SUMMARY OF MATTHEW CHAPTER 23
At the end of Chapter 22, Jesus confounded the Pharisees and His other opponents with His question about whether the Messiah was the son of King David. They were left speechless because they had become so spiritually blind that they could not recognize the truth standing right in front them. Then, at the start of Chapter 23, our Lord begins a series of warnings for them because they failed to accept the Son of God as the Savior of mankind who came to establish a new agreement with all those who would believe in Him, and through His resurrection give them everlasting life.
He did so, because even though their teachings were morally and ethically good, they themselves did not practice what they preached. In fact, they paraded around as examples of the godly and virtuous life they exhorted others to emulate. However, it was all for show. While they looked clean on the outside, they were filthy on the inside.
Jesus’ first warned them because by rejecting Him they had shut the door to the kingdom of heaven so their followers would not enter. What made this so hypocritical was that although they themselves refused to enter, they prevented others from doing so because it would expose them for who they really were. But that wasn’t all, Jesus gave a second warning because after blocking the way into the kingdom of God for those who wanted to enter, they went out and made disciples for themselves, turning them into even more sinister and corrupt followers of their way of living and practicing the faith.
Then our Lord issued a third warning them about misleading the people with their interpretations of the Law. While the written word said one thing, their verbal teachings said another. In so doing, they were making the things of man greater than the things of God. In other words, they were putting emphasis on those things that brought glory to them while dismissing those things that brought glory to God.
Our Master continued with a fourth warning because of the consequences of such thinking. They were being hypocritical because they elevated each small thing they did for God as being of great value to help themselves, while at the same time leaving the greater and more valuable things God really wanted them to do untouched that were meant to help others.
This then led our Savior to issued a fifth warning because their false pretenses were contradictory in that they made it look like what they were doing was holy in man’s eyes while what they were really doing constituted the worst behavior in God’s eyes. This then prompted a sixth warning where the Messiah compared them to the shrines built over tombs that were beautiful and ornate, but in reality were simply covering the rotting corpses and bones of the dead. Jesus put it this way: On the outside, you give the appearance of being a righteous person, but on the inside, you are full of hypocrisy and wickedness.
But He wasn’t finished. Our Lord went on to warn them a seventh time because they honored the prophets of the past with their words and berated their ancestors for treating these men of God in such a disrespectful way, even killing them and spilling their blood. They claimed that if they would have been alive back then they would not have treated these prophets so horribly. But in fact, our Master told them that this evil spirit that lived inside their ancestors was living in them.
By this time, the Master was so full of disgust for their hypocrisy and double-standards that He referred to them as poisonous serpents. He predicted that they would do to the messengers He would send out to preach the kingdom of heaven the same thing their forefathers did to the prophets in the past. In other words, they would join the long line of assassins that preyed on God’s messengers from the time of Abel, who was killed next to his altar in the field to the priest Zechariah son of Berekiah who was murdered between the holy place and the altar in the courtyard of the temple.
By this time our Lord’s emotions were so strong that He broke down and cried out: “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem! You kill the prophets. You stone to death those that God has sent to you. Many, many times I wanted to help your people. I wanted to gather them together as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings. But you did not let me.”
With that, Jesus looked straight at the Pharisees, scribes, and other religious leaders who were in attendance and said to them: “Look! God is turning this His house over to you and abandoning it.1 For I tell you, from now on, you will not see me again until you say, ‘Blessed is he who comes in the name of Adonai.’2” He then turned and walked away from them and the Temple. He had things to do and things to teach His disciples before He came back to do what God sent Him to do. In fact, He would be the first prophet of the new agreement that they would put to death, just like He said they would. But He would see to it that no one built a shrine over His tomb because it would be empty. His heavenly Father would raise Him from death to live forever with Him in heaven.
God bless all of you who are dedicated to studying His Word as you desire to learn more about the One who came to save us all. We will begin Chapter 24 on Monday, September 12th. Hope to see you then.
1 Jeremiah 22:5
2 Psalm 118:26