In all likelihood, Jesus left the home of his friends on Tuesday morning and set off for Jerusalem. Once in the city, it wouldn’t take long for the religious leaders to challenge Jesus in a very public way. Their attempts to entrap and outwit Jesus failed miserably until finally no one dared to question him any more (Matthew 22:46) However, just when the Scribes and Pharisees thought things would quiet down, Jesus went on the offensive.
The same hypocrisy and legalism that caused righteous anger to well up in Jesus the day before at the temple surfaced again and Jesus’ most scathing rebuke of the religious leaders followed as the Lord exposed their hypocrisy and lies. (Matthew 23)
Jesus very likely spoke from an area at the Temple called “the teaching steps.” (pictured) This was a place where the people would gather to talk, and to hear the teaching of various rabbis.
In Matthew 23, Jesus calls the religious leaders out on their hypocritical ways. He compared them to a dish or a cup that was clean on the outside, but nasty on the inside. He wanted then to know that he wasn’t fooled by their show of righteousness, but He knew what was in their hearts. He also called them “whitewashed tombs,” that were clean and shiny on the outside but were really only full of death. Interestingly, from these teaching steps, one can look out across the valley and see the Mount of Olives. In between, both in the valley and on the side of the mountain, were literally thousands of white shining tombs.
It still looks this way. (pictured) They look nice on the outside, but they are full of dry, rotting bones. As Jesus spoke, they saw it with their own eyes and it must have infuriated them.
Can you imagine being compared to a tomb full of death, but trying your best to look good on the outside? Surely this kind of hypocrisy does not exist in us. Right?
Unfortunately, far too often our hearts are far from God, but we are busy trying to look good anyway. We are full of hate or lust, but we really want everyone to think we are righteous. We might be jealous and vengeful, but we cover it over so that no one will think badly of us. Jesus would remind us today that He knows our hearts and that we can’t hide anything from Him.
He would also remind us that in our hypocrisy He loves us, and if would just be willing He would cover us over in His love.
How do we know this?
Right after calling out the religious leaders,
the very next verse reads:
“O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the one that kills the prophets and stones those who were sent to her! How often I wanted to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing!”
God is using the quarantine and stay at home orders to bring us face to face with our hypocrisy is He not? I’ve said things and exhibited attitudes the last few weeks of which I am not proud. Am I the only one?
God is revealing those areas of selfishness, fear, anger, and bitterness one by one isn’t He? When the things we rely upon are gone, the real US comes out! I really don’t want to be a whitewashed tomb.
I want to have an honest and real relationship with the one that made me. I’d surely rather be under His wings. Take courage church, God is revealing our hypocrisy and offering us His love!
All photos from Holy Land taken Sep. 2019