Matthew 23

Seven Woes: The Moral Condemnation of the Jewish Leaders
Matthew 23
Why the Pharisees? One might ask, why does the Lord denounce the Pharisees and scribes but not the Sadducees? The Sadducees were identified with the ruling class, and the Pharisees with all walks of life. The Sadducees were more politically motivated, and everyone knew it. But the Pharisees stood in the highest public place as far as their religious knowledge and practices. The Lord knew that from a religious standpoint, the Pharisees were driving the nation. The most severe pronouncements in the Lord’s public ministry are reserved for this class… the most privileged. The same is true of Christianity. The most severe judgments in the Tribulation are reserved for those who had the most light. “The LORD seeth not as man seeth; for man looketh on the outward appearance, but the LORD looketh on the heart.” (1 Sam. 16:7).

Instructions to the Crowd and Disciples Concerning the Pharisees (23:1-12)

The Scribes and Pharisees: Usurping, Hypocritical, Sanctimonious (vv.1-7)

 Then Jesus spoke to the crowds and to his disciples, v.1 The Lord then turns to the crowds and disciples to publicly denounce the scribes and Pharisees. These religious leaders appeared righteous and holy on the exterior, but their inward corruption needed to be exposed to the people. First, the Lord exposes the general character of the religious leaders (vv.2-7), then prescribes the general character of what the brethren ought to be (vv.8-12).
2 saying, The scribes and the Pharisees have set themselves down in Moses’ seat: v.2 They Assumed the Position of Oversight. The scribes and Pharisees had “set themselves down” in Moses’ seat. It was a place they had usurped. Nevertheless, they were in Moses’ seat, and the Lord held them responsible in that position. They were not in Moses’ seat as the mediators of the covenant, but as the administrators of Israel (Ex. 18:26), and those who were responsible to be shepherds to the flock (Ezek. 34).
3 all things therefore, whatever they may tell you, do and keep. But do not after their works, for they say and do not, 4 but bind burdens heavy and hard to bear, and lay them on the shoulders of men, but will not move them with their finger. vv.3-4 Hypocrisy. The Pharisees and scribes were in Moses’ seat, and the Lord here puts the disciples on the same ground as the multitude; under the authority of the leaders. This is a helpful principle to remember, even in Christianity. Those who are in a position of authority may be corrupt, hypocritical, or inconsistent, but we are still under their authority. So far, the Pharisees were teaching the law of Moses, and the disciples were to “do and keep” what the Jewish leaders told them as far as the Word of God was concerned. Notice that the Lord never would say the same about the Sadducees, who held evil doctrine. But the Pharisees were still orthodox in their doctrine, in the main. However, when it came to their works, the disciples were not to follow them. “They say and do not” is the very definition of hypocrisy. They taught one thing, but practiced another. Their voice was as Jacob’s voice, but their hands were the hands of Esau. Their line of teaching was very lofty, commanding the tightest adherence to the law; more strict even than God had commanded. It was a line of teaching that bound “heavy burdens” on the people. But they themselves did not have the faith to keep the things they taught, nor did they make any effort (move “their finger”) to keep them. 
5 And all their works they do to be seen of men: for they make broad their phylacteries and enlarge the borders of their garments, 6 and love the chief place in feasts and the first seats in the synagogues, 7 and salutations in the market-places, and to be called of men, Rabbi, Rabbi. vv.5-7 Living for the praise of men. There were a number of things the Pharisees and scribes did to “be seen of men” and to gain their praise:
  1. Broad phylacteries. A phylactery was a small leather pouch containing Hebrew texts on vellum. It was worn upon the forehead and the left arm by Jewish men at morning prayer as a reminder to keep the law, according to Deut. 6:8 (Deut. 11:18); “And thou shalt bind them for a sign upon thine hand, and they shall be as frontlets between thine eyes.” The expressions in Deuteronomy were figurative, but they took them as literal. Even so, the Lord does not rebuke the use of phylacteries, but the hypocrisy in their use. The Pharisees would make these phylacteries very broad, so as to promote the idea that they kept more of the law, or somehow were more faithful than others. 
  2. Enlarged borders. The Israelites were to have a fringe on the border of their garments, to remind them to keep the law. On the fringe was a ribbon of blue (Num. 15:38-39). It speaks of a separated, holy, heavenly walk. The Pharisees would enlarge these borders to give an outward pretense that they had a superior moral walk, as if to say, “not only are we separate from the nations, but we are above the average Jew”.
  3. Prominent seats. They viewed having the highest or first place in every social or religious setting as a measure of their greatness. Contrast the definition of true greatness in vv.11-12. It isn’t wrong to have the uppermost seats, but it is wrong to seek them, and wrong to love them.
  4. Exalted greetings. They had adopted the spirit of the world. They had made religion into a respectable institution, and their positions as something to receive glory from men for themselves.

The Brethren: Humble, Lowly, Abased (vv.8-12)

8 But “ye”, be not ye called Rabbi; for one is your instructor, and all “ye” are brethren. 9 And call not any one your father upon the earth; for one is your Father, he who is in the heavens. 10 Neither be called instructors, for one is your instructor, the Christ. vv.8-10 To be called “brethren”, in contrast to exalted titles. In contrast to the scribes and Pharisees, the disciples were to shun these exalted titles. Exalted titles belong to God; “one is your instructor (Christ)… one is your Father (God)”. Instead, the disciples were to understand that they were “brethren”; a term of affection and humility (Acts 9:17). These sins have their counterpart in Christianity. To call another”Rabbi”, “Father”, or “Instructor” is the modern day equivalent to call someone Doctor, Teacher, Pastor, or Reverend. Psa 111:9 says “holy and reverend is his name”… not anyone else’s. James says, “My brethren, be not many masters, knowing that we shall receive the greater condemnation” (James 3:1). Jude brings out how those who are being unduly exalted can flatter or admire those who give them a place; “having men’s persons in admiration because of advantage” (Jude 16). It runs completely contrary to the spirit of Christianity to allow our gift or office to bring glory to self. Yet this practice is commonplace in Christendom. It is important that we be careful to “be not called” AND to “call not anyone” these titles. The clerical system is not to be blamed fully on the clergy members, but also on the laity who are willing to give them their place.
Is it wrong to call our natural father “father”? No. The context of this exhortation is calling someone “father” in the sense of spiritual leadership and care. Hebrews 12:9 says “we have had fathers of our flesh…” showing that natural parents are different.
Is it wrong to acknowledge gift or office? No. Paul identified himself as a spiritual father of the Corinthians (1 Cor. 4:15), and expected them to recognize the fact. Paul also besought the Thessalonians to “know them which labour among you, and are over you in the Lord” (1 Thess. 5:12). The writer of Hebrews exhorted the believers to “Obey them that have the rule over you, and submit yourselves” (Heb. 13:17). Certainly, we are to recognize gift and office, but we are not to call them by official titles. George may be a pastor, but we should call him “brother George” rather than “Pastor George”.
11 But the greatest of you shall be your servant. 12 And whoever shall exalt himself shall be humbled, and whoever shall humble himself shall be exalted. vv.11-12 In Christianity, if you want to go up, you must go down first. If you want to be great you must get low… if you want to be the greatest you must get the lowest. The less of self we hold onto, the greater we are in the sight of God (see Matt. 20:24-28). God will see to it that those who exalt and promote themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted. This may happen in this life, as it did to Nebuchadnezzar and Herod, or it may happen after this life, but either way God will set the record straight, and only true greatness will be acknowledged by Him. Christ Himself is the ultimate example and pattern of this; He who “humbled Himself… even to the death of the cross, wherefore God also hath highly exalted Him, and hath given Him a name, etc.” (Phil. 2:5-11).
Learn to grapple with souls. Aim at the conscience. Exalt Christ. Use a sharp knife with yourself. Say little, serve all, pass on. This is true greatness, to serve unnoticed and work unseen. Oh, the joy of having nothing and being nothing, seeing nothing but a Living Christ in Glory, and being careful for nothing but His interests down here.
“True Greatness”, J. N. Darby.
There is only one gospel that tells us how Jesus was exalted after His ascension; the gospel of Mark, which presents Christ as Jehovah’s Perfect Servant… “He was received up into heaven, and sat on the right hand of God” (Mark 16:19).

Warnings to the Pharisees: The Seven Woes (23:13-33)

Seven Woes. The number seven in scripture is a symbol of spiritual completeness. In Matthew 23 the Lord levels a set of seven “Woes” against the scribes and Pharisees. A “woe” is a warning of impending judgment. This is some of the strongest language ever used by the Lord, and it is directed against those who were perceived as the most pious and holy. Grace and truth came by Jesus Christ. We might wonder at how these strong rebukes could come from the same mouth that yielded such “gracious words” at other times (Luke 4:22). The answer must be in the awfulness of the sin of hypocrisy in the estimation of our Lord. Another has said, “who shall entreat for him that the great Intercessor pleads against?” Jesus would never speak a “Woe” without reason. Each of these seven Woes is accompanied by a cause.

1st Woe: For Hindering Others (v.13)

 13 But woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites, for ye shut up the kingdom of the heavens before men; for “ye” do not enter, nor do ye suffer those that are entering to go in. v.13 The scribes and Pharisees ought to have been like beacons, leading men into the kingdom of heaven. Instead, they had become a hindrance to men. They would not enter themselves (i.e. receive John’s baptism), and they didn’t want others to enter either. There are a few ways this can work:
  1. We can hinder others by leading followers the wrong way. The scribes and Pharisees were extremely influential. Many Jews would not enter the kingdom simply because their leaders didn’t. In John 7:48 we see that the Pharisees knew exactly what they were doing; “Have any of the rulers or of the Pharisees believed on him?” In this way, the Pharisees “shut up the kingdom of heaven against men”.
  2. We can hinder others by rendering a poor testimony. The Pharisees had a good talk, but a poor walk. Hypocrisy is easy to spot. If we live a hypocritical lifestyle, it can turn others away from the truth.
  3. We can also hinder others by giving a false portrayal of salvation and Christianity. By their teaching, the Pharisees made the path of obedience to God appear to be restrictive, and complicated. According to them, it required strict attention to ceremonial washings, dietary restrictions, etc. They even went further than the law, and taught the traditions of the fathers, which could be even more restrictive. We need to be careful not to make “steps to the altar”(Exodus 20:26). Our talk and walk should never give the impression that God is accepting of sin, but let’s remember that salvation is by grace through faith alone.
Where is v.14? This verse was added by copyists in some manuscripts. The verse is erroneously inserted in the KJV. There is sufficient manuscript evidence to believe these words were copied over from Mark 12:40 and Luke 20:47 where they rightfully belong. Manuscripts that support this omission include the Codex Sinaiticus and the Codex Vaticanus, which are among the most reliable.

2nd Woe: For Corrupted Zeal (v.15)

15 Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites, for ye compass the sea and the dry land to make one proselyte, and when he is become such, ye make him twofold more the son of hell than yourselves. v.15 The Pharisees showed tremendous zeal in making proselytes, willing to go halfway around the world to make one convert, but really had no care for the soul. They wanted a following; the power obtained from making the converts to Judaism. Apostate religion has the tendency to pass on its vices in a worse form. The scribes and Pharisees were passing on their hypocrisy to the next generation of Pharisees, who would imbibe it with less scruples even than the previous generation. We see this today with false religion everywhere, but especially the false cults. It is more difficult to bring a Jehovah’s Witness to faith in Christ than it is to convert an atheist. Through entrenchment in apostate religion they have been made “twofold more the son of hell” then those who converted them. This is why apostate Christianity has a tendency for “evil men and seducers” to “wax worse and worse” (2 Tim. 3:13). 

3rd Woe: For Manipulating Values (vv.16-22)

16 Woe to you, blind guides, who 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 Fools and blind, for which is greater, the gold, or the temple which sanctifies the gold? 18 And, Whosoever shall swear by the altar, it is nothing; but whosoever shall swear by the gift that is upon it is a debtor. 19 Fools and blind ones, for which is greater, the gift, or the altar which sanctifies the gift? vv.16-19 Previously, in the sermon on the mount, the Lord had forbidden oaths for the disciples of the kingdom (Matt. 5:33-37). The point taken up here is not really the issue of swearing, but the incorrect values taught by the Pharisees in their oaths. They were teaching that the gold of the temple was of greater spiritual importance than the temple itself, and that the offering upon the altar was of greater spiritual importance than the altar itself. The Lord brings out that this value-system was false; and those who taught it were “fools and blind ones”. These were very harsh words (Matt. 5:22). It is almost common sense, that the temple and altar were of greater importance than what outwardly garnished them. But the tendency of apostate religion is to twist values, generally toward placing undue value on what is external and impressive to man, instead of what is internal and of value to God. It isn’t that the gold was nothing, or that the sacrifice was nothing. The secondary thing gets its value from the primary thing! To give some examples, I will ask you; which is more important, the language someone uses to address God in prayer or the actual content of their prayer? Which is more important, the way a Christian dresses, or their state of soul before God? Again, the outward is important, and God does care about it. But it means absolutely nothing without the inward being right. The Pharisees leveraged this false value system to get out of obligations; hence “it is nothing” in one case, and “he is a debtor” in the other case. Another principle emerges; the tendency of religion to divide the things of God, in order to do man’s will. In vv.20-22, the Lord corrects this false notion.
20 He therefore that swears by the altar swears by it and by all things that are upon it. 21 And he that swears by the temple swears by it and by him that dwells in it. 22 And he that swears by heaven swears by the throne of God and by him that sits upon it. vv.20-22 The Lord shows that you cannot “chop up” spiritual things to benefit yourself. It all comes together. You cannot separate doctrine from practice. When you swear by the altar, you swear by all that is connected with it. When you swear by the temple, not only the gold is involved, but the One who dwells in the temple (Jehovah). Finally, when you swear by heaven, you implicate not only the throne of God, but God Himself who sits upon that throne. How often we compartmentalize things in Christianity. The distinctions taught by the Pharisees were not real, and their blindness was exposed.

4th Woe: For Empty Ritualism (vv.23-24)

23 Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites, for ye pay tithes of mint and anise and cummin, and ye have left aside the weightier matters of the law, judgment and mercy and faith: these ye ought to have done and not have left those aside. 24 Blind guides, who strain out the gnat, but drink down the camel. vv.23-24 These religious leaders would focus on small issues like tithing; “And all the tithe of the land, whether of the seed of the land, or of the fruit of the tree, is the LORD’S: it is holy unto the LORD” (Lev. 27:30). They boasted of paying tithes of every possession (Luke 18:12). So they would make a big production out of their tithe of the three tiniest seeds in their harvest; “mint and anise and cummin”. Tithing is relatively easy for the religious flesh. You don’t need a relationship with God to follow rules. Simply have your accountant withhold a percentage. But what God wanted more than tithing was the real issues of the heart; “judgment and mercy and faith”. These issues cannot be reduced to line-items on a spreadsheet. Nor can they be encoded in a rule-book of rituals. We read that judgment is better than sacrifice (Isa. 1:11, 17), mercy better than sacrifice (Hos. 6:6), and faith or obedience is better than sacrifice (1 Sam. 15:22). These are the “weightier matters of the law”. Not that they should have “left the other undone”, because the smaller issues are still important. In v.14 the Lord exposes that these “blind guides” were putting on an act. They made themselves appear very faithful, as those that abhorred sin by “straining out the gnat”, with scrupulous focus on small issues, but having distracted the people with the gnat, they would “drink down the camel”. An example of this is in Matt. 27:3-8, when the council had no problem giving Judas “the price of innocent blood”, and yet scrupled to put the returned money into the treasury. Another example is in John 18:28, when they led Jesus from Caiaphas unto the hall of judgment, but “they themselves went not into the judgment hall, lest they should be defiled; but that they might eat the Passover.” God isn’t fooled by that act.
An application. What about in the assembly? Do we have small, external pet issues that we focus on while the deeper issues go on unchecked? The Lord will expose our hypocrisy.

5th Woe: For Moral Externalism (vv.25-26)

25 Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites, for ye make clean the outside of the cup and of the dish, but within they are full of rapine and intemperance. 26 Blind Pharisee, make clean first the inside of the cup and of the dish, that their outside also may become clean. vv.25-26 These religious leaders maintained an outward front that was morally upright. The illustration is of dishes that appear clean on the outside, but are really filthy on the inside. The Pharisees had the common people thinking they were the most righteous ones in Israel, but the inside was a different story. Their hearts, like all men apart from the grace of God, were full of “rapine” (violence toward others) and “intemperance” (unrestrained lust); i.e. filled with violence and corruption, the two great characters of evil (Gen. 6:11). In v.26 the Lord recommends a procedure for the Pharisee to follow to fix the problem. We need to have the inside morally right (Jer. 4:14), then the outside will follow. This is always the way God changes people; from the inside out.

6th Woe: For Religious Externalism (vv.27-28)

27 Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites, for ye are like whited sepulchres, which appear beautiful outwardly, but within are full of dead men’s bones and all uncleanness. 28 Thus also “ye”, outwardly ye appear righteous to men, but within are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness. vv.27-28 All the religious show of the Pharisees and scribes was like a fancy exterior on a tomb. What good is it to dress up a dead body? It speaks of the deadness of apostate Judaism. We cannot help but be reminded of the Lord’s words concerning dead Protestantism in Rev 3:1; “I know thy works, that thou hast a name that thou livest, and art dead.” In v. 26 the Lord recommends a solution; to cleanse the inside of the dishes. But here there is no fixing the problem. You cannot improve dead men’s bones. Judaism could not be improved any more than the flesh can be improved (Romans 8:3, 7-8; John 3:6). The rejection of Christ had made that clear.

7th Woe: For Sanctimonious Treachery (vv.29-32)

29 Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites, for ye build the sepulchres of the prophets and adorn the tombs of the just, 30 and ye 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. vv.29-30 The scribes and Pharisees showed great respect and reverence for the earlier prophets by garnishing their tombs. Evidently, their places of burial were known; for example, David’s sepulcher was with the Jews in the first century (Acts 2:29). The respect was only shown because the prophets were in the graves, and the sting of their voices was no longer felt. It was a way for the Pharisees to gain credit with the common people. They had stolen the moral credibility of association with prophets like Isaiah and Jeremiah, distancing themselves (in profession) from their fathers who persecuted and shed their blood. We see this even today in the Roman Catholic Church. They turn a martyr from hundreds of years ago into a saint, and claim to be a different church than that which ordered their death; “And I saw the woman drunken with the blood of the saints, and with the blood of the martyrs of Jesus: and when I saw her, I wondered with great admiration” (Rev. 17:6). What would St. Peter have to say about the monstrous basilica that bears his name?
31 So that ye bear witness of yourselves that ye are sons of those who slew the prophets: 32 and “ye”, fill ye up the measure of your fathers. vv.31-32 The charade of garnishing the prophets’ tombs was a witness to the scribes and Pharisees that they were the “sons of” (shared the same character as) those who murdered the prophets of old. Now it was given to them, the sons of murderers, to commit the ultimate crime… the murder of the Messiah Himself. Those with the greatest light, the highest privilege, would commit the crowning act of rebellion against God. In this way, the scribes and Pharisees would “fill up” or complete the course their fathers had begun many years before. This is similar to the measure of the Amorites’ iniquity that had yet to be filled in Abraham’s day (Gen. 15:16).

Conclusion to the Woes (v.33)

33 Serpents, offspring of vipers, how should ye escape the judgment of hell? v.33 To conclude, the Lord gives these scribes and Pharisees the awful sentence. They were nothing less than a bunch of snakes. They bore the character of their father the Devil (John 8:44). Having rejected the greatest gift that God has to give, it was now impossible for them to escape the judgment of Gehenna, which is the eternal prison of the damned, called “the lake of fire” (Rev. 20:14).

The Scribes and Pharisees to be Tested (23:34-36)

 34 Therefore, behold, “I” send unto you prophets, and wise men, and scribes; and some of them ye will kill and crucify, and some of them ye will scourge in your synagogues, and will persecute from city to city; 35 so that all righteous blood shed upon the earth should come upon “you”, from the blood of righteous Abel to 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. vv.34-36 The Lord would send, after He ascended to the right hand of God, faithful witnesses of His resurrection (“prophets, wise men, and scribes” – Old Testament names for New Testament servants) to test this moral class of religious leaders. Not because there was some chance they would repent, but to decisively show the true character of apostate religion. The fate of the apostles is predicted; crucifixion, scourging, persecution from city to city, etc. Early Church History agrees with our Lord’s prediction. The Lord then speaks of all the righteous blood, going all the way back to the first martyr, Abel who was killed by his own brother Cain. Cain represents that whole system of natural religion, and Abel represents those of faith. “And wherefore slew he him? Because his own works were evil, and his brother’s righteous.” (1 John 3:12). Cain began an entire “generation” of those who persecute the righteous. Not a literal generation (Cain’s descendents were wiped out in the flood), but a moral generation. Zacharias here is most likely the son of Jehoiada the priest who was martyred in 2 Chron. 24.1 His father is called “Barachias”, which evidently was very similar to the name “Jehoiada”. From nearly the first chapter (Genesis 4) which records the martyrdom of Abel, to nearly the last chapter of the Hebrew Bible (2 Chron. 24) which records the martyrdom of Zacharias, we see this moral generation active to destroy the righteous. The Lord says “whom ye slew”… indicating that He viewed the scribes and Pharisees as the same moral generation who committed the act. God has not forgotten one drop of righteous blood shed by “this generation”, and it would shortly be visited upon them; in part when the city was destroyed by the Romans in 70 A.D. and finally when the Assyrian sweeps through at the end of Daniel’s 70th week.
This generation. Twelve times over in Matthew's gospel the term "this generation" is used.  Matt. 3:7; 11:16; 12:34, 39, 41, 42, 45; 16:4; 17:17; 23:33, 36; 24:34. Half of those are found in ch.11-12. It refers to the moral class of individuals among the nations of Israel that have been the rejecters of God's testimony throughout the nation's history. We have this pattern all though prophecy: judgment upon the mass, and the deliverance of a remnant. We know that this is a class of persons by the context in which the expression occurs. For example, in Matt. 23 it speaks of "this generation" saying; "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." It isn't that God will attribute the sins of some to others, but that judgment would finally fall on that class in light of their sins all down through the centuries. The Lord describes them vividly:
  • A generation of vipers (Matt. 3:7; 12:34)
  • A generation like unto children sitting in the markets (Matt. 11:16)
  • A wicked and adulterous generation (Matt. 12:39)
  • An unbelieving and perverted generation (Matt. 17:17)
Typically, a generation is a matter of years (20 yrs. or so), a lifetime at most. But the meaning of a "generation" in prophecy is moral rather than chronological. For example; in Psalm 12:7, "Thou shalt keep them, O Lord; Thou shalt preserve them from this generation for ever." The term "this generation" is coupled with "for ever", which in the Old Testament does not denote eternity, but a great length of time. And so it is in the prophetic scriptures. This is important because Preterists will use verses like Matt. 24:34 to insist that the fulfillment of Daniel's seventieth week occurred within one literal generation.

Lamentation Over Jerusalem (23:37-39)

 37 Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those that are sent unto her, how often would I have gathered thy children as a hen gathers her chickens under her wings, and ye would not! v.37 Finally, we have the Lord’s touching lament over the guilty city of Jerusalem. Here was Jehovah, the ever-existing I AM, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, come down to seek His people Israel with outstretched arms. He repeats the name twice; “Jerusalem, Jerusalem” for emphasis. Jerusalem had become the guiltiest place on earth; “the city that kills the prophets”, etc. And soon, the ultimate crime would be committed outside her gates. Her doom was her own fault. The sadness of it all is the Lord’s willingness over many long years to “gather” her children together, to bring home the ten tribes, and to protect and establish the nation in the Millennium. The sad response is “and ye would not”. It was really a matter of the will. And so it is with every Christ-rejecter. Men do not come to Him because they simply don’t want to.
38 Behold, your house is left unto you desolate; 39 for I say unto you, Ye shall in no wise see me henceforth until ye say, “Blessed be he that comes in the name of the Lord.” [Psa. 118:26] vv.38-39 In Matt. 21:13 the Lord had referred to it as “my house”, in John 2:16 He called it “my Father’s house”, but here He calls is “your house”. It was left to the Jews “desolate”, abandoned for now by God. The glory was departing the house (Matt. 24:1), and would return to heaven (“Ichabod”, 1 Sam. 4:21). But it will not remain desolate forever. Just as the glory cloud departed from the east gate (Ezek. 10:2-4, 18-19, and Ezek. 11:22-23), so it will return to the temple the same way (Ezek. 43:1-4; Zech. 14:1-9). Christ had been presented as King ever since they went out from Jericho (Matthew 20:29), and speaks as rejected King in this chapter. Israel would not see the Lord again as King until a work is done in their hearts, until they desire Him, and rejoice at the very expectation of His coming again; until they say in fulfillment of Psa. 118:26, “Blessed be he that comes in the name of the Lord.”
  1. “So that we have remarkable historical probability of Zechariah the prophet’s being so killed, but I avow that 2 Chronicles 24, being nearly the last chapter in the Hebrew Bible, I think it exceedingly probable that it may have been the Zechariah referred to in verse 20 that the Lord refers to, “Son of Barachias” being an addition.” – Darby, J.N.. Nehemiah. Notes and Comments, Volume 2. p.212
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