Jesus In The Judgment Seat. Matthew 23
“1) Then Jesus spoke to the crowds and to His disciples, 2) saying: “The scribes and the Pharisees have seated themselves in the chair of Moses; 3) therefore all that they tell you, do and observe, but do not do according to their deeds; for they say things and do not do them. 4) They tie up heavy burdens and lay them on men’s shoulders, but they themselves are unwilling to move them with so much as a finger. 5) But they do all their deeds to be noticed by men; for they broaden their phylacteries and lengthen the tassels of their garments. 6) They love the place of honor at banquets and the chief seats in the synagogues, 7) and respectful greetings in the market places, and being called Rabbi by men.” Matthew‬ ‭23‬:‭1‬-‭7‬
As we start this chapter, a little flashback to Matthew 7:1-2 may be in order. In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus warned not to judge lest you be judged. Matthew 22 was comprised primarily of the Jewish religious leaders testing and judging Jesus. All of the leaders of the Jewish people had become open critics. They were preoccupied in fault finding.
In Matthew 23, Jesus returns the favor. The chapter is long and the indictments are many. They were full of hypocrisy. We will proceed slowly so as to let His case against them slowly build.
In Matthew 23:1-7, Jesus accused them of hypocrisy in their teaching of the Old Testament Law. They had seated themselves in the chair of Moses. They most likely stood for the reading of the Law, then sat to explain the Law to the people. This was a sign of authority.
As He opened this chapter, Jesus pointed out that the scribes and Pharisees had four basic follies. First, they would teach one way and then live another way. Second, they would tie up heavy loads for the people to carry with taxes, sacrifices, and detailed obligations from the Law but then excuse themselves. Third, they would dress the outside with extravagant garments including phylacteries with long portions of the Law written out and then totally neglect their inward self. Finally, they would parade around in public seeking to be noticed and honored by others and then totally despise and even shun other people around them.
These are traps of pride and self promotion common to all in leadership. The first shift is from focusing on God to focusing on self. The second shift is from obeying God to becoming a self authority. The third shift is from serving others to becoming self-serving. The final shift is putting self on a pedestal and becoming totally blind to God and others.
By verse seven, Jesus was only part way through His opening argument and tension was building fast. Blood pressures were rising. Faces were becoming red with anger. And, it was about to get far worse.
Let’s step back and make a broad observation that will help us understand Matthew chapter 23. Note that Jesus observed that the scribes and Pharisees had seated themselves in the chair of Moses. It is helpful to note that Moses had two seats. First, he occupied the legislative seat where God used him to write and teach the Law. This is the seat the scribes and Pharisees annexed for themselves. But second, Moses also occupied a judgement seat where God used him to judge the people and apply the Law.
In Matthew 23, Jesus gave a foretaste of His future role of sitting in the Judgement Seat. In 2 Corinthians 5:10, Paul warns that we will all one day appear before the judgement seat of Christ. Rather than cheering and celebrating the way He handled the scribes and Pharisees, it might be wise to preview yourself in their sandals. This small exercise might spark a personal revival!
Daily Bible Commentary By Terry Baxter: Cofounder of GoServ Global