Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!
Matthew 23:13-39 from the daily reading in the One Year Bible
“But woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites, because you shut off the kingdom of heaven from people; for you do not enter in yourselves, nor do you allow those who are entering to go in. 14 Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites, because you devour widows’ houses, and for a pretense you make long prayers; therefore you will receive greater condemnation.
15 “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites, because you travel around on sea and land to make one proselyte; and when he becomes one, you make him twice as much a son of hell as yourselves.
16 “Woe to you, blind guides, who say, ‘Whoever swears by the temple, that is nothing; but whoever swears by the gold of the temple is obligated.’ 17 You fools and blind men! Which is more important, the gold or the temple that sanctified the gold? 18 And, ‘Whoever swears by the altar, that is nothing, but whoever swears by the offering on it, he is obligated.’ 19 You blind men, which is more important, the offering, or the altar that sanctifies the offering? 20 Therefore, whoever swears by the altar, swears both by the altar and by everything on it. 21 And whoever swears by the temple, swears both by the temple and by Him who dwells within it. 22 And whoever swears by heaven, swears both by the throne of God and by Him who sits upon it.
23 “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you tithe mint and dill and cummin, and have neglected the weightier provisions of the law: justice and mercy and faithfulness; but these are the things you should have done without neglecting the others. 24 You blind guides, who strain out a gnat and swallow a camel!
25 “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you clean the outside of the cup and of the dish, but inside they are full of robbery and self-indulgence. 26 You blind Pharisee, first clean the inside of the cup and of the dish, so that the outside of it may become clean also.
27 “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs which on the outside appear beautiful, but inside they are full of dead men’s bones and all uncleanness. 28 So you, too, outwardly appear righteous to men, but inwardly you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness.
29 “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you build the tombs of the prophets and adorn the monuments of the righteous, 30 and say, ‘If we had been living in the days of our fathers, we would not have been partners with them in shedding the blood of the prophets.’ 31 So you testify against yourselves, that you are sons of those who murdered the prophets. 32 Fill up, then, the measure of the guilt of your fathers. 33 You serpents, you brood of vipers, how will you escape the sentence of hell? 34 “Therefore, behold, I am sending you prophets and wise men and scribes; some of them you will kill and crucify, and some of them you will scourge in your synagogues, and persecute from city to city, 35 so that upon you may fall the guilt of all the righteous blood shed on earth, from the blood of righteous Abel to the blood of Zechariah, the son of Berechiah, whom you murdered between the temple and the altar. 36 Truly I say to you, all these things will come upon this generation.
37 “Jerusalem, Jerusalem, who kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to her! How often I wanted to gather your children together, the way a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you were unwilling. 38 Behold, your house is being left to you desolate! 39 For I say to you, from now on you will not see Me until you say, ‘Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!’”
In today’s text Jesus declares woe to the scribes Pharisees and hypocrites. He says: “woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites, because you shut off the kingdom of heaven from people; for you do not enter in yourselves, nor do you allow those who are entering to go in” Jesus gives eight separate reasons for woe. Basically the reasons include hypocrisy, unrighteousness, lack of compassion and mercy and false teaching. So it is much like in Matthew 5:19-20, when Jesus says: “Therefore whoever relaxes one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven.” Jesus rebukes both the actions and the teaching. We teach others in two ways, by our words and by our example. In today’s text He says: “therefore you will receive greater condemnation.” When we teach others to do wrong, either by our words or our example, we are accountable for what we have done. One of the mistakes we make as individuals and as a culture is that often in order to eliminate a negative behavior or to avoid the risk of error, we eliminate the good part as well so that there is no risk of the bad. In Matthew 5:19-20, Jesus continues after the rebuke saying: “but whoever does them and teaches them will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.” Jesus is not against living and teaching righteousness, obedience and faithfulness, in fact He expects and requires it. In today’s text He says: “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you tithe mint and dill and cummin, and have neglected the weightier provisions of the law: justice and mercy and faithfulness; but these are the things you should have done without neglecting the others.” Jesus doesn’t condemn them for doing well in tithing. He condemns them for not having justice, mercy and faithfulness. It is not one or the other, either righteousness or love and grace, but rather we are to live like Jesus lived in every way.
Jesus says: “I am sending you prophets and wise men and scribes; some of them you will kill and crucify, and some of them you will scourge in your synagogues, and persecute from city to city.” We should not hold back from continuing to declare and proclaim the gospel. Jesus calls and commissions us saying: “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:18-20) “Go into all the world and proclaim the gospel to the whole creation.” (Mark 16:15) Jesus acknowledges and warns that we indeed, like Him, may be mistreated , persecuted even killed for His name and His message. In Matthew 24:9 He says: "Then they will deliver you to tribulation, and will kill you, and you will be hated by all nations because of My name.” We must never though, either for fear that we may not do it perfectly nor for fear of how we will be received if do it well, stop living and teaching all that Jesus did and commanded. The good news of the gospel is love, mercy and grace. It is also righteousness and obedience. Because of love, His love for us, demonstrated on the cross, we too can love. Jesus says: "If you love Me, you will keep My commandments.” (John 14:15) “He who has My commandments and keeps them is the one who loves Me; and he who loves Me will be loved by My Father, and I will love him and will disclose Myself to him.” “If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word; and My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make Our abode with him.” (John 14:21,23)
Today’s text ends with Jesus saying: “For I say to you, from now on you will not see Me until you say, ‘Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!’” May we be those who are blessed, those who come IN THE NAME OF THE LORD! Amen.