The Woes from the King Part 1: Unbearable Preachers | Matthew 23:1-12
Topic: New Testament Passage: Matthew 23:1–23:12
Rejection of the King - The Book of Matthew Pt. 4
Wk9: The Woes from the King Part 1: Unbearable Preachers | 23:1-12
Good Morning! We are in our series on the book of Matthew; the Gospel account of Jesus, the carpenter from Nazareth, as the Christ, the Savior – King of God’s people. This series covering Chapters 21-25 has been titled the Rejection of the King. Jesus triumphantly entered into Jerusalem with crowds cheering with great expectations for radical transformation and restoration in the holy city. However, as Jesus reveals more of his authority opposition to Jesus grows from those currently in power. The last 3 weeks we saw different parties each take successive turns attempting to entrap Jesus with questions they believed will unsettle him and undercut his influence with the crowds. If you argue with Jesus you’re going to lose. Jesus finally challenges them with a question about the Christ that leaves them all speechless. With his opposition silenced, Jesus turns his attention back to actively teaching his disciples and crows of people gathered to hear him. Sometimes you define who you are by what you are about; but sometimes it is necessary to define what you are against. Over the next three weeks we will be going through the longest sustained righteous denouement Jesus gives to anyone targeting Preachers, religious Pharisees, and the entire city of Jerusalem. I have an awkward task today as Jesus has specific warnings against preachers (like me) and yet I am to serve up what we as followers of Jesus are to take from this teaching and apply it to our lives.
Matthew 23:1-12 Then Jesus said to the crowds and to his disciples, 2 “The scribes and the Pharisees sit on Moses' seat, 3 so do and observe whatever they tell you, but not the works they do. For they preach, but do not practice. 4 They tie up heavy burdens, hard to bear, and lay them on people's shoulders, but they themselves are not willing to move them with their finger. 5 They do all their deeds to be seen by others. For they make their phylacteries broad and their fringes long, 6 and they love the place of honor at feasts and the best seats in the synagogues 7 and greetings in the marketplaces and being called rabbi by others. 8 But you are not to be called rabbi, for you have one teacher, and you are all brothers. 9 And call no man your father on earth, for you have one Father, who is in heaven. 10 Neither be called instructors, for you have one instructor, the Christ. 11 The greatest among you shall be your servant.12 Whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted.
Verses 1-4 |Burdensome Preachers
Jesus is giving this teaching in the temple. He is continuing a purification process of restoring pure worship for God’s people by working in and on the temple; first by driving out impure wicked and distracting activities, then by returning it to a house of prayer and healing, after addressing opposition from various parties he is now directing his reclamation and restoration efforts at the teachers and preachers in the temple by preaching a lengthy sermon of woe. This is not a popular sermon with the Scribes and Pharisees in the crowd. However, Jesus loves His people and is very concerned with the type of preaching they receive and the character of the preachers they will hear from. Jesus is training disciples to have and use discernment in the period when he is no longer directly preaching and teaching. Jesus is a preacher, he knows preaching has a purpose to glorify God, call hearts to salvation, and stir saints to good works.
Rom 10:14-15 14 How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? 15 And how are they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!”
Jesus opens his sermon with actually affirming the role of preacher and teachers (specifically the scribes and Pharisees). They exist with a purpose of teaching the law of God given to Moses and share with the people. The Pharisees get a bad rap as a group but there original mission was in response to the growing “Hellenization” of Israel, following Greek gods and philosophy. They were originally instituted as a group dedicated to return and restoration of God’s word and Law as THE authority in individual, family, and community life. These men placed tremendous value in knowing the law of God with the hopes it would lead to doing and actually living the Law of God. Not a bad goal; but often it does not work that way. Jesus says actually listen and DO what they teach. All good preaching should lead to good doing. I would hate for us to be a church that knows God’s word and doesn’t DO it. James 1:22-24 22 But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves.
The Pharisees’ preachers were drawing people to Moses’ Law, great! But they went beyond the law and Jesus is calling them out on it. The problem is not with the message necessarily, it is with the messengers. These men love preaching but do not practice. These guys are not doing what they preach at other to do. Jesus says when their way of living doesn’t match up to what they’re preaching and teaching and when this is evident you should not imitate them. Jesus doesn’t tell them to reject what they say. This is important. “Do as they say, not as they do!” Example: You should renounce all comfort of the American dream and yet when given the opportunity do the very thing they don’t because of comfort. We often respond to preachers with extremes of idolatrous praise and loyalty OR we treat preachers with contempt and demonize them. It’s either “(insert your favorite preacher) says xyz, so I do xyz” or it is “(Insert preacher you don’t like here) They are not perfect in doctrine or life so I can’t listen to anything they say.”
God only has imperfect preachers to work with, I know I’ve met them and I am one. I praise God he can speak to Balaam through a donkey and He can speak to his people through imperfect preachers. We should not be shocked when we find a preacher failing is some way and we begin to doubt the message. Preachers fail, God’s word does not. Hypocrites abound. A preacher being exposed as a hypocrite may make one pause to consider what they were preaching but it shouldn’t be used as an excuse to jettison every piece of godly wisdom or gospel centered truth they preached. We don’t lift up mere the gifting’s only of certain preachers and teachers, or even the fruitfulness of their ministry but the faithfulness of their very lives. Paul says 1 Cor 11:1 Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ. Not be imitators of me all the time, but as I imitate Jesus. This is why the qualifications of eldership matter. James 3:1 Not many of you should become teachers, my brothers, for you know that we who teach will be judged with greater strictness.
The burdensome preachers are not just failing to practice what they preach, but they are failing in their preaching. What one preaches also matters as much as what one does. That is why Paul tells Timothy to guard his life AND doctrine. You can preach and teach godly principals but not preach and teach the gospel. If the Sadducees had a sad theology of a powerless God the Pharisees had an unfair theology that made worship of God unbearably burdensome. They are legalists in their heavy handed preaching. They bound people with burden where God has not put laws and instead gave freedom. Burdensome preachers placing heavy burdens on their people like loading up a slave or an animal. Heavy, hard to bear (awkward to carry, unbalanced) limits their ability to walk out the mission and lives they call others to or God has for them. Example: Loving your family means having a study you work out of so your family can see you, a big bedroom with a private sitting room so you can connect with your wife apart from the children. Jesus has been charting a different life giving path. Matthew 11:28-30 28 Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”
Jesus has and does put his people on a mission. There is a battle and we are soldiers. Soldiers need to carry their gear for their mission but if they’re burden down too much they will be unable to fight and serve effectively. Jesus does not tell us to not carry anything or be untethered; but to take on a yoke and burden we were built for. Burdensome Preachers like the Pharisees are quick to places heavy requirements on others but unwilling to do even the most basic amount themselves, they won’t even lift a finger, unless…
Verses 5-8 |Humblebragging Preachers
Burdensome Preachers like leadership and directing but don’t have a vision or desire for servant leadership. It is not they actually do nothing; it is that the anything and everything they actually do is for the wrong thing. They only act when it can lead to greater status, leadership, and praise from the wrong source. Many of us are not too different, we like actions that others will be impressed with and maybe even give us the appearance of holiness. While not always a conscious act; we often ask ourselves what can we do to get the reputation of being holy without dealing with the deep core of our hearts? We love others to think we’ve got it all together and that we’re good people.
Enter the humblebrag:
@TotesMcGotes “Told the cpl renting my house in the midwest, who both lost their jobs last month, not to worry about Nov/Dec rent. They have a little boy.” …….. “Maybe I’m too nice, but stories like that around the holidays get to me. Hopefully they’ll give their little boy a good xmas. #karma”
The preachers Jesus is talking about have big phylacteries, these are boxes with scripture written in them as a literal application to Deuteronomy 6:8 to bind God’s word to your forehead. They were worn during prayer time but sometimes they’d wear them before and after for others to see. They had long fringes and tassels were worn on outer garments (Jesus as a Jewish man actually wore one) as a reminder to honor God but these guys were outdoing each other to stand out from each other. We don’t do this, but raise your hand if you’ve ever posted a picture of cup of coffee and open bible. (I have!!!) We want our good works recognized. My wife caught me in one last weekend as we bought a lunch for a family who had blessed us and I off handily mentioned how much it cost. Who does that? There are other times I am absolutely hoping someone will audibly affirm me. Who doesn’t love honor? Everyone does at some level. “I don’t like attention drawn to me” they only loving being revered for their humility. We are called to be people of good works, loving God and others, but we are not do them for the approval of others. Jesus is warning His people about following those who dressing up their deeds for others to see and applaud. For preachers there are hopes for larger churches, more sermon downloads or shares, speaking at conferences, bigger audiences, and book deals. None of these are bad on their own if the purpose is God’s glory and not their own. That can be a difficult line to discern while other times it’s very clear. What are your goals and what is the motivation behind them? How do you seek the approval of others in your actions?
Gal 1:10 10 For am I now seeking the approval of man, or of God? Or am I trying to please man? If I were still trying to please man, I would not be a servant of Christ.
We are called to be servants of Jesus. We have to have a “gospel-centered” view of what a good deed or work is. To paraphrase my study Bible: A good deed/work is one that conforms to the will of God, with a motive of loving God and others, for the purpose of God’s glory. These preachers only do deeds to give glory for themselves. The Humblebragging preachers are seeking honor. It is not honor from God instead they are seeking honor from men. Seeking honor is not the issue it is the source of honor and glory you are seeking. You cannot humbly serve Jesus when you are living in the service of the approval others. Others will never be able to give you the deep soul stirring honor, heart resting approval, and eternally satisfying glory that can only come from the God who made you. Gospel glory seeking is not a matter of desiring less, (not wanting any approval) but desiring more (knowing there is a greater approval, honor, and glory that come from God! John 5:44 44 How can you believe, when you receive glory from one another and do not seek the glory that comes from the only God? There is an overarching truth that God is alive, active, and aware of our outward actions AND the very deep recesses of our hearts. He knows. You don’t have to tell Him. He is the only audience that matters. When we seek the approval of others and performing for a wide audience we have forgotten our primary identity. We are hoping others will tell us “well done” when God as already declared us approved in Jesus. The gospel says you are approved by your Father in heaven because of “deeds” the Son Jesus did on the cross in your place. This makes what we do worth infinitely more because it is all done through him and for Him and not for ourselves. Who do you work for?
Verses 8-10 | Gospel Preachers and Gospel Disciples
Jesus’ preachers don’t seek titles and honor that is meant for God alone. The word Rabbi we translate as Teacher, but it was much more authoritative. It is actually closer to my master. It is the goal of the disciples of a “rabbi” was to become like a rabbi, in the process they revere the rabbi as their master. Gospel preachers don’t seek to have people point to them, but to be constantly pointing people back to Jesus. Gospel disciples’ desires are not to be more like our pastors it is to be more like Jesus. Discipleship is not about making sure you do precisely as I do. It is looking at Jesus, remembering what he’s done, know who you are because of him, and go be and become who you already are in Christ. Gospel Preachers hope to be forgotten. "Preach the gospel, die, and be forgotten.” - Count Zinzendorf. There is one “Master” one Father, and one instructor, Christ. There is Jesus and there is everyone else. Gospel Preachers don’t put themselves in spiritual authority between people and God, we are not priest, we are not prophets, we are not kings. Gospel Disciples give honor and glory where it belongs, with God. We are quick to give honor to the person we can see and hear from rather than the God who made us. We love hierarchy and authority (when we have it) Jesus says there is God the Father and you are His children there is no keep at it and you’ll be God. Your goal is not “spiritual parent” of new believers; it is to go and make disciples who become part of our same family. We are all brothers and sisters. Some are older, some are younger, some have more or distinct responsibilities in the life of the family; but we’re all just children. This removes great distinctions. We are siblings; we are peers. Instructor is literally leader. We have a King in Jesus, we have a Father in God the Father, we have a teacher/master in the Holy Spirit. Do not let anyone come between you and Jesus either by their success or their failure. They are not our priest. The best preachers are still a sinner who need the Son’s sacrifice, the grace of the Father, and the renewing of the Holy Spirit.
Verses 11-12 | Greatest Servant – Greatest Glory
There are absolutely human applications to what Jesus is teaching here, but let us not forget Jesus is the greatest among us AND he came to serve! Matt 20:28 … Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” Jesus is humbled on the cross, buried in a tomb and is exalted in the resurrection. Preachers (and disciples) can humble ourselves knowing we’ll be raised up with Christ.
Phil 2:5-11 5 Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, 6 who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, 7 but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men.8 And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. 9 Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, 10 so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. We bow to the King who humbled himself for us. Trust Jesus!
More in Rejection of the King | Matthew Part IV
June 14, 2015The Woes from the King Part 3: Forsaken City | Empty Temple - Matthew 23:37 - 24:2
June 7, 2015The Woes from the King Part 2: Seven Charges - One Verdict | Matthew 23:13-36
May 17, 2015Entrapment of the King: Sad Theology | Matthew 22:23-33