It is time for our Bible study group to gather again at Pizza Hut in Anna. This morning it will be with a sense of reflection. We lost another member of our little group this past week, and today Paul Pearson is being laid to rest. He and his wife Edith, are the most precious example of what marriage and the Christian walk should be. Their affection for each other and their unwavering love of the Lord is an inspiration to us all. Miss Edith will now have to move to where her children can watch out for her; so they will both be greatly missed. But God...He will gather us all together again one day, but it won't be for Bible study anymore!
I am going to open the study here this morning with a quote from Dr. J. Vernon McGee about these harsh words Jesus has for the scribes and Pharisees: No words that ever fell from the lips of our Lord were more scathing. It is a merciless condemnation. If you read this chapter carefully, it will blanch your soul.
At the end of chapter 22 Jesus gave the scribes and Pharisees another chance to see that He was the true Messiah standing before them, but even when confronted with their own Scripture facts, they refused to honor Him. The gloves are off; the Righteous Judge now delivers His sentence.
Matthew 23:13 "But woe unto you scribes, and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye shut up the kingdom of heaven against men: for ye neither go in yourselves, neither suffer ye them that are entering to go in."
This is the first of 8 times Jesus pronounces "woe" to the scribes and Pharisee; which in the Greek is a primary exclamation of grief, or alas. Grief and despair will come to them. They have set themselves us to be admired by man, but God will humble them. It is better to bend our own knees than to have God bend them for us!
Jesus accuses them saying they "shut up the kingdom of heaven against men" by their false leadership. They burden the people with traditions of men, and relate only what they want the people to know. With this they keep men in bondage to the Law and the temple. The monies filtered through the temple were lining the pockets of the wicked scribes and Pharisees. The glory that should have been God's alone was heaped upon them.
Luke's account of our Lord's Words here gives us a little more: Luke 11:52 “Woe unto you, lawyers! for ye have taken away the key of knowledge: ye entered not in yourselves, and them that were entering in ye hindered.” The "key of knowledge" is the Scriptures themselves. The average man was at the mercy of whatever the scribes and Pharisees said of the Scripture. They had twisted the Word of God to include their own traditions and restrictions, placing the burden on those who wanted to come to God in truth.
Matthew 23:14 "Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye devour widows' houses, and for a pretense make long prayer: therefore ye shall receive the greater damnation."
For their own gain the scribes and Pharisees sought out to "devour widows' houses" or take for their own, all the while making "long prayer" about how much better it would be for them to donate their only resource left to them. A widow at this time was especially vulnerable. Without a husband or male children to take care of them they were at the mercy of the people. They could not even find solace in the temple of God anymore. Taking advantage of the helpless for selfish gain will bring them "greater damnation."
Matthew 23:15 "Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye compass sea and land to make one proselyte, and when he is made, ye make him twofold more the child of hell than yourselves."
A "proselyte", in this case, was a new convert to the Jewish faith. They would go to great length to find someone to convert to Judaism, but again it was not for the spiritual health of the convert. The more they had tied to the temple and their traditions, the more money came in! Churches today that are only concerned with the number of folks sitting in their pews have the same problem. Bring them in, and pass the plate! The name on the church roll will mean nothing when the roll is called up yonder without a personal relationship with the Lord.
This is the heart of the issue Jesus is now reprimanding them for. They had religion, but not relationship. This is a business in its truest form. Peter spoke of this also in his second epistle. 2 Peter 2:1 "But there were false prophets also among the people, even as there shall be false teachers among you, who privily shall bring in damnable heresies, even denying the Lord that bought them, and bring upon themselves swift destruction. 2 And many shall follow their pernicious ways; by reason of whom the way of truth shall be evil spoken of. 3 And through covetousness shall they with feigned words make merchandise of you: whose judgment now of a long time lingereth not, and their damnation slumbereth not."
There will be "swift destruction" for those who only want to profit from bringing people to the church.
1 Timothy 6:10 "For the love of money is the root of all evil: which while some coveted after, they have erred from the faith, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows."
This is only the beginning of woes, the Lord is not nearly finished yet. Do you have religion or relationship? Get to know the Living God today!
Happy heavenly birthday to my mother who would have turned 83 today....I miss you and dad!