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Study on the Word Bones Matthew 23

Posted by adventbiblestudy on September 10, 2008


Matthew 23:25-35 NKJV 25 “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you cleanse the outside of the cup and dish, but inside they are full of extortion and self-indulgence. 26 “Blind Pharisee, first cleanse the inside of the cup and dish, that the outside of them may be clean also. 27 “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs which indeed appear beautiful outwardly, but inside are full of dead men’s bones and all uncleanness. 28 “Even so you also outwardly appear righteous to men, but inside you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness. 29 “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! Because you build the tombs of the prophets and adorn the monuments of the righteous, 30 “and say, ‘If we had lived in the days of our fathers, we would not have been partakers with them in the blood of the prophets.’ 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. 33 “Serpents, brood of vipers! How can you escape the condemnation of hell? 34 “Therefore, indeed, I send you prophets, wise men, and scribes: some of them you will kill and crucify, and some of them you will scourge in your synagogues and persecute from city to city, 35 “that on you may come all the righteous blood shed on the earth, from the blood of righteous Abel to the blood of Zechariah, son of Berechiah, whom you murdered between the temple and the altar.

The first step in analyzing any text is to look at the physical attributes that can be easily understand.  Jesus  is talking to a group of scribes and Pharisees.  These people were the religious leaders of Israel.  They were also the people that plotted to put Jesus to death.  “Then the Pharisees went out, and held a council against him, how they might destroy him.  From that time forth began Jesus to shew unto his disciples, how that he must go unto Jerusalem, and suffer many things of the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and be raised again the third day.” KJV Matthew 12:14, Matthew 16:21

There is no need to analyze what frame of mind Jesus was in when He spoke these words.  We need to concentrate on the words that Jesus spoke.  Jesus tells these people that they are blind.  We can assume that Jesus is speaking about their spiritual state.  They are told to first clean the inside of the cup and dish and the outside will also become clean.  Jesus is referring to the inside of a person, the heart.  Jesus then begins to compare them to tombs that are painted white on the outside to make them more appealing.  This could be a reference to the Pharisees style of dress;  “they make broad their phylacteries, and enlarge the borders of their garments,”  Matthew 23:5   Jesus continues to tell them on the inside they are full of dead men’s bones.  This phrase is true in every physical sense.  You usually find bones inside of tombs.  But what is Jesus attempting to portray spiritually?  Was there a message for the Pharisees to see?

Jesus gives us a clue in verse 28.  Could these dead man’s bones represent hypocrisy and uncleanliness?

These Pharisees have built elaborate monuments in honor of the prophets.  They claim that if they were alive in the days of the prophets they would have had the scriptural knowledge to recognize and follow them.  They pride themselves on the fact they would not have made the same mistakes others did.  The scribes had copied the scriptures letter by letter and know it well.  But before them stands the Son of God and before Him they reveal their understanding of the scriptures.

There are a number of spiritual words to choose from in this text.  To keep this study short and to the point we will consider only one spiritual word, “bones”.  This will aid in illustrating the point that when we take the time to examine only one word in the Bible it can open up new avenues of understanding.  The Pharisees were experts in the law.  If Jesus was attempting to reach these people it would have been the most practical place to lead them and the most obvious place for us to look.

KJV Numbers 19:16  And whosoever toucheth one that is slain with a sword in the open fields, or a dead body, or a bone of a man, or a grave, shall be unclean seven days. 17.  And for an unclean person they shall take of the ashes of the burnt heifer of purification for sin, and running water shall be put thereto in a vessel: 18.  And a clean person shall take hyssop, and dip it in the water, and sprinkle it upon the tent, and upon all the vessels, and upon the persons that were there, and upon him that touched a bone, or one slain, or one dead, or a grave: 19.  And the clean person shall sprinkle upon the unclean on the third day, and on the seventh day: and on the seventh day he shall purify himself, and wash his clothes, and bathe himself in water, and shall be clean at even. 20.  But the man that shall be unclean, and shall not purify himself, that soul shall be cut off from among the congregation, because he hath defiled the sanctuary of the Lord: the water of separation hath not been sprinkled upon him; he is unclean. 21.  And it shall be a perpetual statute unto them, that he that sprinkleth the water of separation shall wash his clothes; and he that toucheth the water of separation shall be unclean until even. 22.  And whatsoever the unclean person toucheth shall be unclean; and the soul that toucheth it shall be unclean until even.

The book of Numbers tells us exactly what is to be done when anyone touches a dead body or a bone.  That person in unclean and needs to be cleansed.  Jesus was not telling this to the scribes and Pharisees because He was upset by them.  Jesus was telling them this because He wanted to reach them.  Jesus wanted to draw their minds to scripture they should have been familiar with.  This scripture when combined with the leading of the Holy Spirit would have lead their minds to the spiritual meaning of some of the other words used in Numbers 19.  Two thousand years later when we hear the word hyssop we are all reminded of the Passover.  The third day should have been a clue pointing to Jesus and His resurrection.  We are shown in the book of Acts that this passage must have made an impression on some of the priests.   “And the word of God increased; and the number of the disciples multiplied in Jerusalem greatly; and a great company of the priests were obedient to the faith.”  KJV Acts 6:7

Another text that they may have been lead to is found in the book of Psalms.

KJV Psalms 51: 6.  Behold, thou desirest truth in the inward parts: and in the hidden part thou shalt make me to know wisdom. 7.  Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean: wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow. 8.  Make me to hear joy and gladness; that the bones which thou hast broken may rejoice. 9.  Hide thy face from my sins, and blot out all mine iniquities. 10.  Create in me a clean heart, O God; and renew a right spirit within me. 11.  Cast me not away from thy presence; and take not thy holy spirit from me. 12.  Restore unto me the joy of thy salvation; and uphold me with thy free spirit. 13.  Then will I teach transgressors thy ways; and sinners shall be converted unto thee.

Some of the priest didn’t take the time to study the scriptures.  They relied upon their own memory for judgment.  In doing so they completely missed the point Jesus was trying to make and as a result crucified Him.

KJV Psalms 58: 3.  The wicked are estranged from the womb: they go astray as soon as they be born, speaking lies. 4.  Their poison is like the poison of a serpent: they are like the deaf adder that stoppeth her ear; 5.  Which will not hearken to the voice of charmers, charming never so wisely.

KJV Numbers 35: 33.  So ye shall not pollute the land wherein ye are: for blood it defileth the land: and the land cannot be cleansed of the blood that is shed therein, but by the blood of him that shed it.

KJV Lamentations 4:12  The kings of the earth, and all the inhabitants of the world, would not have believed that the adversary and the enemy should have entered into the gates of Jerusalem. 13.  For the sins of her prophets, and the iniquities of her priests, that have shed the blood of the just in the midst of her, 14.  They have wandered as blind men in the streets, they have polluted themselves with blood, so that men could not touch their garments.

KJV Revelation 18:23  And the light of a candle shall shine no more at all in thee; and the voice of the bridegroom and of the bride shall be heard no more at all in thee: for thy merchants were the great men of the earth; for by thy sorceries were all nations deceived. 24.  And in her was found the blood of prophets, and of saints, and of all that were slain upon the earth.

Jesus was trying to reach these people.  They should have known the scriptures.  Did they bother looking?  If they did the key words here would have confirmed that Jesus was the Son of God.  Some of the priest didn’t take the time to study the scriptures.  They relied upon their own memory for judgment.  In doing so they completely missed the point Jesus was trying to make and as a result crucified Him.

What was the result of the priests that did look at the scriptures?
KJV Acts 6:7
7.  And the word of God increased; and the number of the disciples multiplied in Jerusalem greatly; and a great company of the priests were obedient to the faith.

One of the great lessons we need to learn from this study is the fact that there were people standing right in front of Jesus that could not see He was the Son of God.  People did not recognize Jesus for one reason. Because they did not study the scriptures.  “Search the scriptures; for in them ye think ye have eternal life: and they are they which testify of me.”  KJV John 5:39

“Jesus saith unto him, Thomas, because thou hast seen me, thou hast believed: blessed are they that have not seen, and yet have believed”.  KJV John 20:29  We see Jesus through the scriptures.  We reveal a path to Jesus through our actions.  Others can see the way to Jesus through us but they do not gather a full impression of Jesus through us.  That can never happen.  If we know that this is true, why is it I see so many people satisfied with their knowledge of Jesus through the words of a pastor or other teacher?  No one on this earth can ever portray one tiny little fraction of Gods glory.  A true teacher will teach others how to study, how to see God for themselves.  A true teacher will never take the credit of saving a soul.  A true teacher will be interested in what each and every person sees within the scriptures.  The Spirit has the power to reveal God’s light to the spiritually lame, the spiritually blind, the deaf.  We are only vessels by which this message is carried.

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