"Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! Because you build the tombs of the prophets and adorn the monuments of the righteous, and say, 'If we had lived in the days of our fathers, we would not have been partakers with them in the blood of the prophets. - Matthew 23: 29-30 (NKJV)
So we conclude the series on the eight woes spoken by our Lord and Savior over the scribes and Pharisees of His day and how they correlate to the church today. Lessons for us to learn about what is displeasing to God. Lessons for us today for how our religion should not be. God is the same yesterday, today and forever so what bothered Jesus on this day when the eight woes were prescribed bothers Him to this day. Remember earlier Jesus stated that the Pharisees shut the doors to the kingdom of heaven in the faces of those they were responsible for. The church today is in the same exact position. When a church decides it is going to serve its own interests over the kingdom they shut the door to heaven in the faces of their congregants. When a church chooses to alter the life changing Gospel to try and draw people to sit in the pews they shut the door to heaven in the faces of their congregants. When a church chases men instead of God, through unbiblical apostolic or prophetic nonsense, instead of pointing them to the living Word of the only one who can save them they shut the door to heaven in the faces of their congregants.
So we come to the final woe. Jesus once again addresses His audience as hypocrites, one of the main charges against them. In the case of the Pharisees they pretended to revere the Prophets of old. They built monuments and tombs for them. To this day the tomb of Zechariah sits at the base of the Mount of Olives. They made this pretense for those who would be looking on. To appear more righteous than they really were. They went as far as to denounce their predecessors for killing the Prophets of old. They claimed if they had lived in those days they would not have partaken of the shedding of the blood of the Prophets. What was the problem here? They were lying. The same zeal for power that killed the Prophets existed in them. Anything that threatened the power structure was eliminated.
Many of the Jews therefore, who had come with Mary and had seen what he did, believed in him, but some of them went to the Pharisees and told them what Jesus had done. So the chief priests and the Pharisees gathered the council and said, "What are we to do? For this man performs many signs. If we let him go on like this, everyone will believe in him, and the Romans will come and take away both our place and our nation." But one of them, Caiaphas, who was high priest that year, said to them, "You know nothing at all. Nor do you understand that it is better for you that one man should die for the people, not that the whole nation should perish." He did not say this of his own accord, but being high priest that year he prophesied that Jesus would die for the nation, and not for the nation only, but also to gather into one the children of God who are scattered abroad. So from that day on they made plans to put him to death. - John 11: 45-53 (ESV)
This is the exact point in the Gospel of John where the Pharisees decided that Jesus must die. What made them decide this? Because He had just raised Lazarus from the dead and were drawing people away from them to follow Him. They would not have partaken in the bloodshed of the Prophets of old? Please.
How does this correlate to today? The hypocrisy within many modern church leaders is the same. They speak about topics that they then do not live out themselves. They speak about reverence but operate churches absent the fear of God. They arrogantly tell sheep to leave the pen and then have the temerity to preach on the ninety-nine and the one. They speak about wanting to hear from God but approach His Word with pre-conceived false doctrines they seek to support. Having just passed Resurrection Sunday we saw the Christian landscape littered with sermons that mixed secularism with Christianity. Mixing the profane with what is supposed to be holy. One church performed a musical production of Star Wars; complete with dancing stormtroopers. Several others offered free I-Pad giveaways. Anything to get people's eyes off of Jesus. Prophets of old? Sure we revere them.
Beloved this is not about perfection. The only one that was ever perfect was Jesus. As my pastor is fond of saying, if you think you have found the perfect church you better leave before you ruin it! Churches are inherently imperfect because man is inherently imperfect. There needs to be a vigilance against a critical spirit or a true spirit of divisiveness. There is a stark difference however between an incident and a pattern. An incident is a mistake but a pattern is ingrained. Anyone can say something wrong from the pulpit. Anyone can make a mistake. The issue is when there is an impurity of doctrine. Because while we can never be perfect, the Word of God is. Paul warned Timothy:
Watch your life and doctrine closely. Persevere in them, because if you do, you will save both yourself and your hearers. - 1Timothy 4: 16 (NIV)
Because the salvation of the listeners is at stake. Jesus is coming soon and there is a world on the outside looking in. They do not need to see a candy coated gospel that cannot save them. They do not need to see a Star Wars musical. They do not need to hear the next great five part sermon series on repairing broken relationships. They only need to hear about mending the one relationship that truly matters. That is the relationship between them and God. That message does not start with seven steps to a better you. It does not start with hearing about how rich God wants you to be. It does not start with messages of false grace. It starts with the simple fact that we are separated from God by our sin but glory hallelujah God has given us a way to be made righteous in His sight again! It really is Good News! It starts with not just the promises of heaven but the realities of hell. They do not need an I-Pad - the need the Gospel. They do not need a buddy - they need a Savior. They do not need to hear talk that does not match actions - they need the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Don't talk to me about your reverence for the Prophets of old while you conspire to kill the Messiah. Don't talk to me about your reverence for the pure Gospel while you promote a false one; taking the people you were charged with leading to the cross down the broad path to destruction instead. Woe to you. Woe to you.