What does it say?
Matthew 23 is a scathing rebuke of the Pharisees by Jesus. This conflict has been building all throughout Jesus’ Galilean ministry, and this is the most complete condemnation of the Pharisees in the gospels. As a reminder, Pharisees were what we might call lay leaders today. They were committed to the study of the scriptures and ceremonially pure living. The word Pharisee means separated one.
As Jesus teaches in the temple, the leaders challenge his authority (Luke 20:1-3), and he responds by questioning them about John the Baptist’s authority. They have no answer for fear of the people (20:4-8). He then tells the parable of the vineyard (20:8-18)(Mat 21:23-46; Mark 11:27- 12:12). Infuriated, Jesus’ enemies plot to trap him, asking him controversial questions about the tax to Caesar and the Law (20:19-38) (Mat 22:15-46; Mark 12:13-44). Instead, Jesus shuts them down with his own question and then Luke includes a brief summary of his condemnation of the Pharisees that Matthew gives in full (20:39-47).
Luke 21 opens with the story of the widow’s sacrificial offering (21:1-4) and then talks about the coming destruction of the temple (21:5-6). He gives signs of his coming and warns his followers of suffering to come (21:7-24). The scope of Jesus’ predictions turns cosmic and looks toward the time of his coming again in glory (21:25-33). He warns his disciples to be ready (21:34-38).
What does it mean?
Some of today’s material has been in previous readings, but the details here on the nature of Pharisees are important (Mat 23). These very religious people were committed to the scriptures and moral values, but went wrong elevating their traditions and methods to the level of scripture and focusing on the letter of the Law while ignoring the underlying truth. We should beware that we are not developing similar traits and attitudes in our own lives. Also new is what Jesus’ teaches about things to come in the future. Don’t be tempted to get caught up in speculation and assumptions, but focus on simply being ready always for his coming.
How will I respond?
Do I have any of the tendencies that Jesus identifies with the Pharisees? If so, I will take whatever step necessary to align my life with Jesus’ teaching and rid my life of religious hypocrisy.