Matthew 23: Sorrow for the Lost

Among religious leaders, what were the biggest differences between what they preached and what they practiced?

Author’s Thoughts
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Author’s Paraphrase
Matthew 23:1–4 Jesus said to the crowd and to his followers, “The Pharisees and teachers of the Law are telling you what Moses says you should do. You may do what they teach, but do not copy what they do, because they do not practice what they teach. They place unbearably heavy burdens on others but will carry none of the weight themselves.”
King James
Matthew 23:1–4 Then spake Jesus to the multitude, and to his disciples, Saying, The scribes and the Pharisees sit in Moses’ seat: All therefore whatsoever they bid you observe, that observe and do; but do not ye after their works: for they say, and do not. For they bind heavy burdens and grievous to be borne, and lay them on men’s shoulders; but they themselves will not move them with one of their fingers.

What is the impact of someone who says, “Do as I say, not as I do”?

Author’s Thoughts
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Author’s Paraphrase
Matthew 23:4 “They place unbearably heavy burdens on others but will carry none of the weight themselves.”
King James
Matthew 23:4 For they bind heavy burdens and grievous to be borne, and lay them on men’s shoulders; but they themselves will not move them with one of their fingers.

How concerned should we be for what others think of us?

Author’s Thoughts
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Matthew 23:5 “What they do is intended to gain admiration from the people. They put long tassels on their robes and wear big prayer boxes containing scriptures, making them large so they will be seen.”
King James
Matthew 23:5 But all their works they do for to be seen of men: they make broad their phylacteries, and enlarge the borders of their garments,

What is gained by having a “form of godliness”?

Author’s Thoughts
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Matthew 23:5 “What they do is intended to gain admiration from the people. They put long tassels on their robes and wear big prayer boxes containing scriptures, making them large so they will be seen.”
2 Timothy 3:5 They have a religious form with only a façade of righteousness, not the Holy Spirit acting with power in their lives. Do not fellowship with these people,
King James
Matthew 23:5 But all their works they do for to be seen of men: they make broad their phylacteries, and enlarge the borders of their garments,
2 Timothy 3:5 Having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof: from such turn away.

What is so special about a “seat of honor”?

Author’s Thoughts
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Matthew 23:6–7 “At feasts and in the synagogues, they love the seats of honor. In the marketplaces, they seek respectful greetings and love to be called Teacher or Master.”
King James
Matthew 23:6–7 And love the uppermost rooms at feasts, and the chief seats in the synagogues, and greetings in the markets, and to be called of men, Rabbi, Rabbi.

Why should we regard ourselves as “brothers and sisters”?

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Matthew 23:8–9 “Do not let people praise you as someone especially to be admired, because you are all brothers and sisters under one Master. Do not recognize any human being as the one who gave you life, because you have only one true Father, who is in Heaven.”
King James
Matthew 23:8–9 But be not ye called Rabbi: for one is your Master, even Christ; and all ye are brethren. And call no man your father upon the earth: for one is your Father, which is in heaven.

Under what circumstances should we accept praise from others?

Author’s Thoughts
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Matthew 23:10 “Do not let people praise you as their teacher, because you all have one teacher, who is the Messiah.”
King James
Matthew 23:10 Neither be ye called masters: for one is your Master, even Christ.

Why should we desire to be humble servants?

Author’s Thoughts
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Matthew 23:11–12 “Whoever is the greatest among you must be everyone’s servant. Those who try to make themselves great will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.”
King James
Matthew 23:11–12 But he that is greatest among you shall be your servant. And whosoever shall exalt himself shall be abased; and he that shall humble himself shall be exalted.

What was wrong with the actions of the religious leaders?

Author’s Thoughts
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Matthew 23:13–15 “How terrible for you Pharisees and teachers of the Law. Hypocrites! You block the door to the Kingdom of Heaven, not entering yourselves and preventing others who would like to get in. How terrible for you Pharisees and teachers of the Law. Hypocrites! Because you take advantage of widows while making long prayers to appear righteous, you will be punished most severely. How terrible for you Pharisees and teachers of the Law. Hypocrites! You cross land and sea, looking for converts. And when you find them, you make them twice the children of hell that you are.
King James
Matthew 23:13–15 But woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye shut up the kingdom of heaven against men: for ye neither go in yourselves, neither suffer ye them that are entering to go in. Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye devour widows’ houses, and for a pretence make long prayer: therefore ye shall receive the greater damnation. Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye compass sea and land to make one proselyte, and when he is made, ye make him twofold more the child of hell than yourselves.

What problems might we create for ourselves by swearing an oath?

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Matthew 23:16–22 “How terrible it will be for you blind leaders who say, ‘Swearing an oath by the Temple means nothing, but those who swear by the gold in the Temple must keep their promises.’ You blind fools. Which is more important, the gold or the Temple that makes the gold sacred? You say, ‘Swearing by the altar means nothing, but those who swear by the gift on the altar must keep their promises.’ You blind fools. Which is more important, the gift or the altar that makes the gift sacred? Swearing by the altar is swearing by it and everything on it. Swearing by the Temple is swearing by it and everything within. Swearing by heaven is swearing by the throne of God and the one sitting there.
King James
Matthew 23:16–22 Woe unto you, ye blind guides, which say, Whosoever shall swear by the temple, it is nothing; but whosoever shall swear by the gold of the temple, he is a debtor! Ye fools and blind: for whether is greater, the gold, or the temple that sanctifieth the gold? And, Whosoever shall swear by the altar, it is nothing; but whosoever sweareth by the gift that is upon it, he is guilty. Ye fools and blind: for whether is greater, the gift, or the altar that sanctifieth the gift? Whoso therefore shall swear by the altar, sweareth by it, and by all things thereon. And whoso shall swear by the temple, sweareth by it, and by him that dwelleth therein. And he that shall swear by heaven, sweareth by the throne of God, and by him that sitteth thereon.

In their keeping of the Law, what did religious leaders miss?

Author’s Thoughts
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Author’s Paraphrase
Matthew 23:23–24 “How terrible for you Pharisees and teachers of the Law. Hypocrites! You give a tenth of your mint, dill, and cumin, but you neglect the most important parts of the Law, like justice, mercy, and faithfulness. You should not do the one while neglecting the other. You blind leaders. You choke on a gnat but swallow a camel.”
King James
Matthew 23:23–24 Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye pay tithe of mint and anise and cummin, and have omitted the weightier matters of the law, judgment, mercy, and faith: these ought ye to have done, and not to leave the other undone. Ye blind guides, which strain at a gnat, and swallow a camel.

What did washing dishes and whitewashed tombs have to do with the behavior of religious leaders?

Author’s Thoughts
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Matthew 23:25–28 “How terrible for you Pharisees and teachers of the Law. Hypocrites! You wash the outside of cups and platters, but you leave the inside dirty, full of greed and wickedness. You blind Pharisees. First clean the inside. Then the outside will also be clean. How terrible for you Pharisees and teachers of the Law. Hypocrites! You are like whitewashed tombs that look great on the outside but are full of dead men’s bones and rottenness. In the same way, you appear to be righteous but are actually full of hypocrisy and wickedness.”
King James
Matthew 23:25–28 Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye make clean the outside of the cup and of the platter, but within they are full of extortion and excess. Thou blind Pharisee, cleanse first that which is within the cup and platter, that the outside of them may be clean also. Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye are like unto whited sepulchres, which indeed appear beautiful outward, but are within full of dead men’s bones, and of all uncleanness. Even so ye also outwardly appear righteous unto men, but within ye are full of hypocrisy and iniquity.

What did Jesus say the religious leaders had in common with venomous snakes?

Author’s Thoughts
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Matthew 23:29–33 “How terrible for you Pharisees and teachers of the Law. Hypocrites! You build tombs for the prophets and raise monuments to the righteous. You say, ‘If we had lived back then, we would not have acted like our ancestors, killing the prophets.’ You testify against yourselves, that you are children of those who murdered the prophets. Go ahead and complete the work your ancestors started. You venomous snakes. How will you escape God’s judgment?”
King James
Matthew 23:29–33 Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! because ye build the tombs of the prophets, and garnish the sepulchres of the righteous, and say, If we had been in the days of our fathers, we would not have been partakers with them in the blood of the prophets. Wherefore ye be witnesses unto yourselves, that ye are the children of them which killed the prophets. Fill ye up then the measure of your fathers. Ye serpents, ye generation of vipers, how can ye escape the damnation of hell?

Why should the truly righteous expect persecution from hypocrites?

Author’s Thoughts
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Matthew 23:35–36 “From the murder of Abel in the beginning to Zechariah who died between the altar and the Temple sanctuary, the righteous blood that has been shed on the earth will be charged against this generation.”
King James
Matthew 23:35–36 That upon you may come all the righteous blood shed upon the earth, from the blood of righteous Abel unto the blood of Zacharias son of Barachias, whom ye slew between the temple and the altar. Verily I say unto you, All these things shall come upon this generation.

What was Jesus’ attitude toward his enemies?

Author’s Thoughts
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Matthew 23:37 “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem. You kill the prophets and those who have been sent to you. Many times, I have wanted to gather you to myself like a hen brings her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing.”
King James
Matthew 23:37 O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, thou that killest the prophets, and stonest them which are sent unto thee, how often would I have gathered thy children together, even as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, and ye would not!

Why did Jesus tell people their houses were empty? Why might they not have understood what he was talking about?

Author’s Thoughts
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Matthew 23:38 “Look! Your house is now empty.”
King James
Matthew 23:38 Behold, your house is left unto you desolate.

What identified the time when people would see him again?

Author’s Thoughts
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Matthew 23:39 “You will not see me again until you say, ‘Blessed is the one who comes in God’s name.'”
King James
Matthew 23:39 For I say unto you, Ye shall not see me henceforth, till ye shall say, Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord.