BEWARE THE WALKING DEAD
Lord, keep me from majoring on the minors and minoring on the majors.
Read MATTHEW 23:25–36
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!
33 “You snakes! You brood of vipers! How will you escape being condemned to hell? 34 Therefore I am sending you prophets and sages and teachers. Some of them you will kill and crucify; others you will flog in your synagogues and pursue from town to town. 35 And so upon you will come all the righteous blood that has been shed on earth, from the blood of righteous Abel to the blood of Zechariah son of Berekiah, whom you murdered between the temple and the altar. 36 Truly I tell you, all this will come on this generation.
New International Version (NIV)
Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
“Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting” (Psalm 139:23,24).
Jesus continues his blistering verbal assault on the scribes and Pharisees with three more woes, all targeting their hypocrisy. Their duplicity lies in their obsession with external ritual purity, yet, like all of us, their hearts are often driven by wrong desires. Avoiding ritual contamination was vital in first-century Judaism. However, for Jesus purity of heart is what matters. These leaders are so bad that he describes them as the walking dead: outwardly righteous, but spiritually dead zombies who walk around.
The final woe is longer, climaxing Jesus’ critique. He denounces their public veneration of murdered prophets and their claims that they would never have done this themselves. Yet, in their rejection of Jesus and his message, they reflect Israel’s former leaders. Their sin is great. They are snakes, emissaries of Satan masquerading as faithful leaders. They face imminent destruction, Jesus informs them. He will send messengers from heaven, but Israel’s leaders themselves will persecute them. Consequently, this generation will experience destruction, presently (Rome) and in the future (eternal destruction).
We must guard against becoming like these Pharisees and scribes, appearing to do all the right things while festering inwardly. Or we can live a double life—super Christian but only on Sunday. Such hypocrisy is especially dangerous as we advance in the faith: we know exactly how to appear godly. Real Christianity comes from the heart, refurbished by the Holy Spirit. We need to dwell on God’s Word consistently, and to ask him to expose within us anything resembling what motivated these religious leaders. We need God to refresh our hearts by his Spirit, enabling us to live the in-Christ life 24/7.
O God, give me a compassionate and charitable temper. Deliver me from all clamor, malice, hatred, and evil-speaking. Rid me of all guile, hypocrisy, and dishonesty.
Lord, search our hearts and expose anything that mirrors what You have denounced in this passage.
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