Focus verses: Matthew 23:1-39
Most people are familiar with the Beatitudes – you know, “the blessed are the meek” etc. Not many people remember the curses. But here they are.
He begins with a condemnation of self-righteousness. Smug, self-satisfied people are not those He wants in His kingdom. He prefers those who serve with humility and deference.
Then He really gets wound up with the teachers of the law and the Pharisees. He proclaims their short-comings publicly, and the consequences thereof are not pretty.
First on the block are the teachers of false religion. I take this to mean anyone who teaches anything not precisely taught by Jesus. If you are called to be a teacher, you must be doubly on your guard that no word escapes your lips that is not of God. When Jesus calls someone “a son of hell” it has dire implications.
Next He condemns legalism. The regulations of man are not superior to the edicts of God – nor should they replace the edicts of God as the guideposts of our lives. When we follow the traditions of man rather than the teachings of God, we have become blind and are stumbling in the dark.
He moves to injustice. He speaks against those who practice the letter of the law without practicing the spirit of the law – which is love for one’s neighbor. That attitude leads to justice and mercy.
Hypocrisy is His next target. We have all known people who put on airs, dress well, act like butter wouldn’t melt in their mouth. And these same people hide shameful sins, theft, violence, adultery, licentiousness, cruelty. Jesus sees the heart full of hypocrisy and wickedness. This is not a condition exclusive to the Pharisees. We all have that tendency.
Finally He winds up with persecution of the prophets. He calls these teachers and Pharisees a “brood of vipers.” Have you ever seen a nest of snakes? They are so wound up with one another you can’t tell where one ends and the other begins. The seem to flow freely between and among one another. But outsiders are in danger of snake bite. He reserves his direst imprecations for them.
After this climax, He mourns over Jerusalem. These very people to whom he has been directing these curses are the ones over whom He grieves that they will not learn, will not turn to Him.
He has been talking to the most egregious offenders against God, yet He mourns over them. This is a picture of true forgiveness. He has seen the offenses for what they are. He recognizes the offenders for what they have done. Yet He grieves over their demise and rejection of God. Moreover, He offers them a hope. They can yet return to God.
We thank You that the forgiveness you offer is not limited as to offense and offender. Help us to see that nothing we have done can keep us from repenting of our sins and turning our lives over to You. There is room in Your kingdom for even the vilest sinner who repents.