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The anatomy of hypocrisy

Rev. Enoch Thompson| August 1, 2023 | Matthew 23:13a


"Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! Matthew 23:13a (NIV)


Matthew chapter 23 is the most detailed presentation of the Lord's primary problem with the Jewish religious leaders of His time, the Scribes and the Pharisees, and the reality of the fact that they were hypocrites. The events in chapter 22, especially 22:34-46, the Lord’s encounters with attempts of the Jewish religious leaders to catch Him in His own words, and His successful silencing of them, set the scene for chapter 23.

In this chapter we are going to join the Lord to do the analysis of hypocrisy, to determine the description of the form and component parts of hypocrisy, a factor that made the religious leaders so unacceptable to Him and which made them so opposed to Him. The word “hypocrite” originally was used to refer to stage-actors, people in the theatres who played the roles of those they were not or would never become. Used that way, it was an innocent word. Over time it came to be used to refer to people who made a lifestyle of pretence. The Lord Jesus found the Scribes and Pharisees of His time astute pretenders, hypocrites!

Chapter 23:1-30 is going to spell out eight counts on which the guilt of hypocrisy is affirmed for the Jewish religious leaders. Verses 37-39 will show us the doom that comes to those who made a life of religious hypocrisy. It is a scathing time in the surgery ward where we will be helped by the Lord, the Great Surgeon, to see the diseased insides of a life of hypocrisy. We are going to be faced with our own portraits or maybe warned of what we are likely to become if we fail to follow Christ sincerely. Through this surgical operation, we will learn to be different from those Jewish leaders, so we will find the Lord’s favour where they courted His displeasure and anger.

From this point on, things begin to move faster towards the cross. The scribes and the Pharisees had to get Jesus killed because He spoke truth to power. They could not withstand the audacity of a young man who pointed at them and told them what they truly were.


The descendants of the Scribes and Pharisees are still with us or may sometimes be us. The devotionals in this chapter are an invitation to look within each of our souls, in the presence of the Lord, and to seek healing for ourselves. It is an invitation to let God's Spirit lead us to look at the Church to see how we fare as individual persons, as leaders and as a body. Are you a pretender? Let the searchlight of God help you discern.


Lord, I tremble as I stand in your holy and searching presence. I tremble as I hear the woes directed at the hypocritical Scribes and Pharisees, and I pray that I will not come under the same judgment. I yield my heart to you; search me oh God and help me clean my heart that I may not come under your judgment. For your dear Name’s sake, Amen.



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