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Denouncing Religious Opposers

Denouncing Religious Opposers

MATTHEW 22:41–23:24 MARK 12:35-40 LUKE 20:41-47



Religious opposers fail to discredit Jesus or to entrap him and turn him over to the Romans. (Luke 20:20) Now, while still at the temple on Nisan 11, Jesus turns the tables on them and shows his true identity. Taking the initiative, he asks them: “What do you think about the Christ? Whose son is he?” (Matthew 22:42) It is well-known that the Christ, or Messiah, is to be in David’s line. That is the answer that they give.​—Matthew 9:27; 12:23; John 7:42.

Jesus asks: “How is it, then, that David under inspiration calls him Lord, saying, ‘Jehovah said to my Lord: “Sit at my right hand until I put your enemies beneath your feet”’? If, then, David calls him Lord, how is he his son?”​—Matthew 22:43-45.

The Pharisees remain silent, for they are hoping for a human descendant of David who might liberate them from Roman domination. But drawing on David’s words recorded at Psalm 110:1, 2, Jesus establishes that the Messiah is to be more than a human ruler. He is David’s Lord, and after sitting at God’s right hand, he will exercise power. Jesus’ reply silences his opposers.

The disciples and many others have been listening. Now Jesus addresses them, warning about the scribes and the Pharisees. Those men have “seated themselves in the seat of Moses” to teach God’s Law. Jesus instructs his listeners: “All the things they tell you, do and observe, but do not do according to their deeds, for they say but they do not practice what they say.”​—Matthew 23:2, 3.

Jesus then gives examples of their hypocrisy, saying: “They broaden the scripture-containing cases that they wear as safeguards.” Some Jews wore on the forehead or on the arm these relatively small cases containing short passages from the Law. The Pharisees enlarge theirs to give the impression that they are zealous about the Law. Also, they “lengthen the fringes of their garments.” The Israelites were to make fringes on their garments, but the Pharisees make sure that their fringes are quite long. (Numbers 15:38-40) They do all of this “to be seen by men.”​—Matthew 23:5.

Even Jesus’ disciples could be affected by a desire for prominence, so he counsels them: “Do not you be called Rabbi, for one is your Teacher, and all of you are brothers. Moreover, do not call anyone your father on earth, for one is your Father, the heavenly One. Neither be called leaders, for your Leader is one, the Christ.” How, then, should the disciples view themselves and act? Jesus tells them: “The greatest one among you must be your minister. Whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted.”​—Matthew 23:8-12.

Next, Jesus pronounces a series of woes on the hypocritical scribes and Pharisees: “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! because you shut up the Kingdom of the heavens before men; for you yourselves do not go in, neither do you permit those on their way in to go in.”​—Matthew 23:13.

Jesus condemns the Pharisees’ lack of spiritual values, as shown by the arbitrary distinctions they make. For example, they say: “If anyone swears by the temple, it is nothing; but if anyone swears by the gold of the temple, he is under obligation.” They thus show their moral blindness, for they put more emphasis on the gold of the temple than on the spiritual value of Jehovah’s place of worship. And they “have disregarded the weightier matters of the Law, namely, justice and mercy and faithfulness.”​—Matthew 23:16, 23; Luke 11:42.

Jesus calls these Pharisees “blind guides, who strain out the gnat but gulp down the camel!” (Matthew 23:24) They strain a gnat from their wine because that insect is ceremonially unclean. Yet, the way they disregard weightier matters of the Law is like swallowing a camel, also a ceremonially unclean animal, only far larger.​—Leviticus 11:4, 21-24.