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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”

Matthew 19:16-24 – The Nazarene’s Commentary: Difficulty of Rich Entering the Kingdom

Matthew 19:16-24 – Difficulty of Rich Entering the Kingdom

|| Mark 10:17-25; Luke 18:18-25

MT19:16 And, look! a [young] person[1] approached Jesus, asking, “Teacher, what good shall I do[2] so that I might have everlasting life?”[3] MT19:17 Jesus told him, “Why do you ask me about some ‘good’?[4] [Only] One is ‘good’.[5] But if you wish to enter Life,[6] observe the commandments.”[7] MT19:18 This person answered, “Which [commandments]?” Jesus responded: “‘You shall not murder,’ ‘You shall not commit adultery,’ ‘You shall not steal,’ ‘You shall not bear false testimony,’ MT19:19 ‘Honor your father and mother,’ and, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’” [Exodus 20:13-16] MT19:20 The young man told Jesus, “I have guarded myself regarding all of these.[8] What more am I lacking?”[9] MT19:21 Jesus said to him, “If you wish perfection[10] leave and sell your belongings[11] and give to the poor[12] – then you will have treasure in heaven – and [then] come be my follower.”[13] MT19:22 But having heard this statement the young man departed very depressed,[14] for he had many possessions.[15] MT19:23 Now Jesus told his disciples, “I tell you this truth: Rich people will only enter the Realm of Heaven with great difficulty.[16] MT19:24 In addition I tell you this: It is easier for a camel to enter through a needle’s eye[17] than for rich people to enter the Realm of Heaven.”

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[1] A [young] person: Revealed in verse 20.

[2] Teacher, what good shall I do: Mark 10:17 adds, “… a certain man ran up and fell upon his knees before him and put the question to him: ‘Good Teacher, what must I do…’” He addresses Jesus as “Good Teacher.” Luke 18:18 adds, “… a certain (religious) ruler.” Therefore, a young rabbi. The Received Text (KJV) has, “Good Teacher.”

[3] Everlasting life: The Greek is ZOEN AIONION. Or, KJV: eternal life; RHM: life age-abiding; TCNT: immortal life; BECK: everlasting life. See word studies else where by researching AION or everlasting life.

[4] Why do you ask me about some ‘good’: This response has resulted in much commentary. If Jesus were “God” one wonders why he would resist a title with the word “good” in it. The Lesson of Eden is that only Yehowah can determine what is ‘good’ and this is not the responsibility of Messiah. Research the word good or AGATHOS (from which the name Agatha comes). Note that the Nazarene’s response is to point to the Ten Commandments and the Law. He does not originate his own philosophy.

[5] [Only] One is ‘good’: Or, KJV: none is good but one, that is, God; ASV: One there is who is good; KNX: God is good, and he only; WMS: there is only one who is perfectly good; ABUV: One is the Good. The subject is absolute or ultimate Good. No one would argue that Jesus was no a “good man.” Note John 7:12. Compare also how others are described as “good.” (2 Samuel 18:27; Proverbs 14:14) Jesus recognizes there are good people (Matthew 12:35; Luke 6:45; Romans 5:7). Surely Jesus refers to his Father, Yehowah.

[6] To enter Life: It may be argued that “Life” here is something like John 5:24 and 1 John 3:14. Thus “Life” means the new Life within the Realm of Heaven – the Church. Others will limit it to that future Life though both may be include.

[7] Observe the commandments: It is possible Jesus speaks to a young Jewish rabbi. Note the commandments Jesus lists. It will startle some what he has omitted in a list of his own choosing: the Name and the Sabbath. Jesus goes on to quote Exodus 20:13-16 then skipping back to Exodus 20:12. He also quotes what he calls late the Second Greatest Commandment: Leviticus 19:18.

[8] I have guarded myself regarding all of these: The KJV version adds: “… from my youth up.” Or, ASV: all these things have I observed; WEY: carefully obeyed.

[9] What more am I lacking: Or, NEB: where do I still fall short; BER: how do I still fall behind; WEY: what more is required. One wonders if there is some self-righteous hypocrisy here. However, Paul himself claims such rigorous righteousness or obedience to the law (Philippians 3:6).

[10] If you wish perfection: Or, KNX: if thou hast a mind to be perfect; NEB: if you wish to go the whole way; NASB: to be complete. To the Nazarene spiritual perfection will involve charity. See notes on Matthew 5:48. – Perfect: This is the Greek word TELEIOI from TELOS (= “end”) and may be rendered “complete, mature, fulfilled.”

[11] Leave and sell your belongings: Or, RHM: withdraw! sell thy substance; go and sell your possessions. Note how in Luke 12:32, 33 Jesus tells his “little flock” the same thing. Note their response in Acts 2:44, 45; Acts 4:34-37.

[12] Give to the poor: The man could divest himself of his possessions in any manner of ways: giving it to his family, hiding investments. Jesus gives no hint that he expects the man to contribute to him though never was there a poorer man on earth (2 Corinthians 8:9). The young rabbi must say goodbye to all his belongings – strip himself from material attachment and desire.

[13] And [then] come be my follower: Note he must do this before becoming a follower or disciple of Jesus. It is possible “follower” means a member of the Nazarene’s private entourage of apostles.

[14] The young man departed very depressed: Or, KJV: he went away sorrowful; NASB: he went away grieved; KNX: sad of heart; RIEU: in gloom; WMS: in deep distress; PME: crestfallen. We watch our Lord’s eyes as he follows the young man as he leaves and we note a slight expression of pity. We would like to know the future of this young rabbi. Did he follow later, become an angry opposer screaming for crucifixion, or merely indifferent. We wonder at his death what thoughts he must have had.

[15] Many possessions: Or, NASB: owned much property; NEB: a man of great wealth; BECK: very rich.

[16] Rich people will only enter the Realm of Heaven with great difficulty: Perhaps of all the teachings of the Nazarene this is the one most disliked by western capitalist society. While the world struggles to be rich Jesus warns of the great difficulty in such conflicting lifestyles and ideals. Compare the notes on Matthew 5:42 and Matthew 6:25. Or, KJV: a rich man shall hardly enter into the kingdom of heaven; ASV: it is hard for a rich man; MON: a rich man will find it difficult. Though the celestial realm of God is the final goal, Jesus makes it clear that it will be very hard for a rich person to become a Christian and gain membership in the Realm of Profession. Note Paul’s counsel to the rich at 1 Timothy 6:17-19. Throughout the Gospel Age there have been wealthy Christians who gave all to help others, while others used their riches to forward the Gospel message. Research the words rich and riches. In Bible terms “rich” means having a surplus (Mark 12:44; 2 Corinthians 8:14).

[17] Camel to enter through a needle’s eye: The Lamsa translation of the Aramaic has this ‘a rope through the needle’s eye.’ Some understand it is the difficulty a camel has in crawling through a very narrow gate to enter a city. It must get on its knees and move forward with difficulty. The Nazarene does not say it is impossible nor does he rule it out altogether. He just says it will be difficult for a rich person to give attention to discipleship while torn over riches. The conflict between love and greed is the struggle between self and others.

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Preceding

Matthew 19:1-2 – The Nazarene’s Commentary: From Galilee to Judah

Matthew 19:3-9 – The Nazarene’s Commentary: Grounds for Divorce

Matthew 19:3-9 – The Nazarene’s Commentary: Grounds for Divorce – additional verses

Matthew 19:10-12 – The Nazarene’s Commentary: Celibacy

Matthew 19:13-15 – The Nazarene’s Commentary: Kingdom Belongs to Child-like

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