As you read each passage, pray for God’s help. Ask yourself:
- What does God reveal about Himself?
- How is your own heart revealed?
- How does this passage underline the wonder of God’s love for us in Jesus Christ, and your own need of Christ as Saviour and Lord?
- Turn these truths into prayer and praise.
12 March Mt 22:34-40
Jesus sums up God’s law in two positive commandments: wholehearted love for God and neighbour (vv.37-40). No surprise here, for God’s law is not arbitrary. It reflects His own character of goodness and love, and we should too. But the call to love exposes our hearts, for we still love our own kingdom more than His. So even while we pray for strength to live a life of love, we confess our failings, and give thanks that we are not saved by the perfection of our love, but by His perfect love for us. Hallelujah!
13 March Mt 22:41-46
This time Jesus puts a question to the Pharisees concerning the Messiah’s identity. How can he be both David’s son (v.42) and David’s Lord (v.43)? Surely if he is David’s son, then David must be ‘lord’ to him? The incarnation provides the only answer. As to his humanity, the Christ is born in the line of David as his son (Mt 1:1-17), but as the eternal Son of God he is also David’s Lord (1:20,23). They marvelled at his wisdom (v.46), but alas, still refused his truth. That is always our danger.
14 March Mt 23:1-12
Mt 23, like the Sermon on the Mount, exposes religious hypocrisy (“they do not practice what they preach” v.3) where concern for external performance and reputation trumps real love for God and others. Jesus calls His followers to a different way of life. The desire to be exalted in the eyes of others is natural to our fallen hearts (vv.5-7), but is not to be our way (vv.8-12). My daily prayer is, “Lord, kill my pride before my pride kills me.” Perhaps, as a church, we should pray this together.
15 March Mt 23:13-24
Jesus spells out His complete rejection of hypocritical religion. It hides the way of salvation rather than making it plain (v.13) and becomes even more corrupting when it is passed on (v.15). It leads to hair-splitting folly (vv.16-22) and focuses on minutiae at the expense of weighty moral issues (vv.23-24). No wonder Jesus condemns its proponents as “blind guides” (v.24). May God preserve us from deceiving ourselves and others. Ps 139:23-4 is a suitable prayer in response.
16 March Mt 23:25-28
Washing only the outside of a cup leaves the inside dirty still. Likewise, whitewashing the outside of a tomb in no way cleans what’s inside. This, says, Jesus, is the problem with a religion that concentrates on externals: it overlooks the fact that the seat of our corruption is in the heart (vv.25-28). External ritual is powerless to bring about internal change. For that we need the transforming grace of Christ – the very thing that the Pharisees so tragically rejected. Seek that grace on your knees.
17 March Mt 23:29-36
Jesus’ final woe warns of the deceptive power of this kind of religion. The Scribes and Pharisees build monuments to past martyrs and boast that they would not have killed the prophets as their ancestors did. Yet at this very moment they are preparing to kill Jesus, and they will soon persecute His followers too. Thus they not only follow the way of their fathers; they actually bring it to its terrible climax in the murder of God’s own Son. Take heed to what is really in your heart.
18 March Mt 23:37-39
God’s long-delayed judgement on those who persecute His prophets was about to fall (vv.35-36). Yet this brings lament from Jesus, not gloating (vv.37-39). This chapter of woes arises from His heart of love, not from vengefulness. And still He offers grace to Pharisees. Was not Saul of Tarsus “a Pharisee of the Pharisees” (Ac 23:6) and the leading persecutor of Christ’s people? Yet grace was given to this “chief of sinners” so that we too might seek Christ’s mercy for our own severe failings (1Tim 1:16).