Matthew 23:13

ESV “But woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you shut the kingdom of heaven in people’s faces. For you neither enter yourselves nor allow those who would enter to go in.
NIV Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You shut the door of the kingdom of heaven in people's faces. You yourselves do not enter, nor will you let those enter who are trying to.
NASB But woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites, because you shut the kingdom of heaven in front of people; for you do not enter it yourselves, nor do you allow those who are entering to go in.
CSB "Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! You shut the door of the kingdom of heaven in people's faces. For you don't go in, and you don't allow those entering to go in.
NLT What sorrow awaits you teachers of religious law and you Pharisees. Hypocrites! For you shut the door of the Kingdom of Heaven in people’s faces. You won’t go in yourselves, and you don’t let others enter either.
KJV But woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye shut up the kingdom of heaven against men: for ye neither go in yourselves, neither suffer ye them that are entering to go in.

What does Matthew 23:13 mean?

Over the past few chapters, Jesus has engaged in debates and dialogues with His critics, including the Pharisees and scribes. Pharisees were legalistic Jews popular with the common people for their apparent piety. Scribes were the professional interpreters of Old Testament law and traditional commentary on it. These two groups, collectively, formed the core of Israel's spiritual leadership in the era of Jesus. After exposing their hypocrisy, Christ now begins to pronounce a series of condemnations on them.

This passage amounts to God's official rejection of these religious leaders of Israel. Jesus uses the phrase "woe to you" seven times. Those words evoke the Old Testament prophets who pronounced God's judgment on Israel hundreds of years earlier. The Pharisees who heard Jesus saying "woe to you" would have fully understood the connection to earlier declarations from God's messengers to Israel.

Jesus begins by calling them "hypocrites." Hipokritēs is a Greek word originally used for play-actors. In completely literal terms, this means someone who pretends to be what they are not for the purpose of telling a story. Over time, the English transliteration of the word has also come to mean someone who claims to believe one thing, but does the opposite.

The first condemnation is for the scribes and Pharisees shutting the kingdom of heaven in people's faces. This colorful and descriptive word picture reveals a tragic scenario. The job these men were supposed to do was to show the people the way into the kingdom of heaven. This should have been through faith in and obedience to God. Instead, they built and enforced a mountain of additional rules, while securing their own power and status. Worse, when Jesus arrived as the Messiah to show the way to the kingdom, the Pharisees and scribes rejected Him. This ensured that they and those who followed their teaching would never enter the kingdom.

Those who should have been guides and gatekeepers had come to block the gate, keeping God's people out instead of welcoming them in.
What is the Gospel?
Download the app: