A Timely Warning
Text: Matthew 23 : 1 - 39
Jesus was drawing to a close His earthly ministry. There were a few more matters that He felt He needed to raise up to the attention of His disciples. One of them concerned the group of people who had just made a concerted effort to discredit Him in His ministry. The word of warning was not a vindictive tit-for-tat response on the part of Jesus. He was way above such petty reactions! He knew that His disciples had not fully fathomed just how wicked and dangerous these opponents were. He must do everything possible to alert them to the kind of people the scribes and Pharisees really were.
A QUICK REVIEW OF THE ATTACKS OF THE PHARISEES
In order to appreciate the warning of Jesus a little better, it would be good to have a quick review of how the Pharisees had viciously opposed and attacked the Person and ministry of Jesus.
1. Use of Insinuation (That Jesus was in league with Demons)
The Pharisees never seemed comfortable with the idea that Jesus had so much authority and power in His life and ministry. In contrast, they had nothing much to speak about. Out of sheer meanness, they made insinuations against Him.
“But the Pharisees said, ‘He casts out demons by the ruler of the
2. Use of Severe Criticism (The So-Called Breaking of the Sabbath)
The Pharisees were deep into the matter of keeping the traditions of the elders. One of them was the issue of how the Sabbath should be observed. Any infringement would result in severe criticism by the Pharisees.
“And when the Pharisees saw it, they said to Him,
‘Look, Your disciples are doing what is not lawful to do
on the Sabbath.'”
MATTHEW 12:2 (Cf. MATTHEW 15:1-9)
3. Use of Direct Accusation (Of Being in League with Beelzebub)
As Jesus continue to demonstrate His power and authority over demons, so the Pharisees became more desperate in their attempt to cast aspersions on Him. From insinuations, the attack became direct accusation.
“Now when the Pharisees heard it they said,
‘This fellow does not cast out demons except by Beelzebub,
the ruler of the demons.'”
4. Subtle Attacks
a) Asking for Signs
Not all the attacks were straightforward. Some attacks were subtler. Seemingly innocent things were raised to Jesus, for example the question of signs.
“Then some of the scribes and Pharisees answered, saying,
‘Teacher, we want to see a sign from You.”
MATTHEW 12:38 (Cf. MATTHEW 16:1-4)
As if Jesus hadn’t given enough sign miracles for them to be convinced! The question was not to be given another sign. The issue at stake was their hardened hearts.
b) Complex Issues
Another trap the Pharisees tried to set up to trap Jesus was to make Him comment on complex issues.
i) The question of divorce
“The Pharisees also came to Him, testing Him, and saying to Him,
‘Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife for just any reason?'”
ii) The question of paying taxes
“Tell us, therefore, what do You think?
Is it lawful to pay taxes to Caesar, or not?”
iii) The question of Understanding the Great Commandments of God
“Then one of them, a lawyer, asked Him a question,
testing Him, and saying, ‘Teacher, which is
the great commandment in the law ?'”
EVERY SINGLE ATTACK FAILED
Each and every single attack had failed- miserably! At every point, Jesus spoke firmly to the scribes and Pharisees. He pointed to the Scriptures. He warned them concerning the spiritual state of their hearts. But these had not made any impressions on them at all.
It was now time to put things together in full perspective for the Disciples and the multitudes. They must know what the scribes and Pharisees were really like! They must be forewarned, that they may be better forearmed for spiritual battle.
“Then Jesus spoke to the multitudes and to His disciples, saying:
‘The scribes and the Pharisees sit in Moses’ seat…'”
With these words, Jesus began to warn His disciples of their opponents.