Woe to you


Denunciation of the Scribes and Pharisees Mt 23:13-22 Mt 23:23-26                                                                                                                                                                                       The Pharisees were a major Jewish sect in Jesus’s time. Pharisaism  had its origins with the Babylonian Captivity (587 – 536 BC) when the Jews were unable to continue with temple worship.They gained a more focused prominence during the revolt of the Maccabees (167 – 165 BC) against the Seleucid rulers of Syria. The origin of the name Pharisees is means “those separated” and they were fastidious in insulating themselves from impurities and defilement. The Pharisees’ chief rival sect was the Sadducees.  The Sadducees were drawn mainly from the aristocratic priestly class, the Pharisees tended not to be from the temple tradition and were more prominent in synagogues. In the interpretation of the law the Pharisees differed from the Sadducees in their use of oral legal tradition to supplement the Torah, they added many minute details to the law,and required that they be followed to the letter. As the Pharisees and the Sadducees had many different philosophical opinions on Judaism, their arguments frequently were heated and sometimes even violent.The Pharisees often were Jesus’ most vocal critics. Their insistence on a ritual observance of the letter of the law was in direct contrast with Jesus’s preaching on the spirit of the law.Matthews gospel passage vividly illustrated this contrast in opinion.     What was wrong with the Pharisee’s approach to Judaism  ? What was it that he opposed ? Jesus grew up In a devout Jewish household, went to the temple and participated at the synagogue. He was an observant first century practitioner of Judaism. Jewish ritual and law were not new to him, where is the problem? The Pharisees were concerned with legal details, they were separated from others, and they were locked in a power struggle. One way to look at their approach to life is that they were adherents to Deuteronomy and Leviticus,perhaps at the expense of Jewish Wisdom: They reduced a relationship to a checklist and used that checklist as a tool for a national agenda. The statement is strongly biased, generalized, and probably inaccurate to a great extent; but it highlights Jesus rebuttal to these Pharisee’s. Jewish relationship to YHWH  is not simply the legal practice of ritual. It is not a blind obedience; it is wisdom,  dialogue, and a relationship. The wisdom dialogue and relationship are the spirit of the law. Without that the ritualized law becomes meaningless. Much of these laws burdened people, and prevented them from seeking that dialogue with the YHWH.Rather that drawing Gods chosen people closer to God, it separated them from both God and man. Jesus rebuttal to the Pharisee’s can’t bee seen as an argument of right versus wrong , but rather a warning against blind ritualization. If Jesus rebuked the Pharisee’s 2000 years ago, what would he say about the way some Christians practice today? Perhaps many of the Pharisee’s followers would be the subject of praise for faithful worship this time around?                                                                                                                                                                                          Jesus said:
“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, you hypocrites.
You pay tithes of mint and dill and cummin,
and have neglected the weightier things of the law:
judgment and mercy and fidelity.
But these you should have done, without neglecting the others.
Blind guides, who strain out the gnat and swallow the camel!
“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, you hypocrites.
You cleanse the outside of cup and dish,
but inside they are full of plunder and self-indulgence.
Blind Pharisee, cleanse first the inside of the cup,
so that the outside also may be clean.”                                                                                                                                                                        

Though Jesus’s address was to the scribes and Pharisees, it really is to everyone!

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