“Woe to you experts in the law..."
And yes, this is whom Jesus is speaking of. In many other Biblical versions, including the King James and the New King James versions, the word νομικός (nomikos) is being translated to "lawyers."
But is Jesus speaking of a lawyer in the sense we assume - in a secular sense - of criminal or corporate lawyers?
No. Jesus is referring to those among the ecclesiastical Jewish institutions of his day, who interpreted the laws of Moses and used those to cast judgements upon others. For example, a person not conducting a ceremonial washing before eating was considered to be breaking Moses' laws by these "experts in the law."
"... because you have taken away the key to knowledge."
This is mirrored among many of today's sectarian institutions that consider their various sect's rituals to be the sum and substance of the teachings of Jesus and/or the Prophets. They consider these rituals to be what spiritual life is all about. Even though the Supreme Being said:
"For I desire mercy, not sacrifice, and acknowledgment of God rather than burnt offerings." (Hosea 6:6)Jesus also quoted this verse, twice according to the Book of Matthew (Matt. 9:13 and Matt. 12:7). Both times he quoted this verse he was speaking specifically of the focus these ecclesiastical Jewish leaders put upon the strict observance of rituals.
Why is this important?
Because, as Jesus is stating, by the assumption that rituals - same as "sacrifice" - are in themselves the important aspect of spiritual life, the real goal and purpose is completely missed.
For example, a person might be focused upon a tree in a forest for the purpose of cutting the tree down and using it for wood, while missing the role the tree plays in our environment - of generating oxygen and converting carbon dioxide.
In the same way, by focusing upon the various sectarian ceremonial rituals, the real goal and purpose of spiritual life can be completely missed.
The Supreme Being is identifying this in Hosea. He is more pleased with a person having mercy and compassion upon others than with doing the various ceremonial rituals. And He is more pleased with being acknowledged than He is with rote ceremonial sacrifice.
This is, according to Jesus above, "the key to knowledge." The word "knowledge" - translated from the Greek word γνῶσις (gnōsis) - refers not to mundane knowledge, but to a deeper wisdom - the wisdom that relates to knowing the Supreme Being.
So what is the "key" Jesus is referring to? The word "key" is translated from κλείς (kleis), which means, when used metaphorically, "to denote power and authority" according to the lexicon.
Jesus is speaking of access here - the power and authority to access the deeper realm of the spiritual. This is the realm of the Supreme Being.
And Jesus is saying this access is blocked by the unwarranted focus upon rituals as being the sum and substance of spiritual life.
"You yourselves have not entered, and you have hindered those who were entering.”
So what is spiritual life and what is Jesus speaking of when he says "entered" and "entering"?
Jesus is speaking of a relationship with the Supreme Being. A loving service relationship.
Yes, each of us can have - can enter - a loving service relationship with the Supreme Being. This is the goal of spiritual life. It is spiritual life.
For example, these ecclesiastical Jewish "experts in the law" were focused upon the various rituals - many of which were taught by Moses to his followers. And there were many different rules.
Loving God is the core teaching
But Moses' central teaching regarded loving for the Supreme Being. Moses did not make one mere mention of this either. He spoke of it over and over:
“Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength.” (Deut. 6:5)Moses' student Joshua continued Moses' central directive:
“Know therefore that the LORD your God is God; He is the faithful God, keeping his covenant of love to a thousand generations of those who love Him and keep his commands.” (Deut 7:9)
“If you pay attention to these laws and are careful to follow them, then the LORD your God will keep his covenant of love with you, as He swore to your forefathers.” (Deut 7:12)
“And now, O Israel, what does the LORD your God ask of you but to revere the LORD your God, to walk in all his ways, to love him, to serve the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul” (Deut 10:12)
“Love the LORD your God and keep His requirements, His decrees, His laws and His commands always.” (Deut 11:1)
“So if you faithfully obey the commands I am giving you today--to love the LORD your God and to serve Him with all your heart and with all your soul…” (Deut 11:13)
“If you carefully observe all these commands I am giving you to follow--to love the LORD your God, to walk in all His ways and to hold fast to Him” (Deut 11:22)
“you must not listen to the words of that prophet or dreamer. The LORD your God is testing you to find out whether you love Him with all your heart and with all your soul.” (Deut 13:3)
“because you carefully follow all these laws I command you today--to love the LORD your God and to walk always in His ways - then you are to set aside three more cities.” (Deut 19:9)
“The LORD your God will circumcise your hearts and the Hearts of your descendants, so that you may love Him with all your heart and with all your soul, and life.” (Deu 30:6)
“For I command you today to love the LORD your God, to walk in his ways, and to keep his commands, decrees and laws; then you will live and increase, and the LORD your God will bless you in the land you are entering to possess.” (Deut 30:16)
“and that you may love the LORD your God, listen to his voice, and hold fast to Him. For the LORD is your life” (Deut 30:20)
"But be very careful to keep the commandment and the law that Moses the servant of the LORD gave you: to love the LORD your God, to walk in all His ways, to obey His commands, to hold fast to Him and to serve Him with all your heart and all your soul." (Joshua 22:5)And Jesus quoted Moses as he stated:
" 'Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.' This is the first and greatest commandment." (Matt. 22:37-38)Thus we know from Jesus and the Prophets before him that the primary purpose and objective of spiritual life is to come to know, love and serve the Supreme Being with all of ones being.
Why is coming to know God so important? Because one must know someone before they can love that person. How can someone truly love another without knowing who they are?
And how can we know the Supreme Being without knowing who we are?
This aspect: Of coming to know and love the Supreme Being - is also being shrouded by modern ecclesiastical sectarian institutions - ironically including many of those who claim to be following Jesus. Like the "experts in the law" Jesus was speaking of, the teachers of some of these sectarian institutions are considering their various rituals as being the all-important substance of spiritual life.
These rituals concern more than the different rituals of these various churches and mosques: They also include the various proclamations of their sect as they seek authority over other sects.
This sectarian focus - trying to claim ownership over the teachings of Jesus or other Prophets - sometimes involving bloodshed - is completely missing the point of spiritual life. It is the abandonment of the actual teachings given by Jesus and the Prophets for the purpose of proving that one sect's interpretation of scripture is better than another.
Furthermore, the misidentification of Jesus with the Supreme Being - as is being done among many ecclesiastical sects - prevents one from developing a relationship with the Supreme Being. Jesus clearly stated that he was not the Supreme Being, many times. For example:
“My teaching is not my own. It comes from the One who sent me." (John 7:16)Jesus is trying to teach others to come to know, come to love, and learn to please the Supreme Being. This is the Person who sent Jesus because He wants us to re-develop our loving relationship with Him. He wants us to regain our innate relationship with Him because the Supreme Being loves us and wants us to be happy.
And regaining our loving service relationship with the Supreme Being is the only way we will ever be happy.