Jesus often clashed with the Jewish religious leaders. They were the leading citizens – yet Jesus criticised them and exposed their hypocrisy. This is in contrast to his treatment of women, tax collectors and leprosy sufferers. These people were often regarded as second class citizens, but Jesus makes a point of treating them as equals.
Jesus spoke about the teachers of the law and the Pharisees. He said, “You must obey them and do everything they tell you. But do not copy what they do, for they do not practice what they preach.” Jesus went on to explain that these religious leaders place unnecessary burdens on people, make a big show of religious observance and love to be treated with honour as if they are really important.
Jesus launched into a scathing attack on two prominent groups of religious leaders – the scribes and Pharisees. Jesus always showed that he cared deeply for ordinary people and that he had great patience - even with the wicked, greedy and weak. However, he could not put up with the religious pride and hypocrisy of these leaders.
"They love to be respected and admired, given important seats and called Rabbi." Jesus warns people that although the Pharisees preach God’s Law, they do not practice it. Therefore people should not copy their behaviour.
Jesus criticised how the scribes and Pharisees loved to make a show of how religious they were, with extra wide phylacteries and extra long tassels on their prayer shawls. Jesus sees past this show to the real person - and in these Jewish leaders he sees pride, a self-righteous attitude and no desire to change.