In Matthew 23 Jesus pronounces judgment upon the Pharisees for some of their beliefs and behaviors. He pronounces several “woes” upon the Pharisees for what they teach and how they live. As a result, many believe that we can follow the example of Jesus, and condemn those with whom we disagree, especially those who have bad theology or sinful actions.
But I have been arguing that we must not judge and condemn others for their beliefs and behavior? If so, what can we say about the words of Jesus in Matthew 23? Do His actions provide justification to judge and condemn others, consigning them to hell, simply because we disagree with what they are saying or doing?
Well, there are numerous things going within the theological and cultural context of Matthew 23, most of which I cannot mention here. But here are some of the more important points to help us navigate Matthew 23.
Jesus was part of Rabbinic Judaism
First, remember that Jesus had some Pharisaic followers, and He Himself generally followed the Pharisaic tradition. So this criticism from Jesus was not a condemnation of an outside group, but was a criticism of part of the group to which He belonged. This is criticism from within. Jesus was criticizing His own group, in a similar fashion to how many Old Testament prophets challenged their own people, the people of Israel, to return to covenant obedience.