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Chapter 23
Jesus talks about dangerous teachers
1After that, Jesus spoke to the crowds and to his disciples. 2He said, ‘The teachers of God's Law and the Pharisees have authority to explain the Law of Moses. 3So you must obey everything that they teach you. But you should not do the same things that they do. They tell you what the Law of Moses teaches. But then they themselves do not obey it. 4The rules that they give you are hard to obey. They are like heavy luggage, which they make you carry. But they themselves will not help you to carry that luggage. They will not agree to use even one finger to help you. #23:4 These heavy things are the Laws which Moses taught. The teachers of God's Law and the Pharisees taught extra rules. This made it more difficult for people to obey all the Laws.
5The Pharisees do things only so that people will see them. They wear little boxes with words from the Bible in them, but they make them really big. They also make the tassels on their clothes very long. #23:5 These little boxes were called phylacteries. A Jewish man would tie one to his head or his arm. There was some paper with words from the Bible in the box. Tassels were like long thin things that hung down from a person's coat. They wore the phylacteries and the tassels for other people to see. They wanted people to think that they really loved God. 6They like to sit in the important places at special meals. They also choose to sit in the best seats in the meeting places. 7They like people to praise them in the market place like an important person. They want people to call them “Teacher.”
8You all belong to God's family. You have only one Teacher. So nobody should call another person, “Teacher”.#23:8 Jesus alone is our master and teacher. 9Also, do not call any other person in the world, “Father”. You have only one Father, and he is in heaven. #23:9 Jesus was saying that God is their Father. 10And do not call each other “Leader”. You have only one Leader. He is the Messiah that God has chosen. 11The person among you who is most important will be your servant. 12Some people lift themselves up to be important. They say that they are better than other people. But God will bring them down low. Other people know that they are not better than others. God will lift those people up to a good place.’
Jesus speaks against the teachers of God's Law and the Pharisees
13Jesus spoke to the teachers of God's Law and the Pharisees. ‘It will be bad for you,’ he said. ‘You are hypocrites! You have stopped people who wanted to go into the kingdom of heaven. It is like you have shut the door so that they cannot go in. Then you yourselves do not even go in. #23:13 A hypocrite does things that seem good. He wants other people to say that he really is a good person. They will think that he really obeys God. The hypocrite says that he does good things. But really he does something different. He only wants other people to think that he is good. But he is not good.
[14It will be bad for you, teachers of God's Law and Pharisees. You are hypocrites! You take things away from women after their husbands have died. You pray for a long time so that other people will praise you. God will punish you much more than other people.] #23:14 Verse 14 is not in all copies of Matthew's book.
15It will be bad for you, teachers of God's Law and Pharisees. You are hypocrites! You travel far across land and sea. You do this to make one person believe what you believe. Then, when he does believe your ideas, he becomes worse than you are. He shows that he belongs to hell even more than you do.
16It will be bad for you, teachers. You cannot see what is true, but you show people which way to go. #23:16 Jesus meant that the teachers of God's Law and Pharisees did not understand about the kingdom. They were like men who could not see. They did not know God's way, but they were trying to teach it to other people. You say to people, “You may make a promise by the name of God's Great House. Then it is not a serious promise. You do not have to do it. But you may also make a promise by the gold things in God's Great House. Then it is a serious promise, and you must do it.” 17This shows that you are fools. You do not see what is true. Think about which of these is more important. Is it the gold things in God's Great House? Or is it God's Great House itself? It is God's Great House that makes the gold things special. 18You also say to people, “You may make a promise by the altar in God's Great House. Then it is not a serious promise. You do not have to do it. But you may also make a promise by the gifts on that altar. Then it is a serious promise and you must do it.” 19You are people who cannot see what is true. Think about which of these things is more important. Is it the gifts on the altar? Or is it the altar itself? It is the altar that makes the gifts special. 20Remember this. Somebody may make a promise by the name of the altar. Then he is making a promise to God. The altar as well as all the gifts on it are special to God. 21Also, somebody may make a promise by the name of God's Great House. Then he is making a promise to God who lives there. 22Or somebody may make a promise by heaven. Then he is making a promise by the place where God sits and rules. So he is making a promise to God himself. #23:22 Perhaps a person wants to make a promise very strong. So he uses someone's name to make the promise stronger. Jesus says that we should not do this. #23:22 We must always do everything that we have promised to do. God wants our yes to be yes. He wants our no to be no. We might say what we do not mean. But then he will call us hypocrites.
23It will be bad for you, teachers of God's Law and Pharisees. You are hypocrites! When you grow small plants to cook with food, you give a part to God. One tenth of these small things belongs to God. You obey this rule. But you do not obey the more important parts of God's Law. You do not help people in a good way. You are not kind to them. You do not always do what God says is right. You should have done these important things as well as the other small things. 24You are like blind people, but you show other people which way to go. You carefully take a small fly out of your water so that you do not drink it. But then you drink the large animal that is swimming in it! #23:24 The teachers of God's Law and the Pharisees obeyed the smallest and least important parts of the Law of Moses. But they did not obey the important parts. They did not understand that they were doing the wrong things.
25It will be bad for you, teachers of God's Law and Pharisees. You are hypocrites! You always clean the outside of your cups and plates very carefully. You only clean the outside part that people can see. But on the inside, everything is still dirty. Inside you, your minds are full of bad thoughts. You want to have more things for yourself. You hurt other people to get what you want. 26Pharisees, you do not see what is true! You must first clean the inside of the cup and plate. Then the outside that people can see will also be clean.
27It will be bad for you, teachers of God's Law and Pharisees. You are hypocrites! You are like a place where they have buried a dead person. It has nice white paint on the outside and it looks beautiful. But on the inside it is full of bones and dirty things. 28You are the same as that. Other people look at you. They think that you are good and you obey God. But on the inside you are hypocrites. Your minds are full of many bad thoughts.
29It will be bad for you, teachers of God's Law and Pharisees. You are hypocrites! You build up the places where people have buried God's prophets. You make the places where they have buried good people to be beautiful. 30You say, “Our ancestors killed God's prophets long ago. If we had lived at that time, we would not have helped our ancestors to do that.” 31So you are speaking against yourselves. You show that you are the sons of those people who killed God's prophets. 32Now you can do the same thing that your ancestors did! Finish the work that they began to do!
33You are like a family of dangerous snakes! You will not be able to run away. God will surely punish you, and he will send you to hell. 34So listen to this. God says, “I will send prophets to you. I will also send to you people who know many things. And I will send people to teach you what is true. But you will kill some of these people. You will kill some of them on a cross. In the places where you meet to pray, you will hit some of them with whips. They will run from one town to another town, but you will follow them.” 35Because of all this, God will punish you for all the good people that you and your ancestors have killed. Long ago, Abel was the first of those good people. Now you have also killed Zechariah, the son of Berekiah. He died in the yard of God's Great House near the altar. #23:35 Cain killed Abel. Abel was the first person to die. Through the years bad men have murdered many good men. The prophets wrote in God's book about many people who died in that way. Abel was the first person like that. Zechariah was the last person like that. 36Yes, I tell you this. God will punish the people who are alive today for all those murders.
37Jerusalem, Jerusalem! Your people have killed God's prophets. They have thrown stones to kill other people that God has sent to you. Many times, I have wanted to bring all of your people near to me. A female bird covers her babies with her body to make them safe. But you would not let me keep you from danger like that. 38So listen! Your great house will now become like a wilderness with nobody in it. 39And I tell you this. You will not see me again until the day when you say, “Great is the man who comes with the authority of the Lord God.” ’