Summary: This is the second message in a series that looks at Jesus’ final few days on the way to the cross. This message looks at how Jesus’ confrontation of religious hypocrisy and his resulting challenge to his own followers.
There are many images that come to mind when we think of Easter.
-- Easter Bunnies, Easter Baskets, Easter Eggs, etc
-- Easter Holidays - Palm Sunday, Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, etc.
-- Easter Symbols -- Cross, Communion
There is a Challenge We Face...
-- Each time we experience the Easter season, it can Lose its Impact and become almost stale. We’ve heard the messages... we’ve seen the images... watched the plays... We’ve been shocked by the horror of all that Jesus endured - torture, crucifixion.
-- RESULT: Over time, it just doesn’t seem to be as "Amazing" or "Exciting."
We’ve been Following Jesus to the Cross... looking at the last few days of Jesus before His Death...
-- To see not only WHAT Jesus experienced for us, but also HOW He approached His death - to see Jesus’ Attitude.
-- What did Jesus do on the Way to the Cross?
-- What was Important to Jesus as the Time of His Death drew closer?
Stuart Weber - "Holman Commentary on Matthew"
"To this point, Jesus had tried to avoid OUTRIGHT CONFLICT, while at the same time, warning people openly about the poison of the Jewish leaders... However, at this point, Jesus launched a serious OFFENSIVE."
Why Did Jesus Confront The Jewish Religious Leaders?
-- What was His Motivation?
-- For what Reasons did Jesus go "toe-to toe" with the religious establishment?
1. FOR EXPLOITING PEOPLE AND HINDERING THEM FROM REALLY CONNECTING WITH GOD.
-- Jesus... began to drive out the merchants and their customers. He knocked over the tables of the money changers and the stalls of those selling doves... Jesus said, "The Scriptures declare, ’My Temple will be called a place of prayer,’ but you have turned it into a den of thieves." (Matthew 21:12-13 - New Living Translation)
Max Lucado - And the Angels were Silent
"It was Passover week... the highlight of the Jewish calendar. People came from all regions and many countries to be present for the celebration. Upon arriving they were obligated to meet two requirements. First, an animal sacrifice, usually a dove. The dove had to be perfect, without blemish. The animal could be brought in from anywhere, but... under the guise of keeping the sacrifice pure, the dove sellers sold doves - at their price."
"Second, the people had to pay a tax... rendered in local currency. Money changers conveniently set up tables and offered to exchange the foreign money for local - for a modest fee, of course."
"It’s not difficult to see what angered Jesus. Pilgrims journeyed days to see God, to witness the holy, to worship His Majesty. But before they were taken into the presence of God, they were taken to the cleaners. What was promised and what was delivered were two different things.
"Want to anger God? Get in the way of people who want to see him. Want to feel his fury? Exploit people in the name of God."
-- Jesus: "Instead of giving you God’s Law as food and drink by which you can banquet on God, they package it in bundles of rules... They seem to take pleasure in watching you stagger under these loads." (Matthew 23:4 - The Message)
2. FOR THEIR ATTITUDE OF SUPERIORITY.
-- Jesus: "Everything they do is for show. On their arms they wear extra wide prayer boxes... and extra long tassels on their robes. And how they love to sit at the head table at banquets and in the most prominent seats in the synagogue! They enjoy the attention they get on the streets and they enjoy being called ’Rabbi’." (Matthew 23:5-7 - New Living Translation)
-- "One can almost picture them with a spiritual "strut," moving conspicuously through the community. Many of their religious observances and routines were exaggerated to achieve the maximum public display... The farmer would put down his hoe... and the merchant would lay aside his cloth; and in full view of everyone they would pray.... If the group had a key to its philosophy, it could be stated, "HOW DO WE LOOK?" (William Coleman -- The Pharisees’ Guide To Total Holiness)
3. FOR DISTORTING THE TRUTH AND LEADING PEOPLE ASTRAY.
-- Jesus: "You Pharisees and teachers... are in for trouble! You lock people out of the kingdom of heaven. You won’t go in yourselves and you keep others from going in... You travel over land and sea to win one follower... you make that person twice as fit for hell as you are... You are supposed to lead others, but you are blind." (Matthew 23:13-16 - Contemporary English Version)
4. FOR THEIR HYPOCRISY.
-- Jesus: "Hypocrites! You are careful to tithe even the tiniest part of your income, but you ignore the important things of the law - justice, mercy, and faith... You are so careful to clean the outside of the cup and dish, but inside you are filthy - full of greed and self-indulgence!" (Matthew 23:23,25 - New Living Translation)