Today’s selected reading continues in the New Testament gospel narrative of the life and ministry of Jesus the Christ as written by the apostle Matthew. More specifically, today’s passage is found in chapter twenty-three of this New Testament book. “Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfill. For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled. Whosoever therefore shall break one of these least commandments, and shall teach men so, he shall be called the least in the kingdom of heaven: but whosoever shall do an teach them, the same shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven. For I say unto you, That except your righteousness shall exceed the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, e shall in no case enter into the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 5:17-20). “Take heed that ye do not alms before men, to be seen of them: otherwise ye have no reward of your Father which is in heaven. Therefore when you doest thine alms, do not sound a trumpet before thee, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may have glory of men. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward. But when thou doest alms, let not thy left hand know what thy right hand doeth: that thine alms may be in secret: and thy Father which seeth in secret himself shall reward thee openly” (Matthew 6:1-4). “And when thou prayest, thou shalt not be as the hyporcrites are: for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and in the corners of the streets, that they may be seen of men. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward. But thou, when thou prayest, enter into thy closet, and when thou hast shut thy door, pray to thy Father which is in secret; and thy Father which seeth in secret himself shall reward thee openly. But when pray, use not vain repetitions as the heathen do: for they think that they shall be heard for their much speaking. Be not ye therefore like unto them: for your Father knoweth what things ye have need of, before ye ask him” (Matthew 6:5-8). “Moreover when ye fast, be not, as the hypocrites, of a sad countenance: for they disfigure their faces, that they may appear unto men to fast. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward. But thou, when thou fastest, anoint thine head, and wash thy face; That thou appear not unto men to fast, but unto thy Father which is in secret: and thy Father, which seeth in secret, shall reward thee openly” (Matthew 6:16-18).
“Then came to Jesus scribes and Pharisees, which were of Jerusalem, saying, Why do thy disciples transgress the tradition of the elders? For they wash not their hands when they eat bread. But He answered and said unto them, Why do ye also transgress the commandment of God by your tradition? For God commanded, saying, Honour thy father and mother: and, He that curseth father or mother, let him die the death. But ye say, Whosoever shall say to his father or his mother, It is a gift, by whatsoever thou mightiest be profited by me; and honour not his father or his mother, he shall be free. Thus have ye made the commandment of God of none effect by your tradition. Ye hypocrites, well did Esaias prophesy of you, saying, This people draweth nigh unto me with their mouth, and honoureth me with their lips; but their heart is far from me. But in vain they do worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men” (Matthew 15:1-9).
When you come to the twenty-third and twenty-fourth chapters of the New Testament gospel narrative written by the apostle Matthew you will encounter two of the most profound chapters in the entire gospel. In fact, I would dare say that chapters twenty-three, twenty-four and twenty-five of this New Testament gospel are three of the most profound chapters in any of the four gospels in addition to what we find written and recorded in chapters thirteen through seventeen of the New Testament gospel narrative written by the apostle John. If and as you take time to read the words found within these chapters you will encounter an entire chapter that was essentially for all intents and purposes an indictment toward and against the scribes and the Pharisees. You cannot read the words which are found in the twenty-third chapter of this New Testament gospel and not be brought face to face with the unbelievable reality that Jesus actually took the time to speak unto the multitude, and to His disciples concerning the scribes and the Pharisees. We know that chapters five through seven of this New Testament gospel are entirely and altogether devoted to Jesus’ words on the Sermon on the Mount, and it would be there in the Sermon on the Mount Jesus would teach the multitudes and the great crowd of people which gathered themselves before and unto Him. It would be in these chapters we find before us Jesus not only speaking of the righteousness of the kingdom of heaven, but we also find Jesus speaking of the attitudes of the kingdom as well. It would be in these chapters where Jesus would set the righteousness of the kingdom of heaven against the backdrop of the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees—a righteousness which was earthly and one which was according to the Law of Moses and according to traditions which they themselves had created and adopted. If you take the time to read the words found in Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount you will find Jesus emphatically and boldly declaring unto the crowds and unto the multitude that unless their righteousness exceeded and surpassed that of the scribes and the Pharisees they would not enter in, nor would they see the kingdom of heaven. It is absolutely necessary and imperative that we recognize and understand this, for very early on within and during His public life and ministry we find Jesus setting a clear and present stage for the dangers of the righteousness of the scribes and the Pharisees.
Upon continuing to read within the gospel narrative written by the apostle Matthew you will find that while in the Sermon on the Mount Jesus declared unto His audience and unto His hearers that unless their righteousness exceeded that of the scribes and Pharisees they would not enter into the kingdom of heaven, He would later on speak directly unto His disciples and warn them to beware of the leaven of the Pharisees. Initially upon hearing these words the disciples did not understand that which Jesus was speaking to them concerning the scribes and Pharisees, and it wasn’t until Jesus rebuked them for their lack of understanding they recognized and understood that what Jesus was speaking about was the teaching of the Pharisees. We dare not and must not miss and lose sight of these two realities, for what we find within them is a powerful warning that our righteousness needs to exceed that of the scribes and Pharisees, as well as a warning that we beware of and keep ourselves from the teaching of the scribes and the Pharisees. In all reality, that which we find in the midst of the New Testament gospel narrative written by the apostle Mathew is not only a powerful warning concerning the righteousness of the scribes and the Pharisees, but also the teaching of the scribes and the Pharisees. In fact, at the end of Jesus’ on the Mount which concludes in the seventh chapter we find and read that the people who had heard and listened to His words were astonished at His doctrine, for He taught them as one having authority, and not as the scribes. It is important for us to recognize and understand these words, for they help set the tone and the stage for what we find in the twenty-third chapter of this New Testament gospel. Within and throughout the New Testament gospel narrative of Matthew (thus far) we have seen and found Jesus continually and repeatedly at odds with the scribes and the Pharisees, and have found Jesus repeatedly rebuking them and their teaching and their practices. The gospel narrative written by the apostle Matthew is replete with powerful examples of Jesus clashing with the scribes and the Pharisees as they not only sought to accuse and condemn both He and His disciples, but also as they would seek to impose the traditions of men upon the disciples and followers of Jesus. In fact, it would be in the fifteenth chapter where scribes and Pharisees would come unto Genesaret from Jerusalem with the sole intent and sole purpose of asking Jesus why His disciples transgressed and violated the tradition of the elders. It would be this type of scenario that would continually and repeatedly play itself out in the midst of the four gospel narratives as Jesus would find Himself time and time again conflicting and clashing with the scribes and Pharisees.
Having already warned His disciples and His followers that their righteousness must needs exceed that of the scribes and Pharisees, and having warned His disciples concerning the teaching of the scribes and the Pharisees, Jesus would now turn and direct His attention to providing a detailed and thorough warning spoken unto the disciples concerning the scribes and the Pharisees. The entire twenty-third chapter of the New Testament gospel narrative written by the apostle Matthew is devoted to the words which Jesus had spoken unto the multitude and the crowd concerning the scribes and the Pharisees. It would be what we find within this chapter we encounter and come face to face with a profound rebuke and indictment of Jesus toward and against the Pharisees—one that would be unlike any of the other words He would speak concerning and unto them. It would be the twenty-third chapter of the New Testament gospel narrative written by the apostle Matthew we find some of Jesus’ most striking and forceful words spoken concerning the scribes and the Pharisees as Jesus would again warn His disciples concerning the hypocrisy of both religious groups. The more you read the words found within this chapter the more you will come face to face with Jesus warning the disciples and the multitude against the hypocrisy of the scribes and the Pharisees which would parade itself as righteousness and would for all intents and purposes have the appearance of that which pleases the LORD, and yet what we ultimately find within it is legalism and hypocrisy. The words which are found within this passage of Scripture are a powerful testament and treatise concerning the hypocrisy, the legalism and the religion of the scribes and Pharisees which would parade itself as righteousness before and in the sight of men. What’s more, is that the scribes and the Pharisees would parade themselves in the sight of the people as those who were pious, as those who were holy, as those who were righteous, and as those who pleased the LORD. You cannot read the words found in this passage of Scripture without coming face to face with the scribes and the Pharisees who not only paraded themselves as righteous when in all reality they were nothing more than religious, but who also paraded themselves around as though they were holy when in all reality they were hypocrites. There are perhaps two chapters found within the New Testament that help to further illustrate the truth that is found and contained with this single chapter concerning the scribes and Pharisees, and are found in the second chapter of the New Testament epistle of the apostle Paul written unto the saints at Rome, as well as the words found in the second chapter of the epistle written by James. Consider if you will the following words which are found within these two chapters:
“Therefore thou art inexcusable, O man, whosoever thou art that judgest another, thou condemnest thyself; for thou that judgest doest the same things. But we are sure that the judgment of God is according to truth against them which commit such things. And thinkest thou this, O man, that judgest them which do such things, and doest the same, that thou shalt escape the judgment of God? OR despises thou the riches of His goodness and forbearance and longsuffering: not knowing that the goodness of God leadeth thee to repentance? But after thy hardness and impenitent heart treasurest up unto thyself wrath against the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God; who will render to every man according to His deeds: to them who by patient continuance in well doing seek for glory and honour and immortality, eternal life: but unto them that are contentious, and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, indignation and wrath, tribulation and anguish, upon every soul of man that doest evil, of the Jew first, and also of the Gentile; but glory, honour, and peace, to every man that worketh good, to the Jew first, and also to the Gentile: for there is no respect of persons with God. For as many as have sinned without law shall also perish without law; and as many as have sinned in the law shall be judged by the law; (For not the hearers of the law are just before God, but the doers of the law shall be justified. For when the Gentiles, which have not the law, do by nature the things contained in the law, these, having not the law, are a law unto themselves: which shew the work of the law written in their hearts, their conscience also bearing witness, and their thoughts the mean while accusing or else excusing one another) in the day when God shall judge the secrets of men by Jesus Christ according to my gospel” (Romans 2:1-16).
“Behold, thou art called a Jew, and restest in the law, and makest thy boast of God, and knowest his will, and approves the things that are more excellent, being instructed out of the law; and art confident that thou thyself art a guide of the blind, a light of them which are in darkness, an instructor of the foolish, a teacher of babes, which hast the form of knowledge and of truth in the law. Thou therefore which teachest another, teachest thou not thyself? Thou that preaches a man should not steal, dost thou steal? Thou that sayest a man should not commit adultery, dost thou commit adultery? Thou that abhorrest idols, dost thou commit sacrilege? Thou that makest thy boast of the law, through breaking the law dishonourest thou God? For the name of God is blasphemed among the Gentiles through you, as it is written. For circumcision verily profiteth, if thou keep the law: but if thou be a breaker of the law, thy circumcision is made uncircumcision. Therefore if the uncircumcision keep the righteousness of the law, shall not his uncircumcision be counted for circumcision? And shall the uncircumcision which is by nature, if it fulfill the law, judge thee, who by the letter and circumcision dost transgress the law? For he is not a Jew, which is one outwardly; neither is that circumcision, which is outward in the flesh: but he is a Jew, which is one inwardly; and circumcision is that of the heart, in the spirit, and not in the letter; whose praise is not of men, but of God” (Romans 2:17-29).
“My brethren, have not the faith of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory, with respect of persons. For if there come unto your assembly a man with a gold ring, your assembly a man with a gold ring, in goodly apparel, and there come in also a poor man in vile raiment; and ye have respect to him that weareth the gay clothing, and say unto him, Sit thou here in a good place; and say to the poor, Stand thou there, or sit here under my footstool: Are ye not then partial in yourselves, and are become judges of evil thoughts? Hearken, my beloved brethren, Hath not God chosen the poor of this world rich in faith, and heirs of the kingdom which He hath promised to them that love Him? But ye have despised the poor. Do not rich men oppress you, and draw you before the judgment seats? Do not they blaspheme that worthy name by the which ye are called? If ye fulfill the royal law according to the scripture, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself, ye do well: But if ye have respect to persons, ye commit sin, and are convinced of the law as transgressors. For whosoever shall keep the whole law, and yet offend in one point, he is guilty of all. For he that said, Do not commit adultery, said also, Do not kill. Now if thou commit no adultery, yet if thou kill, thou art become a transgressor of the law. So speak ye, and so do, as they that shall be judged by the law of liberty. For He shall have judgment without mercy, that hath shewed no mercy; and mercy rejoiceth against judgment” (James 2:1-13).
“What doth it profit, my brethren, though a man say he hath faith, and have not works? Can faith save him? If a brother or sister be naked, and destitute of daily food, and one of you say unto them, Depart in peace, be ye warmed and filled; notwithstanding ye give them not those things which are needfull to the body; what doth it profit? Even so faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone. Yea a man may say, Thou hast faith, and I have works: shew me thy faith without thy works, and I will shew thee my faith by my works. Thou believest that there is one God; thou doest well: the devils also believe, and tremble. But wilt thou know, O vain man, that faith without works is dead?” (James 2:14-20).
As we read and consider the words which are found in the twenty-third and twenty-fourth chapters of the New Testament gospel narrative written by the apostle Matthew we are not only brought face to face with an indictment toward and against the scribes and the Pharisees, but we are also brought face to face with Jesus’ words concerning the end of time and the Last Days. The twenty-third chapter of the gospel narrative written by the apostle Matthew presents us with a powerful indictment toward and against the hypocrisy of the scribes and Pharisees which paraded itself around as righteousness in the sight of the living God, while in the twenty-fourth chapter of the same gospel narrative we find Jesus’ words spoken unto the disciples concerning the Last Days and the end times. The words found and contained within these chapters are absolutely remarkable and astounding, for within the twenty-third chapter—while it is true that the words Jesus spoke were an indictment toward and against the scribes and Pharisees which were present during His days, they can also serve as a powerful indictment toward and against religion, hypocrisy and legalism within our own day and generation. You cannot read the words found in this passage of Scripture and not come face to face with the truly astounding reality that Jesus sought to warn the disciples and the multitudes concerning the scribes and the Pharisees—those who taught them according to the Law and the traditions of men—and of their example in the midst of the earth. IF there is one thing I find absolutely captivating when reading the words contained within the twenty-third chapter of the gospel narrative of the apostle Matthew, it’s that Jesus wasn’t necessarily speaking out against the teaching of the scribes and the Pharisees, but rather the practices of the scribes and Pharisees. Jesus recognized and understood that there was a disparity and chasm between the words which they taught and spoke and their actions, their example and their behavior. It was in the Sermon on the Mount when Jesus spoke of the scribes and the Pharisees and how everything they did was to be seen and heard of men—and not only to be seen and heard of men, but also to be praised and honored by men. You cannot read the sixth chapter of the New Testament gospel narrative written by the apostle Matthew and not find Jesus’ words concerning the scribes and Pharisees as a powerful indictment for their need and their desire to be seen and heard by those during that generation.
RELIGION NEEDS TO BE SEEN! RELIGION NEEDS TO BE HEARD! RIGHTEOUSNESS IN THE SHADOWS! RIGHTEOUSNESS IN THE SECRET! The more I think about and consider the words which Jesus spoke in the Sermon on the Mount, and the more I compare and consider them in light of the words found in the twenty-third chapter of the gospel narrative written by the apostle Matthew the more I am brought face to face with the truth that religion has always and will always seek to be seen and heard of men. Religion has always and will always parade its actions, its “example” and its behavior in the sight of men that it might receive praise, glory and honor from man. What makes this so absolutely and incredibly dangerous is when you think about and consider the fact that religion might for all intents and purposes seem pious, it might seem holy, and it might seem righteous before and in the sight of the living God, however, Jesus makes it very clear that it is nothing more than a masquerade and charade—not only before and in the sight of men, but also in the sight of God. The underlying danger surrounding religion is that it attempts to shift the focus and the attention from the one true and living God, and place it upon itself. Religion has always and will always perform its duties, its practices, its tasks, its “righteousness,” its “holiness,” its “piety” in the sight of men as though it were perhaps something worth emulating and something worth admiring. In all reality, it’s almost as if the scribes and the Pharisees sought to parade their religious acts and practices and their “righteousness” in the sight of the presence of men as though it was not only something to follow, but also something to admire. The scribes and the Pharisees sought to perform their “righteousness”—whether it be the giving of alms, or prayer, or even fasting—before and in the sight of men that they might be seen and heard of men rather than God. One of the most dangerous and deadly truths concerning the masquerade and charade of the scribes and the Pharisees is that everything they did they did to be seen of heard of men in public and upon the earth while caring absolutely nothing about being seen and heard of the living God in the secret place.
If there is one thing I find absolutely astounding about the words which are presented before us in the sixth chapter of the New Testament gospel of Matthew—particularly and especially when considering it in light of the words found in the twenty-third chapter of the same gospel—it’s that the scribes and Pharisees sought to perform their religion and “righteousness” before and in the sight of men to be seen and heard of them while at the same time sacrificing being at all seen and heard of the Father who was in heaven. There is a monumental and fundamental difference between that which is seen and observed by the Father in secret and that which is seen and heard of men in public. There is a vast difference between public religion and private righteousness as public religion is most readily and most easily seen by men here on the earth, while private righteousness is seen and observed only by the one true and living God. Whether it came to prayer, or it came to fasting, or it came to giving of alms the scribes and Pharisees did all their religious “duties” before and in the sight of men that they might receive praise and honor of them. You cannot read the words found within these chapters and not encounter and come face to face with the absolutely terrifying and dangerous truth that religion has always and will always seek to be seen and heard of men and cares absolutely nothing about being seen and heard of God. How can you tell when you are in the presence of religion versus the presence of righteousness? You can most readily and most easily tell that you are in the presence of religion when that which is before you is paraded around to be seen and heard—almost as if the individual(s) performing the actions and duties are putting on a show for others. If religion seeks to perform and put on a show then the church and houses of worship is a stage for it to be manifested within. It’s worth noting that when you read the words found in the sixth chapter of the New Testament gospel narrative written by the apostle Matthew you see that the scribes and Pharisees loved to be seen in both the synagogues, as well as the streets. The scribes and Pharisees weren’t content to be seen simply and solely in the midst of the synagogue, for the synagogue wasn’t enough of a stage and environment to parade their righteousness, their religion, their legalism and their hypocrisy. The scribes and the Pharisees sought to take their “righteousness” and their religion beyond the synagogue and into the streets that they might be seen of those who perhaps would not and did not enter into the synagogue itself. Absolutely everything the scribes and Pharisees did they did to be seen and heard of men that they might receive praise, glory and honor of men rather than of and from the living God.
As you begin reading the words which are found in the twenty-third chapter of the New Testament gospel narrative written by the apostle Matthew you will find Jesus declaring of the scribes and Pharisees that they sit in Moses’ seat, and that whatsoever they bid them to observe, that were they to observe and do. With that being said, however, Jesus also spoke unto the disciples and the multitude warning them that they ought to do after their works, for they say and do not. IT’s important for us to realize and recognize the words which are found in these opening verses of the twenty-third chapter, for essentially that which Jesus the Christ was declaring unto the disciples and the multitude was that the example of the scribes and the Pharisees did not line up with, nor did it match and agree with the words which proceeded forth out of their mouth. In all reality, this is perhaps one of the most dangerous realities surrounding the scribes and the Pharisees, for it wasn’t necessarily the words which came out of their mouth that was so dangerous and deadly, but it was their actions and their example as set against those words. The scribes and the Pharisees would teach according to the Law of Moses, and they would even teach according to their traditions, however, their “righteousness” would never go beyond the words which they spoke out of and from their mouths. The scribes and the Pharisees would teach in the synagogues, and they would teach the people of Judaea, Jerusalem and Galilee, and they would teach according to the Law of Moses, however, they would not do, nor would they practice what they preached. This is in all reality what the apostle Paul wrote in the second chapter of the New Testament epistle which was written unto the saints which were at Rome, for the apostle Paul spoke of those who taught and preached against idolatry, and those who taught and preached against adultery, and those who taught and preached against that which was offense in the sight of the living God, and yet those same individuals would do the very same things they preached and taught against. The scribes and Pharisees were so incredibly dangerous in the midst and in the sight of the people which were present during the days of Jesus, for not only were they entrenched and steeped in their own traditions, but they were also entrenched in being performers on the stage of the synagogues and on the stage of the corners of the streets. For the scribes and Pharisees—both the corners of the streets, as well as the synagogue were a stage for them which they could use to parade their false sense of righteousness, their false sense of piety, and their false sense of obedience in the sight of the LORD.
It’s interesting and worth noting Jesus’ words concerning the street corners and the corners of the streets, for not only in Scripture, but also in our modern context there is another group of individuals who also parade themselves on the corners of the streets. Even during the days of Solomon kingdom of Israel the king of Israel and son of David wrote of another individual—or group of individuals—that performed on the street corners, and who used the corners of streets to seduce others. I am sure by now you already know where I am going with this, as those which Solomon wrote and referred to as parading themselves on the corners of the streets were harlots, prostitutes and strange women. When Solomon wrote the Old Testament book of Proverbs he would seek to warn his sons and his children concerning the strange woman, and sought to present them with the reality that the strange woman does not abide within her house, but instead parades and masquerades herself in the corners of the streets that she might seduce unsuspecting and wayward men who were caught up in their pleasures, their desires and their lusts. I find it absolutely intriguing to think about and consider the fact that in the Old Testament book of Proverbs we find Solomon writing of the strange woman who abides on the corners of the streets, and how it would be at the corners of the streets she would adorn herself with fine garments, and would paint her face, and perhaps even perfume herself so as to seduce and attract those unsuspecting and wayward men who would venture near her corner. What I find to be worth noting and pointing out when reading these words is when you consider that the scribes and the Pharisees themselves sought to perform on the corners of the streets that they might be seen and heard of men. In all reality, I would dare say that the scribes and the Pharisees were essentially religious and hypocritical harlots and whores who paraded themselves upon the corners of the streets—not only to be seen and heard of men, but also to allure, seduce and capture wayward and unsuspecting hearts and minds. There is not a doubt in my mind that when Jesus came to the earth He came as wisdom as it was mentioned in the midst of the Old Testament book of Proverbs—wisdom which sought to warn the people, His disciples, and the crowds and multitudes concerning the religious whores and harlots which were in the land.
RELIGIOUS WHORES AND HARLOTS IN THE LAND! RELIGIOUS WHORES AND HARLOTS ON THE STREET CORNERS! I have to admit that I cannot escape the absolutely tremendous idea and concept of Jesus speaking of the scribes and Pharisees, and how not only did they seek to perform their religious duties and practices to be seen and heard of men, but they also did so on the corners of the streets that they might garner the attention of those who would pass by. I can’t help but wonder how many unsuspecting men and women would pass by “their corners” and would see them performing their “righteousness” and their “good deeds” and would consider them to be holy, pious and righteous in the sight of both God and men. What’s more, is that I find it worth noting that when Jesus emerged and stepped on to the scene He would come calling out the false righteousness of the scribes and the Pharisees, and would point it out as being nothing more than a farce, a masquerade and a charade in the site of both God and men. The “righteousness” of the scribes and Pharisees would be nothing more than smoke and mirrors as it would give the false evidence and false appearance of being real in the sight of both God and men. It would have been very easy for men during those days to watch, to observe, and to listen to the scribes and Pharisees, and to see how “righteous” and how “holy” they were, and yet be completely and utterly drawn away with the fact that they were nothing more than religious whores and harlots in the land. Just like the strange woman would plant herself upon the corners of the streets, and just as the strange woman would parade herself there on the street corners to seduce and lead astray unsuspecting and wayward men in both heart and mind, so also would the false evidence of the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees seduce the unsuspecting and wayward hearts of men as they would entice and lure them away from true righteousness and holiness. When Jesus came to the earth He came preaching the gospel of the kingdom of heaven, and He came teaching and preaching repentance, but He also came preaching and presenting the righteousness of the kingdom of heaven which was directly set against the righteousness of the scribes and the Pharisees. When Jesus emerged on to the scene in the midst of those days He came preaching the kingdom of heaven, but He would also denounce and renounce the righteousness of the scribes and the Pharisees which was earthly and carnal in its nature.
The more I read and consider the words which are found in both the sixth chapter of the gospel narrative written by the apostle Matthew, as well as the words which are found in the twenty-third chapter of the same book, I can’t help but be absolutely captivated with the fact that these scribes and Pharisees would plant themselves on the corners of the streets as “religious whores”—and not only as “religious whores,” but also as “religious dealers” who would attempt to offer those unsuspecting, wayward, disillusioned and deceived hearts and souls a product they claimed was what they needed, yet would be absolutely nothing but a false bill of goods. In our modern generation and context we know of two individuals and two groups of people who use the street corners to conduct themselves and to conduct their business, and yet when Jesus was speaking about the scribes and the Pharisees He also spoke of them as being on the corners of the streets. Just like dealers and harlots would themselves stand upon the corners of the streets and parade themselves as having something others needed, so also would the scribes and the Pharisees plant themselves on the corners of the streets and present themselves as having something which men and women of those days and that generation needed. There is not a doubt in my mind that the scribes and the Pharisees were attempting to peddle their false sense of righteousness, and their false sense of piety and holiness in the sight of men as though it were something to consume, and something they ought to have within their lives. It would be in the twenty-third chapter of the New Testament gospel of Matthew Jesus would emphatically speak unto and warn men and women concerning the scribes and the Pharisees, and how their lives would not live up to that which they taught, and how they were nothing more than caricatures which had at the very heart and foundation of their existence false evidence which appeared real.
It is with all of this in mind I feel it absolutely necessary to call and draw your attention to the words which are found in the twenty-third chapter of the gospel narrative written by the apostle Matthew, as well as the words which are found in the fifth and seventh chapters of the Old Testament book of Proverbs. It is within the twenty-third chapter of the gospel narrative written by the apostle Matthew we find Jesus speaking of the scribes and Pharisees declaring how they bound heavy burdens and grievous to be borne, and laid them upon men’s shoulders, but would themselves not move them with one of their fingers. These scribes and Pharisees would essentially be oppressive task masters like the task masters in the land of Egypt who would place heavy burdens on the children of Israel and would demand production and results. The task masters within the land of Egypt would be results and production driven in order that the quota might be met per day, and the scribes and the Pharisees would be the same exact way as they would also be results and production driven. The scribes and the Pharisees would bind heavy burdens which they would place upon the shoulders of men which would cruelly oppress and crus them under the weight and load. The scribes and the Pharisees would bind heavy burdens and heavy loads on the people—and not only would they do this, but here in this chapter Jesus would again speak of them seeking to be seen and heard as He would declare “but all their works they do for to be seen of men: they make broad their phylacteries, and enlarge the borders of their garments, and love the uppermost seats in the synagogues, and greetings in the markets, and to be called of men, Rabbi, Rabbi.” With these words Jesus would once more speak of the scribes and Pharisees as those who sought to perform for men rather than please God—one of the key and fundamental differences between Jesus the Christ, as well as the apostle Paul. You will notice within the gospel narratives found in the New Testament, as well as the writings of the apostle Paul that both men spoke of seeking to please God rather than men, and how they did not live their lives with and for the sole intention of pleasing men, but pleasing God alone. The scribes and the Pharisees were themselves those individuals who sought to please men rather than God, and were those individuals who cared more about the pleasure and delight of men than they did true and living God. Consider if you will the words which are found in both the fifth chapter of the New Testament gospel written by the apostle John, as well as the words which are found in the first and opening chapter of the epistle which the apostle Paul wrote unto the churches which were in Galatia:
“Then answered Jesus and said unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, The Son can do nothing of Himself, but what He seeth the Father do: for what things soever He doeth, these also doeth the Son likewise. For the Father loveth the Son, and sheweth Him all things that Himself doeth: and HE will shew him greater works than these, that ye may marvel. For as the Father raiseth up the dead, and quickeneth them; even so the Son quickeneth whom He will. For the Father judgeth no man, but hath committed all judgment unto the Son: that all men should honour the Son, even as they honour the Father. He that honoureth not the Son honoureth not the Father. He that honoureth not the Son honoureth not the Father which hath sent Him. Verily, Verily, I say unto you, He that heareth my word, and believeth on Him that sent me, hath everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation; but is passed from death unto life. Verily, verily, I say unto you, The hour is coming, and now is, when the dead shall hear the voice of the Son of God: and they that hear shall live. For as the Father hath life in Himself; so hath He given to the Son to have life in Himself; and hath given Him authority to execute judgment also, because He is the Son of man. Marvel not at this: for the hour is coming, in the which all that are in the graves shall hear His voice, and shall come forth; they that have done good, unto the resurrection of damnation. I can of mine own self do nothing: as I hear, I judge: and my judgment is just; because I seek not mine own will, but the will of the Father which hath sent me. If I bear witness of myself, my witness is not true. There is another that beareth witness of me; and I know that the witness which He witnesseth of me is true. Ye sent unto John, and He bare witness unto the truth But I receive not testimony from man: but these things I say, that ye might be saved. He was a burning and a shining light: and ye were willing for a season to rejoice in His light. But I have greater witness than that of John: for the works which the Father hath given me to finish, the same works that I do, bear witness of me, that the Father hath sent me. And the Father Himself, which hath sent me, hath borne witness of me. Ye have seen His shape. And ye have not His word abiding in you: for whom He hath sent, Him ye believe not. Search the Scriptures; for in them ye think ye have eternal life: and they are they which testify of me. And ye will not come to me, that ye might have life. I receive not honour from men. But I know you, that y have not the love of God in you. I am come in my Father’s name, and ye receive me not: if another shall come in his own name, him ye will receive. How can ye believe, which receive honour one of another, and seek not the honour that cometh from God only? Do not think that I will accuse you to the Father: there is one that accuseth you, even Moses, in whom ye trust. For had ye believed Moses, ye would have believed me: for he wrote of me. But if ye believe not his writings, how shall ye believe my words?” (John 5:19-47).
“I marvel that ye are so soon removed from Him that called you into grace of Christ unto another gospel: which is not another; but there be some that trouble you, and would pervert the gospel of Christ. But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed. As we said before, so say I not again, If any man preach any other gospel unto you than that ye have received, let him be accursed. For do I now persuade men, or God? OR do I seek to please men? For if I yet pleased men, I should not be the servant of Christ” (Galatians 1:6-10).
It is truly something worth noting and pointing out that neither Jesus nor Paul sought to please, nor receive glory and honour from men, and the apostle Paul went so far as to say that if he sought to please men he would not be a servant of Jesus the Christ. This is especially powerful when you think about and consider the words which are found in the twenty-third chapter of the New Testament gospel written by the apostle Matthew, for the entire indictment directed toward and against the scribes and the Pharisees screams seeking to please men and receive honor from men rather than seeking to please the one true and living God. It is safe to say the scribes and the Pharisees cared absolutely nothing in bringing pleasure and delight to the heart of the Father, and were completely and utterly content with getting praise, honor, glory and accolades from men. The scribes and the Pharisees paraded their righteousness before and in the sight of men, and I would even dare say they peddled that righteousness as though it was something that was worthy of emulating and following. It’s incredibly interesting to note within this passage that Jesus echoes words which He had spoken earlier on during His ministry concerning the scribes and Pharisees loving to be seen (and heard) of men, for when we speak about the scribes and Pharisees we must understand that they were such as loved the spotlight and loved being in the eye of the public. The scribes and the Pharisees did everything that they might be seen and heard of men, and the dangerous truth behind that is that in doing so they sacrificed any pleasure and delight in the heart of the LORD. Their righteousness was only in pretense rather than anything which actually pleased and brought joy and delight to the heart of the Father. What makes this even more deadly and tragic is what I alluded to already in terms of the scribes and Pharisees essentially being “religious harlots” and “religious dealers” on the street corners. Although Scripture does not speak to dealers as we know them in our modern context and generation it does speak of strange women at street corners—a reality which I feel is necessary for us to consider. With that in mind, consider if you will the following words which are found in the fifth and seventh chapters of the Old Testament book of the Proverbs:
“My son, attend unto my wisdom, and bow thine ear to my understanding: that thou mayest regard discretion, and that thy lips may keep knowledge. For the lips of a strange woman drop as an honeycomb, and her mouth is smoother than oil: but her end is bitter as wormwood, sharp as a two-edge sword. Her feet go down to death: her steps take hold on hell. Lest thou shouldest ponder the path of life, her ways are moveable, that thou canst not know them. Hear me now therefore, O ye children, and depart not from the words of my mouth. Remove thy way far from her, and come not nigh the door of her house: lets thou give thine honour unto others, and thy years unto the cruel: lest strangers be filled with thy wealth; and thy labours be in the house of a stranger; and thour mourn at the last, when thy flesh and thy body are consumed, and say, How have I hated instruction, and my heart despised reproof; and have not obeyed the voice of my teachers, nor inclined mine ear to them that instructed me! I was almost in all evil in the midst of the congregation and assembly. Drink waters out of thine own cistern, and running waters out of thine own well. Let thy fountains be dispersed abroad, and rivers of waters in the streets. Let them be only thine own, and not strangers’ with thee. Let thy fountain be blessed: and rejoiceth with the wife of thy youth. Let her be as the loving hind and pleasant roe; let her breasts satisfy thee at all times; and be thou ravished always with her love. And why wilt thou, my son, be ravished with a strange woman, and embrace the bosom of a stranger? For the ways of man are before the eyes of the LORD, and He pondereth all his goings. His own iniquities shall take the wicked himself, and he3 shall be holden with the cords of his sins. He shall die without instruction; and in the greatness of his folly he shall go astray” (Proverbs 5:1-23).
“My son, keep my words, and lay up my commandments, and live; and my law as the apple of thine eye. Bind them upon thy fingers, write them upon the table of thine heart. Say unto wisdom, Thou art my sister; and call understanding thy kinswoman: that they may keep thee from the strange woman, from the stranger which flattereth with her words. For at the window of my house I looked through my casement, and beheld among the simple ones, I discerned among the youths, a young man void of understanding, PASSING THROUGH THE STREET NEAR CORNER; and he went the way to her house, in the twilight, in the evening, in the black and dark night: and, behold, there met him a woman with the attire of an harlot, and sutbil of heart. (She is loud and stubborn; her feet abide not in her house: NOW SHE IS WITHOUT, NOW IN THE STREETS, AND LIETH IN WAIT AT EVERY CORNER.) So she caught him, and kissed him, and with an impudent face said unto him, I have peace offerings with me; This day have I payed my vows. Therefore came I forth to meet thee, diligently to seek thy face, and I have found thee. I have decked my bed with coverings of tapestry, with carved works, with fine linen of Egypt. I have perfumed my bed with myrrh, aloes, and cinnamon. Come, let us take our fill of love until the morning: let us solace ourselves with loves. For the goodman is not at home, he is gone a long journey: he hath taken a bag of money with him, and will come home at the day appointed. With her much fair speech she caused him to yield, with the flattering of her lips she forced him. He goeth after her straightway, as an ox goeth to the slaughter, or as a fool to the correction of the stocks; till a dart strike through his liver; as a bird hasteth to the snare, and knoweth not that it is for his life. Hearken unto me now therefore, O ye children, and attend to the words of my mouth. Let not thine heart decline to her ways, go not astray in her paths. For she hath cast down many wounded: yea, many strong men have been slain by her. Her house is the way to hell, going down to the chambers of death” (Proverbs 7:1-27).
The words which we find within these two chapters in the Old Testament book of Proverbs are such that provide us with a greater understanding and insight into the scribes and Pharisees who used the corners of the streets to parade and peddle their righteousness in the sight of men—and not only parade and peddle their righteousness, but also seek to receive praise and honor from men. The scribes and Pharisees were such as who did everything they did to be seen, heard and recognized by men. What makes this even more alarming is that Jesus would emphatically declare unto His disciples and the multitude that the scribes and the Pharisees were those who would bid and teach them to observe various commands, statutes, laws, precepts, etc., however, Jesus would also instruct His disciples and followers to do as they said but not as they did. As much as the scribes and Pharisees would do their religious acts to be seen and heard in the company of men, so also would they give an example that was not worth following, nor would it be worth emulating. The scribes and the Pharisees would do everything they did that they might be seen and heard of men, and would in that very same measure lay burdens which were grievous to bear upon the shoulders of others. As if it wasn’t bad enough for the scribes and the Pharisees to do everything to be seen and heard, they would also be oppressive religious task masters in the midst of the land—those who would crush others under the weight of heavy burdens they were never meant to carry. I am absolutely convinced it is for this reason Jesus Himself proclaimed the following words which were spoken unto the crowds and the multitudes: “Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light” (Matthew 11:28-30). Undoubtedly Jesus was well aware of the oppressive and crushing burdens the scribes and the Pharisees would place upon the shoulders of those in the land of Judaea, those in the midst of Jerusalem, and even those in Galilee and the surrounding region. The scribes and the Pharisees would oppress the people in the midst of the land in terms of religion, legalism, and hypocrisy, while the Romans oppressed them politically. When Jesus emerged on to the scene the people would not only be oppressed politically by the Romans, but they would also be oppressed religiously by the scribes and the Pharisees. It would be during the days of Jesus the people would be assaulted on all sides as they would not only be oppressed by the Romans, but the scribes and the Pharisees would oppress them on a completely different front.
As I prepare to bring this writing to a close I find the words written in the twenty-third chapter of the New Testament gospel narrative written by the apostle Matthew to be a powerful invitation to experience the peace and the rest that comes and can only be found in Jesus the Christ. As much as this chapter is an indictment toward and against the scribes and the Pharisees it is also an invitation to step into and walk in the divine peace and rest Jesus the Christ came to offer and provide unto all those who were willing to come unto Him. Although Jesus would not deliver the people out of the hands of the oppression of the Romans, He would provide them a powerful deliverance from the oppression of the scribes and the Pharisees—from the cruel and oppressive burdens which they laid upon their shoulders. We dare not and must not miss and lose sight of the awesome and powerful words found in the eleventh chapter of the gospel narrative written by the apostle Matthew, for the words we find written within this passage serve as a powerful invitation given unto the disciples, unto the crowds, unto the multitudes, and unto those who felt tired, weary, heavy laden, worn out, drained, and who laboured tirelessly to come unto Him, and He would give them rest. While the words we find in the twenty-third chapter of the gospel narrative written by the apostle Matthew is a powerful picture of an indictment directed against the scribes and Pharisees we must also see it as an invitation given unto the disciples and followers of Jesus Christ to deliver themselves out from under the oppression of the religious task masters—those who would cruelly oppress them with their burdens, and those who would parade their religious harlotries and whoredoms before them. Jesus would not deliver the people out from under the cruel and oppressive yoke and burden of the Romans, however, He would come to deliver from sin—and not only deliver from sin, but also deliver from legalism, hypocrisy, and from the righteousness of the scribes and the Pharisees. While It would be very easy to read the words found in this passage of Scripture and consider them solely in terms of the indictment against the scribes and the Pharisees we must also recognize and understand it as an invitation given by Jesus the Christ for His disciples and for the multitudes to deliver themselves out from under these cruel and oppressive task masters. Jesus—like Moses in the ancient days of old—would come sent by the living God to deliver the people of God out from under the cruel tyranny and oppression of those religious task masters who would cause those underneath them to grow tired and weary under the weight and pressure of the burdens which were laid upon them. Oh that we would read the words found in this passage of Scripture and would not only see and recognize Jesus’ invitation to deliver ourselves out from under the cruel oppression of these religious task masters, but would recognize that the way of doing so is to come unto Him, for He is meek and lowly in heart, and His yoke is easy and His burden is light.