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Jesus Denounces Scribes and Pharisees


Then Jesus said to the crowds and to his disciples, 2“The scribes and the Pharisees sit on Moses’ seat; 3therefore, do whatever they teach you and follow it; but do not do as they do, for they do not practice what they teach. 4They tie up heavy burdens, hard to bear, and lay them on the shoulders of others; but they themselves are unwilling to lift a finger to move them. 5They do all their deeds to be seen by others; for they make their phylacteries broad and their fringes long. 6They love to have the place of honor at banquets and the best seats in the synagogues, 7and to be greeted with respect in the marketplaces, and to have people call them rabbi. 8But you are not to be called rabbi, for you have one teacher, and you are all students. 9And call no one your father on earth, for you have one Father—the one in heaven. 10Nor are you to be called instructors, for you have one instructor, the Messiah. 11The greatest among you will be your servant. 12All who exalt themselves will be humbled, and all who humble themselves will be exalted.

13 “But woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you lock people out of the kingdom of heaven. For you do not go in yourselves, and when others are going in, you stop them. 15Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you cross sea and land to make a single convert, and you make the new convert twice as much a child of hell as yourselves.

16 “Woe to you, blind guides, who say, ‘Whoever swears by the sanctuary is bound by nothing, but whoever swears by the gold of the sanctuary is bound by the oath.’ 17You blind fools! For which is greater, the gold or the sanctuary that has made the gold sacred? 18And you say, ‘Whoever swears by the altar is bound by nothing, but whoever swears by the gift that is on the altar is bound by the oath.’ 19How blind you are! For which is greater, the gift or the altar that makes the gift sacred? 20So whoever swears by the altar, swears by it and by everything on it; 21and whoever swears by the sanctuary, swears by it and by the one who dwells in it; 22and whoever swears by heaven, swears by the throne of God and by the one who is seated upon it.

23 “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you tithe mint, dill, and cummin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faith. It is these you ought to have practiced without neglecting the others. 24You blind guides! You strain out a gnat but swallow a camel!

25 “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you clean the outside of the cup and of the plate, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence. 26You blind Pharisee! First clean the inside of the cup, so that the outside also may become clean.

27 “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs, which on the outside look beautiful, but inside they are full of the bones of the dead and of all kinds of filth. 28So you also on the outside look righteous to others, but inside you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness.

29 “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you build the tombs of the prophets and decorate the graves of the righteous, 30and you say, ‘If we had lived in the days of our ancestors, we would not have taken part with them in shedding the blood of the prophets.’ 31Thus you testify against yourselves that you are descendants of those who murdered the prophets. 32Fill up, then, the measure of your ancestors. 33You snakes, you brood of vipers! How can you escape being sentenced to hell? 34Therefore I send you prophets, sages, and scribes, some of whom you will kill and crucify, and some you will flog in your synagogues and pursue from town to town, 35so that upon you may 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 sanctuary and the altar. 36Truly I tell you, all this will come upon this generation.

The Lament over Jerusalem

37 “Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it! How often have I desired to gather your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you were not willing! 38See, your house is left to you, desolate. 39For I tell you, you will not see me again until you say, ‘Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord.’ ”


Matthew 23:16. Woe to you, blind guides, As ambition is almost always connected with hypocrisy, so the superstitions of the people are usually encouraged by the covetousness and rapacity of pastors. The world has, indeed, a natural propensity to errors, and even draws down upon itself, as if on purpose, every kind of deceit and imposture; but improper modes of worship come to gain a footing only when they are confirmed by the rulers 100100     “Quand les prelates les conferment;” — “when the prelates confirm them.” themselves. And it generally happens, that those who possess authority not only, by their connivance, fawn upon errors, because they perceive that they are a source of gain to them, but even assist in fanning the flame. Thus we see that the superstitions of Popery were heightened by innumerable expedients, while the priests opened their mouths for the prey; and even now they daily contrive many things by which they delude still more the foolish multitude. And when minds have once fallen under the darkening influence of the enchantments of Satan, nothing is so absurd or monstrous as not to be eagerly swallowed.

It was on this account that the Jews had more reverence for the gold of the temple, and for the sacred offerings, than for the temple and the altar. But the sacredness of the offerings depended on the temple and the altar, and was only something inferior and accessory. It may readily be believed that this dream proceeded from the scribes and priests, because it was a scheme well fitted for collecting prey. And this was not only a foolish but a highly dangerous error, because it led the people into ridiculous fancies. There is nothing to which men are more prone than to fall away from the pure worship of God: and therefore, under the covering of this veil, it was easy for Satan to withdraw from the contemplation of God those who were too strongly inclined to foolish imaginations. This is the reason why Christ so severely chastises that error. And yet the Papists were not ashamed to prostitute the sacred name of God to a mockery still more detestable; for they reckon it of more importance to touch a morsel of a stinking carcass, than to peruse the sacred volume of the Old and New Testaments, or even to raise their hands towards heaven. And in this way arises a carnal worship of God, by which the proper fear of God is gradually obliterated.

It is nothing. By this phrase he does not mean that they entirely took away the honor of the temple, but he speaks comparatively. For when they represented in extravagant terms the sacredness of offerings, the common people were led to entertain such veneration for them, that the majesty of the temple and of the altar was undervalued, and they reckoned it a less heinous crime to violate it by perjuries than to swear by the sacred offerings with too little reverence.

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