I’m not sure that we discussed the difference between the two political parties that oppose Jesus during His ministry. Among the Sadducees we find rich landowners and powerful priests. They only followed the Pentateuch (the first five books of the Bible), and therefore denied the idea of a bodily resurrection. The Pharisees, in contrast, claimed many scribes and scholars. They accepted the entire Old Testament, but they also believed in an oral law that was passed down from generation to generation to go along with the written law, which is one of the issues we have before us here.
In this section of Scripture Jesus pronounces judgment on the Pharisees. His use of “woe” indicates that He is greatly distressed, and suggests that there will be significant consequences for their actions. He condemns their pride, warns them about false teaching and actions, condemns them for making false converts, and gives them an example of how they are twisting Scripture. His words teach us that:
- Whenever a teacher is following the Bible we should do what they say. But we have to be careful and make sure that they aren’t just teaching tradition as truth. We also need to recognize that people don’t always do what they say, so we shouldn’t just blindly follow someones actions. We need to be discerning about both belief and behavior when it comes to teachers.
- Humility is vital in the Christian life. Terms of respect can even become problematic because they can feed a persons pride. The best way that we can be show respect for a teacher is by following what they say, not calling them a title.
- The greatest “title” of all is servant.
- We all have a responsibility to share about the kingdom with others, but here Jesus focuses primarily on teachers. We can “lock” people out or “let” people in. It all depends on our teaching. Here the Pharisees are condemned because they are so far off the mark they themselves aren’t even in the kingdom.
- We can make things so complicated when we add to the Scripture. Saying you’ll do something is what is most important. It doesn’t matter what we swear by, in fact we shouldn’t swear at all! We should just let our “yes” be “yes” and our “no” be “no” (Matthew 5:33-37).