Summary: We are impressed with zeal. Certainly the Jews of Jesus day had tremendous zeal; passion for what they believed. But zeal and passion can easily be focused on the wrong thing.
Passage: Matthew 23:1-39
Intro: We are impressed by zeal, passion
1. see our Mormon friends riding their bike es
2. on way to seminary, remember seeing a Moonie selling candy bars in the freezing rain.
3. we even have a grudging admiration for zeal that causes a radical Muslim to kill himself with killing others.
4. this may be a surprise to us, but God is
not impressed with zeal.
5. we don’t get points for being passionate.
6. our zeal, our passion, can be terribly misplaced.
PP football fan for a losing team
7. the Jewish religious leaders of Jesus’ day had tons of zeal, with one foot in God’s
truth and the other in some serious
8. and here, after yet another rejection of clear revelation, Jesus stands as Prophet
and Judge to evaluate their intense zeal.
9. we will look at several examples of their misplaced zeal, but make no mistake.
10. we can be guilty of misplaced zeal as
well, so these stand as warnings to us.
I. Zealous for Self-Promotion
1. it seems that the leaders had left, v1
2. so the judgment was heard by the people
3. first 12 verses more teaching, but very instructive.
4. v2-3, when they teach the Bible as
instructed in the Bible, you should listen
4. but when they call you to follow their example, turn and run! Why?
5. their ministry is not to help others, to
teach others, but to promote themselves.
6. v5 is critical: It is all about them, their power, their celebrity, their importance.
7. everything they did was for the purpose of being admired by others.
8. even the clothes they wore, their accessories, spoke of their piety.
9. it consumed them, this relentless pursuit of of exaltation. So much they forgot their jobs
Il) have noticed over time in church work that the people/sheep are less and less important, especially children. Too busy with leaders
10. the principle of God is to take the role of a servant (v11) and let God exalt. V12
13. these guys were so zealous they even crossed the ocean to get converts
14. but they were converted to the same misplaced zeal of self-worship.
15. one of the worst consequences of self-worship is that we start to believe our own stuff; that because I said it or discovered it, it is equal to God. And that leads us to be…
II. Zealous for Keeping Their Rules
1. vv16-24, the Jews had developed quite a system, full of some very cool loopholes
2. so their interpretation had become authoritative, at least equal to the Bible itself.
3. and that interpretation gave them liberty when they needed to apply it to themselves, and strict when they needed to apply it to others.
4. here was one of their favorites.
PP Mark 7:10-12
5. is it any surprise that in another place Jesus quotes…
PP Isaiah 29:13
6. in Jesus’ day, the Jews had splintered into 4 groups.
7. from NIV study Bible; Pharisees, Sadducees, Zealots, Essenes,
8. each with their own rules, that they were very zealous for.
Il) Islam today, two major sects, Sunni and Shiite, with leaders, holidays, etc
Many bombings, killing the other sect
9. here is Jesus’ evaluation of their system: v24
10. they filtered their drinking water with a cloth so they would not mistakenly eat a non-kosher gnat
11. but because of what Jesus says here in v23 about the more important part of the law that they ignored, it was like they were purposely eating a huge non-kosher camel!
12. their zeal was misdirected, and even blinded them to the deep principles of God
13. it happens to us to, because we focus on our way of doing things, our traditions, our systems, our policies and procedures.
14. these are fine until they replace God’s Word, become more important.
Il) “we have always done it that way, even if it’s wrong”
III. Zealous for Their Image
1. the religious expression of these guys was completely outward.
2. it was all about image.
3. they were zealous, fastidious about cleanliness, keeping the right appearance.
4. their own appearance was the focus of their zeal, but it was only outward.
5. Jesus uses a very troubling image for their zeal; that they themselves were outwardly clean but inwardly full of “dead men’s bones”
6. but that interior was hidden by a pristine exterior, like a whitewashed grave, which was painted so no one would miss it and walk on it by mistake, thus becoming unclean.
7. they even behaved penitently about prophets their fathers had killed, but it was all a show
8. everything about them showed they were the spiritual children of their fathers, and that would soon be demonstrated by the death of their Christ at their own hands.