The Deceptive Fig Leaves of Religion, Legalism & Hypocrisy

Today’s selected reading continues in the New Testament gospel narrative of the life and ministry of the Lord Jesus Christ as it was written and recorded by the apostle Matthew. More specifically today’s passage is found in the twenty-third chapter of this New Testament book. “Then spake Jesus to the multitude, and to his disciples, saying, The scribes and the Pharisees sit in Moses’ seat: All therefore whatsoever they bid you observe, that observe and do; but do not ye after their works: For they say, and do not. For they bind heavy burdens and grievous to be borne, and lay them on men’s shoulders; but they themselves will not move them with one of their fingers. 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 rooms at the feasts, and the chief seats in the synagogues, and greetings in the markets, and to be called of men, Rabbi, Rabbi. But be not yet called Rabbi: for one is your Master, even Christ; and all ye are brethren. And call no man your father upon the earth: For on is your Father, which is in heaven. Neither be ye called masters: for one is your Master, even Christ. But he that is greatest among you shall be your servant. And whosoever shall exalt himself shall be abased; and he that shall humble himself shall be exalted” (Matthew 23:1-12).

 

            “But woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For ye shut up the kingdom of heaven against men: for ye neither go in yourselves, neither suffer ye them that are entering to go in” (Matthew 23:13).

 

            “Woe unto you scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For ye devour widows’ houses, and for a pretence make long prayer: therefore ye shall receive the greater damnation” (Matthew 23:14).

 

            “Woe unto you scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For ye compass sea and land to make one proselyte, but when he is made, ye make him twofold more the child of hell than yourselves” (Matthew 23:15).

 

            “Woe unto you, ye blind guides, which say, Whosoever shall swear by the temple, it is nothing: but whosoever shall swear by the gold of the temple, he is a debtor! Ye fools and blind: for whether is greater, the gold, or the temple that sanctifieth the gold? And, whosoever shall swear by the altar, it is nothing; but whosoever sweareth by the gift that is upon it, he is guilty. Ye fools and blind; for whether is greater, the gift, or the altar which sanctifieth the gift? Whoso therefore shall swear by the altar, sweareth by it, and by all things thereon. And whoso shall swear by the temple, sweareth by it, and by him that dwelleth therein. And that swear by heaven, sweareth by the throne of God, and by him that sitteth thereon” (Matthew 23:16-22).

 

 

            “Woe unto you scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For ye pay tithe of mint and anise and cumin, and have omitted the weightier matters of the law, judgment, mercy, and faith: these ought ye to have done and not to leave the other undone. Ye blind guides, which strain at a gnat and swallow a camel” (Matthew 23:23-24).

 

            “Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For ye make clean the outside of the cup and of the platter, but within they are full of extortion and excess. Thou blind Pharisee, cleanse first that which is within the cup and platter, that the outside of them may be clean also” (Matthew 23:25-26).

 

            “Woe unto you scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For ye are like unto whited sepulchures, which indeed appear beautiful outward, but are within full of dead men’s bones, and of all uncleanness. Even so ye outwardly appear righteous unto men, but within ye are full of hypocrisy and iniquity” (Matthew 23:27-28).

 

            “Woe unto you scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! Because ye build the tombs of the prophets, and garnish the sepulchres of the righteous, and say, If we had been in the days of our fathers, we would not have been partakers with them in the blood of the prophets. Wherefore ye be witnesses unto yourselves that ye are the children of them which killed the prophets. Fill ye up then the measure of your fathers. Ye serpents, ye generation of vipers, how can ye escape the damnation of hell?” (Matthew 23:29-33).

 

            “Wherefore, behold, I send unto you prophets, and wise men, and scribes: and some of them ye shall kill and crucify; and some of them shall ye scourge in your synaoggues, and persecute them from city to city: that upon you may come all the righteous blood shed upon the earth, from the blood of righteous Abel unto the blood of Zecharias son of Barachias, whom y e slew between the temple and the altar. Verily I say unto you, All these things shall come upon this generation” (Matthew 23:34-36).

 

            “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, thou that killest the prophets, and stonest them which are sent unto thee, how often would I have gathered thy children together, even as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, and ye would not! Behold, your house is left unto you desolate! For I say unto you, Ye shall not see me henceforth, till ye shall say, Blessed is that cometh in the name of the Lord” (Matthew 23:37-39).

 

            When you come to the twenty-third chapter of the New Testament gospel narrative written by the apostle Matthew you will find one of the strongest and most powerful indictments toward and against the Pharisees and the scribes within any of the four gospels. You cannot read the words which are found in this passage of Scripture and not encounter and come face to face with the tremendous truth surrounding the words Jesus spoke on this particular occasion and how He indicted the scribes and Pharisees for their hypocrisy. As you read the words which are found in this passage of Scripture you will come face to face with the incredible truth surrounding the words of Jesus and how He deliberately and intentionally called out the scribes and the Pharisees. As if it weren’t enough for Jesus to enter into the Temple and overturn the tables of money, drive out the money changers and cast out those who bought and sold He would now directly indict the scribes and the Pharisees for their hypocrisy. If you are truly honest when reading the words which are found in this passage of Scripture you will had to admit that at the very heart of Jesus’ indictment toward and against the scribes and Pharisees was their hypocrisy—a hypocrisy that was rooted in legalism, in religion and even a false sense of righteousness, holiness and piety they believed themselves to have in the sight of both God and men.

 

            I have to admit that as I read the words which are found in this passage of Scripture I can’t help but want to begin towards the end of the chapter first. If you turn and direct your attention to the words which are found in the final verses of this chapter you will find the Lord Jesus emphatically declaring how He would send unto them prophets, and wise men, and scribes and how some of them they would kill while others they would crucify. Not only this but Jesus would go on to declare how some of them they would scourge in their synagogues and persecute them from city to city. We must needs recognize and understand the words which the Lord Jesus spoke within this passage for those to whom He was speaking of would follow the same path and the same steps of their fathers. The scribes and the Pharisees believed themselves to not be like unto their fathers who slaughtered and put to death the prophets of old. Those whom the living God sent unto the northern kingdom of Israel as well as the southern kingdom of Judah would be put to death and slaughtered by their fathers and now here we find the scribes and the Pharisees being spoken of by the Lord Jesus as those who would follow in the footsteps and pattern of their fathers. The words which the Lord Jesus taught and spoke her were a tremendous indictment toward and against the scribes and the Pharisees and how they would be those who would kill and crucify those servants of the Lord whom He would send unto them. Not only this but the scribes and Pharisees would also scourge some of those whom the living God would send in the synagogues while persecuting others from city to city.

 

            We dare not and must not miss and lose sight of this particular chapter for here we actually find the Lord Jesus explaining and teaching that which in the previous chapters was suggest and implied in the parables He had taught. If you turn and direct your attention to the twenty-first and twenty-second chapters of this New Testament gospel narrative you will find the Lord Jesus delivering two distinct parables—the first parable being a parable concerning a vineyard while the second parable would concern a wedding and marriage. The first parable would indeed suggest and speak to the reality of being called to present fruit unto the householder while the second parable would speak to the truth of being called and bid unto a marriage of the king’s son. What we must needs recognize when reading the words found in these two parables is that they not only describe the call for fruit and the call to come unto the wedding and marriage but they also speak to the treatment of the servants who were sent. In the first parable found in the twenty-first chapter we find the servants being sent unto the husbandmen while in the parable found in the twenty-second chapter we find the servants being sent unto those who had been called and bid unto the marriage and wedding of the king’s son. What we must needs recognize and understand—particularly and especially concerning the second parable—is that it not only describes those who rejected and despised the invitation to come unto the marriage and wedding but also their treatment of the servants who were sent unto them to bid them to come. As surely as there is a contrast between those who were called and those who were chosen there is also a contrast between rejecting the invitation to come unto the marriage and the wedding and putting to death and spitefully treating the servants.

 

            Having said and written these words I find it absolutely necessary to call and draw your attention to the following words which are found in each of these parables. Within these parables Jesus suggested and implied the scribes, the Pharisees, the chief priests, the elders of the people and the like were indeed following in the footsteps of their fathers who slaughtered and killed the prophets. This is something we must needs recognize and understand for when we come to the twenty-third chapter of this gospel narrative we find the Lord Jesus actually coming out and declaring concerning the scribes and Pharisees how they were not only the children of their fathers but also how they followed and were following in their footsteps. Their fathers spitefully entreated, persecuted, stoned and put to death the ancient Hebrew prophets who were the servants of the LORD rising early in the morning to proclaim and deliver the words of the LORD. In fact there are words within this passage of Scripture which call our attention to the tremendous truth surrounding the scribes and Pharisees and how not only would they kill and crucify the servants of the Lord. And not only how they would scourge some in the synagogues while persecuting others from city to city but also how their building up of the tombs of the prophets and garnishing the sepulchres of the righteous stood as a powerful indictment, testimony and witness against them that they are indeed the children of their fathers who slaughtered and put to death the prophets in ancient times. With this before you I now call and invite you to consider the following words which are found in the twenty-first and twenty-second chapters of this New Testament gospel narrative:

 

            “And when he was come into the temple, the chief priests and the elders of the people came unto him as he was teacing, and said, By what authority doest thou these things? And who gave thee this authority? And Jesus answered and said unto them, I will also ask you one thing, which if ye tell me, I in like wise will tell you by what authorty I do these things. The baptism of John, whence was it? From heaven, or of men? And they reasoned with themselves, saying, If we shall say, From heaven; he will say unto us, Why did ye not then believe him? But if we shall say, Of men; we fear the people; for all hold John as a prophet. And they answered Jesus, and said, We cannot tell. And he said unto them, Neither tell I you by what authority I do these things. But what think ye? A certain man had two sons; and he came to the first, and said, Son, go work to day in my vineyard. He answered and said, I will not: but afterward he repented and went. And he came to the second, and said likewise. And he answered and said, I go sir: and went not. Whether of them twain did the will of his father? They say unto him, The first. Jesus saith unto them, Verily I say unto you, That the publicans and the harlots go into the kingdom of God before you. For John came unto you in the way of righteousness, and ye believed him not: but the publicans and the harlots believed him: and ye, when ye had seen it, repented not afterward, that ye might believe him” (Matthew 21:23-32).

 

            “Hear another parable: There was a certain householder, which planted a vineyard, and hedged it round about, digged a winepress in it, and built a tower, and let it out to husbandmen, and went into a far country: and when the time of the fruit drew near, he sent his servants to the husbandmen, that they might receive the fruits of it. And the husbandmen took his servants, and beat one, and killed another, and stoned another. Again, he sent other servants more than the first: and they did unto them likewise. But last of all he sent unto them his son, saying, They will reverence my son. But when the husbadnmen saw the son, they said among themselves, This is the heir; come, let us kill him, and let us seize on his inheritance. And they caught him, and cast him out of the vineyard, and slew him. When the lord therefore of the vineyard cometh, what will he do unto those husbandmen? They say unto him, He will miserably destroy those wicked men, and will let out his vineyard unto other husbandmen, which shall render him the fruits in their seasons. Jesus saith unto them, Did ye never read in the scripture, The stone which the builders rejected, the same is become the head of the corner: this is the Lord’s doing, and it is marvellous in our eyes? Therefore say I unto you, The kingdom of God shall be taken from you, and given to a nation bringing forth the fruits thereof. And whosoever shall fall on this stone shall be broken: but on whomsoever it shall fall, it will grind him to powder. And when the chief priests and Pharisees had heard his parables, they perceived that he spake of them. But when they sought to lay hands on him, they feared the multitude because they took him for a prophet” (Matthew 21:33-46).

 

            “And Jesus answered and spake unto them again by parables, and said, The kingdom of heaven is like unto a certain king, which made a marriage for his son, and sent forth his servants to call them that were bidden to the wedding: and they would not come. Again, he sent forth other servants, saying, Tell them which are bidden, Behold, I have prepared my dinner: my oxen and mt fatlings are killed, and all thigns are ready: come unto the marriage. But they made light of it, and went their ways, one to his farm, another to his merchandise: and the remnant took his servants, and entreated them spitefully, and slew them. But when the king heard thereof, he was wroth: and he sent forth his armies, and destroyed those murderers, and burned up their city. Then saith he to his servants, The wedding is ready, but they which were bidden were not worthy. Go ye therefore into the highways, and as many as ye shall find, bid to the marriage. So those servants went out into the highways, and gathered together all as many as they found, both bad and good: and the wedding was furnished with guests. And when the king came in to see the guests, he saw there a man which had not on a wedding garment. And he saith unto him, Friend, how camest thou in hither not having a wedding garment? And he was speechless. Then said the king to the servants, Bind him hand and foot, and take him away, and cast him into outer darkness; there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth. For many are called, but few are chosen” (Matthew 22:1-14).

 

            I am absolutely convinced there is a great need to pay attention to the words which are found here in this passage of Scripture for it calls and draws our attention to the tremendous truth that is found in the twenty-third chapter of this New Testament gospel. It is in the twenty-third chapter of this gospel we not only find Jesus declaring concerning the scribes and Pharisees how they would kill and persecute the servants whom He would send but He also declared concerning them how they were the children of their fathers who persecuted and killed the prophets. What is so incredibly unique and interesting about the words which are found in the twenty-first and twenty-second chapters of this New Testament gospel is that in the parables Jesus spoke He did not reveal the identity of the husbandmen nor of those who spitefully entreated and killed the servants of the king. As you take the time to read the words found within these parables you will encounter the absolutely incredible truth that those to whom the Lord Jesus was speaking about were indeed the scribes and Pharisees—and not only the scribes and the Pharisees but also the chief priests and the elders of the people. We dare not and must not miss and lose sight of this for it brings us face to face with the incredible reality of the religious elite during the days of the Lord Jesus. The religious elite which were present during those days would indeed be those who would persecute and reject John the Baptist—despite the fact that it would not be the religious elite who put John to death but rather Herod.

 

            I sit here today thinking about and considering the words which are found in this passage of Scripture and I am brought face to face with the awesome and incredible truth that although the religious elite did not put John the Baptist to death we do know that they did not receive his message. This would be found in the twenty-first chapter of this New Testament gospel when the Lord Jesus would ask them whether the baptism of John was from heaven or from beneath. The Pharisees were unwilling to acknowledge this baptism was from heaven for if they did Jesus would have asked them why they didn’t believe on him. What’s more is that when the Lord Jesus continued speaking unto the scribes and Pharisees He would emphatically declare unto them how they rejected and despised both he and his message. This is something we have a great need of recognizing and understanding for it calls and draws our attention to the reality of the religious elite which were present during the days of John the Baptist. It would be during the days of John the Baptist the religious elite would despise and reject his message while during the days of the public ministry of Jesus they would not only reject and despise His message but they would also seek to destroy Him and put Him to death. We dare not and must not miss and lose sight of this for it calls and draws our attention to the truth surrounding the religious elite and their treatment of the Lord Jesus during those days. There are multiple accounts found in the New Testament gospel narratives of the desire of the religious elite to put to death the Lord Jesus and to completely and utterly destroy Him.

 

            We dare not and must not miss and lose sight of the words which are found in this passage of Scripture for when speaking unto his disciples and followers the Lord Jesus would speak of the scribes and Pharisees how they not only followed in the footsteps of their fathers but also how they filled up the measure of the blood they shed upon the earth. What we must needs recognize concerning this is that while it was true their fathers would persecute, stone and put to death the prophets it would be the religious elite during the days of the Lord Jesus who would be responsible for the blood of the Lord Jesus. It would be Judas who would betray the Lord Jesus into the hands of the religious elite who would indeed mock, scorn and persecute Him before delivering Him unto the hands of the Gentiles. This is something which must needs be considered for it calls and draws our attention to the incredible truth surrounding the religious elite which were present during the days of the Lord Jesus and their continued assault against the Son of the living God. Those who were alive and present during the days of the prophets were the husbandmen who killed the servants whom the householder and king sent while the Pharisees, the scribes, the chief priests and the elders of the people were those who were responsible for killing the son in the parable of the vineyard.

 

            I am sitting here today thinking about and considering the words which are found in this passage of Scripture and I can’t help but encounter and come face to face with the awesome and incredible truth of the scribes, the Pharisees and the religious elite being those who were responsible for the death and the shed blood of the son. In the parable of the vineyard the Lord Jesus would speak of the husbandmen who killed the servants and the son seemingly in the same breath, however, there would be three different sending of individuals. There would be the first sending of servants which would result in them being spitefully treated, persecuted, and even put to death while there would be a second sending of servants who be treated the same exact way. There would be a third and final sending which would not be the sending of the servants but rather the sending of the son. The same husbandmen who persecuted, spitefully treated and killed the servants would be those same servants who would put to death the son who would be sent by the householder. If there is one thing we must needs recognize and understand is the different time periods within the history of the people of God within and upon the earth. There was the time of the ancient Hebrew prophets whom the LORD God would send rising early in the morning speaking unto and warning them day after day. These servants the prophets would prophesy until the time of Malachi who would prophecy more than a century after the children of Israel returned from captivity and entered into the land which was theirs by inheritance. What’s more is there would be one final prophetic voice that would be raised up in the earth prior to the coming of the Messiah which would be that of John the Baptist.

 

            There is a great need for us to recognize the days of the ancient Hebrew prophets who were the servants the living God sent unto the vineyard and unto the city according to the word of the LORD and His command and instruction. The living God sent prophets such as Elijah, Elisha, Isaiah, Hosea, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Amos and the like to speak to and warn His people day after day rising early and prophesying deep into the day. There would be four hundred years of silence which would ensue between the final prophetic word spoken by Malachi and the first prophetic word spoken by John the Baptist. John the Baptist would be the voice of one crying in the wilderness who was responsible for preparing the way and making straight the paths for the Lord Jesus Christ. The living God would send His servants the prophets whom the fathers would spitefully entreat, stone, persecute and even kill before he would send and raise up John the Baptist. The LORD God would send John the Baptist as a prophetic voice which would prepare and make ready the way for the Lord Jesus. Eventually the Lord Jesus would indeed be manifested in the earth—not as a servant sent by the Father nor by the King but as a Son. The Lord Jesus was the eternal and only begotten Son of the Father which would be sent by Him into the earth declaring unto men the mysteries concerning the kingdom of heaven. The Lord Jesus would find Himself coming into conflict with the religious elite of those days for not only did He challenge them but they also realized they could not tame and control Him. Time and time again the religious elite sought to destroy and put to death the Lord Jesus that they might remove Him from the earth.

            If there is one thing we must needs recognize concerning the words which are found in the twenty-third chapter of the New Testament gospel narrative written by the apostle Matthew it’s that not only would the scribes, the chief priests, the elders of the people and the Pharisees seek to destroy the Lord Jesus but eventually they would also seek to destroy and put to death the apostles and those who would partake of the common faith. It was the religious elite who would seek to destroy and put to death the Lord Jesus and after they had Him put to death and after He was raised from death to life and ascended unto the right hand of the Father we find these same religious elite spitefully entreating the disciples and followers of the Lord Jesus. This is precisely what the Lord Jesus would speak in this passage of Scripture as the Lord would declare concerning them how He would send unto them wise men and scribes whom they would resist and would seek to destroy and remove from the picture and equation. As you come to the New Testament book of Acts—specifically the fourth and fifth chapters you will find a tremendous and powerful picture of the religious leaders and system of those days resisting and opposing the apostles and those who would follow the Lord Jesus Christ. This is something we must needs recognize and understand for Jesus would declare concerning them how they would be responsible for all the righteous blood that was shed from the time of Abel unto the time of Zecharias the son of Barachias who was slain between the porch and the altar. The religious elite which were present during those days would not only be responsible for slaughtering and killing the Lord Jesus Christ but they would also be responsible for resisting and opposing the apostles.

 

            With this being said I invite you to consider the following words which are found in the New Testament book of Acts—words which not only describe how the religious elite together with the Jews put to death the Lord Jesus but also how the religious elite which was present during those days would resist and persecute the apostles of the Lord Jesus Christ. The fourth and fifth chapters of this New Testament book is incredibly necessary to call and draw your attention to for it brings us face to face with the awesome and incredible truth surrounding the religious elite which was present during those days and their continued resistance of the apostles and the disciples and followers of the Lord Jesus. What’s more is that one of their own—Saul of Tarsus—prior to his conversion to Christ would persecute the disciples and followers of the Lord Jesus Christ. I am absolutely convinced we must needs recognize and pay close attention to this for it calls and draws our attention to the absolutely wonderful truth surrounding the Lord Jesus’ words which are found in the twenty-third chapter of the gospel narrative written by the apostle Matthew. We dare not and must not miss and lose sight of the words which are found in this passage of Scripture for not only did Jesus’ words look back to their treatment of Him but they would also look ahead to their treatment of His apostles and those who would walk with and follow Him. Consider if you will the following words which are found in the fourth and fifth chapters of the New Testament book of Acts:

 

            “Now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were unlearned and ignorant men, they marvelled; and they took knowledge of them, that they had been with Jesus. And beholding the man which was healed standing with them, they could say nothing against it. But when they had commanded them to go aside out of the council, they conferred among themselves, saying, What shall we do to these men? For that indeed a notable mieracle hath been done by them is manifest to all them that dwell in Jerusalem; and we cannot deny it. But that it spread no further among the people, let us straitly threaten them, that they speak henceforth to no man in this name. And they called them, and commanded them not to speak at all nor teach in the name of Jesus. But Peter and John answered and said unto them, Whether it be right in the sight of God to hearken unto you more than unto God, judge ye. For we cannot but speak the things which we have seen and heard. So when they had further threatened them, they let them go, finding nothing how they might punish them, because of the people: for all men glorified God for that which was done. For the man was above forty years old, on whom this miracle of healing was shewed” (Acts 4:13-22).

 

            “And being let go, they went to their own company, and reported all that the chief priests and elders had said unto them. And when they heard that, they lifted up their voice to God with one accord, and said, Lord, thou art God, which hast made heaven, and earth, and the sea, and all that in them is: Who by the mouth of thy servant David hast said, Why did the heathen rage, and the people imagine vain things? The kings of the earth stood up, and the rulers were gathered together against the Lord, and against his Christ. For of a truth against thy holy child Jesus, whom thou hast anointed, both Herod, and Pontius Pilate, with the Gentiles, and the people of Israel, were gathered together, for to do whatsoever thy hand and thy counsel determined before to be done And now, Lord, behold their threatenings: and grant unto thy servants, that with all boldness they may speak thy word, by stretching forth thine hand to heal; and that signs and wonders may be done by the name of thy holy child Jesus. And when they had prayed, the place was shaken where they were assembled together; and they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and they spake the word of God with boldness” (Acts 4:23-36).

 

            “Then the high priest rose up, and all they that were with him, (which is the sect of the Sadducees,) and were filled with indignation, and laid their hands on the apostles, and put them in the common prison. But the angel of the Lrod by night opened the prison doors, and brought them forth, and said, Go, stand and speak in the temple early in the morning, and taught. But the high priest came, and they that were with him, and called the council together, and al lthe senate of the children of Israel, and sent to the prison to have them brought. But when the officers came, and found them not in the prison, they returned, and told, saying, The prison truly found we shut with all safety, and the keepers standing without before the doors: but when we had opened, we found no man within. Now when the high priest and the captain of the temple and the chief priests heard these things, they doubted of them whereunto this would grow. Then came one and told them, saying, Behold, the men whom ye put in prison are standing in the temple, and teaching the people. Then went the captain with the officers, and brought them without violence: for they feared the people, lest they should have been stoned. And when they had brought them, they set them before the council: and the high priest asked them, saying, Did not we straitly command you that ye should not teach in this name? And behold, ye have filled Jerusalem with your doctrine, and intend to bring this man’s blood upon us. Then Peter and the other apostles answered and said, We ought to obey God rather than men. The God of our fathers raised up Jesus, whom ye slew and hanged on a tree. Him hath God exalted with his right hand to be a Prince and a Saviour, for to give repentance to Israel, and forgiveness of sins. And we are his witnesses of these things; and so is also the Holy Ghost, whom God hath given to them that obey Him” (Acts 5:17-32).

 

            “When they heard that, they were cut to the heart, and took counsel to slay them. Then stood there up one in the council, a Pharisee, named Gamaliel, a doctor of the law, had in reputation among all the people, and commanded to put the apostles forth a little space; and said unto them, Ye men of Israel, take heed to yourselves what ye intend to do as touching these men. For before these days rose up Theudas, boasting himself to be somebody; to whom a number of men, about four hundred, joined themselves: who was slain; and all, as many as obeyed him, were scattered, and brought to nought. After this man rose up Judas of Galilee in the days of the taxing, and drew away much people after him: he also perished; and all, even as many as obeyed him, were dispersed. And now I say unto you, Refrain from these men, and let them alone: for if this counsel or this work be of men, it will come to nought: But if it be of God, ye cannot overthrow it; lest haply ye be found even to fight against God. And to him they agreed: and when they had called the apostles, and beathen them, they commanded that they should not speak in the name of Jesus, and let them god And they departed from the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer shame for his name. And daily in the temple, and in every house, they ceased not to teach and preach Jesus Christ” (Acts 5:33-42).

 

            The words which we find in these passages of Scripture are incredibly unique and powerful when you take the time to consider them for they call and draw our attention to the truth surrounding the scribes, the Pharisees, the chief priests, the Sadducees and the religious elite during those days. It is absolutely impossible to read the words found in this passage of Scripture and not encounter and come face to face with the incredible truth surrounding the religious elite and that which they enacted against the Lord Jesus—and not only against the Lord Jesus but also against His servants the apostles. Within this passage we find the religious elite speaking unto the apostles of their seeking to call them to account and hold them responsible for the blood and death of the Lord Jesus—and not only the blood of Jesus but also for their treatment of the apostles. This is something we must needs recognize and understand—particularly and especially when considering the words which are found in the twenty-third chapters of the New Testament gospel narrative written by the apostle Matthew. It is in this particular chapter we encounter and are brought face to face with the reality of the religious elite not only being responsible for the blood of the Lord Jesus but also for the treatment of the apostles. If there is one thing which makes the words found in the twenty-third chapter of the New Testament gospel narrative so incredibly unique when you take the time to think about it it’s that Jesus never spoke concerning the scribes and the Pharisees concerning their treatment of Him. The Lord Jesus spoke concerning the scribes and the Pharisees and how they would be responsible for the blood of all the righteous saints which had been shed on the earth from the time of righteous Abel unto the time of Zacharias son of Barachias who was slaughtered between the temple and the altar.

 

 

            There is something truly unique and powerful about the words which are found in this passage of Scripture for they call and draw our attention to the religious elite which were present during the days of the Lord Jesus and how they would treat those who would come after Him. The Lord Jesus didn’t acknowledge their treatment of Him on this particular occasion—despite the fact that He was well aware of their continued attempts to tempt, accuse, destroy and ultimately put Him to death. The Lord Jesus would speak unto His disciples and followers concerning the scribes and the Pharisees how they were like their fathers who persecuted, stoned and put to death the prophets of old. What makes the religious elite during the days of the Lord Jesus so incredibly unique and different from their fathers during the days of the prophets is their fathers would be responsible for persecuting and putting to death the prophets and servants of the living God who went before them. Their fathers would indeed be responsible for destroying and putting to death the prophets of the most High God while the religious elite which was present during those days would be responsible for putting to death and shedding the blood of the Lord Jesus. Oh we dare not and must not miss and lose sight of this for it calls and draws our attention to the absolutely incredible reality of the religious elite which were present during the days of Jesus and how they were indeed the husbandmen whom Jesus referred to in the parable of the vineyard who spitefully entreated the son and who would ultimately put him to death seeking to lay hold of seize the inheritance which belonged to Him.

 

            I read the words which are found in the twenty-third chapter of the New Testament gospel narrative written by the apostle Matthew and I am absolutely captivated with the words which the Lord Jesus spoke unto His disciples and followers. The Lord Jesus indicted the scribes and Pharisees for building the tombs of the prophets and garnishing the sepulchres of the righteous and would even dare say that if they had been in the days of their fathers they would not have been partakers with them in the blood of the prophets. What’s more is the Lord Jesus would declare concerning them how they would be witnesses unto themselves that they are the children of them which killed the prophets and then instructed them to full up the measure of their fathers. What makes this all the more intriguing when you take the time to think about it is when you consider how the scribes and the Pharisees would declare that had they been alive during the days of the prophets they would not have partaken in the shedding of their blood. What they failed to realize, however, is that in their company and presence they had one who was greater than the prophets. Jesus would make the declaration that there was one standing among them who was greater than Solomon and with this being said we must needs conclude that His being the Son of the living God carried with it the same significance. The Lord Jesus indicted the scribes and the Pharisees for saying if they were alive during the days of the prophets they would not have partaken in the blood of the prophets being shed, however, they would seek to destroy One who was greater than the prophets. The scribes and the Pharisees would not be partakers in the blood of the prophets in that the prophets weren’t alive during those days, however, there was one greater than the prophets who was present among them.

 

            We dare not and must not miss and lose sight of this and how absolutely incredible it truly is for it calls and draws our attention to the tremendous truth surrounding the scribes and the Pharisees. The scribes and the Pharisees believed themselves to have somehow been more righteous than their fathers and that if they had lived during those days they would not have partaken in the shedding of the blood of the prophets. What we find, however,  is the scribes and the Pharisees participating together in seeking to destroy One who was greater than the prophets. The scribes and the Pharisees did not realize that the One who stood among them was greater than the prophets and that their conspiracy with each other to destroy Him and put Him death would make them guilty of the body and blood of the Lord Jesus. This is something we must needs recognize and understand when reading this passage for it calls and draws our attention to the absolutely wonderful reality concerning the words of Jesus and how they truly believed in their own righteousness so much that they would make the statement they would not have participated in the shedding of the blood of the prophets. What makes this so incredibly dangerous, however, is that they would not realize that they were participants and conspirators in the death and shedding of the blood of the Lord Jesus. The scribes and the Pharisees would indeed participate in the shedding of the blood of the Lord Jesus and would conspire together with themselves as well as with one of His own who would betray Him into their hands. How absolutely incredible this truly is when you take the time to think about it for it confronts us with the religious system of Jesus’ day and how they would not put to death the prophets, however, they would put to death the Lord Jesus who was the Christ and the Son of the living God.

 

            As you read the words which are found in this passage of Scripture you will encounter the tremendous indictments the Lord Jesus spoke and brought against the scribes and the Pharisees when speaking unto His disciples and followers. It’s actually quite interesting to read the words found in this passage of Scripture and consider the fact that when delivering and speaking these words the Lord Jesus would not speak them directly unto the scribes and Pharisees themselves but would speak them unto His disciples and those who walked with and followed Him. We dare not and must not miss this for it shines a tremendous amount of light on to that which Jesus actually said unto His disciples. The more you read the words found in this passage of Scripture the more you will encounter some strong language Jesus used to refer to the scribes and the Pharisees. Within this passage you will find the Lord Jesus describing the scribes and Pharisees as those who clean the outside of the up and of the platter but within they are full of extortion and excess. Not only this but Jesus would essentially say the same thing in a different manner when He declared how they were like whited sepulchres which indeed appear beautiful outward but are within full of dead men’s bones and of all uncleanness. Immediately after this the Lord Jesus would actually go on to give the full explanation of that which He was trying to say—namely that outwardly they appear righteous unto men but within they were full of hypocrisy and iniquity. Oh we dare not and must not miss and lose sight of this—especially when we consider the words which the Lord Jesus spoke in the Sermon on the Mount concerning their righteousness as compared with the righteousness of the kingdom of heaven. What’s more is that these words take on a while different meaning when considered against the backdrop of the interaction Jesus had with the religious elite as mentioned in the fifteenth chapter and the parable He spoke concerning the Pharisee and the publican:

 

            “Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil. 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 last commandments, and shall teach men so, he shall be called the least in the kingdom of heaven: but whosoever shall do and 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, ye shall in no case enter into the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 5:17-20).

 

            “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 mightest be profited by men; 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).

 

            “And he spake this parable unto certain which trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and despised others. Two men went up into the temple to pray; the one a Pharisee, and the other a publican. The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, God, I thank thee, that I am. Not as other men are, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this publican. I fast twice in the week, I give tithes of all that I posses. And the publican, standing afar off, would not lift up so much as his eyes unto heaven, but smote upon his breast, saying, God be merciful to me a sinner. I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other; For every one that exalteth himself shall be abased; and he that humbleth himself shall be exalted” (Luke 18:9-14).

 

            It is absolutely necessary we read the words which are found in this passage of Scripture for they call and draw our attention to the scribes and Pharisees who perceived and believed themselves to be righteous—both in the sight of God and man. As you read the words which are found in these passages—particularly the words which are found in the fifteenth chapter of the New Testament gospel narrative written by the apostle Matthew—you will find the scribes and Pharisees coming from Jerusalem unto Jesus and His disciples for a very specific purpose. The scribes and Pharisees came unto Jesus seeking to indict, charge, accuse and condemn the disciples for eating bread without washing their hands. Please don’t miss the tremendous significance of this for it calls and draws our attention to the truth which the Lord Jesus spoke as recorded in the twenty-third chapter of this same gospel. It is in the twenty-third chapter of this gospel the Lord Jesus spoke concerning the scribes and Pharisees concerning their interest in cleaning the outside of the cup and of the platter while completely neglecting and the inside of the cup and platter. The scribes and Pharisees illustrate this in what we read in the fifteenth chapter of this gospel narrative written by the apostle Matthew for they came unto Jesus and His disciples indicting the disciples for not washing their hands or the external part of their physical bodies without acknowledging that which is most important—the inward man.

 

            Perhaps one of the greatest truths that is found in this encounter between the scribes and Pharisees and the disciples of Jesus together on this particular occasion for they came to Jesus indicting the disciples for not washing the external part of their physical bodies while completely ignoring the inner part of themselves. What I find absolutely incredible about the words and language in the fifteenth chapter of this New Testament gospel is that Jesus would speak unto them concerning the fundamental difference between focusing on the external and outward parts of ourselves while completely and entirely ignoring the inward. The scribes and the Pharisees would seek to condemn and indict the disciples of Jesus for not washing the outward parts of their physical bodies while Jesus would flip the script and indict them for ignoring that which was most important—that which is inside the heart of a man. Jesus would emphatically declare unto His disciples that it wasn’t that which went into the mouth which defiled the man but rather that which proceeded out of the mouth. Not only this but Jesus would also declare that what proceeded out of the mouth would proceed directly from within the heart of a man—a statement which would indicate the tremendous truth that we dare not and must not become so focused and so consumed with the external part of ourselves while completely and utterly ignoring that which is most important—namely the condition of our heart. The scribes and Pharisees spent a considerable amount of time focusing on the outside of the cup and the outside of the platter while completely and utterly ignoring the inward part of themselves—namely, the heart, the mind and the soul.

 

            I sit here today thinking about the words which are found in this passage of Scripture and I can’t help but be brought face to face with the awesome and incredible truth of the words which the Lord Jesus spoke concerning the scribes and Pharisees. Jesus would indict the scribes and Pharisees for outwardly appearing righteous while inside being filled with all hypocrisy. The Lord Jesus would boldly state concerning the scribes and Pharisees how they were those who focused so much on external appearances while completely and utterly neglecting and ignoring that which matters most unto the living and eternal God—the heart. In all reality this was something which was revealed in the Old Testament book of First Samuel during the days of Samuel and David. In the fifteenth and sixteenth chapters of this Old Testament book you will find how the LORD had rejected Saul from being king over the nation of Israel because of his disobedience to His word and commandment. The LORD God had rejected Saul from being king over the nation of Israel and declared through His servant Samuel He would search for and raise up another king who would rule and reign over His people. As a direct result of this the LORD would send Samuel unto the town of Bethlehem and unto the house of Jesse who was the grandson of Ruth and Boaz. We must not miss and lose sight of the words which are found in this passage of Scripture for when Samuel arrived at Bethlehem and Jesse passed his eldest son before him Samuel thought within himself that this was surely the king of Israel. What Samuel would find, however, was the LORD God teaching him a lesson on that which matters most to God and what matters most to man. Man would look upon the outward and external appearance of a man and make their judgment and decision based on what they see before them. The living and eternal God, however, does not judge based on the external appearance of man for the living God looks upon the heart that is found within a man. With this being said I invite you to consider the following words which are found in the sixteenth chapter of the Old Testament book of First Samuel:

 

            “And the LORD said unto Samuel, How long wilt thou mourn for Saul, seeing I have rejected him from reigning over Israel? Fill thine horn with oil, and go, I will send thee to Jesse the Beth-lehemite: for I have provided me a king among his sons. And Samuel said, How can I go? IF saul hear it, he will kill me. And the LORD said, Take an heifer with thee, and say, I am come to sacrifice to the LORD. And calle Jesse to the sacrifice, and I will shew thee what thou shalt do: and thou shalt anoint unto me him whom I name unto thee. And Samuel did that which the LORD spake, and came to Beth-lehem. And the elders of the town trembled at his coming, and said, Comest thou peaceably? And he said, Peaceably: I am come to sacrifice unto the LORD: sanctify yourselves, and come with me to the sacrifice. And he sanctified Jesse and his sons, and called them to the sacrifice. And it came to pass, when they were come, that he looked on Eliab, and ssaid, Surely the LORD’s anointed is before him. But the LORD said unto Samule, Look not on his countenance, or on the height of his stature: because I have refused him: For the LORD seeth not as man seeth; for man looketh on the outward appearance, but the LORD looketh on the heart, Then Jesse called Abinadab, and made him pass before Samuel. And he said, Neither hath the LORD chosen this. Then Jesse made seven of his sons to pass before Samuel. And Samuel said unto Jesse, The LORD hath not chosen these. And Samuel said unto Jesse, Are here all thy children? And he said, There remaineth yet the youngest, and, behold, he keepeth the sheep. And Samuel said unto Jesse, Send and fetch him: for we will not sit down till he come hither. And he sent, and brought him in. Now he was ruddy, and withal of a beautiful countenance, and goodly to look to. And the LORD said, Arise, anoint him: for this is he. Then Samuel took the horn of oil, and anointed him in the midst of his brethren: and the Spirit of the LORD came upon David from that day forward. So Samuel rose up, and went to Ramah” (1 Samuel 16:1-13).

 

As I bring this writing to a close I find it absolutely necessary to call and draw your attention to the words which are found in this passage of Scripture for they call and draw our attention to the tremendous truth surrounding the LORD—and not only concerning the LORD but also concerning us as the disciples and followers of the Lord Jesus. Samuel assumed Jesse’s oldest son would be the next king of Israel based on external and outward appearance as he would look upon him and see he was undoubtedly a man of good countenance and stature. The trouble with this was that was how Saul was anointed king over Israel for Saul was chosen based on outward and external appearance. We dare not and must not miss and lose sight of this particular truth for it holds the same truth as what we find when reading the words found in the fifteenth and twenty-third chapter of the New Testament gospel narrative written by the apostle Matthew. If there is one thing we must needs recognize and understand concerning the words which the Lord Jesus spoke concerning the scribes and the Pharisees it’s that they were those who focused on the external and outward appearance of themselves and of others while completely and utterly ignoring the heart. The scribes and the Pharisees judged based on the outward and external appearance while completely and utterly ignoring the true reality which. Matters the most to the living and eternal God—namely the heart. We must needs recognize and understand this for it calls and draws our attention to the incredible truth that we as the disciples and followers of the Lord Jesus Christ must needs be those who commit ourselves to being men and women who devote ourselves to the condition and nature of our heart rather than focusing on the external and outward appearance of ourselves—not only in the sight of men but also in the sight of the living God.

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