|Tissot, Imprécations contre les pharisiens|
The woes Jesus pronounces on pseudo religious professionals, with a vested interest in their religious image, who are more concerned with image than with reality.
The seven woes echo the criticism that Christ has repeated throughout his ministry, and stand in contrast to the seven blessings of the Sermon on the Mount, which describe Jesus’s true disciples. And here we see the upside down Kingdom.
Christ views those who are in, accepted by religious people for their flawless appearance and pronounces woe on them. Conversely, he views those who are despised and rejected and poor and hungry for righteousness, and declares that in his eyes, they are blessed.
It is always better to be blessed in the eyes of Christ, rather than in the eyes of the religious establishment.
13 “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You shut the door of the kingdom of heaven in people’s faces. You yourselves do not enter, nor will you let those enter who are trying to.
Woe to those who do not experience the true joy of surrender of their lives to God. They do not experience Christ’s spiritual joy–and prevent others from experiencing it too.
Woe to the leaders who have drawn people away from the kingdom of heaven, rather than towards it.
15 “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You travel over land and sea to win a single convert, and when you have succeeded, you make them twice as much a child of hell as you are.
They emphasize conversions, but have no joy or love or peace to offer their entrapped converts.
16 “Woe to you, blind guides! You say, ‘If anyone swears by the temple, it means nothing; but anyone who swears by the gold of the temple is bound by that oath.’ 17 You blind fools! Which is greater: the gold, or the temple that makes the gold sacred? 18 You also say, ‘If anyone swears by the altar, it means nothing; but anyone who swears by the gift on the altar is bound by that oath.’ 19 You blind men! Which is greater: the gift, or the altar that makes the gift sacred? 20Therefore, anyone who swears by the altar swears by it and by everything on it. 21 And anyone who swears by the temple swears by it and by the one who dwells in it. 22 And anyone who swears by heaven swears by God’s throne and by the one who sits on it.
The illogicality and hypocrisy seriously annoys Jesus.
As is typical of their belief system, they focus on misguided superficial distinctions, and overlook the higher principles of the law. Those with faith in God, who recognize their constant accountability in his presence need only give a simple “yes” or “no.”
When the teachers of the law and the Pharisees took an oath, they differentiated between what was binding, and what was not. This allowed for evasive oath-taking. Jesus rejected such subtleties by showing how foolish they were, and by insisting that people simply tell the truth.
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.
Legalism–a particular temptation of religious people–to be meticulously correct–tithing garden herbs–while one’s heart lacks justice and mercy. Who are careful to avoid small sins, but are guilty of enormous ones.
See Jesus’s vivid and easily understandable imagery and hyperbole–You strain out a gnat, but swallow a camel!!
They had become lost in the minute details of the law, while neglecting its overarching intent.
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.
The outside of their lives looks good. Inside there is greed and self-indulgence. And these are contemporary temptations for all religious people.
However, if one cleans the inside–makes sure one is motivated by love and the desire for wisdom rather than by greed; by self-control rather than self-indulgence, then one will also look good from the outside.
A moral renewal will manifest itself in righteous living.
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.
Woe to those whom Christ says “Woe” over. Those who look beautiful from the outside, but inside are full of hypocrisy and evil.
One needs to focus primarily on the interior of our souls so that we are not the ones whom Christ regards, and says, “Woe.”
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!
Spoken ironically. They would bring the sin of their ancestors to completion with the crucifixion of the Son of God.
A prophecy fulfilled in part with the destruction of Jerusalem and the temple in AD 70.
Those who have a vested interest in religion, who are interested in appearances rather than reality will always be threatened by prophets and sages and teachers who are the real thing.
In scheming to have Jesus murdered, the religious leaders show that they are following in the footsteps of their ancestors who persecuted and murdered God’s prophets. Abel was the first person murdered in the Old Testament, and Zechariah was the last. The expression was like our “From Genesis to Revelation.”
37 “Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you were not willing. 38 Look, your house is left to you desolate. 39 For I tell you, you will not see me again until you say, ‘Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.’”
All Jewish religious authority will collapse with the destruction of the temple in AD 70.
Christ’s maternal heart–beautiful image, “I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings.”