Question: I need someone to explain the 23rd chapter of Matthew.
Answer: I’m sure there are several things in these verses of Matthew that may be hard to understand. You are not the only one who feels this way, and it is partly because we do not know the culture in Israel at the time that these verses were spoken. This is why I would recommend a good study Bible, and if I could suggest a great one, without sounding to much like an advertisement, it would be the New Spirit Filled Life Bible. I am not saying that it is the best, but then I would say it is the one I use often. The one I have uses the New King James Version of the Bible.
If you would like the King James Version of the Bible I would suggest The New Defender’s Study Bible by Dr. Henry M. Morris. I have the old addition and it is great, but the new one looks even better. It answers many questions about creation.
To give you a sample of what you will find in a study Bible, I will quote what the New Spirit Filled Life Bible has on Matthew chapter 23. This should give you an idea what you get in these study Bibles, plus they have many more helps as well.
23:1-36 Jesus delivers a blistering rebuke to the scribes and the Pharisees after first warning His followers against them. The Lord directs His condemnation at hypocritical self-righteousness; full of outward form but devoid of inner spiritual reality.
23:2, 3 The Pharisees were the authoritative teachers of the Mosaic Law even though they failed to follow their own precepts. Much of their teaching was sound, but Jesus confronts those points in which their hypocrisy neutralized the validity of their instruction.
23:4 Jesus refers to their countless rules and regulations, which reduced religion to a burdensome and confusing system of ritual observance that kept people in perpetual bondage.
23:5 The Pharisees paraded their piety in public to win praise. Phylacteries were small leather cases, which contained certain Scripture texts, and which the Jews wore around their arms and on their foreheads. Borders refers to the tassels the Jews wore on the corners of their outer garments. See 9:20; 14:36; Num. 15:38; Deut. 22:12.
23:6-12 Jesus warns against a prideful seeking of public praise, exemplified by the desire for places of prominence, and titles signifying superiority. The titles themselves may be used as terms of respect or to indicate certain duties and places of responsibility. It is the attitude behind the seeking of such recognition that Jesus condemns. As believers, we are equal and owe our reverence to Christ alone.
23:13-33 Jesus issues a series of eight scathing denunciations in charging the Pharisees with specific examples of hypocrisy.
23:13 Not only did they themselves refuse the truth, but by their legalism they erected barriers before those who were seeking the truth.
23:14 While professing righteousness, they were unjust in conduct.
23:15 They were zealous missionaries of evil.
23:16-22 They were habitual liars, betraying their moral stupidity by having developed an elaborately absurd system of taking oaths that were binding and nonbinding.
23:23 They were flagrantly inconsistent, having lost all sense of proportion in the importance of spiritual matters. Scrupulously attentive to external things of the most trivial kind, such as tithing small seeds and plants, they forgot the major principles of morality. Ought to have done is significant in that Jesus affirms the moral rectitude that His disciples practice tithing, not as a law but as an accepted discipline.
23:24 Jesus uses a ludicrous hyperbole to illustrate the spiritual blindness, which allowed them to see trivial matters while overlooking gigantic items. Strain: Strainers were used in the mouths of decanters to remove foreign matter and to avoid ritual impurity that one might inadvertently consume.
23:25, 26 They paid detailed attention to matters pertaining to ceremonial cleansing, while ignoring God’s demand for inner holiness. See notes on Mark 7:1-5
23:27-28 Outwardly, they appeared to be righteous, but inwardly they were morally defiled.
23:27 Whitewashed tombs: The language is strong. Whitewashing of tombs is still done in Israel today. It served to identify tombs so that one might not accidentally touch the tomb and incur ritual defilement.
23:29-33 They were self-deceived, falsely claiming to surpass their forefathers in righteousness. Even though they built monuments to prophets whom their fathers murdered, they themselves were plotting to kill the Son of God. Therefore, they will suffer the same condemnation.
23:34-36 Jesus gives a stern warning of judgment upon the nation. The prophecy of Jesus came to pass with the destruction of Jerusalem in A.D. 70. All of the righteous blood shed, from the first victim (Abel, Gen. 4:8) to the last (Zechariah, 2 Chr. 24:20-22), will be required of Israel.
23:38 They have rejected the King, and so He leaves them to their own desires. (See Jer. 12:7; 22:5; Ezek. 10:18, 19, 11:22, 23.) All that will remain to them will be an empty system of religion, without even its temple and sacrifices.
23:39 Jesus voices a note of hope as He looks toward His glorious return, when He will be recognized as King (see Phil. 2:10, 11).
So you see these comments can be helpful, but as we use Bible helps we still know the Holy Spirit guides us into all truth. It is helpful to listen to teachers, since Christ gave them to the Church.
God bless you as you study,
Gary T. Panell
For more information email me.
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