What does Jesus mean when He says “Woe to you”?
Jesus is upset. Jesus is upset with the elite religious leaders of the day.
Jesus hasn’t gotten over it. I am thinking I need to pay attention to this. It is too easy to think Jesus is saying this “to them”. The word of Jesus is like a sharp sword.
It is easy to slip into the religious mode. Maybe I’ve been going to church too long. Maybe the church has been around too long. Maybe it has all gotten old and tired.
Haven’t I heard this sermon before? How many times are we going to sing that hymn?
Traditions. Jargon. Rampant hypocrisy. I don’t see it. I am participating in it. I am cheering it on.
Amen, I say! Don’t I feel better? I prayed when the minister called on me. I put my envelope in the offering plate. If I could sing, I would be in the choir. What else does Jesus want from me?
Jesus has lots to say. It is easy to think Jesus is talking to someone else. Could Jesus be talking to me? I am listening. I am dumbfounded by what He says to me! Really???
I proclaim: Master Jesus the Messiah, Son of God, have mercy on me a sinner!
“So because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of My mouth.” | Revelation 3:16
Uh oh! Here it comes! I better listen up and change my mind (aka repent). I better act different. I better give up acting religious. I better get serious about following Him. I better give up my selfish self pitying. I better listen up!
- “Woe to you, Chorazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! For if the miracles had occurred in Tyre and Sidon which occurred in you, they would have changed their minds (aka repented) long ago in sackcloth and ashes.” | Matthew 11:21
- Am I missing the miracles of God?
- Have I changed my mind about who is in charge?
- Am I ready to love?
- “Woe to the world because of its stumbling blocks! For it is inevitable that stumbling blocks come; but woe to that man through whom the stumbling block comes!” | Matthew 18:7
- Have I become a stumbling block to others to see Jesus?
- “But woe to you, elite religious leaders (aka scribes and Pharisees), hypocrites, because you shut off the kingdom of heaven from people; for you do not enter in yourselves, nor do you allow those who are entering to go in.” | Matthew 23:13
- Am I keeping Jesus to myself?
- Who have I talked to about Jesus in the last week, month, year?
- “Woe to you, elite religious leaders, hypocrites, because you devour widows’ houses, and for a pretense you make long prayers; therefore you will receive greater condemnation.” | Matthew 23:14
- Do I care about the widows? What am I doing to help?
- Come on now, that long prayer was pretty good. Everyone said amen when I was done.
- “Woe to you, elite religious leaders, hypocrites, because you travel around on sea and land to make one proselyte; and when he becomes one, you make him twice as much a son of hell as yourselves.” | Matthew 23:15
- What was wrong with the mission trip to Haiti?
- Why didn’t I stay longer?
- When am I going back?
- “Woe to you, elite religious leaders and blind guides, who say, ‘Whoever swears by the temple, that is nothing; but whoever swears by the gold of the temple is obligated.’ | Matthew 23:16
- What’s wrong with that new multi million dollar sanctuary we built?
- “Woe to you, elite religious leaders, hypocrites! For you tithe mint and dill and cummin, and have neglected the weightier provisions of the law: justice and mercy and faithfulness; but these are the things you should have done without neglecting the others.” | Matthew 23:23
- What is wrong with my law and order thinking?
- Were you really serious about my forgiving others and showing mercy?
- “Woe to you, elite religious leaders, hypocrites! For you clean the outside of the cup and of the dish, but inside they are full of robbery and self-indulgence.” | Matthew 23:25
- Me, obsessive compulsive about washing? Shouldn’t I look nice when I go out?
- “Woe to you, elite religious leaders, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs which on the outside appear beautiful, but inside they are full of dead men’s bones and all uncleanness.” Matthew 23:27
- What about my heart and the evil inside?
- My clothes look nice and I’m presentable. Isn’t that a good thing?
- This all sounds pretty harsh.
- “Woe to you, elite religious leaders, hypocrites! For you build the tombs of the prophets and adorn the monuments of the righteous, and say, ‘If we had been living in the days of our fathers, we would not have been partners with them in shedding the blood of the prophets.’ So you testify against yourselves, that you are sons of those who murdered the prophets. Fill up, then, the measure of the guilt of your fathers. You serpents, you brood of vipers, how will you escape the sentence of hell? | Matthew 23:29
- Look, slavery and Jim Crow laws went away a long time ago. I didn’t kill MLK! What does that have to do with me?
- “The Son of Man is to go, just as it is written of Him; but woe to that man by whom the Son of Man is betrayed! It would have been good for that man if he had not been born.” | Matthew 26:24
- Have I become a stumbling block to others to see Jesus?
- “But woe to you who are rich, for you are receiving your comfort in full.” | Luke 6:24
- I work hard. What is wrong with the four cars I own? Why shouldn’t we get that vacation home?
- “Woe to you who are well-fed now, for you shall be hungry.”
- Why shouldn’t we go out to dinner again?
- It was silly when my dad talked about the starving kids in China.
- “Woe to you who laugh now, for you shall mourn and weep.” | Luke 6:25
- What is wrong with having a little fun.
- My entertainment budget is reasonable. It isn’t that much money.
- “Woe to you when all men speak well of you, for their fathers used to treat the false prophets in the same way.” | Luke 6:26
- I appreciate the praise I get at work.
- I work hard and it’s nice to be recognized.
- “But woe to you elite religious leaders! For you pay tithe of mint and rue and every kind of garden herb, and yet disregard justice and the love of God; but these are the things you should have done without neglecting the others.” | Luke 11:42
- Is Jesus really serious about all this love stuff? No one wants to hear about love at work. Justice isn’t a practical idea to talk about.
- Why should I be concerned about justice. I haven’t done anything wrong.
- “Woe to you elite religious leaders! For you love the chief seats in the churches and the respectful greetings in the market places.” | Luke 11:43
- I have sacrificed a lot to be a elder in my church. Give that up?
- “Woe to you! For you are like concealed tombs, and the people who walk over them are unaware of it.” | Luke 11:44
- Come on, this is getting to be a little too much now. Really?
- But He said, “Woe to you elite religious leaders and lawyers as well! For you weigh men down with burdens hard to bear, while you yourselves will not even touch the burdens with one of your fingers.” | Luke 11:46
- My dad taught me to work hard.
- Why shouldn’t others do the same?
- “Woe to you! For you build the tombs of the prophets, and it was your fathers who killed them.” | Luke 11:47
- What is wrong with all the monuments we have built?
- Why should we have to take them down?
- “Woe to you elite religious leaders! For you have taken away the key of knowledge; you yourselves did not enter, and you hindered those who were entering.” | Luke 11:52
- Share what I know? Teach Sunday School? Host the home bible study? Really?
- He said to His disciples, “It is inevitable that stumbling blocks come, but woe to him through whom they come!” | Luke 17:1
- Are we back to this again?
Is there good news? Yes, Jesus has given me the power of God’s Holy Spirit. I have the fruit of the Spirit growing in me. I can be free of hypocrisy. I declare that Jesus is my Master and the anointed Messiah (King). Jesus died for me missing God’s goals (aka sinning). Jesus has been raised from the dead in an incorruptible body. Jesus has ascended to heaven and now sits at the right hand of God almighty.
Amen and Amen! Glory be to God.
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