Matthew 23:1-5

Mat 23:1 (KJB)
Then spake Jesus to the multitude, and to his disciples,

The clash with the Jewish leaders is now at an end and they saw that there was no way they could trap Jesus with any type of words which would be self-indicting. Now Jesus speaks to the multitude that has heard the previous debate.

Mat 23:2 (KJB)
Saying, The scribes and the Pharisees sit in Moses' seat:

Here begins probably the most scathing denunciation of the Jewish leaders. Keep in mind that this is not just a man saying these things but God in the flesh is denouncing the false leaders who have withheld the truth from the people and used them as a means to gain wealth not caring about their eternal souls. What we read here as being levied against the leaders can also be a lesson for us because we can practice the same things, intentional or unintentional and that is why we must always check ourselves to make sure we are living and teaching correctly. Jesus starts out by stating that the scribes and Pharisees sit in the seat of Moses, that is, they have the spiritual rule over the people just as Moses had over the people in his day. These are the spiritual leaders who should have concern for the eternal well-being of the people. They had the authority to teach, interpret, and pass down the teachings to the next generation. Just as Moses received the law on Mount Sinai and then handed it down to Joshua who in turn handed it down to the next generation, and so forth till it came to the time of the Pharisees. We can also liken these to the church leaders of today who have the spiritual rule over their people.

Mat 23:3 (KJB)
All therefore whatsoever they bid you observe, that observe and do; but do not ye after their works: for they say, and do not.

In the first part of this verse, Jesus is not saying anything out of the ordinary that the position of the Pharisees and scribes would command respect and within that respect is to heed their teachings of the law. What they taught was to be obeyed. The different sacrifices and offerings were done in accordance with the interpretation of the law. Then Jesus shifts the focus not on the teachings but on the difference between what they teach and how they live. Jesus exhorted the people not to live their lives like the Pharisees who teach the tenets of the law but do not obey them. They speak of doing good works but they themselves do none because they lived their lives unto themselves and for their own wealth and pleasure. Avoid at all costs the dualistic ways of the Pharisees.

Mat 23:4 (KJB)
For they bind heavy burdens and grievous to be borne, and lay them on men's shoulders; but they themselves will not move them with one of their fingers.

The religious leaders were compared to those masters who overburden their beasts with loads that are too heavy to bear. The leaders did the same things except these were created religious rituals and ceremonies. Jesus had rejected the traditions of the elders because they were added to the law. It was forbidden in the law to add to the law. (Deu 4:2 KJV) Ye shall not add unto the word which I command you, neither shall ye diminish ought from it, that ye may keep the commandments of the LORD your God which I command you. Yet these leaders had created all kinds of legalistic ceremonies which they coupled on to the law and then attaching penalties if they were not kept. The Pharisees had failed miserably in understanding that the law was spiritual and instead made it a legalistic, demanding law. They kept adding more requirements for the people to obey and simultaneously they invented interpretations and traditions for themselves as reasons for them to avoid any real obligation so their lives would be literally free from all the burdens. Their created rules were only for the people and not for them.

Mat 23:5 (KJB)
But all their works they do for to be seen of men: they make broad their phylacteries, and enlarge the borders of their garments,

They make broad - Enlarge or widen

If there was one major characteristic of the religious leaders, it was that they did their works so others would see them. This way they would be honored in the sight of the people. All their alms, prayers, fastings, etc., were done in the sight of the people so they would have glory and praise from men. Not only did they do their works for the purpose of being seen but they also fixed their clothes to be one step above others. First, they widened or enlarged their phylacteries. The phylactery was a box which contained a set of Scriptures. There were two of them and one was placed on the arm and the other was placed on the forehead between the eyes and were attached with ribbons. (Deu 6:8 KJV) And thou shalt bind them for a sign upon thine hand, and they shall be as frontlets between thine eyes. They contained Exodus 13:2, 11, Deuteronomy 6:4 and 11:13, and Exodus 13:16. So what the leaders did was to enlarge these boxes so they would be bigger than those of others. The next enlargement they made was to the tassels on their garments What they did was to lengthen them so they would show everyone their piety. Jesus had worn tassels on his garment. (Mat 9:20 KJV) And, behold, a woman, which was diseased with an issue of blood twelve years, came behind him, and touched the hem of his garment: The tassels were a command by God to be placed on their garments so that whenever they looked at them, it would remind them of Godís law. (Num 15:37-40 KJV) And the LORD spake unto Moses, saying, {38} Speak unto the children of Israel, and bid them that they make them fringes in the borders of their garments throughout their generations, and that they put upon the fringe of the borders a ribband of blue: {39} And it shall be unto you for a fringe, that ye may look upon it, and remember all the commandments of the LORD, and do them; and that ye seek not after your own heart and your own eyes, after which ye use to go a whoring: {40} That ye may remember, and do all my commandments, and be holy unto your God.

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