Now for this very reason also, applying all diligence, in your faith supply moral virtue, and in your moral virtue,
knowledge ;

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Matthew chapter 23

As a preface to  Matthew chapter 23, we have to remember that Jesus never committed any sin. (2Corinth. 5:21, 1st Pet. 2:21-23)  He never lied or reacted in a way that would prompt an apology. 
I say this because this chapter of Matthew  will easily make us forget who was doing the talking in this passage. We can all relate to the feelings that would prompt us to say the things that Jesus says to the leaders of the Jewish religion on that day. But what we can't relate to is the ability to say those things that Jesus said, and remain sinless. This is one of the most incredible chapters in the bible.

It is very important that you read this chapter on your own. Pray over it and read it again. I know that the Lord has something to teach you (and me) in this chapter. 

As we start this chapter, we are actually reading a continuation from  Matthew 21 and 22. Jesus returned to the temple the morning after the triumphal entry. It is still the day after He drove the money changers from the temple. He has been confronted by the Chief Priests ( Matt.21:23), the Pharisees (Matt. 22:15) and the Saducees (Matt. 22:23). In the first verse of Matt. 23, He is still addressing the same crowd.  His time , since the entry in Jerusalem, had been taken up with personal confrontation from the groups trying to discredit Him in front of the crowd. This crowd of people had been celebrating Him as the Messiah. 

phylactery, on his head (Matt.23:5)
In Matt. 23:1, we are told that He is speaking to everyone. (  He must have had to shout). The verse says that He "spoke to the multitude" meaning, a great many people. He gets everyone's attention with verse  23:2. In verse  23:2, He tells the crowd that the Pharisees and scribes have seated themselves in the place of Moses, and for that reason ,they should do as they are instructed by them. This would have gotten everyone's attention for different reasons. The Pharisees and Scribes would have been shocked by this perceived compliment. The disciples would have been surprised to hear Him tell the people to obey the Pharisees and the Multitude would have been waiting to hear what He had to say next because His message usually was at odds with what the scribes taught. 

Now that He had everyone's attention, He could start to teach all of them.  In Matt. 23:4- 12 , He removes any reason for the people to honor their religious leaders. He discredits the titles that they loved and exposed their hypocrisy . I'm sure that the scribes and Pharisees had dreaded this moment. They had been very worried that the people would be so effected by Jesus that they would stop listening to them. Their worst fears were now coming true. In John 12, we read John's account of the Triumphal Entry.This is the same entrance to Jerusalem as in Matthew 21. Before the entry into Jerusalem , Jesus has dinner at Lazarus's house. The dinner was sometime after  Lazarus had been raised from the dead by Jesus.   In this chapter ( John 12:10),"The Chief priests took counsel that they might put Lazarus to death also , as well as Jesus ( John12:11) because on account of Lazarus, many of the Jews were going away and believing in Jesus"
After Jesus entered Jerusalem, at the end of John 12:19 "The Pharisees therefore said to one another, "you see that you are not doing any good; look the whole world has gone after Him"

These verses in John, help us to understand what was happening in Matthew 23.  

Starting in Matt. 23:13, Jesus addresses the scribes and Pharisees directly.  He says " woe to you scribes and Pharisees , you hypocrites. Because you shut off the kingdom of heaven from men; for you do not enter in yourselves and you do not allow others who are entering to go in" .  ,  It was clear that the scribes and the pharisees were not going to accept Christ and that they were working to keep any of the ordinary people  from accepting what Jesus had to say. . (This "woe", in their culture was a statement of morning and sorrow, with foreboding)
 In Matt. 23:14-16 More "woes" are pronounced with even stronger language; "you shall receive greater condemnation ", " you make him twice as much as a son of hell as your selves"
The language gets even stronger. In Matt 23:17, He starts the verse by saying they are  "fools" and "blind guides of the blind" (remember, Jesus is not name calling. He is stating facts. He has a godly purpose in all of this). He continues on to teach a valuable lesson about the things that are truly important. In Matt. 23 17-22, He completely inverts the value system that the people had been taught about the sacrifices on the altar in the temple. In Matt. 23:23, He pronounces another "woe" on the Pharisees and scribes and calls them hypocrites again . From 23:23 to the end of the chapter the language gets stronger and stronger. He goes on to call them "blind guides" "white washed tombs full of dead mans bones and all uncleanness"(this was a terrible insult to them. Read Num. 19:12-22).
He calls them serpents, and a "brood of Vipers". (Matt.23:33)
Jesus's words were chosen very carefully.  He doesn't just call them snakes. He calls them a "brood of vipers". Vipers are live birth snakes. He calls them deadly snakes in the process of reproducing live, deadly snakes.
He says "how will you escape the sentence of hell?
He tells them in Matt.23:35 that they will bear the guilt of  all of  the prophets that were slain. That they will be held accountable for all of the righteous blood shed on the earth. He pronounces judgement on their generation and goes on to mourn Jerusalem and what could have been, during His visit to earth. 
 Remember what we said earlier. Jesus wasn't name calling. He wasn't settling a score or trying to punish the Jewish leaders in anyway. 
In John 6:38 Jesus say's, "For I have come down from heaven not to do  My own will, but the will of Him who sent me.
And In John7:16 Jesus says, " My teaching is not Mine, but His who sent Me. 
In earlier studies I discussed the fact that we need to pray for an eternal perspective in all things. Isaiah 55:8-9, the Lord says; "For My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways" "For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts higher than your thoughts". I know that I am still unable to understand this fully , but I do know that all that Jesus said and did was done with the eternal perspective of the almighty God. 
What is the will, the desire of God?  Isaiah 45:22  says,"Turn to Me, and be saved all the ends of the earth, for I am God, and there is no other."

The eternal goal of our loving Lord, the only motivation of our wonderful, almighty God,  is to see all men redeemed.  Saved from ourselves. 
I am positive that there were people from the multitude who may have been offended by some of what Jesus said. Surely the Jewish leaders were enraged. His words fanning the flames of hatred which drove them to do what they did. 
But, we have to remember that there were those who were saved that day. People forever changed, saved by the hand of God reaching down and giving them the eternal shove that they needed. Maybe, to see things from an eternal perspective. The Lord is willing to use harsh words that may offend some  in order to save many, a few or even one. His desire is to save.
 I have seen examples of this. When I went to college in So. California in the late 70's, I was a new believer and there was a man, older than my father, who used to stand with his bible open, on a busy street corner loudly proclaiming the need for salvation for all people. At the time, I thought that he was crazy. I thought that he was disgracing the name of Christ by the way he was presenting the Gospel. Sometime later, I met a man who had given his life to Christ because of a man like him. I now know that old man, that dear saint, had made himself a fool for Christ. He had burnt his life and reputation to the ground for sake of the gospel. He was being faithful to the call of Christ on his life. 
(He was NOT, cruel and offensive like the guys that go to the funerals of our service men)

The Lord will do whatever it takes to have the privilege to wipe the tears from our faces .(Isaiah 25:8) Sometimes being " pierced to the heart" is what a person needs to be saved. READ Acts.2:22-37

I like to think that Nicodemus the Pharisee  was saved that day. He had been to see Jesus  that night in John chapter 3. They talked of being born again and it was to him that Jesus himself said "For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten son that whoever believes in Him should not perish but  have eternal life". We are told later in John 7:50-52, that Nicodemus tries to get the pharisees to listen to Jesus before He was crucified.
In John 19:38-40, we learn that Nicodemus joined Joseph of Arimathea in caring for the body of Jesus once He was taken down from the cross. He brought the spices to prepare Jesus's body for burial.  The scripture says he brought about 100lbs of costly myrrh  and aloe.
Is it possible that Jesus spoke all that was in Matthew chapter 23 to save 1 person? I believe so.  Although, I truly believe that many were saved that day.

So, to remember this chapter, we will use the beginning of verse 23:23, Woe to you scribes and pharisees...I think this will help us to remember what is in this chapter.
Keep reading your bibles ladies. Our wonderful, awesome Lord, loves you so much. Pray for remembrance, and understanding of what you read. Don't let the world and it's cares rob you of your time with Him and don't give it willingly either. I am praying for all of you!

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