“First clean the inside of the cup and dish ...” (Matthew 23:25-26)

“Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You clean the outside of the cup and dish, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence. Blind Pharisee! First clean the inside of the cup and dish, and then the outside also will be clean.” (Matthew 23:25-26)

Why is Jesus talking about cleaning a cup and dish?

Jesus continues the analogy using the cup and dish. Again he uses the word "inside" - ἔσωθεν (esōthen) - referring to the soul or inner self.

By cleaning the "inside of the cup and dish" Jesus is referring to purifying one's consciousness. How can one's consciousness become purified?

By submitting oneself to the Supreme Being. Because the Supreme Being is all-purifying and merciful, by approaching Him with humility, our consciousness will become purified.

Jesus is speaking of substance versus perception. A person may strive to appear religious in order to impress others. But the substance of religious practice is our relationship with God.

Jesus' criticism was aimed at these institutional priests, but the issue is pertinent to each of us. Jesus' statement should help us look at ourselves, and consider who we accept as teachers.

This is a reference to physical appearances versus the status of the heart. A person may wear flowing robes and otherwise appear to be religious. But within their hearts, they may be only interested in themselves.

This self-centeredness is our disease, and why we are here in the physical world in the first place. This physical body allows us to exercise our self-centeredness with seeming independence.

The Supreme Being allows this because love requires freedom. He gave us the facility of the temporary physical world - full of the illusion of permanence and appearing to be a place of enjoyment - in order to allow us the freedom not to love and serve Him.

But we are not these physical bodies and this physical world is not our home. These physical bodies are temporary vehicles which will die within a few years and thence decompose. And everything we thought we owned - including our name, reputation, house, wealth and family - are lost at the time of death of this body.

In this verse, Jesus is metaphorically referring to the physical body as the outside of the cup and dish.

We are the spirit-persons residing within the physical body. This person leaves the body at the time of death and moves on. This spirit-person being referred to by Jesus with the word "inside" - translated from the Greek word ἔσωθεν (esōthen) - which literally means "from within" and "your soul" according to the lexicon. The "soul" is the spirit-person. We are each a soul.

The condition of this spirit-person - also metaphorically considered the condition of the heart - determines the destination after the death of the physical body. This condition is the state of our consciousness.

Why does Jesus call 'teachers of the law and Pharisees 'you hypocrites'?

Jesus is calling these institutional teachers "hypocrites" because their hearts did not reflect their shows of religiosity. The loving servant of God does not utilize their relationship with God for the purposes of fame, glory or wealth. The two are polar opposites.

The relationship between God and His loving servant is such that the loving servant seeks to glorify God, not themselves. God still may choose to glorify his loving servant - as he did with Jesus - but the loving servant does not seek that glory.

Ironically, Jesus' description of the Pharisees and the "teachers of the law" can also be applied to many of the sectarian institutions today that claim to follow Jesus.

Being appointed as a temple priest or Pharisee does not indicate a relationship with the Supreme Being. In the same way, going to seminary school and passing the examinations and being selected by councils has nothing to do with the heart of a priest, minister or reverend.

Appointments or seminary tuition payments tell us nothing about that person's relationship with God. As we saw in sexual abuse cases, a person could pass the seminary with flying colors and still be an enemy of Jesus and God.

Once seminary school is completed, appointments to positions such as priest, pastor, minister or reverend, bishop are often made using political processes. This requires candidates to impress councils of deacons and other institutional officials.

Furthermore, maintaining a position of priest, pastor, minister, preacher, or reverend requires continuing to please those councils and officials. They become obligated to those councils and officials that appointed them. And because they are paid salaries for their positions, they must please the councils in order to maintain their livelihood.

This has nothing to do with the work of pleasing God or representing God. The role of being God's loving servant is not displayed in a title. It is not evident from a resume. It is not evident from political recommendations.

Becoming God's servant is strictly something that occurs internally, between a person and the Supreme Being. This has been established by Jesus through his teachings and example.

This is consistent with all relationships. Let’s say we meet someone, and we make friends with them. We spend time with them, hanging out together and sharing intimate things about each other. We begin to trust each other. Would we then take advantage of that friendship in order to impress others or make some money? A true friend would not do this. A true friend would not try to take advantage of their friend in order to gain something.

It is no different in our relationship with the Supreme Being. If we utilize the beginning of a relationship with God - whether God gave us a glimpse of Himself or some understanding - for the purposes of our own success, fame or wealth - we would be doing the same thing: We'd be using God. We would be abusing our relationship with Him.

Why is Jesus so upset with them?

As we can see here, trying to take advantage of a position with God is extremely distasteful to Jesus. Why? Because Jesus is maintaining an intimate relationship with God. He is upset that these Sadducees and Pharisees (the priests, ministers, preachers, rabbis and reverends of those times) were using their positions with the temple for self-centered purposes.

We see from the Book of Matthew that Jesus was accepted into synagogues to teach: But he neither sought nor held an appointment as a rabbi, Pharisee or Sadducee by any council or assembly. Instead, Jesus became the disciple of John the Baptist, who was a student of the priest Zechariah, a devoted servant of God in the tradition of Melchizedek - who was Abraham's spiritual teacher.

Jesus also carried on this ancient tradition by teaching his own disciples and students, and then asked those disciples and students to each go out and teach others.

Thus we can see by Jesus' example that the authority to teach comes not from a political election by councils of men. Rather, it comes from becoming the sincere student and servant of a spiritual teacher who is themselves a student and servant of a spiritual teacher who is themselves a student and servant of a spiritual teacher, and so on. In this way, each student and teacher is a loving servant of the loving servant of God.

The sincere student of an ancient line of bonafide teachers carries not an appointment by that teacher because a sincere teacher authorizes every student they teach to carry on their teachings. Rather, it is God who ultimately empowers such a student. This empowerment comes in the form of a personal relationship with God, which is fostered by one's teacher. An example of this is Eli's fostering of his student Samuel's relationship with God. Just consider this excerpt from 1 Samuel:
The boy Samuel ministered before the LORD under Eli ...
Now Samuel did not yet know the LORD: The word of the LORD had not yet been revealed to him.
The LORD called Samuel a third time, and Samuel got up and went to Eli and said, "Here I am; you called me."
Then Eli realized that the LORD was calling the boy. So Eli told Samuel, "Go and lie down, and if he calls you, say, 'Speak, LORD, for your servant is listening.' " So Samuel went and lay down in his place.
The LORD came and stood there, calling as at the other times, "Samuel! Samuel!"
Then Samuel said, "Speak, for your servant is listening."

(1 Samuel 3:1-10)