Jesus was finished with the Pharisees and Sadducees.
It wasn’t that he shunned them, but they decided to stop talking to him (Matthew 22:46).
The lesson of Jesus to the crowds in Matthew 23 was to beware of these religious “leaders,” since they had no desire to become any more than what they were: they were hypocrites.
A hypocrite is a person who is an actor. The word itself comes from the drama of the Greeks and refers to the false face the actors wore while performing their roles. The Pharisees wore a false face of holiness. Underneath the mask, however, the Pharisees were quite unholy.
The first woe Jesus pronounced upon the scribes and Pharisees, Jesus said, “But woe to you, 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 NASB).
The phrase, “shut off” in Jesus’ words means the Pharisees had locked up and barred the door to the kingdom of heaven. While Jesus and his disciples were doing everything they could to unlock the doors and let people in, the Pharisees were doing everything they could to lock the doors and keep people out.
Jesus told the Pharisees it wasn’t enough for them to lock the doors of the kingdom so they themselves couldn’t enter. Oh, no. The egregious part was that they kept the doors barred so no one else could enter.
It would be nice to say this kind of pharisaical behavior never occurs in our day, but that would be grossly inaccurate.
There are people who lock the door to the kingdom because they will not tell anyone about it. All children of God are charged with the responsibility of telling others the way into the kingdom. Yet there are thousands who keep this information to themselves.
Then, there are others who refuse to finance the way for others to go and tell the precious story of Jesus. They bar the door of the kingdom because they think preaching to the lost in other countries is a waste of time and money.
Friends, if Jesus pronounced a woe upon the scribes and Pharisees for locking the doors to the kingdom, what woe would he pronounce upon those who bar the way in the 21st Century?