In Matthew 23, we find that the last public sermon Jesus preached was not a message regarding salvation and invitation. By contrast, He spoke of condemnation and denunciation against the religious hierarchy of the day. Jesus didn’t hold back, calling the Pharisees names like “fools” and “blind guides,” while powerfully pointing out their brand of hypocrisy. These authoritative teachers of their day failed to follow their own precepts.
Jesus’ last sermon was in stark contrast to His first. His earthly ministry began by pronouncing eight blessings that came in the form of the Beatitudes. Each of these stand as a measure in stark contrast to what Jesus saw in the Pharisees.
Looking at the various attitudes over the next few days, we see there is a clear right vs wrong and there’s little room for question regarding which attitude we are to have.
- Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God. Matthew 5:8 (KJV)
Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye make clean the outside of the cup and of the platter, but within they are full of extortion and excess. Thou blind Pharisee, cleanse first that which is within the cup and platter, that the outside of them may be clean also. Matthew 23:25, 26 (KJV)
*A pure heart doesn’t block vision. If your desire is to see God, then start with getting a pure heart. Read Psalm 51 as it’s a great example dealing with the heart. Don’t be like the blind Pharisees.
- Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God. Matthew 5:9 (KJV)
Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye are like unto whited sepulchres, which indeed appear beautiful outward, but are within full of dead men’s bones, and of all uncleanness. Even so ye also outwardly appear righteous unto men, but within ye are full of hypocrisy and iniquity. Matthew 23:27, 28 (KJV)
*At the same time the Pharisees claimed to be men of peace, they secretly plotted the murder of the Prince of Peace. Notice it doesn’t say there that the peacekeepers are blessed; it is those that will make peace. That means in the most difficult of circumstances you need to find a way to make peace.
- Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness; sake: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Matthew 5:10 (KJV)
Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! because ye build the tombs of the prophets, and garnish the sepulchres of the righteous, And say, If we had been in the days of our fathers, we would not have been partakers with them in the blood of the prophets. Wherefore ye be witnesses unto yourselves, that ye are the children of them which killed the prophets. Fill ye up then the measure of your fathers. Ye serpents, ye generation of vipers, how can ye escape the damnation of hell? Wherefore, behold, I send unto you prophets, and wise men, and scribes: and some of them ye shall kill and crucify; and some of them shall ye scourge in your synagogues, and persecute them from city to city: That upon you may come all the righteous blood shed upon the earth, from the blood of righteous Abel unto the blood of Zacharias son of Barachias, whom ye slew between the temple and the altar. Matthew 23:29–35 (KJV)
*Jesus said, “Blessed are the persecuted and woe to the persecutors.” The Pharisees stated “If they had been alive in our day, we wouldn’t have killed the prophets.” But their claim was inaccurate, at the very moment they told Jesus this, they sought to execute Him, the One whom the prophets spoke. We must be careful that we aren’t just hearers of the Word, but that we actually practice what is preached. Live it out, regardless of the cost! Don’t ever go along with the crowd; instead, choose to follow after His righteousness. If you hunger for it, you’ll be filled with it. Therefore the Kingdom is yours.