We come to our fourth message on the Passion Week. We find Jesus going through His normal routine while in Jerusalem; … going to the Temple and teaching the crowds and His disciples. And as usual, His detractors/ enemies (Pharisees, Scribes, Sadducees, Priests, Herodians, etc.) were standing close by to grab onto something that He taught that sounded heretical and could be used against Him. With this ‘backdrop’ in view, let’s take up our text:
  Vs.1-3 – “… Moses’ seat …” was located in the local synagogues (Heb. lit. “gathering together places”) and was the place from where the selected Pharisee/ Scribe/ guest speaker taught the people. Jesus, addressing the crowds and His students, commands them to “…obey…” (Grk.- tereo = keep; guard; observe) and “… do everything …” the teacher in Moses’ seat instructs them to do. What was being taught was good. The problem was, according to our Master, that those ‘teachers’ were not ‘practicing what they preached’. Jesus then points out to those gathered around Him the glaring inconsistencies of the Scribes’ and Pharisees’ lives …
  Vs.4-12 – They loved to place burdens (metaphorically as well as physically) upon others but offered no help in the ‘bearing’ of those weights (Gal.6:2). They saw themselves as ‘masters’ while the folk around them were peons (Matt.23:11,12).
   The Scribes and Pharisees also were celebrities … and enjoyed every minute of it (vs.5-7). Honor and applause was/is addictive. Jesus reminded His students that they had ” … only one Master, … one Father, …one Teacher …” that was to be the ‘Celebrity’ in their lives and it is to Him (the Godhead Three-in-One) that they owed their honor and submission (vs.8-12).
   At this point, Jesus boldly turns His attention and ire to those who were misrepresenting Who His Father is …
   Vs.13,14 – “… hypocrites! …” – (lit. a stage-actor; a dissembler). The religious rulers/ pretenders of the day were constantly dissecting God’s Law to discern what really pleased God. <‘How far could a person walk on the Sabbath before it was considered ‘work’?’ > They took it upon themselves to add more details and restrictions to what God had initially commanded (… sort of like our legislators do today. Instead of enforcing the laws already written, they come up with new ones that will address the short-comings of the previous legislations …. while at the same time, making it harder for the populace to comply. Some things never change …). Jesus comes with His Father’s perfect plan; ‘turn around (repent) and follow Me’. This makes entrance into the Kingdom simple (… but not easy…); just follow the King! (Luke 12:32).
  V.14 – <omitted because it is not found in the earliest reliable manuscripts. However, the verse, if included in your version of God’s Word, is theologically sound (James 1:27).>
  V.15 – They had to search far and wide to find anyone who wanted to commit to the rigors of Pharisee-ism. But when they did find that poor soul, the Pharisees morphed that convert into a ‘son-of-Satan’. Some may say that Jesus was not as ‘loving’ with His words as they supposed He should be. But of a truth, the Pharisees wanted to KILL the Son of God; … the desire and plan of the devil himself (Matt.21:33-39).
  Vs.16-22 – The “… blind guides …” were also more about the ‘stuff of earth’ rather than the righteousness of heaven. Note how vows were only binding if something of earthly value was attached to the sacred … along the lines of a modern ‘faith healer’ praying for your healing after you write him/her a $1000 check (BTW, … that does happen today …). A vow to God is a vow not to be broken, … no matter what is attached to it (Eccl.5:1-7).
  Vs.23,24 – The regulations regarding the tithe are in Deut.14:22ff. Note that Jesus is not chastising the rulers for being ‘legalistic’; …He is denouncing them for ignoring the “… more important matters of the Law – justice, mercy, and faithfulness” (Mic6:6-8). The ‘gnat/camel axiom’ is so brilliant here. Both being unclean, the gnat (a minor uncleanness) will be strained out of the wine cup before they consume the drink … while the camel (a major offense in God’s Law) is unashamedly devoured before all.
  Vs.25,26 – (I Sam.16:6,7) In movie and theater sets, most large props are just ‘facades’; impressive ‘fronts’ that appear authentic. There is nothing of any substance behind the false exterior. “Actors” live in this realm … .
  Vs.27,28 – In this metaphor, the façade is not just hiding an unclean place of no substance (vs.25,26), … here it is giving a false front to a ‘garbage dump’, “… full of hypocrisy and wickedness …”. Even in today’s culture, it is not uncommon for truly evil people to put on the costume and mask of the righteous (Acts 20:27-31; 2 Cor.11:13-15).
  Vs.29-32 – Jesus ties the religious rulers of His day to the religious rulers who viciously killed the OT prophets. Ironically, the Pharisees, Scribes and priests of Jesus time had just beautified the monuments of those murdered prophets as part of the preparations of the Passover Festivities, … while at the same time sought an opportunity to kill their promised Messiah. Imagine, … seeking to kill the Son of the God you supposedly serve and worship! Thus Jesus’ words, “Fill up, then, the measure of the sin of your forefathers.”
  V.33 – “You brood of vipers!” = ‘You offspring of snakes!’ Truly these rulers were of their father, the devil (Jhn.8:42-47) … and as such, Jesus declares something that no one wants to hear from the lips of the Eternal, Righteous Judge; “…How will you escape being condemned to hell?” Even reading this, I shudder for their eternal souls … and mine, if I neglect, so great and precious, God’s plan of salvation!
   To sum up, let’s look at the issues (…the “woes”) Jesus had with the Pharisees, Scribes, religious rulers:
   A) they enjoyed/abused their celebrity status;
   B) they did not serve, nor were they humble;
   C) they placed undue value on material things;
   D) they emphasized certain aspects of Scripture while ignoring others;
   E) they appeared ‘holy’ on the outside while being ‘corrupt’ behind the façade;
   F) they wanted to kill God’s Son
   Now, with the exception of ‘F’, could we not picture some modern day “Christian” leaders who might also have the traits of a Pharisee? It is frightful to see how easily these Pharisaic traits are embraced within certain sectors of Christianity. Even ‘wanting to kill God’s Son’ comes into play. Now, of course, no modern day Pharisee is going to suggest ‘off-ing’ Christ, … you can’t kill God. But honestly, have not some parts that claim to be of the ‘body of Christ’, conformed their ‘Jesus’ into someone who tolerates, …yea, advocates … all sorts of sin?  Their ‘Jesus’ “loves” everyone and would never send anyone to hell! (see v.33 above). Their ‘Jesus’ does not want us to suffer here, nor will he deny us anything our hearts desire. In fact, IF theirs is the real Jesus (to them), then the Christ of the New Testament is dead to them, … non-existent in their hearts and minds, … replaced by a façade that lacks the Truthful, Holy, Righteous, Gracious, and Loving nature of our God and Savior, Jesus the Christ.
   “Be on your guard against the yeast of the Pharisees, which is hypocrisy …”. (Luke 12:1b)
   God’s richest blessings be with you and yours. May the wisdom that comes from knowing our Heavenly Father guard our hearts and minds as we journey through this world … on our way ‘HOME’ … in Jesus’ name.