The Gospel of Matthew: a commentary & meditation 
  "Outwardly they appear beautiful, but within are full of uncleanness"

Scripture:  Matthew 23:27-36

27 "Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for you are like white washed tombs, which outwardly appear beautiful, but within they are full of dead men's bones and all uncleanness. 28 So you also outwardly appear righteous to men, but within you are full of hypocrisy and iniquity. 29 "Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for you build the tombs of the prophets and adorn the monuments of the righteous, 30 saying, `If we had lived in the days of our fathers, we would not have taken part with them in shedding the blood of the prophets.' 31 Thus you witness against yourselves, that you are sons of those who murdered the prophets. 32 Fill up, then, the measure of your fathers. 33 You serpents, you brood of vipers, how are you to escape being sentenced to hell? 34 Therefore I send you prophets and wise men and scribes, some of whom you will kill and crucify, and some you will scourge in your synagogues  and persecute from town to town, 35 that upon you may come all the righteous blood shed on earth, from the blood of innocent Abel to the blood of Zechari'ah the son of Barachi'ah, whom you murdered between the sanctuary and the altar. 36 Truly, I say to you, all this will come upon this generation.
Meditation: How can you measure goodness and judge what is right?  Isaiah prophesied that the Messiah would not judge by what his eyes see, or decide by what his ears hear; but with righteousness he shall judge the poor, and decide with equity for the meek of the earth (Isaiah 11:3-4).  Jesus used strong language to warn the religious leaders about the vanity of appearance and pretense.  Tombs were often placed by the sides of roads.  They were painted white which made them glisten in the midday sun, especially around the time of the great feasts, so that people would not accidently touch them and incur ritual impurity.  Jesus warns that what truly corrupts the soul is not ritual impurity but the impurity of sinful attitudes, such as pride, greed, sloth, envy, hatred,  lust, and gluttony.  The scribes and Pharisees were intensely religious in their outward observances, but their outward show didn't match the inner reality of the state of their hearts.  They not only neglected the poor and the weak, but they were intolerant towards anyone who challenged their idea of religion.  That is why so many of the prophets were persecuted in the past.

Jesus chastised the religious leaders for being double-minded and for demanding from others standards which they refused to satisfy.  They professed admiration for the prophets by building their tombs while at the same time they opposed their message and closed their ears to the word of God.  They shut themselves to heaven and they hindered others from understanding God's word.  They rejected the Messiah because their hearts were hardened to the voice of God. Only the humble of heart can receive wisdom and understanding from God.  The Holy Spirit is ever ready to renew our minds and hearts and to fill us with the peace, joy, and righteousness of God's kingdom. Do you treasure God's word and submit to it with fear and reverence?

"Lord, incline my heart to your wisdom and teach me your ways.  Fill me with your Spirit that I may love your ways and obey your word unreservedly."

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(c) 2002-2007 Don Schwager