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Whitewashed Tombs

Matthew 23:13-39   |   Shaun LePage   |   December 2, 2007

I.       Introduction

A.    1990 Earth Day, 1M+ in NY Central Park, music—B52’s & Hall & Oates, speakers—Mayor, Governor; planted trees, demanded McDonald’s replace plastic cups, left 150 tons of trash!

B.    Hypocrisy is ugly—wherever it pops up; few things more repulsive than religious hypocrisy

C.    Robert and family attended mass weekly; he attended daily 6:30 a.m. for a decade; tried to convert fellow employees to Catholicism; urged fellow Catholics to attend mass more often; Feb 2001 Robert Hanssen (FBI agent) arrested, charged with selling American secrets to Russia for 22+ years; also: strip clubs, closed-circuit camera in bedroom for neighbor

D.    No one hated hypocrisy more than Jesus—Ch. 23—Last public sermon; vs. 1-12 warned crowd and disciples about leaders (where teaching ministry started in Sermon on the Mount—“do not be like the hypocrites” (5:5)—Exhibit A!; don’t follow them and don’t be like them; vs.13 turned back to the leaders and sharply condemned hypocrisy; Jesus

E.     CPS: Hate hypocrisy and love authenticity!

II.     Body—Matthew 23:13-39 (first understand the text—two major sections)

A.    The Condemnation of Christ (13-36)

1.     (13) Notice repetition: “woe” (7X; often in OT; both warning of judgment and expression of great sorrow; anger, pain, grief) “hypocrites” (pretending to be what one is not; strong condemnation; list provides clear definition); “shut the kingdom”—rejecting Jesus (misinterpreted Scripture), incited crowds against Him; Messiah’s kingdom postponed; Hypocrites sidetrack other people; hypocrisy particularly destructive in leaders; Ch 16— Jesus gave Christians authority to declare who would gain access to the kingdom of heaven. “Binding”—prohibiting entrance to Christ rejecters. “Loosing”—granting entry to believers; Hypocrites steer people away from Christ, misinterpret Scripture, denying entrance—however, God is sovereign, His elect will be saved, but “woe” to those hypocrites who “shut the kingdom of heaven in men’s faces” [v.14 not original (late copies, different location in chapter), but in Mk 12:40 & Lk 20:47]

2.     (15) Hypocrites create zealous monsters; great lengths to convert others, as most converts, even more zealous than teachers (perhaps Judaizers, later “bewitched” early churches); didn’t condemn proselytizing, but results—turned into legalistic zealots, false interpretation of Scripture, rejection of Christ—“twice as much a son of hell” (gehenna; i.e., earning judgment for hypocrisy); cults are famous for this—work hard at making converts, reject Christ of Scripture, distort salvation—must be earned (legalism)!

3.     (16-22) change pattern: “blind guides” no offense to blind, but don’t want blind pilot; developed system of loopholes—“swear” to give/serve on “temple, altar, heaven” like crossing fingers—not binding; considered some things more binding “gold, offering, throne of God”—Hypocrites twist the truth; Jesus’ point: tell the truth; Mt 5:33-37; hypocritical leaders—should be guides to blind, but “blind guides”—opinions rather than God’s truth; hypocrites go to church, Amen message, no change—a dangerous game

4.     (23-24) “tithe mint, dill, cumin” (spices and herbs; =radical adherence to tithing laws) not wrong, but hypocritical because they weren’t doing the big stuff: “justice, mercy, faithfulness”—log & speck; Crooked judge who insists on punctuality; arsonist tells others not to smoke! Hypocrites neglect the crucial. focus on less important, blow it out of proportion; “strain out a gnat…swallow a camel”—great picture! (both unclean); cults/legalists/hypocrites basic problem: can’t discern the “weightier” matters of Scripture; major on minors, minor on majors (e.g., jeans/fun instead of God/truth/gospel/eternal life)

5.     (25-26) Scribes/Pharisees major mistake—external religion; 15:7-8 “heart”!! Hypocrites hide filthy hearts. Cleaning “outside” (i.e., “honor with lips”) is good, but useless if “heart is far from God”; hypocrites can be most faithful to church, best musician on WT, read most Christian books, wear t-shirts, biggest Christian CD collection, even best preacher in town preaching solid Biblical doctrine but hiding filthy hearts.

6.     (27-28) tombs whitewashed before Passover, pilgrims not defile—beautiful but no change: full of dead men’s bones; closely related to last woe—external not as important as internal! “full of hypocrisy and lawlessness” (strong indictment—sticklers for law); Fundamental sin of hypocrite: “appear righteous to men”; all about external appearances; Hypocrites fake spiritual life. Appear to have life, but reality is just death

7.     (29-36) honored the prophets, pridefully declare themselves to be better than fathers, but Jesus knows they are plotting the death of the greatest and final prophet—Messiah Himself! “Fill up” is completing their fathers’ sin—they would prove themselves to be their fathers’ sons in just two days! Hypocrites deny their sinfulness. “How will you escape…” expected answer: they won’t! God will send more messengers, kill them too; “Abel” (first righteous man murdered) to “Zechariah” last OT prophet murdered; “this generation” (entire nation, despite Jesus’ warnings would follow leaders into sin) display their sinfulness in crucifixion of Christ, persecution of early church; will be judged

B.    The Compassion of Christ (37-39)

1.     (37) “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem”—a cry of longing, sorrowful grief! Jesus had compassion for them even though He was grieved by their hypocrisy; like a “hen” (i.e., bird) He longed to mother His people and provide for them, be close to them, but they were “unwilling”; Hypocrites grieve God! Imagine that! We can touch God deeply—hypocrisy grieves; authentic, Scripture-informed, humble, faithful spirituality (close relationship) pleases Him!

2.     (38-39) “house left desolate” refers to coming destruction temple/city in A.D. 70 (See ch.24-25); Hypocrites face judgment “not see Me until” looks past the Cross and forward to His Second Coming; quoted Ps 118 which was shouted at Triumphal Entry; at 2nd Coming nation will finally receive Him as Messiah and King; Jesus concludes, walks away—part of judgment is postponement of Davidic Kingdom; offered Himself as Messiah/King/Son of David, rejected by leaders/nation; announced judgment—done! But, “until” is big—they’ll be given yet another chance as a nation in the future (compassion!)

III.   Closing: Bottom Line—Eye-opening discourse on danger of hypocrisy.

A.    Hate hypocrisy! Jesus hated it—we should too! Are you a poser—a pretender? We all are in some ways—confess it and put it behind you! Fear hypocrisy—leads to judgment.

B.    Love authenticity! Your Creator God longs to be in a loving, nurturing relationship with you; He has sent “prophets” who gave us the Scriptures; He has sent you examples and teachers so that you know (or can know if you don’t yet) what authentic spirituality is all about—from God’s perspective. Don’t reject it. Don’t be “unwilling”! Run into God’s arms by trusting Christ alone and living a life of trust! Be embraced by God by choosing authentic, Scripture-based, inner, humble spirituality.

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