Matthew 23

1 Then Jesus addressed the crowds and His disciples.
2 "The Scribes," He said, "and the Pharisees sit in the chair of Moses.
3 Therefore do and observe everything that they command you; but do not imitate their lives, for though they tell others what to do, they do not do it themselves.
4 Heavy and cumbrous burdens they bind together and load men's shoulders with them, while as for themselves, not with one finger do they choose to lift them
5 And everything they do they do with a view to being observed by men; for they widen their phylacteries and make the tassels large,
6 and love the best seats at a dinner party or in the synagogues,
7 and like to be bowed to in places of public resort, and to be addressed by men as `Rabbi.'
8 "As for you, do not accept the title of `Rabbi,' for one alone is your Teacher, and you are all brothers.
9 And call no one on earth your Father, for One alone is your Father--the Heavenly Father.
10 And do not accept the name of `leader,' for your Leader is one alone--the Christ.
11 He who is the greatest among you shall be your servant;
12 and one who exalts himself shall be abased, while one who abases himself shall be exalted.
13 "But alas for you, Scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites, for you lock the door of the Kingdom of the Heavens against men; you yourselves do not enter, nor do you allow those to enter who are seeking to do so.
15 "Alas for you, Scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites, for you scour sea and land in order to win one convert--and when he is gained, you make him twice as much a son of Gehenna as yourselves.
16 "Alas for you, you blind guides, who say, "`Whoever swears by the Sanctuary it is nothing; but whoever swears by the gold of the Sanctuary, is bound by the oath.'
17 "Blind fools! Why, which is greater? --the gold, or the Sanctuary which has made the gold holy?
18 And you say, "`Whoever swears by the altar, it is nothing; but whoever swears by the offering lying on it is bound by the oath.'
19 "You are blind! Why, which is greater? --the offering, or the altar which makes the offering holy
20 He who swears by the altar swears both by it and by everything on it;
21 he who swears by the Sanctuary swears both by it and by Him who dwells in it
22 and he who swears by Heaven swears both by the throne of God and by Him who sits upon it.
23 "Alas for you, Scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites, for you pay the tithe on mint, dill, and cumin, while you have neglected the weightier requirements of the Law--just judgement, mercy, and faithful dealing. These things you ought to have done, and yet you ought not to have left the others undone.
24 You blind guides, straining out the gnat while you gulp down the camel!
25 "Alas for you, Scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites, for you wash clean the outside of the cup or dish, while within they are full of greed and self-indulgence.
26 Blind Pharisee, first wash clean the inside of the cup or dish, and then the outside will be clean also.
27 "Alas for you, Scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites, for you are just like whitewashed sepulchres, the outside of which pleases the eye, though inside they are full of dead men's bones and of all that is unclean.
28 The same is true of you: outwardly you seem to the human eye to be good and honest men, but, within, you are full of insincerity and disregard of God's Law.
29 "Alas for you, Scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites, for you repair the sepulchres of the Prophets and keep in order the tombs of the righteous,
30 and your boast is, "`If we had lived in the time of our forefathers, we should not have been implicated with them in the murder of the Prophets.'
31 "So that you bear witness against yourselves that you are descendants of those who murdered the Prophets.
32 Fill up the measure of your forefathers' guilt.
33 O serpents, O vipers' brood, how are you to escape condemnation to Gehenna?
34 "For this reason I am sending to you Prophets and wise men and Scribes. Some of them you will put to death--nay, crucify; some of them you will flog in your synagogues and chase from town to town;
35 that all the innocent blood shed upon earth may come on you, from the blood of righteous Abel to the blood of Zechariah the son of Berechiah whom you murdered between the Sanctuary and the altar.
36 I tell you in solemn truth that all these things will come upon the present generation
37 "O Jerusalem, Jerusalem! thou who murderest the Prophets and stonest those who have been sent to thee! how often have I desired to gather thy children to me, just as a hen gathers her chickens under her wings, and you would not come!
38 See, your house will now be left to you desolate
39 For I tell you that you will never see me again until you say, `Blessed be 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.

Matthew 23 Commentaries