For what does Jesus pronounce His final woe upon the scribes and Pharisees? See Mat 23:29-30. What was the irony of them paying great honor to the memory of the prophets and righteous men whom their fathers had persecuted and killed? See Mat 12:14, Mar 11:18. Was it just another righteous man or prophet that they themselves were persecuting while at the same time pretending to honor those who came before Him? Cf. Mat 12:41-42, 21:33-39, Act 7:51-52. Are we to suppose that the scribes and Pharisees were not as earnest as many Bible-believing Christians are today in professing to believe the Scriptures authored by God’s holy prophets, such that they even honored their memory by building their tombs and adorning their monuments? I.e., were they outright and consciously lying in their tribute to God’s righteous servants, or were they deceived themselves that they really were on God’s side and did believe His prophets, even while they were persecuting the very One about whom the prophets foretold? Cf. Joh 5:39-40,46-47, 11:47-50. What does this teach us about the self-deluding nature of false religion that pretends to honor the way of righteousness but is secretly opposed to it? Cf. Mat 7:15 and think: does a false prophet know he is a false prophet? Does a deceived person know he is deceived? What does it also teach us about the self-evident nature of truth and the superior nature of true righteousness that shines forth so brightly that even those whose hearts are opposed to it are compelled to acknowledge and pay lip service to it? Cf. Rom 1:19, 1Pe 2:12.
Consider then that in their form of godliness these who were persecuting God’s own Son were deceiving and being deceived themselves (cf. 2Ti 3:13) that if they had lived in the days of their Jewish fathers they would not have been partners with them in shedding the blood of God’s holy prophets. But what does it mean to be a partner with someone? Cf. Luk 5:10, 2Co 8:23, Phm 1:17, and cf. 1Co 10:18,20 where the same word is translated variously as sharers, partakers, or participants. Since a partner is one who is in agreement with and works together with another for a common goal, although they were deceived otherwise, in what sense were the scribes and Pharisees in fact partners with those who persecuted the prophets and righteous men who came before Jesus? For what common goal did they labor together as partners with their fathers who persecuted the prophets? Was it to establish God’s kingdom, or to oppose it because like their fathers their hearts were in rebellion to God’s rule and they loved this world and the things in it more than they loved His kingdom of righteousness? See again Mat 21:33-39. What do these things help us understand about those who acknowledge righteousness and even honor the memory of righteous people: does that necessarily mean that they themselves are righteous? Is it possible that in a similar manner there are Christians today who acknowledge righteousness and pay tribute to Jesus but who are secretly opposed to His kingdom and by their own deceived actions are actually partners with those who put Him to death? Cf. Mat 7:22-23, 25:40,45, and note.
We have seen that in their form of godliness the scribes and Pharisees who were persecuting God’s own Son were deceiving and being deceived that if they had lived in the days of their Jewish fathers they would not have been partners with them in shedding the blood of God’s holy prophets. What does this remind us about the deceitfulness of man’s fallen nature that makes us quick to see the faults of others while remaining blind to our own faults? Cf. Mat 7:3-5. Is it possible that we could be like the scribes and Pharisees in looking back and recognizing as obvious the sinful hypocrisy of others, wondering at their hardness of heart and believing we would never have been partners with them, but in fact are just as blind to our own hypocrisies? See Jer 17:9 and note.
1. Carnal people can easily honor the memories of faithful ministers that are dead and gone, because they do not reprove them, nor disturb them, in their sins… They can pay respect to the writings of the dead prophets, which tell them what they should be; but not the reproofs of the living prophets, which tell them what they are. Matthew Henry.↩
2. The deceitfulness of sinners’ hearts appears very much in this, that, while they go down the stream of the sins of their own day, they fancy they should have swum against the stream of the sins of the former days; that, if they had had other people’s opportunities, they should have improved them more faithfully; if they had been in other people’s temptations, they should have resisted them more vigorously; when yet they improve not the opportunities they have, nor resist the temptations they are in. We are sometimes thinking, if we had lived when Christ was upon earth, how constantly we would have followed him; we would not have despised and rejected him, as they then did; and yet Christ in his Spirit, in his word, in his ministers, is still no better treated. Matthew Henry↩