23 November 2018

Hello, and welcome to the STC podcast. My name is Casey Strine, I’m a member of the STC staff, and I’m excited to be sharing a few of my reflections on the Gospel of Matthew with you this week.

This week we will be looking at chapters 22 and 23 of the Gospel according to Matthew. Today, we will look at Matthew 23, verses 23-39, and we’ll focus on verse 23.

REFLECTION:

You may recall from yesterday that this week we’ve be looking at one long conversation that Jesus has with various groups. In this passage, we come to the final section of that conversation, where Jesus makes his foundational point abundantly clear.

To say that Jesus is fed up in this passage is an understatement. He’s been quizzed in an attempt to make him make a mistake by people he thinks are doing a poor job of living by the standards they themselves teach. So, here, at the end, he says what he thinks as clearly as one can imagine.

In an intensely polite culture like the United Kingdom, you might even wince a bit reading that Jesus says to the religious leaders ‘on the outside you appear to people as righteous but on the inside you are full of hypocrisy and wickedness’ in verse 28. This is an angry man speaking his mind. Perhaps that is not how we think of Jesus—as an angry man—but he was certainly capable of it. Righteous indignation, we call it: the emotion of anger directed at something that is not right.

Jesus accuses these religious leaders of a failure of omission—that is, not that what they’ve done is wrong, but that they’ve failed to do other things that are equally important. Yes, they’ve given money to God, they’ve gone to the temple many times, but they’ve neglected to act justly, show mercy, and live in faithfulness to all that God has commanded.

What error of omission makes you angry? What do you know God has commanded that you see others failing to do? I’m sure you can think of something, perhaps rather quickly. I certainly can—but I’ll keep that to myself.

What if we turn our sights back on ourselves? What have you and I failed to do lately that we know God commands us to do? Have you been impatient with your friends and family? Have you been going through the motions of church without really giving your attention to God? What other sin of omission have we committed?

We, like these religious leaders, are guilty of such failures too. Maybe it isn’t all of us all of the time, but it is all of us some of the time. The good news of Christianity is that being guilty of sins of omission does not keep us from the love of God. If we are willing to be honest with ourselves, to admit our flaws, to confess our sins to God, and to ask for forgiveness, it is on offer. ‘There is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus’ says St Paul. Rather, for those who confess their sins, God offers forgiveness, compassion, love, and mercy.

So, as this week draws to a close, let us take a hard look at what we’ve done. Where have we failed to do that which we know God asks us to do? Let us confess that to God and embrace the forgiveness that is available to us through Jesus’ sacrifice. In this way, we will grow closer to God and find ourselves refuelled to love and serve both God and others.

PRAYER:

God of mercy, we acknowledge that we are all sinners. We turn from the wrong that we have thought and said and done, and are mindful of all that we have failed to do. For the sake of Jesus, who died for us, forgive us for all that is past, and help us to live each day in the light of Christ our Lord. Amen.

READING: Matthew 23:23-39

‘Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You give a tenth of your spices – mint, dill and cumin. But you have neglected the more important matters of the law – justice, mercy and faithfulness. You should have practised the latter, without neglecting the former. You blind guides! You strain out a gnat but swallow a camel.

‘Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You clean the outside of the cup and dish, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence. Blind Pharisee! First clean the inside of the cup and dish, and then the outside also will be clean.

‘Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You are like whitewashed tombs, which look beautiful on the outside but on the inside are full of the bones of the dead and everything unclean. In the same way, on the outside you appear to people as righteous but on the inside you are full of hypocrisy and wickedness.

‘Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You build tombs for the prophets and decorate the graves of the righteous. And you say, “If we had lived in the days of our ancestors, we would not have taken part with them in shedding the blood of the prophets.” So you testify against yourselves that you are the descendants of those who murdered the prophets. Go ahead, then, and complete what your ancestors started!

‘You snakes! You brood of vipers! How will you escape being condemned to hell? Therefore I am sending you prophets and sages and teachers. Some of them you will kill and crucify; others you will flog in your synagogues and pursue from town to town. And so upon you will come all the righteous blood that has been shed on earth, from the blood of righteous Abel to the blood of Zechariah son of Berekiah, whom you murdered between the temple and the altar. Truly I tell you, all this will come upon this generation.

‘Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you were not willing. Look, your house is left to you desolate. For I tell you, you will not see me again until you say, “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.”’