Jesus Criticizes the Religious Leaders
1 Then Jesus said to the crowds and to his disciples, 2 “The teachers of religious law and the Pharisees are the official interpreters of the law of Moses.[a] 3 So practice and obey whatever they tell you, but don’t follow their example. For they don’t practice what they teach. 4 They crush people with unbearable religious demands and never lift a finger to ease the burden. 5 “Everything they do is for show. On their arms they wear extra wide prayer boxes with Scripture verses inside, and they wear robes with extra long tassels.[b] 6 And they love to sit at the head table at banquets and in the seats of honor in the synagogues. 7 They love to receive respectful greetings as they walk in the marketplaces, and to be called ‘Rabbi.’[c]
Jesus, I have children watching every thing I do…and I can still be a hypocrite! Lord, make my life real. I don’t want to do things for show anymore. I want to be like You and speak like You, but only because it is what is really inside me, not for show or because others are watching. Make Your life real in my life Lord. I’ve been faking way too many things way too long. Change me Lord. Change my heart.
8 “Don’t let anyone call you ‘Rabbi,’ for you have only one teacher, and all of you are equal as brothers and sisters.[d] 9 And don’t address anyone here on earth as ‘Father,’ for only God in heaven is your spiritual Father. 10 And don’t let anyone call you ‘Teacher,’ for you have only one teacher, the Messiah. 11 The greatest among you must be a servant. 12 But those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.
Lord, so many great lessons trapped into such a short paragraph. So many prayers for change. So much work for You in my life. Jesus, I know that You are teaching me to be a better servant. It seems like You remind me of it every day. I am slow to learn, but please do not give up on me. Keep teaching me Lord.
And humility…You have humbled me. Thank-you Jesus for the trials and failings in my life. I know You are using them to humble me. I’ve fallen so many times I sometimes feel so awful and useless. No more looking down on other’s sins or even their small bad habits. Thank-you, and do not stop the lessons, for I know I have so much more to learn.
13 “What sorrow awaits you teachers of religious law and you Pharisees. Hypocrites! For you shut the door of the Kingdom of Heaven in people’s faces. You won’t go in yourselves, and you don’t let others enter either.[e]
15 “What sorrow awaits you teachers of religious law and you Pharisees. Hypocrites! For you cross land and sea to make one convert, and then you turn that person into twice the child of hell[f] you yourselves are!
Lord Jesus, protect me from this fate. Not that I am a teacher, but I know I can be a hypocrite. But far worse than being a hypocrite, is that someone else may suffer because of my foolishness. Jesus, thank-you for my sins and my struggles. Keep them always before my eyes so I will stay humble and never keep another from feeling too unworthy to come to you. Please Lord, hold me close for I can so easily be so foolish.
16 “Blind guides! What sorrow awaits you! For you say that it means nothing to swear ‘by God’s Temple,’ but that it is binding to swear ‘by the gold in the Temple.’ 17 Blind fools! Which is more important—the gold or the Temple that makes the gold sacred? 18 And you say that to swear ‘by the altar’ is not binding, but to swear ‘by the gifts on the altar’ is binding. 19 How blind! For which is more important—the gift on the altar or the altar that makes the gift sacred? 20 When you swear ‘by the altar,’ you are swearing by it and by everything on it. 21 And when you swear ‘by the Temple,’ you are swearing by it and by God, who lives in it. 22 And when you swear ‘by heaven,’ you are swearing by the throne of God and by God, who sits on the throne.
Jesus, help me to know what is really important, what is really holy. In the rush of my life it is so easy to obey the rule, and sin against the ruler. When dealing with my children I so quickly can get angry over the most unimportant things. Help me Lord. Change my heart so I live by Your Holy Spirit. Change me so I live in Your love. Help me to see as You see, and hear as You hear, and understand as You understand, and love and You love. Change me Lord.
23 “What sorrow awaits you teachers of religious law and you Pharisees. Hypocrites! For you are careful to tithe even the tiniest income from your herb gardens,[g] but you ignore the more important aspects of the law—justice, mercy, and faith. You should tithe, yes, but do not neglect the more important things. 24 Blind guides! You strain your water so you won’t accidentally swallow a gnat, but you swallow a camel![h]
Jesus, it is so easy to focus on the “rules” of life, and not see the truly important things. Open my eyes with my family, my friends, and my co-workers. Help me to live a life a faith, love and mercy, without neglecting things like tithing. Open my heart Lord. Change me.
25 “What sorrow awaits you teachers of religious law and you Pharisees. Hypocrites! For you are so careful to clean the outside of the cup and the dish, but inside you are filthy—full of greed and self-indulgence! 26 You blind Pharisee! First wash the inside of the cup and the dish,[i] and then the outside will become clean, too.
Jesus, You know my thoughts and my ways. You know I can be very wicked and lustful. Change me Jesus, on the inside. Clean me on the inside. Truly change my heart and soul. Help me to hate sin and love You. To hate my self-centeredness and love service. Change my heart.
27 “What sorrow awaits you teachers of religious law and you Pharisees. Hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs—beautiful on the outside but filled on the inside with dead people’s bones and all sorts of impurity. 28 Outwardly you look like righteous people, but inwardly your hearts are filled with hypocrisy and lawlessness.
Father, Your son Jesus describes me so perfectly. I still have my secret sins. My moments no one knows about…or so I think. Father, when will it go away? When will all the falling and sinning stop? Nothing I do or try works. My efforts seem so useless. I know if I loved You as I should, this wouldn’t be a problem. I am so weak. People think I’m admirable, but You know I am not. Change me Father, quickly.
29 “What sorrow awaits you teachers of religious law and you Pharisees. Hypocrites! For you build tombs for the prophets your ancestors killed, and you decorate the monuments of the godly people your ancestors destroyed. 30 Then you say, ‘If we had lived in the days of our ancestors, we would never have joined them in killing the prophets.’
31 “But in saying that, you testify against yourselves that you are indeed the descendants of those who murdered the prophets. 32 Go ahead and finish what your ancestors started. 33 Snakes! Sons of vipers! How will you escape the judgment of hell?
34 “Therefore, I am sending you prophets and wise men and teachers of religious law. But you will kill some by crucifixion, and you will flog others with whips in your synagogues, chasing them from city to city. 35 As a result, you will be held responsible for the murder of all godly people of all time—from the murder of righteous Abel to the murder of Zechariah son of Barachiah, whom you killed in the Temple between the sanctuary and the altar. 36 I tell you the truth, this judgment will fall on this very generation.
Jesus Grieves over Jerusalem
37 “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones God’s messengers! How often I have wanted to gather your children together as a hen protects her chicks beneath her wings, but you wouldn’t let me. 38 And now, look, your house is abandoned and desolate.[j] 39 For I tell you this, you will never see me again until you say, ‘Blessings on the one who comes in the name of the Lord!’[k]”
Father, when will I stop rebelling? Jesus, why do I choose to stay away from Your wings of protection? What is wrong with me. Please change me. I am begging. I am hopeless without a miracle. Change me.
- Matthew 23:2 Greek and the Pharisees sit in the seat of Moses.
- Matthew 23:5 Greek They enlarge their phylacteries and lengthen their tassels.
- Matthew 23:7 Rabbi, from Aramaic, means “master” or “teacher.”
- Matthew 23:8 Greek brothers.
- Matthew 23:13 Some manuscripts add verse 14, What sorrow awaits you teachers of religious law and you Pharisees. Hypocrites! You shamelessly cheat widows out of their property and then pretend to be pious by making long prayers in public. Because of this, you will be severely punished. Compare Mark 12:40 and Luke 20:47.
- Matthew 23:15 Greek of Gehenna; also in 23:33.
- Matthew 23:23 Greek tithe the mint, the dill, and the cumin.
- Matthew 23:24 See Lev 11:4, 23, where gnats and camels are both forbidden as food.
- Matthew 23:26 Some manuscripts do not include and the dish.
- Matthew 23:38 Some manuscripts do not include and desolate.
- Matthew 23:39 Ps 118:26.