Jesus is speaking to the Pharisees and Sadducees and he gives seven warnings. The way they are living is destructive. Jesus has a clear purpose: Jesus wants them to find life. His purpose is redemption. Jesus is calling out their inconsistencies. We live in a world full of inconsistences.
For example, Nancy and I once watched baby sea turtles crawl out across the beach and into the ocean. It was wonderful! These turtles have federal protection. Yet, we live in a nation where human life isn’t protected.
Jesus brings us to a place where He points out what really matters. This is what the church should be about, but there are places where the church is inconsistent too.
Point people to Jesus.
13…For you shut the kingdom of heaven in people’s faces. For you neither enter yourselves nor allow those who would enter to go in.
Jesus says you’re not going in and you’re not following God and you’re even keeping people from following God. God calls us away from the wide broad path of the world. Jesus is saying that they refuse to enter and they are blocking people from entering. When we follow Christ we point the way for others to follow too.
Multiply what matters.
We spend a lot of time and energy focused on helping us grow. Aren’t you amazed each week at our mission moments? We want to be sure we multiply what matters. The Pharisees and Sadducees were blocking people.
Verses 14 and 15 here tell them they go out of their way to convert people who further block the way to God. They were leading people into a list of rules. It’s a wake-up call to us.
15…and when he becomes a proselyte, you make him twice as much a child of hell as yourselves.
What do people see when they look at you?
It’s like if a music teacher teaches children to play the wrong notes. What will happen when they get older? If someone corrects them, they think the one correcting is wrong. Each of us has someone looking to us to know how to follow God.
Take responsibility for your words.
The Pharisees had a whole system on how to lie and get away with it. They’d take an oath, and if you added, “I swear by this temple” it was a lie. It’s like when someone says, “I swear on my mother’s life, “ or “I swear on the Bible.” If someone says they swear this means they aren’t trustworthy. Jesus brings them to their own system. If you swear by the temple this wasn’t the truth. If you swore by the “gold of the temple,” then any insider would know you’re telling the truth.
16…‘If anyone swears by the temple, it is nothing, but if anyone swears by the gold of the temple, he is bound by his oath.’
Yes, this is bizarre. Jesus is calling them out. They had an elaborate system of deceiving people. Jesus is telling them to strip away lies and just speak truth.
Can people trust your words?
Matthew 5:37a, “Let your ‘Yes’ be ‘Yes’ and your ‘No’ be ‘No.’” Do people know you will follow up on the response you give them? If people cannot trust what you say, how can anyone believe the Gospel when you share it? People won’t hear the Gospel from you. People are able to tell if what we say is true.
Religious activity is not a replacement for caring about people.
23…and have neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faithfulness.
These leaders believed in tithing. We believe this too and even give offerings above the tithe. Jesus gives a teaching that this is good. But here again, Jesus is calling them out because they care about their tithe than they care about people. He says their religion is meaningless!
They tithed so well they were even concerned about giving 10% of their herbs and spices they grew. They’re missing the bigger picture: people. They were so particular that when they drank from a cup they had a filter to strain it with to protect from drinking bugs. If you drank a gnat, you were unclean and you couldn’t enter the temple for worship. They’re missing the bigger picture! You’re trying not to swallow a gnat but you’re swallowing a camel instead!
They’re missing a real relationship with God. May God speak into our hearts. We are duplicating what we think matters. We put a lot of thought into what we do here, but this cannot be above caring for people.
Start with your heart.
25…For you clean the outside of the cup and the plate, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence.
What if you always cleaned the outside of your cup but you never cleaned the inside? Do you only clean the outside of your cup? That’s what’s being offered to the world: clean on the outside but dirty on the inside. Are you offering a real, authentic relationship with God? Start with life on the inside. Let God clean inside.
When we talk about sanctity of life, may we be consistent in our lifestyle. God cares for your soul and your heart.
28So you also outwardly appear righteous to others, but within you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness.
They walked around in nice clothes so people could tell they were important. They wanted to be known as religious, spiritual people. Why go through all the trouble if you’re dirty inside? These words are like a sharp knife. Jesus said they are full of lawlessness. The Pharisees were lawyers and they knew the law best, but they’re inconsistent. They don’t have on the inside what their outside says they have.
29…For you build the tombs of the prophets and decorate the monuments of the righteous,
People were buried in cemeteries or on personal property just like today. It’s easy to stumble across a grave. If you did this, you were unclean and could not worship in the temple. Once a year all the graves were painted and looked beautiful; they were well taken care of. Jesus was saying here, “Your outside looks good, but you’re dead inside.”
Jesus cares about what’s inside. He cares about how He is represented to the world. We wonder why the USA isn’t following God. We need to look at ourselves and our churches. Jesus would say the same to us.
Listen to truth.
May we listen to truth. God loves us. God wants us to hear Him, His heart.
Pharisees and Sadducees built large monuments of the prophets of the past. Many of these prophets were killed for their message. It’s easy to remove the person who gives us pain. Jesus reminded them their forefathers killed these prophets. He said they wouldn’t have listened either. Years later, Paul and Peter preach, “You crucified the King of Glory, God in the flesh!” If we don’t listen to God there’s no hope for us. Paul was a Pharisee, Nicodemus was a Pharisee. Some Pharisees turned and followed Jesus.