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Matthew 23:1-12 – The Nazarene’s Commentary: Prominence and Humility

Matthew 23:1-12 – Prominence and Humility

|| Mark 12:38, 39; Luke 20:45, 46

MT23:1 Then Jesus spoke to the crowds as well as his disciples, saying: MT23:2 “The Scribes and Pharisees sat down on the seat of Moses.[1] MT23:3 So, everything they preach to you, do and observe;[2] but do not imitate their actions,[3] for they do not practice what they preach.[4] MT23:4 They tie on heavy burdens[5] and impose these on the shoulders of humankind while they are unwilling to budge [these loads] with a single finger.[6] MT23:5 All their [religious] works they do to be viewed by humans.[7] They broaden their phylacteries[8] and they enlarge the fringes of their garments.[9] MT23:6 They prefer the prominent place at suppers[10] and the front seats in the synagogues.[11] MT23:7 [They enjoy] greetings in the market square[12] and to be called ‘Rabbi’[13] by people. MT23:8 But, you [disciples] should not be addressed as ‘Rabbi’ for only One is your teacher.[14] All of you [disciples] are brothers.[15] MT23:9 Nor should [you disciples permit others] on earth to address you as ‘Father’[16] for One is your Father – the Heavenly One. MT23:10 Nor should you disciples be addressed as ‘Leaders’[17] because your Leader is only the Messiah. MT23:11 But the ‘greatest’ among you will be your servant. MT23:12 For whoever will exalt self will be humiliated;[18] and whoever humbles self will be exalted.

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[1] Sat down on the seat of Moses: Or, KNX: the place from which Moses used to teach; TCNT: now occupy the chair of Moses; PME: speak with the authority of Moses. Compare Exodus 18:13.

[2] Do and observe: Or, RSV: so practice and observe whatever they tell you. Jesus does not undermine their teaching of the Law of Moses.

[3] Do not imitate their actions: Or, BER: do not behave as they do; TCNT: do not follow their example.

[4] They do not practice what they preach: Or, KJV: they say, and do not; RSV: they preach, but do not practice; KNX: for they tell you one thing and do another.

[5] They tie on heavy burdens: Or, KJV: they bind heavy burdens; KNX: they fasten up packs too heavy; PME: they pile up back-breaking burdens.

[6] They are unwilling to budge [these loads] with a single finger: Or, TCNT: they decline themselves to lift a finger to move them.

[7] To be viewed by humans: Or, NEB: whatever they do is done for show.

[8] They broaden their phylacteries: The Greek is PHYLACTERIA. The Jewish Encyclopedia (1976, Vol. X, p. 21) states: “The laws governing the wearing of phylacteries were derived by the Rabbis from four Biblical passages (Deuteronomy 6:8; 11:18; Exodus 13:9). While these passages were interpreted literally by most commentators,… the Rabbis held that the general law only was expressed in the Bible, the application and elaboration of it being entirely matters of tradition and inference.” These were small boxes containing Bible verses strapped around the forehead and wrist. These Jewish clergy made them large for show of their extreme religiosity. Or, KNX: boldly written are the texts they carry; GDSP: they wear wide Scripture texts as charms; TAY: they act holy by wearing on their arms large prayer boxes with Scripture verses inside.

[9] They enlarge the fringes of their garments: See Numbers 15:38; Deuteronomy 22:12. Or, KNX: deep is the hem of their garments; GDSP: they wear large tassels; TAY: by lengthening the memorial fringes of their robes.

[10] They prefer the prominent place at suppers: Or, KJV: they love the uppermost rooms at feasts; RHM: the first couch in the chief meals; RSV: place of honor; RIEU: the best places at banquets; PME: seats of honor at dinner parties. Compare the counsel of the Nazarene at Luke 14:7, 10.

[11] The front seats in the synagogues: Note this was still a problem among Christians (James 2:2-4).

[12] [They enjoy] greetings in the market square: Or, NASB: respectful greetings; WMS: to be greeting with honor in public places. We can see these self-righteous, condescending clergy bestowing their weak smiles and blessings upon those who raise their voices in praise.

[13] Rabbi: The term occurs 18 times in three Gospels and is absent from the Gospel of Luke. The title is a surrogate for “teacher.” (John 1:38) In time the title was elevated to “my great one; my excellent one.” Research the word Rabbi.

[14] Only One is your teacher: While all Christians should be teachers (Hebrews 5:12; Titus 2:3), and while there are among them those recognized as “teachers” (1 Corinthians 12:28; Ephesians 4:11; James 3:1-3) the entire Body of Christ understands who the real Teacher is: Jesus of Nazareth.

[15] Brothers: Jesus speaks to his male disciples. See notes on Matthew 12:50. Despite gifts and offices the general atmosphere in the church must be a brotherhood.

[16] Address you as ‘Father’: Unfortunately later in the history of the Church clergy accepted the title “Father” despite the command of their Lord. They will have to bear this responsibility. Often it is a matter of a teacher or leader refusing certain titles. Job 32:21 declares, “And on an earthling man I shall not bestow a title.” (NWT)

[17] Leaders: Or, KJV: neither be ye called masters: for one is your Master. In Spanish such a man is called Maestro and this is not fitting for a shepherd of the flock. There is a different between a “Leader” and one who takes the lead. Compare Hebrews 13:7, 17.

[18] Whoever will exalt self will be humiliated: Or, KJV: whosoever shall exalt himself shall be abased.

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Preceding

Matthew 22:41-46 – The Nazarene’s Commentary: Jesus Asks a Trump Question

Matthew 23 – A Jeremiad against the religious hypocrites

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Related articles

  1. Matthew Chapter A Day – 23
  2. Read Matt 23 before saying anything
  3. Hypocrisy & Judgmentalism – Two Unmistakable Marks Of Narcissism – Part 1
  4. “Do you want to stand out? Then step down. Be a servant.” ~Jesus
  5. Who were the pharisees?
  6. The Good & Bad of the Pharisees
  7. Pharisees and Scribes
  8. “Stay Humble – God Will Expose”

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