Serpents, brood of vipers! How can you escape the condemnation of hell? (
The opposition to Jesus had reached the tipping point. His time on earth was short. The crisis of the cross was imminent. The hostility of the religious leaders was bent on His destruction.
rejected the King. They would crown Him
with thorn outside the city walls, rather than crown Him with the glory He
deserved. So, in Jerusalem Matthew 23, Jesus takes the role
of Judge ad levels a series of scathing indictments against the religious
establishment—eight times pronouncing, “Woe
to you.” The scribes and Pharisees
blasphemed the precious Lord Christ by accusing Him of working in alliance with
Beelzebub, when in actuality, it was they who were the serpent’s spawn. This is the hellishness of hypocrisy.
They were ACTORS SEEKING APPLAUSE (v.1-12). They taught the Law of Moses, but did not obey it themselves. They burdened people with religious traditions, but would not lift a finger to follow them. It was all about keeping up appearances, and gaining men’s applause. In those days, actors on stage wore a mask to hide their true identity, so others would make the character they were playing more believable. This actor was called by a Greek word from which we get the English term, “hypocrite.” It means, “to wear a mask.” That is what the hypocrite does. He or she is an actor on a stage.
They were BARRIERS TO HEAVEN (v.13). They should have been bridges to heaven, but they were barriers instead. They were not going to heaven, and neither were those who followed their steps.
They were RELIGIOUS RACKETEERS (v.14). Their heirs today are the televangelists who weep for contributions to reach the lost and dying—selling the promise of miracles to poor widows watching, who send in their money—which they have little of—so the profiteering preacher can live in luxury.
They were HELL SPAWN (v.15). God was not their Father. Their father was the Devil.
They were BLIND GUIDES (v.16-22). What a ridiculous image—a blind guide leading blind people. That was, however, their spiritual condition and folly of following them.
They were NEGLECTFUL NITPICKERS (v.23-24). They focused on minutia and neglected the essential. They would metaphorically filter a gnat from their drink, while swallowing a camel!
They were EXTERNALLY CLEAN AND INTERNALLY CORRUPT (v.25-26). Their hands were ceremonially cleansed, but their hearts were spiritually filthy.
They were WHITE-WASHED TOMBS (v.27-28). The mausoleum may be shining marble, but inside there is the stench and decay of death. That was the Pharisees.
They were CELEBRANTS OF PROPHETS AND HEIRS OF THOSE WHO CONDEMNED THEM (v.29-39). How evildoers hate truth-tellers! This was the brutality of their ancestors, and was in their spiritual DNA. It is why they despised Jesus, and called for His condemnation.
Let us be sure that we are not heirs of the hypocrites. Tear off the mask! What is the spiritual reality? Behind the religious façade, is there only an empty heart, devoid of the grace of God? May the Spirit expose such now—so we may repent—before it is exposed at the Judgment Seat, where it will be too late! This is the hellishness of hypocrisy.