1 Then Jesus spoke to the crowds and to His disciples, 2 saying: “The scribes and Pharisees have seated themselves in Moses’ chair [of authority as teachers of the Law]; 3 so practice and observe everything they tell you, but do not do as they do; for they preach [things], but do not practice them. 4 The scribes and Pharisees tie up (a)heavy loads [that are hard to bear] and place them on men’s shoulders, but they themselves will not lift a finger [to make them lighter]. 5 They do all their deeds to be seen by men; for they make their (b)phylacteries (tefillin) wide [to make them more conspicuous] and make their (c)tassels long.(A) 6 They love the place of distinction and honor at feasts and the best seats in the synagogues [those on the platform near the scrolls of the Law, facing the congregation], 7 and to be greeted [with respect] in the market places and public forums, and to have people call them Rabbi. 8 But do not be called Rabbi (Teacher); for One is your Teacher, and you are all [equally] brothers. 9 Do not call anyone on earth [who guides you spiritually] your father; for One is your Father, He who is in heaven. 10 Do not let yourselves be called leaders or teachers; for One is your Leader (Teacher), the Christ. 11 But the greatest among you will be your servant. 12 Whoever exalts himself shall be humbled; and whoever humbles himself shall be raised to honor.
13 “But woe (judgment is coming) to you, [self-righteous] scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites, because you shut off the kingdom of heaven in front of people; for you do not enter yourselves, nor do you allow those who are [in the process of] entering to do so.(B) 14 (d)[Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites, because you swallow up widows’ houses, and to cover it up you make long prayers; therefore you will receive the greater condemnation.]
15 “Woe to you, [self-righteous] scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites, because you travel over sea and land to make a single proselyte (convert to Judaism), and when he becomes a convert, you make him twice as much a son of hell as you are.
16 “Woe to you, blind guides, who say, ‘Whoever swears [an oath] by the sanctuary of the temple, that is nothing (non-binding); but whoever swears [an oath] by the gold of the temple is obligated [as a debtor to fulfill his vow and keep his promise].’ 17 You fools and blind men! Which is more important, the gold or the sanctuary of the temple that sanctified the gold?(C) 18 And [you scribes and Pharisees say], ‘Whoever swears [an oath] by the altar, that is nothing (non-binding), but whoever swears [an oath] by the offering on it, he is obligated [as a debtor to fulfill his vow and keep his promise].’ 19 You [spiritually] blind men, which is more important, the offering, or the altar that sanctifies the offering? 20 Therefore, whoever swears [an oath] by the altar, swears both by it and by everything [offered] on it. 21 And whoever swears [an oath] by the sanctuary of the temple, swears by it and by Him who dwells within it.(D) 22 And whoever swears [an oath] by heaven, swears both by the throne of God and by Him who sits upon it.
23 “Woe to you, [self-righteous] scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you give a tenth (tithe) of your mint and dill and cumin [focusing on minor matters], and have neglected the weightier [more important moral and spiritual] provisions of the Law: justice and mercy and faithfulness; but these are the [primary] things you ought to have done without neglecting the others. 24 You [spiritually] blind guides, who strain out a gnat [consuming yourselves with miniscule matters] and swallow a camel [ignoring and violating God’s precepts]!(E)
25 “Woe to you, [self-righteous] scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you clean the outside of the cup and of the plate, but inside they are full of extortion and robbery and self-indulgence (unrestrained greed). 26 You [spiritually] blind Pharisee, first clean the inside of the cup and of the plate [examine and change your inner self to conform to God’s precepts], so that the outside [your public life and deeds] may be clean also.
27 “Woe to you, [self-righteous] scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs which look beautiful on the outside, but inside are full of dead men’s bones and everything unclean. 28 So you, also, outwardly seem to be just and upright to men, but inwardly you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness.(F)
29 “Woe to you, [self-righteous] scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you build tombs for the prophets and decorate and adorn the monuments of the righteous, 30 and you say, ‘If we had been living in the days of our fathers, we would not have joined them in shedding the blood of the prophets.’ 31 So you testify against yourselves that you are the descendants of those who murdered the prophets. 32 Fill up, then, the [allotted] measure of the guilt of your fathers’ sins. 33 You (e)serpents, you spawn of vipers, how can you escape the penalty of hell?
34 “Therefore, take notice, I am sending you prophets and wise men [interpreters, teachers] and scribes [men educated in the Mosaic Law and the writings of the prophets]; some of them you will kill and even crucify, and some you will flog in your synagogues, and pursue and persecute from city to city, 35 so that on you will come the guilt of all the blood of the righteous shed on earth, from the blood of righteous (f)Abel to the blood of Zechariah [the priest], the son of Berechiah, whom you murdered between the temple and the altar.(G) 36 I assure you and most solemnly say to you, [the judgment for] all these things [these vile and murderous deeds] will come on this generation.(H)
Lament over Jerusalem
37 “(g)O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, who murders the prophets and stones [to death] those [messengers] who are sent to her [by God]! How often I wanted to gather your children together [around Me], as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you were unwilling.(I) 38 Listen carefully: your house is being left to you desolate [completely abandoned by God and destitute of His protection]!(J) 39 For I say to you, you will not see Me again [ministering to you publicly] until you say, ‘Blessed [to be celebrated with praise] is He who comes in the name of the Lord!’”(K)
a. Matthew 23:4: I.e. detailed instructions of rabbinic interpretations of the Law.
b. Matthew 23:5: Small cases containing Scripture passages, worn on the left arm and the forehead.
c. Matthew 23:5: Tassels (tzitzit) were worn on the garments of all Jewish males, according to the Law.
d. Matthew 23:14: Early mss do not contain v 14.
e. Matthew 23:33: The serpent is the creature used by Satan to introduce evil into the Garden of Eden (Gen 3:1ff). Here Jesus continues the imagery of Satan as the serpent working through the religious leaders to continue the propagation of evil through deception, false teaching, and man-made laws and traditions which are given priority over God’s law.
f. Matthew 23:35: I.e. the first and last martyrs recorded in the Hebrew text.
g. Matthew 23:37: The nation of Israel personified.