Morning Bible Study
Jesus’ ministry is well under way, and the people have been amazed not just
at the things He’s been teaching, but the things He’s been doing.
Last week … Jesus was invited over to the house of a Pharisee for dinner.
When the Pharisee expressed surprise that Jesus was not performing the
traditional ceremonial handwashing before eating, Jesus launched into a pretty
harsh critique of the Pharisees.
Jesus’s rebuked the Pharisees for being more concerned about their outer
appearance rather than the state of their heart.
11:45-54 Lawyer Woes
:45 Then one of the lawyers answered and said to Him, “Teacher, by saying
these things You reproach us also.”
:45 one of the lawyers answered
A Mexican bandit made a specialty of crossing the Rio Grande from time to
time and robbing banks in Texas. Finally, a reward was offered for his capture.
An enterprising Texas Ranger decided to track him down. After a lengthy search,
he traced the bandit to his favorite cantina, snuck up behind him, put his
trusty six-shooter to the bandit’s head, and said, “You’re under arrest. Tell
me where you hid the loot or I’ll blow your brains out.” But the bandit didn’t
speak English and the Ranger didn’t speak Spanish! Fortunately, a bilingual
lawyer was in the saloon and translated the Ranger’s message. The terrified
bandit blurted out, in Spanish, that the loot was buried under the oak tree in
back of the cantina. “What did he say?” asked the Ranger. The lawyer answered,
“He said, ‘Get lost, you turkey. You wouldn’t dare shoot me.’”
Some lawyers can’t be trusted…
Not all lawyers are bad though…
A man went to his lawyer and told him, “My neighbor owes me $500 and he
doesn’t want to pay up. What should I do?” “Do you have any proof?” asked the
lawyer. “Nope,” replied the man. “Okay, then write him a letter asking him for
the $1000 he owed you,” said the lawyer. “But it’s only $500,” replied the man.
“Precisely. That’s what he will reply and we will have him!
lawyers – nomikos – one
learned in the law
But it’s not just any old law they were learned in, it was the Law of
They were religious experts.
These men would take the Law of Moses and interpret it in order to teach
people how to do it.
The Law vs. Legalism
Some Christians say that under the New Testament, there is nothing good in
the Law of Moses. Paul would argue
against those folks.
(Romans 7:7 NKJV) What shall
we say then? Is the law sin? Certainly not! On the contrary, I would not
have known sin except through the law. For I would not have known covetousness
unless the law had said, “You shall not covet.”
The law shows us what the holiness of God looks like. It gives us a clue as to God’s standards.
There is value in us learning and studying the Law.
The Law was not intended to produce salvation, but to convince man of his
guilt and his need for a Savior.
3:24 NKJV) Therefore the law was our tutor to bring us to Christ, that
we might be justified by faith.
The law showed us our need for Jesus.
Jesus died in order to pay the penalty of our sins.
Legalism occurs when we take the Law further than God intended it to go.
In the early church, there were a group called the “Judaizers” who believed
that you couldn’t be saved unless you were circumcised and kept the Law of
The early church got together and resolved the issue.
It was Peter who spoke the winning argument when he said,
15:10–11 NKJV) —10 Now therefore, why do you test God by putting a yoke on the neck of
the disciples which neither our fathers nor we were able to bear? 11 But we
believe that through the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ we shall be saved in
the same manner as they.”
Men aren’t saved by keeping of the Law.
Men are saved through trusting in God’s grace, God’s gift
of Jesus’ death for our sins.
:45 You reproach us also
When Jesus rebuked the Pharisees, the lawyers realized they were guilty as
He had hurt their feelings.
:46 And He said, “Woe to you also, lawyers! For you load men with burdens
hard to bear, and you yourselves do not touch the burdens with one of your
:46 Woe to you also, lawyers!
Don’t mistake “woe” for a similar sounding word…
Woe – ouai – alas, woe
In Hebrew the word is owy – woe!
Have heard the expression, “Oy vey”?
It means “Woe! Woe!” or, “Woe is me!”
It’s found over 100 times in the Bible.
After Jesus’ initial criticism of the Pharisees, He pronounced three “woes”
to the Pharisees.
Jesus is now going to pronounce three “woes” on the lawyers as well.
I find it interesting that there is another group of three “woes” in the
Bible, mentioned in the Book of Revelation (Rev. 8-12) concerning the Great
Tribulation before Jesus comes back.
:46 you yourselves do not touch the burdens
As experts in the Law, the lawyers were good at telling other people what
they needed to do according to the law, but they didn’t do so much of it
Their motto was “Do as I say and not as I do”.
Too many loopholes
This first “woe” is because the legalist is good at using all sorts of
Scripture to condemn others, while conveniently excusing their own behavior.
The other day a friend asked my opinion about an article concerning
Christians and the upcoming elections.
The author is a pastor who made several points.
With all his points, he found Scriptures to support his
He believes that Christians have a responsibility to vote
in the upcoming elections.
He said we should vote responsibly, that if the final two
candidates are not truly Christian, the believer should still vote, but vote
for the person who supports the policies that are closest to a Christian
Here’s what made me chuckle.
When he talked about the previous election in 2012, when
faced with the choice of voting for Obama or Romney, he himself chose not to
vote at all because Obama was too liberal and Romney (though more conservative)
was a Mormon.
He broke his own rules.
The legalist is acquainted with all the “loopholes”.
That’s how they can excuse their own bad behavior or attitudes while
Some lawyers make it their goal to always find a loophole…
A young Ivy League lawyer was driving to a hearing in
another town, which he was late for. While driving through back streets, the
lawyer, in a rush, decided not to stop at a stop sign, but rather slow down. As
he continued on his way, he saw a state trooper pull up behind him with lights
on. After checking his speedometer, the young lawyer decided the officer must
be wanting to pass him. Reluctantly, he slows down and allows the officer space
to continue on. However, when he pulls over, the officer pulls up directly
behind him. As the officer approaches the car, the lawyer rolls down his window
and with a smug expression asks, “How can I help you?” The officer replies, “Do
you recall pulling straight through a stop sign at the intersection about a
mile back?” “Well, I slowed down.” “Well, in this state, stop signs mean stop,
not slow down.” The young lawyer, feeling cocky, thought he could outwit the
small town cop: “If you can prove to me what the difference between stopping
and slowing down really is, I’ll pay the ticket, if not, you have to let me
go.” The officer thought about it for a moment, then replied, “Okay. Sounds
like a fair deal. Get out of your car.” The lawyer rolls his eyes, and proceeds
to get out of his car. The officer unsheathes his nightstick, and begins to
mercilessly beat the lawyer to the ground. He paused for a moment and smiled:
“Now, would you like me to stop? Or should I just slow down?”
When I am honest with myself about the Law, I see God’s standard as being
impossible to keep completely.
If I’m honest with myself, I realize that I need God’s grace.
The problem with the person caught in legalism is that they can’t admit how
far short they fall. They’re just good
at the loopholes.
:47 Woe to you!
Here’s the second “Woe”
:47 For you build the tombs of the prophets, and your fathers killed them.
:48 In fact, you bear witness that you approve the deeds of your fathers;
for they indeed killed them, and you build their tombs.
:47 you build the tombs of the prophets
The lawyers were among those who repaired and beautified the monuments for
:47 your fathers killed them
The lawyers would have to admit that it was their own ancestors who killed
the very prophets whose tombs they built.
:48 you approve the deeds of your fathers
Their very acts against Jesus would show that they were no different from
:49 Therefore the wisdom of God also said, ‘I will send them prophets and
apostles, and some of them they will kill and persecute,’
:49 some of them they will kill and persecute
Jesus is predicting that more prophets and apostles will continue to be
raised up by God, persecuted, and killed.
:50 that the blood of all the prophets which was shed from the foundation
of the world may be required of this generation,
:51 from the blood of Abel to the blood of Zechariah who perished between
the altar and the temple. Yes, I say to you, it shall be required of this
:51 from the blood of Abel
Abel was the second son of Adam and Eve. When Abel and his older brother
Cain brought offerings to the Lord, the Lord accepted Abel’s offering, but
rejected Cain’s (Gen. 4)
The writer of Hebrews tells us that Abel’s offering was accepted because he
had offered it with faith. (Heb. 11:4)
Abel was right with the Lord, and Cain wasn’t. Cain became jealous of his
brother and killed him, the first to kill one of God’s people.
:51 to the blood of Zechariah
Joash was only a little boy when he became king over Judah, but he had the
help of Jehoiada the priest, who raised him and taught him the ways of the
As long as Jehoiada was alive, Joash was a good king. But the day came when
Jehoiada died, and Joash began to do wicked things.
Zechariah was the son of Jehoiada, and when Joash started doing wicked
things, Zechariah rebuked Joash, and Joash responded by having Zechariah killed
right there in the Temple (2Chr. 24:17-22)
:51 from Abel …to Zechariah
It almost looks as if Jesus is saying that they will be guilty of killing
the prophets from “A” to “Z”, but that’s just a coincidence with our English
In the Hebrew Old Testament, the books are in a slightly different order,
with 2Chronicles being the last book in the Bible.
Jesus is indeed talking about all the Old Testament prophets, but by
talking about the first guy murdered in Genesis, to the last guy murdered in
:51 it shall be required of this generation
These lawyers were just like their fathers who killed the former prophets and
would be held accountable before God because of their rejection of the One the
prophets foretold – Jesus.
This second “woe” is about …
Hindering God’s work
Sometimes God decides to do a work that’s a little out of the ordinary.
It might not even fit our idea of how God should work.
In the late 60’s, God began to work in a little country church on the edge
of town in Costa Mesa California, a little church called “Calvary Chapel”. One of the craziest things was that hippies
were getting saved, and God was using them…
God used Lonnie in some amazing ways, even though he was
actually quite a flawed individual.
Some churches were quite upset at what was happening
because some of these long haired barefoot hippies would show up in their neat
and clean Sunday services.
Some claimed that using rock music in church and speaking
in tongues was all a work of the devil.
In Acts 5, Peter and John were on trial before the Sanhedrin.
They were simple, uneducated fishermen, but they had been with Jesus.
They had been causing much grief to the religious leaders by continuing to
preach about Jesus. God was also doing
amazing things like healing people, and even sending an angel to miraculously
release them from prison.
During this trial before the religious leaders, a Pharisee named Gamaliel
stood up to speak:
5:38–39 NKJV) —38 And now I say to you, keep away from these men and let them alone;
for if this plan or this work is of men, it will come to nothing; 39 but if it is
of God, you cannot overthrow it—lest you even be found to fight against God.”
When God chooses to use someone, even if it’s a little unorthodox, do you
want to stop them because they don’t dot all their “I’s” and cross all their “T’s”?
Legalism hinders God’s work.
:52 “Woe to you lawyers! For you have taken away the key of knowledge. You
did not enter in yourselves, and those who were entering in you hindered.”
:52 taken away the key of knowledge
The “key” of knowledge is the thing that the lawyers know the most.
It’s the Scriptures.
Just read it
The lawyers were considered the “experts” in the Scriptures, in the Law of
The problem was that some of their ideas about the Scriptures were totally
off and not only were they keeping themselves from understanding the truth
about Jesus, they were keeping others from understanding the truth about Jesus.
Some religions will give you the idea that the Scriptures are too hard to
understand and too complicated unless you listen to them and their
God doesn’t seem to agree with this idea.
(1 John 2:27 NLT) But you have
received the Holy Spirit, and he lives within you, so you don’t need anyone to
teach you what is true. For the Spirit teaches you everything you need to know,
and what he teaches is true—it is not a lie. So just as he has taught you,
remain in fellowship with Christ.
God uses teachers in the church.
The point is that God can teach you all by Himself.
Even Moses, the author of the Law, wrote,
30:11–14 NLT) —11 “This command I am giving you today is not too difficult for you,
and it is not beyond your reach. 12 It is not kept in heaven, so distant that you must ask, ‘Who will
go up to heaven and bring it down so we can hear it and obey?’ 13 It is not
kept beyond the sea, so far away that you must ask, ‘Who will cross the sea to
bring it to us so we can hear it and obey?’ 14 No, the message is very close at
hand; it is on your lips and in your heart so that you can obey it.
Do you have trouble understanding your Bible? Here are some tips:
You must be born again.
The Bible says that an unbeliever will struggle to
understand the Bible.
Corinthians 2:14 NLT) But people who aren’t spiritual can’t receive these truths from
God’s Spirit. It all sounds foolish to them and they can’t understand it, for only
those who are spiritual can understand what the Spirit means.
Until you’ve given your life to Jesus, until the Holy
Spirit is in you, you will have a hard time understanding.
You might need an easier translation.
Maybe you’re not that good at reading. You might find it beneficial to simply get an
easier to understand translation, like the New Living Translation.
You just need to read.
Learn to develop a “waiting for further information” file
in your head.
If you read something and don’t understand it, file it
away for later. It may simply mean that
you haven’t read enough of your Bible yet.
I’ve had a lot of my questions answered over the years
simply by reading the Bible over and over again.
:53 And as He said these things to them, the scribes and the Pharisees
began to assail Him vehemently, and to cross-examine Him about many
:53 the scribes and Pharisees
The “lawyers” were also known as “scribes”. They were the ones responsible
for making careful copies of the Scriptures.
:53 began to assail Him vehemently
They have “unfriended” Jesus
He has hurt their feelings.
:54 lying in wait for Him, and seeking to catch Him in something He might
say, that they might accuse Him.
:54 that they might accuse Him
Looking for faults or truth?
There are some ministries whose sole purpose is to find things wrong with
They often call themselves “discernment” ministries.
There is value in discerning truth from error. John wrote,
(1 John 4:1 NKJV) Beloved, do
not believe every spirit, but test the spirits, whether they are of God;
because many false prophets have gone out into the world.
The problem comes when you start to find “error” in every little thing.
In 1992 a Los Angeles county parking control officer came upon a brown El
Dorado Cadillac illegally parked next to the curb on street-sweeping day.
The officer dutifully wrote out a ticket. Ignoring the man seated at the
driver's wheel, the officer reached inside the open car window and placed the
$30 citation on the dashboard.
The driver of the car made no excuses. No argument ensued - and with good
reason. The driver of the car had been shot in the head ten to twelve hours
before but was sitting up, stiff as a board, slumped slightly forward, with
blood on his face. He was dead.
The officer, preoccupied with ticket-writing, was unaware of anything out
of the ordinary. He got back in his car and drove away.
That’s the mindset of legalism – Don’t pay any real attention to the person
in front of you, just write a lot of tickets.
Many people around us are “dead in transgressions and sins.” What should
catch our attention most is their need, not their offenses.
They need a Savior, not a citation.