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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.’ ”


5. And all their works they do that they may be seen by men. He had lately said that the scribes live very differently from what they teach; but now he adds that, if they have any thing which is apparently good, it is hypocritical and worthless, because they have no other design than to please men, and to vaunt themselves. And here zeal for piety and a holy life is contrasted with the mask of those works which serve no purpose but for ostentation; for an upright worshipper of God will never give himself up to that empty parade by which hypocrites are puffed up. Thus not only is the ambition of the scribes and Pharisees reproved, but our Lord, after having condemned the transgression and contempt of the Law of God in their whole life, that they might not shield themselves by their pretended holiness, anticipates them by replying, that those things of which they boast are absolute trifles, and of no value whatever, because they spring from mere ostentation. He afterwards produces a single instance, by which that ambition was easily perceived, which was, that by the fringes of their robes they held themselves out to the eyes of men as good observers of the Law.

And make their phylacteries broad, and enlarge the fringes of their robes. For why were their fringes made broader, and their phylacteries more magnificent, than what was customary, except for idle display? The Lord had commanded the Jews to wear, both on their forehead and on their raiment, some remarkable passages selected out of the Law, (Deuteronomy 6:8.) As forgetfulness of the Law easily creeps upon the flesh, the Lord intended in this manner to keep it constantly in the remembrance of his people; for they were likewise enjoined to inscribe such sentences

on the posts of their houses, (Deuteronomy 6:9,)

that, wherever they turned their eyes, some godly warning might immediately meet them. But what did the scribes do? In order to distinguish themselves from the rest of the people, they carried about with them the commandments of God more magnificently inscribed on their garments; and in this boasting there was displayed an offensive ambition.

Let us also learn from this, how ingenious men are in mixing up vain deception, in order to conceal their vices under some pretext and cloak of virtues, by turning to the purposes of their own hypocrisy those exercises of piety which God has enjoined. Nothing was more profitable than to exercise all their senses in the contemplation of the Law, and it was not without good reason that this was enjoined by the Lord. But so far were they from profiting by these simple instructions, that, by making perfect righteousness to consist in the adorning of robes, they despised the Law throughout their whole life. For it was impossible to treat the Law of God with greater contempt, than when they imagined that they kept it by pompous dress, or pronounced masks contrived for enacting a play to be a keeping of the Law.

What Mark and Luke say about the robes relates to the same subject. We know that the inhabitants of Eastern countries commonly used long robes, — a custom which they retain to this day. But it is evident from Zechariah (13:4) that the prophets were distinguished from the rest of the people by a particular form of a cloak. And, indeed, it was highly reasonable that the teachers should dress in this manner, that there might be a higher degree of gravity and modesty in their dress than in that of the common people; but the scribes had made an improper use of it by turning it into luxury and display. Their example has been followed by the Popish priests, among whom robes are manifestly nothing more than the badges of proud tyranny.

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