Turning Tides and a Prelude to a List

Matthew 22:41-45; 23:1-10

Now while the Pharisees were gathered together, Jesus asked them a question, saying, “What do you think about the Christ, whose son is He?” They said to Him, “The son of David.” He said to them, “Then how does David in the Spirit call Him ‘Lord,’ saying, ‘THE LORD SAID TO MY LORD, “SIT AT MY RIGHT HAND, UNTIL I PUT THINE ENEMIES BENEATH THY FEET”’? “If David then calls Him ‘Lord,’ how is He his son?” And no one was able to answer Him a word, nor did anyone dare from that day on to ask Him another question. Then Jesus spoke to the multitudes and to His disciples, saying, “The scribes and the Pharisees have seated themselves in the chair of Moses; therefore all that they tell you, do and observe, but do not do according to their deeds; for they say things, and do not do them. “And they tie up heavy loads, and lay them on men’s shoulders; but they themselves are unwilling to move them with so much as a finger. “But they do all their deeds to be noticed by men; for they broaden their phylacteries, and lengthen the tassels of their garments. “And they love the place of honor at banquets, and the chief seats in the synagogues, and respectful greetings in the market places, and being called by men, Rabbi. “But do not be called Rabbi; for One is your Teacher, and you are all brothers. “And do not call anyone on earth your father; for One is your Father, He who is in heaven. “And do not be called leaders; for One is your Leader, that is, Christ. “But the greatest among you shall be your servant. “And whoever exalts himself shall be humbled; and whoever humbles himself shall be exalted.

I hope that you are in a similar situation as I am. I don’t want to write anymore but rather, keep right on reading. If Jesus was slaughtering the Sadducees and Pharisees before, words can’t describe what he is doing, and about to do to the Pharisees. And yet I remember, I have the tendency to test the waters of Phariseeism myself. I must remind myself to learn from their mistakes.

Now while the Pharisees were gathered together, Jesus asked them a question, saying, “What do you think about the Christ, whose son is He?” The tables have turned on the Pharisees, for it is now Jesus who initiates​ the dialogue. The test is now on the Pharisees from the Master. “What do you think about the [Messiah] whose son is he?” I don’t know what most pastors and preachers, theologians and teachers think about something that I think about–they remain silent on the subject. I think about–I wonder, was Jesus “outing” himself as the Messiah? Remember Peter confession of the Christ:

Jesus asks; “’Who do people say that the Son of Man is?’ And they said, ‘Some say John the Baptist; and others, Elijah; but still others, Jeremiah, or one of the prophets.’ He said to them, ‘But who do you say that I am?’ And Simon Peter answered and said, ‘Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God.’ And Jesus answered and said to him, ‘Blessed are you, Simon Barjona, because flesh and blood did not reveal this to you, but My Father who is in heaven.'”

We also remember that Jesus has almost entirely revealed his true self to the disciples, three of them, particularly but is slowly revealing himself to everyone else. Is Jesus referring to himself in the third person or asking in ambiguity, whose son is the Messiah? We must see the sublime string and consider that Jesus may be testing them as they have tested him. That is, Peter confessed Jesus as the Messiah, would the Pharisees?

We, of course, know the answer, but is Jesus asking them in a similar way to the way in which he asked his disciples? Is Jesus, who knows their hearts, for the sake of the disciples and all the subsequent disciples, testing the Pharisees to see whether or not the father has revealed Jesus to them? Based on the sublime string of the context and Matthew’s aspirations to his audience, I believe this to be true.

I don’t believe that Jesus is asking them; who do you say, that I am, but the literal question, “What do you think about the [Messiah] whose son is he?” The Spiritual answer should have been, something like, the son of David, the son of Abraham, the son of God and father to us all. But the earthly answer is exactly what the Pharisees said, the son of David.

Spiritually speaking, Jesus is testing them. Earthly speaking, Jesus is continuing to show there lack of wisdom concerning the Scripture. Notice the exchange once again; “‘What do you think about the Christ, whose son is He?’ They said to Him, ‘The son of David.’ He said to them, ‘Then how does David in the Spirit call Him “Lord,” saying, ‘THE LORD SAID TO MY LORD, “SIT AT MY RIGHT HAND, UNTIL I PUT THINE ENEMIES BENEATH THY FEET”’? If David then calls Him ‘Lord,’ how is He his son?’ And no one was able to answer Him a word, nor did anyone dare from that day on to ask Him another question.”

As always, we see worldly, earthly thinking, even from those who believe in the Spiritual and eternal realm. They never saw in the Scripture that the long-awaited Messiah would be the son of God. They didn’t use the CAGED method.  Sorry; they didn’t use the Spirit of the Law. Jesus pointed out that they did what we all do, missed something. Quoting from their sacred Scripture he was able to show their earthly thinking.

“Then Jesus spoke to the multitudes and to His disciples, saying, ‘The scribes and the Pharisees have seated themselves in the chair of Moses; therefore all that they tell you, do and observe, but do not do according to their deeds; for they say things, and do not do them.'” Jesus now turns his attention to the disciples and the many people who have followed him. Jesus says something very interesting and thought provoking, that almost seems counterintuitive. “The scribes and the Pharisees have seated themselves in the chair of Moses; therefore all that they tell you, do and observe.”

Well if they’ve seated themselves, why then should the people pay attention to what they say? If they are usurping authority and pontificating, why should anyone do or observe the things that they say, especially if they don’t do those things themselves? Notice; “but do not do according to their deeds; for they say things, and do not do them.” I admit, I struggle with this. The pontificating Pharisees and usurping scribes have set themselves up as the scriptural leaders, which Jesus proved they didn’t understand, they are hypocrites (more on this next time), and the people are told by Jesus to observe that which they say? Look, it gets worse.

“And they tie up heavy loads, and lay them on men’s shoulders; but they themselves are unwilling to move them with so much as a finger. But they do all their deeds to be noticed by men; for they broaden their phylacteries, and lengthen the tassels of their garments. And they love the place of honor at banquets, and the chief seats in the synagogues, and respectful greetings in the market places, and being called by men, Rabbi.”

These Pharisees are wretched–wait until we see the “seven woes!” Perhaps something is lost in translation, or Jesus will soon clarify what he means by, “therefore all that they tell you, do and observe, but do not do according to their deeds.” Actually, the translation is perfect and Jesus doesn’t clarify, use figurative language or tell a parable. Therefore, we don’t take this as metaphorical but literal. Jesus says plainly, don’t do what the Pharisees do, but observe what they say.

Nevertheless, we must consider the context of Matthew and the sublime string of our Old Testament tutor. In the context of Matthew Jesus has been asked the greatest commandment and now speaks of the Pharisees broadening their phylacteries and lengthening their tassels. He speaks of how the Pharisees “love the place of honor at banquets, and the chief seats in the synagogues, and respectful greetings in the market places, and being called by men, Rabbi.” The Pharisees literally display their pride outwardly on their sleeves. Phylacteries are “little” boxes containing scripture, worn on the forehead and bound to the arm–a literal interpretation of figurative language. Let’s see the significant sublime-string found in Deuteronomy 6, 7 and 8.

“Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one, You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.” 

“And when the Lord your God brings you into the land that he swore to your fathers, to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, to give you—with great and good cities that you did not build, and houses full of all good things that you did not fill, and cisterns that you did not dig, and vineyards and olive trees that you did not plant—and when you eat and are full, then take care lest you forget the Lord, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery. It is the Lord your God you shall fear.” And the context continues to continue. 

In Deuteronomy 7, the Lord gives instructions to Israel to utterly destroy the other nations, even though they are larger and more powerful because the Lord will disposes them. He’ll send “the hornet.” God himself will help them fight their battles. “Then it shall come about, because you listen to these judgments and keep and do them, that the LORD your God will keep with you His covenant and His lovingkindness which He swore to your forefathers.

And finally in Deuteronomy 8 we read, “And you shall remember all the way which the LORD your God has led you in the wilderness these forty years, that He might humble you, testing you, to know what was in your heart, whether you would keep His commandments or not. And He humbled you and let you be hungry, and fed you with manna which you did not know, nor did your fathers know, that He might make you understand that man does not live by bread alone, but man lives by everything that proceeds out of the mouth of the LORD. Your clothing did not wear out on you, nor did your foot swell these forty years. Thus you are to know in your heart that the LORD your God was disciplining you just as a man disciplines his son. Therefore, you shall keep the commandments of the LORD your God, to walk in His ways and to fear Him.”

There is much more context to consider but for time’s sake we won’t look at it all but I encouraged you to do so in your quiet time. I will be honest, pride is difficult to deal with. as I write I have to remember that this is what God said, this is his sublime string. They couldn’t keep the commandments and neither can I nor did I come up with any of this. The only thing I can do with my words is praise God for the true, commandment–keeping Israel, Jesus. I also thank him for his words, which if taken in their proper context, are liberating. Unlike the yoke and the burdens of the Pharisees, Jesus said in Matthew 11, “my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”

The Pharisees were prideful, arrogant and many other things that we will discuss next time. They certainly didn’t follow their own instructions or literally, “practice what they preached.” Nevertheless, they taught God’s words, to literal extremes, yes, but at least God’s words were being preached. Maybe there is hope for our mega-church pastors in the West.

We are reminded of the words of Paul in Philippians, “my imprisonment in the cause of Christ has become well known throughout the whole praetorian guard and to everyone else, and that most of the brethren, trusting in the Lord because of my imprisonment, have far more courage to speak the word of God without fear. Some, to be sure, are preaching Christ even from envy and strife, but some also from good will; the latter do it out of love, knowing that I am appointed for the defense of the gospel; the former proclaim Christ out of selfish ambition, rather than from pure motives, thinking to cause me distress in my imprisonment. What then? Only that in every way, whether in pretense or in truth, Christ is proclaimed; and in this I rejoice, yes, and I will rejoice​!”

We don’t find it surprising then that Pharisees and mega-church pastors can lead people to the Lord because, he is the Lord of lords and King of kings. We have one Father, one Rabbi, one Master, one Leader and one Teacher.

“Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one!” 

“But do not be called Rabbi; for One is your Teacher, and you are all brothers. And do not call anyone on earth your father; for One is your Father, He who is in heaven. And do not be called leaders; for One is your Leader, that is, Christ. But the greatest among you shall be your servant. And whoever exalts himself shall be humbled; and whoever humbles himself shall be exalted.”

 

 

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