Matthew 23:34-39 The Pharisees Willful Rejection

Following Jesus’ scathing rebuke of the Pharisees, he pronounced judgments against them for their willful rejection of him. Notice in verse 37 the statement “ye would not.” Jesus was willing to gather the children of Israel to himself but they willfully rejected him. As a result, God would:

Send them witnesses, whom they would kill, v 34

All of the apostles were killed except John, who was exiled to the isle of Patmos (Rev 1:9). For example, James was killed with the sword (Acts 12:2-3). In addition, Stephen was stoned (Acts 7:57-58). Paul was stoned, whipped, beaten, imprisoned and later killed (2 Cor 11:23-27). Before his conversion, Paul was responsible for the death and imprisonment of numerous disciples (Acts 22:4-5). God sent all of these men to the Jews and the Jews rejected them.

Charge them with killing all the righteous prophets, v 35-36

The Lord held these Pharisees responsible for the death of every righteous prophet from Abel in Gen 4:8 to Zacharias in 2 Chr 24:20-21. By naming these two saints who were killed, Jesus did two things. First, he charged the Pharisees with the deaths of every Old Testament martyr since Abel was the first and Zacharias was the last, recorded in scripture. Second, Jesus limited the Canon of the Old Testament books. Abel and Zacharias are found in the first and last books of the Hebrew Old Testament. Genesis is the first book and 2 Chronicles in the last book. Their Canon comprises 39 books, just like ours; however, the books are laid out in different order. Thus, Jesus rejected the apocryphal books of the Old Testament.

Depart from the temple and leave them desolate, v 38

Jesus called the temple “my house” in Matt 21:13, and he called it “my Father’s house” in Jn 2:16. However, when he stated these judgments against the Pharisees, he called the temple, “your house,” (v 38). In other words, he and his Father had pulled out. Hence, the house was desolate and eventually, Titus destroyed it completely in 70AD (Matt 24:2).

No longer appear to them until the Second Advent, v 39

Old Testament prophets recorded seeing visions of the Lord. See Is 6:1-5; Eze 1:26-28; Jos 5:13-15; 1 Ki 22:19; etc for examples. Then at his first coming, Jesus revealed himself to all Israel. However, because of the Pharisees’ willful rejection, Jesus said that they would no longer see him until they say, “Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord.” Though his disciples had already said that exact phrase when Jesus entered Jerusalem on the colt (Matt 21:9), Jesus was referring to his Second Coming (Ps 118:26, the context is Second Advent). Hence, the Jews have not seen Jesus literally or in visions since his ascension and they won’t until he returns.

The metaphor of Jesus as a hen gathering her chicks is profound. Chicks go to the hen for:

Feeding – Jn 6:32-35
Protection – from storms, Is 25:4; and from hawks (types of the devil) Lk 22:31
Rest – Matt 11:28 (Heb 4:1-11)