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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.’ ”


35. That upon you may come. He not only takes away from them their false boasting, but shows that they had received prophets for a totally different purpose, that no age might be free from the criminality of wicked rebellion; for the pronoun you embraces generally the whole nation from its very commencement. If it be objected, that it is not consistent with the judgment of God that punishment should be inflicted on the children for the sins of the parents, the answer is easy. Since they are all involved in a wicked conspiracy, we ought not to think it strange if God, in punishing all without reserve, make the punishment due to the fathers to fall upon the children. Justly then is the whole nation — in whatever age individuals may have lived — called to account, and likewise punished, for this unceasing contempt. For as God, by an uninterrupted course of patience, has unceasingly contended with the malice of the whole people, so the whole people is justly held guilty of the inflexible obstinacy which continued to the very last; and as every age had conspired to put to death its own prophets, so it is right that a general sentence should be pronounced upon them, and that all the murders, which have been perpetrated with one consent, should be avenged on all.

From the blood of Abel. Though Abel (Genesis 4:8) was not slain by the Jews, yet the murder of Abel is imputed to them by Christ, because there is an affinity of wickedness between them and Cain; otherwise there would have been no propriety in saying that righteous blood had been shed by that nation from the beginning of the world. Cain is therefore declared to be the head, and leader, and instigator of the Jewish people, because, ever since they began to slay prophets, they succeeded in the room of him whose imitators they were.

To the blood of Zechariah. He does not speak of Zechariah as the latest martyr; for the Jews did not then put an end to the murder of the prophets, but, on the contrary, their insolence and madness increased from that period; and posterity, who followed them, satiated themselves with the blood which their fathers only tasted. Nor is it because his death was better known, though it is recorded in Scripture. But there is another reason, which, though it deserves attention, has escaped the notice of commentators; in consequence of which they have not only fallen into a mistake, but have likewise involved their readers in a troublesome question. We might suppose it to have arisen from forgetfulness on the part of Christ, that, while he mentions one ancient murder, he passes by a prodigious slaughter which afterwards took place under Manasseh. For until the Jews were carried to Babylon, their wicked persecutions of holy men did not cease; and even while they were still under affliction, we know with what cruelty and rage they pursued Jeremiah, (32:2.) But our Lord on purpose abstains from reproaching them with recent murders, and selects this murder, which was more ancient—which was also the commencement and source of base licentiousness, and afterwards led them to break out into unbounded cruelty—because it was more suitable to his design. For I have lately explained, that his leading object was to show that this nation, as it did not desist from impiety, must be held guilty of all the murders which had been perpetrated during a long period. Not only, therefore, does he denounce the punishment of their present cruelty, but says that they must be called to account for the murder of Zechariah, as if their own hands had been imbrued in his blood.

There is no probability in the opinion of those who refer this passage to that Zechariah who exhorted the people, after their return from the Babylonish captivity, to build the temple, (Zechariah 8:9,) and whose prophecies are still in existence. For though the title of the book informs us that he was the son of Barachiah, (Zechariah 1:1,) yet we nowhere read that he was slain; and it is, forced exposition to say, that he was slain during the period that intervened between the building of the altar and of the temple. But as to the other Zechariah, son of Jehoiada, the sacred history relates what agrees perfectly with this passage; that when true religion had fallen into decay, after the death of his father, through the wicked revolt of the king and of the people, the Spirit of God came upon him, to reprove severely the public idolatry, and that on this account he was stoned in the porch of the temple, (2 Chronicles 24:20, 21.) There is no absurdity in supposing that his father Jehoiada received, in token of respect, the surname of Barachiah, because, having throughout his whole life defended the true worship, he might justly be pronounced to be the Blessed of God. But whether Jehoiada had two names, or whether (as Jerome thinks) there is a mistake in the word, there can be no doubt as to the fact, that Christ refers to that impious stoning of Zechariah which is recorded in 2 Chronicles 24:21, 22

Whom you slew between the temple and the altar. The crime is rendered still more heinous by the circumstance of the place, since they did not revere the sacredness of the temple. Here the temple is put for the outer court, as in other passages. Near it was the altar of burnt offerings, (1 Kings 8:64; 18:30,) so that the priest offered the sacrifices in presence of the people. It is evident, therefore, that there must have been furious rage, when the sight of the altar and of the temple could not restrain the Jews from profaning that sacred place by a detestable murder.

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