by Joe Alain

Confessions of a Fellow Pharisee
Joe Alain
Matthew 23:1-38

Introduction: Historically, during Mardi Gras masks were worn by individuals to protect the identities of members of secret societies who sponsored the parades and to allow persons to behave differently than what they might normally. Wearing a mask allows people to let out their alter ego. It's as if for a time the person wearing a mask is transformed into someone else.

Jesus spoke about people who wore masks but they were not worn for temporary periods of pretending, they were worn permanently. Their masks allowed them to appear to be something that they were not. Jesus called these people "hypocrites" (see the seven "woes," 23:13,14,15,23,25,27,29). The Word "hypocrite" in ancient times was a word used to describe a stage actor. A good actor was a good hypocrite. That is, he or she played the part so well that no one could tell that they were acting.

Jesus' greatest spiritual battles were against the religious hypocrites of His day, most notably the scribes and Pharisees. The scribes were the recognized interpreters of the Jewish law. Most scribes were Pharisees, but not all Pharisees were scribes. There were approximately 6,000 Pharisees in New Testament times making them by far the largest and most influential group of Jewish religious leaders within Judaism. Their name literally means "separated ones." They were ultra-orthodox, conservative, strictly following the Mosaic Law, scrupulously carrying out the scribal rulings which in Jesus' day numbered 613 and counting!

What brought Jesus into conflict with the Pharisees was the fact that they both represented opposing views about spiritual transformation. The religious rulers focused a great deal of their attention on "boundary marker" as indicators of spiritual transformation. John Ortberg writes, "When our lives are not marked by genuine, God-directed spiritual change, we tend to look for substitute ways to distinguish ourselves from tho ...

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