26 Mar. Matthew 23:1-28

26 Mar. Jesus teaches in Jerusalem during Passover week

"Then Jesus said to the crowds and to his followers, 'The teachers of the [Jewish] law and the Pharisees have the authority to tell you what the law of Moses says. So you should obey and follow whatever they tell you [from the Scriptures].'"

"'But their lives are not good examples for you to follow. They tell you to do things, but they themselves don't do them. They make strict rules and try to force people to obey them, but they are unwilling to help those who struggle under the weight of their rules.'"

"'They do good things [only] so that other people will see them [doing it]. They make the boxes of Scriptures that they wear [prominently on their foreheads] bigger, and they make their special prayer clothes very long [so that others will notice how 'spiritual' they are].'"

"'Those Pharisees and teachers of the [Jewish] law love to have the most important seats at feasts and in the synagogues [so they will be seen to be 'important']. They love people to greet them with respect in the market-places, and they love to have people [respectfully] call them 'Teacher' ['Rabbi']...'"

"'How terrible for you, teachers of the [Jewish] law and Pharisees! You are hypocrites! You close the door for people to enter the kingdom of heaven. You yourselves don't enter, and you stop others who are trying to enter.'"

"'How terrible for you, teachers of the [Jewish] law and Pharisees! You are hypocrites! You travel across land and sea to find one person who will change to your ways. When you find that person, you make him more fit for hell [i.e. the rubbish tip at Gehenna outside Jerusalem] than you are.'"

"'How terrible for you, teachers of the [Jewish] law and Pharisees! You are hypocrites! You guide the people but you are blind [yourselves]…'"

"'How terrible for you, teachers of the [Jewish] law and Pharisees! You are hypocrites! You give to God one-tenth of everything you earn - even your mint, dill and cumin. But you don't obey the really important teachings of the [Jewish] law - justice, mercy and being loyal.'"

"'How terrible for you, teachers of the [Jewish] law and Pharisees! You are hypocrites! You wash the outside of your cups and dishes [to maintain your 'spiritual cleanliness'], but inside they are full of things you got by cheating others and pleasing only yourselves...'"

"'How terrible for you, teachers of the [Jewish] law and Pharisees! You are hypocrites! You are like tombs that are painted white. Outside, those tombs look fine, but inside, they are full of the bones of dead people and all kind of [spiritually] unclean things...'"

          (Matthew 23:1-28)

 

 

During the days immediately before the Passover festival began (on Friday 7th April in 30AD), Jesus taught in the Temple courts. Matthew's gospel records how Jesus mounted a scathing attack on the Pharisees and the teachers of the Jewish law – the ‘religious establishment’ of his day.

He attacked them for ‘showing off’ their religiosity with conspicuous ‘phylacteries’ (containing the commandments) worn on their foreheads and long, expensive tassels on their garments – intended, originally, to help them remember the commandments (see Deuteronomy 6:4-8 & Numbers 15:37-41). He also criticised their love of public attention and ‘celebrity’ status.

Jesus condemned the hypocrisy of the Pharisees by likening them to ‘whitewashed tombs’ that looked beautiful on the outside, but contained dead bodies that made them ritually ‘unclean’ (unacceptable to God) on the inside.

In Jesus’s day, Jewish tombs were whitewashed so that they could be seen at night. This was considered necessary by the Pharisees, not to avoid accidental injury, but because any Jew who touched a tomb would become ritually ‘unclean’ and would then have to undergo ceremonial washing (see Numbers 19:16).

Jews attending the Passover festival were required to undergo ceremonial cleansing before entering the Temple. Ritual baths for this purpose were located to the south of the Temple Mount near the Hulda (‘mole’) Steps leading up under the Royal Portico into the Temple courtyards (see the map of the Temple on 24 March).

Today, a number of ancient rock-cut tombs can still be seen in the Valley of Jehoshaphat (the upper part of the Kidron Valley) on the lower slopes of the Mount of Olives below the south east corner of the Temple Mount. These include the pyramid-topped Tomb of Zechariah (believed by some to belong to the father of John the Baptist – see Luke 1:5-25 & 57-80) and the classically fronted Tomb of James.

Early Byzantine Christians believed the latter tomb belonged to James, the brother of Jesus, the first leader of the Christian church in Jerusalem (see Matthew 13:55 & Acts 15:12-21). They built a 5th century church to commemorate James, fragmentary remains of which can still be seen on the hillside near the Doric Greek-style columns of this funerary monument.

In fact, both tombs date from c.100-200BC, and therefore were built for neither Zechariah nor James. An inscription on the architrave of the Tomb of James suggests that it was, in fact, the tomb of the Ben Hezir family of Jewish priests, descended from Hezir (see 1 Chronicles 24:15).

The distinctive bottle-top shaped Tomb of Absalom is also incorrectly named. Absalom was the rebellious son of King David who died in c.984BC having erected a pillar as a monument to himself in the Kidron Valley (see 2 Samuel 18:18). The 'Tomb of Absalom', however, dates from the 4th or 5th century BC.

Prophetic tradition suggests that the Valley of Jehoshaphat (meaning ‘God judges’) will be the site of the ‘Last Judgement’ on the ‘Day of the Lord’ (see Joel 3:2 & Zechariah 14:4). This accounts for the many ancient and modern tombs that can be seen today on the lower slopes of the Mount of Olives. Those who are buried here intend to be the first to be judged and raised to life again on the ‘Day of Judgement’.

The photo shows the 'Tomb of Absalom' in the 'Valley of Jehoshaphat' (the Kidron Valley).

You can see the map showing the location of this bottle-shaped tomb @ https://www.thebiblejourney.org/…/jesus-heralds-the-end-of…/


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