Daily Devotions


Day 288

Scathing Excoriations

Text: Matthew 23 : 1 - 39

The scribes and the Pharisees probably never thought that they would see the day when they would be publicly denounced! They could not even deny the excoriations that Jesus pronounced! They knew that what He said about them was all too true!

“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees; hypocrites!
For you cleanse the outside of the cup and dish,
but inside they are full of extortion and self-indulgence.
Blind Pharisee, first cleanse the inside of the cup and dish,
that the outside of them may be clean also.”
MATTHEW 23:25-26

“The Outside of the Cup and Dish”

Jesus was right in His observation and analysis of the activities of the scribes and the Pharisees. Their focus was “the external”. The greatest care was given to the external features of their man-made religion. To be clean meant fastidious attention to the physical details – literally involving cups and dishes!

“Full of extortion and self-indulgence”

What were the scribes and the Pharisees really like? Jesus had already made scathing remarks about them. Could there be more bad things to be said? Unfortunately, there were many more things to be said against them.

Hypocrisy taught the scribes and Pharisees how to disguise their misdeeds! On the outside they appeared clean. However, they were charged with “extortion and self-indulgence”. Imagine the weight of these charges! Their hypocrisy made their sins appear even worse!

“First cleanse the inside of the cup and dish”

Jesus did not disparage the desire to be clean on the outside. But till the heart was cleansed, being externally clean means nothing at all! If only attention was paid to keeping the heart clean, then would the external expressions be appreciated!


The scribes and Pharisees were not the paragons of virtue that they sought to impress upon people. They were anything but worthy examples of religious virtues. Their sinfulness had to be exposed publicly, lest more damage be done.

“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees; hypocrites!
For you are like whitewashed tombs which indeed
appear beautiful outwardly, but inside are full of dead men’s
bones and all uncleanness.
Even so you also outwardly appear righteous to men,
but inside you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness.”
MATTHEW 23:27-28

‘Like whitewashed tombs’

An amazing comparison indeed, but not flattering at all to the scribes and the Pharisees. Tombs were considered unclean! Thus tombs were painted white so that people can see them from afar off and thus avoid them. The whitewash can cause the tomb to appear “beautiful” – at least from a distance. However, tombs are tombs! They “are full of dead men’s bones”. They are unclean! The point of the comparison was clear and obvious! The scribes and Pharisees may take pride in their attempts at being clean and righteous. The opposite was true about them!

‘Full of hypocrisy and lawlessness’

The scribes were supposed to be experts in the law of Moses, and yet they were charged with “lawlessness”. They were so steeped in their hypocritical mindset that Jesus described them as being “full of hypocrisy”! No matter how much effort they put in to give an appearance of righteousness, the fact remained that they were just hypocrites!


How far back may the roots of the scribes and Pharisees be traced? Let us ponder what Jesus solemnly said in this text.

“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites!
Because you build the tombs of the prophets and adorn
the monuments of the righteous, and say,
‘If we had lived in the days of our fathers, we would not
have been partakers with them in the blood of the prophets.’
Therefore you are witnesses against yourselves that you are
sons of those who murdered the prophets.
Fill up, then, the measure of your father’s guilt.”
MATTHEW 23:29-32

A disclaimer put out

The scribes and the Pharisees prided themselves as being more enlightened than their forebears who slew the ancient prophets. They acknowledged that their ancestors did a wrong thing when they killed the prophets of God. If they had lived in the earlier centuries, they would not have committed such foul deeds!

“You are sons of those who murdered the prophets”

As far as Jesus was concerned, the scribes and the Pharisees were no better! They continued to resist God’s servants – especially Jesus, the Son of God! They had hounded him from pillar to post!

Did they know what they were doing? They were filling up the measure of their father’s guilt! Their forefathers had been wicked in plotting the death of God’s servants. Were the scribes and Pharisees any better when they plotted the death of Jesus?