Matthew 23:13-36 – Jesus Says, “How Do Ya Like Me, Now?”

Posted: March 12, 2016 in Gospel of Matthew
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Matthew 23:13-36

Seven Woes on the Teachers of the Law and the Pharisees

There is a country song that comes to mind when I read this passage. It is “How Do Ya Like Me Now” by Toby Keith. It is a song a boy who was in love with a girl in high school but she was too popular to notice him and he was a fringe kind of guy. He was one of those artists that marched to his own tune and she was the prom queen type. She made fun of him when he left to go to Nashville to become a country singer. Now, she is married to a wealthy man she never sees and spends most of her time alone with her small kids. She hates what her life has become. Now, Toby Keith’s song is playing on the radio and he has become a big country music star. How do ya like me now? Although the song has nothing to do with the passage, the title of that song is what I want to play with today. How do ya like me now? Keep that question in mind when you read this passage, Matthew 23:13-38:

 

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. [14] [a]

 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.

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? 20 Therefore, 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.

 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!

 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.

 

 Wow, Jesus really laid the wood to these guys! No holes barred! Tell it like it is. This is like a preacher on fire and not caring about hurt feeling. He is laying the truth on them. It’s like a hip-hop artist speaking truth and dropping the microphone on the floor as he says his last word and walks off stage. It is Toby Keith saying, “How Do Ya Like Me Now?” Jesus was not holding back in this scene. He was laying down truth track by track, woe by woe. How do ya like me now?

Being a religious leader in first century Israel was very different from being a preacher or religious leader today. Israel’s history, culture, and daily life was centered around their relationship with God. The religious leaders were the best known and most powerful people in Israel. Jesus made these stinging accusations because these leaders were more concerned about maintaining or gaining more power, money and prestige than they were about leading people into a better, deeper relationship with God. He blasted them for their religiousness. They were so caught up in the details of their own laws and regulations that they completely missed God, to whom our need for His mercy is brought out by the Law. A religion requires performance and outward signs of obedience while missing the need for inner renewal and humble submission to God. Jesus was saying that they were outwardly appearing to be clean but they were full of pride and were not submitted to God on the inside. Jesus condemned them for outwardly appearing upright and holy but inwardly remaining full of corruption and greed. They were putting on a show but there was no life change on the inside. How do ya like me now?

Many today want Jesus to be the easy Jesus. We want Jesus to be all love and forgiveness and not any judgment. What do you do with this passage if you think that way? We want our Jesus to accept everything that we do as OK. We want to keep seeking the things that we want to seek and we want our Jesus to be OK with that. We want to continue to pursue our own desires whether it is wealth, possesssions, behaviors that are inconsistent with the totality of Scripture. We don’t want our Jesus to judge us for anything that we do. We just want a “stoner” Jesus who just says, “whooooaaaaa, duuuude, it’s your party maaaaannnn!” We just want a Jesus that lets us live our life the way we see fit and He will forgive us for it. We can continue to pursue things that we think are important. We think that just because we are doing it, that makes it OK in Jesus’ eyes. He is all love and no judgment! But what do you do with this passage? Jesus is condemning the Jewish leaders for not seeking to obey God but rather pursuing their own desires and justifying it as OK through their rules and regulations. They made outward appearances more important than the soul. They made justifying their behaviors as being OK with God because of x, y, and z. Jesus might as well be preaching the woes to us today because are we not just like the religious leaders of Jesus’ day. Are we not a society that wants to justify our seeking our own desires as being OK with God because we want a Jesus who accepts and forgives everything. We have to rip these pages right out the Bible if that is the Jesus we believe in! Woe to us for the things that we think are important. Woe to us for not living for eternity. Woe to us for saying that God’s Word can be a pick and choose thing. Woe to us for trying to change God’s Word to fit the new cultural norms. Woe to us for separating the God of the Old Testament from the Jesus of the New. Woe to us for justifying our lifestyles as OK because the Bible was written for a people and a time that does not apply to current culture. Woe to us for being just like the Pharisees! Let’s keep on living like Jesus will accept and forgive our continued sins in the areas of our life that we do not want to submit to His authority. One day we will see judgment in Him for those who try to justify our behaviors while seemingly, outwardly being “good people”!

It reminds me of the end of the movie, Schindler’s List, where the war is about over and he is saying God by to his dear friend and accountant. He hugs him and cries as he looks at his watch. Schindler says that He could have saved another Jew with that watch. He looks at his car and says I could have saved ten Jews with that car! Why did I care at all about any of these things? None of it matters. All that matters is that I could have saved more Jews than I did. If only I did not care about these things. Although Schindler saved countless thousands of Jews from certain death during World War II, he could not be consoled for the ones that he could not save. Are we so concerned with things of this life and our own desires that are in opposition to God’s commands that we miss the real deal. We miss the truth?

One day, one of two things are going to happen. We will meet our death and receive our just judgment at that time or Jesus will return in the eastern sky and the game is up for all of us! We will meet the moment of truth. We will meet our Savior and He will judge us for our relationship with God. Did we humbly obey Him or did we try to justify our behaviors as being OK. There will be no wiggle room on that day. There will be the moment of truth. Jesus will judge us. That’s right. Jesus will judge us as to whether we gladly submitted our lives to Him. No justifications. No excuses. Just the truth. That will be the real Jesus that we have been trying to avoid. How do ya like Him now?

 

Amen and Amen.

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