Chapter 23 is a long discourse, by Jesus, against the Scribes and the Pharisees. To put a finer point on it, it’s against the hypocrisy of the Scribes and the Pharisees. The basic idea here is that Jesus is warning his disciples, and the general crowd, not to imitate the false piety of the Scribes and Pharisees. Jesus uses a rhetorical tool in 7 “Woe Statements” against them.
A word study: woe. In Hebrew the word woe is a very strong. It describes the reactionary misery that comes with death or severe suffering. Today, we might associate way with something like severe clinical depression or despair leading to drastic action like suicide.
Here then is what Jesus is basically saying to the Scribes and Pharisees: your hypocrisy is so bad, at Judgment Day, it’s going to be so bad for you, that you’re going to wish you were dead- or never born!
So, these are strong words against the Scribes and Pharisees. Jesus draws on the history of the Jewish people in their Covenant with God and the their temple worship to show the holes of hypocrisy that has crept into their right worship of God. The underlining message here from Jesus is a common one: Jesus represents something New; he is ushering in something New; the New Covenant. And the Scribes and Pharisees, in their current state of hypocrisy, will not be a part of that New Covenant. These are strong words from Jesus; a last ditch effort to inspire conversion of heart. He’s said all he can to the Pharisees and Scribes- the ball’s now in their court…
In chapter 24, which we’ll see tomorrow, Jesus has a similar discourse with his disciples. Stay tuned.
Point for Prayer
Where is my place for conversion as it relates to Jesus’s discourse with the Scribes and Pharisees? Is there hypocrisy or self-righteousness that has crept into my prayer life? Are there times when I see myself as being "holier-than-thou" or "more Catholic than the Pope"? Is this a place of judging other people? Am I willing to invite the Lord into this and let him heal it?