Weightier Matters by Pastor Paul Becker
August 6, 2023 ~ Matthew 23
In Matthew 22, Jewish religious leaders ganged up on Jesus for a game of “Stump the Chump.” Jesus stood face-to-face with them and truthfully deflected their dishonest questions. His answers revealed the flaws in their understanding of the Mosaic law and the writings of the prophets. His answers also led them to clues to conclude that He was both the Son of David and the Son of God. No matter the amount of evidence from scripture, these religious men refused to change their opinions about Jesus or expectations about the Messiah.
Turning to Chapter 23, we see that gentle, meek and mild Jesus, with long and flowing “Breck Girl” hair, does not appear. Jesus spoke to the crowds and His disciples. He described the extreme hypocrisy of the Pharisees. And then, turning to the crowd, Jesus reminded them that the Pharisees sat in the seat of Moses. Why would Jesus need to say this? Because our natural tendency is to see the hypocrisy of religious leaders and use it to justify our separation from a gathering of believers. And if our exposure to God’s Word is honestly lessened by our seperation from God’s people, then the charge of “hypocrite” is one we own.
Jesus exposed the false piety of the Pharisees and pronounced seven “woes” upon them. Each “woe” is worthy diagnostic for our relationships with God, one another, and our neighbors. The fourth “woe” contains a significant message, and it is this: Our relationship with God is bolstered by religious practices, but we need to be careful that small matters do not overtake weightier matters such as justice, mercy, and faitfulness.
Faithfulness is lived out in the Great Commandment to love God with all our heart, soul, and mind and in our abidance in Jesus’ Great Commission for us to make disciples.
Mercy is lived out in our church family relationships as we abide in 1) Jesus’ “New Commandment” to love one another as He loved us.
Justice is lived out in our relationships with the needs of the poor, the voiceless, and the sojourning foreigner in out midst.
The Pharisees were blind to the Lion of Judah and deaf to His roar. Jesus pronounced that, as in generations past, He would send more messengers. He prophesied that the Jewish religious leaders would kill, crucify, flog, and pursue these messengers from town to town. His prophecy would assure future followers that their persecution and suffering is not without purpose. In every persecution of the Church, sinners are drawn to Jesus.
Jesus, the Lion of Judah, quieted His roar and became as gentle as a mother hen who gathers her chicks under her wings to warm them in the cold, to protect them from the rain, or to hide them from predators. Jesus looked longingly over the city of Jerusalem. He longed for the people of Israel to come under His comfort and protection. His longing for Jerusalem reaches across the eons of time to reach you, your loved ones and friends, and even your enemies. He longs for us to submit to His covering as a shield against coming judgement and death. His covering inspires all who come under to praise Him saying, "Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!” (Mt 24:38)