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Jesus -- the Guru #28

Jesus’ Anger against the Religion of Rules

What follows is Jesus’ great speech against the Pharisees’ religion of rules. You can see that Jesus is very angry. He reflects God’s righteous anger when His dear children are being hurt and misled and turned from His freeing and strengthening love.

Read Matthew 23.

1Then Jesus said to the crowds and to his disciples:2“The teachers of the law and the Pharisees sit in Moses’ seat.3So you must obey them and do everything they tell you. But do not do what they do, for they do not practice what they preach.4They tie up heavy loads and put them on men’s shoulders, but they themselves are not willing to lift a finger to move them.

5“Everything they do is done for men to see: They make their phylacteries wide and the tassels on their garments long;6they love the place of honor at banquets and the most important seats in the synagogues;7they love to be greeted in the marketplaces and to have men call them ‘Rabbi.’

8“But you are not to be called ‘Rabbi,’ for you have only one Master and you are all brothers.9And do not call anyone on earth ‘father,’ for you have one Father, and he is in heaven.10Nor are you to be called ‘teacher,’ for you have one Teacher, the Christ.11The greatest among you will be your servant.12For whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted.

13“Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You shut the kingdom of heaven in men’s faces. You yourselves do not enter, nor will you let those enter who are trying to.

15“Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You travel over land and sea to win a single convert, and when he becomes one, you make him twice as much a son of hell as you are.

16“Woe to you, blind guides! You say, ‘If anyone swears by the temple, it means nothing; but if anyone swears by the gold of the temple, he is bound by his oath.’17You blind fools! Which is greater: the gold, or the temple that makes the gold sacred?18You also say, ‘If anyone swears by the altar, it means nothing; but if anyone swears by the gift on it, he is bound by his oath.’19You blind men! Which is greater: the gift, or the altar that makes the gift sacred?20Therefore, he who swears by the altar swears by it and by everything on it.21And he who swears by the temple swears by it and by the one who dwells in it.22And he who swears by heaven swears by God’s throne and by the one who sits on it.

23“Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You give a tenth of your spices—mint, dill and cummin. But you have neglected the more important matters of the law—justice, mercy and faithfulness. You should have practiced the latter, without neglecting the former.24You blind guides! You strain out a gnat but swallow a camel.

25“Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You clean the outside of the cup and dish, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence.26Blind Pharisee! First clean the inside of the cup and dish, and then the outside also will be clean.

27“Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You are like whitewashed tombs, which look beautiful on the outside but on the inside are full of dead men’s bones and everything unclean.28In the same way, on the outside you appear to people as righteous but on the inside you are full of hypocrisy and wickedness.

29“Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You build tombs for the prophets and decorate the graves of the righteous.30And you say, ‘If we had lived in the days of our forefathers, we would not have taken part with them in shedding the blood of the prophets.’31So you testify against yourselves that you are the descendants of those who murdered the prophets.32Fill up, then, the measure of the sin of your forefathers!

33“You snakes! You brood of vipers! How will you escape being condemned to hell?34Therefore I am sending you prophets and wise men and teachers. Some of them you will kill and crucify; others you will flog in your synagogues and pursue from town to town.35And so upon you will come all the righteous blood that has been shed on earth, from the blood of righteous Abel to the blood of Zechariah son of Berekiah, whom you murdered between the temple and the altar.36I tell you the truth, all this will come upon this generation.

37“O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing.38Look, your house is left to you desolate.39For I tell you, you will not see me again until you say, ‘Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.’’”

Note the list of abuses for which Jesus scolds the Pharisees:

  • vv. 1-4 – making an oppressive religion of rules

  • vv. 5-12 – using religion to gain persona status

  • vv. 13-15 – turning people away from God’s true religion of love

  • vv. 16-22 – creating a religion of meaningless arguments

  • vv. 23-24 – losing the heart of God’s will in man-made rules

  • vv. 25-28 – follow rules but have an unloving heart

  • vv. 29-36 – doing to Jesus what previous religious leaders did to God’s prophets

vv. 37-39 – Yet, Jesus loves the Pharisees. Like a mother hen, Jesus wants to protect them from themselves. But their heart is hard. They are heading to self-destruction. Jesus is trying to warn them, to help them see where they are heading. Jesus wants to be their spiritual Master and lead them to God’s true, freeing religion of “justice, mercy, and faith” (v. 23).

Have you seen this religion of rules in your life? Which of the abuses have you experienced?

Religion of rules – Status seeking – Turning people away from God – Meaningless arguments – Losing the heart of God’s will – Unloving heart – Persecuting God’s prophets –

What does it mean to you that Jesus loves Pharisees and wants them under the freeing rule of God’s love?

Looking forward to your response today,



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