St Matthew 23 Reflections

The Gospel According to St. Matthew: Matthew Chapter 23: Read Here:

23 O Jerusalem

O Jerusalem, Greg Olsen

Read Matt 23:1-10.

Thoughts from the reading:

Jesus spoke about the scribes and the Pharisees to His disciples and to the multitude. He said that they exacted difficult things from the people that they were not willing to do even a portion of. And they expected special treatment and favors and titles. He said that they were full of pretense.

The scribes and Pharisees liked being the governing body, sitting in the place of Moses. But Jesus gives a caution, that even though the people needed to obey the law, they should not follow the scribes and Pharisees’ example, because they were not righteous leaders.

After reading these first ten verses, what inferences can you draw that are marks of poor leadership? What then constitutes good leadership?

Do we say we will do something with no intention of following through? Do we sometimes do things just to be noticed? Do we wear, say, or do things just for show?

It is important to remember that it is Heavenly Father and His Son Jesus that deserve our praise and worship and adoration, and that the rest of us are all brothers and sisters and equals, no matter our titles, birthright, or position.

Again the admonition is given,

“But he that is greatest among you shall be your servant” (vs. 11).

How often we all forget that!

And then the corollary:

“And whosoever shall exalt himself shall be abased; and he that shall humble himself shall be exalted” (vs. 12).

We have this promise, and we have seen its fulfillment in the Lord Jesus Christ. But our motivation needs to be centered on the desire to serve and not the need to be exalted. It is the very action, or the continuation of daily practice, of being a disciple of Jesus, one who develops humility, that makes it so that the Lord can form us into a creature worthy of His presence.

In the following verses, the Lord pronounces many woes to the scribes and Pharisees, and to the rest of us. What are these woes, but warnings? Prophets have always given people warnings, so that they can choose to repent, if they will, and escape the consequences of their evil actions.

I think of the word “woe” with a rider speaking to his horse. “Woe, Flighty, slow down here,” “Stop,” “Change your course,” or “Turn around.” The horse is conditioned to listen to its master, and in so doing avoids pitfalls and dangers and retains his usefulness and dignity. But if the horse is bold and obstinate, it could continue on and break its leg, hurting itself and also its master, and severing itself from ever having a trusting relationship with its master.

Whether that is an example that works for you or not, how much greater is our Heavenly Father’s knowledge of our natures, potential, and shortcomings than our knowledge in our leadership over ourselves, other individuals, or animals in our care? So these woes, in and of themselves, are not final judgments and condemnations for us, but they are pleas and warnings from the One who sees the end from the beginning. Even if these Pharisees would not change, Saint Matthew wrote the words of the Savior so that we could have them, and so that we can change.

Read verses 13-39.

Thoughts from the reading:

The Pharisees are in a position where they could help direct others on the path back to God, but they have not chosen that path, and they divert and pull others away from it as well (see vs. 13).

Further thought: Many who have known the truth, but have not chosen to follow the Lord, should be extremely careful to not try to gain their own following. It is one thing to put our own souls in jeopardy; it is quite another to willfully pull souls away from Christ. That’s a woe we should not want to know.

The Pharisees are more interested in worldly wealth, honor, and praise than in the truths of the gospel and the things of God and of eternity (see vs. 16-22).

The Pharisees liked to put on a good show of righteousness, but they “omitted the weightier matters of the law, judgment, mercy, and faith: these ought ye to have done, and not to leave the other undone” (vs. 23).

“Ye blind guides, which strain at a gnat, and swallow a camel… [who make yourselves appear unto men that ye would not commit the least sin, and yet ye yourselves, transgress the whole law” (vs. 24; JST Matt 23:21).

Further thoughts: Do we sometimes omit the very nature of the gospel of Jesus Christ, throwing aside judgment, mercy, and faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, in favor of self-righteousness and self-promotion? Do we pick apart the little things that we see wrong in others, but allow for huge discrepancies in ourselves? Good idea to reflect on these things, and to cross ourselves in all our ways.

Jesus goes on to tell the Pharisees the importance of being pure. He who sees all will not be deceived by an outward appearance or show. We should take that to heart. We should be more concerned about the purity of our souls than we are about the cleanliness of our bodies or clothes, or our outward appearance. We cannot hide our doings from the Lord; and if we try to hide our true self from Him and from others, we are hypocrites (see vs. 25-28).

The Pharisees must have boasted themselves on being more righteous than their ancestors, who killed the prophets. But Jesus tells them that they are more wicked and murderous than ancient Israel, because they will kill the Son of God (see vs. 29-32).

“Ye serpents, ye generation of vipers, how can ye escape the damnation of hell” (vs. 33)?

This is a question for us, here and now.

The Pharisees of Jesus time are long since dead. But how can we escape the damnation of hell? We need to turn to Jesus, believe His word, and follow His commandments. He is our Salvation and our Way back to our Heavenly Father.

Following His own question, Jesus continues by saying that He has and will send prophets to teach us His way and to help us escape the damnation of hell:

“Wherefore, behold, I send unto you prophets, and wise men, and scribes: and some of them ye shall kill and crucify; and some of them shall ye scourge in your synagogues, and persecute them from city to city: That upon you may come all the righteous blood shed upon the earth, from the blood of righteous Abel unto the blood of Zacharias son of Barachias, whom ye slew between the temple and the altar Verily I say unto you, All these things shall come upon this generation” (vs.34-36).

And then we see His great love and concern for Jerusalem and for all of us. Even when we have chosen to be scattered, when we return to Him, He will gather us again and again.

“O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, thou that killest the prophets, and stonest them which are sent unto thee, how often would I have gathered thy children together, even as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, and ye would not! Behold, your house is left unto you desolate. For I say unto you, Ye shall not see me henceforth, till ye shall say, Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord” (vs. 39).



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