Matthew 23

Pharisaism Exposed

1 1Then Jesus spoke to the crowds and to His disciples,
2 saying: "2The scribes and the Pharisees have seated themselves in the chair of Moses;
3 therefore all that they tell you, do and observe, but do not do according to their deeds; for they say things and do not do them.
4 "3They tie up heavy burdens and lay them on men's shoulders, but they themselves are unwilling * to move them with so much as a finger.#rl
5 "But they do all their deeds 4to be noticed by men; for they 5broaden their phylacteries and lengthen 6the tassels of their garments.
6 "They 7love the place of honor at banquets and the chief seats in the synagogues,
7 and respectful greetings in the market places, and being called 8Rabbi by men.
8 "But 9do not be called 10Rabbi; for One is your Teacher, and you are all brothers.
9 "Do not call anyone on earth your father; for 11One is your Father, He who is in heaven.
10 "Do not be called leaders; for One is your Leader, that is, Christ.
11 "12But the greatest among you shall be your servant.
12 "13Whoever exalts himself shall be humbled; and whoever humbles himself shall be exalted.

Eight Woes

13 "14But woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites, 15because you shut off the kingdom of heaven from people; for you do not enter in yourselves, nor do you allow those who are entering to go in.
14 [ "Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites, because 16you devour widows' houses, and for a pretense you make long prayers; therefore * you will receive greater condemnation.
15 "Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites, because you travel around on sea and land to make one 17proselyte; and when he becomes one, you make him twice as much a son of 18hell as yourselves.
16 "Woe to you, 19blind guides, who say, '20Whoever * swears by the temple, that is nothing; but whoever * swears by the gold of the temple is obligated.'
17 "You fools and blind men! 21Which is more important, the gold or the temple that sanctified the gold?
18 "And, 'Whoever * swears by the altar, that is nothing, but whoever * swears by the offering on it, he is obligated.'
19 "You blind men, 22which is more important, the offering, or the altar that sanctifies the offering?#rl
20 "Therefore, whoever swears by the altar, swears both by the altar and by everything on it.
21 "And whoever swears by the temple, swears both by the temple and by Him who 23dwells within it.#rl
22 "And whoever swears by heaven, 24swears both by the throne of God and by Him who sits upon it.
23 "25Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you tithe mint and dill and cummin, and have neglected the weightier provisions of the law: justice and mercy and faithfulness; but these are the things you should have done without neglecting the others.
24 "You 26blind guides, who strain out a gnat and swallow a camel!
25 "Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For 27you clean the outside of the cup and of the dish, but inside they are full of robbery and self-indulgence.
26 "You blind Pharisee, first 28clean the inside of the cup and of the dish, so that the outside of it may become clean also.
27 "29Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs which on the outside appear beautiful, but inside they are full of dead men's bones and all uncleanness.
28 "So you, too, outwardly appear righteous to men, but inwardly you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness.
29 "30Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you build the tombs of the prophets and adorn the monuments of the righteous,
30 and say, 'If we had been living in the days of our fathers, we would not have been partners with them in shedding the blood of the prophets.'
31 "So you testify against yourselves, that you 31are sons of those who murdered the prophets.
32 "Fill up, then, the measure of the guilt of your fathers.
33 "You serpents, 32you brood of vipers, how will you escape the sentence of 33hell?
34 "34Therefore *, behold, 35I am sending you prophets and wise men and scribes; some of them you will kill and crucify, and some of them you will 36scourge in your synagogues, and 37persecute from city to city,
35 so that upon you may fall the guilt of all the righteous blood shed on earth, from the blood of righteous 38Abel to the blood of Zechariah, the 39son of Berechiah, whom 40you murdered between the temple and the altar.
36 "Truly I say to you, all these things will come upon 41this generation.#rl

Lament over Jerusalem

37 "42Jerusalem, Jerusalem, who 43kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to her! How often I wanted to gather your children together, 44the way a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you were unwilling *.
38 "Behold, 45your house is being left to you desolate!
39 "For I say to you, from now on you will not see Me until you say, '46BLESSED IS HE WHO COMES IN THE NAME OF THE LORD!' "

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.

Cross References 46

  • 1. Matthew 23:1-7: {Mark 12:38, 39; Luke 20:45, 46}
  • 2. Deuteronomy 33:3; Ezra 7:6, 25; Nehemiah 8:4
  • 3. Luke 11:46; Acts 15:10
  • 4. Matt 6:1, 5, 16
  • 5. Exodus 13:9; Deuteronomy 6:8; Deuteronomy 11:18
  • 6. Matthew 9:20
  • 7. Luke 11:43; Luke 14:7; Luke 20:46
  • 8. Matthew 23:8; John 6:25, 49">2John 6:25, 49; Mark 9:5; Mark 10:51; Mark 11:21; John 1:38, 49; John 3:2, 26; John 4:31; John 6:25; John 9:2; John 11:8; John 20:16
  • 9. James 3:1
  • 10. Matthew 23:7; John 6:25, 49">2John 6:25, 49; Mark 9:5; Mark 10:51; Mark 11:21; Mark 14:45; John 1:38, 49; John 3:2, 26; John 4:31; John 6:25; John 9:2; John 11:8; John 20:16
  • 11. Matthew 6:9; Matthew 7:11
  • 12. Matthew 20:26
  • 13. Luke 14:11; Luke 18:14
  • 14. Matt 23:15, 16, 23, 25, 27, 29
  • 15. Luke 11:52
  • 16. Mark 12:40; Luke 20:47
  • 17. Acts 2:10; Acts 6:5; Acts 13:43
  • 18. Matthew 5:22
  • 19. Matthew 15:14; Matthew 23:24
  • 20. Matthew 5:33-35
  • 21. Exodus 30:29
  • 22. Exodus 29:37
  • 23. 1 Kings 8:13; Psalms 26:8; Psalms 132:14
  • 24. Isaiah 66:1; Matthew 5:34
  • 25. Matthew 23:13; Luke 11:42
  • 26. Matthew 23:16
  • 27. Mark 7:4; Luke 11:39
  • 28. Mark 7:4; Luke 11:39
  • 29. Luke 11:44; Acts 23:3
  • 30. Luke 11:47
  • 31. Matthew 23:34, 37; Acts 7:51
  • 32. Matthew 3:7; Luke 3:7
  • 33. Matthew 5:22
  • 34. Matthew 23:34-36; Luke 11:49-51
  • 35. 2 Chronicles 36:15, 16
  • 36. Matthew 10:17
  • 37. Matthew 10:23
  • 38. Genesis 4:8f; Hebrews 11:4
  • 39. Zechariah 1:1
  • 40. 2 Chronicles 24:21
  • 41. Matthew 10:23; Matthew 24:34
  • 42. Matthew 23:37-39: {Luke 13:34, 35}
  • 43. Matthew 5:12
  • 44. Ruth 2:12
  • 45. 1 Kings 9:7; Jeremiah 22:5
  • 46. Psalms 118:26; Matthew 21:9

Footnotes 28

Matthew 23 Commentaries