Online Worship for Lent Three, Sunday March 12, 2023
Sermon for Lent Three -- 3/22/09, 2,28,16 – Sunday March 12, 2023
Calvary/Marquette ● Soli Deo Gloria
Grace to you and peace from Him who is and who was and who is to come, and from Jesus Christ, the faithful witness, the firstborn from the dead, and the ruler over the kings of the earth. To Him who loved us and washed us from our sins in His own blood, to Him be glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.
Matthew 23:23-28 (NKJV)
23 “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you pay tithe of mint and anise and cumin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faith. These you ought to have done, without leaving the others undone. 24 Blind guides, who strain out a gnat and swallow a camel! 25 “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. 26 Blind Pharisee, first cleanse the inside of the cup and dish, that the outside of them may be clean also. 27 “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. 28 Even so you also outwardly appear righteous to men, but inside you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness.
In the Name of Jesus,
Dear Friends in Christ –
There were many cases during His earthly ministry when Jesus was ‘on the defensive.’ The Scribes and Pharisees, the Sadducees and Teachers of the Law came to Jesus or sent representatives with thorny questions and accusations in an attempt to test and discredit him. The Lord proved himself well-equipped to handle their attacks. He also warned his disciples about them.
The Scribes (whose job it was to make copies of Holy Scripture) and Pharisees appeared to be the most holy of men. Many of the people looked to them as examples and for guidance in their lives. They prayed on street corners and observed God’s Law to the tiniest detail…and beyond. Jesus warned that they were unfit guides.
On Tuesday of Holy Week, the day after He cleansed the temple, Jesus went on the offensive. Jesus the Christ, the Son of God knew their hearts and secret sins. He uncovered the hypocrisy of the Pharisees and Scribes, using concrete examples, speaking seven ‘woes’ against them.
We consider three of those ‘woes’ this morning. Each ‘woe’ begins with the words, “Woe to you...” or as we might say today, “Shame on you!”
But…if these words were first meant as warning and judgment to those who didn’t believe in Him…how do they have application to those who believe? They are for us, who are still plagued daily by a sinful nature, warnings about hypocrisy, that with the help of the Spirit of God we may see and root the same out of our hearts and minds. May God the Holy Spirit open our eyes to see and strengthen our faith to turn from such hypocrisy. Amen.
23 “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you pay tithe of mint and anise and cummin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faith. These you ought to have done, without leaving the others undone.
God required the people of Israel to tithe, to give 10% of their income back to Him. So they gave back to the LORD 10% including their crops when harvested.
God has not required the same of His people today… but 10% is a good measuring stick for giving…provided that giving is done cheerfully (2 Corinthians 9:7).
The Scribes and Pharisees of Jesus’ day were diligent givers, who always gave 10%. When God required a 10th of the seed produced by a plant, they also gave 10% of the leaves and stalk. If their garden produced a volunteer plant that bore fruit or a useful weed, they would carefully divide 10% for the LORD. They even gave 10% of flavoring herbs like mint, dill (more likely than anise) and cumin.
Please notice that Jesus didn’t criticize them for their detailed giving. In fact, He said that they did what they ‘ought to have done (23).’ He criticized them because while they were concerned about the details, they neglected the more important matters of justice, mercy and faithfulness. Jesus said in effect: “Shame on you for being more concerned about the details than the essentials!”
They carefully separated 10% of the mint leaves they collected…but did not act with impartiality and integrity when it came to other people. They favored the rich and those in authority. They loved places of honor (Matthew 23:6), and to be called teacher (Matthew 23:6-7). They treated one another with careful honor, but others with contempt (cf. John 9:34).
They carefully divided 10% of the dill they collected…but did not show mercy to those who needed it. They were like the politically correct today. They refuse to forgive those who truly repent of sin while considering themselves merciful for overlooking what is not sin! They took care of the details, but would not show mercy to sinners.
They carefully picked out 10% of the cumin they produced…but were neither faithful nor trustworthy. The word here ‘faith’ doesn’t refer to faith toward God, but in this context indicates ‘faithfulness’ toward others. They could be counted on for 10% of cumin, but not to go out on a limb to help anyone. If it didn’t serve their own self-interest, they didn’t do it.
24 Blind guides, who strain out a gnat and swallow a camel!
They even went so far as to run their water through cloth to catch any microscopic insect bits, but were unconcerned about judging rightly, showing mercy or being trustworthy. They strained gnats while swallowing down camels.
Now…do you think these things are revealed so that gasp in mock horror and thank our lucky stars that we aren’t like that? Do we show signs of hypocrisy in our lives?
Do we carefully find fault with the smallest problem in another’s life...while ignoring or minimizing our own sinful thoughts and attitudes?
Do we carefully attend services and look down on those who miss…while spending the whole service thinking about what we have done in the week past and plan to do the rest of the day?
What is there to say…but…”God be merciful to me, a sinner (Luke 18:10-14).” Cleanse me of my sin by Jesus’ shed blood…for only then can I be acceptable in your sight!
The Pharisees imagined that they were acceptable to God in part because of their careful detailed giving and living. May God guard and protect us from that kind of thinking! We are acceptable to God through faith in Christ Jesus, our Lord. We want to live for Him and give back to Him in faith, because of His great love for us. May our giving always express our love and thankfulness for what the Savior has done. May we also never omit the essentials in favor of details.
25 “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. 26 Blind Pharisee, first cleanse the inside of the cup and dish, that the outside of them may be clean also.
The Scribes and Pharisees were also very careful about cleanliness. They made sure that they washed their hands. They were careful to always wash their cups and dishes (cf. Mark 7:1-7). God warned His people about cleansing cups and dishes and the Pharisees extended that to include the outside of both. Unfortunately, they were not nearly as concerned about being morally clean.
Jesus said that their cups and dishes were full of violent greed and self-indulgence. While very concerned about what they ate off of, they weren’t so concerned about how they obtained the wealth from which they ate and drank. They obtained wealth by preying on widows (cf. Matthew 23:14).
They sought wealth for themselves eagerly, and the end justified the means. These words to serve to warn about ill-gotten gain.
We today are very concerned about cleanliness, and we should be. We should carefully wash our hands before eating. We should be concerned about contracting sickness and disease. The cups and dishes should be clean.
We should be just as concerned about what we eat and what we put into our hearts and minds, and where it comes from.
Who gives us advice?
What do we allow into our hearts and minds via the television, books or movies?
Do we carefully wash our hands before we eat, but then sit down and open our minds and hearts to Satan, the world and the flesh?
What good is it if I carefully extend physical life then willfully damage my faith and spiritual life?
God forgive me for not being on constant guard. Grant me an extra measure of your Spirit that I may remember that my heart is the dwelling place of God the Spirit. Make me pure without and within, through your Word.
27 “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. 28 Even so you also outwardly appear righteous to men, but inside you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness.
This was an illustration that the people could readily see and understand. It was customary to paint all gravestones and tombs white two weeks before the Passover. Why? They painted them white to make them visible. If a person walked on a grave or touched a tomb they were unclean for a week. However, painting a gravestone or tomb didn’t change what lay beneath.
Jesus compared the Scribes and Pharisees to those whitewashed tombs. They looked bright and clean on the outside, but inside they were rotten. They appeared to do and say all the right things, but their hearts were without faith, full of hypocrisy and lawlessness.
The people couldn’t see their hearts. They didn’t know their motives. They could only see their actions, and judged based on what they saw. We often do the same. We think that we can determine who a person is within based merely upon what we see externally. Only God knows every heart.
If I’m more concerned about how other people see me…than my relationship with God and about what I’m really like on the inside…then I’m not much different than the Pharisees.
We can’t help but see our sins when we look in the mirror of God’s Law. We can’t do anything about sin, but our Savior Jesus can…and has. We are born rotten inside and out. Jesus came to cleanse us from the inside out. We come here, not to be cleansed outwardly, but inwardly. We come here that the Spirit of God may do that housecleaning through the Word.
While we are ashamed of our sins…we trust in Jesus Christ and know by faith that when all is revealed at the last, our sins will be covered and we will not be ashamed. May the Spirit of God keep us in faith, unashamed of Him until that day. Amen.