I’ve just finished reading Matthew and this time I have noticed something I never paid much attention to in my previous readings. Jesus is very hard on the religious leaders of His day and speaks out boldly against them.
Jesus asks “the teachers of the law,” “Why do you entertain evil thoughts in your hearts?” Later He asks “some Pharisees and teachers of the law,” “Why do you break the commands of God for the sake of your traditions?” Then He tells them: “You nullify the word of God for the sake of your tradition. You hypocrites! Isaiah was right when he prophesied about you, ‘These people honor Me with their lips, but their hearts are far from Me. They worship Me in vain: their teachings are merely human rules.'”
In Matthew, Jesus gives a series of seven “woes” to the “teachers of the law and Pharisees.” In the first “woe” He says, “You hypocrites! You shut the door of the kingdom of Heaven in people’s faces. You yourselves do not enter, nor will you let those enter who are trying to.”
Here’s “woe” number two: “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You travel over land and sea to win a single convert, and when you have succeeded, you make them twice as much a child of hell as you are.”
In “woe” three, Jesus calls them, “You blind fools!” In “woe” four, Jesus says, “You blind guides! You strain out a gnat but swallow a camel.”
In “woe” five, He tells them, “You hypocrites! You clean the outside of the cup and dish, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence.” “Woe” six states: “You hypocrites! You are like whitewashed tombs, which look beautiful on the outside but on the inside are full of the bones of the dead and everything unclean. In the same way, on the outside you appear to people as righteous but on the inside you are full of hypocrisy and wickedness.”
“In “woe” seven, Jesus tells the religious leaders that they are “the descendants of those who murdered the prophets.” Then He calls them, “You snakes! You brood of vipers!”
Afterwards, Jesus tells His disciples, “Watch out that no one deceives you.” Earlier Jesus warned them to, “Be on your guard against the yeast (teaching) of the Pharisees and Sadducees.”
Speaking of “the teachers of the law and the Pharisees,” Jesus said: “Everything they do is done for people to see . . . they love to be greeted with respect in the marketplaces and to be called ‘Rabbi” by others. But you are not to be called “Rabbi” because you have one Teacher, and you are all brothers. And do not call anyone on earth ‘father’ for you have one Father and He is in Heaven. Nor are you to be called instructors, for you have one instructor, the Messiah. The greatest among you will be your servant.”
Perhaps those seven “woes” pronounced by Jesus should help us “whoa” and not blindly follow today’s religious leaders!