The Scribes and Pharisees preach but do not practice. You have one instructor – Christ. The greatest shall be your servant. Whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted. (1) Woe – they shut the kingdom of heaven in people’s faces; (2) Woe – they travel to make a single proselyte of hell just like themselves; (3) Woe – blind guides, swearing on the altar and on the temple is the same as swearing by God; (4) Woe – they tithe mint, dill, and cumin, but have neglected justice, mercy, and faithfulness, they strain out a gnat and swallow a camel; (5) Woe – they clean the outside, but inside are full of greed and self-indulgence; (6) Woe – they appear beautiful on the outside, but are dead and lawless inside; (7) Woe – they are sons of those who murdered the prophets, how will they escape being sentenced to hell, because they will kill, crucify, flog, and persecute Jesus’ prophets, wise men, and scribes. Jesus lamented that Jerusalem kills the prophets sent to them. He longed to gather them together as children, but they were unwilling.
Jesus came to His own, and they rejected Him. As he laments these woes it’s because He loves them. He’s not trying to be trite and unnecessarily offensive, but describing how they missed what they were aiming for. The preservation of the law, and faithfulness to the Word of God, wasn’t just an exercise in morality and legalism for the sake of itself. It was meant to preserve the people for the Messiah – Jesus Christ. Now that He is here, they are rejecting Him, and they will reject His followers. Woe to us if in the process of pursuing religion and morality we miss Christ, and that we can only be saved by faith in Christ alone, and not what we have done.