Skip to content

9. The Seventh Woe
(Matthew 23:27-28)
27“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs, which indeed appear beautiful outwardly, but inside are full of dead men’s bones and all uncleanness.28Even so you also outwardly appear righteous to men, but inside you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness.

The Jews considered dead bodies unclean, and whoever touched them, even accidentally, had to engage in lengthy and tiresome rituals of cleansing. It was the duty of the Jews to whiten all the graves around Jerusalem with bright white lime that the pilgrims could avoid them because of the ceremonial pollution contracted by the touch of a grave.
Jesus explained to the hypocrites of His time that they, themselves, looked like these whitewashed tombs. From outside they looked clean and bright, but inside they were filled with death and corruption. Every impurity dwelled in them. They were aware of their sins, but behaved as if they were good. They continued in their wicked behavior and sin in spite of confessing the truth. Christ called the hypocrites bad-smelling tombs, and such a term was considered a serious insult at that time. With severity, Jesus tried to shake the elders of his people away from their self-righteousness that they might recognize the true condition of their hearts. Yet they did not repent because their faith in themselves blinded them to everything else. We should not judge them, but ourselves instead, then ask God to cleanse the impurities in our own hearts.

Lord Jesus Christ, You are the Holy One. You know all my works, sayings, and intents. You see my heart and inner feeling. Forgive me my impurity and purify me by Your precious blood, and fill me with Your Holy Spirit. Help me that I may not pretend to be righteous, but to confess that You alone are my righteousness. My strength, my weakness, and my whole life are not righteous except in You and through You. You are the eternal life in me. Thank You for this great privilege given to me.
What does “whitewashed tombs” mean when referring to the men of religion?