By Colleen Donahue

In the last several studies we have been examining Christ's responses to the trick questions posed by the Scribes and the Pharisees. Their purpose to trick Jesus in his own words had failed (see Matthew 22:46) Now, the Lord turns to the crowds and his disciples and gives them some definite instruction concerning their leaders. It's as applicable today as it was then.


Christ's Warnings For the Jews, Gentiles, and All of Us

Studies continued from Matthew 23: 1-39


Day 1- Read Matthew 23:1-2.
In this first bit of instruction there is a very important principle laid out. There is a difference between the "office of leadership" and the actual leader filling that office. How is the office of leadership established?
Romans 13:1

Day 2- So these Scribes and Pharisees were filling a special office of leadership once held by Moses. They were good at setting up rules and regulations for everyone to follow but did they themselves set a good example?
Matthew 23:3

Despite the fact that the Jewish leaders didn't practice what they preached, Jesus still encouraged the people to obey them. Why would He do that?
Romans 13:2

A Little History

While the Jewish people were a conquered people and had no advantages politically, they did feel that they had one advantage. They possessed the Law -- the very word of God. At the time of Ezra and Nehemiah (around 450 B.C.) they dedicated themselves to being people of the law and the study of it became the greatest of all professions. The men that did this were called Scribes. They worked hard to "interpret" the law and when they had finished, it took over 50 volumes to write out all their regulations. Around 175 B.C. the Pharisees emerged in response to Antiochus Epiphanes of Syria who tried to stamp out Jewish culture and replace it with Greek culture. These Pharisees (or separated ones) dedicated their whole life to observe all the rules and regulations that the Scribes had worked out. It was a full time job to keep all these rules and regulations. They had a deep desire to preserve the Jewish religion and culture but also became very dedicated legalists.

Day 3 - While there were some God-fearing Pharisees, most of them just wanted to control things and be seen by men. If they taught the basic teaching of the Law: love for God and respect for all men that was eternally valid. But what was the truth at the time Jesus lived?
Matthew 23:4

They had created a religion (of their own making) that had become an intolerable burden to the common man. They offered no hope of relief. What was the terrible truth about the "holy lives" displayed by the Scribes and Pharisees?
Mark 7:6 / Titus 1:16

Day 4- If you are caught in a web of rules and regulations that you can't possibly keep, then step back and consider again Christ's simple response to the question "which is the greatest commandment?"
Matthew 22: 37-40

If ever "religion" gets complicated, it's not God's doing but man's. Jesus wanted it to be easy for us by remembering that if we put love for God first, then it will naturally follow that we'll respect our fellow men. If we do those two things then everything else in the law is probably taken care of!

Consider Your Priorities

Day 5- Is God first in your life? Do you go to church so that your community will trust you as a businessman and use your store or service? While these Jewish leaders may have started their life's journey in devotion to God, they had shifted their priorities. What things did these leaders love?
Matthew 23: 5-7

Day 6- Phylacteries were little leather boxes tied to the wrist and forehead. They contained four little scrolls with four different scriptures. (Exodus 13:1-10 / Exodus 13: 11-16/ Deuteronomy 6: 4-9 and Deuteronomy 11: 13-21). Tassels were attached on the four corners of a garment to help them remember God's commandments. These were meant to be "little helps" to the people but these Pharisees had made them "bigger and better". They had their phylacteries made extra wide and their tassels extra long. Now we might not wear tassels and phylacteries but maybe we're fond of making sure everyone knows we always go to the prayer meeting or that the church supper happens because we're always cooking it. What choice are you making when you do this?
Matthew 6: 1-6

Day 7- These Jewish leaders also loved the titles that befit a man in a prominent place. It was another way to be seen by men. Anyone hearing the name Rabbi , Teacher, or Father was sure to look up and notice to whom it was addressed. But what advice does Jesus clearly give as to titles?
Matthew 23: 8-10

Day 8- What deeper point is he trying to make?
Proverbs 22: 2 / Romans 10:12 / Galatians 3:28

All men and women are made in God's image and therefore worthy of respect.

Day 9- In the midst of these rebukes to the Scribes and Pharisees Jesus gives us a crucial piece of advice.
Matthew 23: 11-12

He had given it before.
Matthew 18:4 / Matthew 20:26

Day 10- It was then, and is now, opposite to what this world teaches.
Mark 10: 43-44

Day 11- Man's pride wants the places of honor and the titles to go with them. But pride is a most insidious and deadly sin and always produces deadly results.
Proverbs 11: 2 / Proverbs 16:18 / Proverbs 29:23 / Malachi 4:1

Day 12- But those that are humble will be treated differently. Who will treat them differently?
Psalm 138:6 / Isaiah 66:2 / James 4:6 / 1 Peter 5:5b

Day 13- These leaders may have thought they were serving God and man but they were far from doing so. They were so "full of themselves" that it was only their own interests being served. Jesus came as a servant of his Father and of men and He shows us what that means.
Matthew 20: 28 / Luke 22:27 / John 13: 4-5 / Philippians 2:7

The Woes of Hypocrisy

We now come to the seven woes of hypocrisy. Woe is a word in Greek that included both wrath and sorrow. A hypocrite is one who is a pretender, the actor of a part without actually being it.

Day 14 - In this first woe what double sin did Jesus level at the Scribes and Pharisees?
Matthew 23: 13-14

Day 15- How did these men keep people from the King of Heaven? For this answer reread:
Matthew 23:4 / (Also recorded in Luke 11:46)

Day 16- The Kingdom of Heaven is a society on earth where God's will is as perfectly done as in Heaven. To be a citizen of the Kingdom of God and to do God's will are one and the same.
Matthew 6:10

Day 17- Instead of showing the Jewish people the love and mercy of God, they heaped on them so many rules and regulations that the common man could not possibly hope to satisfy God by doing His will. In not showing them the love of God, what were they hiding from the people?
Luke 11: 52

Day 18- The Scribes and Pharisees had become a stumbling block for men and women wanting to come to God.
Malachi 2:7-8

Day 19 - At the same time they were extremely zealous in making new converts. Normally we would applaud such missionary endeavors. But in this second woe Jesus condemns their zeal. Why?
Matthew 23:15

Day 20- They were making converts that would be as meticulous as they were in keeping all the rules and regulations that the scribes had worked out. This was instead of leading men into true religion. As you read these next verses, write down what scripture says is true religion.
Deuteronomy 10:12/ Ecclesiastes 12:13 / Hosea 6:6 / Micah 6:8 / Mark 12:33 / James 1:27

Notice how simple true religion is compared to the scribe's fifty volumes of rules!

Day 21- In referring to their converts as "sons of hell" (Matthew 23:15b) Jesus is calling the Scribes and Pharisees by the same name. They were living for God by their own man-made rules, doing it in their own strength, to be seen and praised by men, and then making converts to this life of hypocrisy! What awaits them from God?
Romans 2:8-9

Day 22- In the third woe, Jesus calls the Scribes and Pharisees three names -- all with one similarity. What was the common thread?
Matthew 23: 16-22

Day 23- The issue Jesus brings up here has to do with deception and evasion of an oath. The Scribes and Pharisees had become masters at getting out from under an oath. If they swore by God's name then it was impossible not to keep, but if they swore by something else such as the temple, there might be a way around keeping it! What is at the bottom of all deception?
Proverbs 12:22

And where does all lying and deception have their origin?
John 8:44

Day 24- Since the beginning of time, Satan as the shrewdest of God's creatures, has been deceiving men and women.
Genesis 3: 1-7, 13

And why is it that we are so easily deceived?
Matthew 6: 23 / John 3: 19

Day 25- Jesus was not just exposing an innocent game that the Scribes and Pharisees were playing with words. He was exposing the deepest part of their lives -- their hearts.
Jeremiah 17:9

Day 26- Why is practiced deception of any sort very serious?
Psalm 101:7 / Proverbs 12:22a / Proverbs 19:5,9 / Revelations 21:8

Day 27 - Jesus in calling these leaders BLIND three times is trying to shout to get an important point across.
Matthew 5: 33-37

God hears every word we speak and we will be accountable for them.
Matthew 12:36

Day 28- Once again their sin - this time of deception and evasion - was affecting other innocent men and women that they were teaching. What did Jesus know would be true as a result of their teaching?
Matthew 15:14 / John 11:10

Day 29- The fourth woe is an issue of misguided priorities.
Matthew 23: 23-24

Today we might ask why would someone even think about giving a tenth of their garden grown spices to God? We must remember that these men were masters at legalism. They had probably read....
Leviticus 27:30

....and then worked that principle right down to their spices!

While it wasn't necessarily wrong to tithe these spices, what were they neglecting that was far more important?
Matthew 23: 23b

Day 30 - What did God think of tithing and sacrifices such as these Pharisees were offering?
Isaiah 1:13 / Hosea 6:6

While the Pharisees were busy with all the trifles of the law they had forgotten what was truly important.

Day 31- This same attitude is seen today as well. Someone might study their Bible, pray everyday, go to church several times each week, and take the sacraments --- but never do a thing for others, express anger, and be stingy with their money. I believe this is also the very things that the Apostle Paul tries to address in:
I Corinthians 13: 1-3

Day 32- It is so easy to work at all the outward duties of religion and yet be completely irreligious. God is at the back of all true religion and God is love. The Scribes and Pharisees that Christ was addressing had heaped up heavy loads upon men and women and made no attempt to help them. From these verses what is true about those who love and those who don't.
1 John 4:7-8, 11-12, 16-21

Day 33- Finally Jesus sums up this fourth woe with a saying that we still use today. It is an exaggeration so that we get the point.
Matthew 23:24

Both gnats and camels were impure. Here we have a picture of men carefully straining their wine for gnats while cheerfully swallowing a camel! It's an absurdity of course, but you understand how unbalanced these men had become and how we too may fall into that if we aren't careful to put love for God and men first.
Matthew 22: 37-39

Day 34- The fifth woe. Cleanliness was a big part of the Jewish religion. It wasn't so much that something was dirty, but that it had touched something unclean. The Pharisees went to great trouble following wild regulations about cleansing. But, in their blindness, what was separating them from God?
Isaiah 59:2-3

The "outside" appearance was not the problem.
Mark 7:23

Day 35- Over and over throughout scripture, God condemns appearing to be something we are not. It is another form of lying and deception. Christ's analogy here is most appropriate.
Matthew 23:27

Day 36- The sixth woe. Whitewash is a way to hid dirt quickly without taking the time to clean first. What is God always concerned about when He looks at man?
1 Samuel 16:7

Jesus is directly comparing these Jewish leaders to what is inside a tomb -- decaying bones along with everything unclean and rotten. But just in case they had missed the point, what did Jesus say very clearly about them?
Matthew 23:28

Are you worried about your outward appearance to people more than how you appear to God?

Day 37 - The seventh woe. We come now to the Lord's weightiest accusations of them all. In truth however, it was the Scribes and Pharisees that were testifying against themselves.
Matthew 23:29-31

Jesus is confirming that they were indeed descendants of those who murdered the prophets, and they in turn were going to do the same! He even dares them to go ahead and complete the job their descendants started!
Matthew 23:32-34

Day 38- Jesus predicts how they will treat him in just a few days. From the beginning (Abel) to the end (Zechariah) God's chosen people have been tainted with murder. Their history has been one of rejection and murder of the men God sent. But judgment day is coming and what will be the charge?
Matthew 23:35-36

This accusation must have shocked the Scribes and Pharisees because how did they see themselves?
Proverbs 30:12a

Yet, what was the reality?
Proverbs 30:12b

Day 39- Why did God have judgment for these self righteous Jewish leaders that were proclaiming their innocence?
Jeremiah 2:35

Every time we judge someone else for their behavior what are we proclaiming about ourselves?
Romans 2:1

So while they were judging their forefathers they were incriminating themselves.

Day 40- If we are thinking how glad we are not to be like these Pharisees who murdered the prophets, then consider this ----
1 John 3:15

How we treat others is the gauge for how we treat Christ.
Matthew 25:40,45 / 1 Corinthians 8:12

Day 41- If we deliberately continue to treat others wrongly, then we too are rejecting what Christ did on the cross to reconcile us to His Father.
Hebrews 10: 26,29-31

When Jesus died, He forgave us our sins once and for all.
Hebrews 10:17-18

If we are bent on continuing in sin, there is no longer any sacrifice that will cover that sin.

A Lover's Appeal

Day 42- Christ's tone now changes to that of a lover. His heart aches for God's chosen people.
Matthew 23:37

Notice the patience of God in Matthew 23:37 -- "how often". Over the years what had God done to draw his people to Himself?
Jeremiah 35:15

Day 43 -What prevented God from loving his chosen people as he yearned to? Read these two verses again and this time notice the last phrase in each.
Jeremiah 35:15 / Matthew 23:37

The Lord Jesus will never force an entry into your life. But, what will he persistently do?
Revelations 3:20

The Consequences of Rejecting Jesus Christ

Day 44 - Jesus closes this conversation with the Jewish leaders with a prediction.
Matthew 23: 38-39

It was all so unnecessary but in just forty more years -- 70 A.D.--Rome would descend and Jerusalem would be a heap of ruins. Had the Jews accepted God's way of love instead of power politics, history would have been vastly different.

Day 45- If you, like these Jewish leaders, are insisting on your own way (even if it's a religious way) then you too must consider this question ---
Hebrews 2:3


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