Matt. 23:1-2-Jesus now addresses the people who have been watching this scene unfold. He tells them that the scribes and Pharisees have taken upon themselves the right to interpret and apply the Law (“seated themselves in the chair of Moses”, see Exod. 18:13).
Matt. 23:2-7-He tells them that as the Pharisees teach, they should keep the Law of God. However, not in the manner which the Pharisees tell them to keep it. He gives three reasons. Because the Pharisees: 1.-require things of others that they don’t require of themselves (:3); 2.-are unwilling to help others in their attempts (:4); 3.-do what they do, not for the glory of God, but for the recognition of other people (:5-7).
“phylacteries. A phylactery was a square letter box which contained four strips of parchment on which were written Deuteronomy 11:13-21, Deuteronomy 6:4-9, Exodus 13:11-16, and Exodus 13 1-10. During prayer one was worn on the forehead between the eyebrows and another on the left arm close to the elbow. They were held in place by leather bands, which the Pharisees made broad to attract more attention to themselves. The custom was based on Exodus 13:9, 16; Deuteronomy 6:8; 11:18, though phylacteries had only begun to be used by the ultra-pious in Christ’s day. Christ criticizes not accustom itself but the spirit that corrupted it. lengthen the tassels of their garments. A hem or fringe on a garment was placed there in accordance with Numbers 15:38, but the Pharisees made theirs unnecessarily wide.” (Ryrie)
Matt. 23:8-12-Jesus tells them to not follow the behavior of the Pharisees (cf. :3)…because it reveals a serious misunderstanding of what it means to be great in the eyes of God (:11). The Pharisees thought that greatness was for other people to serve them (as is seen in their being exalted over others and being called “Rabbi, father, and leader”). Jesus says that true greatness is seen in the person who is a servant to other people. Jesus tells the people not to seek to be called “Rabbi” (23:8), or “father”(23:9), or “leaders” (23:10)…but to be a servant. There is also the thought here that no one is to receive a special rank, or status that elevates them (23:12-“exalts himself”) authoritatively in spiritual matters above anyone else.
Matt. 23:13-36-Woe to the Pharisees
Jesus now expands on what He had said concerning how the Pharisees demanded things of other people that they did not demand of themselves. Eight times He pronounces “woe” over the scribes and Pharisees (many manuscripts omit verse 14…there would then only be 7). The word “woe” is a pronouncement of judgment…”You will be judged because…”
Matt. 23:13-22-Woe to the Pharisees because (#1-4)…
Matt. 23:13-they prevent others from entering the kingdom of heaven by telling people to follow them…when in reality, they themselves are not going to Heaven
Matt. 23:14-they use their authoritative positions to manipulate widows into giving them their estates
Matt. 23:15-they will do anything to make a proselyte (someone who converts from paganism to Judaism), and yet when they do he is not truly brought into the kingdom
Matt. 23:16-22-they swear, make oaths to different things thinking that there are different levels of truth and integrity (see explanation of Matt. 5:33-37)
Prayer: Lord, help me to be a servant. Keep me from elevating myself over others.