Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs, which outwardly appear beautiful, but within are full of dead people’s bones and all uncleanness. 23.27
Jesus’ woes are the angry laments of wounded love, incited by compassion for those whom religious leaders have led astray (see 23:37). Second-century rabbis, probably passing on many ideas from the Pharisees of Jesus’ day, harshly condemned hypocrisy. Fundamentalist Christians often look down on these bible-thumping Pharisees, blind to the reality of their belief in a similar sort of self-righteousness (Their pride makes them twice as bad!). There are well-meaning, but false preaching, teachers leading many astray with a false gospel of works. Jesus reveals that no amount of external religious purity is going to clean what is internally dirty. He forces us to see just how deficient, broken, and rebellious we are; and He calls us to righteousness beyond what obedience to moral rules can achieve. Jesus reveals a standard of holiness so impossibly high we find ourselves desperate for a savior—to make us righteous.
- What part of the text or sermon had the greatest impact on you? Where were you most encouraged, intrigued, challenged?
- In Verse 16-26 Jesus calls the scribes and Pharisees “blind” five times, what are they blind to?
- What are the weightier matters of the law that Jesus refers to in verse 23? How should our commitment to religious practice or theological conviction affect our love?
- Read Titus 2.11-14. According to Paul, how do we avoid falling into either the ditch of law or lawlessness (self-indulgence or self-righteousness)?
- What WOE would Jesus direct toward you? How do you need to change and how does the gospel help you do that?