Remember how Mark starts of this book with the theme of the Book, “The beginning of the [facts regarding the] good news of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.”- The word “Gospel” refers to “GOOD NEWS.” And it is “Good News about JESUS CHRIST…” And part of that “Good news” is Jesus warning, exposing those who would lead people away from God rather than to God!

“BEWARE Of the Scribes…;” 


  • “The Pharisees, as you know, were very, very concerned about the law – the law of the Old Testament law and the tradition that had grown up and become a kind of co-source, a co-revelation with the Bible – and how all of that was to be interpreted; these were the legal experts. The Pharisees, of course, were the legalists, and they had within them the scribes, who studied the law. The Jews even had a saying that Moses received the law and gave it to Joshua, Joshua received the law and gave it to the elders, the elders received the law and gave it to the prophets, the prophets received the law and gave it to the scribes.”-{ John MacArthur}
  • They were experts in the law. They were the lawyers of Israel. They were responsible asthe interpretors of the Law and  the application of the Law.
  • ” The point would be that they were to be the protectors of the people; they were to show them what God wanted; they were to hold them to the law of God so that they could be conformed to the promises of God for blessing upon obedience – That was their role – however, they did the opposite. Our Lord says, “Beware of them.” When you have to beware of your protectors, you’re in trouble. When you can’t trust the people who are supposed to show you the truth, and show you what is right, and show you what God wants, you are really in trouble.-{ John MacArthur}

Jesus exposes and condemns them for the HEART ATTITUDE and ACTIONS of the Scribes…They were those who had been entrusted the Word of God, and were to preserve it, teach it, model it as an example, but they weren’t obeying it. And not only were they not examples, they were a stumbling block to the people in whom they should have been leading to the LORD through His Word!

The Scribes were the “Bible scholars of Jesus day.”-{Alan Carr}. They were the stewards of preserving, teachers of the law. – God’ Word to the world.

Jesus should have been able to point them as faithful keepers of the Scriptures entrusted them, and doers of the Word. But Jesus says why people are to “BEWARE of the Scribes….” Namely…some of their abuses. Their failure to accurately interpret the Scriptures and their abuses of their position in order to benefit and serve themselves primarially and not God or the peiople, and Jesus exposes them! Instead of leading people to Heaven the were leading them to Hell!”

  • Keep in mind Luke 20:46-47 and the parralel account here in Mark 12:38-40 are in a sense Jesus denouncement of the hypocrisy of these religious leaders referred to in Matthew 23:1-36, It would be good to read these passages to allow the Scriptures interpret the Scriptures.

“BEWARE…” Jesus was fearless and He cared for the people.He did not cower to the religious of that day, who desired praise, pre-emenience. Jesus boldly tells the people to “BEWARE…”-

“BEWARE…”- It is a “present imperative” which means CONTINUALLY FOLLOW THIS COMMAND! It is a long term commitment “and calls for the attitude or action to be one’s continual way of lifest;” -{Greek verbs quick reference}. The idea is to be perceptive and discerning so not to be deceived. In Matt 8:15, Marr 23:2.  Jesus warned against the TEACHING of the  Scribes and Pharisees. Here in Mark 12 He warns against the men themselves! “BEWARE…” Continually so,  observe, be discerning, so not to be taken in by them and deceived by their teaching or they themselves!

“BEWARE of the Scribes….” Namely…

1.- BEWARE of the  Scribes BECAUSE“…who like to walk around in long robes.” -{v 38}.

These were long robes that touched the ground, Scribal robes, that belonged particulary to the scribes. which were very different, expensive. They stood out. In Old Testament times in  Numbers 15  they were to put little blue tassels on the bottom of them to identify them as being Jews, who were attentive, comitted to God and His Word. But over the centuries when you come to Jesus time  this had been perverted and they wore for show, pride, to have people admire, honor, prause and affirm them as those who were spiritually better than the rest of the people.In Matthew 23:5 Jesus speaks of them They had made their tassels bigger and bigger. “Lookat me, Look how spiritual, devoted to God and His Word I am…,”  was basically what they wanted their long robe with its tassels to shout out! The big tassels were an external symbol for an internal attitude of devotion to God and Holiness- of life- seperated to God, but it was not so as Jesus calls out their “hypocrisy” the word referring to “play actors!” Concealing one’ strue identidy! Hiding behind a mask!

They were big on symbols but absent of true spirituality 

2.- BEWARE of the  Scribes BECAUSEthey “like greetings in the marketplaces.” -{v 38}

They loved to have recognition, acknowledgement as  those who were to be revered, respected

Matthew 23 Jesus said  “…they wanted to be called rabbi, which means teacher; it actually means, like, doctor – doctor, exalted teacher, excellency, most knowledgeable one, great one. -{v 38}

“And those are phrases you find in Jewish literature, which were used to refer to rabbis –

  • “O great one, O knowledgeable one, O excellent one, O exalted teacher.” In fact, they were so exalted in their own minds that it was more punishable to act against the words of a scribe than the words of Scripture; Scripture didn’t fight back, but they did. They also wanted to be called father; father, source, that’s what that was about. Not only exalted teacher, man of great wisdom, elevated one, but father, source – and they wanted to be called leader, as if they were the determiners of direction and outcome; that’s what they expected people to call them when they saw them. They didn’t expect them to say, “Hello, Abraham” – they expected them to say, “O exalted teacher, father, leader.” – {MacArthur}..

So, with their distinushable long unique expensive robes with their large tassels so they would easily be identifiable and as a result they LOVED to be acknowledged and esteemed by the people!

3.- BEWARE of the  Scribes BECAUSE…they love “the best seats in the synagogues and  the place of honor at feasts.” -{v39}

They wanted the most honoable seats at the place of worship. They wanted the prestigious places. To be seen and recognized. They wanted the place of honor. They wanted to be treated and seen as “someone,” superior, worthy to be in that place.

  • “ The “best seat” in a synagogue is in front, with one’s back to the chest that holds the Torah. People who give feasts feel honored if a scribe and his followers join them. They honor the scribe in return by giving him the best seat—even above the hosts’ parents.
  • Jesus’ half-brother James will insist that such behavior has no place in the church, and that the people the world honors are usually those who blaspheme Jesus and oppress His followers (James 2:1–7). ++Jesus has already talked about the how inappropriate it is to presumptively take a seat of honor at a banquet (Luke 14:7–11). If we assume a prominent position, the host may find someone more important and publicly shame us as he moves us to the foot of the table. But if we take a humble seat, the host may honor us by moving us up. Not that we should seek such honor, of course; but it’s better to assume a humble position than to be embarrassed when we’re moved there later.”-{Bible ref}

4.- BEWARE of the  Scribes BECAUSE…they “devour widow’s houses.” –{v 40}

They took advantage of the vulnerable, disadvantaged In society like the widows whom God wanted provided for not taken advantage of. “In that day, a jewish teacher could not be paid for teaching,- but he could receive gifts. Apparently many scribes used flattery and manipulation to wrangle big gifts from those who could least afford to give them- such as widows. The Jews of Jesus day taught that teachers were to be respected almost as much as God;they said they deserved more honor and respect than any other people in life.They taught that the greatest act someone could do was to give money to a teacher, Of course, it was the teachers themselves who taught this.” They were supposed to legally protect the widows but instead  cheat them out of their estate. A widow who had an estate would got to a cribe  for them to secure and protect their legal right to their estate, only to have the scribes cheat them out of their estate. They were corript,a nd Jesus alls them out on it before the people and exposes theirhearts revealed in their actions towards w some of the widows. “They would take money from older widows with deficient mental powers – as the older women lost the ability to reason and think what was going on, they would steal them blind. Then they would take the house of a widow in pledge for the debt that they were owed for their legal services; then when the widow died, they would own the house – nothing would be left if she had children. They demanded that the widows give to purchase blessing from God – as they demanded that from everybody in their system.”-{MacArthur}

5.- BEWARE of the  Scribes BECAUSE“… for a pretense make long prayers.” -{v 40}

They were doing for appearance sake, for show.There is nothing wrong with making long prayers. Jesus is not condemning that but the hypocrisy of the Scribes who made long prayers for show, to be perceived as Holy, close to God so as to be admired, praised, loved as devotees to God, and therefore to be exalted among the people. Jesus speaks in Matthew 6 of the repetition of their prayers, their emptyness that is condemned for its insincerity and hypocrisy. They are not speaking to God but want to be SEEN as those who speak to God. There is a differnce.They are doing it for show, not for intimacy with God! They are using the appearnace of prayer to God to achieve praise from the people. Hypocrites, play actors, pretending to be someone they are not! BEWARE of them. Be perceptive, be vigilant, be on gaurd cotinually to identify them!


  • The Scribes pretended to be devoted to God, His Word and ways, but they had no love for God but supreme love for themselves, They were deceitful, liars, used people for their own selfish gain. They were hypocrites, who instead of leading people to God and teaching them His Word so that they both could honor Him by applyig His Word, placed burdens upon them and made uprules that were not from God. They led people away from God, distortening who He was to the people, they will receive agreater condemnation, beause they had the Word of God, but discarded and distorted it and led people astray!

” They will receive a greater condemnation, not a lesser condemnation; not because they were good, or moral, or religious, will they receive less judgment – they will receive more judgment. If you have the idea today that there’s good in all religions, and God loves all religions, and we need to find God in all religions, and find the good that is there – Jesus pronounces a greater condemnation on the religious leaders of Israel – who are monotheists, who believed in the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, the creator God of the Old Testament.

But because they had apostatized from the true religion and come to a self-righteous works system, and because they had rejected Him and the gospel, their hell would be hotter than everybody else. You don’t want to get too close to the truth, because if you’re too close to the truth, the potential for judgment is even greater. “How much greater judgment will the one feel” – Hebrews says – “who has trodden underfoot the Son of God and counted the blood of the covenant an unholy thing?”

That’s the greatest of all judgment, to reject Christ; better you never know Him, hell will be less furious. The idea is clear: those who are in the wrong religion will receive the far-greater suffering, the far-greater damnation, because of that false religion, and because they reject the true gospel, the true Christ, as I just quoted from Hebrews 10. Don’t be fooled by them, don’t be drawn to them, be warned – they are dangerous, and they will be condemned.

Now, you have to add to these three verses the whole of Matthew chapter 23. I can’t do that – we don’t have time – but let me just give you a taste of it – go back to Matthew 23 – to get a feeling for all the words that our Lord said, and I want you to notice the note of judgment that is here. The word He uses is woe, which means to damn or to condemn, and you see it in verse 13 of Matthew 23: “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites.” Verse 15: “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites.”-{John MacArthur}