Seven woes and the widow’s offering are the texts in our study today. The majority of our reading comes from Matthew which makes sense as we recall that he was presenting the compelling case of the Gospel primarily to Jewish readers.  The lessons in this brief reading concerning integrity, and devotion are essential to the life of every disciple so that we ourselves should not fall prey to nor become false spiritual leaders.


Mini-series 15 min Podcast:

60 min Podcast: coming soon


Section 137a | Seven Woes against Teachers of the Law and Pharisees

Jerusalem, in the temple

Matthew 23:1-36
Then Jesus spoke to the multitudes and to his disciples,1 saying,

“The scribes and the Pharisees sat on Moses’ seat.2  All things therefore whatever they tell you to observe, observe and do, but don’t do their works; for they say, and don’t do. 4 For they bind heavy burdens that are grievous to be borne, and lay them on men’s shoulders; but they themselves will not lift a finger to help them. 5 But they do all their works to be seen by men. They make their phylacteries broad, enlarge the fringes of their garments, and love the place of honor at feasts, the best seats in the synagogues, 7 the salutations in the marketplaces, and to be called ‘Rabbi, Rabbi’ by men. 8 But don’t you be called ‘Rabbi,’ for one is your teacher, the Christ, and all of you are brothers. 9 Call no man on the earth your father, for one is your Father, he who is in heaven. 10 Neither be called masters, for one is your master, the Christ. 11 But he who is greatest among you will be your servant. 12 Whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted. 13 “Woe to you,3 scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites!4 For you devour widows’ houses,5 and as a pretense you make long prayers.6  Therefore you will receive greater condemnation.7

Mark 12:38-40
38 In his teaching he said to them,“Beware of the scribes,

 

 

 

 

 

 

who like to walk in long robes, and to get greetings in the marketplaces, 39 and the best seats in the synagogues, and the best places at feasts:

 

 

 

 

 

40 those who devour widows’ houses, and for a pretense make long prayers. These will receive greater condemnation.”

Luke 20:45-47
45 In the hearing of all the people, he said to his disciples, 46 “Beware of those scribes

 

 

 

 

 

who like to walk in long robes, and love greetings in the marketplaces, the best seats in the synagogues, and the best places at feasts;

 

 

 

 

 

 

47 who devour widows’ houses, and for a pretense make long prayers: these will receive greater condemnation.”

Matthew 23:14 “But woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! Because you shut up the Kingdom of Heaven against men; for you don’t enter in yourselves, neither do you allow those who are entering in to enter.8 15 Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you travel around by sea and land to make one proselyte; and when he becomes one, you make him twice as much a son of Gehennaas yourselves.9  16 “Woe to you, you blind guides, who say, ‘Whoever swears by the temple, it is nothing; but whoever swears by the gold of the temple, he is obligated.’ 17 You blind fools! For which is greater, the gold, or the temple that sanctifies the gold? 18 ‘Whoever swears by the altar, it is nothing; but whoever swears by the gift that is on it, he is obligated?’ 19 You blind fools! For which is greater, the gift, or the altar that sanctifies the gift?10  20 He therefore who swears by the altar, swears by it, and by everything on it. 21 He who swears by the temple, swears by it, and by him who has been living in it. 22 He who swears by heaven, swears by the throne of God, and by him who sits on it. 23 “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you tithe mint, dill, and cumin, and have left undone the weightier matters of the law: justice, mercy, and faith.11  But you ought to have done these, and not to have left the other undone. 24 You blind guides, who strain out a gnat, and swallow a camel! 12 25 “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you clean the outside of the cup and of the platter, but within they are full of extortion and unrighteousness. 26 You blind Pharisee, first clean the inside of the cup and of the platter, that its outside may become clean also.13  27 “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitened tombs, which outwardly appear beautiful, but inwardly are full of dead men’s bones, and of all uncleanness.14 28 Even so you also outwardly appear righteous to men, but inwardly you are full of hypocrisy and iniquity.15   29 “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you build the tombs of the prophets, and decorate the tombs of the righteous, 30 and say, ‘If we had lived in the days of our fathers, we wouldn’t have been partakers with them in the blood of the prophets.’ 31 Therefore you testify to yourselves that you are children of those who killed the prophets. 32 Fill up, then, the measure of your fathers. 33 You serpents, you offspring of vipers, how will you escape the judgment of Gehenna? 34 Therefore behold, I send to you prophets, wise men, and scribes. Some of them you will kill and crucify; and some of them you will scourge in your synagogues, and persecute from city to city; 35 that on you may come all the righteous blood shed on the earth, from the blood of righteous Abel to the blood of Zachariah son of Barachiah, whom you killed between the sanctuary and the altar. 36 Most certainly I tell you, all these things will come upon this generation.

Section 137b | Jesus’ Sorrow over Jerusalem

Jerusalem, in the temple
Matthew 23:37-39
37 “Jerusalem, Jerusalem, who kills the prophets, and stones those who are sent to her! How often I would have gathered your children together, even as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you would not! 38 Behold, your house is left to you desolate. 39 For I tell you, you will not see me from now on, until you say, ‘Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!’ ”

Section 138 | A Poor Widow’s Gift of All She Had

Jerusalem, in the temple

Mark 12:41-44
41 Jesus sat down opposite the treasury, and saw how the multitude cast money16 into the treasury. Many who were rich cast in much. 42 A poor widow came,17 and she cast in two small brass coins, which equal a quadrans coin. 43 He called his disciples to himself, and said to them, “Most certainly I tell you, this poor widow gave more than all those who are giving into the treasury, 44 for they all gave out of their abundance, but she, out of her poverty, gave all that she had to live on.”
Luke 21:1-4
He looked up and saw the rich people who were putting their gifts into the treasury. He saw a certain poor widow casting in two small brass coins.

3 He said,“Truly I tell you, this poor widow put in more than all of them, for all these put in gifts for God from their abundance, but she, out of her poverty, put in all that she had to live on.”


Group Dialogue:

  1. Identify the seven woes and compare with the activity, devotion and readiness of Ezra (Neh 8:1-8) which happened fewer than 500 years before.
  2. What is it within religious members and leaders that breeds insipid religion? (Jer 5:31)
  3. How have liberalism and conservatism both obscured the path to heaven in recent times? What then is the solution?
  4. Are there people in your life and circle of friends, family, coworkers and acquaintances who are searching for answers in life, freedom from addictions, mercy and forgiveness, and confidence that they will be comforted in the afterlife? How might you as a disciple help them find peace, power, and an abundant life in Christ?
  5. How has your own life been transformed by the Gospel and your soul empowered to demonstrate: justice, mercy, and faith? How have you see this lived out over the past month?
  6. The Scriptures encourage us to care for the widow, the poor, the fatherless and the stranger. In what ways have you or your church, or small group aimed to do justice and show mercy to these?
  7. How we give, the attitude and thoughts we have are an indicator of our true values, love, beliefs and priorities. What have you learned about yourself  in your giving, saving, and spending?

Study Notes:

  1. Thousands of people were pressed in and listening to Jesus at this point. Having just completed three rounds with the Scribes, Pharisees, and Sadducees they seem to have withdrawn slightly or perhaps they were returning to their temple work. So the verses that proceed were not spoken directly to them but to his disciples (the twelve apostles and all the others) and the multitude who wanted to learn more from Jesus.
  2. What was meant by this phrase? There are two possible references but both result in the same meaning – ‘authority exercised without integrity’. 1) As indicated in (Mishnah, Rosh Hashannah 2:9) it appears that three Rabbis presided as a court over Israel as the ‘court of Moses’. 2) In Pharisaical Judaism there was an ornately carved stone seat in the regional synagogues. Archaeologists have discovered these in Hamath, Chorazin, En-Gedi and Delos. The teaching rabbi would sit and expound the Scriptures while sitting in this chair. From the same seat they would judge and make the final word on disputes and matters of the law (similar to when the Pope sits and speaks from ‘Peter’s chair’ in the Vatican). As is made clear by the subsequent list of woes they bear no further resemblance to Moses than a legal authority bestowed from within the religious system and culture.
  3. Jesus’ condemnations here are factual, not wishful. This was not how God intended the priests of old (or present) to act. It was a pitiful condition, demise and destiny for a group intended to shepherd the people of God. Humanism and religiosity (false worship) are perilous paths. The only way to salvation is by the mercy and grace afforded us by the person and work of Christ. Unfortunately, there are those today, agnostics, church goers and religious leaders alike who wrongly cling to human and religious effort as the means of salvation. It is by no means a manner to secure your soul, but will instead torture it while you live and aim to be good, look good, and think well and ultimately condemn your soul to hell because you would not accept the means provided by God – Life in Christ, through Christ and with Christ.
  4. refers to an actor, someone playing a part.
  5. Rather than honoring and obeying the many Old Testament laws about caring for the widow, it was well known that the Pharisees would prey on widows showing up soon after the death of their husband suggesting that if she truly wanted to honor her husband’s memory and God that she should donate the home to the ministry to in his memory, or worse when a widow would invite a Scribe to legally secure her estate, the scribe would deed it over to the religious leaders. Moreover, they insisted that women should buy their salvation making donations there at the temple in one of thirteen repositories in the Court of the Women.  Such conniving done in the name of God was an utter disregard for the law, it was despicable, merciless and abusive. Today we must also beware of manipulative clergy and ploys of unrighteous leaders who purport to be doing good, urging you to honor God, but with such actions and attitudes do not honor God themselves (cf Prov 6:12-14, 26:20-28).
  6. To be heard and noticed and revered by others rather than expressing your heart to God, confessing your own sins, transgressions and naming your aspirations and petitions to honorably serve God by his mercy and power at work in you. The same warning stands true today.
  7. While in heaven every knee shall bow and equably honor the Lord Jesus Christ for his mercy, power authority, and finished redemptive work it appears by this verse and others that those who are cast to hell will suffer varying degrees according to their deeds, intent, remorse, responsibility and knowledge. Another translation of the text is that they are doubly deserving of hell (cf Mt 18:6). Clearly, neither situation is desirable.
  8. Rather than fulfilling their vocation and heritage to guide people into heaven, with unity, love, devotion and service to God they have obscured the path to heaven adding laws, traditions, religious protocol, and rules while not even living up to the standards themselves (cf MT 5:3, 16:19, 18:6; Lk 18:11, Rom 2; Mal 2:7). To the disciples this was a stern warning for the souls of others are at stake, and by the spread of the Gospel and numbers of early Christians they were not idle passive about their duty to make disciples.
  9. Having converted a gentile to the ways of Judaism and the seven rules given Noah’s sons, they only truly succeeded in binding him up in the law, not freeing him from any sin, nor to live the life God intended and desires for all humanity.
  10. These two verses truly show the depravity and prioritiy of these Pharisees who valued the material possessions which benefited them more than the temple, its holy places and the divine purposes for which they were first created.
  11. These three virtues are essential to the soul and lifestyle of every believer.
  12. Gnats were often found on fruit, vegetables and wine. The Jews had a law (Lev 11:41), which forbid them the eating of any creeping thing. However, the saying points out the obvious that while they take such care to avoid the slightest detail of the law (and nitpick at others to do the same) they miss the most gross sins of omission and commission.
  13. Though there is nothing wrong with ridding oneself of bad behavior, attitude and sin, it is not a cure. To clean the inside of the cup we must rely upon Christ, the author and perfecter of our faith. Only then and by such ongoing means will we both eternally saved, spared from the consequences of sin, and transformed into his likeness finding peace in fellowship with him, life in him and power through him.
  14. In those days they painted the tombs with lime both cleansing it to some degree and warning others not to enter, avoiding uncleanliness and the diseases which one might contract if they blindly entered the tombs of others.
  15. You are dangerous and spending time with you or in your courts for teaching has an ill effect rather than good.
  16. In the Old Testament times which Jesus lived, the Jews had an obligation and duty to make their tithes and offerings. In the New Testament times we learn from passages such as 2 Corinthians 9:7 that we are to give joyfully as you see fit, remembering that we are simply stewards of any wealth at our control for however long we are alive.
  17. See this in light of Jesus’ warnings expressed in the previous §137a Mk 12:38-40; Mt 23:12; Lk 20:45-47.