Matthew is the only gospel writer who recorded seven “Woes” as part of Christ’s teaching in the Temple Courtyard during what Christians call Holy Week. The first day of the week, Christ triumphantly entered Jerusalem, the second day he cleared the Temple of money changers, and the third day was a day of controversy and parables. This day must have been challenging and exhausting for Christ. Group after group, e.g., Pharisees, teachers of the Law, Sadducees and Herodians, came forward to challenge Christ. They attempted to trip him up so that they could condemn both Christ and his answers. At one point during their challenges, Christ spoke seven “Woes” in which he condemned both the Pharisees and teachers of the Law. As we read these 32 verses, we hear the agony that Christ feels at the blindness of these spiritual leaders of Israel. Christ is so frustrated that he names them “hypocrites.”
In the fourth “Woe,” Christ told the Pharisees that they give 1/10 of spices – mint, dill and cummin; but neglect the more important parts of the Law that have to do with justice, mercy, and faithfulness. He advised them to practice justice, mercy, and faithfulness while tithing on the herbs. Then Christ gave a concluding denouncement to the Pharisees and teachers by saying that “you strain out a gnat but swallow a camel” (Matthew 23:24).
Christ’s teaching that justice, mercy and faithfulness are more important than tithing on herbs was similar to one he gave while eating a meal in a Pharisee’s home (Luke 11:37-44). The differences were that Christ used a different list of herbs than in Luke’s gospel, and in Luke he only he directed the Pharisees to practice justice and to love God. Despite these dissimilarities, the point of both teachings was the same. Christ wanted the Pharisees to get their priorities in line with God’s priorities. God’s priorities are summed up in a simple Bible verse (Micah 6:8), “What does the Lord of require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.”
The species name of New Testament dill is Anethum graveolens. Early Israelite settlers cultivated dill on the coastal Sharon Plain, possibly in sheltered area because strong winds can destroy or damage tall dill stocks. Dill is an erect annual herb that grows about 3 but sometime 5 feet tall. All parts of the dill plant are edible except the roots. Young foliage is used to flavor meat and fish sauces. Dill weed can be frozen with foliage on the stems. Dry or green seeds give the spicy tang to pickles, relishes and vinegar and add zest to potato and egg salads. Dried crushed seeds are used in soups.
Because dill is common in Western cooking, we do not fully comprehend how valuable it was to ancient peoples. In ancient times, the dill plant was a luxury item often used as an offering. Today we think of an offering as money or something valuable given to support the church. The ancients had a similar view of an offering. In ancient Egypt, dill was placed in the tombs of Egyptian Pharaohs (god-kings) as an offering for the Pharaoh’s afterlife. Israel’s Talmud required that a tithe be paid on dill stems, leaves, and seeds; therefore, dill was used as an offering to the Temple. Shortly after this teaching in the Temple Courtyard, Christ offered his body as a sacrifice for the sins of the world. His bodily sacrifice was an offering for the sins of these Pharisees and teachers of the Law who attempted to trip him up so they could justify condemning him.
It’s hard for me to wrap my mind around Christ offering his body — even dying — for men he knew were hypocrites and who had the goal of condemning him. My first reaction to hypocritical behavior is anger, even contempt.Perhaps I need to step back from these emotions and consider what my teacher did.
Reflection. How do you react to hypocritical behavior in your spouse, neighbors, or church family members? Think about what you can offer them besides judgment and anger.
I love Bible plants along with their symbolism. If you want to learn more about them, read my two books: 1) Rooted in God and 2) God as a Gardener. You can purchase them from my website: Carolyn Roth Ministry at http://www.CarolynRothMinistry.com/
Copyright: Carolyn A. Roth, 12/13