Read: Matthew 23:1-36
Do you remember the last time you felt like you were wearing a mask?’
It’s not a good look for anyone. You know what I’m talking about? One of those moments where you put on a show for everyone else. You smile. You do all the right things to make everyone around you believe you’ve got it together. But on the inside you couldn’t be further from what you’re showing. Outside you look holy but inside you’re greedy. Outside you look kind but inside scheme to take advantage of people. Outside you look loving but inside find ways to get out of helping others. Not a pretty picture, is it?
It’s Tuesday morning, March 31st, 33 AD and this was Jesus’ last public message. His message is a scathing denunciation of false religion that paraded under the mask of truth. In a word: hypocrisy. Where the outward appearance doesn’t match up with the inside motives. Jesus illuminates the flaws with religion as he addresses the crowd. No doubt many of them were shocked by Jesus’ words since they considered the Pharisees to be the ‘holy people’ that knew God best.
Jesus identifies 3 categories of Hypocrisy. Hypocrisy #1: The Pharisees were careful to say the right words and follow the right ceremonies but did not inwardly obey the law. Hypocrisy #2: The Pharisees were harder on others than they were on themselves – adding heavy burdens on others through laws to be kept that they weren’t keeping themselves. Hypocrisy #3: The Pharisees were more concerned with praise from men, position and title as opposed to pleasing God.
Then Jesus rattles off 8 woes or warnings. It’s not that Jesus lost his temper or was bitterly angry. He was certainly angry at their sins and what their sins were doing to people. What we see from Jesus is painful sorrow over their blindness to God’s truth and their own sin. Perhaps a helpful way to look at these woes is to contrast them with what Jesus says in Matthew 5:1-12. Here Jesus highlights what people who follow God actually look like, in contrast to to the fake holiness of the Pharisees.
Here’s the point. As Jesus highlights the hypocrisy of the Pharisees and pulls back the facade of their false holiness, we can see why they hated him. While Jesus emphasized inner holiness, they were concerned with the external. Jesus pointed people to live a spiritual life based on Jesus Himself, whereas the Pharisees lived by rules and regulations. Jesus equated spirituality with a person’s character where the Pharisees focused on religious activity and conformity to external laws. Jesus taught and modeled humility and serving others where the Pharisees were proud and used people to accomplish their own purposes. Jesus’ life exposed the Pharisees for the masks they wore and revealed their artificial piety and shallow religion.
Further Reading: Matthew 5:1-12
Prayer: Father, help me to drop my mask. Change me from the inside out. I want what people see on the outside to match up with what’s inside of me. Help me get honest with myself and stop pretending. Will you please change my heart and help me to pursue your righteousness – not what I want. Where I have been living as a Pharisee will you please reveal that to me. I confess it as sin and ask you to cleanse me. I want my life to glorify you and ask you to help me be a person after your heart as I die to my own desires for praise, title or position. Thank you for loving me and showing me through your Word how to follow you. I pray in Jesus name, Amen.