Jesus’ heart was never to condemn, but to show mercy. One of His favorite quotes was, “I desire mercy, not sacrifice” (Matthew 9:13, 12:7).
11 Rescue those who are being taken away to death; hold back those who are stumbling to the slaughter.
As we continue in Matthew 23, there are actually a couple of verses in 22 that need mentioning. they are Matthew 22:23 and 41,
41 While the Pharisees were gathered together…
The Sadducees and Pharisees made up the ruling class of priests, of which were the scribes and teachers of the law. They were all there that day in the temple area (26:55) when Jesus gave His stern reprimand to them. Jesus gave this reason right up front,
13 “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You shut the door of the kingdom of heaven in people’s faces. You yourselves do not enter, nor will you let those enter who are trying to.
It’s one thing to personally choose not to trust Jesus, but it’s quite another to deliberately fight against other people coming to Him. It looks like Jesus was angry and was lashing out, but we cannot impose human character upon God,
8 “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the Lord. 9 “As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts… Isaiah 55:8-9
For one thing, after this rebuke, we know that Jesus included them in His lament for Jerusalem and in His prayer of forgiveness on the cross, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do” (Luke 23:32). How do I know this to be true? It’s in verse 7 of Isaiah 55,
7 Let the wicked forsake their ways and the unrighteous their thoughts. Let them turn to the Lord, and he will have mercy on them, and to our God, for he will freely pardon.
Jesus lists many abuses and false teachings in verses 13-36, but He still seeks their repentance, and forgives their sin of killing Him even as He forgave our sin–two millennia before we were born! Jesus’ heart showed through that day as He lamented over Jerusalem in verses 37-39. We can hear the heartbreak in Jesus’ voice as He said, “How often would I have gathered your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you were not willing.” Jesus didn’t cause His own death, nor did He cause the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 A.D. Yet, they both happened just like Scripture and Jesus said they would.
What is evident in this chapter is the heart of Jesus. He came to reveal the Father to us and to establish a new way of looking at things–more than that, He came to establish a kingdom and to fill it with followers! Our primary job is to follow Jesus and love the Father/Son/Spirit with all our heart, soul, mind, and with all our strength. Our secondary job is to love our neighbor by modeling Christ and introducing our neighbors to Jesus as they become interested in the fellowship we have with the Trinity.
Tomorrow, we will discuss what modeling Christ looks like.
Abba, thank You for Your forgiveness. Your mercy and grace are as high as the heavens above. You have separated me from my sin as far as the east is from the west. What You have done for me You have done for everyone. May I share this great news with those whom You point out to me. Amen.