Matthew 23

The gospel call bids all to the great marriage feast. Some wickedly reject Christ’s invitations. Some think to intrude in the rags of their hypocrisy (See Rom. 3:22) but the humble gladly accept and are satisfied. It is not wit and reason that makes one acceptable to God, but humble acceptance of His call and partaking of the feast He has provided.

1 Then spake Jesus to the multitude, and to his disciples,

2 Saying, The scribes and the Pharisees sit in Moses’ seat:

3 All therefore whatsoever they bid you observe, that observe and do; but do not ye after their works: for they say, and do not.

4 For they bind heavy burdens and grievous to be borne, and lay them on men’s shoulders; but they themselves will not move them with one of their fingers.

5 But all their works they do for to be seen of men: they make broad their phylacteries, and enlarge the borders of their garments,

6 And love the uppermost rooms at feasts, and the chief seats in the synagogues,

7 And greetings in the markets, and to be called of men, Rabbi, Rabbi.

8 But be not ye called Rabbi: for one is your Master, even Christ; and all ye are brethren.

9 And call no man your father upon the earth: for one is your Father, which is in heaven.

10 Neither be ye called masters: for one is your Master, even Christ.

11 But he that is greatest among you shall be your servant.

12 And whosoever shall exalt himself shall be abased; and he that shall humble himself shall be exalted.

13 ¶ But woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye shut up the kingdom of heaven against men: for ye neither go in yourselves, neither suffer ye them that are entering to go in.

14 Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye devour widows’ houses, and for a pretence make long prayer: therefore ye shall receive the greater damnation.

15 Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye compass sea and land to make one proselyte, and when he is made, ye make him twofold more the child of hell than yourselves.

16 Woe unto you, ye blind guides, which say, Whosoever shall swear by the temple, it is nothing; but whosoever shall swear by the gold of the temple, he is a debtor!

17 Ye fools and blind: for whether is greater, the gold, or the temple that sanctifieth the gold?

18 And, Whosoever shall swear by the altar, it is nothing; but whosoever sweareth by the gift that is upon it, he is guilty.

19 Ye fools and blind: for whether is greater, the gift, or the altar that sanctifieth the gift?

20 Whoso therefore shall swear by the altar, sweareth by it, and by all things thereon.

21 And whoso shall swear by the temple, sweareth by it, and by him that dwelleth therein.

22 And he that shall swear by heaven, sweareth by the throne of God, and by him that sitteth thereon.

23 Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye pay tithe of mint and anise and cummin, and have omitted the weightier matters of the law, judgment, mercy, and faith: these ought ye to have done, and not to leave the other undone.

24 Ye blind guides, which strain at a gnat, and swallow a camel.

25 Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye make clean the outside of the cup and of the platter, but within they are full of extortion and excess.

26 Thou blind Pharisee, cleanse first that which is within the cup and platter, that the outside of them may be clean also.

27 Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye are like unto whited sepulchres, which indeed appear beautiful outward, but are within full of dead men’s bones, and of all uncleanness.

28 Even so ye also outwardly appear righteous unto men, but within ye are full of hypocrisy and iniquity.

29 Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! because ye build the tombs of the prophets, and garnish the sepulchres of the righteous,

30 And say, If we had been in the days of our fathers, we would not have been partakers with them in the blood of the prophets.

31 Wherefore ye be witnesses unto yourselves, that ye are the children of them which killed the prophets.

32 Fill ye up then the measure of your fathers.

33 Ye serpents, ye generation of vipers, how can ye escape the damnation of hell?

34 ¶ Wherefore, behold, I send unto you prophets, and wise men, and scribes: and some of them ye shall kill and crucify; and some of them shall ye scourge in your synagogues, and persecute them from city to city:

35 That upon you may come all the righteous blood shed upon the earth, from the blood of righteous Abel unto the blood of Zacharias son of Barachias, whom ye slew between the temple and the altar.

36 Verily I say unto you, All these things shall come upon this generation.

37 O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, thou that killest the prophets, and stonest them which are sent unto thee, how often would I have gathered thy children together, even as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, and ye would not!

38 Behold, your house is left unto you desolate.

39 For I say unto you, Ye shall not see me henceforth, till ye shall say, Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord.

Matthew 23:1-12 – Humbling the Self-exalted

   These words were addressed to the disciples and the crowds that had gathered around. The Jewish religious leaders divorced morality and religion, and insisted that men should respect their office, whatever might be their personal character. The craving for this has been the temptation and bane of Christ’s ministers in every age.
   But how evidently our Lord condemns clerical and priestly assumption! With the two-edged sword, which pierces to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, He cuts between the professions and performances of these men. No more awful words were ever spoken! How true is Matthew 23:4! The hypocrite always spares himself, but is merciless in his demands on others. The true servant of God never exacts these titles as a rightful homage, or as indicating either superiority or special sanctity. We all have one Master and one Father; and, though our talents greatly differ, we stand on an absolute equality so far as saving grace is concerned. —Through the Bible Day by Day

Matthew 23:13-26 – ​Woes for the False-hearted

   Our Lord with unfailing accuracy indicates the inevitable doom which such conduct as that of the Pharisees and scribes must incur. He forewarned them that they could expect nothing in the dread future but the judgment of Gehenna—the metaphor being taken from the valley of Hinnom, south of Jerusalem, where fires were kept burning to consume rubbish and refuse.
   Hypocrisy is hiding under a cloak of religion the sins which the ordinary moralist and worldling would condemn. It is very injurious, because it hinders men from entering the Kingdom, Matthew 23:13. It is punctilious in its exactions, because while it strains out gnats, it swallows camels, Matthew 23:23-24. It expends itself on outward ritual—the Pharisees would not enter Pilate’s hall on the day before the Passover, but they murdered the holy Savior. Above all things, let us be true, professing to be no more than we are! —Through the Bible Day by Day

Matthew 23:27-39 – ​Judgment and Lament

   True goodness recognizes and rewards good in the living; while the evil-minded cannot, or will not, believe that the people whom they meet daily are purely and sincerely good. They pride themselves on what they would have done if they had lived in the great days of the past, but they miss the opportunities which are always ready to hand. In this they judge and condemn themselves.
   How sad is this lament over Jerusalem! The yearning love which longed to intercept her descending judgment, as the hen the stroke of danger which menaces her brood, was about to be withdrawn. After striving His best to save them, the world’s Redeemer was abandoning His people to the results of their sin, until the time spoken of in Zechariah 14:1-4. Oh my soul, see that thou art hidden under those wings, until all calamities are overpast and the day has broken! —Through the Bible Day by Day

Matthew 23:27 – ​In the olden times even the best rooms were usually of bare brick or stone, damp and mouldy, but over these in great houses when the family was resident, were hung up arras or hangings of rich materials, between which and the walls persons might conceal themselves, so that literally walls had ears. It is to be feared that many a brave show of godliness is but an arras to conceal rank hypocrisy; and this accounts for some men’s religion being but occasional, since it is folded up or exposed to view as need may demand. Is there no room for conscience to pry between thy feigned profession and thy real godliness and bear witness against thee? Remember, if conscience do it not, certainly “the Watcher and the Holy One” will make a thorough search within thee. (Spugeon)

Matthew 23:37—How often would I have gathered thy children together!

   Only the greatest artists can make immortal pictures from simple domestic scenes. To detect the imperishable and the infinite in the common and ordinary, and to preserve it in such a form as to arrest the ages, this is the mark of consummate power. But how characteristic of Jesus—a broken bottle skin, a patched garment, a handful of girls shut out of a village feast—these are the subjects which He painted into never-to-be-forgotten pictures. Lord, give us childlike hearts that we may see the secrets that are hidden in common things!
   But how this image arrests us! Who has not heard the cluck of the hen when danger was threatening her brood? She is quicker to detect its proximity than her callow young; and she must needs insert herself between it and them. Ah, how often does the rush of life drown the call of Jesus to come under his wing for rest and safety!
   Bunyan says that the hen has a variety of calls, some six or eight. Jesus also calls us for different purposes—sometimes to nestle near his heart for fellowship; sometimes for rest. Sometimes He calls us to feast on some rich dainty, to which He has directed us in the Word; and sometimes to hide in the shadow of his wings till dreaded evils pass us by.
   Oh that we more often heard and obeyed that warning note! Probably there is never a temptation nor trial which is not thus anticipated and preceded. When passion overcomes you by a sudden rush, you must not impute your failure to any lapse in your Savior’s care. He called you, but you could not hear. “How often!” Who can enumerate the many, many times when we have been summoned by Jesus nearer to Himself, but would not? —Our Daily Homily