23 August 2010

Matthew 23:13-22

"You cross land and sea to make a single convert, and you make the new convert twice as much a child of hell as yourselves." (v.15)


What a doom laden, condemnatory passage! This is Jesus' utter denunciation of the religious leaders. Verse 13 is the first of seven terrible woes, all of which condemn the religious leaders through their insistence of very strict observations of heavily detailed rules of conduct. They are making it impossible for others to enter the kingdom of God yet, Christ says, they themselves will not be able to enter either because they are focusing on the wrong things! How cross Jesus is with these guys who have all the passion and commitment but just put the emphasis in the wrong places.

The religious leaders are shutting the door of the kingdom in people's faces and Christ will have none of it. He tears them apart for their shallowness and complete disregard of what it is to lead a faithful life. They use their power and influence to control and manipulate according to their own desires, thereby damaging those who come for entry into the synagogue (the Jewish place of worship) and ultimately, the community of God. They base their approach on entirely false premises and offer a welcome that is artificial at best, and at worst, deceitful.

To Ponder

Can you think of an occasion or circumstance where the emphasis has been misplaced and barriers have arisen? What happened?

Consider the following: the abuse of power is not something that we easily associate with Church, but it does happen.

What sort of power is Christ-like? How can we put in place checks and balances to ensure that we do not abuse our power and influence, but always act for others before ourselves?

Bible notes author

Margaret Sawyer

Margaret Sawyer has worked for the Methodist Connexional Team for ten years, first as connexional secretary for Women's Network and then as the Church's equality and diversity officer. She now works to support preaching and worship in her local circuit and district.