In this passage, Jesus give a blistering criticism of the Pharisees. And basically what it came down to was what was in their hearts.
The Pharisees looked so good on the outside. They were so careful to keep the law. But inside, they were full of hypocrisy. One thing Jesus pointed to was the greed that stained their hearts. Oh, they gave their tithes to God, down to the herbs they grew in their gardens. But when they saw a person in need, they walked by without a second glance. Their love for money far outweighed their love for those around them.
They also were so quick to pass judgment without really looking at the situation through God’s eyes. One example was their criticism of Jesus’ healings on the Sabbath and the unjust way they not only treated Jesus, but those he healed (John 9). In so doing, the forgot the words of Micah who said,
With what shall I come before the LORD and bow down before the exalted God? Shall I come before him with burnt offerings, with calves a year old? Will the LORD be pleased with thousands of rams, with ten thousand rivers of oil? Shall I offer my firstborn for my transgression, the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul? He has showed you, O man, what is good. And what does the LORD require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God. (Micah 6:6-8)
Jesus called them on all of this.
But he also pointed out the stain of pride in their hearts. That the reason they desired these positions of leadership was not to serve the people, but to be seen as important. And because of these things, he called them unmarked graves which men walk over without knowing.
Why was so that bad? Because graves were unclean by Jewish law. To touch them was to make yourself unclean. (Numbers 19:16)
So Jesus was saying to these Pharisees, “Not only are you unclean, but you make everyone you come into contact with unclean too. Worse, these people don’t even know that they’ve been made unclean because they think you’re righteous.”
Yes. But the truth often is. And the thing is, these people needed to know that while they were fooling others, they certainly weren’t fooling God, and they were headed for disaster unless they repented.
And so are we if we are merely “clean” on the outside but filthy on the inside. It’s not enough to do religious things. To go to church. To tithe to the church. To do all these good things, while all the while you’re filled with pride, and greed, while lacking the love of God in your heart. Not just lacking love for God, but lacking God’s love for those around you.
God sees beyond the exterior into your heart. And he is looking for people after his own heart.
What’s in yours?