October 6, 2016
23 “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You give a tenth of your spices—mint, dill and cumin. But you have neglected the more important matters of the law—justice, mercy and faithfulness. You should have practiced the latter, without neglecting the former. 24 You blind guides! You strain out a gnat but swallow a camel.
25 “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You clean the outside of the cup and dish, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence. 26 Blind Pharisee! First clean the inside of the cup and dish, and then the outside also will be clean.
27 “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You are like whitewashed tombs, which look beautiful on the outside but on the inside are full of the bones of the dead and everything unclean. 28 In the same way, on the outside you appear to people as righteous but on the inside you are full of hypocrisy and wickedness.
29 “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You build tombs for the prophets and decorate the graves of the righteous. 30 And you say, ‘If we had lived in the days of our ancestors, we would not have taken part with them in shedding the blood of the prophets.’ 31 So you testify against yourselves that you are the descendants of those who murdered the prophets. 32 Go ahead, then, and complete what your ancestors started!
As we progress through the seven woes Jesus pronounced on the Scribes and the Pharisees, it might be helpful for us to remember the eight beatitudes back at the start of Jesus teaching. I think there is something of a bracketing going on here.
“Blessed are the poor in spirit,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
4 Blessed are those who mourn,
for they will be comforted.
5 Blessed are the meek,
for they will inherit the earth.
6 Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness,
for they will be filled.
7 Blessed are the merciful,
for they will be shown mercy.
8 Blessed are the pure in heart,
for they will see God.
9 Blessed are the peacemakers,
for they will be called children of God.
10 Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Matthew 5:3-10
While there is not perfect correspondence, we do see these “blessings and curses” at opposite ends of the spectrum of what Jesus is looking for. Remember how the beatitudes are the deep inward cultivated dispositions of a disciple of Jesus. The work of the Holy Spirit always begins on the inside and works its way to the outside. The tendency of the human spirit is to manage external appearances in order to mask internal realities. The former produces the flourishing fruit of faithfulness. The latter leads to the rot of hypocrisy.
This cannot be over-stated.
Lord Jesus, thank you for drawing such a pointed contrast for us between blessing and curse. I fear I am neither; living in the conflictedness of being somewhere in between. I confess I have contented myself to the mediocrity of the status quo around me. Though I can find people better than me, I can always find far more I think are worse. I want to be a real Christian, Jesus. I want to be all-in. Would you arrest my life to the end of fomenting an arresting witness of blessedness in me. Come Holy Spirit! Amen.
1. Do you see how a person who is focused on externals can actually fool themselves about their righteousness?
2. What does it mean to strain a gnat and swallow a camel?
3. Do you err on the side of fidelity to principle or faithfulness to people? How do you reconcile that?
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J.D. Walt, is a Bond Slave of the Lord Jesus Christ. firstname.lastname@example.org.