Stop…and with that one word, about three pop culture songs slide into my head in succession. But it is amazing how infrequently I use the word “stop” in my life – for my snacks, my social media scrolling, my desire to jump into fun activities. And sometimes in life, someone will be brave enough to call you out on an area that you are struggling with. Other people call out entire sections of society for their actions. Jesus did that with the Pharisees.
“Do what they say, not what they do,” was His instruction to the people. Now those are fighting words! But Jesus went further and pointed out several different areas of “woes” or places where the Pharisees needed to shape up or they would be crying over it later. This came right in the middle of their best attempts to make Jesus mess up. And Jesus finally had enough.
Whoa there, stop that, hold up. Woe to you, Pharisees (Matthew 23):
- You’re hypocrites – doing everything for show, and not really seeking God, then keeping others from seeking Him as well!
- You travel all over trying to find someone to convert (look at your feet here!) and then you teach him the wrong thing so he doesn’t actually seek God!
- You try to justify sounding great and not following through by slicing hairs and making elaborate excuses.
- You are so focused on the minutia of “getting the Law right” that you ignore the big commands that you are missing!
- You are so concerned about ceremonial cleanness, and yet your hearts are not clean!
- You look nice on the outside, but you’re dead inside like a whitewashed tomb. Hypocricy. Lawless, you teachers of the laws of God!
- You act like you would not have acted like your fathers, but you are following in their footsteps by rejecting God and His prophets and messengers! You’ll kill prophets (and the Christ) just like your parents did, and then more besides.
Jesus was not afraid to call them out. But it was not because He was just mad at their blindness and pride. You can see His heart in the next verses – it was breaking:
37 “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it! How often would I have gathered your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you were not willing! 38 See, your house is left to you desolate. 39 For I tell you, you will not see me again, until you say, ‘Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.’”
The temple was destroyed. The system of sacrifices broken. And Jesus has not yet returned to earth.
Stop before it is too late! All that you are pursuing will collapse if it is only built on tipsy reputations, monetary systems, and things of this world that will not last. It is convicting: whoa, stop, look at life. What would Jesus call you out on?
God, please help me learn to stop. Please help me learn to listen and see where I need to change. And the strength will not come from me. So please help me to change. Amen.