Jesus is the loving, forgiving, compassionate leader of the church today. Go live your life and live your truth some in the church will tell others. Go purse your passions! So as the church encourages everyone they look just like the rest of society. Yet Jesus said Woe unto you. Now everyone is on anxiety medications and rampant unhappiness is normal. Everyone needs therapy but no one ever graduates. Love runs cold all over modern culture. Why is this? Because the church is not providing the full gospel message of Christ.
20 Then he began to denounce the cities where most of his mighty works had been done, because they did not repent. 21 “Woe to you, Chorazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! For if the mighty works done in you had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes. 22 But I tell you, it will be more bearable on the day of judgment for Tyre and Sidon than for you. 23 And you, Capernaum, will you be exalted to heaven? You will be brought down to Hades. For if the mighty works done in you had been done in Sodom, it would have remained until this day. 24 But I tell you that it will be more tolerable on the day of judgment for the land of Sodom than for you.” Matthew 11:20-24 ESV
What is a Woe?
What is a Woe exactly? In the Greek it is οὐαί (oo-ah’-ee) and one can understand it as an exclamation of sorrow and grief. Like when someone sees trouble coming for someone else who is blind to the direction they are going.
The 4 Woes of Jesus
In the Gospel of Matthew there are 4 times that Jesus issued “Woes” to the listeners. This woe unto you in Chapter 11 is the first and it is directed to an entire group of people in the towns where Jesus has spent most of his time performing miracles. The second time is to the world in general. Woe to the world for embracing temptation. The third and the largest number of woes is directed at the Pharisees. There is much we can learn from what Jesus had to say to them and in the next section I will elaborate. The fourth woe is directed to Judas right before he betrays Jesus. To Judas Jesus said it would be better for him to not be born. My heart cries Oo-ah’-ee (sorrow) for those who refuse the Lord and have mercy on us poor sinners Lord.
24 The Son of Man goes as it is written of him, but woe to that man by whom the Son of Man is betrayed! It would have been better for that man if he had not been born.” 25 Judas, who would betray him, answered, “Is it I, Rabbi?” He said to him, “You have said so.” Matthew 26:24-25 ESV
Chart of “Woe Unto You” from Jesus
|Woe to you||Audience||Why|
|Matthew 11:21||Cities where Miracles were done||For not repenting|
|Matthew 18:7||The world||For receiving temptation to sin|
|Matthew 23:13||scribes and Pharisees||For being hypocrites|
|Matthew 23:15||scribes and Pharisees||For making others like themselves|
|Matthew 23:16||scribes and Pharisees||For bad teaching around making oaths|
|Matthew 23:23||scribes and Pharisees||For not neglecting justice, mercy, faith|
|Matthew 23:25||scribes and Pharisees||For being full of greed and self|
|Matthew 23:27||scribes and Pharisees||For being hypocrites (again)|
|Matthew 23:29||scribes and Pharisees||For judging the past thinking they would have done better|
|Matthew 26:24||Judas||Betrayal of Jesus|
Don’t Follow the Pharisees
The Woes to the Pharisees are instructive to everyone who is living today. Jesus hits them for being hypocrites. We are all hypocrites but they reached new levels of hypocrisy and I also believe that because of the power they held in society at that time their hypocrisy took on new levels of judgement from God. But the hypocrisy was not just about following laws. The Pharisees could follow the laws better than anyone.
I [Paul] myself have reason for confidence in the flesh also. If anyone else thinks he has reason for confidence in the flesh, I have more: 5 circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; as to the law, a Pharisee; 6 as to zeal, a persecutor of the church; as to righteousness under the law, blameless. Philippians 3:4-6 ESV
The hypocrisy was not about the law directly. The woe is directed at the elevation of rules and laws that became more important than loving God. The Pharisees according to Jesus in this section are full of greed and self-importance. They judge the people who came before them saying they would never have fallen for the same sins. Yet they fell for those same sins in an even greater way by killing Jesus. But maybe worst of all in this hypocrisy is that they neglected justice and mercy. Woe unto the world today that cares nothing about justice and mercy. Because justice will find them and there will be no mercy on that day for them.
Do not Ignore Jesus
Dear reader Jesus here in Matthew Chapter 11 has come and performed miracles before the people of those towns. He has healed the sick. He has cast out demons, and he has restored people to live life. Why did he do this? All of these people will again get sick and everyone will eventually die. What is the purpose? He did this to give authority to his words. And the woe falls on the people of the town because they saw the miracles with their own eyes.
20 Then he began to denounce the cities where most of his mighty works had been done, because they did not repent. Matthew 11:20 ESV
Love works in Repentance
Dear reader you know the power, love, justice, and mercy of God. You have seen him work in your loved ones lives and you have seen him work in your own life. If you have not done so now is the time to repent and trust him. Hear the good news of the gospel and saved by Jesus from the coming Woes.
22 Repent, therefore, of this wickedness of yours, and pray to the Lord that, if possible, the intent of your heart may be forgiven you. Acts 8:22 ESV