Chapter 23 clearly shews how far the disciples are viewed in connection
with the nation, inasmuch as they were Jews, although the Lord judges the
leaders, who beguiled the people and dishonoured God by their hypocrisy. He
speaks to the multitude and to His disciples, saying, "The scribes and the
Pharisees sit in Moses' seat." Being thus expositors of the law, they were
to be obeyed in all that they said according to that law, although their
own conduct was but hypocrisy. That which is important here is the position
of the disciples; it is in fact the same as that of Jesus. They are in
connection with all that is of God in the nation, that is to say, with the
nation as the recognised people of God-consequently, with the law as
possessing authority from God. At the same time the Lord judges, and the
disciples also were practically to judge, the walk of the nation, as
publicly represented by their leaders. While still forming part of the
nation, they were carefully to avoid the walk of the scribes and Pharisees.
After having reproached these pastors of the nation with their hypocrisy,
the Lord points out the way in which they themselves condemned the deeds of
their fathers-by building the sepulchres of the prophets whom they had
slain. They were, then, the children of those who slew them, and God would
put them to the test by sending them also prophets and wise men and
scribes, and they would fill up the measure of their iniquity by putting
these to death and persecuting them-condemned thus out of their own
mouths-in order that all the righteous blood which had been shed, from
Abel's to that of the prophet Zechariah, should come upon this generation.
Frightful amount of guilt, accumulated from the beginning of the enmity
which sinful man, when placed under responsibility, has ever shewn to the
testimony of God; and which increased daily, because the conscience became
more hardened each time that it resisted this testimony! The truth was so
much the more manifest from its witnesses having suffered. It was a rock,
exposed to view, to be avoided in the people's path. But they persisted in
their evil course, and every step in advance, every similar act, was the
proof of a still increasing obduracy. The patience of God, while graciously
dealing in testimony, had not been unobservant of their ways, and under
this patience all had accumulated. All would be heaped upon the head of
this reprobate generation.
Remark here the character given to the apostles and christian prophets.
They are scribes, wise men, prophets, sent to the Jews-to the ever
rebellious nation. This very clearly brings out the aspect in which this
chapter regards them. Even the apostles are "wise men," "scribes," sent to
the Jews as such.
But the nation-Jerusalem, God's beloved city-is guilty and is judged.
Christ, as we have seen, since the cure of the blind man near Jericho,
presents Himself as Jehovah the King of Israel. How often would He have
gathered the children of Jerusalem, but they would not! And now their house
should be desolate, until (their hearts being converted) they should use
the language of Psalm 118, and, in desire, hail His arrival who came in the
name of Jehovah, looking for deliverance at His hands, and praying to Him
for it-in a word, until they should cry Hosanna to Him that should come.
They would see Jesus no more until, humbled in heart, they should pronounce
Him blessed whom they were expecting, and whom they now rejected-in short,
until they were prepared in heart. Peace should follow, desire precede, His
The last three verses exhibit clearly enough the position of the Jews, or
of Jerusalem, as the centre of the system before God. Long since, and many
times, would Jesus, Jehovah the Saviour, have gathered the children of
Jerusalem together, even as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings,
but they would not. Their house should remain forsaken and desolate, but
not for ever. After having killed the prophets, and stoned the messengers
sent unto them, they had crucified their Messiah, and rejected and slain
those whom He had sent to proclaim grace unto them even after His
rejection. Therefore should they see Him no more until they had repented,
and the desire to see Him was produced in their hearts, so that they should
be prepared to bless Him, and would bless Him in their hearts, and confess
their readiness to do so. The Messiah, who was about to leave them, should
be seen of them no more until repentance had turned their hearts unto Him
whom they were now rejecting. Then they should see Him. The Messiah, coming
in the name of Jehovah, shall be manifested to His people Israel. It is
Jehovah their Saviour who should appear, and the Israel who had rejected
Him should see Him as such. The people should thus return into the
enjoyment of their relationship with God.
Such is the moral and prophetic picture of Israel. The disciples, as Jews,
were viewed as part of the nation, though as a remnant spiritually detached
from it, and witnessing in it.