SCRIPTURE: Matthew 23:13-36, NKJV
13 “But woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you shut up the kingdom of heaven against men; for you neither go in yourselves, nor do you allow those who are entering to go in. 14 Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you devour widows’ houses, and for a pretense make long prayers. Therefore you will receive greater condemnation.
15 “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you travel land and sea to win one proselyte, and when he is won, you make him twice as much a son of hell as yourselves.
16 “Woe to you, blind guides, who say, ‘Whoever swears by the temple, it is nothing; but whoever swears by the gold of the temple, he is obliged to perform it.’ 17 Fools and blind! For which is greater, the gold or the temple that sanctifies[d] the gold? 18 And, ‘Whoever swears by the altar, it is nothing; but whoever swears by the gift that is on it, he is obliged to perform it.’ 19 Fools and blind! For which is greater, the gift or the altar that sanctifies the gift? 20 Therefore he who swears by the altar, swears by it and by all things on it. 21 He who swears by the temple, swears by it and by Him who dwells[e] in it. 22 And he who swears by heaven, swears by the throne of God and by Him who sits on it.
23 “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you pay tithe of mint and anise and cummin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faith. These you ought to have done, without leaving the others undone. 24 Blind guides, who strain out a gnat and swallow a camel!
25 “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you cleanse the outside of the cup and dish, but inside they are full of extortion and self-indulgence.[f] 26 Blind Pharisee, first cleanse the inside of the cup and dish, that the outside of them may be clean also.
27 “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs which indeed appear beautiful outwardly, but inside are full of dead men’s bones and all uncleanness. 28 Even so you also outwardly appear righteous to men, but inside you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness.
29 “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! Because you build the tombs of the prophets and adorn the monuments of the righteous, 30 and say, ‘If we had lived in the days of our fathers, we would not have been partakers with them in the blood of the prophets.’
31 “Therefore you are witnesses against yourselves that you are sons of those who murdered the prophets. 32 Fill up, then, the measure of your fathers’ guilt. 33 Serpents, brood of vipers! How can you escape the condemnation of hell? 34 Therefore, indeed, I send you prophets, wise men, and scribes: some of them you will kill and crucify, and some of them you will scourge in your synagogues and persecute from city to city, 35 that on you may come all the righteous blood shed on the earth, from the blood of righteous Abel to the blood of Zechariah, son of Berechiah, whom you murdered between the temple and the altar. 36 Assuredly, I say to you, all these things will come upon this generation.
Why did I use NKJV tonight when I normally use another translation? If you have a modern translation, even a NASB, NRSV, or NIV, you will find no verse 14 except in the footnotes. This is because it was not in the original manuscripts in Matthew but was in Mark and Luke. It is believed that the AV translators inserted here making 8 woes total. It is the recorded words of Jesus. My problem with the AV is not the translators, it is the difficulty in understanding. People read the KJV and don’t understand what they’ve read and that love it so. I don’t have time to get into that argument but below is the reference that I mentioned and they are in all translations. So the KJV only crowd [who are bathed in ignorance] don’t have an argument when they say the NLT took verse 14 out.
38 Jesus also taught: “Beware of these teachers of religious law! For they like to parade around in flowing robes and receive respectful greetings as they walk in the marketplaces. 39 And how they love the seats of honor in the synagogues and the head table at banquets. 40 Yet they shamelessly cheat widows out of their property and then pretend to be pious by making long prayers in public. Because of this, they will be more severely punished.” [Mark 12:38-40]
Yet they shamelessly cheat widows out of their property and then pretend to be pious by making long prayers in public. Because of this, they will be severely punished.” [Luke 20:47]
Has anyone ever talked about you while you were in hearing distance. The person knew that you could hear but didn’t care: they wanted you to hear but they were addressing someone else. This is what happened here: Jesus is talking to His disciples about the SCRIBES AND PHARISEES who were King James only kind of people. They strained gnats and swallowed camels. Jesus denounces the Scribes and Pharisee. This is hard stuff: He called them vipers and that is not a compliment. Let’s look at the EIGHT WOES as recorded in the NKJV.
- WOE TO THOSE WHO MAKE SALVATION HARD FOR OTHERS; TO THOSE WHO HINDER OTHERS FROM ENTERING THE KINGDOM. Jesus said, “You refuse to enter the kingdom of heaven and you hinder others from entering.” Have you ever wondered what difference it would have made if the Jewish Religious leaders had accepted Jesus as the Messiah? They rejected Him and did everything they could to cause others to stumble.
- WOE TO THOSE WHO TAKE ADVANTAGE OF THE VULNERABLE…I like what Jesus said in Luke’s gospel, “Yet they shamelessly cheat widows out of their property and then pretend to be pious by making long prayers in public. Because of this, they will be more severely.” punished.” While these dudes were praying on the street corner in order to be seen, their attorney’s were foreclosing on widows. Widows represent the helpless in society. Jesus said, “People who exploit others will be judged more severely.” Before I took advantage of someone, I think I would give that verse some thought.
- WOE TO THOSE WHO PROSELYTE AND THEN CORRUPT THEIR CONVERTS…Jesus said the Pharisees travel land and sea to make a convert but when they do, they make them twice as much a son of hell. It is harder to reach a religious person than it is one who has no religion at all.
- WOE TO THOSE WHO TRIVIALIZE THE TRUTH…The Scribes and Pharisees had all kind of little word games that they used to deceive people. They were bad about swearing. Jesus said in the Sermon on the Mount, “Do not swear at all…let your yes be yes and your no be no.” You give people your word, anything beyond that is a sin. The game the Pharisees and Scribes were playing was where and when. To swear by the Temple was not binding but to swear by the gold in the temple was. Jesus said, “That is foolish.” It was a con game, a scheme to defraud and take advantage of people and then justify such behavior.
- WOE TO THOSE WHO NEGLECT WHAT MATTER MOST…The Pharisees tithes garden herbs but had no mercy on the helpless. Jesus said, “You should tithe but you should also show mercy.” They stained the gnat and swallowed the camel. They got all carried away on the little ticky aspects of the law but failed to live the spirit of the law which is to love our neighbor as much as we love ourselves.
- WOE TO THOSE WHO ARE GREEDY AND SELF-INDULGENT…Note verse 25, “inside they are full of extortion and self-indulgence.” And Luke 11:39…Then the Lord said to him, “You Pharisees are so careful to clean the outside of the cup and the dish, but inside you are filthy—full of greed and wickedness! Also Luke 16:14…The Pharisees, who dearly loved their money, heard all this and scoffed at him.
- WOE TO THOSE WHO PRACTICE FALSE PEITY…Jesus said they were like tombs, polished on the outside and corrupt on the inside. We must remind ourselves that God sees the inside and that Salvation is an “Inside Job.”
- WOE TO THOSE WHO PERSECUTE GOD’S SERVANTS…The Jewish Religious establishment persecuted Jesus but that was nothing knew, they were like their forefathers who had a reputation for persecuting God’s servants. [Hebrews 13:17] Obey your spiritual leaders, and do what they say. Their work is to watch over your souls, and they are accountable to God. Give them reason to do this with joy and not with sorrow. That would certainly not be for your benefit. One of Joe David’s Seminary Professors is a pastor and he makes a habit of hugging in public folks who make his ministry difficult. One day he was in a restuarant at the same time as one of his thorns in the flesh and he just walked up to him and bear hugged him right there in front of the man’s business associates. The man was terribly embarrassed. He whispered in the preachers ear, “Are you hugging me because I give you trouble?” The preacher said, “That’s right!” The man said, “If you will let me go and promise never to do this again, I will never give you another problem.”