Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites!
As I read through Matthew 23, I can’t help but hear the sound track of Godspell in my mind: “Alas! Alas for you, lawyers and pharisees, hypocrites that you be.”
That musical marked my Christian coming of age in so many ways. I’m just sorry I never got to sing and act in it!
This passage does not present a meek, retiring Jesus.
He repeats the hypocrites phrase 6 times, says the religious leaders are blind (guides, fools, men) 4 times, and adds the “serpent, brood of vipers” zingy near the end of the passage.
Jesus is not too happy with these cats. And it’s easy for me to look down on them, too. To think, “I’d never be that hypocritical.”
I sometimes favor something that has worldly worth instead of focusing on Godly worth (so oaths associated with gold seemed more valuable to the religious – vs. 16).
I sometimes nitpick on something at work (strain out the gnat) while not being kind or just to others (vs 23).
I definitely harbor self-indulgence and greed at times (vs. 25).
Now, I don’t rightly think I crucified any prophets (vs. 34).
Oops, wasn’t it my sin that sent Jesus to be crucified?
Well, despite my hypocrisy, I can rest in Jesus’ heart towards the people of Jerusalem of whom He says:
“O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it! How often would I have gathered your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you were not willing!” Matthew 23:37
Jesus endured the cross-death to overcome my hypocritical, unwilling heart, and really, truly gather me, his child, under his wings as a hen gathers her brood.
Dear Lord: Help me not to stand in judgment of the scribes and Pharisees as much as see the hypocrisy and blindness in my own heart. And praise you that you hide me under your wings where I am safe and sound – and for doing what it took to get me to be willing to come under your wings. Amen