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Hypocrisy, Denying our Lord

“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you build the tombs of the prophets and adorn the monuments of the righteous, and say, ‘If we had been living in the days of our fathers, we would not have been partners with them in shedding the blood of the prophets.’ “So you testify against yourselves, that you are sons of those who murdered the prophets.” Fill up, then, the measure of the guilt of your fathers. “You serpents, you brood of vipers, how will you escape the sentence of hell?” Therefore, behold, I am sending you prophets and 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, so that upon you may fall the guilt of all the righteous blood shed on earth, from the blood of righteous Abel to the blood of Zechariah, the son of Berechiah, whom you murdered between the temple and the altar. “Truly I say to you, all these things will come upon this generation.” (Matthew 23:29-36)

As we experienced last week with verse 25 relating to verse 27 again verse 27 flows into verse 29. Last week we were looking at the hypocrisy of appearance and true inward purity in verse 25 flowing into the inward corruption of complacency while appearing to be of righteous behavior on the outward. Last week we looked at how tombs were made to look beautiful and attractive to the eye while on the inside they were filled with dead men’s bones, a symbol of uncleanness. This week again Jesus uses the beatification of the tombs of the righteous as His example for the hypocrisy of the scribes and Pharisees.

The scribes and Pharisees had beautified the tombs of the righteous in verse 29, and the tombs of the Prophets in verse 30. By their care of the tombs of the righteous of the past the scribes and Pharisees were in effect transferring the righteousness of the previous saints to themselves. By caring for the heritage of their past they were claiming a title to their good works. It is the same misconception that many professing Christians have today that because their parents were followers of Christ they have an inheritance of their righteousness accounted to them.

Many of these righteous men and prophets of old had been murdered for their faith in the Lord. The scribes and Pharisees made it clear to the people that they would in no way have participated in these evil acts against the righteous ancestors. The response of Jesus to this claim is perplexing and needs study in order to understand. “So you testify against yourselves, that you are sons of those who murdered the prophets.” Fill up, then, the measure of the guilt of your fathers.” My question becomes if the righteousness of the prophets is not transferable to them how is the guilt of their murder? How did saying if they had been living in the days of their fathers cause them to be partakers of the guilt of their fathers?

The ancestors of the scribes and Pharisees were twisted in how they perceived the truth. Neither did they feel that they were guilty for the murder of the prophets. The ancestors believed that the prophets were the guilty ones and deserving of death. Today the messengers of God are delivering God’s convicting message of truth. Too many people of today are lovers of the world and cannot see the vainness of the world. Their minds are caught in the present and lack attention to the foresight of hope that can be found in the Kingdom of Heaven. They reject being told of the higher spiritual path they should be traveling and see it as restricting rather than what it is, freedom from the chains of sin and death. They find many excuses not to hear the truth and one is to put to death the messenger of God. In this view it was the prophets who were guilty not the people who committed the murders.

As their fathers the scribes and Pharisees had rejected the prophet John the Baptist and they rejected Jesus. They paid and had no correct mind to the prophetic truth of the prophets they had murdered and therefore twisted the truth to their own opinion. They found the words of condemnation from John the Baptist and Jesus harsh that were pointed towards them. Their fathers had done the same, claimed their innocence, even as they were putting the righteous prophets to death. The scribes and Pharisees now too were claiming their innocence while continuing to kill the prophets and the righteous of God. This behavior of the scribes and Pharisees only give substance to the charges made against them by Jesus.

Fill up, then, the measure of the guilt of your fathers. “You serpents, you brood of vipers, how will you escape the sentence of hell?” These words of condemnation from Jesus are the strongest found in this chapter of Matthew. The scribes and Pharisees share in the guilt of their fathers and even more they fill up the measure of guilt from their fathers. They are the offspring of the snakes of the past and are the snakes of the present. Lucifer himself was the serpent of old.

Did the scribes and Pharisees listen to the words of Jesus? Did they accept the condemnation and correct their way? It would be an obvious conclusion that they did not. Therefore, behold, I am sending you prophets and 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, so that upon you may fall the guilt of all the righteous blood shed on earth, from the blood of righteous Abel to the blood of Zechariah, the son of Berechiah, whom you murdered between the temple and the altar. In this passage Jesus is telling them that he will send more righteous men, scribes and prophets and that they will persecute and murder them as well as their forefathers of old. By their murderous acts of their day they became guilty of the crimes they had professed they would not have participated in from the past. Therefore, they were guilty of the past and of the present.

Still some may question the guilt they shared with their fathers. First, they were guilty of rejecting their Messiah Jesus, whom the prophets had spoken of. They will also be guilty of killing those of their day. There is a connection between the rejection of the prophets of their own day and that of their forefathers. Here in the Gospel of Matthew great links are made to prove the events of the birth of Jesus, His ministry and death are the fulfillment of Old Testament Scripture.

John the Baptist was the last of the great Old Testament Prophets and Jesus emphasized the connection between His ministry and that of John the Baptist. Since the scribes and Pharisees are now aware of the connection of Jesus and the Old Testament prophets, then their rejection and murder of Jesus is also the rejection and murder of all of the Lord’s predecessors. This link has already been made in Matthew 21:33-39.

“Listen to another parable. There was a landowner who planted a vineyard and put a wall around it and dug a wine press in it, and built a tower, and rented it out to vine-growers and went on a journey. “When the harvest time approached, he sent his slaves to the vine-growers to receive his produce. “The vine-growers took his slaves and beat one, and killed another, and stoned a third. “Again he sent another group of slaves larger than the first; and they did the same thing to them. “But afterward he sent his son to them, saying, ‘They will respect my son.’ “But when the vine-growers saw the son, they said among themselves, ‘This is the heir; come, let us kill him and seize his inheritance.’ “They took him, and threw him out of the vineyard and killed him.” (Matthew 21:33-39)

The scribes and Pharisees prescribed their own judgment with these words, “And all the people said, “His blood shall be on us and on our children!” (Matthew 27:25) And so it would be! And not only His blood, but the blood of all the righteous martyrs before Him.

If you were to ask me if I would deny Jesus as the Apostle Peter had, I would immediately answer no, never would I deny my Lord and Savior. And you would know as well that I would and have denied Jesus, and you would know also I am a liar. If I do not live to the best of my ability in the image of Jesus, am I not denying Him? If I fail to speak of Him to all who come into my path, am I not denying Him? If I do not live by faith and holiness, am I not denying Him? (Galatians 5:25) Am I, as Peter, faithless and swearing in un-holiness in the company of the worldly? If so I am denying my Lord.

Jesus gave such scathing rebukes to the scribes and Pharisees not out of anger but because He loved them. These men were the farthest from God and they needed to be warned of coming judgment. What Jesus really wanted was their repentance, not their judgment. This is the choice of every one when presented with the truth, repent and rest in the love of the Lord or reject and fall into eternity without the love of God.

Thomas N Kirkpatrick

First Baptist Church of Durant, September 21, 2014

Durant Bible College

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