Then Jesus said to the crowds and to his disciples, “The scribes and the Pharisees sit on Moses’ seat, so do and observe whatever they tell you, but not the works they do. For they preach, but do not practice. (1-3)
“But woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! 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.
“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you travel across sea and land to make a single proselyte, and when he becomes a proselyte, you make him twice as much a child of hell as yourselves.
“Woe to you, blind guides, who say, ‘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.’ You blind fools! For which is greater, the gold or the temple that has made the gold sacred?
“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you tithe mint and dill and cumin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faithfulness. These you ought to have done, without neglecting the others. (13-17)
“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you clean the outside of the cup and the plate, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence. You blind Pharisee! First clean the inside of the cup and the plate, that the outside also may be clean. (23)
“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs, which outwardly appear beautiful, but within are full of dead people’s bones and all uncleanness. So you also outwardly appear righteous to others, but within you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness.” (25-28)
Matthew 23:1-3, 13-17, 23, 25-28
Jesus returned to the temple for the third time, and the crowds gathered early. What will he do? What will he say? Will he cause another scene? They must have wondered, but they weren’t the only ones with questions.
The chief priests, Pharisees, Herodians, and Sadducees—anyone whose power was threatened by Jesus—gathered to question him, to entangle him in his own words. They wanted to arrest him, but Jesus had become a celebrity with the common people. To avoid a riot, the religious leaders needed Jesus to incriminate himself. So they questioned him about his authority over the temple, Caesar’s rule over the Jews, the resurrection, the Law, and King David’s relationship to the Messiah. But Jesus stumped them with questions of his own, and with marvelous answers that astonished the crowds.
After that, no one questioned him anymore (Matt 22:46)—but Jesus wasn’t finished. In a scathing verbal assault on the scribes and Pharisees, he delivered some of the most dreadful words ever spoken. Jesus pronounced judgment (“Woe to you”) on the most religious people of all, keepers of the Law who sincerely believed they were obeying God. Jesus’s words are a sober warning to us all, and should prompt each of us to examine our own lives.
Catch up on our 7-day Easter Devotional series: