In this final, “woe to you” statement Jesus makes to the teachers of the law and Pharisees, He emphasizes the obvious hypocrisy found in their pronouncements and actions and the state of their hearts. These men show an apparent reverence for the prophets and the righteous advertised in the decoration of their graves, and the words they speak in solidarity with them, but Jesus sees through this show and straight to the hearts of the Pharisees and teachers of the law. These men are the ones who will eventually kill Jesus: the ultimate fulfillment of the prophecies, and the only truly righteous man to ever walk the earth. He speaks boldly and with condemnation to this group of men, warning of the destruction that will come if they continue on the path of their ancestors in persecuting and killing the Lord’s real servants.
Even though these words are addressed specifically to the teachers of the law and the Pharisees in Jesus’ time, the warning should ring in our ears even today. It can be so easy to think, “If I would have been there, I would have been following Jesus, not the Pharisees,” but this is exactly what the Pharisees said about their ancestors, and they ended up as the driving force behind Jesus’ crucifixion.
Jesus was a radical, normal-looking, homeless man who traveled around healing people and hanging out with “sinners,” all while telling those He was with that He was the Son of God. How many of us today could honestly say we would have been following Him and not in the synagogues with the other skeptical religious elites trying to figure out how to get rid of Him?
We can’t truly know where our hearts would have been in that context, but we can choose to respond now by asking God to rid our hearts of a prideful, judgmental, or pharisaical spirit and open our eyes to how He is at work around us through unexpected people or methods that don’t fit our conception of how Christianity should look.
Lord, humble us and help us to see you and follow you in what you are doing instead of getting stuck in our own ways and conceptions of how things should be.
When has your concept of Christianity been most challenged by unexpected people or situations? How did you grow from this?
by Miranda Stark