While all the people were listening, Jesus said to his disciples, “Beware of the teachers of the law. They like to walk around in flowing robes and love to be greeted with respect in the marketplaces and have the most important seats in the synagogues and the places of honor at banquets. They devour widows’ houses and for a show make lengthy prayers. These men will be punished most severely.”
Notice that Jesus has just asked His opponents the question concerning the paternity of the Messiah, seizing the initiative. Then without hesitation He turned to the disciples and says these things for their instruction so everyone can hear it. His scorn is directed at all of the teachers of the law, including Pharisees and Sadducees alike.
They are hypocrites who go out of their way to appear to be righteous and holy, but they are neither. They cherish the honor they receive in society, yet they do not deserve honors. They put on a great show and fool many people, but the disciples must not be fooled, for it is all a lie.
It is hard to say exactly what He meant when He said they “devour widows’ houses”, but I would imagine that He meant something like they would steal from those who are helpless with hardly a thought or care…
They are not the nice people they want you to think they are.
Why should Jesus say these things now?
He knew that the people by and large would turn away from Him very soon, and He would be headed for the cross. He also knew that the disciples would be put to the test; it would be very easy for them to turn away as well in the coming days. It was vitally important that they remain in their faith through the coming trial; even as one of their number betrayed Him into the hands of these very teachers of the law.
The time had come for their final preparations for what would soon befall them.