Serpents and Vipers

Serpents and Vipers- Matthew 23:13-39- Big chunk- Rebuke to the religious

To the people that “knew better” than to reject Jesus- So Jesus held them to higher standard

We are held to a higher standard- We know better- we should be better. 

  1.  Shoulda known better- taught about God. But they made salvation hard for people

Matthew 23:13 These Pharisees- were the ultra religious folk- crème de la crème. Untouchable

  • Jesus condemns them while admitting that they have the opportunity to send people to heaven based on what they know- but they wouldn’t teach it. 
  • They don’t go into heaven, so no one goes into heaven. Their condemnation was that they kept the kingdom of God so unattainable- that they themselves couldn’t even attain it. 
  • There’s again, a balance here- Bible says Matthew 7: 13 “Enter by the narrow gate; for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and there are many who go in by it.
  • But it also says- Romans 10:13 For “whoever calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.”
  • You can’t preach an unattainable Gospel that you can’t even receive. 
  • You should attend my church, but I’m not holy enough and neither are you, so lets not. 
  1.  Shoulda known better- They devoured widows houses and acted spiritual
  • Matthew 23:14  What I would assume is that devouring widows houses is because of their vulnerable station in life. With no covering and no sustenance, I’m sure these guys took advantage of them. Jesus did not approve and rebuked them hard for it. 
  • “greater condemnation” Jesus says- And not just that they devoured them, they covered in up with public spirituality that made it appear as though what they were doing was acceptable. 
  1. Shoulda known better- They preached conversion, but corrupted those converted. 
  • Matthew 23:15 Because of their horrible spiritual station in life, shutting up the kingdom, devouring widows, whatever religion they were converting them to- unattainable salvation, religious pretense, and so Jesus says “you make him twice as much a son of hell as yourselves’ 
  • Converting them to dead religion. Converting someone to anything but the truth will condemn them even further into the depths of Hell- 
  • It’s the false conversion churches of today- God size hole in your heart, fresh start, next step e
  • No conversion from dead works to life. No leaving of sin. Jesus cannot be savior over nothing
  • So when you lead someone somewhere other than the cross- you convert them to dead works. 
  1.  Shoulda known better- They taught superstitious varying degrees of sacredness
  • Matthew 23:16-22 They were telling them that an oath to the gold of the temple was binding but an oath to the temple was not. They told them their sacrificial gifts were binding
  • Problem was- the gold was not sacred without the temple. They were giving value to acts and gold instead of the value of the temple. Jesus did not like them minimizing the temple. 
  • Everything associated with the temple was sacred. Not just the gold parts. 
  • Its like this- Swear by the parking lot, not the altar- we don’t have any power here per se- we sanctify it- but if we did- the parking lot is only holy because its on the grounds of the church. 
  • Get this- There are things that are sacred to God- things you shouldn’t make unholy- but there are also things that you shouldn’t make holy that shouldn’t be. Don’t go make stuff up. 
  • This issue to the quasi-religious superstitious aspect that manipulated people’s beliefs. 

05. They taught the law but did not practice some of the most important parts of the law.

  • Matthew 23:23-24The names that Jesus calls these guys is precious- Hypocrites- Blind Guides
  • What they were doing was paying their tithes- which Jesus says- “you ought to have done” but the condemnation was that they did do the other parts of th law- Justice, mercy and faith. 
  • The gnat and camel is a word picture- because they had to tithe whatever spices they had, and they would pay really close attention to sift it really clean as an act of piousness- but miss a huge camel in the spice- The neglect of justice, mercy and faith
  • You can give lots of money to God and still be a spiritual loaf of nothingness. That’s why we say that God doesn’t want your money- he wants your soul. 
  • You should give! Tithing and giving is great. And important according to Jesus- but its not an either or- it’s a both- Don’t neglect Justice mercy and faith. 
  • Justice: Doing the right thing according to the word of God- Treating people biblically
  • Mercy: Extending grace and Forgiveness to everyone- even those who don’t deserve it
  • Faith: Loving the Lord God with all of your heart mind and soul. 

06. They shoulda known better- They worked on the outside not the inside. 

  • They cleaned up what they looked like and acted like.  (self-restrained, not involved in carnal matters), yet they were dirty inside, they seethed with hidden worldly desires, carnality. 
  • They were full of greed and self-indulgence because they didn’t clean the inside. 
  • Matthew 23:25 -26Jesus uses this other word picture of washing the outside of a cup while not washing the inside
  • It’s a picture we can all see the stupidity of- why would you wash the outside and not the inside? What good is a cup that is dirty on inside but clean on the outside
  • The work they did was the work of the external not the internals- 

07. Shoulda known better-  exhibited themselves as righteous on account of keeping the law.

  • Matthew 23:27-28 But that’s what they were doing and Jesus calls them out on it- So concerned with outward cleanliness while neglecting the inside cleanliness which is honestly more important
  • They kept the outside laws- probably murder, theft but maintained envy, greed, jealously, lust. 
  • ‘Keeping appearances’ so to speak- again- no one likes this- people that appear to be something they are not on the outside when on the inside they are nothing of the sort
  • Thoughts and feelings that no one could see- desires no one could discern

08. Shoulda known better- They Thought of themselves more highly than they ought. 

  • Matthew 23:29-30
  • They professed a high regard for the dead prophets of old, and claimed that they would never have persecuted and murdered prophets, when in fact they were cut from the same cloth as the persecutors and murderers, they too had murderous blood in their veins.
  • The reality that they are currently persecuting Jesus and about to send him to the cross shows that the would have been just as murderous to the OT prophets- because that’s their hearts.

Now he really lets them have it

  • Matthew 23:31-36
  • One- you live like the offspring of those who previously murdered God’s prophets
  • Two– You should feel guilty- this is your lineage- this is you
  • Three- Here’s another put-down on your name- SERPENTS AND VIPERS- Chances are- you’re going to end up in Hell. 
  • Four– Listen to me talk in the first person as I am God- I’m going to send you more prophets and you’ll probably kill them to. You’ll persecute them as well
  • Five- The blood is going to be on your hands- All through the OT up till now- right in front of the temple and God’s altar. 

And then he laments- He is sad over Jerusalem. 

  • V 37-39
  • Jerusalem has always been very important to God- a central focus of his love and ministry
  • And Here- Jesus gives us another beautiful word picture “as a hen gathers- but you were not willing” 
  • He’s saying “I tried- oh how I tried to bring you into my love and kingdom, but you rejected me” 
  • But- You’ll see me again- when I return- but you’ll miss it- you’ll think it’s the first arrival of messiah- but its going to be the final one- the end of all things. 


  1. You should know better- make salvation easy for people
  • Becoming a Christian is easy- turn from your sins- turn toward Jesus walk in new life
  • Romans 10:9 that if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.
  • Why do we complicate salvation for people? You’ve broken his laws, he’s throwing you a life jacket, put it on, quit breaking his laws and live for him. 
  • We should be walking out that simple faith as well- don’t complicate it- just live for Jesus. 
  1. You should know better- Don’t take advantage of people
  • Jesus condemned the pharisees for taking advantage of widows- I don’t think we do that 
  • But don’t- but how about we just don’t take advantage of anyone?
  • Proverbs 22:22-23 Do not rob the poor because he is poor, Nor oppress the afflicted at the gate; 23 For the Lord will plead their cause, And plunder the soul of those who plunder them.
  • Not just poor people- anyone- Someone who gets your change wrong- business details only you can see, when you can be generous and you’re not
  • Jesus is watching! Don’t take advantage of people! Its not worth it. 
  1. You should know better- Convert people to Jesus- not to you
  • Some people (and pastors) want people to follow them- What they say- what they believe
  • The pharisees were converting people to themselves- Lets convert people to JESUS
  • Phil 1:18 What then? Only that in every way, whether in pretense or in truth, Christ is preached; and in this I rejoice, yes, and will rejoice.
  • I don’t want to, and you shouldn’t either- be the center of someone’s spiritual life
  • Teach people to go to the word- Go to the source- walk in the spirit- 
  1. You should know better- Crush superstitions
  • There is superstition is Christianity- we don’t want to be that way- 
  • What you wear, numbers you give, The way you walk and drive. SIT IN CHURCH
  • You can’t manipulate God into doing anything- You can’t hurt your blessing by not saying something the wrong way- or doing it the right way- Trust in Jesus alone- 
  • 1 tim 4:7 But reject profane and old wives’ fables, and exercise yourself toward godliness.
  1. You should know better- Be obedient- not selective
  • The pharisees only did part of the law- we do all of what God wants of us
  • We don’t stack rank commandments and make ourselves feel better because we’re not doing something and excelling at something else
  • They all matter- we want to honor God with our whole life- inward and outward
  • Sins of action and sins of desire. Relentlessly pursue righteousness. 
  • Isaiah 1:19 If you are willing and obedient, You shall eat the good of the land;
  1. You should know better- Work on the inside
  • This was the condemnation of the pharisees- working on the outside and not on the inside
  • working on the outside is easy- people see that- they can’t see the sins of the heart
  • so we work on the sins of the heart- we pray, read, reflect, honesty with God
  • So we can clean the inside of our dirty bowls and not just the outside. 
  • 2 cor 7:1 Therefore, having these promises, beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God.
  1. You should know better- Care less about appearances
  • I care about my appearance- I care what I wear. My hygiene. I want to look good and present myself well. My weight, hair, clothes etc. confidence. Respect of God. 
  • But I’m not masking anything. I share my brokenness. Crystal and I both care- but we’re not hiding godlessness and a broken marriage. Our marriage is as good as it looks. 
  • The issue is honesty- don’t dress and act holy in a way that tries to hide brokenness
  • Bring it out- lets go- lets work on it
  • 1 sam 16:7b the Lord does not see as man sees; for man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.”
  1. You should know better- Lift up what Jesus does- don’t destroy it 
  • Speaking generally and specifically- shut your mouth about things you don’t understand or things that you’re not spiritually there yet- God moves different in everyone
  • Prophecy, tongues, spiritual growth- don’t speak against those things. 
  • You can’t destroy what God is doing but you can destroy your witness of it. 
    • Hebrews 10:29 Of how much worse punishment, do you suppose, will he be thought worthy who has trampled the Son of God underfoot, counted the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified a common thing, and insulted the Spirit of grace?

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