March 19, 2020 – Thursday
Matthew 23:33-36 ESV
33 You serpents, you brood of vipers, how are you to escape being sentenced to hell?
34 Therefore I send you prophets and wise men and scribes, some of whom you will kill and crucify, and some you will flog in your synagogues and persecute from town to town,
35 so that on you may come all the righteous blood shed on earth, from the blood of righteous Abel to the blood of Zechariah the son of Barachiah, whom you murdered between the sanctuary and the altar.
36 Truly, I say to you, all these things will come upon this generation.
Who is Jesus addressing above? Starting with verse one He is speaking to the crowds and His disciples about 2 “The scribes and the Pharisees sit on Moses’ seat, 3 so do and observe whatever they tell you, but not the works they do. For they preach, but do not practice. They, the scribes and the Pharisees, talk the talk, but they do not walk the walk. They are hypocrites.
As a result, Jesus lists seven woes for the scribes and the Pharisees from verse thirteen through thirty-one. It is important to understand the word woe here. Today we often think of it as a simple finger wagging, “Woe on you if you do so and so.” But its meaning is in reality much stronger. Strong’s says it is a primary exclamation of grief while Thayer’s tells us it is an interjection of grief or of denunciation. I would go with Thayer’s in this chapter as Jesus is clearly denouncing the scribes and Pharisees as well as telling them grief is coming their way. Why? Consider Matthew Henry’s summation: 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.
Is it any wonder Jesus calls them a brood of vipers, that is the offspring of the serpent in the garden. What would they do so they would end up condemned to hell? Of all the prophets and wise men and scribes Jesus would send to Israel, the scribes and Pharisees would see the following would happen to them: some of whom you will kill and crucify, and some you will flog in your synagogues and persecute from town to town. This Jesus compared to the blood that had been shed in the past as well when He said 35 so that on you may come all the righteous blood shed on earth, from the blood of righteous Abel to the blood of Zechariah the son of Barachiah, whom you murdered. The scribes and Pharisees may claim to be different from those who came before them, but Jesus makes clear they are no different from those who preceded them stating 31 “Therefore you are witnesses against yourselves that you are sons of those who murdered the prophets. 32 Fill up, then, the measure of your fathers’ guilt.
In six of the seven woes, Jesus calls the scribes and Pharisees hypocrites and in the other he calls them blind guides. Their hypocrisy is at the heart of the woes and makes them blind guides as well for they cannot see the truth even when it is right in front of them. It is no wonder then they would kill, crucify, flog, and persecute those Jesus would send who would pierce their hypocrisy and shed light on their blindness. Of course they hated the light as Jesus told Nicodemus And this is the condemnation, that the light has come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil. For everyone practicing evil hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his deeds should be exposed. But he who does the truth comes to the light, that his deeds may be clearly seen, that they have been done in God. (John 3:19-21),
Persecution may come our way, but it will be because as Christians we bring some of His light.
Riley D. Driver-Pastor
Calvary Chapel of Dayton