Theme: Be Real 
This weeks lesson explains Christs judgments on the Pharisees and how they apply to us today
Matthew 23:27-32
“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs, which outwardly appear beautiful, but within are full of dead people’s bones and all uncleanness. So you also outwardly appear righteous to others, but within you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness.
“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you build the tombs of the prophets and decorate the monuments of the righteous, saying, ‘If we had lived in the days of our fathers, we would not have taken part with them in shedding the blood of the prophets.’ Thus you witness against yourselves that you are sons of those who murdered the prophets. Fill up, then, the measure of your fathers.


Today we will explore the final two woes—for wickedness within and for the murder of God’s prophets.
6. For wickedness within (vv. 27-28). The fifth woe leads naturally to the sixth, for having spoken of the dirty insides of their lives, like the contaminated inside of an outwardly polished cup, Jesus added the well-known illustration of whitewashed tombs containing “dead men’s bones and everything unclean,” a euphemism for decaying human matter.
This was an apt illustration for this moment. This was Passover week, and it was a Jewish practice to use the preceding month of Adar to renew the whitewashing on tombs with the purpose of marking them clearly so the pious who were on their way to Jerusalem for the Passover (or others) would not accidentally defile themselves by touching a place were the bodies of the dead were buried. Here Jesus is criticizing the Pharisees, first for their hypocrisy, whitewashed without but corrupt within, but also for their fears about outward ceremonial defilement without being profoundly and more rightly troubled by the inward pollution of their lives. If we are troubled by our equally polluted lives, we will flee to the cross of Christ where alone a true cleansing from sin may be found.
7. For the murder of God’s prophets (vv. 29-36). The seventh of these woes is both the climax and the most damning accusation. It is the charge that they are the true spiritual sons of their ancestral fathers who killed the prophets of God who had been sent to them. Their fathers had murdered all the righteous persons of the past, from Abel, whose death is recounted in the earliest chapters of Genesis, to Zechariah, whose murder is recorded in 2 Chronicles 24:21, the last book of the Hebrew Bible.1
Wicked churchmen always kill the righteous. We can hardly miss that, in verse 34, Jesus switches from the past (“shedding the blood of the prophets,” v. 30) to the future, saying, “Therefore I am sending you prophets and wise men and teachers. Some of them you will kill and crucify; others you will flog in your synagogues and pursue from town to town. And so upon you will come all the righteous blood that has been shed on earth” (vv. 34, 35). This happened. The early gospel preachers were flogged, pursued and killed. Paul alone is an example. And at last a terrible judgment fell on Israel through the destruction of their capital city and nation by the Romans.
The last verses of Matthew 23 contain Jesus’ final lament and prophecy, and they show that his judgments on Israel’s leaders were spoken more with tears than in wrath (vv. 37-39). “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing. Look, your house is left to you desolate. For I tell you, you will not see me again until you say, ‘Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.'”
No one is ready to speak judgment who has not first shed tears for those who are affected. Luke says that Jesus literally wept over Jerusalem (Luke 19:41-44). You and I have seen many wrongs. But have we wept over anyone?
1 Verse 35 presents a well-known problem for which no final solution has been found. The verse must be referring to the Zechariah whose death is described in 2 Chronicles 24:21-22, because he is said to have been killed, “in the courtyard of the Lord’s temple” and because in the Hebrew Bible 2 Chronicles came at the end of the Old Testament and Jesus seems to be speaking of the martyrs from Abel at the beginning of the Bible to Zechariah at the end. But Zechariah’s father was Jehoiada. Berekiah was the father of the better known Zechariah who was the eleventh of the twelve minor prophets. Many commentators simply call this a mistake on Matthew’s part. But this is a serious charge to make of an inspired biblical writer. H.N. Ridderbos suggests that although this is a wrong identification, it was probably made by a scribe who was copying the text (Matthew [Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1987], 433). John A Broadus suggests that Jehoiada may have had Berekiah as a surname; Berekiah was a common name possessed by six or seven other persons in the Bible. Or Jehoiada, who had just died a short time before at the age of one hundred and thirty (v. 24:15), may have been the grandfather of Zechariah, and Berekiah was his father (Commentary on Matthew [Grand Rapids: Kegel Publications, 1990], p. 477). D.A. Carson discusses these and other possibilities on pages 485-486 (“Matthew” in The Expositor’s Bible Commentary, vol. 8, Matthew, Mark, Luke [Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing House, 1984]).


What was meant by the image of dead bodies in a whitewashed tomb? How was the illustration significantly timed?
How were the Pharisees responsible for the deaths of the prophets?


Review the seven woes in Matthew 23. Examine your own life in light of Jesus’ words.


If we are troubled by our equally polluted lives, we will flee to the cross of Christ where alone a true cleansing from sin may be found.

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