Monday, August 4, 2014

Just Like Their Ancestors

Matthew 23:29-39

“Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! because ye build the tombs of the prophets, and garnish the sepulchres of the righteous, And 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.  Wherefore ye be witnesses unto yourselves, that ye are the children of them which killed the prophets.  Fill ye up then the measure of your fathers.  Ye serpents, ye generation of vipers, how can ye escape the damnation of hell?” (Matthew 23:29-33)

For over a thousand years, Israel had been burying their important people in well marked graves and tombs.  In an effort to stir up patriotism and national pride, the scribes and Pharisees had begun to fix up the tombs and build memorials of their old prophets and leaders, many of whom had been hated in their day, saying they would have listened to them if they had been alive back then.

Jesus said that by rebuilding the tombs and building the memorials, they were acknowledging their descent from the people who had killed them.  They had learned their attitudes from their ancestors, and would act accordingly.  As long as they had the same attitudes, there was no way they escape the same condemnation. 

“Wherefore, behold, I send unto you prophets, and wise men, and scribes: and some of them ye shall kill and crucify; and some of them shall ye scourge in your synagogues, and persecute them from city to city:  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.  Verily I say unto you, All these things shall come upon this generation.” (Matthew 23:34-36)

Jesus would send prophets or preachers and wise men and teachers who would tell them what god expected just as god had in the past.  Because they had the same attitudes, they would react in the same ways, beating them and driving them from town to town, and rejection the teachings of every prophet before them all the way from Adam’s son Abel who Cain killed right up to the prophet Zacharias, who had been killed just a few months before by some of the very men who were listening to Jesus.  As a result all the things the prophets had predicted would come upon the group who were involved. 

The book of Acts details some of the persecution the early Christians experienced in Israel at he hands of the religious establishment, the constant refusal to obey god by the Jews.  Finally, in 66 AD. Their rebellion led to open conflict with Rome and the razing of the temple and destruction of Jerusalem in 70 AD., with most of the Jews being sent to other countries to prevent further rebellion.

“O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, thou that killest the prophets, and stonest them which are sent unto thee, how often would I have gathered thy children together, even as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, and ye would not!  Behold, your house is left unto you desolate.” (Matthew 23:38)

Time after time God had offered to protect and help Israel if they would just come to him and do what he said, like a hen calling her chicks together for protection from predators, and like chicks that ignored the call, they had been caught unprotected.  The people of Jerusalem, the capital and religious center had been the worst offenders, and when Rome destroyed them the city of Jerusalem would be the primary target.    

“For I say unto you, Ye shall not see me henceforth, till ye shall say, Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord.” (Matthew 23:39)

This would be the last time Jesus spoke publicly in Jerusalem except at his trial, two days later.  For the forty days after his crucifixion. He would teach his disciplesm but would not speak to the multitudes as he had before, and he will not return to Jerusalem until he comes at the end of the tribulation as their ruler.  

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