to be a group of people who are sinners. We announce this to the world by our baptism “for the remission of sins.” Since we own up to our sins, including the sin of hypocrisy, it would seem that we would not be attacked for them.

Once we are in the church, however, we realize that we are called to stop sinning and conform to the law of God. We are not supposed to scandalize the church by wicked behavior. Because God’s standards are so high and holy, though, believers do fall short of them.

In the face of our failure, we can do one of two things. We can take God’s law and try to bring it down to our standards. That is the case all too often today. We live in an unprecedented age of easy-believism, where obedience is not a priority. The goal now is for God to make me rich and happy, not for me to serve Him by giving my life to Him. This is one form of hypocrisy, since we are operating and communicating deceitfully about who God is and what He has called us to do.

The other form of hypocrisy is to pretend to live at a higher level of obedience than we actually do. There is so much pressure to achieve a certain level of godliness that if we haven’t achieved it, we may pretend that we have. Either form of hypocrisy is a sin that believers must guard against.”

Questions to consider:

  • Does today’s lesson strike close to home? Are there things you advise other Christians to do that you yourself don’t do? 

  • Beyond mild hypocrisy, is there some behavior in your life that you are covering up with a veneer of holiness? 

  • Why does Jesus pronounce woes upon the scribes and Pharisees? Why does He call them hypocrites? How did they shut off the kingdom of heaven from people? 

  • Why does Jesus contrast their tithing of spices with their neglect of justice, mercy and faithfulness? 

  • What is the true measure of the character of a person? In what ways do false teachers contaminate others? 

  • Why does Jesus say the scribes and Pharisees were guilty as their fathers in murdering the prophets? Why does Jesus call them a “brood of vipers”? 

  • Why is the Word of God our authority? What happens when it is not? 

  • How and why do beliefs create our actions and show our devotion? 

  • Jesus calls us to measure ourselves, that is, to look at ourselves. What is Jesus challenging you to see in yourself?