Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Jesus on children of prophet-killers


29 Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! because ye build the tombs of the prophets, and garnish the sepulchres of the righteous,
30 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.
31 Wherefore ye be witnesses unto yourselves, that ye are the children of them which killed the prophets.
32 Fill ye up then the measure of your fathers. (Matt 23:29-32)

In Matthew 23 Jesus delivers a list of woes to the scribes and pharisees for the hypocrisy and towards the end, he pronounces this line “ye be witnesses unto yourselves, that ye are the children of them which killed the prophets.” But it isn’t quite clear why it applied so well, especially when He also points out how they seem to distance themselves from the people who killed the prophets before.

How do they distance themselves?  First they say, “If we had been in the days of our fathers..”  This shows they knew their genealogy.  They knew their ancestors had been part of mob action or individual persecution or tyrannical oppression or injustice against prophets and righteous mean.

Then they say, “…we would not have been partakers with them in the blood of the prophets.”  The fact that the descendants now distanced themselves from the acts of their ancestors shows that at some point along the way the message of the prophets and the cause of the righteous who had suffered had finally been publicly vindicated.  In order to try to show they had learned from it, the people made a public show of honoring those dead worthies. 

However, by claiming they would not have partaken of the blood of the prophets, they demonstrated they did not know the nature of the circumstances and the pressures surrounding those prophets and righteous people when they were alive.  When pressures are that great that prophets and righteous are killed for their beliefs and message, those less steadfast change to the side of the persecutors out of self-preservation. 

Further, their distancing statements were done solely for the praise of the world, which is a position that is opposite that which prophets and righteous people have to take.  So the reality is that all statements to the contrary, these people would have partaken in the blood of the prophets to continue receiving the praise of the world.  Once the world turned against the current prophets and Christ, these people would too, in order to preserve that general good opinion they craved.

The consequences of this are terrible:

33 Ye serpents, ye generation of vipers, how can ye escape the damnation of hell?
34 ¶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:
35 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.
36 Verily I say unto you, All these things shall come upon this generation.  (Matt 23:33-36)

While this isn’t the most cheerful of messages, I think it helps us today to understand how important it is to be independent of the praise of the world.  I appreciate how Jesus is clear about the consequences and does not mince words.