-Jesus warns against the religious leaders who are tearing down the Kingdom of Heaven by their teachings based on the traditions of man rather than building It up by the Spirit of God. Jesus addresses the crowds and the disciples in this discourse themed on hypocrisy in Jerusalem shortly before His death for the sins of mankind. Outward appearances without inward transformation are denounced by the King of kings, along with listening to others apart from our One Teacher in Heaven. He instructs that they should not even call themselves leaders; “for One is your Leader, that is, Christ (Anointed, the Head, Colossians 1:15-18, Matthew 23:10). The greatest among all the brethren in Christ shall be the servant of all. This is a radical departure from where the Synagogue and Temple system was operating. Then Christ gives an all-time classic comment, “Whoever exalts himself shall be humbled (remember humility is required for Kingdom citizenship, Matthew 18:3-4); and whoever humbles himself shall be exalted (Matthew 23:12).” *Application* Be careful who you follow. A leader who is puffed up and building his own kingdom for his own purposes is unworthy of the genuine Christian life. Our Father in Heaven provides everything we need for spiritual life and learning through His Holy Spirit within us as believers. Trust in His wisdom by His Word alone. Weigh and discern everything that is said by man.
-The Lord then rails on the religious leaders in 8 woes pronounced upon them with the repeated phrase, “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites (Matthew 23:13-36).” They are denounced because they are keeping people out of the Kingdom of Heaven, devouring widow’s houses, praying with pride for the applause of man, proselytizing with deception and false doctrine, putting money before God, neglecting justice, mercy, and faithfulness, displaying a façade of purity when they are inwardly impure, and murdering the prophets. *Application* Jesus’ words are strong and stinging and should bring us to self-introspection in the highest sense. We could be guilty of these things just as much as these religious leaders of the first century. Stay pure before the Lord and confess your sins before Him. He is faithful and just to forgive when you do (1 John 1:9).
-Christ ends the chapter with a compassionate-personal touch as He again mourns over the Holy City of Jerusalem preceding His death (Matthew 23:37-39). He prophecies over it and the Jewish people because they had not truly recognized the day of their visitation from the Messiah. However, there remains the promise of restoration when they will one day say, “Blessed is He who comes in the Name of the LORD (Psalm 118:26).” The King was about to depart with the certainty of a triumphant return for His people. *Application* We see the tension between God’s wrath and mercy here in this passage. His desire is for compassion and forgiveness, but we must come to Him on His terms, which are really simple and light of burden when we accept it (Matthew 11:28-30). Trusting in Christ is the way we can escape the sentence of hell (Matthew 23:33).
Verses to Memorize: Matthew 23:8, 37