Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Matthew 23:29-36


29 ``Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you build the tombs of the prophets and adorn the monuments of the righteous, 30 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.' 31 ``So you testify against yourselves, that you are sons of those who murdered the prophets. 32 ``Fill up, then, the measure of the guilt of your fathers. 33 ``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, 35 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. 36 ``Truly I say to you, all these things will come upon this generation."

Jesus points out how the Scribes and Pharisees take care of the tombs of the martyrs and beautify their memorials and make the claim that, if they had lived in the old days, they would not have killed the prophets and the men of God. But that is exactly what they would have done, and what they are going to do shortly.

Jesus is quite clear that the murder taint is still there. He knows that now he must die, and that in the days to come his messengers will be persecuted and ill-treated, rejected and killed.

He says that this blight of murder among the leadership of the Jewish people has occurred from the beginning! He says from Cain to Zacharias. In the Hebrew bible the first book is Genesis (the first murder involving Cain) and the last book is II Chronicles (the last murder in the biblical story was Zacharias). Jesus is saying that "rejection" even to the point of murdering God's chosen men, has been the nature of the Jewish leadership throughout their history. What a tragedy! God's chosen people, greatly loved, has continually turned against God and there will be a day of reckoning.

We must evaluate our own lives today. We are the only message of the love of God that most people have today. They will either see the love of God in and through us or they won't. So, are you a clear light that attracts others or do you stand as a hindrance?

Matthew 23:27-28


27 ``Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs which on the outside appear beautiful, but inside they are full of dead men's bones and all uncleanness. 28 ``So you, too, outwardly appear righteous to men, but inwardly you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness.

Any Jew of that time would have instantly understood Jesus' reference to the tombs. First, making their way to Jerusalem, they would have come across many tombs along their way. Remember, anyone who touched a dead body became unclean (Num 19:16), therefore anyone who came into contact with a tomb automatically became unclean. With so many tombs and such great crowds traveling to Jerusalem for the Feasts, they used to whitewash the tombs in order to alert the traveler of its presence.

Second, when walking outside the Temple, one could easily see the massive tombs on the hillside of the Mount of Olives. Both of these sites were very evident to the Jew of that time.

So, these tombs glistened white on the outside, but within they were full of bones and bodies whose touch would defile a man. This was the picture Jesus presented of the Pharisees. Spiritually glistening on the outside, yet spiritually dead on the inside! This continued the theme that Jesus was driving home, internal over the external.

God looks upon the heart; man is attracted to the outward appearance. So, let your life be a focus on the inside and the outside will take care of itself.

Matthew 23:25-26


25 ``Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you clean the outside of the cup and of the dish, but inside they are full of robbery and self-indulgence. 26 ``You blind Pharisee, first clean the inside of the cup and of the dish, so that the outside of it may become clean also.

The idea of uncleanness is continually arising in the Jewish Law. It must be remembered that this uncleanness was not physical uncleanness. An unclean vessel was not in our sense of the term a dirty vessel. For a person to be ceremonially unclean meant that he could not enter the Temple or the synagogue; he was barred from worshipping God.

Some of the laws concerning uncleanness: 1. A man was unclean if he touched a dead body or came into contact with a Gentile.

2. A woman was unclean if she had a hemorrhage, even if that hemorrhage was perfectly normal and healthy.

3. If a person who was himself unclean touched any vessel, that vessel became unclean; and, thereafter, any other person who touched or handled the vessel became in turn unclean. Therefore is was very important to have vessels cleansed; and the Pharisaical laws for cleansing them is amazingly complex. 

For instance, an earthen vessel which is hollow becomes unclean only on the inside and not on the outside; and it can be cleansed only by being broken. A flat plate without a rim, an open coal-shovel, a grid-iron with holes in it for parching grains of wheat cannot be clean at all. On the other hand, a plate with a rim, or an earthen spice-box, or a writing-case can become unclean. Of vessels made of leather, bone, wood and glass, flat ones do not become unclean; deep ones do. If they are broken, they become clean. Any metal vessel which is at once smooth and hollow can become unclean; but a door, a bolt, a lock, a hinge, a knocker cannot become unclean. If a thing is made of wood and metal, then the wood can become unclean, but the metal cannot. These regulations seem to us fantastic, and yet these are the regulations the Pharisees meticulously kept. 

The food or drink inside a vessel might have been obtained by cheating or extortion or theft; it might be luxurious and gluttonous; that did not matter, so long as the vessel itself was ceremonially clean. This is another example of fussing about trifles and letting the weightier matters go. 
This can still happen today. Some believe it's unclean to have rock-like music in the church service, some want only hymns, some hold to a certain translation of the Bible, others want those who are up front to be dressed a certain way-no flops or sandals, no jeans, some want choirs to wear robes. A local fellowship can find themselves in an uproar when disagreement occurs over the colors in the carpet or walls, or the architecture of a building or the atmosphere within that building.

Can you say, "IT JUST DOESN'T MATTER!"