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Matthew 23:1-12

Lesson Focus Teachers and religious leaders are to be humble servants of the people.

Catching up on the Story Matthew has just finished telling us a series of controversy stories between Jesus and Israel’s religious leadership. The religious leadership sought to entrap Jesus so that they either might discredit him with the people or entice him to say something that would bring him into conflict with the political establishment. At each turn, Jesus has met the religious leader’s attempts to trap him with indictments against them.

This first part of chapter 23 concludes the previous section with its controversy stories and an introduction to Jesus’ final sermon in chapters 23-25. Jesus’ words here in chapter 23 take place in the Temple area. Jesus has been speaking here for the last few chapters. At the beginning of chapter 24, he will finally make his way from the Temple. The audience, however, has changed slightly. Rather than directly addressing Israel’s religious leaders, Jesus now addresses the crowds and his disciples.

The Text Jesus begins to address the crowds and his disciples to warn them about the scribes and the Pharisees. The scribes (see Important Terms