Matthew – Chapter 23

Jesus Characterizes the Pharisees

Verse 1 – Then Jesus spoke to the multitudes and to His disciples,

Verse 2 – saying, “The scribes and the Pharisees sit in Moses seat.

Verse 3 – “Therefore whatever they tell you to observe, that observe and do , but do not do according to their works; for they say, and do not do.

Verse 4 – “For they bind heavy burdens, hard to bear, and lay them on men’s shoulders; but they themselves will not move them with one of their fingers.

The Pharisees had added to the law of Moses, and made them so strict that no one could follow them. Jesus was not talking about traditions and foolish customs, these were the ceremonies and rites that had been outlined by Moses. They were numerous, expensive, requiring much time, much property, and laborious. The Pharisees required taxes, labor, giving of property, but did not give it themselves.

Verse 5 – “But all their works they do to be seen by men. They make their phylacteries broad and enlarge the borders of their garments.

Phylacteries were small boxes containing tiny scrolls. They were worn by faithful Jewish men on one arm and on the forehead.

Have you ever been around someone who can’t even have a simple conversation without quoting scripture the whole time? They want others to think they know much, but the problem is, they don’t practice what they preach.

Verse 6 – “They love the best places at feasts, the best seats in the synagogues,

Verse 7 – “greetings in the marketplaces, and to be called by men, ‘Rabbi, Rabbi.’

The Pharisees didn’t care about being holy, they only wanted to look holy in front of others to receive their admiration and praise. As today, many know the scriptures, but they don’t let it change their lives. They say they follow Jesus, but don’t live by His standards and principle. Our actions should match our beliefs.

Verse 8 – “But you, do not be called ‘Rabbi’; for One is your Teacher, the Christ, and you are all brethren.

Jesus forbade His disciples to seek such titles.

Verse 9 – “Do not call anyone on earth your father; for One is your Father, He who is in heaven.

Jesus is not talking about our “Dad’s.” He is still on the same subject of titles for spiritual leaders. Father, belongs to God only, it is not right to give this title to people. Jesus couldn’t have been any clearer. So what part of this statement, that all the religions that call their spiritual adviser, “father,” don’t they understand. I may have opened a can of worms, but I didn’t write the Bible, God did, and Jesus said in His own words, “Do not call anyone on earth father!” Period!

Verse 10 – “And do not be called teachers, for One is your Teacher, the Christ.

Father and Teacher are two names reserved for the Messiah and God only in leadership in the church. Jesus prohibited His disciple from seeking or receiving mere empty titles, producing distinctions among themselves, implying authority to control the opinions and conduct of others, and claiming that others should acknowledge them to be superior to them.

However, this does not mean we can’t give proper titles of civil office to men, or to render them honor belonging to their station. 1 Peter 2:17 – Honor all people, love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the king. Are there teachers? Yes, just know that the true Teacher teaches the student or disciple and give honor and reverence to Christ.

Verse 11 – “But he who is greatest among you shall be your servant.

To the one who humbles himself, shall be rewarded by God, not praised by men.

Verse 12 – “And whoever exalts himself will be abased, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.

In Jesus kingdom, to him that is the greatest, he will serve, giving one’s self to help others. Service will keep us aware of others needs, and it stops us from only focusing on ourselves. We are not to seek praise from others because of what we do. In due time, God will exalt us.

Jesus Condemns the Pharisees

Verse 13 – “But woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you shut up the kingdom of heaven against men; for you neither go in yourselves, nor do you allow those who are entering to go in.

The Pharisees were preventing people from entering the kingdom by opposing Jesus every step of the way. They were attempting to convince people that Jesus was an impostor, thus preventing them from being followers.

Verse 14 – “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you devour window’s houses, and for a pretense make long prayers. Therefore you will receive greater condemnation.

The Pharisees convinced the widow’s to let them be in charge of their possessions and property and then they kept it. As far as the long prays, it is said they often lasted three hours in length. On the day of judgment, they would receive more severe punishment. They damned their own souls by doing what they were doing. Our actions do matter.

Verse 15 – “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you travel land and sea to win on proselyte, and when he is won, you make him twice as much a son of hell as yourselves.

Proselyte – someone that comes from a foreign nation, religion, or sect, to covert. There were two types of proselytes; those who fully embraced the Jewish religion, who were baptized, circumcised, and who conformed to the Mosaic institutions. The other type Proselytes; they approved of the Jewish religion, renounced their pagan religion and superstitions, and conformed to some of the rites of the Jews, but were not circumcised or baptized. After these proselytes were converted, the Pharisees taught more about the outward works and their rules, than having an inward change toward God, therefore, they would be a “son of hell,” not a son of God.

Verse 16 – “Woe to you, blind guides, who say, ‘Whoever swears by the temple, it is nothing; but whoever swears by the gold of the temple, he is obliged to perform it.’

Verse 17 – “Fools and blind! For which is greater the gold or the temple that sanctifies the god?

Verse 18 – “And, ‘Whoever swears by the altar, it is nothing; but whoever swears by the gift that is on it, he is obliged to perform it.’

Verse 19 – “Fools and blind! For which is greater the gift or the altar that sanctifies the gift?

Verse 20 – “Therefore he who swears by the altar, swears by it and by all things on it.

Verse 21 – “He who swears by the temple, swears by it and by Him who dwells in it.

Verse 22 – “And he who swears by heaven, swears by the throne of God and by Him who sits on it.

The Pharisees were taking oaths and making them to seem binding by swearing on the altars, by the gold in the temple and by God’s throne. Jesus says here, that all who swear at all, do in fact, swear by God, or the oath is good for nothing. To swear by an altar, or a temple is of no force unless it be meant to appeal to God.

Verse 23 – “Woe to you, scribes, and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you pay tithe of mint and anise and cumin, 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.

Anise, is commonly known as dill. The law required the Jews to devote a tenth part of all property to support the Levites, Numbers 18:20-24. Another tenth was paid for the service of the sanctuary, grain or cattle. Every third year a tenth was given to the poor (Deuteronomy 14:28, 29). However, they left out the part to be merciful and show justice, and Jesus called them out on it.

We can be a stickler for paying a tenth, but yet refuse to help a neighbor. The Pharisees were obsessed with ritual matters, but neglected and overlooked mercy in all dealings.

Verse 24 – “Blind guides, who strain out a gnat and swallow a camel!

One who is troubled with the little things, but pays no attention to the greater things that matter.

Verse 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 (wickedness).

Verse 26 – “Blind Pharisees, first cleanse the inside of the cup and dish, that the outside of them may be clean also.

If we take care of the heart matters first, the good works and good behavior will follow.

Verse 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.

Verse 28 – “Even so you also outwardly appear righteous to men, but inside you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness.

Living a Christian life is more than just going through he motions of appearing to do everything right. There has to be a true transformation of the heart. If someone comes to church, listens to sermons Sunday after Sunday and nothing ever changes in their life, then they haven’t truly been transformed.

Verse 29 – “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites!” Because you build the tombs of the prophets and adorn mountains of the righteous,

Verse 30 – “and say, ‘If we had lived in the day of our fathers, we would not have been partakers with them in the blood of the prophets.’

They thought so highly of themselves that they “surely wouldn’t have killed any prophets!” That wasn’t true, or they would have recognized Jesus for who He was and not have killed Him. Jesus knew all this and put it in their faces.

Verse 31 – “Therefore you are witness against yourselves that you are sons of those who murdered the prophets.

Verse 32 – “Fill up, then, the measure of your fathers guilt.

Verse 33 – “Serpents brood of vipers! How can you escape the condemnation of hell?

Verse 34 – “Therefore, indeed I send 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,

Verse 35 – “that on you may come all the righteous blood shed on the earth, form the blood of righteous Abel to the blood of Zechariah, son of Berechiah, whom you murdered between the temple altar.

Verse 36 – “Assuredly, I say to you, all these things will come upon this generation.

Jesus told them that this generation would suffer God’s wrath for its abuse of the righteous. Can you imagine if today a pastor was to address the hypocrites of that congregation, what their reaction would be? Sometimes “faker” have to be called out! Jesus did.

Verse 32 – “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the one who kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to her! How often I wanted to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing!

Verse 38 – “See! Your house is left to you desolate;

Verse 39 – “for I say to you, you shall see Me no more till you say, ‘Blessed is He who comes in the name of the LORD!

There is coming a day when all of Jerusalem will say, “Blessed is He who comes in the name of the LORD!”

God is a good God and wants desperately to have a relationship with each person living. God wants to be good to us all, so why reject the One True God? Do you not know, “That the goodness of God leads you to repentance”? (Romans 2:4)




This entry was posted in Matthew.

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