“What sorrow awaits you teachers of religious law and you Pharisees. Hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs—beautiful on the outside but filled on the inside with dead people’s bones and all sorts of impurity. Outwardly you look like righteous people, but inwardly your hearts are filled with hypocrisy and lawlessness.
“What sorrow awaits you teachers of religious law and you Pharisees. Hypocrites! For you build tombs for the prophets your ancestors killed, and you decorate the monuments of the godly people your ancestors destroyed. Then you say, ‘If we had lived in the days of our ancestors, we would never have joined them in killing the prophets.’ “But in saying that, you testify against yourselves that you are indeed the descendants of those who murdered the prophets. Go ahead and finish what your ancestors started. Snakes! Sons of vipers! How will you escape the judgment of hell?
“Therefore, I am sending you prophets and wise men and teachers of religious law. But you will kill some by crucifixion, and you will flog others with whips in your synagogues, chasing them from city to city. As a result, you will be held responsible for the murder of all godly people of all time—from the murder of righteous Abel to the murder of Zechariah son of Berekiah, whom you killed in the Temple between the sanctuary and the altar. I tell you the truth, this judgment will fall on this very generation. – Matthew 23:27-36 (NLT)
Jesus now turns his attention to specific inward thoughts of the Jewish leaders, namely, their plot to kill him because he, like the prophets of the Old Testament, are going to be executed without justice having its say. Jesus is intensely berating the Pharisees and scribes. They are not good leaders of God’s people. They have led the Jewish people astray and are so corrupt on the inside that they do not care. It is really important to reflect upon our inward state at these moments. Jesus is absolutely perfect and never makes a mistake. He knows our inward motives and thoughts even better than we do. As we submit to him, we need to continually ask God to “create in us a clean heart” (Psalm 51:10). The religious leaders did a lot of good and decent things (Jesus commends them on their tithing), but their attitudes and actions were the result of an inward ugliness that promoted the ego and self.
What are your inward motivations? Why do you do what you do? What do you need to let go of today to follow God more intentionally?