Todays readings… Genesis 26, Psalm 38, Matthew 23
Matthew Ch 23 is full of blunt observations by Jesus about the religious leaders, but no indication is given of their reaction. The end of ch. 22 shows how he silenced them with a question they could not answer and “from that day did anyone dare ask him any more questions.”
Chapter 23 starts by telling us he is speaking to “the crowds and to his disciples” [v.1], and the whole chapter is about this. He is in the Temple because Ch. 24 starts by saying, “Jesus left the Temple …” He begins by saying, “The scribes and the Pharisees sit on Moses seat, so practice and observe whatever they tell you – but not what they do. For they preach, but do not practice.” [v.2,3] This observation has been all too common in religious circles – right down to our day. This must not be so among those who sincerely read God’s word.
“They do their deeds to be seen by others” [v.5] says Jesus, “and being called Rabbi (teacher) by others. But you are not to be called rabbi, for you have one teacher, and you are all brothers. And call no man your father on earth, for you have one Father, who is in heaven.” [v.7-9] These words have been ignored in the main Christian churches right through the Centuries – and until the Bible was printed and everyone could read God’s word – most were ignorant of these teachings of Jesus. May the words of the Bible be our teacher.
The really observant reader may notice that Jesus’ words, “Woe unto you” are spoken to the “scribes and Pharisees” 7 times! See vv.13,15,16,23,25,27 and 29. We have noted several hidden sevens in our readings in recent weeks. Jesus bluntly says to them, “you also outwardly appear righteous to others, but within you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness.” [v.28].
This reminds us of the words in the Proverbs of the one who “harbours deceit in his heart; when he speaks graciously, believe him not, for there are seven abominations in his heart.” [26 v.24,25] May there be none in ours, may our speech be totally genuine and sincere.