From Jesus’ triumphal entry (Palm Sunday), till the Last Supper (Holy or Maundy Thursday), Jesus had a few days to teach in Jerusalem. The disciples, of course, followed Him everywhere as did crowds of citizens. The people considered Him a prophet and a rabbi (teacher), but the leaders of the Jewish Temple — the Pharisees and the chief priests were concerned that Jesus was a false teacher. They wanted to trip Him up. They asked Him questions, but with each answer that Jesus gave, He angered them even more.
The gall of Him to say who would enter Heaven first! (Matthew 22:1-14)
Who was He to say what the greatest commandment was? (Mark 12:28-34)
What did He mean when He said, “Give to Caesar what is Caesar’s and to God what is God’s”? (Matthew 22:15-22)
Jesus didn’t fall for their tricks.
Jesus warned the Pharisees and called them hypocrites. Why?
The Pharisees were a strict Jewish sect — careful observers of the law and very pious. They saw this man from a nothing place like Nazareth, show up and start preaching like He was God. They didn’t see that He was fulfilling all the prophecies of the scriptures — that Jesus was the Messiah the Jews had been waiting for.
“Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! …”Jesus says this over and over again in Matthew 23 NIV. In the NLT, it says “What sorrow awaits you…”
“What sorrow awaits you teachers of religious law and you Pharisees. Hypocrites! For you are so careful to clean the outside of the cup and the dish, but inside you are filthy—full of greed and self-indulgence! You blind Pharisee! First wash the inside of the cup and the dish, and then the outside will become clean, too.”Matthew 23:25-26 NLT
Jesus was pointing out that the Pharisees appeared pious and righteous on the outside, but they were really greedy, proud and sinful on the inside.
“Snakes! Sons of vipers! How will you escape the judgment of hell?Matthew 23:33-34
“Therefore, I am sending you prophets and wise men and teachers of religious law. But you will kill some by crucifixion, and you will flog others with whips in your synagogues, chasing them from city to city.”
Here, Jesus was predicting what would happen to Stephen and the other disciples. (Acts 7:51-60)
“Don’t let anyone call you ‘Rabbi,’ for you have only one teacher, and all of you are equal as brothers and sisters. And don’t address anyone here on earth as ‘Father,’ for only God in heaven is your Father. And don’t let anyone call you ‘Teacher,’ for you have only one teacher, the Messiah. The greatest among you must be a servant. But those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.Matthew 23:8-12 (bold and red emphasis mine)
God has very interesting ways of humbling people.
What Jesus said to the Pharisees applies to many today
Having done a lot of research on Catholic church history, I can’t help but compare the Pharisees in Jesus’ day to the Catholic priests since the Middle Ages.
I won’t get into a detailed comparison, however, read this warning by Jesus to his disciples…
Jesus turned first to his disciples and warned them, “Beware of the yeast of the Pharisees—their hypocrisy. The time is coming when everything that is covered up will be revealed, and all that is secret will be made known to all. Whatever you have said in the dark will be heard in the light, and what you have whispered behind closed doors will be shouted from the housetops for all to hear!”Luke 12:1-3
Remember, a little yeast spreads throughout the bread dough just like hypocrisy and sin spreades through society.
So, where do you see yourself here? Where do you see your church?
Soli Deo Gloria — to God Alone be the Glory!