Matthew 23:1-39 Comments by Stephen Ricker
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Seven Woes
Comments for Study 28

Matthew 23:1-39
Memory Verse: 37


Passion Week Events

* Jesus was teaching in the temple just before the Passover. A time line is as follows.
    Friday -Jesus arrives in the Jerusalem area. (John 11:54-12:1)
    Saturday (Sabbath) -a day of rest; no event recorded except Luke 21:37-38.
    Sunday -Jesus' triumphal entry. (Matt. 21:1-11; Mark 11:1-10; Luke 19:29-44; John 12:12-19)
    Monday -Jesus curses the fig tree (Matt. 21:18-19; Mark 11:12-14). Jesus clears out the Temple. (Matt 21:12-13; Mark 11:15-18)
    Tuesday -Jesus' authority questioned. (Matt. 21:23-27; Mark 11:27-33; Luke 20:18) Jesus teaches in the temple. (Matt. 21:28-22:46; Mark 12:1-44; Luke 20:9-21:4) Jesus wept over Jerusalem's leader's unbelief and rejecting him as their King. (Matthew 23:1-39) Jesus anointed at Bethany. (Matt. 26:6-13; Mark 13:3-9; John 12:2-11)
    Wednesday -another day of rest; no event recorded except Luke 21:37-38. The Jews plot to kill Jesus. (Matt. 26:14-16; Mark 14:10-11; Luke 22:3-6)
    Thursday (Hebrew month Abib the 13th day) -the Passover meal begins at twilight (see below note) when Jesus and the disciples celebrate the Last Supper. (Matt. 26:17-29; Mark 14:12-25; Luke 22:7-20; John 13:1-18) Jesus comforts the disciples (John 14:1-16:33) Jesus prays at Gethsemane. (Matt. 26:26-46; Mark 14:32-42; Luke 22:40-46)
    Friday (Hebrew month Abib, 14 day) -According Hebrew time Jesus is arrest and tried from night to daylight. (Matt. 26:47-27:26; Mark 14:43-15:15; Luke 22:47-23:25; John 18:2-19:16) Jesus' crucifixion at 3:00pm, and death before sunset which is the end of the Hebrew day and Passover. (Matt. 27:27-56; Mark 15:16-41; Luke 23:26-49; John 19:17-30) Jesus is buried at sunset. (Matt. 27:57-66; mark 15:42-47; Luke 23:50-56; John 19:31-42)
    Saturday (Sabbath Abib 15, Seven day Feast of Unleavened Bread begins) Jesus' body is in the tomb. He appears in Sheol and accompanies the saints previously dead to heaven.
    Sunday (Abib 16; day of First Fruits Sheaf Wave) Jesus' morning resurrection and appearing to the women. (Mark 16:9-11; John 20:11-18) Then he appeared to the two on the road. (Mark 16:12-13; Luke 24:13-35) Then to the ten apostles (no Thomas or Judas) in the evening. (Mark 16:14; Luke 24:36-43; John 20:19-25)
    Saturday (Sabbath) -Jesus appears to Thomas and the rest of the apostles. (John 20:26-31)
    A week later -Jesus talks and eats with some disciples by the Sea of Galilee. (John 21:1-25)
    Forty days since his resurrection -Jesus ascends to his Father from the Mount of Olives. (Matt. 28:15-20; Mark 18:19-20; Luke 24:44-53; Acts 1:1-11)

* Note: The Passover is linked to the 14th days of the month not the day of the week. Passover starting on Thursday at twilight is a very rare event; usually it starts on a different day of the week. (Hebrew days start at sunset/twilight and go thru the night till the next day's sunset.) Falling on a Thursday that year made it possible for Jesus to fulfill the meaning behind the feasts associated with the Passover. His crucified was on Friday (still Passover), the Sabbath (Saturday) rest was the Feast of Unleavened Bread (always on the first Sabbath after Passover), and Sunday was the third day since his death, the day of the First Fruit Sheaf Wave, and the day that Jesus rose from the dead. All three feasts were thus fulfilled by Jesus.

I. "Woe To You!" (1-36)

>1. To whom is Jesus speaking?

* Matthew 23:1 "Then Jesus said to the crowds and to his disciples:"

* "to the crowds" -Jesus teaching was in the very public area of the temple courts. some of the religious leaders may have been in the crowd.

* "and to his disciples" -Jesus' disciples were always with him.

* Jesus wanted to warn not only the crowds and his disciples but also the religious leaders. The seed of selfishness is very

>Why must they obey the Pharisees and teachers of the law?

* Matthew 23:2-3a "The teachers of the law and the Pharisees sit in Moses' seat. So you must obey them and do everything they tell you."

* 1 Peter 2:17 "Show proper respect to everyone: Love the brotherhood of believers, fear God, honor the king."

* "sit in Moses' seat" -Moses gave the law and the Israelites were to obey them. God puts spiritual leaders over us, both bad and good. We should respect and obey them.

* Hebrews 13:17 states, "Obey your leaders and submit to their authority. They keep watch over you as men who must give an account. Obey them so that their work will be a joy, not a burden, for that would be of no advantage to you."

* We must trust God and pray for his intervention.

* Hannah is also a good example when she was in the temple with Eli. (1 Sam. 1)

>Why must they not emulate them?

* Matthew 23:3b "But do not do what they do, for they do not practice what they preach."

* They were not obedient to God.

* God's laws are higher and more important to follow. Acts 4:18-20 shows that God's law must be obeyed as of first importance, "Then (the religious leaders) called (the apostles) in again and commanded them not to speak or teach at all in the name of Jesus. But Peter and John replied, 'Judge for yourselves whether it is right in God's sight to obey you rather than God. For we cannot help speaking about what we have seen and heard.'" Acts 5:27-29 records that the religious leaders against, "brought the apostles, they made them appear before the Sanhedrin to be questioned by the high priest. 'We gave you strict orders not to teach in this name," he said. "Yet you have filled Jerusalem with your teaching and are determined to make us guilty of this man's blood.' Peter and the other apostles replied: 'We must obey God rather than men!.'"

* God will deal with bad leaders more severely than he does those who are not leaders. "Everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded; and the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked." (Luke 12:48)

* We should not use the bad methods of leaders when they use their office for selfish gain and to get even with someone.

* David is a good example when he obeyed Saul and eventually had to flee him. David had opportunities to kill him, but did not because he was God's anointed king.

>How do they burden God's people?

* Matthew 23:4 "They tie up heavy loads and put them on men's shoulders, but they themselves are not willing to lift a finger to move them."

* "tie up heavy loads and put them on men's sholders" The teachings and added laws and customs burdened those under them. The teachings were not inspired by God.

* "they themselves are not willing to lift a finger to move them" -They did not love those they taught. They were only interested in helping anyone that made them look good. If they personally didn't like someone they did all they could to discourage and humiliate them.

* They did not teach God's forgiveness and grace. They only taught "do and don't". They did not give them any practical help in following God's word.

* Teaching and being a friend to someone is a good way to help them live a life that is pleasing to God.

>2. How did the religious leaders show off?

* Matthew 23:5a "Everything they do is done for men to see"

* Many people do things so that people will be impressed by them. When we do religious things, even when obeying God's words we need to make sure that our motives are correct. Jesus knows the motives and will judge us according to our motives.

* False religious leaders:
    1) lack of submission to God's authority
    2) lack of integrity (they preach but did not do what they preach)
    3) lack sympathy (inside they are cruel)
    4) lack humility (inside they are proud of who they are and how they live)

>How did they miss the point of phylacteries and tassels? (cf. Deut. 6:8; Num. 15:37-39)

* Matthew 23:5b "They make their phylacteries wide and the tassels on their garments long"

* Deuteronomy 6:8 "Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads."

* Numbers 15:37-41 "The Lord said to Moses, 'Speak to the Israelites and say to them: 'Throughout the generations to come you are to make tassels on the corners of your garments, with a blue cord on each tassel. You will have these tassels to look at and so you will remember all the commands of the Lord, that you may obey them and not prostitute yourselves by going after the lusts of your own hearts and eyes. Then you will remember to obey all my commands and will be consecrated to your God. I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of Egypt to be your God. I am the Lord your God.'"

* The symbol was meant to be practiced in their hearts and minds.

* The false religious leaders did it as a status quota.

* "phylacteries" -small boxes with the God's word in them that was warn on the forehead or arm.

* For modern day believers this may be the Bible they carry, speaking in tongues, baptism, what they wear, and who they spend time with.

>What else do they love? (6-7)

* Matthew 23:6-7 "they love the place of honor at banquets and the most important seats in the synagogues; they love to be greeted in the marketplaces and to have men call them 'Rabbi.'

* "place of honor" -For us this would be who they talk to and sit with in church banquets and who they invite over to their house. What church committee they sit in. Being an elder or deacon.

* "Rabbi" -Rabbi was a title meaning, “my master,” applied to teachers and others of an exalted and revered position. During the New Testament period, the term rabbi came to be more narrowly applied to one learned in the law of Moses, without signifying an official office. In our day it could be priest, nun, pastor, shepherd, elder, deacon, and missionary.

>How must Jesus' disciples be different?

* Matthew 23:8-11 "But you are not to be called 'Rabbi,' for you have only one Master and you are all brothers. And do not call anyone on earth 'father,' for you have one Father, and he is in heaven. Nor are you to be called 'teacher,' for you have one Teacher, the Christ. The greatest among you will be your servant."

* "only one Master" -God is our rabbi, priest, nun, pastor, shepherd, Bible teacher, elder, deacon, and missionary.

* We live before God and do all for the glory of God. We must always be conscience of God who sees all we do and knows our heart motive behind it.

* We should consider ourselves last.

* "are all brothers" -We are all the same in Christ. We should have the attitude of a servant to our brother. Jesus told us to love our brothers as he loves us.


* Matthew 23:12 "For whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted."

* God does everything through us. We actually do not do it. Even this web site is done through me. God is the one who does it.

* Jesus' relationship with his disciples was different than the relationship between the Pharisees and their disciples. Jesus interacted in love on a personal level.

* Lead by:
    1) submission to God's authority
    2) have integrity (practice before we preach)
    3) have sympathy (inside love)
    4) have humility (inside be humble knowing who we are and how we live in the eye and providence of God)

* We can learn from Jesus and the apostles lives.

>3. To whom does Jesus say "Woe to you"?

* Matthew 23:13a "Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites!

* "Woe" -Woe is an expression of great sorrow and distress. It has not pity or judgement.

* The practices of the teachers of the law and Pharisees.

* Hypocrite is stated thirteen times in Matthew's gospel.

* A hypocrite can do and says they do, but in private they do not do.

>What are the first two "woes"? (13-15)

* Matthew 23:13b-15 "You shut the kingdom of heaven in men's faces. You yourselves do not enter, nor will you let those enter who are trying to. Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You travel over land and sea to win a single convert, and when he becomes one, you make him twice as much a son of hell as you are."

* The woe of verse 14 is not in some manuscripts.

* They work hard for the wrong gospel.

* Jesus didn't accept their hard mission work.

* We should ask, "What is the foundation of the work that we do? Is it Jesus' death and resurrection? Do we install hope in the kingdom of God? Do we teach the true identity of Jesus as the Bible always has said? Is it on a personal relationship with Jesus? Is the Holy Spirit working through us?"

>How are they related?

* When a person is shut to heaven he can only lead people to hell.

* One is either a slave to fear of death and sin, the tools of Satan, or a servant of God.

* They tried to prevent people from coming to Jesus (John 9:22)

* They didn't see the "common sinner" as someone to be redeemed. They condemned the "common sinner".

* Jesus' ministry is is stark contrast.

>How did the Pharisees' teaching shut the door of the kingdom of heaven?

* They taught keeping the law was the way of salvation and the way to the kingdom of heaven. God says that only the pure can go to heaven. Since all are sinners we need God to forgive our sins so that we may be pure. This is only possible because of Jesus' death and resurrection.

>How could the door be opened?

* Peach the gospel (good news) of the kingdom of God. The good news is Jesus Christ, him crucified and rose from the dead.

* Paul wrote "However, I consider my life worth nothing to me, if only I may finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me--the task of testifying to the gospel of God's grace." (Acts 20:24)

* Paul wrote, "I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile. For in the gospel a righteousness from God is revealed, a righteousness that is by faith from first to last, just as it is written: 'The righteous will live by faith.'" (Romans 1:16-17)

* Paul wrote, "Yet when I preach the gospel, I cannot boast, for I am compelled to preach. Woe to me if I do not preach the gospel! If I preach voluntarily, I have a reward; if not voluntarily, I am simply discharging the trust committed to me. What then is my reward? Just this: that in preaching the gospel I may offer it free of charge, and so not make use of my rights in preaching it." (1 Corinthians 9:16-18)

* Paul wrote, "Consider Abraham: "He believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness." Understand, then, that those who believe are children of Abraham. The Scripture foresaw that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, and announced the gospel in advance to Abraham: "All nations will be blessed through you." So those who have faith are blessed along with Abraham, the man of faith." (Galatians 3:6-9)

>4. Why does he call them "blind guides"? (16-22)

* Matthew 23:16-22 "Woe to you, blind guides! You say, 'If anyone swears by the temple, it means nothing; but if anyone swears by the gold of the temple, he is bound by his 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 if anyone swears by the gift on it, he is bound by his oath.' 19 You blind men! Which is greater: the gift, or the altar that makes the gift sacred? 20 Therefore, he who swears by the altar swears by it and by everything on it. 21 And he who swears by the temple swears by it and by the one who dwells in it. 22 And he who swears by heaven swears by God's throne and by the one who sits on it.

* Spiritually blind can see the gospel of the kingdom of God.

* A person can be blind by the things of this world; materialism, power, fame, glory, drugs, excitment, honor, etc. The religious leaders were blinded by some of these.

* Their understanding of priorities were upside down.

>How did their vow-making show their materialism and greed?

* They valued the material things over the spiritual things.

* The Pharisees in general were common lay people who became spiritual leaders, elders of the Jewish community. They had not real position or title. So these are the type of people who try to become great through human effort.

* The Sadducees had offical jobs at the temple. They were paid a salary from the temple tax and offerings. They competed with the Pharisees for the hearts and praise of their community.

* "blindness" -Jesus repeats this sixteen times the Matthew's gospel.

>5. Read the fourth "woe." (23-24)

* Matthew 23:23-24 "Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You give a tenth of your spices--mint, dill and cummin. 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. You blind guides! You strain out a gnat but swallow a camel."

* "a tenth of" -They gave exactly a tenth to the penny. Their focus was the material things, not the meaning behind them. Giving a tenth didn't cover up their inner problem. Giving a tenth is not a substitute for living by faith.

* "justice, mercy and faithfulness" -The spirit of the law was important. The law contains underline themes that are not part of the letter of the law. Paul wrote, "But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the sinful nature with its passions and desires. Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit." (Galatians 5:22-25)

* "without neglecting the former" -The letter of the law is good. Yet, again, it means nothing if the spirit behind it is not kept.

* "justice" -Make a correct decision.

* "mercy" -love for those in need and hurting.

* "faithfulness" -living by faith.

>How did their petty concerns further reveal their spiritual blindness?

* They didn't know what God considers important.

>What does it mean to strain out a gnat and swallow a camel?

* Have proper focus, give the important things higher energy and time over the lesser important things.

* "camels" -The biggest unclean animals. (Lev. 11:4)

* "gnat" -The smallest unclean living thing. (Lev. 11:42)

* We should not become habitual or narrow minded in service to God. We can become like them if we have we do not live by the Spirit, but rather live by the flesh.

* We will have small weaknesses and commit small sins. Yet if we have faithfulness, repentance, sincerity we are forgiven.

>6. Read verses 25-26 for the fifth "woe." What makes the "inside dirty"?

* Matthew 23:25-26 "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. Blind Pharisee! First clean the inside of the cup and dish, and then the outside also will be clean."

* "dirty inside" -Sin makes us dirty. Sin is like cancer which eats away and kills our soul.

>What does it mean to "clean the outside of the cup"?

* Look good on the outside.

* To clean up (stop and/or solve) the superficial problems.

* "outside" -Includes: bad language, drinking, stealing, killing, sexual immorality, fighting, gossip, boasting etc.

* The outside things are easy to deal when compared to the inside things; envy, lust, covet, hate, malice, pride, etc.

>Look at the sixth "woe". (27-28) How does a whitewashed tomb portray the spiritual corruption of the Pharisees?

* Matthew 23:27-28 "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 dead men's bones and everything unclean. In the same way, on the outside you appear to people as righteous but on the inside you are full of hypocrisy and wickedness."

* "appear righteous" -Strange thing is that people who appear righteous are honored while those who are righteous are put down and criticized.

* Not everyone is as they appear on the outside. Jesus said a person's heart will be shown by the fruit they bear.

* They used superficial words and the right spiritual sounding words.

* We need to live honest lives. We need to be sincere. We need to deal with the inner problems. We should not draw attention to ourselves, but to Jesus. Jesus used ordinary speach and was honest. John wrote he came, "full of grace and truth."

>7. Because of their pride and eagerness to defend themselves, what did the Pharisees admit about themselves? (See the seventh "woe") (29-32)

* Matthew 23:29-32 "Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You build tombs for the prophets and decorate the graves of the righteous. And you say, 'If we had lived in the days of our forefathers, we would not have taken part with them in shedding the blood of the prophets.' So you testify against yourselves that you are the descendants of those who murdered the prophets. Fill up, then, the measure of the sin of your forefathers!"

* "fill up then" -They wanted to kill Jesus. They would kill some of the apostles too. They carried out great persecutions against the followers of Jesus.

* "testify against yourselves" -They stated that they knew what was right.

* We may think that we would never crucify Jesus as they did. Yet, when we sin after believing it is like crucifying Jesus all over again.

>8. Notice the strong language Jesus uses in verses 33-36. Why does he use such strong words?

* "You snakes! You brood of vipers! How will you escape being condemned to hell? Therefore I am sending you prophets and wise men and teachers. Some of them you will kill and crucify; others you will flog in your synagogues and pursue from town to town. 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. I tell you the truth, all this will come upon this generation." (33-36)

* Because they were self righteous. They thought they were right and would not listen to the Messiah's words.

* They did not realize themselves.

* Jesus wanted them to repent and he wanted to teach the disciples.

* "snake" -injects a deadly venom.

* "vipers" -they are small and deceptive. They hide in the grass waiting for prey. Their venom is very deadly. Once in the blood a person can't survive.

* "how will you escape" -This is just a question. He is not condemning them. They could have escaped if they believed in Jesus.

>Why did God send wise men and prophets?

* The apostles peached the gospel to them. They told them to repent and believe the good news.

* People are sent to preach the good news. We don not convert souls. That is the work of th Holy Spirit.

>Who were the righteous martyrs Jesus mentions?

* "Abel" -first prophet martyred.

* "Zechariah" -Last prophet martyred.

>What happens to those who persecute the servants of God?

* The blood of those they kill. Guilt and judgement will come to them.

II. Jesus Laments Over Jerusalem (37-39)

>9. Read verses 37-39. Think about God's original purpose for Jerusalem. (cf. Isa. 2:1-3)

* "O 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, but you were not willing. Look, your house is left to you desolate. For I tell you, you will not see me again until you say, 'Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.'" (37-39)

* Isaiah 2:1-3 "This is what Isaiah son of Amoz saw concerning Judah and Jerusalem: In the last days the mountain of the Lord's temple will be established as chief among the mountains; it will be raised above the hills, and all nations will stream to it. Many peoples will come and say, "Come, let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the house of the God of Jacob. He will teach us his ways, so that we may walk in his paths." The law will go out from Zion, the word of the Lord from Jerusalem."

* Jerusalem was the city where people were to come to hear the word of God and pray.

* Jerusalem was the city where people were to be sent out to preach and teach God's word.

* Jesus is crying out of love and despair. So this chapter is filled with Jesus sorry for Jerusalem and its teachers.

>How had God tried to turn them to himself to be blessed and, and in turn, to become a blessing?

* "those sent to you" -God continually sent his prophets to them.

* "I have longed to gather your children as... chicks" -God loved them so greatly.

>How had they responded?

* "you were not willing" -God will not force anyone. He wants people to respond to his love. God desires a reciprocal love relationship.

>10. How did Jesus express his own deep love and longing for God's people? (Compare with King David in 2 Sa. 18:33)

* 2 Samuel 18:33 "The king was shaken. He went up to the room over the gateway and wept. As he went, he said: "O my son Absalom's! My son, my son Absalom! If only I had died instead of you--O Absalom, my son, my son!"

* Absalom was a rebellious son who tried to take David's kingship by force. Yet David loved him and cried for him when he died.

* The rejection the Jews showed to Jesus is a sad event in human history.

>What was in Jesus' heart?

* Jesus wanted Jerusalem to turn to him in repentance.

* Jesus had a broken heart for Jerusalem and its leaders.

>What did he mean in verses 38-39?

* "Look, your house is left to you desolate. For I tell you, you will not see me again until you say, 'Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.'" (38-39)

* Jesus is predicting the destruction in 70 A.D.

* Jesus will come again to Jerusalem, but only when they accept him as king and cry to him for help. That day is almost upon us. That day is during the seven years of tribulations, after the church is taken.

* Jesus is warning them because he time is almost done as being physically present in this world.

>Why is it such a serious matter to reject God's love?

* There is not other way to receive forgivness that tho have one's sin put on Jesus. Destruction is coming if we do not repent.