Matthew 23:24–39 (NKJV)
Blind guides, who strain out a gnat and swallow a camel! “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you cleanse the outside of the cup and dish, but inside they are full of extortion and self-indulgence. 26 Blind Pharisee, first cleanse the inside of the cup and dish, that the outside of them may be clean also. “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs which indeed appear beautiful outwardly, but inside are full of dead men’s bones and all uncleanness. Even so you also outwardly appear righteous to men, but inside you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness.Matthew 23:24-28
Jesus addresses the hypocrisy of the Pharisees and scribes once again in this passage. He characterizes them as looking righteous on the outside, but being dead and dirty on the inside. It is as if they are tombs, graves, full of death and decay, yet someone has put a lovely coat of white paint on the outside of the sepulchre. Whitewashing is putting a coat of paint or some similar substance over any item in order to make it look clean or fresh.
Some may remember the stories of Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn that speak of them having the job of whitewashing the fence and getting others to do it while they went fishing. It had to be done often, and it did not last long, yet was cheaper than washing, cleaning, and painting the fence. How pleasant would it be to pick up a cup or bowl, shiny and bright on the outside, and then see that the inside was filthy? No one would want to drink from that cup or eat from that dish. Don’t whitewash your life. Don’t pretend that you are clean by dressing up the outside and ignoring the sin and decay within! Instead, Let Christ cleanse you within and without and be fully whole.
“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! Because you build the tombs of the prophets and adorn the monuments of the righteous, and say, ‘If we had lived in the days of our fathers, we would not have been partakers with them in the blood of the prophets.’ “Therefore you are witnesses against yourselves that you are sons of those who murdered the prophets. Fill up, then, the measure of your fathers’ guilt. Serpents, brood of vipers! How can you escape the condemnation of hell? Therefore, indeed, I send you prophets, wise men, and scribes: some of them you will kill and crucify, and some of them you will scourge in your synagogues and persecute from city to city, that on you may come all the righteous blood shed on the earth, from the blood of righteous Abel to the blood of Zechariah, son of Berechiah, whom you murdered between the temple and the altar. Assuredly, I say to you, all these things will come upon this generation. “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the one who kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to her! How often I wanted to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing! See! Your house is left to you desolate; for I say to you, you shall see Me no more till you say, ‘Blessed is He who comes in the name of the LORD!’ ”Matthew 23:29-39
He goes on further to point out a particular hypocrisy. They condemned their forefathers for killing prophets of God, then were just a guilty of persecuting people like John the Baptist and even Jesus Himself. Judgment will come upon them for their hypocrisy. Jesus then offers a soliloquy of lament over Jerusalem, mourning that He often had wanted to gather them, lead them, and protect them. However, they would not allow Him to do so. Therefore, desolation will come and they will not recognize Him as Lord until He comes again. Don’t let your hypocrisy get in the way of knowing God and making room for Him!