Matthew Chapter 23

Jesus Criticizes the “Religious” Leaders

 As this chapter opens the first thing that comes to my mind for the briefest of moments is that I can just see the Pharisees catching a small break when Jesus tells the crowd to “do as the Pharisees say.” But then he drops the hammer back on them, “but do not do as they do.” I can just see their extra wide prayer boxes and robes with extra long tassels getting all twisted up in knots!

Three things stand out to me in this chapter.  The first is the way Jesus called out the hypocrisy of Religion and the false piety of the religious leaders.   They had no trouble adding excessive burdens onto the shoulders of the Jewish believers, but would not lift a finger to ease those burdens.  Jesus said: “For you cross land and sea to make one convert, and then you turn that person into twice the child of hell you yourselves are!” Yikes! One thing that I will never forget was when I gave my heart to Christ.   It felt like the weight of my “religious” background fell off of me like a ton of bricks!

The second thing that stood out is when Jesus described the Pharisees as whitewashed tombs.  Yeah! Give it to them Jesus! But the more I read Jesus’ words the more my soul was pierced.  Immediately I thought of Sunday mornings at church and how we are all on our best behavior, we look good, we smell good, we smile nice and big and say “everything is great” but on the inside for some and for me, it’s entirely different. My heart isn’t right, I’m not right with God, and I’m exactly like the Pharisees that Jesus was talking about. I thank the Lord that I have people around me that are real enough to be Jesus for me in that moment, where I don’t have to pretend or make like everything is perfect.

Finally, I noticed how the people of that day missed whom Jesus was/is. Of all people, these religious leaders were the ones that should have known that Jesus was exactly who he said he was.  They knew the scriptures inside and out, but they chose not to believe in the Messiah.