WEDNESDAY – Jesus’  Last Public Sermon Matt 23: 1-39

Most scholars believe that Jesus’ last public discourse (found in Matthew 23) was delivered on Tuesday. They also believe that the great eschatological treatise aka the Olivet Discourse was privately delivered on Tuesday. They also conclude that the Gospels do not record any of the Wednesday events of Passion Week. If this is true, Jesus had a very busy speaking day on Tuesday.

Jesus last public discourse was aimed directly at the Scribes and the Pharisees. What He had to say regarding them was not pleasant. In fact, it was inflammatory and antagonistic. Jesus was in non-stop attack mode. Eight times He begins His attack with ‘Woe to you scribes and Pharisees’. A ‘woe’ is more than a warning, it is a denunciation and Matthew 23 is nothing more than a denunciation of the scribes and Pharisees.

Seven times Jesus calls the scribes and the Pharisees hypocrites. Although used fewer times than ‘woe’, it is a stronger denunciation. He also calls them ‘blind guides’ four times and ‘fools’ once. At the end of this sermon there was no doubt in the listener’s minds about what Jesus thought of the Scribes and Pharisees.

Why was Jesus so strong in His denunciation of them? Matthew 23:2-12 tells us that they were proud men. They were proud of displaying their position of leadership before each other and the people.

But worse, their teaching kept themselves and others from a relationship with God. They had reduced religion to outward activity and had convinced themselves as well as the people they taught that a relationship with God was dependent upon your performance.

Jesus said that those who follow the teaching of the Pharisees’ performance based religion were cut off from heaven. In other words, anyone who trusts in his good works as being pleasing to God is really separated not only from religious reality but from an eternal relationship with God (see Mt 23:13). In fact, following the teaching of a Pharisee was doubly damned in the sight of God (Mt 23:15).

After His very convicting sermon against the scribes and Pharisees to the people, Jesus wept over Jerusalem (Mt 23:37-39). He wept because the teachers and religious leaders did not understand the ways of God. Because of their poor teaching, the people also did not understand the ways of God. Performance based religion is unacceptable to God. It is nothing more than filthy rags (Isa 64:6). Jesus spent much time trying to get the eyes of the people off of themselves (and their performance) and onto Him (His Person and His work).

In the midst of the most important week of remembrance on the Christian calendar, are you taking the time to focus on the work of the cross and its eternal benefit for you, or are you focusing on what you think you need to do in order to garner God’s favor. Passion Week is not about us – it’s about Him and His work on our behalf. Let’s not make the same mistake of the people in Jesus’ day by listening to the wrong voices and being distracted with our noble efforts to please God rather than focusing on the glories of the cross.



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