1. After that Jesus turned to address His disciples, along with the great crowd that had gathered there with them.
2. He said to them all, “Look, when it comes to teaching the Law of God strictly from a legal standpoint, the religion scholars, particularly the Scribes and Pharisees, are completely competent. In that sense they sit on Moses’ seat of authority.
3. So, if you’re just interested in being informed about the letter of the Law, they’re the ones to see. In fact, you won't go wrong in following their teachings on Moses... but following them is a different story. The bottom line is they don’t practice what they preach because they don’t have a relationship with God…and without relationship, keeping ‘the rules’ just becomes a pointless exercise in absurdity.
4. That’s why they continually bundle up heavy loads, which are hard to bear, and place them on your shoulders, loading you down like pack animals. Then they seem to take pleasure in watching you stagger under these burdens of endless rules and regulations…commandments that they themselves can’t and don’t even keep…and never think of lifting a finger to help you try to figure out how to live up to this impossible lifestyle-standard which they have created.
5. And the laws that they do, in fact, keep, they only do so to be seen of people. That’s why they make their phylacteries, which are typically just small cases enclosing certain Scripture passages, worn during prayer on the left arm and forehead, so big and obvious! And even though all male Israelites, according to the command, wear fringes on their prayer garments, they make theirs extra long! It’s as if they’ve totally missed the point of these external things, and have turned something that should actually be meaningful into an empty fashion show.
6. And then there’s the whole other aspect of it which has to do with their love for public places of honor, and having the best seats in the synagogues, which really speaks to their insatiable need for validation…
7. And they bask in the sunlight of public recognition and flattery, going beyond the normal use and appropriateness of titles. Their love for being called ‘Rabbi’ is a whole other thing, entirely…it’s as if their entire identity is wrapped up in the power that comes from that title.
8. But the title of ‘Rabbi’ is irrelevant for you…you don’t need to be put up on a religious pedestal, nor is the approval of men necessary or essential for you. Simply put, you have one Teacher and you are all brothers.
9. Furthermore, don’t even call anyone on earth ‘father’. You obviously have earthly fathers to honor, and mentors who are father figures in your life…but concerning the things of God, you have one Father…One Parent who watches over your life, and has rightful authority over you…Who is manifested in the heavenly realm.
10. I’m helping you to change your perspective on who and what is important in the Kingdom…that’s why I even say that you must not be called ‘masters’ or ‘leaders’ or even ‘teachers’…if you have Kingdom authority, it will be recognized without the trappings of human notoriety…your gift will make room for you…you won’t have to convince anyone of your importance by demanding that they recognize you by a title. But the real issue at hand is that you have one Master/Leader/Teacher…the Christ!
11. In the Kingdom there is a new order…in a word, whoever is greatest among you shall be your servant...so the way to stand out is to step down.
12. In the Kingdom, whoever exalts himself/herself…the person who puffs himself/herself up publicly with pride…will be publicly humbled and brought low. But whoever humbles himself/herself, and is content to just be real and authentic, and keep his or her importance in perspective, will be raised to a place of real honor.
13. What sorrow you bring upon yourselves, you Scribes and Pharisees...you frauds and pretenders...your obsession with control prevents your followers from entering the Kingdom of/from the heavens. It's not enough that you yourselves refuse to enter in...you don't want anyone else to enter in, either.
14. (Verse 14 doesn't exist in any original manuscripts.)
15. What sorrow you bring upon yourselves, you Scribes and Pharisees...you frauds and pretenders...you travel halfway around the world to make one convert, and when you find one, and turn him or her to your way of thinking, you make that victim twice as fit for ending up in Gehenna, the garbage dump, as you are!
16. What sorrow you bring upon yourselves, you blind guides, who say that if anyone swears by the sanctuary of the temple, it's no big deal...the oath isn't binding; but at the same time you say that if anyone swears by the gold of the sanctuary, that person is totally bound by his oath!
17. Do you honestly not see how ridiculous your religious rules have become? Your preoccupation with the precision of these points of order has turned you into fools, and has blinded you from seeing what really matters to God. Anyone with any sense would know that there is no logical way to decide which is greater...the gold, or the sanctuary of the temple that has made the gold sacred.
18. Then you say that whoever swears by the altar is not bound to keep his or her promise, but whoever swears by the offering on the altar is absolutely bound by their oath.
19. How could men like you who are supposedly intelligent allow yourself to become so dumbed down by details like this? It's a silly question, but which is greater...the gift, or the altar which makes the gift sacred?
20. I mean, if you're going to split hairs over this issue, a simple observation would cause you to conclude that whoever swears by the altar swears by it and by everything on it.
21. Furthermore, whoever swears by the sanctuary of the temple swears by it and by Him Who dwells in it.
22. And whoever swears by heaven swears by the throne of God and by Him Who sits upon it.
23. Again...what sorrow you bring upon yourselves, you Scribes and Pharisees...you frauds and pretenders. You're faithful to pay your tithes...meticulous about it, even...but you have neglected and omitted the weightier and more important matters of the Law, which are righteousness and justice and mercy. Look, I'm not saying that you shouldn't tithe...in fact you should...but not at the expense of missing the big picture. Everything that you care about, including tithing, should be about your relationship with God...without that, none of the religious mechanics matter.
24. Your misguided myopia has degenerated into total blindness. Your thoughtless theology has caused you to become so trivial that you're like someone who constantly filters his drinking water to avoid swallowing a gnat, but has become so insanely compulsive about the filtering process that he doesn't even notice when he swallows a whole camel!
25. What sorrow you bring upon yourselves, you Scribes and Pharisees…you frauds and pretenders…you worry yourselves silly over how things look on the outside…things like the appearance of cups and plates…but you completely ignore all of the gross filthiness that is inside those spotless-looking containers.
26. How could you have descended into such blind insanity? First, scrub the insides, and then the clean appearance on the surface will actually matter!
27. What sorrow you bring upon yourselves, you Scribes and Pharisees…you frauds and pretenders…you are like tombs that have been externally whitewashed…you look impressive on the outside, and appear as beautiful memorials to the lives of the men and women buried within, but, in fact, on the inside there is only the harsh reality of death…only dead men’s bones and inevitable decomposition.
28. The people look at you and think that you are authentic, but beneath the surface there is nothing about you that is real.
29. What sorrow you bring upon yourselves, you Scribes and Pharisees…you frauds and pretenders…you build these great granite tombs for your prophets, and these magnificent marble monuments for your saints.
30. And all the while you say that, had you lived in the days of your forefathers, you would not have aided them in shedding the blood of those prophets and saints.
31. Truth be told, you shouldn’t even mention your forefathers in this context, because everyone knows that you’re just like them, and when you protest too much and try to make yourselves look good in everyone’s sight, it makes it obvious to all that you are their descendants.
32. In fact, you are even now doing the very same things your ancestors did…you add to the death-count of the prophets daily.
33. Let me put it this way…you’re just a bunch of snakes…vipers, full of the dangerous poison of dead religion! How do you not see that this whole, obsolete system of yours just needs to be dismantled and thrown into the garbage dump at Gehenna?
34. It's on account of people like you that I keep sending prophets and seers and scholars who actually understand the Law, and what it is and isn’t…I send them generation after generation…but you never discern them, and when you hear them speak new truth and greater ideas to you, you automatically go into attack mode. You only know how to kill what threatens you, and to destroy what you don’t understand.
35. Look, all of this treatment of the prophets is going to come back on your own heads…the blood of the righteous shed on the earth, from the blood of Abel, to the blood of Zechariah, son of Barachiah, whom you murdered while he was praying between the sanctuary and the altar of burnt offering.
36. I’m telling you, the harvest from all this is about to come down hard on this nation, and on this generation.
37. Jerusalem! Jerusalem! Murderer of prophets…killer of the ones who brought you God's gospel throughout the ages! Do you have any idea how often I've literally ached to embrace your children, the way a mother hen gathers her little chicks under her wings? Yes, I admit it…I wanted to love you like that, but you just wouldn't let me.
38. And now look at you…your own stubbornness has left you forsaken and desolate and abandoned.
39. So, what is there left to say? I only have a few more hours in this dimension, walking in the incarnation in which you now see Me. On one level, I weep for you…you have no idea of the destruction that’s about to come on you as a nation…and yet, you will see Me again in the revelation of the Spirit…I mean, really ‘see’ Me…and when you do, you'll say, ‘Blessed…adored…exalted is He Who comes in the name of the Lord! Let us worship the One Who has brought God’s rule to the earth!”