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Matthew 23:29-32: What sorrow awaits you teachers of religious law

Posted by adventbiblestudy on July 15, 2012


Matthew 23:29-32 “What sorrow awaits you teachers of religious law and you Pharisees. Hypocrites! For you build tombs for the prophets your ancestors killed, and you decorate the monuments of the godly people your ancestors destroyed. (30) Then you say, ‘If we had lived in the days of our ancestors, we would never have joined them in killing the prophets.’ (31) “But in saying that, you testify against yourselves that you are indeed the descendants of those who murdered the prophets. (32) Go ahead and finish what your ancestors started.

 

Jesus had spent the day preaching in the temple court using parables to teach. He answered questions presented by the priests, Pharisees, and Scribes. Jesus gathered His disciples close around Him to teach the lessons they needed to learn before God’s plan of salvation could be revealed to them, and with the power of the Holy Ghost, understood.

 

Now every eye was on Jesus. His disciples saw the expression on His face change as He began using the religious leaders as an example of what not to do. As Jesus gave His disciples explicate examples of how the teachers of the law had misinterpreted and distorted the clear simple words and commands He prayed their minds would be drawn back to the beginning of His ministry when He taught upon the mountain. Jesus’ mind went back much further. He remembered how He had led His people out of Egypt. How He lead them through the wilderness. He remembered how they turned their backs on Him when they asked for a king to lead them. He could see how they put their trust in the world, and how this was the beginning of a long hard lesson.

 

The disciples could read the lines on Jesus’ face as they noticed His eyes begin to well up, His neck muscles tighten, and His lips begin to quiver. They wondered what He was thinking. His mind wondered from one prophet to another, each a dedicated servant He had loved. He reflected on the messages He had given each of them, and how they were received. “What sorrow awaits you teachers of religious law and you Pharisees. Hypocrites! For you build tombs for the prophets your ancestors killed, and you decorate the monuments of the godly people your ancestors destroyed.”

 

Jesus could hardly restrain Himself as He thought about how His friends were treated by the people they were sent to save. He looked out over the crowd gazing upon each of His disciples. He knew what the future held for each of them. He took a deep breath to ease the pain.

 

The disciples knew how the religious leaders arranged ceremonies around the tombs of the prophets. They boasted of their perfect understanding of the prophecies, making it appear everything had been correctly interpreted. Nothing was left to question or additional interpretation. To question their authority was viewed as blasphemy. They began to see how this related to their pride. They could see there was a deeper meaning to this lesson than what was on the surface. None of them had any experience interpreting prophecies. At that moment they realized, Jesus spent little time teaching them anything about prophecy. They wondered why. Each of them questioned many of the common interpretations before they met Jesus. As time passed, they expected Jesus to teach them what they needed to learn, when they need to learn it. They thought, maybe it is time to ask?

 

The last thing Jesus wanted to see was His disciples fail by comparing themselves to the religious leaders of their time. They needed a lesson, an example to show they would never understand the message the Spirit was preparing to give them if they compared themselves to anything in this world. Jesus showed them how this had effected the Pharisees and priests. “Then you say, ‘If we had lived in the days of our ancestors, we would never have joined them in killing the prophets.’ “But in saying that, you testify against yourselves that you are indeed the descendants of those who murdered the prophets. Go ahead and finish what your ancestors started.”

 

Jesus wanted them to see how dangerous the temptation of comparing themselves to the world was. The priests, Pharisees, and Scribes boasted when comparing themselves to the poor. They insisted poverty was a curse from God, which implied, they were blessed, the poor were cursed. This was the reasoning they used for their elaborate dress, lavish living, and intentional separation from those with the greatest needs. They viewed the poor as a liability, a strain on the resources God blessed them with. The lesson went much deeper. Not only were their hearts hardened, their minds were shut to any understanding the Holy Spirit held out to them. Their eyes were spiritually blinded because they chose to measure themselves to the standards of the world, not the standards of Heaven. By comparing themselves to the failures of their ancestors, they once again boasted how much greater their achievements were then the people who taught them the misguided form of religion they cherished.

 

Jesus could see His disciples understood the physical portion of His message. He prayed they would accept the spiritual lesson the Spirit He was preparing to send them.

 

 

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