13-14 "Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You shut the door of the kingdom of heaven in people's faces. You yourselves do not enter, nor will you let those enter who are trying to.
(Warner Salman 1941)
Thoughts: There are seven woes against the teachers of the law and Pharisees in Matthew 23. This woe was written against them for not only rejecting their redeemer (and redemption), but encouraging others to reject him as well- thus "shutting the door" to God for them as well. These religious leaders of Jesus' day were not interested in the kingdom of heaven as much as they were in being seen as "right." In a similar way, the self-righteous atheists of our day not only don't want to go to heaven, but they don't want others to go either. They want other people to be just like them in order to feel justified- whether God is proved right or not. If the atheist is wrong everyone loses- and heaven is missed. If the Christian is wrong, no one loses but the needy, the widow, the orphan, the hungry (who are better cared for because of Christianity). If the atheist is wrong- love for God and love for neighbor (statistically Christians give much more per capita to charity than atheists) is missed. If the Christian is wrong people are loved anyway. The atheists oppose Jesus' redemption as did the Pharisees of Jesus day- leading people toward their own destruction. There are also religious leaders of our own day who oppose Jesus' redemption (think Jesus Seminar). We should beware of those who bring woe upon themselves-- bringing others down with them. Instead, we should seek to encourage people to look toward heaven.
Prayer: Lord, may I seek your will and presence ahead of my own pride and self-righteous.
John Calvin abridged: Here Jesus does not so much seek to curse the Pharisees as seek to draw the common people and simple followers away from their sect. The religious leaders opposed the redemption offered to them to the detriment of all. We should follow Christ's example of loudly scaring away the wolves who would devour the sheep. If the purpose of religion is not to open heaven for us, what purpose does it serve?