Matthew 23:13-39

Jesus speaks against the teachers of God's Law and the Pharisees

13 Jesus spoke to the teachers of God's Law and the Pharisees. ‘It will be very bad for you,’ he said. ‘You are hypocrites! You have stopped people who wanted to go into the kingdom of heaven. It is like you have shut the door so that they cannot go in. Then you yourselves do not even go in.

14 [It will be very bad for you, teachers of God's Law and Pharisees. You are hypocrites! You take things away from women after their husbands have died. You pray for a long time so that other people will praise you. God will punish you much more than other people.]

23:14Verse 14 is not in all copies of Matthew's book.

15 It will be very bad for you, teachers of God's Law and Pharisees. You are hypocrites! You travel far across land and sea. You do this to make one person believe what you believe. Then, when he does believe your ideas, he becomes worse than you are. He shows that he belongs to hell even more than you do.

16 It will be very bad for you, teachers. You cannot see what is true, but you show people which way to go. You say to people, “You may make a promise by the name of God's Great House. Then it is not a serious promise. You do not have to do it. But you may also make a promise by the gold things in God's Great House. Then it is a serious promise, and you must do it.” 17 This shows that you are fools. You do not understand what is true. Think about which of these is more important. Is it the gold things in God's Great House? Or is it God's Great House itself? It is God's Great House that makes the gold things special. 18 You also say to people, “You may make a promise by the altar in God's Great House. Then it is not a serious promise. You do not have to do it. But you may also make a promise by the gifts on that altar. Then it is a serious promise and you must do it.” 19 You are people who cannot understand what is true. Think about which of these things is more important. Is it the gifts on the altar? Or is it the altar itself? It is the altar that makes the gifts special. 20 Remember this: Somebody may make a promise by the name of the altar. Then he is making a promise by God's name. The altar as well as all the gifts on it are special to God. 21 Also, somebody may make a promise by the name of God's Great House. Then he is making in the name of God, who lives there. 22 Or somebody may make a promise by heaven. Then he is making a promise by the place where God sits and rules. So he is making a promise by the name of God himself.

23:16Jesus meant that the teachers of God's Law and Pharisees did not understand about the kingdom. They were like men who could not see. They did not know God's way, but they were trying to teach it to other people.
23:22Perhaps a person wants to make a promise very strong. So he uses someone's name to make the promise stronger. Jesus says that we should not do this. If we make a promise, people should be able to trust us to do what we have said.

23 It will be very bad for you, teachers of God's Law and Pharisees. You are hypocrites! When you grow spices to cook with food, you give a tenth part of these small things to God. You are right to obey this rule. But you do not obey the more important parts of God's Law. You do not help people in a good way. You are not kind to them. You do not always do what God says is right. You should have done these important things as well as the other small things. 24 You are like blind people, but you show other people which way to go. You carefully take a small fly out of your water so that you do not drink it. But then you drink the large animal that is swimming in it!

23:24The teachers of God's Law and the Pharisees obeyed the smallest and least important parts of the Law of Moses. But they did not obey the important parts. They did not understand that they were doing the wrong things.

25 It will be very bad for you, teachers of God's Law and Pharisees. You are hypocrites! You always clean the outside of your cups and plates very carefully. You only clean the outside part that people can see. But on the inside, everything is still dirty. Inside you, your minds are full of bad thoughts. You want to have more things for yourself. You hurt other people to get what you want. 26 Pharisees, you do not see what is true! You must first clean the inside of the cup. Then the outside that people can see will also be clean.

27 It will be very bad for you, teachers of God's law and Pharisees. You are hypocrites! You are like a grave that has nice white paint on the outside and it looks beautiful. But on the inside it is full of bones and dirty things. 28 You are the same as that. Other people look at you. They think that you are good and you obey God. But on the inside you are hypocrites. Your minds are full of many bad thoughts.

29 It will be very bad for you, teachers of God's Law and Pharisees. You are hypocrites! You build up the places where people have buried God's prophets. You make the places where they have buried good people to be beautiful. 30 You say, “Our ancestors killed God's prophets long ago. If we had lived at that time, we would not have helped our ancestors to do that.” 31 So you are speaking against yourselves. You show that you are the sons of those people who killed God's prophets. 32 Now you must finish the work that your ancestors began to do!

33 You are like a family of dangerous snakes! You will not be able to run away. God will surely punish you, and he will send you to hell. 34 So listen to this. God says, “I will send prophets to you. I will also send to you people who know many things. And I will send people to teach you what is true. But you will kill some of these people. You will kill some of them on a cross. In the places where you meet to pray, you will hit some of them with whips. They will run from one town to another town, but you will follow them.” 35 Because of all this, God will punish you for all the good people that you and your ancestors have killed. Long ago, Abel was the first of those good people. Now you have also killed Zechariah, the son of Berekiah. He died in the yard of God's Great House near the altar. 36 Yes, I tell you this: God will punish the people who are alive today for all those murders.

23:35Through the years bad men have killed many good men. The prophets wrote in the Bible about many people who died in that way. Abel was the first person like that (). Zechariah was the last person like that (2 Chronicles 24:21).

37 Jerusalem, Jerusalem! Your people have killed God's prophets. They have thrown stones to kill other people that God has sent to you. Many times, I have wanted to bring all of your people near to me. A female bird covers her babies with her body to make them safe. But you would not let me keep you from danger like that. 38 So listen! Your great house will now become like a wilderness with nobody in it. 39 And I tell you this. You will not see me again until the day when you say, “Great is the man who comes with the authority of the Lord God.” ’

23:39See Psalm 118:26