Jesus’ Warnings About the Pharisees: Topic #1
We’re continuing our study (and post series) on Matthew. This week we’ll be focusing on chapter 23, verses 1-12, where Jesus issues warning to the crowds and his disciples about the Pharisees.
Last week, we saw Jesus go toe to toe with an expert of the Law. As we’ve discussed before, Matthew’s Gospel was originally written as one continuous account.
Therefore, the events we’ll be discussing this week happened immediately after last week’s discussion.
So, Jesus just worked over the Pharisees.
As if these guys aren’t embarrassed enough, Jesus is now going to seal the deal in chapter 23. In verse 1, we read that Jesus speaks to “…the crowds and to his disciples:” (23:1)
Jesus moves from talking to the Pharisees to talking about the Pharisees, right in front of them. And they’re not going to be happy. Let’s unpack what Jesus said to the people.
Jesus’ first instruction is a bit peculiar.
He establishes the Pharisees positions of authority, even though He just proved His authority over them in chapter 22. But there’s purpose to Jesus statement.
Even though the Pharisees are a prideful bunch, the people must recognize that as verse 2 states, the “…Pharisees sit in Moses’ seat.” (23:2)
In other words, the Pharisees carry the Law which was originally given to Moses by God, then passed on from generation to generation.
By default, it ended up with these guys.
The people must respect the positions the Pharisees carry and as verse 3 states, they “…must be careful to do everything…” the Pharisees tell them.
Theologian Matthew Henry makes a powerful comment on this verse:
“Though it is most desirable to have our food brought by angels, yet, if God send it to us by ravens, if it be good and wholesome, we must take it, and thank God for it.” (Matthew Henry’s Commentary)
In other words…
As long as the Word of God is being taught, the people must listen to the words being spoken, even if the speaker is not worthy or skilled enough to be teaching.
I know an old preacher in Alaska who used to say, “Regardless of the speaker, if the Word of God is being read we should be able to pull something out of it. Even if a Sunday school teacher is reading a Bible story to children, we should be able to stop, listen and learn.”
There is a difference between telling and showing.
Though Jesus instructs the people to follow the Pharisees instructions on the Law, the people must not follow their example. Jesus says, “…do not do what they do…” (23:3)
Why? Because the Pharisees “…do not practice what they preach.” (23:3)
Even though these Pharisees teach the Law effectively and their positions must be respected, the people must resist following their actions and behaviours.
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This week, we’re going to continue exploring Jesus’ warning to the people about the Pharisees. There’s a lot to learn, so why not subscribe?
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When’s the last time you had to listen to a preacher or teacher who was less than godly? Were you able to respect their position even though you struggled respecting the person?