Saturday, July 3, 2021

Matthew 23 Devotional Bible Study by Steve Wilson

Matthew 23

Then Jesus said to the crowds and to his disciples: “The teachers of the law and the Pharisees sit in Moses’ seat. So you must be careful to do everything they tell you. But do not do what they do, for they do not practice what they preach. They tie up heavy, cumbersome loads and put them on other people’s shoulders, but they themselves are not willing to lift a finger to move them.


“Everything they do is done for people to see: They make their phylacteries[a] wide and the tassels on their garments long; they love the place of honor at banquets and the most important seats in the synagogues; they love to be greeted with respect in the marketplaces and to be called ‘Rabbi’ by others.


“But you are not to be called ‘Rabbi,’ for you have one Teacher, and you are all brothers. And do not call anyone on earth ‘father,’ for you have one Father, and he is in heaven. 10 Nor are you to be called instructors, for you have one Instructor, the Messiah. 11 The greatest among you will be your servant. 12 For those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.


Seven Woes on the Teachers of the Law and the Pharisees

13 “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You shut the door of the kingdom of heaven in people’s faces. You yourselves do not enter, nor will you let those enter who are trying to. [14] [b]


15 “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You travel over land and sea to win a single convert, and when you have succeeded, you make them twice as much a child of hell as you are.


16 “Woe to you, blind guides! You say, ‘If anyone swears by the temple, it means nothing; but anyone who swears by the gold of the temple is bound by that oath.’ 17 You blind fools! Which is greater: the gold, or the temple that makes the gold sacred? 18 You also say, ‘If anyone swears by the altar, it means nothing; but anyone who swears by the gift on the altar is bound by that oath.’ 19 You blind men! Which is greater: the gift, or the altar that makes the gift sacred? 20 Therefore, anyone who swears by the altar swears by it and by everything on it. 21 And anyone who swears by the temple swears by it and by the one who dwells in it. 22 And anyone who swears by heaven swears by God’s throne and by the one who sits on it.


23 “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You give a tenth of your spices—mint, dill and cumin. But you have neglected the more important matters of the law—justice, mercy and faithfulness. You should have practiced the latter, without neglecting the former. 24 You blind guides! You strain out a gnat but swallow a camel.


25 “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You clean the outside of the cup and dish, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence. 26 Blind Pharisee! First clean the inside of the cup and dish, and then the outside also will be clean.


27 “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You are like whitewashed tombs, which look beautiful on the outside but on the inside are full of the bones of the dead and everything unclean. 28 In the same way, on the outside you appear to people as righteous but on the inside you are full of hypocrisy and wickedness.


29 “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You build tombs for the prophets and decorate the graves of the righteous. 30 And you say, ‘If we had lived in the days of our ancestors, we would not have taken part with them in shedding the blood of the prophets.’ 31 So you testify against yourselves that you are the descendants of those who murdered the prophets. 32 Go ahead, then, and complete what your ancestors started!


33 “You snakes! You brood of vipers! How will you escape being condemned to hell? 34 Therefore I am sending you prophets and sages and teachers. Some of them you will kill and crucify; others you will flog in your synagogues and pursue from town to town. 35 And so upon you will come all the righteous blood that has been shed on earth, from the blood of righteous Abel to the blood of Zechariah son of Berekiah, whom you murdered between the temple and the altar. 36 Truly I tell you, all this will come on this generation.


37 “Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you were not willing. 38 Look, your house is left to you desolate. 39 For I tell you, you will not see me again until you say, ‘Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.’[c]



  1. Matthew 23:5 That is, boxes containing Scripture verses, worn on forehead and arm
  2. Matthew 23:14 Some manuscripts include here words similar to Mark 12:40 and Luke 20:47.
  3. Matthew 23:39 Psalm 118:26



Some Thoughts for Christian Leaders

This passage deals with leadership more than anything else and serves as a chance for us to examine ourselves.


First, Jesus points out the hypocrisy of the Pharisees and teachers of the law, saying they don't practice what they preach. Are you practicing what you preach? In everything?


Jesus next says that these religious leaders give the people all kinds of burdens (rules to obey) without doing anything to help them carry those burdens. How do you / your church's ministries do at this? Are you teaching HOW to obey rather than just WHAT to obey? Are you giving them the tools they need to live successfully? Do you teach your congregants how to pray, read Scripture, serve, take care of their bodies in a Godly fashion, manage their money, etc.? Do you hold support groups or have ministries that assist your members with crisis situations? If not, you may be telling them the rules on how to live but not giving them any real help in actually living that way.


Finally, Jesus rebuffs the leaders for placing too much emphasis on the respect people give them. He said that the leaders liked to show off their holiness by wearing special clothes or ornaments. They liked to have people call them Rabbi and Father. Let me ask you this: Do you wear special clothes or ornaments to perform your ministry? These clothes / vestments / robes / collars separate you from your people and make you seem more holy than they are, just like the Pharisees' phylacteries.


Do you insist people call you Pastor or Reverend or Father or some similar title? Do you call your members Engineer Tom or Data Analyst Susan or Student Jameel? If not, why do they need to call you by any certain title? Aren't all Christians valued as equal in God's sight? Don't we believe that He has called and ordained each of us to our professions, whether they be ministerial or "secular"?


We want people to respect our office and our leadership, but I bet they would respect you more if you preached this passage directly from a standpoint of telling them how you want to be a genuine, humble leader, about how all Christians are equal, meaning you want them to call you by your given name and leave titles out of it, and how you're going to strive to show them HOW to live the Christian life rather than just telling them about the Christian life.


Just some things to think about, my friends. As Jesus leads, so we will follow.



Cutting to the Heart

Jesus condemns the Pharisees and teachers of the law because they value surface things rather than getting at the heart of the matter. They value gold rather than the holiness of the Temple and altar (maybe this is why they were okay with selling things in the Temple). They follow the rules about tithing but don't have a heart for others. They try to convince others to join their religion, but it does no good to the convert because their religion is empty.


The Pharisees valued tradition rather than a heart for God.


How is your heart today? Are there any rules, traditions, or objects that are distracting you from having a real heart for God and getting down to the heart of faith issues?


Jesus said that He was sending prophets to the people in an effort to turn them back to Him so that He could embrace them like a hen with her chicks. Jesus is doing the same to us. He is ready to take us back to Himself if we will open our hearts to Him.




No comments:

Post a Comment