Superficial Spirituality versus Genuine Humility
1Then Jesus addressed both the crowds and his disciples and said, 2“The religious scholars and the Pharisees sit in Moses’ seat # 23:2 Moses’ seat was a special seat in the ancient synagogues where the most respected elders of the people would sit to instruct them. See Deut. 17:10–11; John 9:28–29. as the authorized interpreters of the Law. 3So listen and follow what they teach, but don’t do what they do, for they tell you one thing and do another. 4They tie on your backs an oppressive burden of religious obligations and insist that you carry them, but will never lift a finger to help ease your load. 5Everything they do is done for show and to be noticed by others. They want to be seen as holy, so they wear oversized prayer boxes on their arms and foreheads with Scriptures inside, and wear extra-long tassels on their outer garments. # 23:5 See Num. 15:38; Deut. 22:12. 6They crave the seats of highest honor at banquets and in their meeting places. 7And how they love to be admired by men with their titles of respect, aspiring to be recognized in public and have others call them ‘Reverend.’ # 23:7 Or “rabbi,” an Aramaic word that means “master,” “chief,” “great one,” or “teacher.”
8“But you are to be different from that. You are not to be called ‘master,’ # 23:8 Or “rabbi.” for you have only one Master, and you are all brothers and sisters. 9And you are not to be addressed as ‘father,’ # 23:9 As translated from the Hebrew Matthew and the Aramaic. The Greek is “Call no one father.” for you have one Father, who is in heaven. 10Nor are you to be addressed as ‘teacher,’ # 23:10 Or “leader.” for you have one Teacher, the Anointed One. # 23:10 Jesus is emphasizing the priority of God over titles of men and over all teachers, fathers, and leaders. He is not teaching us to be disrespectful to teachers, fathers, and leaders, but that God must be in first place over all others. See Deut. 17:9–10. 11The greatest among you will be the one who always serves others. 12Remember this: If you have a lofty opinion of yourself and seek to be honored, you will be humbled. But if you have a modest opinion of yourself and choose to humble yourself, you will be honored.”
Jesus Pronounces Seven Woes
13“Great sorrow awaits # 23:13 Or “woe.” you religious scholars and you Pharisees—such frauds and pretenders! You do all you can to keep people from experiencing the reality of heaven’s kingdom realm. # 23:13 The Hebrew Matthew is “You have hidden the keys of knowledge and shut the kingdom of heaven from the children of men.” Not only do you refuse to enter in, you also forbid anyone else from entering in!
14“Great sorrow awaits you religious scholars and you Pharisees—frauds and pretenders! For you eat up the widow’s household with the ladle of your prayers. Because of this, you will receive a greater judgment. # 23:14 As translated from the Aramaic and the Hebrew Matthew. The most reliable Greek manuscripts do not include this verse, and it is omitted by modern translations.
15“Great sorrow awaits you religious scholars and you Pharisees—such frauds and pretenders! For you will travel over land and sea to find one disciple, only to make him twice the child of hell # 23:15 Or “son of Gehenna.” Gehenna is an Aramaic word for the garbage dump outside of Jerusalem, which became a metaphor for hell. as yourselves.
16“You blind guides! # 23:16 The Aramaic is “blind rescuers.” Great sorrow awaits you, for you teach that there’s nothing binding when you swear by God’s temple, but if you swear by the gold of the temple, you are bound by your oath. 17You are deceived and blind! # 23:17 Or “you blind fools.” Which is greater, the gold or the temple that makes the gold sacred? 18And you say that whoever takes an oath by swearing, ‘By the altar,’ it is nothing. But if you swear, ‘By the gift upon the altar,’ then you are obligated to keep your oath. 19What deception! For what is greater, the gift or the altar that makes the gift sacred? 20Whoever swears by the altar swears by the altar and everything offered on it. 21And whoever swears by the temple swears by it and the one who dwells in it. 22And whoever swears by heaven swears by the throne of God and by God, who sits upon it.
23“Great sorrow awaits you religious scholars and Pharisees—frauds and pretenders! For you are obsessed with peripheral issues, like insisting on paying meticulous tithes on the smallest herbs that grow in your gardens. # 23:23 Or “You tithe on mint, dill, and cumin [caraway seed].” See Lev. 27:30; Num. 18:12; Deut. 14:22–23. The law of Moses only obligated tithing on grain, wine, and oil. The religious scholars added to the law their interpretation, which added vegetables and herbs to their list of what should be tithed. These matters are fine, yet you ignore the most important duties of all: to walk in the love of God, to display mercy to others, and to live with integrity. # 23:23 Or “faithfulness.” The Hebrew Matthew is “justice, loving-kindness, and truth.” The Aramaic is “justice, grace, and faith.” See Mic. 6:8; Zech. 7:9. Readjust your values and place first things first. 24What blind guides! Nitpickers! You will spoon out a gnat from your drink, yet at the same time you’ve gulped down a camel without realizing it! # 23:24 This is best seen as an Aramaic pun, because the Aramaic word for gnat is qamla, and the word for camel is gamla. The gnat becomes a metaphor of what is least and insignificant, for swallowing a gnat will not hurt you. But the camel becomes a picture of self-righteousness. To swallow a camel would indeed kill you.
25“Great sorrow awaits you religious scholars and Pharisees—frauds and imposters! You are like one who will only wipe clean the outside of a cup or bowl, leaving the inside filthy. You are foolish to ignore the greed and self-indulgence that live like germs within you. 26You are blind to your evil. Shouldn’t the one who cleans the outside also be concerned with cleaning the inside? You need to have more than clean dishes; you need clean hearts!
27“Great sorrow awaits you religious scholars and Pharisees—frauds and imposters! You are nothing more than tombs painted over with white paint—tombs that look shining and beautiful on the outside but filled with rotting corpses on the inside. 28Outwardly you masquerade as righteous people, but inside your hearts you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness.
29“Great sorrow awaits you religious scholars and Pharisees—frauds and imposters! You build memorials for the prophets your ancestors killed and decorate the monuments of the godly people your ancestors murdered. 30Then you boast, ‘If we had lived back then, we would not have joined them in killing the prophets.’ 31But your words and deeds testify that you are just like them and prove that you are indeed the descendants of those who murdered the prophets. 32Go ahead and finish what your ancestors started! 33You are nothing but snakes in the grass, the offspring of poisonous vipers! How will you escape the judgment of hell if you refuse to turn in repentance?
34“For this reason I will send you more prophets and wise men and teachers of truth. Some you will crucify, and some you will beat mercilessly with whips in your meeting houses, abusing and persecuting them from city to city. 35As your penalty, you will be held responsible for the righteous blood spilled and the murders of every godly person throughout your history—from the blood of righteous Abel to the blood of Zechariah, son of Jehoiada, # 23:35 As translated from the Hebrew Matthew. See 2 Chron. 24:20–21. This strengthens the argument that the original manuscript of Matthew was written in Hebrew. The Greek erroneously lists Zechariah’s father as Barachiah. There was indeed a Zechariah son of Barachiah, but he didn’t live until after the crucifixion of Christ and was killed in a massacre in AD 69 by zealots inside the temple. See Sabine Baring-Gould, The Lost and Hostile Gospels (Williams & Norgate, 1874), 138. It is also recorded by the Jewish historian Josephus that Zechariah was the son of Jehoiada. B. J. 4.6.4. Furthermore, Jerome, in his commentary on Matthew, says, “In the [Hebrew] Gospel [of Matthew] which the Nazarenes use, for ‘son of Barachiah’ we find written, ‘son of Jehoiada.’ ” Quoted from http://www.textexcavation.com. whom you killed as he stood in the temple between the brazen altar and the Holy Place. 36I tell you the truth: the judgment for all these things will fall upon this generation!”
Jesus Prophesies Judgment Coming to Jerusalem
37“O Jerusalem, Jerusalem—you are the city that murders your prophets! You are the city that stones the very messengers who were sent # 23:37 Or “apostles” (sent ones). to deliver you! So many times I have longed to gather a wayward people, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings—but you were too stubborn to let me. 38And now it is too late, since your city will be left in ruins. # 23:38 See Jer. 12:7; 22:5. 39For you will not see me again until you are able to say, ‘We welcome the one who comes to us in the name of the Lord.’ ” # 23:39 See Ps. 118:26.