Matthew 23

Matthew 23 is known as the “seven woes given by Christ to the religious leaders of his day. In this chapter, we have Christ exercising his prophetic office as he preaches woe to them. The term “woe” is strong. It conveys much more than a mere warning but one of impending doom. Ther seven woes can be labeled as follows:

The First Woe: The shut door. The meaning is aimed at those leaders who would mislead the people, preventing them from entering the kingdom of God.

The Second Woe: Trapped converts. In this woe, Jesus warns those religious leaders about making converts like themselves and thus burdening them.

The Third Woe: Binding Oaths. In this woe, Jesus warns the leaders about superstitious vows and promises.

The Fourth Woe: Neglecting the Weightier Matters of the Law: The religious leaders forsake the essential aspects of the law (justice, mercy, faithfulness) while holding to other things.

The Fifth Woe: Outside Cleanliness. Inside Filth: The leaders were concerned with outward purity while their hearts were far from God.

The Sixth Woe: Whitewashed Tombs. The religious leaders looked good on the outside, but their hearts were rotten bones, dead to the things of the Lord.

The Seventh Woe: A Dreadful Family Trait: The religious leaders of Jesus’ day were no different than those men who killed the prophets of old. In their attempt to conspire to kill Jesus, they are behaving like the murderous line before them that killed the prophets of God.

Though applied to the religious leaders, each of these woes should be applied to our lives today. Each of us possesses a tendency toward hypocrisy. That hypocrisy can mislead our families and friends. It can lead to superstitious behavior and an outward formality while there is no substance within. Therefore, all of us must guard our hearts against hypocritical living. If we fail to do that, we are no different than those Jesus pronounced judgment upon in his day.

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