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Summary: A narrative monolouge reply from a Rabbi who was present at the Temple to hear the words of Jesus spoken in Matthew 23. To highlight why Jesus had an issue with the Teachers of the Law and Pharisees, that he was concerned for their legalism.

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Matthew 23, 22/08/2010

Jesus was to address the Pharisees and the Teachers of the Law at the Temple. This occurred during the week preceding the crucifixion of Jesus. Jesus mentions seven woes,

The Pharisees were a legalistic and separatistic group who strictly, but often hypocritically, kept the Law of Moses and the unwritten “tradition of the elders.” (NIV Bible study notes, Matthew 3:7).

The Teachers of the Law were Jewish Scholars of the day, professionally trained in the development, teaching, and application of OT law. Their authority was strictly and traditional. (NIV Bible study notes Matthew 2:4).

Matthew DVD; Matthew 23

Sermon: Johanan the Rabbi

The words he spoke, those words, I listened for a while; those words had caught my attention for I am Pharisee, and a Rabbi my name is Rabbi Johanan, you can call me Teacher or Rabbi, I like both.

It was easy to hear those words he spoke for a start, then they struck me and fell to the ground, I didn’t want to hear them, but then like the teeth of a dog then they started to bite, to bite deep into my flesh, into my heart.

What was this Jesus was saying, this young Rabbi with his rabble of students, and misfit women followers?

He was not completely wrong; we do sit in Moses place! We revere the law God gave us through Moses, we respect the law, but was he right, had we made the law a burden, had we taken the law and made it a weight to carry? He sees it as the way to freedom, the way to a relationship with God and a way to bring freedom to all? This Jesus did, why was this Jesus so concerned about people’s freedom?

The Lord God, we know he wants our obedience and we are proud of the way we obey, but this Jesus, he has also said that in his opinion he believes that God wants all men to be free from burdens, to act out of love for God, rather than duty to God. It’s like he believes that God is more interested in the attitude of the person than their position or authority!

Of course what we do we do for men to see! We want to be noticed, what is wrong with wide phylacteries? These leather boxes are important, strapped to our wrists and foreheads, the wider to container the more obvious the law is, we love the law. The tassels of our garments should they not stand out for these remind us of the commandments, they are part of our religion. I heard a strange thing about this Jesus and his garment, a thing that shocked me; an account about a woman who approached him, unknown to him she touched his garment and was healed of years of bleeding and the shame that went with it. How is it that his plain garments possess such power, the power to heal?

What was it he meant by his statement, “Whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted?” Who is he that he can say such things, whose authority is it he speaks with?

His words; seven times he cried out to us “woe to you” calling us hypocrites and blind guides!

It was like he pitied us for what we were; these words of “woe” carried a tone of pitying sorrow in his voice! There he was calling us counterfeits for this is what a hypocrite is. He called ‘us’ religious counterfeits and blind guides, how dare he?

I have my sight, I see things and I see things as I want to see them, but there is something about this man that is frightening, something so real, something that is hard to find in men, like he sees beyond himself, beyond this world. A little like the prophets of old, real and visionary. Awake to something beyond himself, beyond normal understanding.

He challenged us, about shutting the Kingdom of Heaven in men’s faces, was this because we have rejected his teaching and tell others to do the same?

Why does he think his teaching is more important than ours? He’s about freedom, about relationship, a person’s attitude and character about challenge and change of heart; I’ve heard him talk about doing as the Father wants. He has made some bold claims.

His parables are about the Kingdom of God, about living in relationship with God, not just obeying, but loving God, God the Father.

For him to say we make our disciples twice as much as sons of hell as we are, what can he mean? We seek to bring people to an understanding of what it is to be one of us, to know how we act – what it is to be a Pharisee, to belong to OUR sect! Is it not a good thing to be constrained by our beliefs, by the narrowness of our sect, to be one of us is to be separate; but this Jesus spouts forth “So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed!” (John 8:36) He allows all to come to him, the leaper, and the adulteress, rich and poor alike, he is even open to the Samaritan and the Gentile. What kind of a Jew is he? He appears unconstrained by rules; more interested in the attitude of a person’s heart than their position in life.

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