For an interesting paraphrase of the Gospels read, “The Cotton Patch Gospel—Matthew”, by Clarence Jordan.
Matt. 23:23-36 Woe to the Pharisees because (cont’d, #5-8)…
Matt. 23:23-24-The Pharisees go to great lengths to do some things (the minutiae, the matters that give them the appearance of being radically devoted to the letter of their teachings and make the Law work in their behalf)...but completely fail to do the important things (those things which involve people and making the Law work in their behalf). Jesus pictures them sitting at a table in total concentration as they count out the number of seeds they have so that they can tithe the exact amount that the Law requires. And in the meantime, they are totally unaware (because they are distracted by meeting their own needs) that their preoccupation with themselves has become more important than extending justice and mercy and faithfulness to other people. They are using people for their own benefit…instead of being a benefit to other people. Is it possible that we can be so religious that we are of no value, no good, no help to other people? Is that what God intended? No.
Matt. 23:25-26-The Pharisees appear to be perfect on the outside, but neglect the inside, their heart. The insinuation is that while they appear to have control because of how they present themselves to others, they are actually out of control because they are “full” (controlled) by “robbery” (their use of their position to take from others to provide for themselves) and “self-indulgence” (lack of strength, self-control…their desires control them).
Matt. 23:27-28-They appear to be righteous to those who see them, but their problem is that they are dead, spiritually dead.
Matt. 23:29-36-They claim that if they had been alive in the days of the prophets they would not have killed them...in fact, they build monuments to their memory. But in reality, they are just like their ancestors. Jesus says that their guilt will be even greater because they condemn the actions of their ancestors (agreeing that it was wrong) and then they turn right around and do the same thing to the prophets, and wise men, and scribes that are sent to them.
“Zechariah, the son of Berechiah. This murder is recorded in 2 Chron. 24:20-22. Berechiah was likely the father of Zechariah, while the famous Jehoiada was his grandfather. This is not the prophet Zechariah (though his father was also named Berechiah). Since Abel’s death is recorded in Genesis, and since 2 Chronicles is the last book in the Hebrew Bible (the books of the Old Testament are arranged in a different order in the Hebrew Bible than how they are arranged in the Christian Bible), Christ was saying, in effect, “from the first to the last murder in the Bible.” See Luke 11:51.” (Ryrie-modified)
Matt. 23:37-38-Jesus says that it has been His desire for Jerusalem (the Jews) to come to Him so that He might care for them as a mother hen cares for her brood…but they have been unwilling to do so. As a result…they will be unprotected when the enemy comes.
Matt. 23:39-Jesus declares that He will no longer teach publicly...and that they will no longer hear from Him until the day of the Second Coming.
Prayer: Lord, don't let me deceive myself. Show me who I really am through Your eyes. Don't let me just have the appearance of righteousness, and goodness, and love...but help me to truly be those things. Fill me throughout with Your Spirit.