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 poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Matthew5:3 (KJV)
But woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye shut up the kingdom of heaven against men: for ye neither go in yourselves, neither suffer ye them that are entering to go in. Matthew 23:13 (KJV)
*Jesus said the kingdom of heaven belongs to the poor in spirit, the Pharisees were proud in spirit. “I thank You, God, that I am not as other men,” they prayed (see Luke 18:11). We must be careful that our attitude or spirit doesn’t prevent us from inheriting the kingdom of God, nor should it prevent others.
- Blessed are they that mourn: for they shall be comforted. Matthew 5:4
Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye devour widows houses, and for a pretence make long prayer: therefore ye shall receive the greater damnation. Matthew 23:14 (KJV)
*Jesus promised that the mourners will be comforted. The Pharisees, however, manipulated those who mourned. We shouldn’t take advantage of people who are in crisis, or manipulate it to our advantage. Instead, we are to mourn, with those who mourn, and comfort those that need comforting.
- Blessed are the meek: for they shall inherit the earth. Matthew 5:5 (KJV)
Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye compass sea and land to make one proselyte, and when he is made, ye make him twofold more the child of hell than yourselves. Matthew 23:15 (KJV)
*The meek were to inherit the earth. The Pharisees, on the other hand, were trying to convert the earth to their legalistic, hypocritical, religious system. They were recruiting into a system where you could teach it, but not have to follow it. Instead, Jesus said the meek, those that had power under control, were to inherit the earth. We must use the power and the authority that God has given to us, in a manner that is acceptable to God.