Mat 23:25 "Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you clean the outside of the cup and of the dish, but inside they are full of robbery and self-indulgence.
Mat 23:26 "You blind Pharisee, first clean the inside of the cup and of the dish, so that the outside of it may become clean also.
Mat 23:27 "Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs which on the outside appear beautiful, but inside they are full of dead men's bones and all uncleanness.
Mat 23:28 "So you, too, outwardly appear righteous to men, but inwardly you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness.
Whoa! What an accusation made by Jesus to the scribes and Pharisees. Hypocrites, blind men, appearance of righteousness, full of dead men's bones, unclean. These are some pretty strong words coming from Jesus to a group of people who spent a lot of time in God's word studying the scriptures and leading the people. But leading them to what?
Where do such accusations come from? I was reading through Matthew recently and I am amazed every time I see Christ lay accusations on people and how they respond to it. Sure, it is easy to say that if I was in their sandles I would repent and turn immediately to Christ... But who can say that? In Matthew 23 verse 13 Christ says to them, "But woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites, because you shut off the kingdom of heaven from people; for you do not enter in yourselves, nor do you allow those who are entering to go in."
Christ abhors wickedness, but I believe He is even less fond of men who keep His people from entering into the kingdom of heaven. And that is exactly what these men were doing. They were self righteous men who did not embrace the doctrines of Christ and in doing so they hindered others as well.
So, what is God speaking to me through these passages of scripture seemingly written to a group of religious leaders 2000 years ago. Certainly I am no religious leader. And I am definitely not a scribe or a Pharisee. So, as I read these passages over and over I asked God to reveal what Jesus might be saying to me today.
The first thing that stands out to me is the word hypocrite. However it was described (hypocrite, blind man, fool) it really means one thing: One who feigns to be what he is not; one who has the form of godliness without the power, or who assumes an appearance of piety and virtue, when he is destitute of true religion.
For me, the first lesson out of Matthew 23 is "Don't be a hypocrite." There is a great price to be paid for appearing to be something you are not. Mat 23:38 "Behold, your house is being left to you desolate! Christ tells them that they will be left to their own devices, abandonded by God. When we claim to be Christians and live like we are not, then Christ will allow us to continue on until we end up in ultimate destruction.
The next thing I saw is that they were more worried about the outside appearance than the inner man and being right with God. Mat 23:28 "So you, too, outwardly appear righteous to men, but inwardly you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness. So the second thing I got from this passage was that what is on the inside is far more important than what is on the outside.
God is interested in our heart and our mind, not what we have accomplished and how we appear to others... I wrote a few days ago about being a Living Sacrifice and I believe that Christ is telling me in this passage to be concerned about the inside... My heart and my thoughts regarding Him. Romans 12:2 says: "And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect."
And thirdly I see is a message of humility. Mat 23:10-12 "Do not be called leaders; for One is your Leader, that is, Christ. "But the greatest among you shall be your servant. "Whoever exalts himself shall be humbled; and whoever humbles himself shall be exalted."
I see that the leader's described in Matthew 23 were not going to conform to the likeness of Christ. Their arrogance had blinded them so greatly that they missed the fact that the Messiah was right in front of them. Philipians chapter 2 tells of what we need to be like in order to achieve Christ like humility. Php 2:3-8 Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves; do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others. Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men. Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.
How would Christ speak of you if you were sitting in front of Him today? How would He speak of me? I certainly hope He wouldn't call me a whitewashed tomb or a blind man.
Lord, thank you for allowing me to learn from the lives of others. I know you want my heart and what is on the inside of me is far more imporant than the outside. Help me to grasp your goodness. Allow me to keep my mind in the word so I will not be accused of being like the pharisees. Show me what true humility looks like so I can be more like you every day.