Mat 23:1-4 Then Yahshua spoke to the crowds and to His taught ones, saying, “The scribes and the Pharisees sit on the seat of Mosheh. Therefore, whatever they say to you to guard, guard and do. But do not do according to their works, for they say, and do not do.”
The Master is explaining that as long as the scribes and Pharisees are instructing strictly from what is written in The Torah, guard and do it. But do not follow their example. Their hypocrisy (acting) reveals who they really are.
Mat 23:4 “For they bind heavy burdens, hard to bear, and lay them on men’s shoulders, but with their finger they do not wish to move them.”
The Master categorizes what these burden consist of throughout the remainder of the chapter. Some today would try and convince folks that the “burden” referred to here is The Torah / Commandments of Yahweh. But John has a different understanding. Consider;
1Jn 5:3 For this is the love for Elohim, that we guard His commands, and His commands are not heavy,”
Mat 23:5-8 “And they do all their works to be seen by men, and they make their t’fillen wide and lengthen the tzitzit of their garments, and they love the best place at feasts, and the best seats in the congregations, and the greetings in the market-places, and to be called by men, ‘Rabbi, Rabbi.’ But you, do not be called ‘Rabbi,’ for One is your Teacher, the Messiah, and you are all brothers.”
Those who are already wrapped up in the outward appearance (in the world), will easily transition into the (religious) mindset of the scribes and Pharisees. They are all about drawing attention to themselves, their appearance, perks, notoriety, position, etc…They especially loved being revered as the teaching authority on The Scriptures. But those who receive The Spirit in the New Covenant will shy away from these outward expressions, being more conscious of “the inner man”, the “hidden man” reflective of Messiah’s presence in and through them. (also see Eph 3:16, 6:6, 1Pet 3:4)
Mat 23:9-12 “And do not call anyone on earth your father, for One is your Father, He who is in the heavens. Neither be called leaders, for One is your Leader, the Messiah. But the greatest among you shall be your servant. And whoever exalts himself shall be humbled, and whoever humbles himself shall be exalted.”
The Master is not forbidding us to refer to our earthly parents as father or mother. Torah teaches that we are to “honor” our parents. The context of the verse dictates that He is forbidding HIS followers to specifically revere another as their highest spiritual “Rabbi, teacher, father, leader.” Ephesians 4:11-12 confirms ministry gifts given by The Master “for the perfecting of the set-apart ones…” However, Revelation 2:6, 2:15 condemns“the deeds” and “the doctrine” of the Nicolaites.” These are leaders / teachers that are continuing the error of Balaam in putting stumbling blocks before professing believers by upholding the liberty of eating things sacrificed to idols as well as committing (literal & spiritual) fornication. (See articles: “The Parable of The Bride & The Whore” and “Christian Holi-Days”)
Mat 23:11-12“But the greatest among you shall be your servant. And whoever exalts himself shall be humbled, and whoever humbles himself shall be exalted.”
Contrary to the prideful, lofty, me first mindset of the scribes and the Pharisees, The Master establishes the proper expression of those who will gain entrance into HIS Kingdom; Humility:The attitude of “others first.”
Php 2:3 “…doing none at all through selfishness or self-conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves.”
Mat 23:13 “But woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! Because you shut up the reign of the heavens before men, for you do not go in, nor do you allow those who are entering to go in.”
The following 2 verses explains The Master’s meaning.
Luk 11:52 “Woe to you learned in the Torah, because you took away the key of knowledge. You did not enter in yourselves, and those who were entering in you hindered.”
Joh 9:22 His parents said this because they were afraid of the Yehudi for the Yehudi had already agreed that if anyone confessed that He was Messiah, he should be put out of the congregation.”
These same two indictments apply today. Those who are learned (in the Scriptures), but not learned in Messiah, are teaching what they do not understand and have taken away knowledge and understanding from their hearers. And those same teachers forbid their hearers to consider the truths of the True Messiah; That HE was not Greek and does not have a Greek name. HE did not come to start a new religious movement but came to complete what began with the First Covenant. HE did not put an end to The Commandments for HIS followers. HIS Favor (grace) is not a license for his supposed followers to live in sin…and so on.
Mat 23:14 “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! Because you eat up widows’ houses, and for a show make long prayers. Because of this you shall receive greater judgment.”
An interesting article on Religious Televangelists some years back stated that their “target audience in America is comprised of older, female rural women.” The article went on to say that most of these older women are generous financial donors. I’m left wondering how many of these older women were also widows…
2Ti 3:6 For among them are those who creep into households and captivate silly women loaded down with sins, led away by various lusts…
Mat 23:15 “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! Because you go about the land and the sea to win one convert, and when he is won, you make him a son of Gehenna twofold more than yourselves.”
The Master doesn’t seem too pleased with their missionary efforts. Why? How can HE be pleased with the efforts of people who are rejecting HIM for who HE truly is? They may have zeal but any effort based on misconceptions will not have HIS blessing nor can it convey a valid eternal message. Again, the problem today is no different. This is why The Master says they were making people “twofold more than themselves.”
Mat 23:16-22 “Woe to you, blind guides, who say, ‘Whoever swears by the Dwelling Place, it does not matter, but whoever swears by the gold of the Dwelling Place, is bound by oath. Fools and blind! For which is greater, the gold or the Dwelling Place that sets the gold apart? And, ‘Whoever swears by the altar, it does not matter, but whoever swears by the gift that is on it, is bound by oath. Fools and blind! For which is greater, the gift or the altar that sets the gift apart? He, then, who swears by the altar, swears by it and by all that is upon it. And he who swears by the Dwelling Place, swears by it and by Him who is dwelling in it. And he who swears by the heaven, swears by the throne of Elohim and by Him who is sitting upon it.”
The blind guides had their emphasis upon the earthly, the temporal. The Master uses the contrast between the eternal; “Dwelling Place” and the temporal; “the gold” to illustrate their blindness. Consider;
Rom 8:5-6 “For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the matters of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit, the matters of the Spirit. For the mind of the flesh is death, but the mind of the Spirit is life and peace.”
Little did they know, but their fleshly mindset caused such blindness that it kept them from seeing the very “Dwelling Place” of Yahweh standing right in front of them! The same is the case for those who encounter the Dwelling Place of Yah today as HE lives in and through those who have received HIS Spirit! (also see 1Cor 3:16, 2Cor 6:16)
Mat 23:23-24 “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! Because you tithe the mint and the anise and the cumin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the Torah: the right-ruling and the compassion and the belief. These need to have been done, without neglecting the others. Blind guides – straining out a gnat and swallowing a camel!”
The scribes and Pharisees placed great emphasis on one aspect of Torah (tithing), while they neglected the other important aspects reflecting the true spirit of Torah (right-ruling, compassion and belief). Their rigidity reflects “dotting every I and crossing every T” even at the expense of the living. This type of lopsided rigidity results in volumes of man-made dogma containing commentary, commandments, rules, regulations, ordinances, traditions, etc…
Mat 23:25-28 “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! Because you clean the outside of the cup and dish, but inside they are filled with plunder and unrighteousness. Blind Pharisee, first clean the inside of the cup and dish, so that the outside of them becomes clean too. Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! Because you are like whitewashed tombs which outwardly indeed look well, but inside are filled with dead men’s bones and all uncleanness. So you too outwardly indeed appear righteous to men, but inside you are filled with hypocrisy and lawlessness. For a detail look; See Article “Cleaned Up – But Not Filled”
Mat 23:29-33 “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! Because you build the tombs of the prophets and decorate the monuments of the righteous, and say, ‘If we had lived in the days of our fathers, we would not have taken part with them in the blood of the prophets.” Thus you bear witness against yourselves that you are sons of those who did murder the prophets – and you fill up the measure of your fathers! Serpents, brood of adders! How would you escape the judgment of Gehenna?”
The Master knows that these actors are of the same murderous spirit (the devil – John 8) that put the prophets to death in previous generations. HE also knows that they will be instrumental in putting HIM to death. Because they are blind to the truth they try to convince themselves (and one another) that they would NEVER do such evil deeds to the righteous by building tombs and decorating their monuments. I have witnessed for years the same outward show from the guilty and unrepentant, as they give money and get behind church building programs to try and convince themselves (and others) of their supposed piety… Yahshua is not fooled by their folly…we shouldn’t be either.