THE WOES – “What sorrow awaits you” teachers of religious law and you Pharisees. Hypocrites!
It’s still Wednesday and Jesus is still at the temple. It appears that the religious leaders, Pharisees, etc. have left. So,
Jesus speaks to his disciples and the crowd that had gathered – his last time to speak in the temple.
Goal: Understand from these warnings what Jesus does NOT want our lives to look like, how he does not want us to act,
how he does not want us to treat people.
God does not want us to abuse our bodies and minds – with drugs, with poor habits, with laziness, filling our times with
worthless information – any myriad of ways that we mistreat ourselves – that’s for everyone, Christian or not – that’s
good advice isn’t it?
For Jesus followers – we now have a list (and Jesus is not known for making lists – but here it is) of what believers,
especially teachers and leaders, should NOT be characterized by.
Sad: Jesus started his ministry with eight “blesseds,” the Beatitudes – after all the teaching, healing and serving, BUT he
ends with seven WOES – he was rejected by most.
1 Then Jesus said to the crowds and to his disciples, 2 “The teachers of religious law and the Pharisees are the official
interpreters of the law of Moses. 3 So practice and obey whatever they tell you, but don’t follow their example. For they
don’t practice what they teach. 4 They crush people with unbearable religious demands and never lift a finger to ease the
burden. 5 “Everything they do is for show. On their arms they wear extra wide prayer boxes with Scripture verses inside,
and they wear robes with extra-long tassels. 6 And they love to sit at the head table at banquets and in the seats of honor
in the synagogues. 7 They love to receive respectful greetings as they walk in the marketplaces, and to be called ‘Rabbi.’
8 “Don’t let anyone call you ‘Rabbi,’ for you have only one teacher, and all of you are equal as brothers and sisters. 9
And don’t address anyone here on earth as ‘Father,’ for only God in heaven is your Father. 10 And don’t let anyone call
you ‘Teacher,’ for you have only one teacher, the Messiah. 11 The greatest among you must be a servant. 12 But those
who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.
The Pharisees were the most aligned with Jesus’ understanding of the O.T. – people looked to them for how to interpret
the OT – they had a needed and important role – but the WAY THEY LIVED IT OUT day in and day out was not the way
live. Prayer boxes and tassels were fine, from the OT, but they made their boxes bigger and their tassels longer. They
like the best seats and important titles. BOXES – TASSLES – TITLES!
Important: In today’s world, our church world, we let (or demand) the clergy, the church staff, do all of the work,
because we think the laity aren’t qualified. This has caused the church to not be effective.
Explain: V4 They crush people with unbearable religious demands and never lift a finger to ease the burden.
The Pharisees had tried to “build a fence around the Jewish law,” establish rules so strict that people cold not even come
close to breaking God’s laws. It was a huge and unnecessary burden. Taskmasters – not burden-bearers, not sympathetic
helpers. **Sometimes, for specific reasons for specific people, we need extra guard-rails don’t we?** But each of us are
different and we need different limits for different things.**
Important: V11 The greatest among you must be a servant. Don’t miss this. Right here is a hugely important
statement if you want to be a leader. They now write business books about this.
The WOES, but first:
1) What is a hypocrite?
Hupokritos (hoo pah krih TAYSS) to interpret or play a part, used to describe actors on a stage. Jesus calls th religious
leaders hypocrites 17 times in scripture.
13 “What sorrow awaits you teachers of religious law and you Pharisees. Hypocrites! For you shut the door of the
Kingdom of Heaven in people’s faces. You won’t go in yourselves, and you don’t let others enter either.
2) 1 st Woe V13-14 What is Jesus telling the religious leaders?
They and the people that looked to them for guidance were not going to be in the Kingdom of Heaven. In essence they
were actually blocking people from believing. (Leaders & teachers responsibility is huge) Note: The people had seen and
heard Jesus miracles and teachings for three years but….
How much have you heard about Jesus and have you believed?
15 “What sorrow awaits you teachers of religious law and you Pharisees. Hypocrites! For you cross land and sea to make
one convert, and then you turn that person into twice the child of hell you yourselves are!
3) 2 nd Woe V15 What are the Pharisees doing wrong?
They are zealous but the are steering people away from Jesus. And often the student becomes more zealous than the
teacher. And the student then leads more people in the wrong direction.
What are you zealous about?
16 “Blind guides! What sorrow awaits you! For you say that it means nothing to swear ‘by God’s Temple,’ but that it is
binding to swear ‘by the gold in the Temple.’ 17 Blind fools! Which is more important—the gold or the Temple that
makes the gold sacred? 18 And you say that to swear ‘by the altar’ is not binding, but to swear ‘by the gifts on the altar’ is
binding. 19 How blind! For which is more important—the gift on the altar or the altar that makes the gift sacred? 20 When
you swear ‘by the altar,’ you are swearing by it and by everything on it. 21 And when you swear ‘by the Temple,’ you are
swearing by it and by God, who lives in it. 22 And when you swear ‘by heaven,’ you are swearing by the throne of God
and by God, who sits on the throne.
4) 3 rd Woe V16-22 What were the Jewish leaders doing regarding swearing oaths that Jesus judges them for?
They differentiated oaths which amounted to lying. Lesson: Evasive = lying. Whenever a Jew took an oath, he connected
it to God, so all oaths were binding. Period. We love getting off the hook on technicalities – children seem to develop this
trait early – we need to outgrow it. Have you?
23 “What sorrow awaits you teachers of religious law and you Pharisees. Hypocrites! For you are careful to tithe even
the tiniest income from your herb gardens, but you ignore the more important aspects of the law—justice, mercy, and
faith. You should tithe, yes, but do not neglect the more important things. 24 Blind guides! You strain your water so you
won’t accidentally swallow a gnat, but you swallow a camel!
5) 4 th Woe V23-24 What is this judgement about?
What’s most important. Jesus went back to Micah 6:8, three IMPORTANT things duties God requires: justice, kindness
TABLE TALK: By your current actions and time spent, what does it tell you that you have emphasized while living the
life of a Jesus follower?
25 “What sorrow awaits you teachers of religious law and you Pharisees. Hypocrites! For you are so careful to clean the
outside of the cup and the dish, but inside you are filthy—full of greed and self-indulgence! 26 You blind Pharisee! First
wash the inside of the cup and the dish, and then the outside will become clean, too.
6) 5 th Woe V25-26 What issue is Jesus addressing these verses?
Inner purity. The rituals and all of the services were attended and performed, BUT . . . INSIDE they were ugly.
We can fake people out can’t we? But only for a while.
27 “What sorrow awaits you teachers of religious law and you Pharisees. Hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed
tombs—beautiful on the outside but filled on the inside with dead people’s bones and all sorts of impurity. 28 Outwardly
you look like righteous people, but inwardly your hearts are filled with hypocrisy and lawlessness.
7) 6 th Woe V27-28 What judgement was Jesus making?
Looking attractive on the outside.
Jerusalem Jews whitewashed their tombs so that people would see them and not step on them. They did look better when
whitewashed. But what was on the inside? Death and decay. Which, by the way, can contaminate you.
Again, what’s on the inside? We can fake people out can’t we? But only for a while.
29 “What sorrow awaits you teachers of religious law and you Pharisees. Hypocrites! For you build tombs for the
prophets your ancestors killed, and you decorate the monuments of the godly people your ancestors destroyed. 30 Then
you say, ‘If we had lived in the days of our ancestors, we would never have joined them in killing the prophets.’ 31 “But
in saying that you testify against yourselves that you are indeed the descendants of those who murdered the prophets. 32
Go ahead and finish what your ancestors started. 33 Snakes! Sons of vipers! How will you escape the judgment of hell?
34 “Therefore, I am sending you prophets and wise men and teachers of religious law. But you will kill some by
crucifixion, and you will flog others with whips in your synagogues, chasing them from city to city. 35 As a result, you
will be held responsible for the murder of all godly people of all time—from the murder of righteous Abel to the murder
of Zechariah son of Berekiah, whom you killed in the Temple between the sanctuary and the altar. 36 I tell you the truth,
this judgment will fall on this very generation.
8) 7 th Woe V29-32 What is the sorrow that awaits these religious leaders and why?
32 Go ahead and finish what your ancestors started. Just like their ancestors killed prophets, they are going to kill the
Messiah. Why? Their hypocrisy.
This generation could have been the generation that ushered in the Messiah, but after all Jesus had done in three years,
they said NO. What was at the root of the problem? Hypocrisy. The leaders were corrupt. They majored on the
unimportant rather than the important. The important being justice, kindness and humility.
And the most important – belief that Jesus was and is the Messiah, the Son of God. Same question for us.
I like to present positives about following Jesus. This was quite negative today, pure judgement.
After all of this judgment – what did Jesus really think about the Jews & the Holy City of Jerusalem? He laments. A
lament is a passionate expression of grief or sorrow. These are his ancestors, his people.
37 “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones God’s messengers! How often I have
wanted to gather your children together as a hen protects her chicks beneath her wings, but you wouldn’t let me.
38 And now, look, your house is abandoned and desolate. 39 For I tell you this, you will never see me again until
you say, ‘Blessings on the one who comes in the name of the Lord!’
Bible read thru years ago. Pick one verse or thought that represents the New Testament. Mine was verse 37: “O
Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones God’s messengers! How often I have wanted to gather
your children together as a hen protects her chicks beneath her wings, but you wouldn’t let me.
The day will come when Jesus returns. But now, right now, you have the opportunity to become a Jesus follower. He
wants to love and protect you, if you’ll let hm. If you haven’t, make that decision today.
Jesus tells them “your house is abandoned and desolate” – he was leaving the temple – and temple would be completely
destroyed in 70 AD.
But V 39 I tell you this, you will never see me again UNITL you say, ‘Blessings on the one who comes in the name of the
Lord!’ He will return!