Matthew 23

1 Then Jesus spoke to the multitudes and to his disciples,
2 Saying: The scribes and the Pharisees have sitten on the chair of Moses.
3 All things therefore whatsoever they shall say to you, observe and do: but according to their works do ye not. For they say, and do not.
4 For they bind heavy and insupportable burdens and lay them on men’s shoulders: but with a finger of their own they will not move them
5 And all their works they do for to be seen of men. For they make their phylacteries broad and enlarge their fringes.
6 And they love the first places at feasts and the first chairs in the synagogues,
7 And salutations in the market place, and to be called by men, Rabbi.
8 But be not you called Rabbi. For one is your master: and all you are brethren.
9 And call none your father upon earth; for one is your father, who is in heaven.
10 Neither be ye called masters: for one is your master, Christ.
11 He that is the greatest among you shall be your servant.
12 And whosoever shall exalt himself shall be humbled: and he that shall humble himself shall be exalted.
13 But woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites, because you shut the kingdom of heaven against men: for you yourselves do not enter in and those that are going in, you suffer not to enter.
14 Woe to you scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites, because you devour the houses of widows, praying long prayers. For this you shall receive the greater judgment
15 Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites, because you go round about the sea and the land to make one proselyte. And when he is made, you make him the child of hell twofold more than yourselves.
16 Woe to you, blind guides, that say, Whosoever shall swear by the temple, it is nothing; but he that shall swear by the gold of the temple is a debtor.
17 Ye foolish and blind: for whether is greater, the gold or the temple that sanctifieth the gold?
18 And whosoever shall swear by the altar, it is nothing; but whosoever shall swear by the gift that is upon it is a debtor.
19 Ye foolish and blind: for whether is greater, the gift or the altar that sanctifieth the gift
20 He therefore that sweareth by the altar sweareth by it and by all things that are upon it.
21 And whosoever shall swear by the temple sweareth by it and by him that dwelleth in it
22 And he that sweareth by heaven sweareth by the throne of God and by him that sitteth thereon.
23 Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites; because you tithe mint and anise and cummin and have left the weightier things of the law: judgment and mercy and faith. These things you ought to have done and not to leave those undone.
24 Blind guides, who strain out a gnat and swallow a camel.
25 Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites; because you make clean the outside of the cup and of the dish, but within you are full of rapine and uncleanness.
26 Thou blind Pharisee, first make clean the inside of the cup and of the dish, that the outside may become clean.
27 Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites; because you are like to whited sepulchres, which outwardly appear to men beautiful but within are full of dead men’s bones and of all filthiness.
28 So you also outwardly indeed appear to men just: but inwardly you are full of hypocrisy and iniquity.
29 Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites, that build the sepulchres of the prophets and adorn the monuments of the just,
30 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.
31 Wherefore you are witnesses against yourselves, that you are the sons of them that killed the prophets.
32 Fill ye up then the measure of your fathers.
33 You serpents, generation of vipers, how will you flee from the judgment of hell?
34 Therefore behold I send to you prophets and wise men and scribes: and some of them you will put to death and crucify: and some you will scourge in your synagogues and persecute from city to city.
35 That upon you may come all the just blood that hath been shed upon the earth, from the blood of Abel the just, even unto the blood of Zacharias the son of Barachias, whom you killed between the temple and the altar.
36 Amen I say to you, all these things shall come upon this generation
37 Jerusalem, Jerusalem, thou that killest the prophets and stonest them that are sent unto thee, how often would I have gathered together thy children, as the hen doth gather her chickens under her wings, and thou wouldst not?
38 Behold, your house shall be left to you, desolate
39 For I say to you, you shall not see me henceforth till you say: Blessed is he that cometh 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.

Matthew 23 Commentaries