Whitewashed Tombs – The Definition of Pharisees and Sadducees In the Modern World.

What Is A Whitewashed Tomb?

The term white washed tombs was part of the 7 woes that Jesus pronounced on the Pharisees and Sadducees in Matthew 23

Matthew 23:27

“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.

The term literally means a tomb or mausoleum that has been painted with white paint. Whitewash was a form of paint. However the importance is not on what whitewash means but upon the description that He was using to describe their spiritual condition. They were dead on the inside but looked good on the outside.

Although the application of the teaching is different today than it was during the era that Jesus walked the earth, the motivational drive behind the teaching still exists.

It is my hope that by sharing with you what I have learned over the 32 years I have been a believer will help you heed the warning Jesus gave us about the teachings of the Pharisees and Sadducees so we do not become white washed tombs as well.

image of Pharisees

What Did Pharisees Believe

As you can see in the passage in Matthew 23, Jesus spoke pretty harshly to the Pharisees. The Pharisees were primarily motivated by a performance mentality. They believed that God would be pleased with them if they performed up to a certain standard.

In their drive to reach that standard, they made laws and edicts that went beyond the heart or purpose of the laws of Moses and in doing so ended up putting themselves and others into a type of religious bondage that was never supposed to be part of the plan of God.

What are modern day Pharisees?

Modern day Pharisees are motivated by the same thing. Although the laws and edicts might have changed the drive behind those laws and edicts is the same. It is the belief that God will not bless, be pleased, or accept us unless we perform up to a certain standard that motivates modern-day Pharisees.

How many times have you heard the statement “God won’t _______ unless you _______? That is the mantra of modern-day Pharisees.

image of Sadducees

What Did Sadducees Believe

Matt 22:23-29


23 The same day the Sadducees, who say there is no resurrection, came to Him and asked Him, 24 saying: “Teacher, Moses said that if a man dies, having no children, his brother shall marry his wife and raise up offspring for his brother. 25 “Now there were with us seven brothers. The first died after he had married, and having no offspring, left his wife to his brother. 26 “Likewise the second also, and the third, even to the seventh. 27 “Last of all the woman died also. 28 “Therefore, in the resurrection, whose wife of the seven will she be? For they all had her.”

29 Jesus answered and said to them, “You are mistaken, not knowing the Scriptures nor the power of God

The Sadducees were the rationalists of the day. They did not believe in the power of God nor in the supernatural. They were the ones that always explained away the miraculous and relied instead on human reasoning and human wisdom.

They were driven by the belief that human knowledge and intellect were a means to an end. Just as the Pharisees believed that performance was the way to please God, the Sadducees believed that human reasoning and human wisdom alone was the way to understand God.

What are modern day Sadducees?

Modern day Sadducees believe that God must be totally understandable and fit into a rational understanding. That there is no place for the supernatural and many even deny the modern-day presence of the supernatural in the church. They rely on their human reasoning and human wisdom to try to accomplish the works of God in the world today.

This problem is not just a modern problem. The Apostle Paul had to deal with both of these issues in the early Church. In the Church of Galatia he had to remind the people that their faith was not to rest on performance but on faith. Gal 3:1-6 In the book of Hebrews Paul tells us that the only way to please God is by faith. Heb 11:6

The Galatia church had started down the path of the Pharisees and had put performance as part of the way to please God.

In the Corinthian Church Paul wanted their faith to rest on the power of God and not on the wisdom of man. 1 Cor 2:1-5 He chose not to try to make things happen or use his superior knowledge but instead showed that church that their faith should be in the power of God.

That was the foundation that built the church. It was his example so that they would not go down the path of the Sadducees.

image of white washed tombs

How Do We Avoid Becoming Modern Day Whitewashed Tombs?

It is the practice and application of relationship. Heb. 11:1-8 We must have faith in God. In all honesty, if we are doing things to perform or we are relying on just our human understanding and wisdom, then what we are doing is worth nothing. We must be looking to Jesus.

Faith is expressed by seeking God. Not seeking something to do, nor by seeking understanding, but by actually seeking and getting to know Jesus. Putting our focus and attention on the author and finisher of our faith. Heb. 12:2

Faith is grown, perfected and matured by focusing our attention on Jesus. This is the only way to have a balanced and mature Christian walk.

It was the original intent of Jesus for coming to this earth. He came to establish relationship.

So ask yourself this question. If I tried to have a relationship with my wife, parents, children, friends the same way I approach having a relationship with Jesus, how well would that work?

Now that is something to think about!


Pastor Duke

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Duke Taber
Pastor Duke Taber is an alumnus of L.I.F.E. Bible College and Multnomah Biblical Seminary. He has been in pastoral ministry since 1988. Pastor Duke specializes in healing hurting churches and bringing revival, renewal, and restoration of the presence of God to the body of Christ in America to make the church spiritual again. Pastor Duke has a few limited dates available to speak in other churches. If your church needs a fresh move of the Spirit of God or has gone through a painful and wounding season, click here. Today he is the owner and managing editor of 3 successful Christian websites that support missionaries around the world. He is currently starting a brand new church in Mesquite NV called Mesquite Worship Center.

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