Justice required

Once again Jesus gave instruction to the crowds and his disciples.

“The teachers of the law and the Pharisees sit where Moses once sat,” he said, “so you need to do everything they tell you. But don’t do what they do, because they don’t practice what they preach. They place heavy burdens upon the people, but they won’t lift a finger to help them.

“And everything they do is to get themselves noticed. They make their phylacteries wider than is necessary and the tassels on their robes extra long. They love to sit in the places of honour at banquets and the best seats in the synagogues. They love to be greeted respectfully in the market-places, and to be called ‘teacher.’

“But you’re not to be called ‘teacher,’ for you have one Teacher, and you are all brothers. And don’t call anyone on earth ‘father,’ because you have one Father, and he is in heaven. Neither should you let anyone call you ‘master,’ for you have one Master, and he is the Messiah. No, the greatest among you is your servant and those who exalt themselves will be humbled. But those who humble themselves will be exalted.

“Great grief awaits you, teachers of the law and Pharisees. You’re hypocrites! You shut the door of the kingdom of heaven in people’s faces. You refuse to go in yourselves, and you hinder the people who want to go in.

“Great grief awaits you, teachers of the law and Pharisees. You’re hypocrites! You’ll cross land and sea to make one convert, and then you turn him into twice the child of hell that you yourselves are!

“You’re blind guides! What sorrow is waiting for you! You say that it means nothing to swear by God’s temple, but it’s binding to swear by the gold in the Temple. Blind fools! Which is more important? The gold, or the temple that makes the gold sacred? And you say that to swear by the altar means nothing, but to swear by the gifts on the altar is binding. How ridiculous! Which is more important? The gift on the altar, or the altar that makes the gift sacred? Look! When you swear by the altar, you’re swearing by it and everything that’s on it. And when you swear by the Temple, you’re swearing by it and by God whose presence is in it. And when you swear by heaven, you’re swearing by the throne of God and the One who sits upon it.

“Great grief awaits you, teachers of the law and Pharisees. You’re hypocrites! You tithe the spices from your herb gardens, yet ignore the more important aspects of the law, which are justice, mercy and faithfulness. Yes, practise faithfulness, but don’t ignore justice. Blind guides! You strain a gnat out of your water, but then you swallow a camel!

“Great grief awaits you, teachers of the law and Pharisees. You’re hypocrites! You clean the outside of your cup and dish, but inside it’s still full of greed and self-indulgence! You blind Pharisee! First clean the inside of your cup and dish, and then the outside will also be clean.

“Great grief awaits you, teachers of the law and Pharisees. You’re hypocrites! You’re like whitewashed tombs – beautiful on the outside, but filled with bones and corruption on the inside. Outwardly you look quite respectable, but inwardly you’re full of hypocrisy and crime.

“Great grief awaits you, teachers of the law and Pharisees. You’re hypocrites! You build tombs for the prophets that your ancestors killed, and you decorate the graves of the honourable. Then you say, ‘If we’d lived in the days of our ancestors, we would never have killed those prophets.’ And thus you testify that you’re descendants of the people who murdered the prophets. Well, go ahead and finish the crimes of your ancestors!

“You snakes! You brood of vipers! How can you escape the condemnation of hell? I’ll be sending you prophets, wise men and teachers. But you’ll kill them and crucify they. You’ll flog them in the synagogues and pursue them from town to town. And so will come upon you all the honest blood that’s been shed upon earth – from honest Abel to Zechariah son of Berekiah, who you murdered in the temple between the sanctuary and the altar. I tell you the truth, that’s the judgment that’s going to come upon this people!

“Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often have I longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks beneath her wings. But you weren’t willing. Look, your house is left empty and desolate. And I have to tell you this – you won’t see me again until you cry out, ‘Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!’”

Matthew

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