Todays readings… Genesis 36, Psalm 38, Matthew 23


            In our chapter today (Matthew 23), Jesus totally directs his comments against the attitudes displayed by the religious leaders.  They see him as a rival!  He is now in Jerusalem; the climax of his first coming is now just a few days away.

            In one sense he is stirring up the opposition so that they will seek more than ever a means of getting rid of him.  We take note of the particular points of his criticism of them, these men who should be the spiritual leaders of God’s own people. He says of them, “they do all their deeds to be seen by others” [v.5]. 

            They were totally oblivious to the all seeing eye of God; that he could see and know not only what they were doing, but also what they were thinking!  Jesus, through the power of God, knew their hearts, their motives – and we must always be conscious that he knows ours.   He said of them, “They love the places of honour at feasts and the best seats in the synagogues and greetings in the market places and being called rabbi …”  [v.6,7] 

            Then Jesus draws lessons for his disciples, “you are not to be called rabbi” (which means teacher) … call no man your father on earth” [v.8,9] This is obviously meant in a spiritual sense, but centuries later it began to happen.  “The greatest among you shall be your servant” [v.11] and Jesus shortly after demonstrated his servant role when he washed their feet.” (John 13 v.1-20). Then Jesus points to the kingdom age, “whoever humbles himself will be exalted” [v.12]. 

            It is interesting that we then encounter a series of seven statements.   Seven times Jesus says to the Scribes and Pharisees, “Woe to you”!  We can imagine their indignations at being told, “you are like whitewashed tombs, which outwardly appear beautiful, but within are full of dead people’s bones and uncleanness.” [v.27] 

            He explains his meaning, “So you outwardly appear righteous to others but within you are full of hypocrisy…”  What he said was sadly, very true, “they do all their deeds to be seen by others” [v.5]. 

             Now the reason we aim to read God’s word every day is to protect ourselves from developing the same problem.  That is the point that is made in Hebrews 4.  Let’s memorise what we read  from verse 12. “For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two edged sword … discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart” [v.12].   Let us make sure, as we read God’s word every day that we digest in our hearts what we read.