July 30

Text: Matthew 23:1-7

Then Jesus spoke to the multitudes and to His disciples, saying, "The scribes and the Pharisees have seated themselves in the chair of Moses; therefore all that they tell you, do and observe, but do not do according to their deeds; for they say things, and do not do them.  And they tie up heavy loads, and lay them on men's shoulders; but they themselves are unwilling to move them with so much as a finger.  But they do all their deeds to be noticed by men; for they broaden their phylacteries, and lengthen the tassels of their garments.  And they love the place of honor at banquets, and the chief seats in the synagogues, and respectful greetings in the market places, and being called by men, Rabbi.”  (NASB)

Matthew presented Jesus in a “warning mode” during the last few days of his life.  From Matthew 21:1-2 forward, Jesus was different.  He placed himself at the center of attention when he rode the donkey.  He disrupted the buying and selling in the temple area.  He withered the fig tree.  He evaded the question of the chief priests and elders.  He told the chief priests and Pharisees that God’s kingdom would be taken from them.  He silenced the questioning Pharisees and Sadducees.  He aggressively, publicly condemned the Pharisees.  He predicted the fall of Jerusalem.  In parables he declared, “It is too late!”

In these last few days we might ask, “Who is this man?”  Consider a contrast.  Prior to the triumphal entry, Jesus was the teacher.  This last week, the time for teaching reform was over.  People would have to learn by experience.  Though the people thought all was as it had been, Jesus knew change was upon them.  Though Jesus taught his heart out, few understood.  The opportunity to redirect was over.  The time of consequences had come.

Nothing eats at a person’s heart like knowing preventable, unnecessary tragedy will occur.  A somber Jesus knew his best efforts were insufficient to produce major reform.  God’s purposes would be achieved, but at terrible prices—which included his suffering and death!

The time for the insights of words was past.  Reform would occur—at awful prices!  People wanted only what they desired—they had a distorted view of God’s purposes.

Suggestion for reflection: Can you be taught by words, or can you only be taught by experience?  (Read 1 Thessalonians 5:1-11.)

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