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Matthew 23:24-28 Blind Pharisees

Posted by adventbiblestudy on July 14, 2012


Matthew 23:24-28 Blind guides! You strain your water so you won’t accidentally swallow a gnat, but you swallow a camel! (25) “What sorrow awaits you teachers of religious law and you Pharisees. Hypocrites! For you are so careful to clean the outside of the cup and the dish, but inside you are filthy–full of greed and self-indulgence! (26) You blind Pharisee! First wash the inside of the cup and the dish, and then the outside will become clean, too. (27) “What sorrow awaits you teachers of religious law and you Pharisees. Hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs–beautiful on the outside but filled on the inside with dead people’s bones and all sorts of impurity. (28) Outwardly you look like righteous people, but inwardly your hearts are filled with hypocrisy and lawlessness.

Jesus told His followers in the temple court to listen and obey the teachers of the religious laws, but not to follow their example. He wanted to show the respect He held for them. At the same time, Jesus knew He had to use specific examples to properly teach His disciples the lesson they had to learn. Jesus knew time was running short, and there was so much more they had to learn.

He had to make certain His disciples would remember the example He set for them, and they would never fall victim to the same temptations which trapped the religious leaders. Jesus pointed out the elaborate dress they relied upon. How they displayed God’s Word on their sleeves, but never let it grow in their heart. They thought respect came from outward appearance. They did not understand, respect comes from the inside expressed in actions of love, charity, honesty, justice, and equality. Jesus’ appearance, demeanor, actions, and faith stood in stark contrast to that of the religious leaders across the courtyard.

Jesus also pointed out their misguided doctrine which emphasized the sacrifice of others for their personal gain. He wanted His disciples to realize, worldly gain does not bring glory to God. He wanted them to understand the symbols God used in the temple, and how each related to a spiritual lesson which explained the prophecies about to be fulfilled. Jesus wanted His disciples to be prepared for the lessons they were to learn after He was gone.

Jesus continued His lesson by pointing out specific details in which the religious leaders emphasized strict obedience to the law with little or no regard to the practical or fundamental meaning. “Blind guides! You strain your water so you won’t accidentally swallow a gnat, but you swallow a camel!”

Jesus was referring to a practical ordinance regarding an important health issue. “If such an animal dies and falls on something, that object will be unclean. This is true whether the object is made of wood, cloth, leather, or burlap. Whatever its use, you must dip it in water, and it will remain defiled until evening. After that, it will be ceremonially clean and may be used again. “If such an animal falls into a clay pot, everything in the pot will be defiled, and the pot must be smashed. If the water from such a container spills on any food, the food will be defiled. And any beverage in such a container will be defiled.” (Leviticus 11:32-34)

In their zeal to proclaim and expound on God’s law, the religious leaders turned a simple health issue into a ritual, leading people to believe this was a way of pleasing God. They had taken it to such an extreme, they believed their attention to detail would bring God’s blessing, earning them salvation. Jesus knew this was a tactic Satan would soon tempt His disciples with. Jesus continued to emphasize His point. “What sorrow awaits you teachers of religious law and you Pharisees. Hypocrites! For you are so careful to clean the outside of the cup and the dish, but inside you are filthy–full of greed and self-indulgence!”

Jesus gained the full attention of His disciples. He seldom mixed symbols with the interpretation in the same sentence. They knew He did this so there would be no mistake, each of His disciples knew He was referring to the Pharisees, but the lesson was directed at them. This touched each of their hearts. The long pause in Jesus’ lesson gave them the chance to reflect on their own lives, particularly the past three years. Peter could see how he had been trying to draw attention to himself by answering Jesus’ questions before giving others a chance to speak. James and John began to see how asking for the highest positions in Jesus’ kingdom was not the quality Jesus was looking for. Judas could see how he thought his position in the group had made him think he had special privileges and insight to Jesus’ lessons. All of their heads were hanging low. Jesus looked out at each of them before He continued. “You blind Pharisee! First wash the inside of the cup and the dish, and then the outside will become clean, too.”

As their heads sank even further, Jesus knew they were making silent petitions to God. Jesus wanted them to realize, following such examples comes with a high price to pay. “What sorrow awaits you teachers of religious law and you Pharisees. Hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs–beautiful on the outside but filled on the inside with dead people’s bones and all sorts of impurity. Outwardly you look like righteous people, but inwardly your hearts are filled with hypocrisy and lawlessness.”

Jesus knew His disciples could see the connection between death and the wayward heart. Beauty does not come from the outside, but from the inside. For years Jesus had been teaching them to put away the world. He wanted them to realize the consequences of putting on the world, accepting its doctrines, traditions, and religion.

Many of their minds drifted back to the parable Jesus told a few hours ago. They began to see the spiritual connection between the man wearing his own garment at the wedding feast and Jesus’ reference to the outward appearance of the Pharisees, who would have been too proud to cover themselves with anything other then the garments they relied upon to pronounce their status and beliefs. The disciples finally realized the doctrines and traditions of the religious leaders would never satisfy the king. The also realized the king in the parable was a symbol for Jesus’ Father, God. The garment represented a gift from God. Some of them began to think, to question, what did the wedding represent?

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