All Sermons
Justice, mercy and faithfulness
Bible Passage Matthew 23: 13- 28
This content is part of a series Bright Morning Reflections, in topic 2023 & book Matthew.

Justice, mercy and faithfulness

Date preached September 21, 2023

13 “How terrible it will be for you, scribes and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You shut the door to the kingdom from heaven in people’s faces. You don’t go in yourselves, and you don’t allow those who are trying to enter to go in.

14 “How terrible it will be for you, scribes and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You devour widows’ houses and say long prayers to cover it up. Therefore, you will receive greater condemnation!

15 “How terrible it will be for you, scribes and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You travel over land and sea to make a single convert, and when this happens you make him twice as fit for hell as you are.

16 “How terrible it will be for you, blind guides! You say, ‘Whoever swears an oath by the sanctuary is excused, but whoever swears an oath by the gold of the sanctuary must keep his oath.’

17 You blind fools! What is more important, the gold or the sanctuary that made the gold holy?

18 Again you say, ‘Whoever swears an oath by the altar is excused, but whoever swears by the gift that is on it must keep his oath.’

19 You blind men! Which is more important, the gift or the altar that makes the gift holy?

20 Therefore, the one who swears an oath by the altar swears by it and by everything on it.

21 The one who swears an oath by the sanctuary swears by it and by the one who lives there.

22 And the one who swears an oath by heaven swears by God’s throne and by the one who sits on it.

23 “How terrible it will be for you, scribes and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You give a tenth of your mint, dill, and cummin, but have neglected the more important matters of the Law: justice, mercy, and faithfulness. These are the things you should have practiced, without neglecting the others.

24 You blind guides! You filter out a gnat, yet swallow a camel!

25 “How terrible it will be for you, scribes and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You clean the outside of the cup and the plate, but on the inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence.

26 You blind Pharisee! First clean the inside of the cup, so that its outside may also be clean.

27 “How terrible it will be for you, scribes and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You are like whitewashed tombs that look beautiful on the outside but inside are full of dead people’s bones and every kind of impurity.

28 In the same way, on the outside you look righteous to people, but inside you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness.



Besides not believing in Jesus themselves, the scribes stopped others from believing. If they succeeded in converting a Gentile to Judaism, they usually turned the person into such an extremist that he was more worthy of God’s punishment than they were (verses 13-15).

Jews were careful in swearing oaths so that they could have an excuse if they broke their oath. If they did not promise with the name of the temple, or the altar, or heaven, then they could break that promise.

If they swore by certain things they felt obliged to keep their oath, but if they swore by others they felt no guilt if they ignored their oath. Jesus repeated the teaching given earlier that all oaths were binding, no matter what people swore by, and God the supreme judge would hold them responsible (verse 16-22; see notes on Matt 5:33-37).

Jesus also repeated some of the accusations He had made elsewhere against the Pharisees and scribes. They concentrated on minor details of their law but ignored the important teachings of God’s law. Their efforts to appear religious were an attempt to hide their inner corruption (verse 23-28; see notes on Luke 11:37-44).

According to verse 24, the Pharisees
were careful to take any tiny insect out of their drink. But they were prepared to swallow something as large as a camel! This funny picture showed that the Pharisees were stupid. Some things are important and other things are less important, but the Pharisees could not see the difference.

The Pharisees’ many rules included how to wash dishes. They had to make sure that the outside of a cup or a dish was clean enough for God and that nothing unclean must touch it to make it ‘unclean’. They did not worry much about more important wrong things. It did not worry them when someone had cheated or stolen. So the Pharisees were like their own cups and dishes. They made sure that they seemed pure on the outside but were greedy inside, where it did not show. They wanted to please themselves rather than to please God.

Jews believed that a person must not touch a dead body. It would make the person ‘unclean’ (Numbers 19:16). In some places, there were graves by the road. Someone might touch a grave by accident. So then they would no longer be ‘clean’. If this happened at Passover time, that person could not be part of the Passover ceremonies. So in the spring, Jews painted the graves white. They looked beautiful, but inside they were full of dead bodies or just bones. Jesus said that the Pharisees were like the white graves. They looked so good on the outside. But deep inside, the Pharisees were as awful as it was inside the graves.

🔷 God expects believers to show concern for their fellow human beings rather than their own human rules

🔷 Our appearances and physical outlook do not matter to God but our hearts do

🔷 Our vow and confession of Jesus as Lord must be kept and God honored without any reservations

💥 Pray for an honest life in Christ
💥 Pray for forgiveness for any hypocritical life lived

Extreme emphasis and keeping our unnecessary laws do not make us Christians, especially when we ignore important matters of justice, mercy, and faithfulness.

In series Bright Morning Reflections