Read Matthew 23:1-39
Jesus had his share of antagonists. You saw that in yesterday’s reading in Matthew 22. Three different groups gave their best attempts at somehow trapping Him. The Herodians, the Sadducees, and the Pharisees tried to stump Jesus and/or catch Him in a wrong statement.
But, in chapter 23, Jesus began to control the conversation by pointing out the dangers of these false teachers of His day. These were people blinded by the deception of Satan. They mistakenly claimed ultimate authority as ones seated “in Moses’ seat” (v. 1). They hypocritically expected things of others that they didn’t demand of themselves. With their appearance and titles, they pridefully sought to exalt themselves above others.
After the Lord spoke warning about these people to the crowd, He went on to proclaim woe to these people in the presence of the crowd. In fact, in what would be some of the most pointed and direct words spoken by the Savior, He confronted their attitudes and actions with seven different “woe statements.”
Are there hypocrites and false teachers around in the year 2017? To be sure. But we may not refer to them as Pharisees, Sadduccees, or Herodians. Some of them appear as Christians who draw the circle of truth tighter than the Bible itself. They legalistically place expectations on others about such things as spiritual disciplines, food, drink, dress, and entertainment that are beyond any Scriptural expression. Beware. Don’t allow biblical truth to be constricted!
Meanwhile, we also observe how others ignore the clear principles of the Bible and suggest that they are no longer applicable and are too insensitive. After all, they may question, isn’t every lifestyle and perspective as valid as the next? According to them, the most open-minded, embracing way of thinking is the one that should win out at the end of the day. Be careful. Don’t allow biblical absolutes to be diluted.
In the end, our battle for the truth with those who draw the lines tighter or looser than the Bible is one that must be engaged with truth and compassion. It is the same kind of truth that Jesus used in expressing the “woes.” It is the same kind of compassion that caused Him to weep over Jerusalem in the last verses.