Face the Music

June 28, 2019 Preacher: Gareth Franks Series: Hypocrisy & Grace

Topic: Christian Living Scripture: Matthew 23:1–12

Home Group Study - Sermon Date: 28 June 2019

Text: Matthew 23:1-12

Opening Discussion: The story is told of a zoo that was noted for their great collection of different animals. One day the gorilla died, and to keep up the appearance of a full range of animals, the zookeeper hired a man to wear a gorilla suit and fill in for the dead animal. It was his first day on the job, and the man didn’t know how to act like a gorilla very well. As he tried to move convincingly, he got too close to the wall of the enclosure and tripped and fell into the lion exhibit. He began to scream, convinced his life was over…until the lion spoke to him: “Be quiet, or you’re going to get us both fired!” Share your story of someone who spoke one way and acted in another.


Matthew 23 records the most scathingly severe and serious message that Jesus ever preached. This was His last public message. The message was addressed to his disciples as well as the crowd that had gathered, but the message was about the hypocritical Pharisees who spoke one way and acted another way. Matthew chapter 21 and 22 is full of conflict between Jesus and the Jewish religious leaders. Chapter 21 begins with Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday (21:1-11) and moves quickly to his cleansing of the temple (21:12-17), a highly provocative act that sparked conflict with religious leaders. In chapter 22, Jesus gave the Parable of the Wedding Banquet (22:1-14), warning, “For many are called, but few chosen” (22:14). The Pharisees and Sadducees then tried three times to entrap Jesus, but he easily slipped their trap (22:15 ff.).

Now in chapter 23, Jesus speaks to the crowds and his disciples (v. 1), addressing the spiritual failure of the scribes and Pharisees (23:1-36). Seven times the Lord calls the Pharisees hypocrites. The term “hypocrite” is the English transliteration of the Greek word hupokrites. The Wordsmyth dictionary describes hypocrite as “one who states or pretends to hold beliefs or principles he or she does not actually practice.” Such hypocrisy is not reserved only for leaders; rather, many people who call themselves Christians live in such a way that it is clear that ‘there is no fear of God before their eyes’ (Psalm 36:1). The Lord revealed and preserved these chapters in Matthew not merely to provide a history lesson for the church of another generation. No, He gave them to us so that we might understand ourselves. Jesus, is calling us away from the self-seeking life that leads to destruction, so that we will find our victory in Christ and confidence in God. Pride and self confidence leads to disaster, humility and confidence in God leads to joy and security.

Investigation & Interpretation:

  • Read: Matthew 23:1-12
  1. What did Jesus mean when he told his disciples that the Pharisees “sat on Moses’ seat”? v.2
  2. What connection do you see in verse 3a and Matthew 5:17?
  3. What three sins do the Pharisees commit in the following verses:
    • Verse 3c?
    • Verse 4?
    • Verse 5a
  4. What is Jesus telling us not to be and what is he telling to be in verse 11 &12?

Application - How must I change?

  • Is there a Truth to be believed?

As Christians who have been born again by the grace of our God, we desire to live for God’s glory. In what ways do hypocrites try and steal the glory away from God? 

  • Is there an Attitude to be fostered?

The Scribes and Pharisees wanted to be great, but they were puffed up and pompous, they were like the camel who cannot go through the eye of a needle—or the rich person who finds it difficult to enter the kingdom of God (19:24). How was Jesus style of leadership different to that of the Scribes and Pharisees, and how does that apply to our areas of influence?

  • Is there a Behavior to be changed?

Many people who call themselves Christians live without any fear of God before their eyes. Why do you suppose it is necessary to keep our marriage covenant, or parent dedication covenant or church membership covenant?


Going through the motions is a dangerous substitute for true Christianity. We can sing Christian songs without considering the person to whom and about whom we are singing. We can so easily lose sight of who God is: that He is the Creator of this universe who is even now very present in this world. We forget that God knows the thoughts of our hearts and the attitudes of our minds. But if we take Him seriously, it will make a great difference in our life. It is impossible to live hypocritically when you take God seriously. Jesus, speaking to His followers in verse 11&12, says, “The greatest among you shall be your servant. Whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted.”

No one stooped down as low, in humble service, as our Savior did. "[He] emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men.  (8)  And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. “(Philippians 2:7-8). And no one is exalted higher than He. That's the path of "greatness" in our Lord's kingdom—humble service in His name. If we would be truly "great", we would have to take a course of action that is quite a bit different from that of the scribes and Pharisees. 


Prayer Points:  

  1. Pray we would humble ourselves before God and allow the Spirit of God to examine our hearts.
  2. Pray that we would be more determined to seek Christ, to practice righteousness and to live with Christian integrity.
  3. Praise God we can find forgiveness and healing in Christ, because of the work of the cross of Calvary.

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