Jesus continued His denunciation of the religious leaders of His day, and foretold the coming of great sorrow upon them for their hypocrisy. Like a prosecutor in a great court of justice, He laid out the charges, one by one, before them.
In their misguided religious fervor, they would travel the world to make a convert, who, once made, would be, Jesus said, “twice the child of hell” that they were.
He called them out for saying that an oath sworn on the temple is not binding, but an oath sworn on the gold in the temple is binding. How could they not see, He asked, that an oath sworn on the temple is an oath sworn by God? And an oath sworn by Heaven is an oath sworn by the Throne of God, and by the God Who sits on that Throne.
He again pointed out that they scrupulously tithed every herb from the garden, but they ignored the more important issues of the law– justice, mercy, and faith.
“You are so careful,” He told them, “to clean the outside of the cup and the dish; but inside, you are filthy– full of greed and self-indulgence. You blind Pharisee! First wash the inside of the cup and the dish, and then the outside will become clean, too.” Matthew 23:25-26 NLT
He told them they were like glistening whitewashed tombs, beautiful in the sun, but full of dead men’s bones. Outwardly, they appeared to be righteous people, but inwardly, they were full of hypocrisy and lawlessness.
They built monuments to the prophets killed by their ancestors, claiming that they would never have done so had they lived in those days. Yet, He told them, He would send them prophets, wise men, and teachers of religious law; they would crucify some, they would publicly whip others, and drive them from city to city. And starting with His own crucifixion, in a very short time, this came to pass. Religious Jews were Paul’s greatest enemies as he spread the Gospel.
For three years, Jesus had preached and healed throughout Galilee and in Jerusalem. For three years, the very Son of God had been among men, demonstrating the life of the Kingdom of Heaven and the Character of God His Father. Yet these people, claiming to be followers of God’s Law, hated Him and persecuted Him and tried to destroy Him at every opportunity.
Religion itself is no guarantee of being right with God; in fact, religion can become the context in which the enemy of our souls does his greatest work. Jesus came to bring Eternal Life, not religion. He promises this Eternal Life, as a Gift, to those who believe on Him, Jesus Christ, the Only Begotten Son of God.