This appears to be the third and final chapter explaining and critiquing the Pharisees and Jesus wrath on them.
It’s interesting because after spending the past two chapters criticizing the Pharisees and their many problems, in the first part of this chapter Jesus strikes a different kind of tone. He had been telling the disciples to beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and He had been comparing them to disobedient sons, wicked men who lease a vineyard, subjects of a king who refuse to obey the king, and more. Now however, Jesus instructs His disciples differently. “The scribes and the Pharisees have seated themselves in the chair of Moses; therefore all that they tell you, do and observe, but do not do according to their deeds; for they say things and do not do them.” So even though the Pharisees have been evil in so many different ways, the disciples are still to have obedience towards them (to some extent). They have been placed in a place of leadership. The disciples are still to observe them and obey them, but they are to disregard their actions and life application. That’s kind of a surprising thing to hear from Jesus after so much lambasting. However, it does parallel Old Testament commands to obey the leaders of the people, but that we should obey God / YHWH over them.
Jesus then continues on to speak eight woe’s to the scribes and Pharisees (hypocrites): Woe to you…
- … you prevent others from entering the kingdom of heaven, and you refuse to enter yourself.
- …”you devour widows’ houses, and for a pretense you make long prayers“
- … you travel all over to make one disciple and make them twice the son of Satan as you are.
- … you make a big deal about the treasures of the temple and the sacrifices (that give them wealth), and you disregard the purpose and reason for it.
- … you focus on the minuscule details of the law, but you ignore the major points like justice, mercy, & faithfulness.
- … you clean and make pretty the outside of the cup, but you ignore what is important inside.
- … (directly related) you appear / act righteously, but you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness.
- … you build the tombs of the prophets and honor them saying, “If we had been living in the days of our fathers, we would not have been partners with them in shedding the blood of the prophets.“, but you are going to do exactly as you say you would not do!
There is such a contrast here! Christ says to follow the law and the leaders of the law, yet in the very next breath He is condemning the very same people! I don’t know how well most American’s in today’s world can understand and relate to this principle. Too often we feel that if the leader is unjust we should not have listen to them or to do what they say. That somehow the leader’s obedience / disobedience to the law or even our own expectations some how precludes our loyalty or obedience. That does not fit with what Christ is saying here.
What do you think?
John J. Camiolo Jr.