33. “No one, when he has lit a lamp, puts it in a secret place or under a basket, but on a lampstand, that those who come in may see the light.
Of course the whole point of lighting a lamp is to shine forth the light, and thus covering it up would be most foolish. No one would do something like that. The whole reason for having a lamp is to allow it to give forth its light.
34. “The lamp of the body is the eye. Therefore, when your eye is good, your whole body also is full of light. But when your eye is bad, your body also is full of darkness.
The eye is like a lamp, allowing light into the body. When the eye is good, then it fills the whole body with light. When the eye is bad, however, the whole body is full of darkness, for none can see the light without the eyes.
The light that God had given them was for their good, and to enlighten them altogether. These men, however, had blinded their own eyes to the truth of God that the Lord Jesus was speaking to them. Thus their bodies were full of darkness. Otis Sellers gives as an example the truth that the Scriptures taught that the Messiah was to be born in Bethlehem. This was a truth that God had given, and it was meant to enlighten them to the truth about the Lord Jesus. However, these men had turned this truth into darkness when they just assumed that the Lord must have been born in Nazareth. Thus, by this assumption, they turned what should have been light into darkness.
35. “Therefore take heed that the light which is in you is not darkness.
If these men refused or misused the light of the words of Scripture, or the light of the Lord Jesus’ words, then the light God had given them would turn into darkness within them. How many in our day take the light God has given us in the Bible and produce only darkness from it! We need to use great care that we do not take the things that God has said and twist them just so that they support our own doctrines and practices. All who do this make the light that God has given to turn into darkness. This is something that we all have to carefully guard against. Perhaps there is no greater tool for doing this than when men take and define incorrectly the words God has used in the Bible. Once a reader has in mind the wrong definition of a word, then every single time that word is used that person will see darkness rather than the light. We need to use great care to define the words that God has used as God defines them. Otherwise, the very light He gives will be turned for us into darkness.
36. “If then your whole body is full of light, having no part dark, the whole body will be full of light, as when the bright shining of a lamp gives you light.”
Having the light within you causes your whole body to be light, just as a lamp lights a whole room. If these men would receive Christ’s words, their lives too would be full of light. So if we receive Christ’s words and define and use them rightly, then we will be full of light. We may not be loved for it in this dark world, where men love darkness rather than light. Yet how much better, loved or hated, is it to be in the light than to be in the darkness! Let all of us seek to ever be walking in the light of God’s word rightly divided.
37. And as He spoke, a certain Pharisee asked Him to dine with him. So He went in and sat down to eat.
As had happened in chapter 7, another Pharisee invites the Lord to eat with him. The Companion Bible suggests that, from the Greek word used, this was a morning meal, not a dinner. It was what we would call breakfast, eaten after returning from the synagogue. Once again, we can commend this Pharisee for wanting the Lord to come to him, and being willing to identify himself with Him in what for them then was a very meaningful way. To invite someone into your home indicated a very close fellowship at that time. It was good that he was willing to do this, though we may condemn his actions later while the Lord was actually with him.
The Lord Jesus was willing to accept the offer of this Pharisee, just as He accepted the offer of tax collectors and sinners. How different was the attitude of the hosts in the two cases, however! When Jesus dined with tax collectors and sinners they looked to Him for forgiveness, whereas this Pharisee looked at the Lord’s actions and condemned Him for not living up to his standards, as we shall see in the following verses.
38. When the Pharisee saw it, he marveled that He had not first washed before dinner.
The Pharisee was watching his guest closely, and noticed that He did not wash His hands before eating. This is something that we always do as a cleanliness habit, but this was not what their hand-washing was all about. This was a tradition that all the Pharisees had that they gave the weight of a commandment of God. The Lord did not refuse to wash because there is something wrong with doing so, nor should we think that we have some sort of mandate not to wash our hands either. Rather what the Lord was seeking was to reveal what was in this man’s heart.
The word for “wash” here is the Greek word ebaptisthe, which we can clearly see is a form of the word “baptize.” This was something that all the Pharisees practiced and taught others they should practice wherein they would dip their hands in water and shake them off before eating. This was not for cleanliness, but as a ceremonial cleansing. This was considered a baptism that they performed. Yet the Lord did not perform it, though they clearly expected Him to. Thus this Pharisee marvels when he sees the Lord omit this custom.
39. Then the Lord said to him, “Now you Pharisees make the outside of the cup and dish clean, but your inward part is full of greed and wickedness.
The Lord was just waiting for the Pharisee to be notice this and be scandalized by it in order to challenge him with the truth. He now uses this example of the outward washing of hands to show this man what was truly in his heart. This Pharisee was inordinately concerned with the washing and the baptism that was outward. He had washed his outward appearance before men, but inwardly, like so many of his fellow Pharisees, he was full of greed and wickedness. Thus the Lord had purposefully omitted this ceremony in order to challenge him with this fact. How could he be so concerned with washing the outer self, but have so little concern for what was inside?
40. “Foolish ones! Did not He who made the outside make the inside also?
The Lord is apparently including other Pharisees who were present at the dinner in his rebuke of this Pharisee. He condemns these men as ones without thought or reason. Did they not consider God, and realize that the One Who made the outward person made the inner person as well? Men might be fooled by the outward washing, but the God Who made the outside and the inside could see the truth. They were not fooling Him by their ritual cleansings.
41. “But rather give alms of such things as you have; then indeed all things are clean to you.
He commands them to give alms of such things as they had. If they did this, all things would be clean to them. Yet of course giving alms wouldn’t make all things clean. The Lord was pointing out a false idea these men had. They thought that by giving a pittance to the poor they would absolve themselves of greed. The Lord Jesus mocks that idea, however.
42. “But woe to you Pharisees! For you tithe mint and rue and all manner of herbs, and pass by justice and the love of God. These you ought to have done, without leaving the others undone.
Now He starts to pronounce woes upon the Pharisees. He is stating God’s displeasure with their hypocritical practices. He gives example after example of how they were concerned with the outward appearance and neglected the inner person. First He speaks of their tithing mint and rue and all manner of herbs. There was nothing wrong with their strict and exacting observance of the law of tithing, though perhaps in their zeal they had taken it to an extreme that God never intended. However what was wrong was their hard hearts against those who needed their help and love. They had ignored justice and the love of God, whereas they kept the most exacting record of tithes. They should have paid attention to justice and the love of God in their dealings. He assures them that He is not telling them that they should have left the tithing undone, however. That was fine, but why did they ignore what God considered a more important matter?
43. “Woe to you Pharisees! For you love the best seats in the synagogues and greetings in the marketplaces.
These men loved fame and honor more than God. They loved to have the best seats in the synagogues reserved for them. They loved having men eagerly greet them in the common marketplaces. They loved these things, yet they did not love the things of God. Thus Christ declares woe against them.
44. “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like graves which are not seen, and the men who walk over them are not aware of them.”
Graves always had to be clearly marked in Israel because coming in contact with any part of a dead body would make a man unclean. They had to keep the most careful track of being clean and unclean in order to keep the law properly. According to God’s law, you were unclean if you touched something unclean, even if you did not realize you had done so. Thus they kept their graves marked, usually by whitewashing the tombs. With scavengers in the land and the possibility of some body being dug up by them, the Israelites would as a rule avoid the area of gravesites so as to avoid any accidental uncleanness. Yet graves that were unmarked would not be avoided, and thus could make men unclean while at unawares. These Pharisees were like that, making men unclean in the sight of God without their even realizing it because they were duped by the Pharisees’ teaching.
45. Then one of the lawyers answered and said to Him, “Teacher, by saying these things You reproach us also.”
Remember that the Lord was saying these bold and condemning words in the home of a Pharisee who had invited Him to come as a guest! Many others of his class were present, and this included some lawyers also. A lawyer was one who studied and taught God’s law, not a lawyer as we think of them today. This lawyer seems to think that the Lord Jesus will be impressed by the fact that he felt insulted by His words too. Christ, however, takes him up on this and goes right on to condemn the lawyers. His was a very harsh message for these men He was dining with. If they were men of faith, they would have listened to it, however.
46. And He said, “Woe to you also, lawyers! For you load men with burdens hard to bear, and you yourselves do not touch the burdens with one of your fingers.
The Lord blames the lawyers for forcing others by their exaggerated interpretations of the law to bear impossible burdens that they would never even pretend to bear themselves. What a wicked thing to do, yet how like supposed “holy men” in our day.
47. “Woe to you! For you build the tombs of the prophets, and your fathers killed them.
Now He extends His condemnation to all of these men. They thought that they were being very righteous by building tombs for the martyred prophets. These men would have liked to have identified themselves with the prophets. Yet the Lord reveals that it was their own fathers who had killed them! They were of the kind that murdered the prophets, not of the kind that were prophets themselves.
48. “In fact, you bear witness that you approve the deeds of your fathers; for they indeed killed them, and you build their tombs.
These men tried to make themselves look like great, Godly, and honorable men by building these tombs for the prophets. They would declare that they wouldn’t have slain the prophets had they lived in their time, and claimed to be honoring them by building these large monuments to them. Yet the Lord Jesus turns this action around, declaring that by building these tombs for the prophets what they were really saying was that they were glad that they were dead! They were really completing the deed that their fathers had done by killing them in the first place.
49. “Therefore the wisdom of God also said, ‘I will send them prophets and apostles, and some of them they will kill and persecute,’
Christ Himself was the One Who said this before, for we read of it nowhere else but in His words. Thus He called Himself the Wisdom of God, the very One spoken of in the book of Proverbs as Wisdom personified. We can see Him saying this in Matthew 23:34.
God knew even in His wisdom that when He sent His people prophets and apostles, some of them they would kill and persecute. We can see this happening all through the period of the Old Testament prophets, even as it happened in the Acts period as well.
50. “That the blood of all the prophets which was shed from the foundation of the world may be required of this generation,
The world here spoken of would be the system or order of men on the earth as it now exists. Of course these men could not be guilty of the blood of all murdered prophets of the past, but the same condemnation that fell upon those who had slain prophets in the past would fall upon them for slaying the prophets of God in their day, and even for slaying the Lord Himself. Thus they might as well have killed all the prophets that came before as well for they would have received the same condemnation had they done so.
51. “From the blood of Abel to the blood of Zechariah who perished between the altar and the temple. Yes, I say to you, it shall be required of this generation.
He goes all the way back to the first murder of Abel the son of Adam, and all the way to the latest murder, which was Zechariah who perished between the altar and the temple. There is much disagreement about who this Zechariah is. There was a Zechariah who died “in the court of the house of the LORD” in II Chronicles 24:21. This is the view of the Companion Bible, since Abel was slain in Genesis, and Zechariah in Chronicles, which in the Hebrew Bible is the last book. Yet he was the son of Jehoiada, and the Lord in a similar passage of Matthew 23:35, wherein He was also castigating the Pharisees, calls this Zechariah son of Berechiah. Zechariah the prophet whose book is one of the minor prophets is called the son of Berechiah, and we have no record of his death, so he may have died in this way. Yet we have no indication that any persecution arose in those days. Josephus records for us that another man named Zachariah died in this same way thirty-some years after Christ spoke these words!
Ultimately, I believe that the Lord was referring to the last prophet murdered at the time He was speaking. In Matthew 23:35, He accuses the scribes and Pharisees He was condemning as actually being the murderers of this Zechariah.
Could it be that there would be two Zechariah the son of Berechiahs in the Scriptures? That a man and his father could both have names reflecting a father-son pair earlier in Israel’s history is clear from considering Christ’s lineage, in which we see that the Lord’s father Joseph was the son of Jacob, even as Joseph was the son of Jacob in Genesis. Thus I believe that this was some Zechariah son of Berechiah that we have no record of. Yet the Lord knew of him, for He had made him a prophet. Thus this was the latest murder of a prophet of the Lord, having happened right in the lifetime of some of these Pharisees He was condemning. Of course they probably did not recognize this one as a prophet, as they did the earlier prophets from before their time, and so were probably not building a tomb or monument for him.
52. “Woe to you lawyers! For you have taken away the key of knowledge. You did not enter in yourselves, and those who were entering in you hindered.”
Christ gives another woe against the lawyers. By their false interpretations they had led astray those who sincerely sought the truth. Though they had the key of knowledge in the Word of God and could have used it, they refused to use it themselves and wouldn’t let anyone else do so either. By their lies and false teaching, they had taken away this key from those who sought it. How like many church leaders and religion founders in our day these men were!
53. And as He said these things to them, the scribes and the Pharisees began to assail Him vehemently, and to cross-examine Him about many things,
Needless to say, this dinner was becoming less than pleasant. We need hardly say that the conversation was not leading to good digestion for any of the parties involved. The Lord’s harsh words were nevertheless accurate, and gave these men an opportunity for faith. However, they did not respond by acknowledging the rightness of this severe condemnation, but rather these words caused those dining with Him to erupt into an uproar, questioning Him vehemently to try to find something with which to accuse Him. We might wonder from the Lord’s reaction if perhaps He knew that it was with no pure motives that these men had invited Him here in the first place, and so He laid into them to bring their evil intentions to light. Surely no other dinner guest was quite like the Lord Jesus Christ!
54. Lying in wait for Him, and seeking to catch Him in something He might say, that they might accuse Him.
This was perhaps their intention all along, but His harsh words have brought it to the surface. Now with open hostility they seek to draw something out of Him that they can catch Him with, for in spite of all His harsh words they knew that there was nothing in it that they could use against Him, for it was all too accurate. Yet for all their seeking, they were dealing with One far wiser than they were, and we can be sure that their fishing for accusations turned up nothing. His accusations found the mark marvelously, but they could pin nothing on Him! Surely, if there had been anything worthy of condemnation in the Lord, these men would have found it. Thus, they ended up doing us a favor, for they show us how free from any guilt our Lord really was!