Seven woes – Part Two (Matt 23:25-33)

So far in Matthew 23 we’ve seen Jesus take aim at the Pharisees for their hypocrisy:

  • Adding their own extra regulations to God’s law, making them the focus – and imposing them on others.
  • Using this to enhance their own status as lawmakers and interpreters for others.
  • Stopping others from entering the kingdom by (1) their focus on outward behaviour rather than inward transformation; and (2) rejecting Jesus, the Messiah.
  • Getting hung up on the small stuff – like tithing their spices – while ignoring the main themes of the law, like justice, mercy, and faithfulness.

Today, Jesus continues with the last three of his seven woes: announcements of judgement against the Pharisees:

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Seven woes – Part One (Matt 23:13-24)

This week we’ve seen Jesus take aim at the Pharisees for being hypocrites: they added their own rules and regulations to God’s law, which had become for them a source of status and power. What’s more, they made the symbols of their obedience (like phylacteries and tassels) stand out so that the rest of the people would treat them with honour. They were using religious observance to enhance their status.

Now this was bad enough, but the real hypocrisy hasn’t yet been exposed. In this next section, Jesus pronounces seven “woes” on the Pharisees – for becoming so focused on their own system of rules and behaviours that they were misleading the rest of the people, and neglecting the essence of the law itself!

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Phylactery will get you nowhere (Matt 23:5-12)

Yesterday (Matt 23:1-4), we saw how the Pharisees added their own extra rules and regulations to the law. It started off with good intentions, building a hedge around the law to stop people getting anywhere near breaking one of God’s laws. But then they started to impose them on others. To judge themselves and others on how well they observed their man-made regulations. This made them the self-appointed gatekeepers of righteous behaviour, and made others dependent on them for “rulings” on what was right behaviour. In short, it gained them status. Which is what Jesus takes them to task over in the next verse:

Matthew 23:5-8 Everything they do is done for people to see: They make their phylacteries wide and the tassels on their garments long; 6 they love the place of honor at banquets and the most important seats in the synagogues; 7 they love to be greeted with respect in the marketplaces and to be called ‘Rabbi’ by others.

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Pharisees in the hot seat (Matt 23:1-4)

Today, we begin a short series in Matthew chapter 23. It’s the start of Jesus’ fifth and final block of teaching in Matthew’s Gospel. (Is that significant? Probably. Throughout the Gospel, Jesus is portrayed as “Moses 2.0” – you might remember his first block of teaching was up on a mountain, just like Moses – and Moses was traditionally held to be the author of the first five books of the Hebrew Scriptures.) And in this chapter, the whole “gentle Jesus, meek and mild” stereotype gets blown up, as Jesus straps on an ammo belt full of home truths and trains his guns on the Pharisees, as he becomes… The Sermonator.

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Holiday series: Matt 9:35-38

During the school holiday break, we’re reliving some posts from 2014 which look at Matthew chapters 8 & 9. New material will resume tomorrow.

Our final story from Matthew 9 is probably the most famous in the chapter, but also the one most misunderstood in terms of what Jesus was referring to by “sending out workers into the harvest field”. It’s often used in the context of global mission. And while it indeed has great application for global mission, that’s not what’s going on at this point in Jesus’ ministry. (Remember, the Great Commission is at the end of Matthew’s Gospel!)

It begins with a summary of what Jesus was doing:

9:35 Jesus went through all the towns and villages, teaching in their synagogues, proclaiming the good news of the kingdom and healing every disease and sickness.

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Holiday series: Matt 8 & 9

During the school holiday break, we’re reliving some posts from 2014 which look at Matthew chapters 8 & 9. New material will resume on Wednesday.

At the end of last week, in our study of Matthew 8 & 9, we saw that the miracle stories in these chapters were intended to make a particular point. By arranging them together in this fashion, Matthew was telling us that Jesus was performing the actions of the Messiah, as envisioned by the prophet Isaiah 700 years prior: sight to the blind, mobility to the crippled, cleansing for lepers, and even the dead raised! It was the kingdom of God coming in action. (Just as the Sermon on the Mount we looked at a couple of months ago was the kingdom of God coming in words.)

But still, you’ve got to admit, the world didn’t change all that much, did it? Evil still exists, long after Jesus has been and gone. There’s still suffering and deformity and disease and death.  And even those people healed by Jesus – they all eventually died. What happened to this restoration of all things? Was that it?

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Holiday series: Matt 9:18-30

During the school holiday break, we’re reliving some posts from 2014 which look at Matthew chapters 8 & 9.

Yesterday we looked at the background to today’s passage from Matthew 9. We saw how the people of God had been waiting expectantly for 700 years for Isaiah’s prophecy to be fulfilled:

Isa 35:3-6a Strengthen the feeble hands, steady the knees that give way; say to those with fearful hearts, “Be strong, do not fear; your God will come, he will come with vengeance; with divine retribution he will come to save you.” Then will the eyes of the blind be opened and the ears of the deaf unstopped. Then will the lame leap like a deer, and the mute tongue shout for joy.
Isa 26:1,19 In that day this song will be sung in the land of Judah… But your dead will live, LORD; their bodies will rise — let those who dwell in the dust wake up and shout for joy — your dew is like the dew of the morning; you will make it fall on the spirits of the dead.

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Holiday series: Isaiah 35:3-6

During the school holiday break, we’re reliving some posts from 2014 which look at Matthew chapters 8 & 9.

What happened to the series in Matthew 8 & 9 we’ve been doing? We only got half-way through chapter 9? It’s OK, you didn’t miss anything. Today we’re taking a quick detour in Isaiah, to give us some background before we hit the final stretch of our series.

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Holiday series: Matt 9:9-13

During the school holiday break, we’re reliving some posts from 2014 which look at Matthew chapters 8 & 9.

On Monday we began a quest to work out what Jesus meant when he said “they don’t put new wine in old wineskins” (Matt 9:17). If you’re joining us now, you’d be advised to read that one first. In fact, since last week we’re on a quest to find the big picture Matthew is stitching together for us in chapters 8 & 9.

Yesterday, we saw Jesus shock people by claiming to forgive sins, bypassing the Temple establishment and sacrificial system. The second story is just as shocking. This time, it’s not because of what Jesus does. It’s just because of who he hangs out with.

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Holiday series: Matt 9:1-8

During the school holiday break, we’re reliving some posts from 2014 which look at Matthew chapters 8 & 9.

Yesterday we began a quest to work out what Jesus meant when he said “they don’t put new wine in old wineskins” (Matt 9:17). If you’re joining us now, you’d be advised to read that one first. In fact, since last week we’re on a quest to find the big picture Matthew is stitching together for us in chapters 8 & 9.

Today’s story is about a healing miracle. There are plenty of those stories in the gospels. But in this one, we see there’s much more going on than just a healing. It starts off like any other miracle story. A person comes to Jesus who needs to be healed. They show faith – that is, they trust that Jesus is able to help them. And Jesus responds. Yet in this story, Jesus’ response is a little jarring.

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