WOES TO THE SCRIBES AND PHARISEES
And Jesus said to the crowd and to His disciples, "The
scribes and the Pharisees sit in Moses' seat; so all therefore
that they bid you observe, that is according to the Word
of God, and what they have authority over, that observe and do,
but do not follow their works for they say, but do not do
practice what they preach."
Although the words "according to the Word of God, and what
they have authority over" are added by myself, it is clear from
all that Jesus has said as recorded in the four Gospels, this is
the true meaning of what Jesus was saying to them. We have seen
that Jesus said much of the doctrines and teachings of the
Pharisees was "leaven" and to be ware of their theology. We have
seen that Jesus many times did not agree with the ideas and the
theology of the scribes and Pharisees, so it is obvious that He
was not telling people here to BLINDLY, without question, do and
practice everything that came out of the mouth of those two
groups of people, the scribes and the Pharisees.
Yet, Jesus did admit that they did have a certain amount of
authority from Moses and did have some things correct, so where
their authority and teachings were in line with God's word,
people were to admit it was correct and so do the truth that they
taught. But, He was just as clearly teaching here that people
were NOT to follow the life example set by the scribes and
Pharisees, for as we have seen Jesus often told them they were
hypocrites...they often said what God's word did teach, and
wanted people to obey it, but they did not do it themselves. So
people were to be aware that their example was often far from
what people should follow.
Now Jesus got really to the point, did not hold back, and
painted in graphic words the foundational nature of the scribes
and Pharisees. He went on to say, "They bind heavy burdens, hard
to bear, and lay them on people's shoulders; but they themselves
will not move them off with even a finger."
Religious cults are prone to do this sort of thing. They
rule their members with all kinds of laws that govern every facet
of their lives, from the time they wake up to the time they go to
sleep. The scribes and Pharisees were in many ways a religious
cult, and how they loved to burden people with hundreds of "do
this" and "do not do that" laws of life, that were not the laws
of God. The people were under heavy burdens, and the leaders
of the two groups Jesus is addressing, were not willing to lift
the smallest of these man made regulations, that could, in a
figure of speech, be lifted from them with just one finger.
Jesus continued: "They do all their deeds and works to be
seen of people; for on their arms they wear extra wide prayer
boxes with Scriptures verses inside, and wear extra long tassels
on their robes."
In their religion of those days, there was a lot of meaning
to such clothing. Remember the Old Covenant of the Old Testament
age was in many ways full of physical rites, rituals, sacrifices,
Temple worship, and even decorating their homes and clothing
with Bible verses was often practices. The scribes and Pharisees
went to the ultimate extreme in decorating themselves with
Scripture verses.....but it was, as Jesus said, mainly for
outward show, in order to tell others how "religious" and how
"godly" they were, but in fact the opposite was the true case.
Continuing with Jesus' words, "And how they love to sit at
the head table at banquets and in the most prominent seats in the
church! They enjoy the adulation they get from people on the
streets, and they revel in being called 'Rabbi' or 'teacher' in a
vain religious sense. Do not let anyone call you "Teacher" in
this vain pompous religious way, for you only have ONE "teacher"
- God in heaven. You my disciples are on the same level as
brothers and sisters. Do not address each other with pompous
religious titles. And further more, do not address anyone here on
earth with the religious title of 'Father,' for only God in
heaven is your spiritual Father. And do not let anyone call you
'Master' in a spiritual religious way, for you have only one
Master - the Christ, myself, the Messiah."
Right away we can think of one large religious body of
people who use the word "Father" as a religious title for its
church leaders. Jesus here clearly said such a practice was not
to be done. It is so true in so many cases, that when Jesus said
"do this" people do not, and when Jesus said, "do not do this"
people do it. Such is the deception of the human heart.
To further amplify the state that Christians must have one
towards another, Jesus went on to say: "The one who thinks he is
the greatest among you, must be your servant. Those who exalt
themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will
be exalted. How terrible it will be for you teachers of religious
law and you Pharisees. Hypocrites you are! For you will not let
others enter the Kingdom of God, and you will not go in
yourselves. Woe to you scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites you are,
for shamelessly you cheat widows out of their property, and then,
to cover up the kind of people you really are, you make long
prayers in public. Because of this your punishment will be the
Yes, those leaders of religious law, were very clever at
getting money from people, even from the widow, who would often
give over whatever property they were left by their husband at
death, to "the church" as we say today. And so it still is in our
time that many "religious" teachers out there are masterful at
getting people to give and send them money. Now and again we see
such people and their "religious work" be exposed on TV. Such
persons usually have great personal wealth, or their organization
does, and they live off the organization with a life style is up
with the "rich and the famous" in the Hollywood circle of movie
Continuing: "Woe to you religious leaders of the scribes and
Pharisees, you hypocrites! For you travel around the earth, over
land and sea to make one convert, and when he is made, you make
that person two-fold more the child of hell than yourselves.
Woe unto you, you blind guides, which say, 'Whoever swears by the
Temple, it is nothing, but whoever swears by the gold on the
Temple, is a debtor and is obligated to pay and fulfil what he
has swore to do.' You silly fools and carnally blind: for which
is the greater, the gold, or the Temple that sanctifies the gold
that is on it? The Temple where God says He would dwell is the
greater of course!
And you also say, 'Whoever swears by the altar, it is
nothing; but whoever swears by the gift of sacrifice on the
altar, he is a debtor to pay in full what he swore to do.' You
fools and you blind: for which is the greater, the gift on the
altar or the altar itself that sanctifies the gift? Why the altar
is the greatest of course!
So, whoever swears by the altar, swears by it and everything
that may be upon it. And whoever swears by the Temple, swears by
it and all things upon its walls, and especially by Him that
dwells in it - God.
And whoever swears by heaven, swears by the very throne of
God, and by Him that sits on the throne - God Himself!"
As we can see Jesus did not mince His words towards those
religious leaders of the people known as the scribes and the
Pharisees. Truly some of the teachings they held were by nature
and by common human logic, very silly and foolish, and as Jesus
bluntly put it "hypocritical."
Going on with Jesus' scathing rebukes: "Woe unto you scribes
and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You are careful to tithe even on
the smallest parts of your income and goods, but then you IGNORE
the large important parts of the law - JUSTICE, MERCY, and
FAITH. Oh yes, you SHOULD tithe, but you SHOULD NOT leave UNDONE
the more IMPORTANT things. Blind guides you are! You strain your
water so you will not accidently swallow at gnat; then you turn
around and swallow a camel!
How terrible it will be for you teachers of religious law
and for you Pharisees. You hypocrites! You are so very careful to
wash and clean the outside of the cup and the dish, but you
forget the inside. You are filthy - full of greed and
self-indulgence! You blind Pharisees! You should first wash the
inside of the cup, then the outside will get clean also, as you
wash the inside.
Woe, unto you scribes and Pharisees. Hypocrites! You are
like whitewashed tombs - looking beautiful on the outside, but
filled on the inside with dead people's bones and all sorts of
impurity. You all try to look like upright godly people
outwardly, but inside your hearts are filled with hypocrisy and
Woe, unto you scribes and Pharisees. Hypocrites! For you
build tombs for the prophets your ancestors killed and decorate
the graves of the godly people your ancestors destroyed. Then you
have the nerve to say, 'We would never have joined them in
killing the prophets.' In saying what you say, you are accusing
yourself of being the descendants of those who murdered the
prophets. Go ahead. Finish what they started!
You snakes, you sons of vipers! How will you escape the
judgment of hell fire?
I will send you prophets and wise men and teachers of
religious law. You will kill some, and whip others in your
churches, chasing them from city to city. As a result of
your evil heart you will be guilty of murdering all the godly
people from righteous Abel to Zechariah son of Barachiah, whom
you murdered in the Temple between the altar and the sanctuary. I
assure you, all the accumulated judgment of the centuries will
break and come upon the heads of this very generation."
Jesus as you see, did not mince His words at this time. His
time had just about come to an end as far as living in the flesh
as a human being. He had been very badly treated, shamefully
treated, by those religious leaders of the people of Judah. They,
of all people, should have known better, they were the ones
supposedly reading and understanding all that the word of God in
the Old Testament was saying. Many, many passages told of the
first coming of the Messiah, and how He would live, and teach,
and heal, and proclaim the truths of the Kingdom of God. Those
scribes and Pharisees should have been able to have recognized
that Jesus the Christ was indeed the very promised Messiah. The
words Jesus used against those two groups of religious leaders
were fair and proper words. They deserved every bit of Jesus'
Jesus finished this attack on the scribes and Pharisees by
thinking of the people in general, and how they had been
influenced to deception by those leaders, so much so that in an
overall sense, that deception would last for a great time to
come. He said, "O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, killing the prophets and
stoning those whom God sends to you! How often would I have
gathered your children together as a hen gathers her brood under
her wings, but you would not let me do it! Behold therefore, your
house is forsaken and will be 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' " (Mat.23: 1-39).
Jerusalem, the city, and the majority of the Jews to this
very day, are still spiritually forsaken, and their house is
desolate. They still do not accept Jesus as the Messiah.
They have had great troubles for many centuries. They still wait
for the Messiah to come. They will indeed not see Jesus, until He
comes again in glory. Then as the prophet Zechariah (chapters 12
to 14) shows, they will see that the very Jesus Christ that
walked among them centuries earlier, IS the MESSIAH! They shall
then praise Him and will indeed say, "Blessed be HE who comes in
the name of the Lord."
A WIDOW GIVES ALL
Jesus had been teaching for some hours. He was getting a
little tired so He sat down across from the Temple treasury, and
watched the multitude putting money into the treasury box. Many
very rich people put in large sums of money. Then came along a
poor widow, and put in just two copper coins, which make a penny,
a very very small amount compared to what others had put in. So
small an amount that some would have thought it pretty well
amounted to nothing.
Jesus, knowing through His miraculous power of the Spirit,
the true situation of what this widow had done, called His
disciples to come, and He said to them, "I tell you of a truth,
this poor widow has put into the Temple treasury more than all
who have contributed. For they all contributed out of their
abundance; but she out of her poverty has put in EVERYTHING she
had, her whole living" (Mark 12: 41-44; Luke 21: 1-4).
Nothing more is mentioned by the Gospel writers. But we can
easily get the message Jesus was giving His disciples. The heart
of the woman was much larger in attitude than any of the wealthy
who had contributed. They may have given large amounts of money,
but they could have given more really. And you talk about "faith"
that was exhibited by this widow, yes, she had great faith that
God would provide for her. It does not say in the accounts, then
again, it does not need to. Jesus noticed it, and I'm sure this
widow was blessed in a physical way somehow, and that God made
sure her daily needs were met.
THE START OF REJECTION BY THE JEWS
The Jews had great expectations of Jesus. They were sure He
was going to start to lead them to full freedom from the Roman
Empire. They had welcomed Him to Jerusalem with great acclaim and
celebration. But all they saw was Him teaching in the Temple. His
teaching was fine and even spectacular, and shocking at times,
yet they thought, when was He going to break forth into a
rallying army type leader who would gather them all together and
lead them to victory over the Roman army. He had mighty
miracle working power that they thought could surely destroy all
the armies that Rome could send upon them. They were beginning to
get doubts in this Jesus who called Himself the Messiah, and the
Son of God.
Now among those that went up to worship at the feast time of
the Passover were some Greeks. These came to Philip, who was from
Bethsaida in Galilee, and said to him, "Sir, we wish to see
These Greeks had probably heard about Jesus' triumphant
entry into Jerusalem, and now wanted to learn more about and from
this man. We are told that Philip went to Andrew. Philip may have
wanted some other person to talk to about the matter, as these
Greeks were Gentiles, and Jesus did not normally go out of His
way to teach and preach to Gentiles. The Gentiles would have the
door to the Kingdom of God fully opened to them after Jesus'
resurrection, when God made it known to the Jewish disciples of
Christ that salvation was for everyone....Jew or Gentile.
Both Philip and Andrew went to Jesus to pass on to Him the
request from these Greek persons. The narrative, recorded by the
apostle John, simply goes into the words of Jesus. We are to
assume these are the words given by Jesus to both His disciples,
Jews, and to these Gentile Greeks.
And Jesus said, "The hour has come for the Son of man to be
glorified. Truly, yes true indeed, I tell you, unless a grain of
wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone, and
fruitless; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. He who loves his
life, looses it, and he who hates his life in this world will
keep it for ever in the eternal life to come. "
Jesus was here speaking of Himself, that would die, but in
so doing, much fruit would be brought forth by His death. He is
also speaking to His disciples who would want to follow Him. He
was once more telling them that they were to have their hearts
primarily set upon eternal life in the Kingdom, and not on being
wrapped up in the physical things of this life. His disciples
must even give up their lives like He was going to give up His
life, IF called upon to do so, for the sake of the Kingdom of
Jesus going on with the last thought I've mentioned, said,
"If any one serves me, he must FOLLOW me; and in so doing, where
I shall be there shall my servant be also; if any one serves me,
the Father will honor them."
Yes, all who live and die as a follower of Christ, shall one
day be with Jesus. There will come a resurrection from death, at
the coming of Christ in glory, as we have seen, and the dead in
Christ will be raised to immortal life, and those living when He
comes shall be changed from flesh and blood to immortal sons and
daughters of God (1 Cor. 15; 1 Thes. 4 ), and meet Jesus in the
air, in the clouds, and as the apostle Paul said, so shall they
ever be with Christ.
Jesus, now looking at what the near hour of His death would
be like, said, "Now is my mind troubled. And what shall I say?
Shall I say, 'Father, save me from this hour'? No! For it was for
this purpose I have come to this hour just ahead of me. Father,
glorify your name."
Then a voice came from heaven, "I have glorified it, and I
will glorify it again."
Was this voice, the very personal voice of God the Father?
We need to be careful not to jump to that conclusion too fast,
for as John records, the crowd hearing that voice, did not
automatically believe it was God Himself speaking. As in our
Governments of this world, a "spokes-person" on behalf of a
leader of a nation, can speak in the first person, acting for the
President or Prime Minister of the nation. So, it could also be
in God's Kingdom. Here is what John recorded as the reaction of
the crowd when hearing this voice, "The crowd standing by heard
it and said that it thundered. Others said, 'An ANGEL has spoken
to him.' "
Whatever, either the voice of an angel or the voice of God,
Jesus went on to say, "This voice had come for your sakes, not
for mine. Now is the judgment of this world, now shall the ruler
of this world be cast out; and I, when I am lifted up from the
earth, will draw all men unto myself."
As the apostle John recorded, he said this to show what
death He would die. Being lifted up, using that figure of speech,
was well understood by the Jews and all within the Roman Empire.
It signified being crucified on a cross or stake. Crucifixion was
a common method used by the Romans to slowly kill someone. In
most cases it was a slow death, over two or three days, but I'll
have more to say on that when we get to the actual crucifixion of
The ruler of this world to be cast out, that Jesus referred
to, was Satan himself. At the death of Christ, the works of Satan
were conquered. Sin began with Satan in the distant past. And
from the time of Adam and Eve and their sin, ALL people have
sinned, and the wages of sin is death (Romans 6: 23) - eternal
death in the lake of fire which is the second death spoken about
in Revelation chapter 20. Jesus' death would pay the penalty, He
would take our sins upon Himself, so upon our repentance and
accepting Him as our personal Savior, we could be freed from
Satan's hold and death's hold on us.
At the death of Christ for the sins of the world (John 3:
16) Satan would be in essence, cast out from holding the people
of the world in his grip. His power over us would be broken
through the shed blood of Jesus. He would still be allowed to do
his work on earth for another two thousand years or so, before he
would finally be chained up for a thousand years, as Revelation
20 tells us. But Jesus dying on the cross would make sure and
seal Satan's fate of being cast out....and as God often calls
things done that are not yet literally done, but so sure are they
that they will be done, God sometimes uses words that speak as if
they are now done. This is what Jesus did here, spoke as
if Satan would be cast out NOW, at Jesus' death. In one way as
I've mentioned Satan would be, but in the literal sense Satan is
not put away from the earth until the one thousand year reign of
Christ begins, when Jesus comes again in glory to establish the
literal Kingdom of God on earth (Rev. 19 and 20).
After Jesus had mentioned that he would be "lifted up" which
all present knew He meant that He would die by crucifixion, the
crowd said, "We have heard from the law of Moses that the Christ
remains FOREVER. How then can you say the Son of man must
be lifted up? Who then is THIS Son of man you talk about?"
Jesus replied to them, not in a direct way, He had over the
course of His ministry told them plainly WHO the Son of man was.
He replied in the way that showed they should have known by now
WHO the Son of man was, "The light is with you for a little
longer. Walk while you have the light, lest the darkness overtake
you; those who walk in the darkness do not know where they are
going. While you have the light, BELIEVE in the light, that you
may become the sons and daughters of the light."
Once more Jesus was referring to Himself. He was the light.
They needed to BELIEVE in HIM! They needed to walk in the light
of truth He was teaching them. He was again telling them they
needed to become true sons and daughters of God the Father.
When Jesus had said all this, He departed and kept Himself
hidden and out of sight from them. And John tells us that though
He had done so many signs and miracles among them, they still did
not believe in Him, they did not believe in Him as they should
have believed in Him. It was all as the spoken word of the
Prophet Isaiah said, "Lord, who had believed our report, and to
whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?" (Isa.53: 1). It was
not given for the majority of the people at that time to believe,
for Isaiah also said, "He has blinded their eyes and hardened
their heart, lest they should see with their eyes and perceive
with their heart, and turn to me to be healed" (Isa. 6: 9, 10).
Yes, Isaiah was inspired of God to say these things because
it would not be God's will to takes the blindness away from the
hearts of the majority of the people during the time of Christ's
ministry. Nevertheless God had called a number of the people to
believe in Him, even a number of the authorities within the
Jewish nation believed in Jesus, but for fear of the sect of the
Pharisees, who had a huge amount of pull and sway in a political
religious manner, they did not openly confess they believed in
Jesus, lest they should be put out of the synagogues. God had
called them to believe, but as we have seen, we have out part to
play in that calling. As free moral agents we can decide how
we will "run" with the belief God grants us. These people who
believed, did not run well with it. As the apostle John states,
they loved the praise of men MORE than the praise of God. They
made the synagogue or church their "social club" and did not want
to be "put out" on account of believing in Jesus. Possibly, after
Jesus' death and resurrection, some of them took a firmer stand
on their conviction and were not bothered about being put out of
the synagogues, but at this juncture in time, they were more
afraid of men than God.
We need always be more fearful (which is a deep respect and
honor) of God than of men.
Jesus was not yet through speaking. He cried out, "He who
believes in me, believes not merely in me but in HIM that sent
me. And he who sees me sees also HIM that sent me. I have come as
LIGHT into the world, that whoever believes in me may not
remain in the darkness. If any one hears my teachings and does
NOT keep them, I do not judge him; for I did not at this time
come to judge the world, but to save the world. He who rejects me
and does NOT receive my sayings has a judge; the WORD that I
have spoken will be his judge on the last day. For I have not
spoken on my OWN authority; the Father who sent me has Himself
given me commandment WHAT I should SAY and WHAT to speak. And I
surely know that His commandment is ETERNAL LIFE! What I say,
therefore, I say as the Father has commissioned me to say" (John
Jesus' main purpose in coming the first time was to die for
the sins of the world, to give people a way out of sin, and a way
to eternal life (John 3: 16), through His shed blood on the
cross. It was not Jesus' time to judge the world, to judge all
the people on the earth. That day of judgement was not for that
time, it was for a much later time, but people would even then
not be judge out of Jesus' own mind per se, but judged by the
very word of God, which of course includes all the words and
teachings of Jesus that are recorded in the New Testament.
God has revealed His will for us, how we should live, what
we should practice, what we should think and say and do. It is
all in His word we call the Bible. Christians, the children of
God the Father, are to as Jesus said, live by every word that
proceeds out of the mouth of God (Mat.4: 4). All people, one day,
shall be judge by that very word. We need to read it, understand
it, love it, want to follow it and live by it. If we have that
attitude of mind we need not fear our judgement day, for we shall
be under the grace of God. We shall be loved by Him, and we shall
inherit eternal life.
Written January 2003