Matthew 23

Religious Hypocrites Denounced

1 Then Jesus spoke to the crowds and to His disciples:
2 "The scribes and the Pharisees are seated in the chair of Moses. [a]
3 Therefore do whatever they tell you and observe [it]. But don't do what they do, [b] because they don't practice what they teach.
4 They tie up heavy loads that are hard to carry [c] and put them on people's shoulders, but they themselves aren't willing to lift a finger [d] to move them.
5 They do everything [e] to be observed by others: They enlarge their phylacteries [f] and lengthen their tassels. [g]
6 They love the place of honor at banquets, the front seats in the synagogues,
7 greetings in the marketplaces, and to be called 'Rabbi' by people.
8 "But as for you, do not be called 'Rabbi,' because you have one Teacher, [h] and you are all brothers.
9 Do not call anyone on earth your father, because you have one Father, who is in heaven.
10 And do not be called masters either, because you have one Master, [i] the Messiah.
11 The greatest among you will be your servant.
12 Whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted.
13 "But woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! You lock up the kingdom of heaven from people. For you don't go in, and you don't allow those entering to go in. [
14 "Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! You devour widows' houses and make long prayers just for show. [j] This is why you will receive a harsher punishment.] [k]
15 "Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! You travel over land and sea to make one proselyte, and when he becomes one, you make him twice as fit for hell [l] as you are!
16 "Woe to you, blind guides, who say, 'Whoever takes an oath by the sanctuary, it means nothing. But whoever takes an oath by the gold of the sanctuary is bound by his oath.' [m]
17 Blind fools! [n] For which is greater, the gold or the sanctuary that sanctified the gold?
18 Also, 'Whoever takes an oath by the altar, it means nothing. But whoever takes an oath by the gift that is on it is bound by his oath.' [o]
19 Blind people! [p] For which is greater, the gift or the altar that sanctifies the gift?
20 Therefore the one who takes an oath by the altar takes an oath by it and by everything on it.
21 The one who takes an oath by the sanctuary takes an oath by it and by Him who dwells in it.
22 And the one who takes an oath by heaven takes an oath by God's throne and by Him who sits on it.
23 "Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! You pay a tenth of [q] mint, dill, and cumin, [r] yet you have neglected the more important matters of the law-justice, mercy, and faith. These things should have been done without neglecting the others.
24 Blind guides! You strain out a gnat, yet gulp down a camel!
25 "Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! You clean the outside of the cup and dish, but inside they are full of greed [s] and self-indulgence!
26 Blind Pharisee! First clean the inside of the cup, [t] so the outside of it [u] may also become clean.
27 "Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! You are like whitewashed tombs, which appear beautiful on the outside, but inside are full of dead men's bones and every impurity.
28 In the same way, on the outside you seem righteous to people, but inside you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness.
29 "Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! You build the tombs of the prophets and decorate the monuments of the righteous,
30 and you say, 'If we had lived in the days of our fathers, we wouldn't have taken part with them in shedding the prophets' blood.' [v]
31 You therefore testify against yourselves that you are sons of those who murdered the prophets.
32 Fill up, then, the measure of your fathers' sins! [w]
33 "Snakes! Brood of vipers! How can you escape being condemned to hell? [x]
34 This is why I am sending you prophets, sages, and scribes. Some of them you will kill and crucify, and some of them you will flog in your synagogues and hound from town to town.
35 So all the righteous blood shed on the earth will be charged to you, [y] from the blood of righteous Abel to the blood of Zechariah, son of Berechiah, whom you murdered between the sanctuary and the altar.
36 I assure you: All these things will come on this generation!

Jesus' Lamentation over Jerusalem

37 "Jerusalem, Jerusalem! The city who kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to her. How often I wanted to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks [z] under her wings, yet you were not willing!
38 See, your house is left to you desolate.
39 For I tell you, you will never see Me again until you say, Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord! " [aa]

Matthew 23 Commentary

Chapter 23

Jesus reproves the scribes and Pharisees. (1-12) Crimes of the Pharisees. (13-33) The guilt of Jerusalem. (34-39)

Verses 1-12 The scribes and Pharisees explained the law of Moses, and enforced obedience to it. They are charged with hypocrisy in religion. We can only judge according to outward appearance; but God searches the heart. They made phylacteries. These were scrolls of paper or parchment, wherein were written four paragraphs of the law, to be worn on their foreheads and left arms, ( Exodus 13:2-10 , Exodus 13:11-16 , Deuteronomy 6:4-9 , Deuteronomy 11:13-21 ) . They made these phylacteries broad, that they might be thought more zealous for the law than others. God appointed the Jews to make fringes upon their garments, ( Numbers 15:38 ) , to remind them of their being a peculiar people; but the Pharisees made them larger than common, as if they were thereby more religious than others. Pride was the darling, reigning sin of the Pharisees, the sin that most easily beset them, and which our Lord Jesus takes all occasions to speak against. For him that is taught in the word to give respect to him that teaches, is commendable; but for him that teaches, to demand it, to be puffed up with it, is sinful. How much is all this against the spirit of Christianity! The consistent disciple of Christ is pained by being put into chief places. But who that looks around on the visible church, would think this was the spirit required? It is plain that some measure of this antichristian spirit prevails in every religious society, and in every one of our hearts.

Verses 13-33 The scribes and Pharisees were enemies to the gospel of Christ, and therefore to the salvation of the souls of men. It is bad to keep away from Christ ourselves, but worse also to keep others from him. Yet it is no new thing for the show and form of godliness to be made a cloak to the greatest enormities. But dissembled piety will be reckoned double iniquity. They were very busy to turn souls to be of their party. Not for the glory of God and the good of souls, but that they might have the credit and advantage of making converts. Gain being their godliness, by a thousand devices they made religion give way to their worldly interests. They were very strict and precise in smaller matters of the law, but careless and loose in weightier matters. It is not the scrupling a little sin that Christ here reproves; if it be a sin, though but a gnat, it must be strained out; but the doing that, and then swallowing a camel, or, committing a greater sin. While they would seem to be godly, they were neither sober nor righteous. We are really, what we are inwardly. Outward motives may keep the outside clean, while the inside is filthy; but if the heart and spirit be made new, there will be newness of life; here we must begin with ourselves. The righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees was like the ornaments of a grave, or dressing up a dead body, only for show. The deceitfulness of sinners' hearts appears in that they go down the streams of the sins of their own day, while they fancy that they should have opposed the sins of former days. We sometimes think, if we had lived when Christ was upon earth, that we should not have despised and rejected him, as men then did; yet Christ in his Spirit, in his word, in his ministers, is still no better treated. And it is just with God to give those up to their hearts' lusts, who obstinately persist in gratifying them. Christ gives men their true characters.

Verses 34-39 Our Lord declares the miseries the inhabitants of Jerusalem were about to bring upon themselves, but he does not notice the sufferings he was to undergo. A hen gathering her chickens under her wings, is an apt emblem of the Saviour's tender love to those who trust in him, and his faithful care of them. He calls sinners to take refuge under his tender protection, keeps them safe, and nourishes them to eternal life. The present dispersion and unbelief of the Jews, and their future conversion to Christ, were here foretold. Jerusalem and her children had a large share of guilt, and their punishment has been signal. But ere long, deserved vengeance will fall on every church which is Christian in name only. In the mean time the Saviour stands ready to receive all who come to him. There is nothing between sinners and eternal happiness, but their proud and unbelieving unwillingness.

Footnotes 27

  • [a]. Perhaps a special chair for teaching in synagogues, or a metaphorical phrase for teaching with Moses' authority
  • [b]. Lit do according to their works
  • [c]. Other mss omit that are hard to carry
  • [d]. Lit lift with their finger
  • [e]. Lit do all their works
  • [f]. Small leather boxes containing OT texts, worn by Jews on their arms and foreheads
  • [g]. Other mss add on their robes
  • [h]. Other mss add the Messiah
  • [i]. Or Teacher
  • [j]. Or prayers with false motivation
  • [k]. Other mss omit bracketed text
  • [l]. Lit twice the son of gehenna
  • [m]. Lit is obligated
  • [n]. Lit Fools and blind
  • [o]. Lit is obligated
  • [p]. Other mss read Fools and blind
  • [q]. Or You tithe
  • [r]. A plant whose seeds are used as a seasoning
  • [s]. Or full of violence
  • [t]. Other mss add and dish
  • [u]. Other mss read of them
  • [v]. Lit have been partakers with them in the blood of the prophets
  • [w]. Lit the measure of your fathers
  • [x]. Lit escape from the judgment of gehenna
  • [y]. Lit will come on you
  • [z]. Or as a mother bird gathers her young
  • [aa]. Ps 118:26

Matthew 23 Commentaries

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