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Deadly Enthusiasm

Matthew 23:15

There is something infectiously attractive about a person who is very enthusiastic about what they believe, especially if they are willing to sacrifice everything for it. We tend to think that their sincerity is a mark of authenticity. It is a common impression given by successful sales people. The unseen logic is that because they are so committed, and they are nice people, then their product must be excellent.

Swearing Blind

Matthew 23:16-22

There is no point in following a person who does not know where they are going. Jesus accused the religious leaders of being 'blind guides'. He also called them 'blind fools' because they did not understand how to handle truth themselves, and so could not teach truth to others. The issue in question was about swearing. Because so many people tell lies, swearing has become a method of reassuring people that what is said is true.

Blind Advocates

Matthew 23:23-24

Christless religion always tends towards legalism and inconsistency. Jesus rebuked the Pharisees for being blind advocates of heaven. They did not understand God's law and yet they micro-managed the people to give one tenth of all that came into their home. In particular they seized on the herbs and spices which were mentioned in Leviticus 27:30. It was easy to demand ten percent of the herbs grown by the synagogue congregation.

Clean Outside, Dirty Inside

Matthew 23:25-26

Dirty eating utensils like cups and bowls are a health hazard. The Pharisees were very particular to wash them in a ceremonial way which enabled everybody to see that the outside was clean. It was like that with the Pharisees themselves and so Jesus used their religious habits as a parable. He knew the inside of their hearts and saw through their holy rituals to the inner corruption that motivated their lives.

Dead But Pretending To Be Alive

Matthew 23:27-28

Jesus did not hate the religious leaders because they were frauds, counterfeits and hypocrites. Because He loved them, He warned them that they had to change or face God's wrath. It may seem that Matthew is spending too long on the 7x 'woes' in Chapter 23, but he knew that the leaders of the early church (including the disciples who were trainee apostles) must not fall into the same error.

Nice Grave Stones

Matthew 23:29-32

'Distance lends enchantment to the view' is an English saying which means that the further away something is, the better it looks. The defects are hidden and faint-sight allows the mind to create something beautiful out of ugliness. Jesus accused the Scribes and Pharisees of doing that with the tombs of martyred prophets.

Prophetic Judgement

Matthew 23:33-36

The seven 'woes' in this chapter warned the hypocritical Pharisees to repent (and warned the disciples not to be like them when they became church leaders). In today's reading Jesus presents Himself as their Judge. He asked, "How will you escape being condemned to hell"? Hell is the inevitable end for every liar, hypocrite, control freak, greedy person (and all the other expressions of sin), unless they repent, believe in Jesus and let Him make them clean (1 Corinthians 6:9-11).

Undeserved But Time-Limited Compassion

Matthew 23:37-39

The seven 'woes' of this chapter were not pleasant. But Jesus did not gloat over the Pharisees. We know that because at the end of exposing their hypocrisy and warning them of judgement, He released a flood of compassion for them so that His disciples hear. He wanted the trainee apostles to understand His deep love for the rebellious and hypocritical people who had systematically refused to submit to God. He knew they hated Him, but He still loved them. As leaders of the church, the disciples would have the same problem and needed Christ-like compassion.

What Creates A Certain Future

Matthew 24:1-3

As Jesus led the disciples down from the Temple, they asked Him about what He had just said: "Look, your house is left to you desolate" (Matthew 23:38). They pointed out the huge strong stone structure which they thought would last for ever. For them, the Temple was the evidence of God's presence, who was pleased with the sacrifices and acts of worship. It was unthinkable that God's house could ever be desolate. Jesus' words were unsettling.

Deception, Disturbance and Confidence

Matthew 24:4-8

In less than a year, the disciples would be the leaders of the church. This chapter is a briefing for the trainee apostles. It would not be an easy job, supported by everybody. Deceivers would come and pretend to be the Messiah, and many people would believe the lie. It would be Satan's tactic to divert people from believing in the Lord Jesus, undermining the gospel and discrediting the church – three of his evil major objectives.