Matthew 23:30
And say, If we had been in the days of our fathers, we would not have been partakers with them in the blood of the prophets.
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(30) If we had been in the days . . .—There is no necessity for assuming that the Pharisees did not mean what they said. It was simply an instance of the unconscious hypocrisy of which every generation has more or less been guilty, when it has condemned the wrong-doing of the past—its bigotry, or luxury, or greed—and then has yielded to the same sins itself.

23:13-33 The scribes and Pharisees were enemies to the gospel of Christ, and therefore to the salvation of the souls of men. It is bad to keep away from Christ ourselves, but worse also to keep others from him. Yet it is no new thing for the show and form of godliness to be made a cloak to the greatest enormities. But dissembled piety will be reckoned double iniquity. They were very busy to turn souls to be of their party. Not for the glory of God and the good of souls, but that they might have the credit and advantage of making converts. Gain being their godliness, by a thousand devices they made religion give way to their worldly interests. They were very strict and precise in smaller matters of the law, but careless and loose in weightier matters. It is not the scrupling a little sin that Christ here reproves; if it be a sin, though but a gnat, it must be strained out; but the doing that, and then swallowing a camel, or, committing a greater sin. While they would seem to be godly, they were neither sober nor righteous. We are really, what we are inwardly. Outward motives may keep the outside clean, while the inside is filthy; but if the heart and spirit be made new, there will be newness of life; here we must begin with ourselves. The righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees was like the ornaments of a grave, or dressing up a dead body, only for show. The deceitfulness of sinners' hearts appears in that they go down the streams of the sins of their own day, while they fancy that they should have opposed the sins of former days. We sometimes think, if we had lived when Christ was upon earth, that we should not have despised and rejected him, as men then did; yet Christ in his Spirit, in his word, in his ministers, is still no better treated. And it is just with God to give those up to their hearts' lusts, who obstinately persist in gratifying them. Christ gives men their true characters.And say ... - This they professed to say by rebuilding their tombs. They also, probably, publicly expressed their disapprobation of the conduct of their fathers. All this, in building and ornamenting tombs, was a profession of extraordinary piety. Our Lord showed them it was mere pretence. 27. Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye are like whited sepulchres—or, whitewashed sepulchres. (Compare Ac 23:3). The process of whitewashing the sepulchres, as Lightfoot says, was performed on a certain day every year, not for ceremonial cleansing, but, as the following words seem rather to imply, to beautify them.

which indeed appear beautiful outward, but are within full of dead men's bones, and of all uncleanness—What a powerful way of conveying the charge, that with all their fair show their hearts were full of corruption! (Compare Ps 5:9; Ro 3:13). But our Lord, stripping off the figure, next holds up their iniquity in naked colors.

Wherefore ye be witnesses unto yourselves, that ye are the children of them which killed the prophets—that is, "ye be witnesses that ye have inherited, and voluntarily served yourselves heirs to, the truth-hating, prophet-killing, spirit of your fathers." Out of pretended respect and honor, they repaired and beautified the sepulchres of the prophets, and with whining hypocrisy said, "If we had been in their days, how differently should we have treated these prophets?" While all the time they were witnesses to themselves that they were the children of them that killed the prophets, convicting themselves daily of as exact a resemblance in spirit and character to the very classes over whose deeds they pretended to mourn, as child to parent. In Lu 11:44 our Lord gives another turn to this figure of a grave: "Ye are as graves which appear not, and the men that walk over them are not aware of them." As one might unconsciously walk over a grave concealed from view, and thus contract ceremonial defilement, so the plausible exterior of the Pharisees kept people from perceiving the pollution they contracted from coming in contact with such corrupt characters.

Ver. 29,30. Luke hath it, Luke 11:47, Woe unto you! for ye build the sepulchres of the prophets, and your fathers killed them. Truly ye bear witness that ye allow the deeds of your fathers: for they indeed killed them, and ye build their sepulchres. It is plain by our Saviour’s discourse, that the Pharisees were at great charge oft times to rebuild or adorn the sepulchres of the Lord’s prophets, who had been slain by the Jews in former ages for testifying the truth of God, and the sepulchres of other righteous men dying for their righteousness. This they did like a company of hypocrites, to persuade the world of what they also said, that had they lived in the times of those prophets and other good men, they would have had no hand in their blood.

And say, if we had been in the days of our fathers,.... Their ancestors and predecessors: signifying, that if they had lived in the times they did, or had been in the same post and office with them, they should have opposed, at least not consented to their measures:

we would not have been partakers with them in the blood of the prophets; would not have joined them in persecuting the prophets, and in shedding their blood, and putting them to death; but would have received them as the prophets of the Lord, have hearkened to their advice and message, and have honoured and obeyed them as such; and this they thought they sufficiently declared, by building and adorning their tombs.

And say, If we had been in the days of our fathers, we would not have been partakers with them in the blood of the prophets.
Matthew 23:30. λέγετε: they not merely thought, or said by deed, but actually so pointed the moral of their action, not trusting to others to draw the inference.—ἤμεθα, not in classics, ἤμην the usual form of sing. in N. T. being also rare; the imperfect, but must be translated in our tongue, “if we had been”. For the imperfect, used when we should use a pluperfect, vide Matthew 14:4, and consult Burton, § 29.—οὐκ ἄν ἤμεθα, the indicative with ἂν, as usual in suppositions contrary to fact, vide Burton, § 248.

Matthew 23:30. Λέγετε, ye say) By your public protestation.—οὐκ ἂν ἦμεν, κ.τ.λ., we would not have been, etc.) Such was their self-confidence.

Verse 30. - And say. They boasted that they were better than their fathers; they disavowed their crimes, and endeavoured, by honouring the prophets' graves, to deliver themselves from the guilt of those who persecuted them. Fair show, with no reality! They professed to venerate the dead, but would not receive the living; they reverenced Abraham and Moses, but were about to murder the Christ to whom patriarch and prophet bore witness. Commentators quote the old adage, herein exemplified, "Sit licet divus, dummodo non vivus." The only practical way of delivering themselves from the guilt of their forefathers was by hearkening to those who now preached the gospel of salvation - the very last thing which they were purposed to do. Matthew 23:30
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