Summary: Jesus calls us to place value on the things in life that are truly important.

A Messiah's Rules For Living

Text: Matt. 22:13-36


1. Illustration: Rules of chocolate:

a. If you’ve got melted chocolate all over your hands, you’re eating it too slowly.

b. Chocolate covered raisins, cherries, orange slices and strawberries all count as fruit, so eat as many as you want.

c. The problem: How to get 2 pounds of chocolate home from the store in a hot car. The solution: Eat it in the parking lot.

d. A nice box of chocolates can provide your total daily intake of calories in one place. Isn’t that handy?

e. If you can’t eat all your chocolate, it will keep in the freezer. But if you can’t eat all of your chocolate, what’s wrong with you?

f. What do we call equal amounts of dark chocolate and white chocolate: a balanced diet.

g. Chocolate has many preservatives. Preservatives make you look younger.

h. Put "eat chocolate" at the top of your list of things to do today. That way, at least you’ll get one thing done.

2. In our text today, Jesus gives us 3 simple rules for living:

a. Be Door Openers

b. Major in the Major's

c. Respect God's Messenger

3. Stand as we read Matt. 23:13-36

Proposition: Jesus calls us to place value on the things in life that are truly important.

Transition: The first thing that Jesus tells us is to...

I. Be Door Openers (13-15).

A. You Shut the Door of the Kingdom

1. In our text today, Jesus continues his scathing critique against the Pharisees and teachers of the religious law. However, if we look deeper into what Jesus is saying we can see that he is really telling us how to live by pointing out the sins of these religious leaders.

2. First he says, “What sorrow awaits you teachers of religious law and you Pharisees. Hypocrites!"

a. The series of "what sorrow awaits," traditionally know as the "woes," begins here.

b. In a way they are a contrast to the Beatitudes that Jesus began his teaching with back in chap. 5.

c. It is not merely a warning but an intense cry of grief because of the judgment that awaits.

d. When Jesus utters this cry seven times, he is deploring the miserable condition in which the Pharisees can be found, but he is also pronouncing the fate they have brought on themselves.

e. They seem unaware of the judgment that awaits them, living in a fool’s paradise while thinking that they are the epitome of religious blessedness.

f. Their woeful condition lies especially in their hypocrisy and blindness, in which they disfigure the truth of God’s revelation through their self-deception and inconsistency.

g. What sorrow awaits you: A stark warning of judgment from God.

h. He refers to them emphatically as Hypocrites!

i. In English, hypocrisy describes a contradiction between reality and appearance.

j. But in biblical usage, hypocrisy is misperceiving God's will, leading people astray, and thus incurring God's judgment.

k. Coupled with this is often a desire for prestige and power, abuse of teaching authority, false teachings on doctrine or practice, and preoccupation with ethical trivialities.

l. An accurate English term for this combination of factors is heresy.

3. The reason for Jesus pronouncement of judgment on them is, "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."

a. The teachers of the law and the Pharisees would not enter the Kingdom, and even worse, they would take innocent people with them because of their false teaching and hypocritical living.

b. As teachers they should have opened the door to the Kingdom instead of closing it (Horton, 497).

c. Jesus condemns them for their hypocrisy, that is, attempting to bring the people into a righteous relationship with God while at the same time not being in a genuine relationship themselves (Wilkins, NIV Application Commentary New Testament: Matthew, 750-758).

d. By their false teaching and opposition to Jesus, the teachers of religious law and Pharisees prevented others from hearing and believing the truth about the Messiah.

4. In his second pronouncement of judgment on them Jesus says, “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!"

a. A convert (proselyte) made a full conversion to Judaism, performing such observances as baptism, sacrifice, and circumcision.

b. A convert was thus distinct from a "God-fearer," who adopted certain Jewish beliefs, most notably monotheism, without fully converting to Judaism.

c. It is likely that to make one convert means to persuade God-fearers to become full converts to Judaism by undergoing circumcision (NLT Study Bible).

d. The religious leaders would use anything at their disposal to win people to the Jewish faith.

e. They thought it would be worth the effort. Jesus uses very strong words here to condemn them.

f. The phrase "child of hell" is a Hebrew term that meant a excessively evil person. There attitudes came directly from hell and that is where they would end up.

g. Jesus adds that those they converted would be even worse. They would be more evil and bigoted than their mentors had been.

h. Instead of instructing them to be true children of God, the Pharisees would train them to be worse hypocrites than they were.

i. The Book of Acts shows this to be true as the Apostle Paul's biggest source of trouble came from the Hellenistic Jews who were these converts of the Pharisees (Horton, 497).

B. Let People In

1. Illustration: He made free use of Christian vocabulary. He talked about the blessing of the Almighty and the Christian confessions, which would become the pillars of the new government. He assumed the earnestness of a man weighed down by historic responsibility. He handed out pious stories to the press, especially to the church papers. He showed his tattered Bible and declared that he drew the strength for his great work from it as scores of pious people welcomed him as a man sent from God. Indeed, Adolf Hitler was a master of outward religiosity--with no inward reality!

2. Jesus is the gate to the Kingdom.

a. John 10:9-10 (NLT)

9 Yes, I am the gate. Those who come in through me will be saved. They will come and go freely and will find good pastures.

10 The thief’s purpose is to steal and kill and destroy. My purpose is to give them a rich and satisfying life.

b. Only those who follow after Jesus will enter.

c. It won't be through a person’s determination, but through Jesus' determination.

d. It won't be through human regulations, but through the regulations of Scripture.

3. Don't be an obstacle to people coming to Jesus.

a. Romans 14:13 (NIV)

Therefore let us stop passing judgment on one another. Instead, make up your mind not to put any stumbling block or obstacle in your brother's way.

b. We shouldn't put obstacles in people’s way because we don't like the way they dress.

c. We shouldn't put obstacles in people’s way because we don't like the way they look.

d. We shouldn't put obstacles in people’s way because we don't like where they came from or what they do.

e. We should lead them to Jesus and not away from him.

4. Don't put burdens on people that Jesus doesn't put on them.

a. Romans 16:17 (NLT)

And now I make one more appeal, my dear brothers and sisters. Watch out for people who cause divisions and upset people’s faith by teaching things contrary to what you have been taught. Stay away from them.

b. Jesus doesn't expect us to be perfect, and so we shouldn't expect others to be perfect.

c. Jesus receives us just the way we are and we should give others the same courtesy.

d. Jesus gives us grace, mercy, and forgiveness, so we must do likewise.

e. Don't be a roadblock to Jesus; be a door to Jesus!

Transition: Another thing that Jesus tells us is...

II. Major In the Major's (16-28).

A. The More Important Things

1. The next issue that Jesus deals with the Pharisees about was their tendency to make minor things major while making the major things minor.

2. He called them, “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?"

a. Jesus shows their spiritual blindness by showing their erroneous regulations when it came to vows.

b. They taught that if someone made a vow by swearing by the Temple they were not bound to keep it, but if they made a vow by the gold in the Temple they were bound to keep it.

c. This shows were their hearts were. This demonstrated that in their minds what humans give and do is more important that God himself.

d. They gave God no recognition for the blessings they had received, and they did not give God the central place in their worship or lives.

e. Furthermore, it shows that they were merely making a loophole for themselves so they didn't have to keep a promise they had made.

f. In addition to calling them blind guides, Jesus also calls them blind fools, which indicated not only a lack of intelligence but also a lack moral integrity.

g. It showed that they were willfully ignorant (Horton, 499).

3. Jesus also told them, "How blind! For which is more important—the gift on the altar or the altar that makes the gift sacred? When you swear ‘by the altar,’ you are swearing by it and by everything on it. And when you swear ‘by the Temple,’ you are swearing by it and by God, who lives in it. And when you swear ‘by heaven,’ you are swearing by the throne of God and by God, who sits on the throne."

a. Included in Jesus' criticism may be that they have the most important matters reversed, and they are giving more attention to minute details of the law rather than to its principles.

b. This reflects an inconsistent hypocrisy in the religious leaders teaching when they declare some oaths binding and others not, and also in their behavior, when they themselves are inconsistent when they take oaths (Wilkins).

c. Jesus was asking them what's more important the things dedicated to God or God himself?

d. They were majoring in the minors!

4. Another area they majored in the minors had to do with their tithing. Jesus said, “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!"

a. The teachers of religious law and Pharisees thought that meticulous tithing demonstrated their zeal for the law.

b. Without denying the validity of the tithe, Jesus revealed how they had utterly failed to attend to the more important aspects of the law (NLT Study Bible).

c. The point that Jesus is making is that tithing is important, but you cannot tithe on the tiniest thing and then ignore the other things that God requires of you.

d. What Jesus calls important has to do with loving God and loving others.

e. Justice refers to seeing that wrongs are made right.

f. Mercy refers to showing kindness or concern for someone in serious need (Louw and Nidda, Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament: Based on Symantic Domains).

g. Jesus does not tell the Pharisees and teachers of the law to neglect the tithe, but their scrupulous attention to ceremonial detail consumes so much of their time and attention that they have no time to plan how they will daily exercise the more important matters, such as bringing justice to those who are wronged, mercy to those who do wrong, and faithfulness to those who have departed from the faith (Wilkins).

h. gnat... camel: These words form a pun in Aramaic (qalma... gamla), the language Jesus probably spoke (NLT Study Bible).

i. Both were forbidden for them to eat!

j. Leviticus 11:4 (NLT)

You may not, however, eat the following animals that have split hooves or that chew the cud, but not both. The camel chews the cud but does not have split hooves, so it is ceremonially unclean for you.

k. Leviticus 11:23 (NLT)

All other winged insects that walk along the ground are detestable to you.

l. This again just illustrates that they would major on the minors and minor on the majors.

m. They focused so much on the little things that they were missing the big ones.

5. Then Jesus really gets to the heart of the matter when he says, “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."

a. The next two woes deal with the hypocritical behavior of looking good on the outside but not on the inside.

b. He talks about cleaning the outside of a cup and dish but ignoring what is on the inside.

c. What's on the outside is not nearly as important as what is on the inside.

d. What is on the outside may not be the most pleasant thing to look at, but it probably won't make you as sick as eating off a dish that is dirty on the inside where you food actually touches.

e. A person can wear all the right clothes and do and say all the right things on the outside when everyone is looking, but inside they can be sinful, selfish, and spiritually bankrupt.

f. The Pharisees focused on what made you look clean, but ignored what is what really makes us clean.

g. The heart is the source of all thoughts, motives, and actions.

h. The greed and self-indulgence of the Pharisees and teachers of the law, especially their lust for public religious acclaim, are inner motivations that impact external behavior. In order to bring about true purity, their hearts need purifying (Wilkins).

6. Jesus further illustrates this when he says, “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."

a. It was a Jewish custom to coat limestone tombs with a mixture of marble and lime to fill their porous surfaces, giving them a more pleasing appearance and helping visitors to Jerusalem to notice the graves and avoid touching them so as not to contaminate themselves.

b. Jesus is not criticizing the adorning of tombs; rather, he points to the similarity between these whitewashed tombs and the teachers of religious law and Pharisees.

c. Both may have looked good on the outside, but both were contaminated and impure within (NLT Study Bible).

d. The Pharisees were like these tombs.

e. The tombs may have been clean on the outside, but on the inside they were full of bones and rotting, smelly flesh.

f. On the outside they were all clean and gave the appearance of righteousness, but on the inside they were they were full of sin, hatred, and self-righteousness.

g. God, however, is more concerned with what is on the inside than the outside. Jesus saw through their hypocrisy and saw what they were really like on the inside

B. What's Really Important?

1. Illustration: The first church that I Pastored was beginning to grow. There was one young couple that was reaching out to some of the teenagers who lived in the neighborhood, and before long half of the church was filled with teenagers. It was a very exciting thing to see. When I mentioned it to an older man in the congregation all he could say ways, "Yeah, but they don't pay any tithes!" He missed the tremendous blessing of young people coming to Christ because he was majoring in the minors and minoring in the majors.

2. What matters is a transformed life.

a. Galatians 6:15 (NLT)

It doesn’t matter whether we have been circumcised or not. What counts is whether we have been transformed into a new creation.

b. It doesn't matter what people look like on the outside; only what they look like on the inside.

c. It doesn't matter what our expectations are for people; only what God's expectations are for them.

d. As long as God is at work in a persons life the rest will come in time.

3. What is important to God is the heart.

a. 1 Samuel 16:7 (NLT)

But the LORD said to Samuel, “Don’t judge by his appearance or height, for I have rejected him. The LORD doesn’t see things the way you see them. People judge by outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart.”

b. Only God can see what a person is like on the inside.

c. Only God can see what's in the human heart.

d. We need to leave the details up to God!

4. We need to accept others the way God accepts us.

a. Romans 15:7 (NLT)

Therefore, accept each other just as Christ has accepted you so that God will be given glory.

b. God didn't accept us after we got cleaned up.

c. God didn't accept us after we got it all together.

d. He accepted us just as we were, and so we need to accept one another the very same way.

Transition: The third things we need to do is...

III. Respect God's Messengers (29-36).

A. You Build Tombs For the Prophets

1. The final woe that Jesus deals with has to do with the Pharisees attitude toward the messengers of God.

2. He tells them, “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.’"

a. It was not unusual for memorials to be erected in Palestine.

b. Often these were erected to obtain forgiveness for murdering a prophet.

c. But Jesus criticizes them for honoring the prophets in their graves, while like their fathers had; they actually rejected the message of the prophets (Horton, 507).

d. By building and decorating the tombs for the prophets, the teachers of religious law and Pharisees showed outward solidarity with the prophets, while inwardly they were of the same sinful character as their ancestors who had murdered the prophets (NLT Study Bible).

e. They claimed to disapprove of what their ancestors had done to the prophets, but their actions told a different story.

f. Jesus had already criticized them for the way they rejected John the Baptist, and he is indicating that they were about to do the same thing to him.

3. Jesus goes on to say, “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?"

a. They build beautiful monuments to the prophets, but Jesus declares that they are motivationally descendants of those who killed them.

b. They deny that they would have killed the ancient prophets, but as they secretly prepare to have Jesus executed, they demonstrate their wicked, spiritually corrupt lineage to the ancient murderers.

c. This prepares for Jesus' final denunciation, in which the teachers of the law and the Pharisees are found guilty of putting to death the messengers of God.

d. Their hypocrisy lies in the inconsistency between honoring the dead prophets and murdering the contemporary ones, like Jesus, who will face their murderous wrath in just a few short days (Wilkins).

e. Being called vipers, or a kind of venomous snake, was bad enough.

f. But the offspring of a viper was reputed to eat its way out of its pregnant mother’s belly, so calling someone the offspring of vipers could imply that one was guilty of the universally horrifying crime of matricide.

g. In other words, this was worse than just calling someone a viper! (IVP Bible Background Commentary – New Testament).

4. Jesus concludes with, "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 Barachiah, 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."

a. The span from Abel to Zechariah follows the order of the Hebrew OT, in which 2 Chr is the last book.

b. The implication is that this generation will be guilty of every murder of the righteous in the OT (NLT Study Bible).

c. Bloodguilt was a serious matter, affecting the whole community and not just the individuals directly responsible. God himself would avenge it.

d. This generation of Israel's history has been privileged to witness the culmination of salvation history.

e. They have had the opportunity of accepting the gospel of the kingdom and seeing God establish his righteousness in Israel.

f. But instead, like those other wicked people in Israel's history who spilled innocent blood, the religious people of this generation will continue to spill martyr's blood - Jesus and his messengers.

g. And the crowds will follow their lead in asking for Jesus' death (27:20), with the result that the people of Israel of that generation declare, "Let his blood be on us and on our children!"

B. Respecting Those in Authority

1. Illustration: Clark Clifford shares this reminiscence of his former boss, Harry S. Truman: Every morning at 8:30 the President would have a staff meeting. One day the mail clerk brought in a lavender envelope with a regal wax seal and flowing purple ribbons. Opening it, the President found a letter from King Ibn Saud of Saudi Arabia, whose salutation began, "Your Magnificence." "Your Magnificence," Truman repeated, laughing. "I like that. I don't know what you guys call me when I'm not here, but it's okay if you refer to me from now on as 'His Magnificence.'"

Truman subsequently sent a message to the United Nations supporting the admission of 100,000 Jews into Palestine. Soon afterward he received a second letter from King Ibn Saud. This one began: "Dear Mr. President."

2. Those in spiritual authority are God's messengers and must be respected.

a. 2 Samuel 1:14 (NIV)

David asked him, "Why were you not afraid to lift your hand to destroy the LORD's anointed?"

b. Our spiritual leaders are put there by God, and to speak against them is to speak against God.

c. There are to be respected and loved.

3. We are to be a blessing to those in spiritual authority.

a. Hebrews 13:17 (NLT)

Obey your spiritual leaders, and do what they say. Their work is to watch over your souls, and they are accountable to God. Give them reason to do this with joy and not with sorrow. That would certainly not be for your benefit.

b. Make their life a blessing and not drudgery.

c. Make their work a joy and not a burden.

d. Pray for them regularly.

e. Encourage them often.

f. Stand up for them when others criticize them.

g. Be a blessing!


1. Jesus gives us 3 simple rules for living:

a. Be Door Openers

b. Major in the Major's

c. Respect God's Messenger

2. Are you a door or a roadblock?

3. Are you focusing on those things that are important?

4. Are you being a blessing to your spiritual leaders?