Woe to the Scribes and Pharisees – For Their Inconsistency of Practice

“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you pay tithe of mint and anise and cummin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faith. These you ought to have done, without leaving the others undone. 24 Blind guides, who strain out a gnat and swallow a camel!

25 “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you cleanse the outside of the cup and dish, but inside they are full of extortion and self-indulgence. 26 Blind Pharisee, first cleanse the inside of the cup and dish, that the outside of them may be clean also.

27 “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs which indeed appear beautiful outwardly, but inside are full of dead men’s bones and all uncleanness. 28 Even so you also outwardly appear righteous to men, but inside you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness.

29 “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! Because you build the tombs of the prophets and adorn the monuments of the righteous, 30 and say, ‘If we had lived in the days of our fathers, we would not have been partakers with them in the blood of the prophets.’

31 “Therefore you are witnesses against yourselves that you are sons of those who murdered the prophets. 32 Fill up, then, the measure of your fathers’ guilt. 33 Serpents, brood of vipers! How can you escape the condemnation of hell? 34 Therefore, indeed, I send you prophets, wise men, and scribes: some of them you will kill and crucify, and some of them you will scourge in your synagogues and persecute from city to city, 35 that on you may come all the righteous blood shed on the earth, from the blood of righteous Abel to the blood of Zechariah, son of Berechiah, whom you murdered between the temple and the altar. 36 Assuredly, I say to you, all these things will come upon this generation.” — Matthew 23:23-36.

Jesus continues to denounce the hypocritical scribes and Pharisees.

They were leaving the Commands of God undone – They left undone the weightier matters of God’s law by stressing on tithing, but neglecting justice, mercy, and faith. They were straining out a gnat (Aramaic=galma) and swallowing a camel (Aramaic=gamla). Jesus employs a play of words and a hyperbole to emphasize their hypocrisy. Jesus often used camels in His overstatements (see Matt. 19:24; Mark 10:25; Luke 18:25).

They were focusing only on the outer man — The scribes and Pharisees focused only on the outside. They were overly concerned with the traditions of ritual/ceremonial cleanliness, but their attitudes and motives were far from God (see Matthew 15:8,9; Isaiah 19:13). They were willing to ignore extortion, self-indulgency, hypocrisy, and lawlessness. They were outwardly religious but inwardly corrupt.

They were honoring the past, but unwilling to live it – They honored the ancient men of God, but were more like their ancestors who murdered the prophets. In the OT God’s people would kill God’s prophets and then build large tombs for them! The building of monuments to God’s spokesmen is not what God wanted. He desires obedience to His message (vv.34-35). Indeed, they would do even more harm than their fathers. These leaders would kill Jesus and His followers.

Jesus was not always the meek and mild man often pictured (see Matt. 3:7; 12:34). His harshest condemnation was reserved against religious self-righteous hypocrisy.

Jesus states a reality by saying that upon that generation would come the judgment for the murder of all God’s prophets — from Abel to Zechariah — which was fulfilled in the destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple in AD 70.

Scripture taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

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