Photo by andré spilborghs on Unsplash
Yesterday, I was talking about how Jesus was individual in His approach to people. He didn’t treat all women or all Samaritan women in one way. He approached each person in the way unique to them because He knew their hearts. He embraced them in ways especially women, of that day were not used to. There were many other people not used to being embraced such as children (He blessed them), many of the sick and demon possessed who were healed, etc. were not used to either.
One group of people were not embraced. They were the self-righteous religious leaders of the day.
But there was one group of people that were not embraced. Jesus spoke truth to these people but after all the kind words He spoke to others, it seems out of place to hear the truthful words we hear spoken to many of the self-righteous, religious leaders of the day. The words He spoke to them were rather jarring! They were words I hope to never hear in my worst nightmare.
(This passage is from a section where Jesus gave seven woes to the religious leaders of His day. The last section of verses is after the last woe. You may find it interesting to read the whole passage. It was at the end of Jesus’ ministry.)
“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you tithe mint and dill and cumin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faithfulness. These you ought to have done, without neglecting the others. You blind guides, straining out a gnat and swallowing a camel!
“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you clean the outside of the cup and the plate, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence. You blind Pharisee! First clean the inside of the cup and the plate, that the outside also may be clean.
“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs, which outwardly appear beautiful, but within are full of dead people’s bones and all uncleanness. So you also outwardly appear righteous to others, but within you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness.
Thus you witness against yourselves that you are sons of those who murdered the prophets.
Fill up, then, the measure of your fathers You serpents, you brood of vipers,
how are you to escape being sentenced to hell?
Therefore I send you prophets and wise men and scribes,
some of whom you will kill and crucify,
and some you will flog in your synagogues and persecute from town to town,
so that on you may come all the righteous blood shed on earth,
from the blood of righteous Abel to the blood of Zechariah the son of Barachiah,
whom you murdered between the sanctuary and the altar.
Truly, I say to you, all these things will come upon this generation.
Matthew 23:23-28, 31-36 ESV
It didn’t take long for them to show their true colors as predicted in the later verses of this section. These leaders were not true followers of Jesus. They were simply rule keepers and institution maintainers.
As we know, Jesus was totally correct in His assessment of these people. They did flog and persecute innocents both in that day and later as well. In Israel’s history, good prophets had been killed and it continued to Jesus’ day as well when they murdered Jesus, the Messiah on the cross. It turned out that these religious leaders were just like their forefathers. They were going to crucify a total innocent!
But that was all part of the Father’s plan to ultimately bring glory to Himself as the punishment for sin was fully and finally paid for mankind. It is good for us to see balance to this picture of Jesus. There are other parts in the New Testament that show us clearly that He does not fit the cartoon version of someone who was always sweet and kind and something of a milquetoast. If you read through the gospels, you will find that Jesus had plenty of authority to His words and was not wimpy at all. And when it came to people who presented a false picture of the gospel or of who GOD was? Well, He was very blunt for sure!
Addendum: This is the important part for those of you who suffer from a very sensitive conscience. Remember that if you are in Christ, any sin that you commit was paid for at the cross. That doesn’t mean you get cavalier regarding sin. But it does mean that you don’t have to suffer under a load of guilt. None of us is perfect. Only GOD is. We have graciously been forgiven every sin if we repent and trust Christ and the payment He made for us.
The problem with these people was that they didn’t repent. He knew they didn’t have plans to repent either. They were cold hearted. This way of life was deeply entrenched. They weren’t people who occasionally were self-righteous or occasionally hypocritical. It was a way of life for them. Their hearts were hardened against Jesus.