About Jesus Steve Sweetman
This Section - Chapter 23
Woes (ch. 23:1 - 39)
in the last few days of Jesus’ earthly life before He is executed.
You might think the things He says now would be the things that a
dying person would say, and they would be important.
What Jesus says here in verse 1 is said to both the crowd and His
2 tells us that the “teachers of the Law and the Pharisees sit in the
sear of Moses”. This
is just another way of saying that the Jewish leadership sit in the same
place as Moses did when he was alive.
They sit in a place of teaching the Law to the people so they can
obey the Law of God.
verse 3 Jesus tells the people that they “must” do as the Pharisees
teach, but they’re not to do as they do, because they don’t practice
what they preach. The Jewish
leaders were hypocrites as Jesus has often called them, so people aren’t
to follow their example. But
when the Pharisees teach what is written in the Law accurately, then the
crowd should obey. They should
obey, not because of the Pharisees who teach the Law, but they should obey
for the Law’s sake.
thing we should note here is that these are still Old Testament days in
which these words of Jesus are being spoken.
Once Jesus dies and is raised back to life, New Testament days
begin and the Law of Moses takes on a whole new meaning to the Jews.
But until then, they are required to obey the Law and Jesus is
required to uphold the Law. If
He didn’t uphold the Law He would be disobeying it and therefore could
not fulfill it, as He was meant to do.
The idea that Jesus fulfilled the Law is important because His
fulfillment partly effected the change in the meaning of the Law to the
verse 4 Jesus says that the Pharisees “tie up heavy loads and put them
on men’s shoulders”, all along not lifting a finger to help carry this
load. This means that the Jewish leadership loaded men down with laws,
both Laws of God and laws from men. There
were so many rules and law to obey that one could not possibly obey them
all. The Pharisees expected
the ordinary people to obey them, but they didn’t attempt to obey the
laws themselves. The cross of Christ would set us free from all these
verse 5 we see that everything the Pharisees do is to be seen by men and
make them important in the sight of all who see them.
Their whole lives are merely a big display of show.
They are shallow, self serving and arrogant.
the word phylacteries. These were very little scrolls containing Scripture
verses that dangled in a leather pouch from the upper left arm or between
the eyes on a man’s forehead. This
was in direct fulfillment of one of the 613 Laws of Moses.
(Ex. 13:9, 16)
says that the Pharisees make these phylacteries wide and the tassels on
their garments long. Things
like this were simply done to draw attention to themselves.
This kind of self seeking attention grabbing was not acceptable to
Jesus. But we can’t sit back
and judge the Pharisees alone on these things.
Modern Christian ministers do the same thing when they dance around
an enlarged platforms and scream out all sorts of things to be heard.
The things we do that draw attention to ourselves and not to Jesus
will all be burned in the fire of judgment.
verse 6 we see that Jesus says that the Pharisees always take the best and
most visible seats. Once
again, this is all for show. They love to be seen in the market place and
have men call them rabbi. Today,
many pastors like being called pastor, as in “pastor Bob”.
This is not necessary and is self seeking in many cases.
8 needs some understanding. Jesus
says that His followers should not seek to be called “rabbi” as the
Pharisees do. The word
“rabbi” means “master”, and in some cases means “my master”.
So what Jesus is saying here is that Christians should not be
called master. The reason for
this is that there is only one Master and He is God.
Beyond that Jesus says that we are all brothers.
We are not masters over one another.
This is important in modern day church life because throughout
history dictatorial and authoritarianism in church can be seen.
This is not right. Church
leaders are servants, not masters.
verse 9 Jesus continues in this vein.
He tells His followers not to call anyone on earth father because
they only have one Father and that is their God in heaven.
The natural question that arises is, “is it wrong to call your
earthly father because of what Jesus says here”?
This is my thinking at the moment here.
I don’t think Jesus is saying that we should not call our
biological father. If you take
the word “father” in a similar contextual sense as the word
“master” or “rabbi” in the last verse, then the word “father”
should be understood as some elevated man in a high place of special
authority. We are not to
elevate ourselves to such a place, and we’re not to elevate others to
such a place either. Our
biological father isn’t in that elevated place so it is okay for us to
call him father. But what
might not be okay is to call a pastor or a minister father as in the
verse 10 Jesus says don’t call anyone teacher, or don’t be called
teacher. The word
“teacher” must be seen in the same contextual sense of the word.
The Bible does speak of earthy teachers, so it is a legitimate
ministry in the church. The
simple point here is not to get carried away with boastful pride and
demand that people acknowledge you as some great teacher, and we’re not
to acknowledge others as some great teacher.
There’s only one great teacher and that’s Jesus.
we should understand the words “rabbi, father, and teacher” is clearly
stated in verses 11 and 12. Here
Jesus says that we are to be servants.
We should view ourselves in a humble state of being, that of a
servant. The kingdom principle
that Jesus sets forth is that we should humble ourselves now in this
present life, and if we do that, He will exalt us in the next life.
Yet if we do not humble ourselves now, we will not be exalted in
the next life.
me, this suggests that there other different levels of existence in the
next life. There are many
passages that suggest people receiving varied rewards for what they have
done and how they have done it in this life.
verse 13 Jesus says “woe to you teachers of the Law and Pharisees, you
hypocrites” . I don’t
think we can really understand the feelings that Jesus exhibits here.
Jesus detested hypocrisy more than anything else, and He certainly
was not afraid to say it. By
this time, and it’s almost at the end of His ministry, Jesus was furious
with the Jewish leadership and they were furious with Him.
see the “righteous anger” of God at work in Jesus in what He says.
Jesus does not like hypocrisy
in any way shape or form. You
see this anger against church hypocrisy in the book of Revelation.
says that the Jewish leaders shut the doors to the
Jewish leaders, in the name of the
clearly states that these Jewish leaders will never enter God’s Kingdom,
and I might add, this includes the present day
will notice in the NIV that there is no verse 14 as there is in the KJV.
This is due to certain discrepancies in the original text.
Some manuscripts have verse
14 and some don’t.
verse 15 Jesus speaks to the teachers of the Law and the Pharisees again.
He’s not giving up His rant against them.
Once again Jesus calls these people hypocrites because they travel
land and sea just to make one disciple and when they make one they make
him twice a son of hell than they are.
that Jesus says that the Pharisees are sons of hell, or as He says in John
8, sons of the devil. The
Jewish leadership that were to be representing their God, the God of
Abraham are in fact representing the devil, the enemy of God.
Then those who follow these demonic leaders become even more
verse 16 Jesus calls the Jewish leaders “blind guides”.
They are to be guiding God’s people in
accordance with God’s word, but they are blind.
They don’t have any clue how and where God wants them to lead His
people. They’re so far
removed from the real things of God that they are walking in total
verses 16 to 23 Jesus points out the fallacy of the Jewish leadership
concerning oaths. They say for
example, one who swears by the altar doesn’t have to keep his oath, but
those who swear by the gift on the altar does have to keep his oath. Jesus
says elsewhere and here than all this is so very silly.
Jesus’ simple thinking is that “let your yes be yes and you no
be no”. If you agree to
something, don’t change your mind, and don’t swear by anything.
Your word should be your word.
verses 23 to 24 Jesus criticizes the Pharisees for their practice of
tithing. They tithe to the
letter of the Law but they lay aside the more weightier issues of the Law
as Jesus says, which are, mercy, justice, and faithfulness.
This is similar to when Jesus says that the whole Law hangs on
loving God and your neighbour. What
Jesus is saying here is that the foundation of the law of Moses has all to
do with Justice, mercy, and faithfulness, and if you don’t live
according to these things, tithing is worthless.
does not tell them to stop tithing. He
does tell them to live righteously as well as tithe.
Jesus’ words should not be misunderstood here.
He is not suggesting that tithing is a New Testament principle or
law to live by. Remember,
Jesus is still living in Old Testament days, and He must obey the Law in
order to fulfill it on our behalf. Therefore
He cannot tell someone to disobey the Law, because that would be an act of
disobedience in itself.
will not get involved in the discussion here, but the whole of the Old
Testament, including the Law of Moses has been redefined in New Testament
terms. Concerning tithing, it
is not something that New Testament Christians are required to do.
Christians are required to be generous with all they have, and in
accordance with their ability to give.
verse 24 Jesus tells the Pharisees that they “strain a gnat and swallow
a camel”. His point here is
that they go to great length in trying to not obey the Law in all its
detail but they go at great length in obeying all of their additional
laws, all along missing the whole point to the Law of God.
Things have not changed since then.
Humans are still the same. Christians
today go to great lengths practicing their version of Christianity, all
along missing the basic point to the love of Jesus.
verse 25 and 26 Jesus speaks to the Law issues concerning cleaning of
cups, pots and pans. The
Pharisees do quite well at following such rules.
We’ve seen them earlier get irritated at the disciples of Jesus
not washing their hands before they eat.
Yet what Jesus is implying here went far beyond the washing of
cups. He speaking of the very
lives of the Pharisees.
telling the Jewish leadership that they clean the outside of cups and
leave the inside dirty, He’s saying that their lives look nice on the
outside but in side they are really dirty.
Their lives are full of greed and self-indulgence.
This is why they’re hypocrites.
They present themselves to be one thing, when in reality they are
just the opposite.
continues on this theme in verses 27 and 28.
He compares the lives of the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law
to tombs full of dead men’s bones. The
tombs, like the lives of the Pharisees look nice and clean from the casual
observer, but inside both the tombs and the lives of the Jewish leaders is
death and decay. Their lives
are rotten to the core.
verses 29 to 32 Jesus speaks of the relationship the Pharisees have with
their forefathers. It was a
well known fact their forefathers killed the godly prophets of old.
But the Pharisees say that if they had lived in that day they would
not have done such bad things. Well,
Jesus knows better. These men
would have done just that and worse. They
came against John the Baptist and they’ll soon kill Jesus.
In this sense, the Pharisees are hypocrites.
Jesus means in verse 31 is that by condemning their forefathers, the
Pharisees are actually condemning themselves.
That is their heritage and they are following in their father’s
footsteps. They’re all
guilty of their father’s sins by association.
32 says, “fill up, then, the measure of the sins of your forefathers”.
What Jesus means here is that He is suggesting to these evil Jewish
leaders to keep following their forefather’s example of sin.
Keep going until you fill up the cup of sin.
Keep going because you’ll soon have the chance to be the ultimate
sinners by killing the One and Only Son of God.
of a cup of water where the water represents sin. The
cup of sin is three quarters full of the forefather’s sin.
Jesus is telling these Pharisees to go ahead and fill the cup all
the way to the top with their sin, and the biggest sin they’ll commit is
killing Jesus. In a round
about way, Jesus is telling them that His time of execution is now ready.
Basically, He’s signaling them to kill Him.
verse 33 Jesus calls the Pharisees snakes and
vipers. They will not avoid condemnation and their place in hell,
or the final place of the wicked which is the
of this fate, in verse 34 Jesus says that He will send them prophets,
teachers and wise men. These
men will provide the Jews their last chance to change, but Jesus says that
the Jewish leadership will kill some, flog others, and follow many of
these godly men from town to town until they catch them.
They will do to those whom Jesus sends out the same their fathers
did to the prophets of old. These
words are a direct prophecy to the fate of those who followed Jesus.
is interesting to me that Jesus gives the Jews one last chance at
accepting their Messiah once He leaves the earth.
He does this at Pentecost and the years following up to the
verses 36 and 37 Jesus tells this generation of Jews that they will be
responsible for all of the blood shed that took place in the lives of
righteous men, going back as far as Abel.
These are drastic words. Even
though this generation of Jews did not kill Abel and all of the righteous
men in Old Testament times, they will be held responsible for their
deaths. Why would this be so?
reason why this is so is that they will kill the one who those past
righteous men represented. Beyond this, these Jews represents the
fulfillment of all the evil things the Jewish forefather’s committed.
This is what “filling up your forefather’s sins” as mentioned
earlier is all about. These
sins have been accumulating over the centuries to the point that the cup
is almost full, and the cup will indeed fill up with the death of Jesus.
about this cup analogy again. The
cup was three quarters full of their forefather’s sin.
The present Jewish leadership that Jesus is speaking to fill the
cup to the brim with their own sin, and because their sin is mixed in the
cup with all the previous sins, and because they fill the cup up, they are
the ones held responsible for the sin in the cup.
37 to 39 are important. We’ve
seen how very upset Jesus is with
continues by pointing out the fact that the Jews have killed all the godly
men of old, but even with this Jesus has tried to gather
verse 38 Jesus says, “look, your house is left to you desolate”.
The word “look” tells us that Jesus is pointing to the Jewish
nation, either literally or figuratively.
He wants the Jewish leadership to understand that their great house
has become like an old broken down and decayed barn, having no more use
left in it for anyone. These
words were also prophetic of the desolation that would come to the Jewish
nation in the destruction of
in verse 39 closes this section by telling the Jews that they will not see
Him again until they say, “blessed is He that comes in the name of the
Lord”, which is in reference to the return of Jesus at the end of this
age. At that point many within
Judaism will return to their true Messiah.
says here that He wanted to gather God's people as if He were a hen
gathering her chicks. God's people have been scattered over the centuries
To a degree they are all in one place at the time Jesus spoke these words,
but still they are not free. God, throughout the centuries tried to
gather His people, but they refused to be gathered. He finally will
gather them at the end of this age when remnant of