Focal Passage: Matthew
New Orleans’ victory over
the Indianapolis Colts in Super Bowl XLIV was destiny according to Saints
quarterback Drew Brees.
Brees, who joined the Saints
during the city’s struggle to recover from Hurricane Katrina said of the upset
victory: “It was all meant to be, it’s all destiny.”
Destiny is often understood
as a fixed sequence of events that is inevitable and unchangeable.
Another thought is that
individuals choose their own destiny by the decisions made in life. In our text
today, the Pharisees seem certain of their destiny, but Jesus calls their
destiny into question.
In this passage we see a
feisty Jesus. He speaks boldly to “the crowds” and “His disciples” (Matt. 23:1)
to show the disconnect between the religious leaders’ profession and practice.
The scribes and Pharisees
sat in Moses’ seat (Matt. 23:2), the chair in the synagogue reserved for the
authoritative teacher of the law in a Jewish community. From this position they
expounded the meaning of the law to the worshipers.
The problem was not with the
Pharisees’ teachings or beliefs, but with their behavior. They did not apply
their teachings to their own behavior. Hypocrisy is talking about God’s will,
but failing to do it.
In Matthew 23, Jesus
condemns the scribes and Pharisees for their sins in a series of seven woes.
Jesus predicts that the Jewish people will continue the pattern of rejecting
the messengers of God just as they did in the past.
Jesus reveals a kind of
logic of the kingdom: those who are sent in Spirit will act as witnesses. We
recall from a previous lesson that the only unforgiveable sin is the blasphemy
of the Spirit. Jesus says that what is done to those who act in truth will
In this passage Jesus
clearly alludes to the destruction of Jerusalem, which occurred in 70 A.D. He
speaks of His great love for Jerusalem (Matt. 23:37). Our openness to receive God’s
love depends on our willingness to live in His truth. You can’t demand a
person’s love and reject all that they are at the same time.
This passage comes in
sequence just before Passion Week and Jesus’ betrayal. Jesus has strongly
condemned the religious hypocrisy of those who claim they would not have
condemned the prophets, but now reject Jesus.
In verse 39 we see that
Jesus will someday return, and at that time all people will recognize Him for
who He is. How will you respond to Jesus now? It is a question of destiny!