Our passage tonight is Matthew 23:27-39; we will be reading the Common English Bible translation.
27 “How terrible it will be for you legal experts and Pharisees! Hypocrites! You are like whitewashed tombs. They look beautiful on the outside. But inside they are full of dead bones and all kinds of filth. 28 In the same way you look righteous to people. But inside you are full of pretense and rebellion.
29 “How terrible it will be for you legal experts and Pharisees! Hypocrites! You build tombs for the prophets and decorate the graves of the righteous. 30 You say, ‘If we had lived in our ancestors’ days, we wouldn’t have joined them in killing the prophets.’ 31 You testify against yourselves that you are children of those who murdered the prophets. 32 Go ahead, complete what your ancestors did. 33 You snakes! You children of snakes! How will you be able to escape the judgment of hell? 34 Therefore, look, I’m sending you prophets, wise people, and legal experts. Some of them you will kill and crucify. And some you will beat in your synagogues and chase from city to city. 35 Therefore, upon you will come all the righteous blood that has been poured out on the earth, from the blood of that righteous man Abel to the blood of Zechariah the son of Barachiah, whom you killed between the temple and the altar. 36 I assure you that all these things will come upon this generation.
Crying over Jerusalem37 “Jerusalem, Jerusalem! You who kill the prophets and stone those who were sent to you. How often I wanted to gather your people together, just as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings. But you didn’t want that. 38 Look, your house is left to you deserted. 39 I tell you, you won’t see me until you say, Blessings on the one who comes in the Lord’s name.”
If you wish to continue with Lectio Divina, you can click here, and then return for the meditation and prayer.
I think it's easy to get hung up on the "good guys/ bad guys" in the Biblical text, and the Pharisees usually have a big target on their backs where the gospels are concerned. But, the truth is, much of what comes out of Jesus' mouth (and Paul's) is very close if not identical to what we actually know about the Pharisees. To be honest, the Pharisees were just a group of people within Judaism who were seeking to be faithful.
But there's a lot of bad news in scripture for people like the Pharisees, and like me... we professional religious folks. It is simply too easy to be hypocritical. We have this treasure in scripture, and we have Jesus (who is, in fact, the treasure in scripture), and it is so easy to read through the lenses of our own biases and needs and hatreds.
And, you know, it all comes down to this weeping God.
Jerusalem, Jerusalem, Jesus laments. (Faithful people. Faithless people.)
You who kill the prophets. (We, who can't get outside our own notions of goodness to hear that We. Might. Be. Wrong.)
Here. Come here. Huddle close. Let me hold you. (He will feed his flock like a shepherd, and gather the lambs in his arms.)
Yes, I know, this is the song/ video I can't stop sharing.
"Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing" sung by Sufjan Stevens.
"Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it..." What can I say? It speaks to me.
Take our hearts, O God who comes, and seal them. Give us the faithfulness we long for, so that we might be your people in a world so desperately in need of you. We pray it in Jesus' name. Amen.