1 Then Jesus said to the crowds and to his disciples, 2 “The experts in the law and the Pharisees sit on Moses’ seat. 3 Therefore pay attention to what they tell you and do it. But do not do what they do, for they do not practice what they teach. 4 They tie up heavy loads, hard to carry, and put them on men’s shoulders, but they themselves are not willing even to lift a finger to move them. 5 They do all their deeds to be seen by people, for they make their phylacteries wide and their tassels long. 6 They love the place of honour at banquets and the best seats in the synagogues 7 and elaborate greetings in the marketplaces, and to have people call them ‘Rabbi.’ 8 But you are not to be called ‘Rabbi,’ for you have one Teacher and you are all brothers. 9 And call no one your ‘father’ on earth, for you have one Father, who is in heaven. 10 Nor are you to be called ‘teacher,’ for you have one teacher, the Christ. 11 The greatest among you will be your servant. 12 And whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted.
13 “But woe to you, experts in the law and you Pharisees, hypocrites! You keep locking people out of the kingdom of heaven! For you neither enter nor permit those trying to enter to go in.
15 “Woe to you, experts in the law and you Pharisees, hypocrites! You cross land and sea to make one convert, and when you get one, you make him twice as much a child of hell as yourselves!
16 “Woe to you, blind guides, who say, ‘Whoever swears by the temple is bound by nothing. But whoever swears by the gold of the temple is bound by the oath.’ 17 Blind fools! Which is greater, the gold or the temple that makes the gold sacred? 18 And, ‘Whoever swears by the altar is bound by nothing. But if anyone swears by the gift on it he is bound by the oath.’ 19 You are blind! For which is greater, the gift or the altar that makes the gift sacred? 20 So whoever swears by the altar swears by it and by everything on it. 21 And whoever swears by the temple swears by it and the one who dwells in it. 22 And whoever swears by heaven swears by the throne of God and the one who sits on it.
23 “Woe to you, experts in the law and you Pharisees, hypocrites! You give a tenth of mint, dill, and cumin, yet you neglect what is more important in the law – justice, mercy, and faithfulness! You should have done these things without neglecting the others. 24 Blind guides! You strain out a gnat yet swallow a camel!
25 “Woe to you, experts in the law and you Pharisees, hypocrites! You clean the outside of the cup and the dish, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence. 26 Blind Pharisee! First clean the inside of the cup, so that the outside may become clean too!
27 “Woe to you, experts in the law and you Pharisees, hypocrites! You are like whitewashed tombs that look beautiful on the outside but inside are full of the bones of the dead and of everything unclean. 28 In the same way, on the outside you look righteous to people, but inside you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness.
29 “Woe to you, experts in the law and you Pharisees, hypocrites! You build tombs for the prophets and decorate the graves of the righteous. 30 And you say, ‘If we had lived in the days of our ancestors, we would not have participated with them in shedding the blood of the prophets.’ 31 By saying this you testify against yourselves that you are descendants of those who murdered the prophets. 32 Fill up then the measure of your ancestors! 33 You snakes, you offspring of vipers! How will you escape being condemned to hell?
34 “For this reason I am sending you prophets and wise men and experts in the law, some of whom you will kill and crucify, and some you will flog in your synagogues and pursue from town to town, 35 so that on you will come all the righteous blood shed on earth, from the blood of righteous Abel to the blood of Zechariah son of Barachiah, whom you murdered between the temple and the altar. 36 I tell you the truth, this generation will be held responsible for all these things!
Judgment on Israel
37 “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those who are sent to you! How often I have longed to gather your children together as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you would have none of it! 38 Look, your house is left to you desolate! 39 For I tell you, you will not see me from now until you say, ‘Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord!’”
C H Spurgeon
Matthew 23:29-31. Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! because ye build the tombs of the prophets, and garnish the sepulchres of the righteous, And say, If we had been in the days of our fathers, we would not have been partakers with them in the blood of the prophets. Wherefore ye be witnesses unto yourselves, that ye are the children of them which killed the prophets.
They talk in the same conceited manner, and they claim self-righteousness, as their fathers did; and if their ancestors killed the prophets, these men garnish their sepulchres, and so are sharers in their forefathers’ deeds. How often it happens that men say they would not have done such crimes as others have committed, whereas they do not know the vileness of their own hearts. If they were under the same conditions as others, they would act in the same way. It would have been a better sign if the scribes and Pharisees had lamented before God that they themselves were not treating his prophets as they ought to be treated. How very faithful was our Master! He was very tender in spirit; but still, he spoke very severely. The old proverb says that “a good surgeon often cuts deeply,” and so it was with the Lord Jesus Christ. He did not film the evil matter over, he lanced the wound. He is not the most loving who speaks the smoothest words; true love often compels an honest man to say that which pains him far more than it affects his callous hearers.
Matthew 23:32-33. Fill ye up then the measure of your fathers. Ye serpents, ye generation of vipers, how can ye escape the damnation of hell?
This is Christ’s utterance, let me remind you. Our modern preachers would not talk like this, even to scribes and Pharisees who were crucifying Christ afresh, and putting Him to an open flame. They would search the dictionary through to find very smooth and pretty words to say to Christ’s enemies. We are not of their way of thinking and speaking, nor shall there be while we desire to follow in the footsteps of our Lord.
Matthew 23:34. Wherefore, behold, I send unto you prophets, and wise men, and scribes: and some of them ye shall kill and crucify; and some of them shall ye scourge in your synagogues, and persecute them from city to city:
Which they did; the servants of Christ were thus worried and harried all over the land.
Matthew 23:35-36. That upon you may come all the righteous blood shed upon the earth, from the blood of righteous Abel unto the blood of Zacharias son of Barachias whom ye slew between the temple and the altar. Verily I say unto you, All these things shall come upon this generation.
So they did. The destruction of Jerusalem was more terrible than anything that the world has ever witnessed, either before or since. There must have been nearly a million and a quarter of people killed during that terrible siege, and even Titus, when he saw the awful carnage, said, “What must be the folly of this people that they drive me to such work as this? Surely, the hand of an avenging God must be in it.” Truly, the blood of the martyrs slain in Jerusalem was amply avenged when the whole city became a veritable Aceldama, or field of blood.
Matthew 23:37-38. O Jerusalem, Jerusalem! thou that kill the prophets, and stone them which are sent unto thee, how often would I have gathered thy children together, even as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, and ye would not! Behold, your house is left unto you desolate.
What a picture of pity and disappointed love the king’s face must have presented when, with flowing tears, he spoke these words! It was the utterance of the righteous Judge, choked with emotion. Jerusalem was too far gone to be rescued from its self-sought doom, and its guilt was about to culminate in the death of the Son of God.
Matthew 23:39. For I say unto you, Ye shall not see me henceforth, till ye shall say, Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord.