JESUS DENOUNCES THE SCRIBES AND PHARISEES

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[Matthew:23:1-39]

Lesson No.: 
222
Class: 
Senior
Memory Verse: 

"One is your Master, even Christ; and all ye are brethren" (Matthew 23:8).

Cross References: 

I  Pharisaical Religion

  1. The Pharisees proclaimed the Law of Moses, but they did not practice what they preached, Matthew 23:1‑4; 21:28, 30; Luke 6:46; Titus 1.16.
  2. The works of the Pharisees were done to be seen of men, Matthew 23:5‑7; 6:2, 5, 16; John 5:44.

II  One Master

  1. Christ is the only Master in the Kingdom of Heaven, Matthew 23:8, 10.
  2. No man is to be considered the church father, for God is our Father in Heaven, Matthew 23:9; I Corinthians 8:6; Ephesians 4:6; Hebrews 12:9.
  3. The man who would be great in the Kingdom of Heaven must necessarily be the servant of all, Matthew 23:11, 12; 5:19; Luke 1:52.

III  Condemnation of the Hypocrite

  1. Pretence will bring the greater punishment to the guilty, Matthew 23:13‑15; Mark 12:38‑40; Acts 8:18‑23.
  2. False teaching was decried by the Lord Jesus, Matthew 23:16‑22; 15:9; I Timothy 6:3‑5; Titus 1:10, 11; II Peter 2:1.
  3. Judgment, mercy, and faith have their important place in God's divine economy for His church, Matthew 23:23; Deuteronomy 10:12; Hosea 6:6; Micah 6:8; Mark 12:33.
  4. True religion must be consistent with the Word of God, Matthew 23:24‑28; Romans 2:1; James 3:10; I John 2:4.
  5. Self‑righteousness is an indication of inward corruption which will be brought to light in due time, Matthew 23:29‑36; Luke 11:39; II Corinthians 10:12; Proverbs 30:12.

IV  The Last Call

  1. Jesus showed His love and concern for the hardhearted inhabitants of Jerusalem, Matthew 23:37.
  2. Jesus departed from the wicked, but promised to return for the people who would welcome Him as Master, Matthew 23:38, 39; Luke 12:40; 21:27; John 14:3; Acts 1:11.
Notes: 

Jesus' mission to this earth was the opening of the door to the Kingdom of Heaven. His message from the beginning of His ministry to the end of His life upon earth was the declaration of God's gift to the world and the price that had to be paid on Calvary for sin. "He came unto his own, and his own received him not. But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name" (John 1: 11, 12). The scribes and Pharisees were among those who would not receive the Son of God.

Insufflciency of Pretence

Jesus repeatedly warned these groups of religious people that their codes and traditions would not earn for them an entrance into Heaven. The scribes and Pharisees had power among the people, and were respected by them. They ruled with rigor the religious affairs of Jerusalem. Jesus knew, however, that it would take more then the praise of man and a pretense of holiness to win for them the approbation of the Heavenly Father. These religious. Leaders seemed to think that they could deceive the infinite God, who knows the hearts of men, as they deceived finite man. But the Word declares, "Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap" (Galatians 6:7).  Jesus still loved the souls of these people, and the reason that He spoke so strongly and so often against their sins was that they might see the error of their way and come to the knowledge of the truth.

Another reason four Jesus' wholehearted denunciation of the scribes and Pharisees was that others might see their error and avoid fading into the same mistake. Jesus said to the people, "I say unto you, That except your righteousness shall exceed the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, ye shall in no case Enter into the kingdom of heaven" (Matthew 5.20).  Knowing the power and influence that the scribes and Pharisees commanded, Jesus brought to light the grievous shortcomings of their doctrine to show clearly that theirs was not the true way into the Kingdom of Heaven.  The Son of Goad knew that He would have to suffer death at the hands of the Jews, but He was fearless to declare the truth whatever the cost. The Gospel of Christ would be proclaimed more effectively today if His disciples had more of the courage of their master.  Paul tells us. "Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus:  who . . . humbled himself, and became obedient unto death" (Philippians 2:5‑8).

No Faith

It was not that these people were ignorant of the right way, for Jesus told the multitude and His disciples that the scribes and Pharisees sat in Moses' seat. In other words, they were the people who studied the Law of Moses and proclaimed it to the religious gatherings. It would have been well with these people if they had really believed and put into practice the things they taught. “Had ye believed Moses, ye would have believed me: for he wrote of me.  But if ye believe not his writings, how shall ye believe my words?" (John 5:46, 47). The real trouble lay in the fact that these people did not believe the whole Word of God with all their hearts, nor did they put into daily practice the code of living that they professed. They expected other people to live up to the exacting standards of the Law, while they substituted traditions and ideals, thereby thinking to evade the weightier matters of the Law. Jesus said, "These ought ye to have done, and not to leave the other undone."

The man most inexcusable in the sight of God is the man who condemns sin in the life of others but is tolerant of sin in his own life.  "Thinkest thou this, O man, that judgest them which do such things, and doest the same, that thou shalt escape the judgment of God?" (Romans 2.3).  The first fault that Jesus found with the scribes and Pharisees in this discourse with His disciples, then, was that they told others what to do but did not do it themselves.  There is much of this Pharisaical religion in the world yet today. 

A True Concept

The second wrong that Jesus brought to light was the fact that the works of the scribes and Pharisees were done to be seen of men. A true concept of the Gospel is to do all things unto God. "Whatsoever ye do do it heartily, as to the Lord, and not unto men; knowing that of the I Lord ye shall receive the reward of the inheritance: for ye serve the Lord Christ" (Colossians 3:23, 24). The scribes and Pharisees loved the raise of men and cared little for the praise of God. The end they sought was opposite from what it should have been. Had they been careful to gain God's approval upon their lives, they would not have needed the approvalof men. The span of life on earth is very short. Its proper use is to glorify God and proclaim His love to the children of men, thereby winning converts for the Kingdom of Heaven.

The sin of Pride

The root of this reigning sin in the lives of the scribes and Pharisees, was pride. They loved the uppermost rooms at feasts, and the chief seatsin the synagogues, they loved the greetings in the markets, and the titles bestowed by men. There was no sin in having the chief seat or in having important titles, but the sin was in the love for such things, the coveting after them, and the pride in them once they were attained. The scribes and Pharisees found to their sorrow that the Word of God is true. "The day of the LORD of hosts shall be upon every one that is proud and lofty, and upon every one that is lifted up, and he shall be brought low" (Isaiah 2:12). Pride, which was the motivating factor in the lives of these self‑righteous people resulted in physical destruction and eternal separation from God. Pride is just as deadly in our day as it was when Jesus lived upon earth. It can be seen in the lives of men on every hand, and it can be seen at times in the church. When a man goes to church to make a show of him­self, his testimony, or his position, the displeasure of God is sure to fall upon him.

There are some, like the Pharisees, who cherish high titles; but Jesus revealed the misuse of certain authoritative titles. God is our Father and Christ is our Master. Jesus did not imply that honour, love, and respect should be withheld from those who are placed over us in the Gospel, but He did intend that men should remember that God is the author and the sustainer of our salvation. The only part that man has in salvation is to believe, receive, and to proclaim to others its infinite merits. The disciples of Christ are servants, and he who would be great among the disciples must be chief among those who serve. The great ministers in the Gospel today are those who serve the most. He who serves from his heart has dealt a stunning blow to pride.

Declarations Against Hypocrisy

Eight woes were levelled against the scribes and Pharisees in this chapter because they would not walk in the light that Jesus brought to the world and because they were hypocrites. This was not the first time that Jesus had spoken out against this sin, but here He was most emphatic because these people had not heeded His earlier warnings. Neither God the Father, nor the Son, speaks to men in tones of denunciation the first time He speaks. They speak in love and in mercy -- "Come now, and let us reason together."

Jesus had reasoned with these people many times, but now the Lord was taking His farewell and He wanted them to be sure about their standing in the sight of God. The Truth will set all men free, if they hearken to it. When the Truth is proclaimed in its fullness and simplicity, men will have to give an account to God as to the disposition they make of that Truth. In one last effort, one might say, Jesus wielded the sword of Truth in the hope that it might expose the sin in the lives of these self‑styled religious people and bring about a reformation in their lives. Christ's ministers often feel much the same burden about the people who come under their ministry, and they cry out against sin with all the energy at their command.  Some people take exception to this type of ministry, but the proclamation of the Truth is necessary if men are to be liberated from sin.

Deflected Blessings

Jesus came to earth to bless the hearts of men; but if He finds it necessary to pronounce a woe upon a soul, there is a just cause. If the great Intercessor takes His stand against a soul, who or what can plead that soul's cause?  Jesus told these people that through their hypocrisy and false leadership they were shutting up the Kingdom of Heaven against men -- a very serious charge. They were the sworn enemies of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, which is the only entrance into the Kingdom.

The active opposition of others is not all that keeps men out of the Kingdom of Heaven. Hypocrisy is a great stumbling block. People are watching those who profess to be Christians, and if they see a hypocrite, some lose faith. They place all religionists in the same category, and believe that because some have failed to measure their lives to the standard of the Word of God, it is not possible to do so. Thus the hypocrite is closing the Kingdom of Heaven to those who are watching his life.

In contrast, we see the light of the Gospel that shines from the one who is living a life wholly given to God. The jag and gladness that radiates from the true Christian is proof enough that the way into the Kingdom of Heaven is open to the  "whosoever will."

The Lord's Farewell

Jesus knew that His words were falling upon the unheeding ears ofthe scribes and Pharisees. Soon the Son of God would be nailed to thecross, but He wanted the people of Jerusalem to know that to the last He carried a burden for their welfare. He would have gathered the hardenedhearts of the Jewish people even in this last hour, but they would not listen to His last call. God's mercy is long‑suffering, but if it is continually spurned it will at last be withdrawn. Jesus told the people that they had not recognised the time of their visitation; therefore their house was left unto them desolate. The Temple wherein they had displayed their pride and had made a show of their own traditions, the Temple that had been made a house of merchandise and a den of thieves, was deserted.

When the Son of God withdrew His presence from the Temple and the city of Jerusalem, the glory of God was withdrawn with Him. In a very few years both the city and Temple would lie in ruins. These people brought this misery upon their own heads because they rejected Jesus, the Saviour. Rejection of the Son of God today will bring judgment to the individual heart and life. However, one ray of hope shone out from the gathering darkness. Jesus promised to return for the people who would be waiting for Him and welcome Him. Some few men, even of Jerusalem, had received the Lord Jesus. The Master would not leave them without consolation -- He would come back for them. This is the lively hope of the true Church today, and has been the hope of the Christians through the ages. Jesus is coming! How wonderful the hope!

Questions: 
  1. Name one of Christ's chief objections to the religion of the scribes and Pharisees.
  2. What gain did the scribes and Pharisees have in mind when they per formed their religious works?
  3. What must the attitude of the heart be, in order to do works that are acceptable unto God?
  4. How may a man become great in the Kingdom of Heaven, according to Jesus' directions?
  5. Name the first result of the hypocrisy of the scribes and Pharisees
  6. How often in this chapter did Jesus cry out against hypocrisy?
  7. How does God look upon hypocrisy today?
  8. What result did the hardness of the hearts of the Jewish people bring upon that nation?
  9. What great hope did Jesus leave with His disciples?  Does that hopemean anything to the world today?