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Bible Commentaries

F. B. Hole's Old and New Testament Commentary
Matthew 23

 

 

Other Authors
Verses 1-39

THIS CHAPTER RECORDS his burning words. In a few days the multitude, influenced by these men, would be shouting for His death. Their responsibility and guilt was greatly increased by this warning the Lord gave them as to the true character of their leaders.

He began by according to them the place they claimed as the exponents of the law of Moses. Therefore the people were to keep and do the law as they heard it from their lips. Yet they were to carefully avoid taking them as examples. Their lives contradicted the law they proclaimed. They legislated for others without the smallest conscience as to their own obedience. This the Lord stated in verse Matthew 23:4, and it is a very common offence with professional religionists, who love directing other people while having an easy time themselves.

Then, in verses Matthew 23:5-12, He exposed their love of notice and pre-eminence. All was for the eye of men. At feasts—the social circle—in synagogues— the religious circle—in markets—the business circle—they wanted the chief place as Rabbis and Masters. The disciple of Christ is to be the exact opposite of all this, so let us take it deeply to heart. The abasement of such men is only a matter of time. They were supposed to be signposts into the kingdom but really they were obstructions. They did not enter themselves and hindered others.

Moreover, they used their position to rob the poor and defenceless widow, covering up this enormity with the parade of long prayers, consequently they should receive severer judgment. Long prayers may impress the crowd, but they did not impress the Lord! Let us remember this and avoid them ourselves. We venture to affirm that no one marked by deep desire and really conscious of the presence of God, can wander about in a maze of words. As Ecclesiastes 5:2 indicates, his words must be few.

Great zeal for the making of proselytes is characteristic of the Pharisaic mind, and the Lord’s words in verse Matthew 23:15 expose a remarkable feature of mere proselytism. It reproduces with added emphasis the character of the proselytizers in those who are proselytized. The Pharisees were children of hell, and their converts were the same in a twofold way. This is why there is always a tendency for evil men and seducers to wax worse and worse, until all is ripe for judgment.

In verses Matthew 23:16-22, the Lord condemns their fanciful teachings. The distinctions they draw between the temple and the gold of the temple, between the altar and the gift upon it, might make the unthinking regard them with awe as possessing very superior minds; in reality their distinctions were purely imaginary and only a proof of their own blindness and folly. So with other matters; much punctiliousness over small things; much negligence as to great things—whether positively, as to what they observed, as in verse Matthew 23:23, or negatively, as to what they refused, as in verse Matthew 23:24. Blind they were indeed, and that type of blindness is all too common today.

Verses Matthew 23:25-28, expose another pernicious characteristic; they only concerned themselves about external cleanliness, so as to appear well in the eyes of men. They had no concern for the inside which was open to the eye of God. They were most careful as to possible defilement acquired by contact from without; yet most careless as to defilement which they themselves generated from within. In result they became centres of defilement, and far from acquiring it from others they diffused it to others. This is a most subtle evil, from any suspicion of which we may well pray to be preserved.

Lastly, verses Matthew 23:29-33, the Lord charged them with being the murderers of God’s prophets. They built tombs for the earlier prophets, since the sting of their words was no longer felt, but they were truly the children of those that had killed them; and, true to the principle of verse Matthew 23:15, they would prove themselves twofold more the children of murder; filling up the sins of their fathers, and ending up without a doubt in the damnation of hell.

This passage furnishes us with the most terrible denunciation from the lips of Jesus, of which we have any record. He never said such things to any poor publican or sinner. These hot words were reserved for religious hypocrites. He was full of grace and truth. Grace with truth He extended to the confessed sinners. The searchlight of truth, without mention of grace, was reserved for the hypocrites.

So it came to pass that the blood of a long line of martyrs was going to lie at the door of that generation; and now for the last time Jerusalem was having the opportunity of trusting under the wings of Jehovah, who was amongst them in the person of Jesus. Often He would have thus sheltered them as the Psalms bear witness, and often would Jesus have gathered them during His sojourn amongst them; but they would not. Consequently the beautiful house in Jerusalem, once owned as Jehovah’s was now disowned. It was just their house and desolate; and He who would have filled it was going from them, to be unseen till they should say, “Blessed is He that cometh in the name of the Lord.” They will not say this, as Psalms 118:1-29 shows, until that day arrives “which the Lord hath made,” when “the stone which the builders refused is become the head stone of the corner.”

 


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Bibliography Information
Hole, Frank Binford. "Commentary on Matthew 23:4". "F. B. Hole's Old and New Testament Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/fbh/matthew-23.html. 1947.

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Friday, December 6th, 2019
the First Week of Advent
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