Stern Words

This morning I conducted my chapel services at Morning Star Assisted Living. After a rest time this afternoon, I was outside cleaning the inside of my car, which I haven’t done in a long time. My son has found me a car, just like the one I have, except two years newer and 50,000 fewer miles.

BIBLE VERSE FOR TODAY…  “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! You are like whitewashed tombs, which appear beautiful on the outside, but inside are full of dead men’s bones and every impurity.  In the same way, on the outside you seem righteous to people, but inside you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness. Matthew 23:27,28 HCSB

If we pay attention, we find Jesus speaking some very stern words. Words of rebuke, even a few “put downs.” He called Herod, “that fox.” Jesus’ constant enemies were those who were the most religious and dedicated to the Law of Moses.

It is almost surprising that Jesus begins his rebuke of the Pharisees by telling His disciples,  Therefore do whatever they tell you, and observe it. (Matt. 23:3 HCSB) The reason was not because of the correctness of their teaching, but the position of authority they held, that deserved respect. Jesus did go on and say, But don’t do what they do, because they don’t practice what they teach. (Matt. 23:4 HCSB)

The biggest fault of the Pharisees was not their “man-made” laws and rituals, it was the fact they they ignored the laws that they made. They wanted others to follow them, but they found an “out” for themselves. As a result they became a hindrance in bringing people to God. But woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! You lock up the kingdom of heaven from people. For you don’t go in, and you don’t allow those entering to go in. (Matt. 23:13 HCSB)

Jesus message was, a “whosoever” message. In the words of Isaiah, it was “come.” Come and find life. Repent, change your life and embrace God’s kingdom. However the Scribes and Pharisees were more concerned about their own “kingdom.” Jesus represented a threat to their authority and that is what eventually lead to their plan to have Him crucified. Jesus speaks eight “woes” (recorded in Matthew 23) to the Scribes and Pharisees that address their hypocritical actions.

The Scribes and Pharisees in their superior attitude were not even aware of their condition. They believed that if they “looked” the part, that is all that was required. Jesus told them, You clean the outside of the cup and dish, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence! Blind Pharisee! First clean the inside of the cup, so the outside of it may also become clean.” (Matt. 23:25,26 HCSB)

In condemning the Pharisee focus on the exterior, Jesus tells them how real change comes. Real change comes from the “inside out.” That is why Jesus came. He came so that our hearts could be right with God. And when our hearts are right, our actions will be right.

The one “woe” Jesus spoke that has always got my attention is when he said, You are like whitewashed tombs, which appear beautiful on the outside, but inside are full of dead men’s bones and every impurity.” (Matt. 23:27 HCSB) While this is another way to bring contract to the outside and the inside of a life, it is a very vivid word picture.

Jesus came to bring correction and true change. He brings life, where there is death. He makes clean, that which is dirty. He brings hope, where there has been despair. He brings healing, where there has been sickness.

The hope that we need is a Savior, who rescues us from our own failures. Whether by default or deception, no one can “live” the perfect life. Perhaps the greatest “hypocrite” today is the one who claims they don’t need Christ’s forgiveness and they can make it to heaven on their own. Only when we realize our need, can we find a solution to our need.