–I don’t think we read this with the punch intended behind it. Our tendency, especially when things are repeated, is to get weak in our rendering. But each of these seven pronouncements is building to a crescendo.
–The sternest, hardest words Jesus had for people were aimed at these scribes and Pharisees. They had a solemn responsibility to lead the people in truth, by word and example. They did neither. Read the Webster definition of “hypocrite”:
“a person who claims or pretends to have certain beliefs about what is right but who behaves in a way that disagrees with those beliefs”
–The word has its roots in Latin and Greek, meaning “actor”…someone whose behavior does not necessarily define who he truly is. I read somewhere that a hypocrite is “someone who’s not himself on Sunday”.
–This is from Robertson’s Word Pictures of the New Testament:
“Hypocrites (upokritai). This terrible word of Jesus appears first from him in the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 6:2, Matthew 6:5, Matthew 6:16; Matthew 7:5), then in Matthew 15:7 and Matthew 22:18. Here it appears “with terrific iteration” (Bruce) save in the third of the seven woes (Matthew 23:13, Matthew 23:15, Matthew 23:23, Matthew 23:25, Matthew 23:27, Matthew 23:29). The verb in the active (upokrinw) meant to separate slowly or slightly subject to gradual inquiry. Then the middle was to make answer, to take up a part on the stage, to act a part. It was an easy step to mean to feign, to pretend, to wear a masque, to act the hypocrite, to play a part. This hardest word from the lips of Jesus falls on those who were the religious leaders of the Jews (Scribes and Pharisees), who had justified this thunderbolt of wrath by their conduct toward Jesus and their treatment of things high and holy. These are all illustrations of Pharisaic saying and not doing (Allen).”
Reminds me of a little Patch the Pirate song from years ago:
Your walk talks, and your talk talks,
but your walk talks louder than your talk talks.
You cannot hide whats inside, its sure to come out;
Your words may whisper, but your actions shout.
Hippo Critter, Hippo Critter,
You say one thing and do the oppositter;
It’s a funny life, full of empty glitter,
God’s not pleased with a counterfeiter.
A good tree bears a good fruit,
With its healthy branches and its deep root.
We’re all are saved to good works, the Master has said,
Our good works shows that our faith’s not dead.
–God has a marked contempt for lying, and, dress it up as we might, the behavior of these individuals was at the very least a deception, but was made so much worse because they were leading others by their false and enslaving examples.
–The introductory words to these seven woes are deliberate, and put a divine finger directly on the problem:
“Whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted.”
–What is at the root of hypocrisy? A desire to appear as something other than what we are. A desire to have approval of others, to be lauded for our “spiritual” activity, Remember this from Chapter 6:
“Thus, when you give to the needy, sound no trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may be praised by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward.”
–That “five minutes of fame” may belong to the hypocrite, who sounds the trumpet in an attempt to impress…but that is all, and they will certainly be soon forgotten.
“Now if any man build upon this foundation gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, stubble; Every man’s work shall be made manifest: for the day shall declare it, because it shall be revealed by fire; and the fire shall try every man’s work of what sort it is. If any man’s work abide which he hath built thereupon, he shall receive a reward. If any man’s work shall be burned, he shall suffer loss: but he himself shall be saved; yet so as by fire.” 1 Cor 3:12-15
–Let’s invest our lives in truth and sincerity. Let’s get healing for our hypocrisy. It stands in the way of SO much God wants to do! People need to see candid believers…those who transparently (albeit imperfectly) love the Lord Jesus. Don’t be afraid to fail. This dusty life is full of it. Show those around you what it looks like to persevere! This has been a sort of personal motto in recent years:
“And Gideon came to Jordan, and passed over, he, and the three hundred men that were with him, faint, yet pursuing them.” Judges 8:4
–Let those last four words reverberate today. Keep on pluggin!