Snakes! Sons of vipers! Hypocrites!
You cross land and see to make one convert, and then turn them into twice the son of hell as yourself.

Jesus loves everyone and was quick to forgive any sinner who approached him in faith. However, when it came to the religious leaders of his time, he pulled no punches. The Pharisees and Sadducees were the teachers, the political leaders, and should have been the spiritual role models for the nation of Israel. Instead, they had become corrupt, ignoring the most important commandment to love God and show mercy to His people. Jesus came to spread the Good News that God loves His people, and specifically to announce the arrival of the Kingdom of Heaven to the nation of Israel. Instead of welcoming their King, the religious leaders persecuted Jesus, leading to his crucifixion for calling God his Father, among other “horrible” things like healing folks on the Sabbath. Israel rejected the Kingdom and their King, postponing its arrival until Jesus returns again. It was the religious leaders who were most instrumental in Jesus’ rejection, and the unfortunate delay in the restoration of Israel’s divine position among the nations.

Jesus In The Temple

O Jerusalem! And now your house is left to you, desolate. You will not see me again until you are ready to welcome the one sent to you by God.

In Matthew 23, Jesus gave a passionate speech condemning the religious leaders of his day. The charges were numerous, each one more devastating than the last.

They did not practice what they preached.
They sought the praise of men, not God.
They acted pious for show.
They craved attention, and the special seats at banquets.
They exalted themselves and did not serve others.
They were blind guides.
They eagerly won converts to their religion, but not to God.
They ignored the more important aspects of the law – justice, mercy and faith.
They worried about outward appearances and ignored the evil in their own hearts – hypocrisy, greed and lawlessness.
They persecuted and murdered prophets and teachers.

Jesus called them snakes, and a brood of vipers. Interestingly, John the Baptist had used similar language about these same religious leaders. (Matthew 3:7, Luke 3:7) Snakes are often symbolic of sin or Satan. By this statement, Jesus was declaring the religious leaders as children of the devil. That was an outrageous claim against the Jewish leadership. It was a ‘hard saying’ of Jesus, but the truth. Without accepting Jesus as your Savior, being Born Again, everyone is a child of the devil. However, when you make Jesus the Lord of your life, and are spiritually reborn, you become of child of God in this current Age of Grace. You are transformed from the inside from death to Life, a new creation in Christ Jesus. (John 1:1-14, Romans 8:1-16, 2 Corinthians 5:16-21, Ephesians 2:1-22)

The religious leaders of Jesus’ day added hundreds of rules and traditions to the Law. In another place Jesus said they, “reject the commandment of God, that ye may keep your own tradition.”  Instead of seeking God and studying His Word, they sought wealth, influence, and power. Selfishness dominated their thinking which is the exact opposite of love. They turned the Temple into a shopping center, further discouraging true worship of God. Everything in the Word, if prayerfully studied, points to and reveals Jesus. Yet only a handful of those who should have known God’s Word intimately followed Jesus, albeit secretly at first. (Matthew 21:12-13, Mark 7:5-13, 11:15-17, Luke 19:45-48, John 19:38-39)

The religious leaders saw the good works, and the fulfillment of prophecy. They heard God’s Word flowing from the mouth of Jesus and recognized the Divine Wisdom. They witnessed Jesus healing people of all diseases, even raising the dead. Instead of the joy of having God in their midst, they sought to destroy him. They preferred their status, and feared that Jesus’ ministry might jeopardize the uneasy peace with Rome that secured their position. The majority plotted almost from the very beginning to kill Jesus. They were pawns in Satan’s many schemes to stop the Son of God. The devil walked right into the trap that would secure his eternal destruction. Had the old serpent known what would be accomplished at Calvary and the resurrection that followed, he would not have crucified Jesus. (Mark 3:1-6, 11:17-18, John 11:43-57, 1 Corinthians 2:5-16)

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God. All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made. In him was life; and the life was the light of men.

And the light shineth in darkness; and the darkness comprehended it not. There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. The same came for a witness, to bear witness of the Light, that all men through him might believe. He was not that Light, but was sent to bear witness of that Light. That was the true Light, which lighteth every man that cometh into the world. He was in the world, and the world was made by him, and the world knew him not.

He came unto his own, and his own received him not. But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name: Which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God. And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth.

(John 1:1-14 <KJV>)

Christians, especially pastors and teachers, have a wonderful responsibility. And Matthew 23 should be required reading for anyone God has called to be a Christian leader. It is very important that your desire is for the glory of God. Love should be the primary motivation for everything you do. Remember to cling to the Head of the Body of Christ, Jesus, and not to a church, denomination, or people. He is the boss, and ONLY Head of the Church. Preach the Word, and flee from religion. It was all the man-made religious hooey – traditions, ceremonies, and rituals, that tripped up the religious leaders of Jesus’ day. And for almost 2,000 years, it has undermined the power and effectiveness of Christianity. Faith is what impresses your Heavenly Father. God is a Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in Spirit and Truth. God is Love. Those that follow Him reach the lost by demonstrating His Love to the world. Religion sucks the very life out of Christianity. It puts roadblocks between people and their Heavenly Father. Christianity should be about relationship with your Creator through Jesus Christ, a life of faith, freedom, love, joy, and peace. (John 4:23-26, 8:31-32, Romans 8:1-17, Galatians 4:1-11, 5:13-26, Ephesians 1:1-23, Colossians 1:8-23, 2:1-23, Hebrews 11:5-6, 1 John 4:7-21)

O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, thou that killest the prophets, and stonest them which are sent unto thee, how often would I have gathered thy children together, even as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, and ye would not!
(Matthew 23:37 <KJV>)

At the end of Matthew 23, Jesus reveals his love for his people, and Jerusalem. He knew what was ahead for Israel – the wars, the pogroms, and the suffering. He also knew that one day in the not to distant future, all shall be restored. In the final line Jesus says, For I declare to you, you will not see Me again until you say, Blessed is He Who comes in the name of the Lord! Like all God’s promises, you can take that one to the bank. (Matthew 23:39, Romans 11:1-31)

 

Some Other Suggestions:
The Shining One – The Old Serpent – My blog post on Satan, the serpent in the Garden of Eden.

For additional Jesus Heals The Woman Bowed By Satan resources – Note Jesus’ answer to the religious leader’s objection.

 

May God Richly Bless You!
Thanks for visiting!

 

Image Source:  Free Christian Clip Art

 

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