Woe To You
Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You shut the door of the kingdom of heaven in people’s faces. You yourselves do not enter, nor will you let those enter who are trying to.
- Matthew 23:13
On Sunday the message was about how hard it can be for religious people to find their way into the relational connection with God that Jesus wants for all people. In the rest of Matthew 23, Jesus unpacks 7 ‘woes’ - warnings to religious people. And as if that’s not enough, he then summarizes his concerns by calling out to them: “You snakes! You brood of vipers! How will you escape being condemned to hell?” (Mt 23:33) Hmm, that’s strong language.
From the beginning of the Gospels, Jesus tried over and over again to reach out to the religious elite only to be criticized, threatened, harassed and attacked. You get the sense that by the end of the Gospels (Matthew 23 is in the final week of Jesus’s life), Jesus is ramping up his pressure on the religious leaders in hopes that at least some of them might be willing to see their hypocrisy and desperate need for a savior. And, as it turns out, a few of them do.
Nicodemus, for example. He heard what Jesus had to say, took it to heart, and by the end of the Gospel of John he’s willing to publicly identify with Jesus as his follower.
How about you? Odds are, if you’re reading devotions from a church, you may be on the religious side of the equation. Are you willing to admit your need for Jesus and follow him, even if he leads you to welcome in the unreligious people he always gathered around himself? Take some time to think on this and to talk with Jesus about it.