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At our little church meeting on Sunday morning, my wife, Laurie, wanted to look at the time that Jesus excoriated the Pharisees and scribes for their hypocrisies. This is called The Seven Woes. The seventh and final woe is:

“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you build the tombs of the prophets and decorate the monuments of the righteous, saying, ‘If we had lived in the days of our fathers, we would not have taken part with them in shedding the blood of the prophets.’ Thus you witness against yourselves that you are sons of those who murdered the prophets. Fill up, then, the measure of your fathers” (Matthew 23:29–32).1

Then Jesus continues,

“You serpents, you brood of vipers, how are you to escape being sentenced to hell?” (Matthew 23:33).

For many years, I have appreciated the well-known advice, “When you see a “therefore,” in the Bible, you should stop and ask, “What is it there for?” but I had never noticed this one before. Oh, ye of little clue. It is Jesus’ answer to their terrible sins, but it wasn’t a positive one. At first glance, it appears that Jesus is telling them how to escape hell. “Therefore,” Jesus said, He will send them prophets, wise men, and scribes.

“Therefore I send you prophets and wise men and scribes some of whom you will kill and crucify, and some you will flog in your synagogues and persecute from town to town, so that on you may come all the righteous blood shed on earth, from the blood of righteous Abel to the blood of Zechariah the son of Barachiah, whom you murdered between the sanctuary and the altar. Truly, I say to you, all these things will come upon this generation” (Matthew 23:34–36).

Jesus sending prophets, wise men, and scribes will offer no escape at all, because He will send them “so that” on them would come all the righteous blood shed on earth. This is stunning. This is not good news. Jesus will send prophets, wise men, and scribes to worsen the judgment upon the scribes and Pharisees, and yes, His people.

What are “these things?” to come upon this generation for these sins? Here is the next verse:

“O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it! How often would I have gathered your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you were not willing! See, your house is left to you desolate” (Matthew 23:37–38).

Desolation was coming to Jerusalem. It did in 70 A.D. Both the temple and Jerusalem were destroyed by the Romans.

Now, from our vantage point, let’s look at the disciples’ stupefying action that follows.

“And as he came out of the temple, one of his disciples said to him, ‘Look, Teacher, what wonderful stones and what wonderful buildings!’” (Mark 13:1).

This fellow had no clue what Jesus meant when He had just proclaimed judgment on Jerusalem. Some might say, “It had to be Peter. He was always putting his foot in his mouth.” I will not speak of Peter this way. He is my brother, and I will meet him someday. It is an arrogant statement, implying we do not lack discernment like him. We should keep in mind that Jesus said this about His disciples, including, obviously, Peter:

“Truly, I say to you, in the new world, when the Son of Man will sit on his glorious throne, you who have followed me will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel” (Matthew 19:28).

I rejoice and am humbled that Jesus, in spite of His disciples’ utter cluelessness about the words He spoke and knowing in advance they would not understand His proclamation about the destruction of Jerusalem (and many other things), chose these men regardless. He not only chose them as disciples but will seat them on thrones to judge Israel. His choosing had absolutely nothing to do with their ability to perceive spiritual truths.

Similarly, He chooses often clueless believers like you and me to minister in certain places and situations in which He places us. Don’t feel spiritual? It doesn’t matter, fellow believer. When He speaks, when He acts, it will come to pass. You and I get to witness it and participate in it, to see His glory revealed.

Jesus, thank You for Your marvelous mercy and grace. Please forgive us for our ignorance.

1Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

Gif courtesy Bing images.

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