What Jesus Did! 'What Sorrow Awaits! (1 & 2)' — Matthew 23:13-15

Friday, October 29, 2021

[Jesus said,] "What sorrow awaits* you teachers of religious law and you Pharisees. Hypocrites! For you shut the door of the Kingdom of Heaven in people's faces. You won't go in yourselves, and you don't let others enter either.

"What sorrow awaits you teachers of religious law and you Pharisees. Hypocrites! For you cross land and sea to make one convert, and then you turn that person into twice the child of hell you yourselves are!"

— Matthew 23:13-15 NLT

Key Thought

"Raise the bar!" That was the Pharisees' goal, to see who could be the most righteous. A laudable goal until you realize that their standard was a righteousness few could approach. When righteousness is based on my ability to be better than my fellows, then something is really rotten. It was even worse for those who weren't raised in the incubator of Jewish Pharisaism. They were shut out before they even started.

Despite their zeal for righteousness, the Pharisees destroyed it and the people God intended to find it, and when they did get someone, they so corrupted him with their legalism that he was worse off than when he was a pagan.

Jesus reminds us that in his Kingdom righteousness is about serving and caring for others — all others, from the needy to new converts to long-time fellow-Christians, and serving God without ostentatious show.

* In the middle section of chapter 23, seven times Jesus condemned the teachers of religious law and the Pharisees. The first two condemnations are addressed today and the others in subsequent days. In the NLT, Jesus' condemnations begin with "What sorrow awaits you," while some other translations have "Woe to you."

Today's Prayer

O God, please forgive me when I think so much about myself and how my faith looks and appears to others. Give me a heart to help those new in the Kingdom family to find their place and encourage and help them on their journey to be more like you. In Jesus' name, I pray. Amen.

Related Scripture Readings

  • Galatians 1:6-10
  • Philippians 3:2-6
  • Galatians 3:23-25


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Illustration of Matthew 23:13-15 NLT — "What sorrow awaits* you teachers of religious law and you Pharisees.

About This Devotional

What Jesus Did! is a series of one-year devotional guides through each gospel, using one short scripture passage each day and following the Gospel in sequential order. Each devotional consists of a scripture passage and a reflection and a prayer which open up the day's scripture and show how it challenges you to live for Jesus.

What Jesus Did! is written by Phil Ware and is available in book form.

Scripture quotations are taken from the Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright ©1996, 2004, 2007, 2013, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.