Day 23

Jesus Judges the World

from the Matthew reading plan

Matthew 23:1-39, Exodus 10:21-23, Romans 8:22-23

BY Guest Writer

Scripture Reading: Matthew 23:1-39, Exodus 10:21-23, Romans 8:22-23

Today’s passage is a doozy. In Matthew 23, Jesus holds nothing back, saving His harshest, sternest rebuke for two groups.

First were the prideful Pharisees, who piled unnecessary burden onto the people. Rather than seeing God’s law as His love, the Pharisees used it as a weapon of position and power. Second were the sidelined scribes. They knew the law, but refused to speak up against the Pharisees’ hypocrisy, and therefore, became a part of the problem themselves. Fearful of the Pharisees’ power, the scribes kept silent, allowing the Pharisees’ perverted message to flourish. They could’ve been a voice for truth, but instead stood by and allowed the Pharisees to abuse the people.  

Jesus strongly condemned the Pharisees and scribes—but why?

Jesus saw their passion for position. The Pharisees were obsessed with increasing their own authority. They cared a lot about titles, requiring people to call them “Teacher,” “Master,” or “Father,” and racked up converts—not for the benefit of others’ souls, but for the sake of showing the power of their sect. They exalted themselves with false humility, and Jesus saw right through it.

The Pharisees perverted the Lord’s priorities. They were strict and precise when it came to small matters within the law, while being careless and loose about the things that mattered most. They pointed out small flaws in others while ignoring pervasive sin in their own hearts.

Jesus condemned the powerlessness of the Pharisees’ prescriptions. In their position of influence, Pharisees and scribes could have pointed people to deeper relationship with the Lord. Instead, they paved a road that led to destruction.

The Pharisees were preoccupied with perception. They cared deeply about what other people thought of them, wanting to be followed, trusted, honored, and revered. More concerned with their outward appearance than substance, they dressed to impress. In Deuteronomy, the Lord told His people to impress His commandments on their hearts, to “tie them on your hands and bind them on your foreheads” (6:8). Jews took that literally. During times of prayer, they tied small leather boxes called phylacteries onto their foreheads with Scripture verses hidden inside. The Pharisees made their phylacteries as large as possible, as if to say, “Look at how much Scripture I can carry on my forehead! More than you!”  

But does it really matter how beautiful you look on the outside, if you’re dying on the inside? Does it matter how beautiful the stone is, when all it marks is a grave?

The Pharisees were persistent in pride. They allowed themselves to carry on in the sin of their day, while still convinced they would’ve opposed the sins of their fathers. Jesus exposes their hypocrisy and self-deception under the microscope of truth. But the rebukes we hear in Matthew 23 aren’t angry rants—they are woes. Jesus feels deep anguish for the Pharisees and scribes, and for the people they are leading astray, to death. He isn’t smug. He’s not pointing fingers. He’s begging them to see the light.

I imagine Jesus’ heart tearing in two as He speaks to them, longing for them to hear and receive the truth. He knows these are the very men whose hardened hearts will soon cry out, “Crucify!” These men and their pride, their empty passions—they will soon lead Jesus to the cross. 


Claire Gibson is a writer whose work has been featured in publications including The Washington Post and Entrepreneur Magazine among many others. An Army kid who grew up at West Point, New York, Claire is currently growing roots in Nashville, Tennessee, with her husband, Patrick, their son, Sam, and their dog, Winnie. Her debut novel, Beyond the Point, will be published next year.

Post Comments (55)

55 thoughts on "Jesus Judges the World"

  1. Marichris Bernardo says:

    What a powerful rebuke!

  2. Lauren Hoffman says:

    Matthew 23 was such a good one. I feel so convicted!

  3. Jinny says:

    He longs to gather us under his wings. We are his adopted children. Praise the Lord.

  4. Lindsey Bailey says:

    I picked some flowers today. They were dainty, pure white petals with smaller, buttery yellow petals on top. I was drawn to their beauty, but as soon as I plucked the first flower, my nose was filled with an awful stench. I was expecting a sweet aroma, but was surprised by the opposite. I brought them in the house anyway and put them in a small, crystal vase assuming the smell wouldn’t be too overwhelming. But, soon the awful smell filled the room. The flowers, in all of there beauty had to be dumped outside. They smelled too bad to be around. Those Pharisees. They were pretty on the outside too, but their, hearts full of pride, stunk. And me. My tendency is also to focus on the outward but am I leaving a stench that turns the unsaved stomach from salvation? The Bible says we should be a sweet aroma, so others will be drawn to him. Only the Holy Spirit can create that sweet aroma from within. Jesus.

    1. Michelle Smith says:

      How eloquent!

  5. Leigha Humphries says:

    I did today’s readings and the devotional very early this morning as usual but didn’t get all my journaling and notes done that I wanted to do, so I decided to wait until tonight to finish out Chapter 25 when I had more time. I had no idea that later in the day I would be presented with what I am certain was a chance to live out Matthew 25:35-40.

    I stopped at the car wash on my way home from work to deal with several weeks worth of salt and grime from our recent snow and ice and was preparing to vacuum out the passenger side having already finished the driver side. I went over, got the vacuum wand for that side and set about doing the front seat. And I was moving to the back seat, the woman next to me stopped me abruptly and said, “Hey – I was going to use that!”. I quickly said, “oh, I’m sorry – I didn’t know. I am two seconds away from being done.” She immediately became harsh and said “I don’t have time for this. I have a nerve condition (held up her hands) and this isn’t easy for me.” She then turned her back and went to the front of her car. I stood still, vacuum in hand and then as clear as anything, I heard God whisper to me, “Go to her.” And so, I did. I tapped her on the shoulder, extended the vacuum to her, and said “here.” She looked me in the eye and said thank you. We each turned around to do our business. In a few minutes, while I was wiping down the interior, she brought the vacuum back to me and apologized. She said, “I have this nerve condition, fibromyalgia and have had one hellacious day.” I told her I completely understood and then asked if there was anything I could help her with as she was cleaning her car. She said no, but that she truly appreciated it and then proceeded to have small talk with me as we both finished our cars.

    I can assure you that I have never been so certain that I had a test of my character dropped in my lap as in these moments. Now, I have no idea who she was, what her circumstances were, or even whether she was being honest, but I know I showed her grace and that is exactly what Jesus would have done. A vacuum. It was such a small thing but aren’t the small things really big things? Would I have told Jesus – hold on a sec, I’m almost done here. No…I would have given Him anything He needed. So, whether it was literally just the vacuum or a kind word and a smile, I hope I gave that woman what she needed today. She certainly did for me.

    1. Michelle says:

      Thanks for sharing! It’s always encouraging when we recognize God’s voice, and I think when we focus, we hear it more and more.

    2. Natasha Reyes says:

      Thank you for sharing this Leigha! You have just reminded me that God is with me at all times and He can use me to show His grace even in the most mundane moments of my day. I have to keep my heat open to his voice.

    3. Ev Howe says:

      You really shed some light on my situation I am dealing with. Thank you for sharing. I hope I can handle things as graceful as you did. I ask myself what would I have done in your situation and I hope it was the same. Have a blessed day

  6. Amber says:

    I am deeply convicted by the description of the scribes. How often have I stayed silent instead of being a voice for truth? How often have I let fear silence me? Praying this morning that the light of Jesus inside of me would pierce the darkness and for boldness to speak the truth in love.

  7. Caralee Lilly says:

    In looking at my children, I wonder if I was a Pharisee in how I raised them. Did I present the gospel as something burdensome? Did I strive to create white washed tombs….people that knew their Bible but not their God? As all 3 of my children and how they are not walking with the Lord…I wonder….did I miss it? My heart is broken…oh Lord, please forgive me.

    1. Linda G says:

      I wonder the same thing…but it’s also way too easy as women and as moms to heap blame on ourselves. I’m sure there’s plenty of blame to go around. Be a bit gentle with yourself! God hears a mother’s prayers. I’m sure of that.

    2. Amanda Massey says:

      As a mother of 3 young children, what you have said strikes a cord with me. I honestle never thought that I myself could be Pharisee like with my children. I believe in the power of God’s Word. His Word will not vanish from them. I think we all have to find our own relationship with Jesus and for some of us, we have to go into deep dark places to feel our own depravity and realize our need for him. I pray for your peace and thank God for his grace. I also pray your children will realize their need for him and seek him in a relationship they can call their own. ♡

    3. Rebekah D says:

      As the mother of two young children I have been wondering about this very thing, how it is we should present our faith to our children in a way that they will not only understand, but hopefully one day claim as their own. Caralee, I know this is weighing heavily on your heart, but I believe you should keep in mind that you presented the gospel to them in the way you thought best. Even though your children may not be walking with the Lord, they will never forget what you taught them. Their knowledge of the Bible will forever be in their minds. Remember, as a parent you did what you thought best, rest in that the Lord hears your prayers and you are not responsible for your children’s spiritual walks. Everyone needs to come to their own understanding as individuals. Everyone to a degree is responsible for their own relationship with the Lord. He will make Himself known to them, and I believe your children will recognize Him when He does because of the Biblical foundation you laid for for them.

    4. Morgan Lancaster says:

      It’s never too late to let your children know that you feel you made a mistake when teaching them about the gospel and correct it. That honesty and humility could be just what leads them to Christ.

  8. Shannon Davison says:

    The church I attend just did a few sermons on this chapter. HIGHLY recommend a listen!

    The first was 3 weeks ago, and then this past Sunday the focus was on vs. 23-24.

    This devotion today was a really good summary, but the sermons expand on it and really hit home.

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