Judgment on the Religious Elite (23:1-39)

Jesus opens his prophecy of end-time judgment with a severe critique of the religious establishment of his day—the same establishment that had been challenging him in the previous chapter. Although Matthew's first audience would hear in this critique a promise of judgment on the Judean leaders of their own day, who continued to oppose their message, Matthew also wanted them—and us—to look deeper. Jesus' own professed servants can belong among the "hypocrites" (24:51). Like Paul in Romans 1—2 and Amos in Amos 1—3, Matthew forces leaders in his own community to see themselves through the prism of a disobedient religious establishment that opposed its Lord and thereby summons them to take warning.

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