Now when He had spoken, a Pharisee asked Him to have lunch with him; and He went in, and reclined at the table. When the Pharisee saw it, he was surprised that He had not first ceremonially washed before the meal. But the Lord said to him, "Now you Pharisees clean the outside of the cup and of the platter; but inside of you, you are full of robbery and wickedness. You foolish ones, did not He who made the outside make the inside also? But give that which is within as charity, and then all things are clean for you. But woe to you Pharisees! For you pay tithe of mint and rue and every kind of garden herb, and yet disregard justice and the love of God; but these are the things you should have done without neglecting the others. Woe to you Pharisees! For you love the chief seats in the synagogues and the respectful greetings in the market places. Woe to you! For you are like concealed tombs, and the people who walk overthem are unaware of it." One of the lawyers said to Him in reply, "Teacher, when You say this, You insult us too." But He said, "Woe to you lawyers as well! For you weigh men down with burdens hard to bear, while you yourselves will not even touch the burdens with one of your fingers. Woe to you! For you build the tombs of the prophets, and it was your fathers who killed them. So you are witnesses and approve the deeds of your fathers; because it was they who killed them, and you build their tombs. For this reason also the wisdom of God said, 'I will send to them prophets Woe to you lawyers! For you have taken away the key of knowledge; you yourselves did not enter, and you hindered those who were entering." When He left there, the scribes and the Pharisees began to be very hostile and to question Him closely on many subjects, plotting against Him to catch Him in something He might say.
What hit me this morning as I read those words was a great big question mark. Why would God, who said that a son should not be punished for the sins of his father, say such a thing? God would not contradict Himself, so there must be something here I am not seeing. Israel's Pharisees, scribes and lawyers must be culpable themselves, in some way, of the death of the prophets since the beginning of mankind. And Abel's murder occurred millennia before the nation of Israel! How is this possible that Christ could charge the entire generation of Israelites with the slaughter of the prophets that began in Genesis and culminated with the death of Zechariah more than five hundred years before?
And also notice that the entire generation is blamed, not just the leadership. The Lord is giving judgement on a corporate crime. When Jerusalem was sacked (in that generation) Christ's judgment was enforced.
Wow. Gives one pause.
My thoughts are going in this direction, but I am surely open to being wrong. I think it is possible that in the beginning, Israel was less culpable for her idolatry. For she had been a slave among the heathens for four hundred years. As the centuries past, despite being sent prophet after prophet warning Israel to repent and turn from her sin, their corporate hearts became calloused and finally hardened against God. It was a slow rot and with willful stubbornness, Israel ignored the Torah and the warnings. Their generation had become utterly indifferent and unresponsive to the call of God. Love of self had replaced love of God or their fellow man.
The demons who enticed Cain to kill Abel, were growing stronger with each generation that accepted them. Those same demons enticed the murders of all the prophets that God sent. And those sons of Satan were present and accepted by many of Israel. When Christ appeared, it was made clear who corporate Israel had chosen and it was not God. Thus this made Israel fully liable because they could see and understand their history. Notice that our Lord specifically said they had built the tombs of the prophets to honor them--so they understood that the prophets were martyred. Yet they refused to stop the martyrdom.
So, I was reminded this morning that corporate judgment does happen. Be careful what group to whom you give your loyalty. And that the sins of that group can literally pile up over generations. Be repentant as a group! Change your ways and be righteous as a people of God.
We today who have not just the history of Israel's rejection of the prophets but the history of Christ and His Church before us, Christians today will be even more culpable of wrong for we see so clearly what it is and how much it cost to destroy sin. As it is recorded in Hebrews 2:3, "How will we escape if we neglect so great a salvation?"