October 22, 2013

Scripture and Commentary, Wednesday after the Twenty-first Sunday after Trinity

Morning – Psalm9, 2 Kings 9:1-16, 2 Tim. 2:14
Evening – Psalm 13, 14, Ecc. 8:12-9:1, Mt. 23:1-12

Commentary, Matthew 23:1-12

“Then spake Jesus unto the multitude, and to his disciples.”  Having confounded the religious leaders, Jesus addresses the people gathered around Him in the Temple.  The multitude includes people who have come to Jerusalem for Passover, His disciples, and the religious leaders.  There has always been some question about the origin of the Pharisees, and the exact nature of their ministry.  Therefore, we don’t know exactly what our Lord meant when He said they “sit in Moses’ seat” (vs. 2).  But Christ seems to indicate that they have a legitimate ministry under the Old Covenant.  Whatever their official position may have been, Jesus tells the people that if what they say is in accordance with the teaching of Scripture, do it.  He also warns to people not to take the scribes and Pharisees as role models; “do ye not after their works” (vs.3).  The reason for this warning is that their words do not match their actions.  “[T]hey say, and do not.”

“[H]heavy burdens and grievous to be borne” (vs. 4) refers to the Pharisees’ extensive regulations and traditions, which attempt to teach the people how to keep the law of God.  Christ says the Pharisees are happy to lay these regulations on the people, but offer no help in keeping them, nor do they keep them themselves.  Yet they love to be considered intensely stringent law keepers.  Phylacteries (vs.5) are fringes or pockets in their apparel containing verses of Scripture or passages from their books of regulations.  They like to make these pockets very large and very visible to other Jews to make it appear that they are completely faithful and diligent about keeping them.  They also love the respect their apparent dedication to the law garners from the rest of the Jews.  They are given preference in social arrangements and in the synagogues, and they are called “teacher” and “father” by the Jews.

Our Lord warns the people, many of whom are and will be His people in the New Testament Church, not to follow their example.  He is especially talking to His disciples when He says “be not ye called Rabbi (vs.8), and “call no man your father upon earth” (vs. 9).  The reason for this is that Christ is their Master, or, Teacher (Rabbi), and God is their Father.  This does not mean no titles are used in the Church.  It does mean all Christians are brothers in Christ, and are equally servants of God and one another (vs. 11).  Titles in the Church, therefore, are more like job descriptions than ascriptions of honour, and no man should assume or accept titles that belong to God.

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