Matthew 23:35 (Guilty of All the Righteous Blood Shed on Earth)

Recall that in summary of the seven-plus woes He has just pronounced upon the scribes and Pharisees Jesus in Mat 23:33 asked rhetorically how they could escape the sentence of hell.  In order that they might fill up the measure of the guilt of their fathers He then stated that He would therefore send to them messengers whom they would persecute.  For what additional and more specific reason does Jesus say that He would send such messengers?  See Mat 23:35, Luk 11:49-50.  What is the importance to what He is saying of the word “all” in each of these passages?  In order that we don’t misunderstand His meaning, what is the added significance to His meaning of those He names whose blood will be charged against them?  For Abel, see Gen 4:8 in the very first pages of Scripture.  Note also that there are no less than 30 people named Zechariah or its variant Zacharias in the Bible, which means, significantly, “the LORD has remembered”.  The Zechariah noted in Luke is assumed to refer most naturally to the son of Jehoiada and an incident described in 2Chronicles, which was the last book in the Hebrew canon of Scripture; see 2Ch 24:20-21.  This has caused some to suppose that there is an error in Matthew’s gospel which clearly specifies Zechariah, the son of Berechiah, the minor prophet and author of the book bearing his name in the Old Testament who is further described as the son of Iddo (Zec 1:1), and who prophesied hundreds of years later.  However, this Zechariah was also murdered in the temple, and was the last prophet in the ordering of the LXX to be killed[1]; it is also important to note that the account in Matthew, though similar in content to that in Luke, was clearly spoken on a separate occasion (see the contexts) so that it is not impossible given the popularity of the name that different Zechariahs were in mind on the different occasions.  Interestingly, for reasons noted below, from the time of Origen in the second century, many of the church fathers believed the Zechariah referred to was the father of John the Baptist, whom they believed was also killed in the temple.  Josephus in The Jewish War also mentions yet another Zechariah who was slain by the Jews in the temple shortly before the destruction of Jerusalem which marked the end of the Jewish nation.  It is perhaps also significant that although the letter Z in both Hebrew and Greek is near the front of their alphabet, it is the last letter in our English alphabet, and we still use the term “A to Z” to refer to something all-encompassing.

Would the scribes and Pharisees whom Jesus was addressing have supposed that they were in any way culpable for the deaths of the past saints whom they honored in pretense?  See Mat 23:29-30.  What further insight does this give us about why Jesus says He would send them prophets and wise men and scribes whom they would persecute even to death?  How is it that Jesus could say that all the blood of past saints who were murdered for their faith would also be charged against the scribes and Pharisees, and in what sense could He say that they had murdered Zechariah, who was killed hundreds of years earlier?[2] Think: By hardening their hearts against God’s truth that had been revealed in progressive stages over the ages and that was poured out as a deluge with the coming of Jesus, did they not demonstrate themselves to be sharers with those who shed righteous blood in the past by sinning against an even greater light?  Cf. Mat 21:33-39.  I.e., by resisting Jesus, the faithful Son of God, would they not also have been among those who resisted Moses, the faithful servant of God?  Cf. Heb 3:1-6.  How much more then would they have been among those who opposed Abel or Zechariah or any of the other servants of God who were esteemed even more lightly than Moses?  What does this teach us about the magnitude of the crimes being committed by the scribes and Pharisees in sinning against so great a light that would allow God to charge against them all the righteous blood shed upon the earth?  How does this help us understand why they and Judas Iscariot were guilty of a greater sin in putting Jesus to death than Pilate who actually handed down His death sentence?  Cf. Joh 19:11 and think: who had the greater light that made them most culpable?  How does it again also help us to understand why Paul, who although faultless in regard to the legalistic righteousness found in the Law (Phil 3:6), considered himself to be the foremost of sinners (1Ti 1:15)?

 


1. Targum on Lam 2:20: “Is it right to kill priest and prophet in the Temple of the Lord, as when you killed Zechariah son of Iddo, the High Priest and faithful prophet in the Temple of the Lord on the Day of Atonement because he told you not to do evil before the Lord?” (Wikipedia, “Zechariah Hebrew prophet”).

2. Origen’s proposal that the Zechariah referred to was the father of John the Baptist appears to have been motivated to answer this conundrum.