Jesus Goes on the Offensive

Matthew 23:1-12

In these verses, Jesus goes on the offensive against His foe, and it is important to recognize that His foe is actually Satan, and not the Jewish religious leaders who have been deceived into playing the role as Satan’s shills. I point this out again, because what these texts are really all about is the larger spiritual conflict; we have seen over and over again that these leaders were incapable of seeing the obvious right in front of them, and I have pointed this out many times in this study. For Jesus, the ball game is in His play to the disciples and the crowd; He knows that the Pharisees and teachers of the law aren’t going to change their minds because they have hardened their hearts. A few will understand and repent later… but precious few.

As for the crowds, many will respond in time, perhaps because of what they have heard Jesus say, but most did not. The disciples however are the real prize, for they are destined to lead the church forward in its infancy; they must hang on with Jesus, and as you will see, the next two chapters of this section are discussion between Jesus and the disciples alone. Finally, in our day, in our world, not much has changed from Jesus’ day, and often the battles we find ourselves in have similar dynamics as we must deal with people who are really not our foes, even though they are in our faces. In such cases, the battleground is really in the hearts and minds of those who witness the events as they unfold; we would do well to remember this.

Jesus, now in full Old Testament prophet mode, opens His assault by telling the people that they must do what their leaders tell them to do, acknowledging their position in the seat of Moses, and then tells the people not to do the things their leaders do, for they are hypocrites (23:1-4).

He explains their hypocrisy by reminding the crowds that everything their leaders actually do is for show; to impress people with their importance, their righteousness, and their positions (23:5-6). Then beginning in verse 7, Jesus asserts His divine authority, in my view as a preamble to what follows in 23:13 ff. They are not to call their leaders “Rabbi” or “teacher” for they have only one Teacher. They are not to call anybody “father” for they have only one Heavenly Father. They are not to call anyone “instructor” for they have only one Instructor, and He is the Messiah (who by the way is the One who is speaking).

I’m not quite sure what else He could have said that would assert His superiority over everyone present that would have done so more thoroughly than He did in these verses.

Then, a familiar refrain: “The greatest among you will be your servant. For those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.” Personally, I think this was for the disciples’ benefit, since they have heard Him say this a number of times, and haven’t seemed to comprehend it before.

As verse 12 is reverberating across the Temple mount, Jesus is about to deliver God’s judgment upon the Jewish leaders, and all that they represent, but we must wait until next time to hear it!

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About Don Merritt

A long time teacher and writer, Don hopes to share his varied life's experiences in a different way with a Christian perspective.
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10 Responses to Jesus Goes on the Offensive

  1. Wally Fry says:

    “it is important to recognize that His foe is actually Satan, and not the Jewish religious leaders who have been deceived into playing the role as Satan’s shills.”

    We would do well to remember that ourselves. Well, I would…I certainly can’t speak for another. Even those actively working against God are not the true enemy are they?

  2. I don’t understand why you would say this. Is it impossible to understand what was happening at that time? Must you hide behind excuses of “the devil made me do it” and reject the responsibility of mankind to support and care for each other rather than to seek their own material rewards?

  3. “His foe is actually Satan, and not the Jewish religious leaders who have been deceived into playing the role as Satan’s shills. I point this out again, because what these texts are really all about ”

    It is this statement that I struggle with. Using your source, the bible, you will find multiple areas where Jesus commands Satan. In one case he simply says something like “get behind me.” This infers he is the leader and Satan is to follow. That statement also shows the direct answer of the request for Jesus to follow Satan that was presented during the Temptation.

    So I haven’t seen or read anything that suggest a spiritual adversarial relationship existed between them. Each had/have their jobs. I am convinced that Jesus’s intent was to teach a new way for the people to know God. The people were taught that they must seek forgiveness by blood sacrifice and he changed that. That change was extremely significant.

    • Don Merritt says:

      This is a climactic scene in a much larger narrative; I wouldn’t expect anyone to follow its nuance if they don’t start at the beginning.

      • I think I understand your intent and yes, I have not followed the larger narrative. However, each statement made needs to have some characteristic of truth to it. Jumping to a conclusion of foe and enemy are human attributes that are not consistent with the spiritual universe. God has no foes, God has no enemies; God only loves. Matthew’s depiction of Jesus is man/God or God in flesh. Therefore the concept of foe or enemy would not have any sort of truth. From the cross Jesus looked down at all of those that ridiculed, mocked, tortured and hung him there and said, “For all of you that look upon me with hate, anger, and disgust; I love you all.” These were his last word spoken there. Once again, there is no foe, no enemy, human or spiritual.
        Whatever the scene, let’s present truth.
        Thank you

        • Don Merritt says:

          I tried to let you off the hook, but I see you don’t want to be let off the hook…

          It seems that you not only disagree with my conclusions from a continuing narrative that you haven’t read, but now you wish to make accusations. Very well, let’s speak of Truth. Perhaps we can begin by getting your facts straight: You wrote:

          From the cross Jesus looked down at all of those that ridiculed, mocked, tortured and hung him there and said, “For all of you that look upon me with hate, anger, and disgust; I love you all.” These were his last word spoken there.”

          Actually, His last words on the cross were, “It is finished”. The words you put in His mouth are not found anywhere in Scripture.

          If you don’t believe that Satan is the adversary of God, that’s your business, but if you wish to come here and lecture me on “the truth” I would recommend that you get your facts right.

  4. bcaudle77 says:

    Agree, completely…Satan is the true enemy, not people, even evil ones, its the reason we are to treat all like we wont to be treated, they will see we are different and Lord willing in time change their heart. Its the very reason very wicked people turn their life over to Christ and are changed and have amazing testimonies. Because for a period of their life “the Accuser” had them, it wasn’t actually them to some degree, the blindness that “the Liar” puts over people eyes believe or not is not that actual person.

    It’s why when a seed is planted in time when the time is right that person can change in a moment.

    My conversion was like this and many many others.

    God has no foe? actually going back to Genesis 3:14-15 it is all about one side vs. another, aka Good vs. evil.

    Job 1:8, The Lord said to Satan, “Have you considered My servant Job? For there is no one like him on earth, a blameless and upright man, fearing God and turning away from evil.”

    Turning away from? From what?

    Sin brought upon by the Accuser, Liar, Satan is all about a foe to God, its the very reason why Jesus had t come and die, so we could get back to true righteousness with God in a relationship with His Son.

    And get away from a slave relationship with Satan, bound in chains. Spiritual warfare has to have a foe, there is no such thing as warfare without a foe.

    Ephesians 6:11, Put on the full armor of God, so that you will be able to stand firm against the schemes of the devil.

    I would call him a foe!

    Otherwise God sent Jesus for a much more down played reason.

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