January 31: Jesus Judges False Religion (Matthew 23:13-39)
This Sunday Daniel Harman will continue the series Living as a Church at 9:00am in the youth room. Ray Rutledge will be in the Adult 1 classroom continuing through The Gospel Project (currently going through the Old Testament book of Exodus).
[We will consider the whole of verses 13-39, but only verses 27-39 are listed here.]
“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs, which outwardly appear beautiful, but within are full of dead people's bones and all uncleanness. So you also outwardly appear righteous to others, but within you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness.
“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you build the tombs of the prophets and decorate the monuments of the righteous, saying, ‘If we had lived in the days of our fathers, we would not have taken part with them in shedding the blood of the prophets.’ Thus you witness against yourselves that you are sons of those who murdered the prophets. Fill up, then, the measure of your fathers. You serpents, you brood of vipers, how are you to escape being sentenced to hell? Therefore I send you prophets and wise men and scribes, some of whom you will kill and crucify, and some you will flog in your synagogues and persecute from town to town, so that on you may come all the righteous blood shed on earth, from the blood of righteous Abel to the blood of Zechariah the son of Barachiah, whom you murdered between the sanctuary and the altar. Truly, I say to you, all these things will come upon this generation.
“O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it! How often would I have gathered your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you were not willing! See, your house is left to you desolate. For I tell you, you will not see me again, until you say, ‘Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.’”
With devastating language, Jesus condemns the leaders of Israel for their failure: rejecting the Messiah of God and pursuing a false spirituality marked by hypocrisy. Their ultimate fate, unless they repent is judgment and hell. In his last words in his temple, Jesus speaks with a weight that one can feel. Yet in the midst such darkness, we see the mercy, grace and the tenderness of Jesus. Jesus reveals his heart of compassion as he laments over their rejection of him. This passage calls for us to review our own spiritual lives for traces of self-deception. If found, we must repent and return by faith to the Savior of the world who is tender and yet reigns in power. We can also consider his mercy to the lost so that we might also develop a concern and mercy toward others rather than harsh judgment.
Review and Apply
1. In what ways can our spiritual example lead people toward the kingdom or perhaps shut them out from it? Give personal examples.
2. What areas do we overemphasize in our spiritual lives? What ‘gnats’ are we straining out? In what areas are we hypocritical?
3. What dominant characteristic do you see in Jesus as he faces their rejection? How can we cultivate this in our lives?
4. Explain what Jesus means by saying, ‘Your house is left to you desolate.’
5. What are your thoughts on the judgment Jesus will bring?
6. How often and in what ways do you think about the return of Jesus (v. 39)?