Jesus spent the bulk of Matthew 23 rebuking the Pharisees and Sadducees’ unloving nature. He criticized the self-importance in their hearts and how it served as a stumbling block to those around them. Christ warned these religious leaders against making so much of themselves that they were blind to their own need for a Savior.
How did the religious leaders’ behavior go against God’s command to love Him and others? Why was Jesus so grieved by these men’s lifestyle? As it turns out, Christ was grieved by the state of their legalistic hearts and was not impressed in their ability to keep up a pious appearance.
These leaders’ lives seemed to be led in service to God, yet they failed to obey His greatest commands: to love Him and to love those created in His image. God did not play favorites as they did. Instead—and contrary to the ways of the world—He exalted the humble and humbled those who exalted themselves; through this humility in Christ’s own death and life, God’s love was displayed for all to see.
The focus of the Old Testament’s teachings was to guide us in faith toward the cross of Christ, not to try to find salvation through our own means. Instead of extending the love of God as commanded, these religious leaders narrowed the focus of their love to themselves alone. They trusted in their own ability to obey God’s laws rather than relying on their faith in the Messiah to make their hearts right before the Father.
Consider the reality that the Pharisees and Sadducees sought to make others more like themselves rather than the God they claimed to serve. Christ spent this chapter addressing the issue of their spiritual blindness, as well as their need for a regenerated heart with which to truly love God and others.
Explain to your kids that while these leaders were faithful tithers and rule followers, they failed to put their faith into tangible practice for others to see and experience. God’s love is most clearly expressed and extended through justice, mercy, and faithfulness, not the self-important exaltation of ourselves.
Tips for Teaching this Week’s Session
Every week, members of The Gospel Project for Kids team offer guidance to help you as you prepare to teach every session to preschoolers and kids. Listen in as we discuss:
- The big idea of the session
- Any areas of caution or requiring additional prep time
- What we hope God will do through this session
This training is available on Ministry Grid, Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Stitcher, and other podcast platforms.
Need to contact our team? Connect through The Gospel Project for Kids Community Facebook page or email us.