October 23, 2013

Scripture and Commentary, Thursday after the Twenty-first Sunday after Trinity

Morning – Psalm 10, 2 Kings 9:17-28, 2 Tim. 3
Evening – Psalm 16, 17, Ecc. 9, Mt. 23:13-23

Commentary, Matthew 23:13-23

In verse 13 our Lord begins to address the Pharisees again. Not comforting, His words are scalding hot pronouncements of Divine wrath upon them.  Their woes will be the deepest of sorrows, the kind that can only be known by those under God’s wrath in eternity.  This woe will be known by these Pharisees in spite of their loud profession of righteousness and Godliness. 

The first woe is found in verse 13.  Here Christ says the Pharisees tell people they are not in the Kingdom of Heaven because they do not keep the Pharisees’ regulations. According to Jesus, it is the Pharisees who are not in the Kingdom.  They may attempt to shut others out, but they are not going in themselves.

The second woe is in verse 14.  Jesus says they “devour widows’ houses,” yet make long prayers.  In other words, though they make long prayers and seem to be deeply devout, they plot evil against the innocent.  They will take a widow’s home and possessions, leaving her without shelter to face starvation and death.  Then they make long prayers to show how Godly they are.  Jesus does not call them Godly.  He calls them hypocrites.

Woe three is in verse 15.  Here Jesus says people who convert to the Pharisees’ way of thinking are being converted to hell.  Amazing.  There are actually people trying to win you to their religion, but their religion will actually take you to hell.  The Bible has many warnings about following false teachers and false Gospels, yet they abound today.

Woe four is in verses 16-22.  It calls the Pharisees “blind guides” (vs. 16) because they miss the law of God and follow their own foolish regulations.  Jesus uses the example of their false distinction between swearing (making a promise) by the Temple and swearing by the gold in the Temple.  They say that if you make a promise, saying something like, “I swear by the Temple,” the promise means nothing.  But if you swear by the gold in the Temple the promise is binding.  Jesus’ point is that their distinction is wrong.  After all, the Temple is greater than the gold.  More importantly, to swear by the Temple, altar, or anything in it is to swear by God.

Part of what Jesus is condemning is deception, or, false swearing.  The Pharisees’ promises are like those of a child promising to do something while crossing his fingers, as though the crossed fingers make his promise invalid.  In reality he promises to do something, but his promise is a lie.

Woe five is in verse 23.  Here Christ condemns the Pharisees for being  meticulous in the small things while ignoring the big things.  He does not say the small things are unimportant.  He simply means that doing them while neglecting the bigger things is foolish and hypocritical.  It is like a man who prays every night, but robs widows during the day in business.