We often think of Jesus as the powerful preacher, loving healer, and sacrificial lamb. Matthew 23 shows us a different side of the Savior. This chapter sounds a lot like a rant, and when the Savior of the world rants, we should listen. Hypocrisy is the subject of Christ’s message to the crowd and the disciples. He calls out the Pharisees as religious hypocrites: they appear religious outside but have not been changed on the inside. He wants the people to know that he wants their hearts not just their sacrifices and offerings. While we no longer offer burnt offerings or follow all of the traditional rules and rituals of the church before Christ’s death; we are still at risk for becoming like the hypocritical Pharisees. As a hypocritical Christian, we say that God is in control, has plans for each of us, and will work for the good of those who love him, yet we struggle to allow God to have complete control over our lives. On the outside, we say and do all of the Christian things, yet we make our own plans without asking for the Lord’s guidance, we expect things to work out because we are doing what’s right, and we try to solve our own problems, not bothering the Lord with such trivial things. News flash — the creator of the universe WANTS to be bothered. Although he hates hypocrisy, he loves his people and wants to be involved in each of our lives. He loves his people so much that he was willing to die on a cross for all sinners who accept the gift of salvation, even the hypocrites.
Jesus’s rant about hypocrisy is motivated by love. His actions reflect the desires of his heart to lead people to God, to help them turn from their hypocrisy, to their Heavenly Father. In verse 37, he follows his criticism with love. He explains how he desperately wants to gather the people of Jerusalem and give them love and protection, but they have been unwilling. I can imagine Jesus saying to you and me, as he does to Jerusalem in verse 37, “Oh (your name), you who try desperately to control your life and solve your own problems, I your Heavenly Father long to gather you in my arms, but you are not willing. You try to be strong, but I want to be your strength.”
Lord help me to stop being a hypocrite, help me to turn to you no matter how big or small a problem seems. I want the plans I make and the desires I have to come from a heart filled with you. Help me to fall into your loving arms so that you can lift me up, hold me up, and make me strong in you.