“Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye are like unto whited sepulchres, which indeed appear beautiful outward, but are within full of dead men’s bones, and of all uncleanness. Even so ye also outwardly appear righteous unto men, but within ye are full of hypocrisy and iniquity” ~ Matthew 23:27-28
There comes a time in Scripture, towards the end of Christ’s early ministry, after constantly being assaulted by the doubt and blasphemy of the Pharisees, that Jesus essentially preaches a sermon against the hypocrisy of the Pharisees. As this message progresses, Jesus addresses a common Jewish practice and likens it to the wicked actions of the religious leaders.
There came a time once a year, where the Jews out of respect for their dead and fear that the tombs of the dead would defile the population, they would cover their tombs in white chalk and lime. It was a bit of superstition as the religious leaders were looking for every religious aspect to dominate and ensure that above all else, they made and were presented as holy.
But Christ mocks their empty and vain religion by addressing them as chalky tombs which look beautiful on the outside, yet are dead as the bodies within their family tombs. This is a vicious metaphor that ties perfectly to whom Jesus attributes as their father, Satan (John 8:44-46).
Years later, Paul addresses the Jews of Rome in a likewise manner by asking the question, “And thinkest thou this, O man, that judgest them which do such things, and doest the same, that thou shalt escape the judgment of God?” (Romans 2:3).
The trouble with such passages is that we are called to be blameless and holy in other passages, which seems almost contrary to what is preached against in these passages. But the difference is this.
The Pharisees of Jesus’s time and the Jews of Paul’s time, had a disconnect between their inner being and their outer being. Their outer being had everything together and looked righteous, but as God looked to them, He saw a heart of filthy stone. They were hypocrites in every sense of the word and Jesus disdains hypocrisy. Hypocrisy only seeks to please the flesh, while true faith pleases the Spirit.
Let this message be a subtle reminder to practice introspection. Day by day, are you putting on the new man and woman of Christ and suppressing the fleshly old man and woman which tries to rear his head up? Or are you a white washed tomb, dead from the get go?
If this is you, flee to Scripture and be renewed. Lay your life down as a living sacrifice and be transformed by the renewing of your mind (Romans 12:1-2).