Yikes! I think Jesus saved up all of his “hellfire and brimstone” for this one encounter! He did not hold back, did he? It is not hard to figure out Jesus’ opinion of misguided and oppressive spiritual leadership, is it.
If we didn’t know better from the previous 22 chapters of Matthew, we would think that Jesus was an angry person. But he wasn’t. Many of the last 22 days have described Jesus’ compassion, care, and concern for those who desperately needed it. He came to “set them free” in a sense. But the religious leaders should have known better. They knew the theory of following God (sort of) but they did not live that way themselves. And that poisonous reality is what Jesus attacked.
If I tried to sum up this chapter, especially verses 1-12, in one phrase, I think it might be something like this: “Point people to Jesus, not to yourself.” And that is accomplished not just by knowing what do as a follower of Jesus, but actually living and leading that way.
Here is an example that is particularly frustrating for me. I’ve heard some people say that I am the leader of Westwood, or when talking with me they say “Your church”. Arrgghh! No, Westwood is not my church – never has been and never will be! The ultimate leader of Westwood is God himself, and the Bible repeatedly uses the metaphor of the church as the Bride of Christ. Church leaders must not make themselves overly important. When I act as a servant of God and lead the church that way, it is good. But if I ever start thinking that this church is my church and I desire the attention that I get, I will have then become an unbiblical leader. And Jesus would have strong words to say to me!
So here is the question … is your life about pointing people toward Jesus, or about pointing people toward yourself? Do everything you can to point to Jesus!