aslan“Safe?” said Mr. Beaver; “don’t you hear what Mrs. Beaver tells you? Who said anything about safe? ‘Course he isn’t safe. But he’s good. He’s the King, I tell you.” [The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe: C.S.Lewis]

Continuing our look at how Jesus compares to Aslan [or is it the other way around?] in the C.S.Lewis Narnia series and the question of Him being good, but not necessarily safe or tame. Matthew 23 explodes this question right open.

There are three interesting things about this for me:

[1] Jesus is taking on the teachers of the law – the religious leaders of the day – the very people who were meant to be helping the average man and woman in the street to follow God well.

And He doesn’t take them on gently.

“Woe to you, blind guides!” [vs. 16]

“You blind fools!” [vs. 17]

“You snakes! You brood of vipers! How will you escape being condemned to hell? [vs. 33]

Similiar to when Jesus sends the money lenders out of the temple grounds, we see passion and anger and strong language here. Jesus is serious about this. The lion is opening His mouth and letting out a gut-wrenching roar for all He is worth.

Paul reminds us in a more subtle way in 1 Thessalonians 5.21 that we must always test the spirits – hold on to the good and avoid every kind of evil. In our modern day setting it is vital that we compare what we hear from the preacher or what we read or watch with the words in the Bible and if they do not measure up, to feel free to discard them and let them fall away. We need to be correct handlers of Truth.

[2] Jesus is accusing them of not living out what they teach:

23 “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You give a tenth of your spices—mint, dill and cumin. But you have neglected the more important matters of the law—justice, mercy and faithfulness. You should have practiced the latter, without neglecting the former. 24 You blind guides! You strain out a gnat but swallow a camel.

25 “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You clean the outside of the cup and dish, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence. 26 Blind Pharisee! First clean the inside of the cup and dish, and then the outside also will be clean.

27 “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You are like whitewashed tombs, which look beautiful on the outside but on the inside are full of the bones of the dead and everything unclean. 28 In the same way, on the outside you appear to people as righteous but on the inside you are full of hypocrisy and wickedness.

[3] Jesus takes them on publically – none of this ‘just you and them business we always get pointed to in Matthew 18’

15 “If your brother or sister sins against you, go and point out their fault, just between the two of you. If they listen to you, you have won them over. 16 But if they will not listen, take one or two others along, so that ‘every matter may be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses.’ 17 If they still refuse to listen, tell it to the church; and if they refuse to listen even to the church, treat them as you would a pagan or a tax collector.’

And why not? Well maybe the key is in the first line where it says “sins against you” – what Jesus was taking on here was sin that affected the whole audience and so it needed to be dealt with publically. This can be a dangerous precedent to set [especially when it’s not Jesus doing the disciplining] but i believe there is a place for this [and have not found many who have vocally shared their agreement with me on this one]. My feeling is that if the preacher says something that is wrong and you deal with it with him alone, then everyone else has still heard the wrong thing and has no idea that it was wrong and so they will still take it on as truth. Perhaps this is why the Bible tells us there is a higher responsibility placed on those who preach/teach?

The audience needed to know that what the Pharisees were teaching and how they were living was not acceptable to God. 

As easy as it is to look down on the Pharisees and dismiss them, the primary objective of this story is for us to be reminded of the short distance between someone who follows Jesus and someone who becomes like them. I need to check my heart against the things that Jesus railed about in them and make sure that I do not fall into the same.

[To return to the beginning of this series to see the other posts, click here]