Luke 11:47-51 – Jesus Rebukes the Scribes
Opening Thoughts: I want to open up tonight by talking about the “180 Movie”, I find that it goes hand in hand with my text. First of all if you have not watched 180movie.com I encourage you to do so as soon as you’re through reading this post. In 180 Movie Ray Comfort interviews several people in regard to the holocaust. One question he asks people is “Do you think that Hitler was a bad guy or a good guy?” Most of the people answered “bad guy”, after all it’s not rocket science to agree with that statement right? Most of the people interviewed saw the holocaust as horrific and felt that even the common people who were brainwashed by Hitler into thinking Jews were not humans were just as guilty as he was. Many of them said that if they had been there and had been asked to bulldoze a pile of corpses into a mass grave at gun point, knowing there were still several of them who were alive in the pile, they would have never done it. In essence they were saying that if it had been them living at that time they would have been better people then the citizens of Germany. Ray Comfort then flips the scenario and asks the people interviewed how they feel about the issue of abortion? He asks them if they feel that it should be a woman’s choice? Most of the people answered with an absolute “Yes” and expressed that it should be a woman’s choice because, “Who are we to tell a woman what she has to do with her body?” He then asks the pivotal question, “Do you think it’s a baby in the womb?” The reason this question is so important is that if you do believe it’s a baby in the womb, despite our educators telling us it’s just a clump of cells, yet you still advocate abortion then you are just as guilty as the Nazis and the Germans who endorsed the killing of the Jews. You see how easy it is to see the sins of the past and say that you would never do anything like that? Yet you can be blind to your own sin which might literally be an exact replica of those from the past whom you condemned. This is exactly what Jesus accuses the Pharisees of in Luke and Matthew.
Luke 11:47-51 ESV .. Woe to you! For you build the tombs of the prophets whom your fathers killed. So you are witnesses and you consent to the deeds of your fathers, for they killed them, and you build their tombs. Therefore also the Wisdom of God said, ‘I will send them prophets and apostles, some of whom they will kill and persecute,’ so that the blood of all the prophets, shed from the foundation of the world, may be charged against this generation, from the blood of Abel to the blood of Zechariah, who perished between the altar and the sanctuary. Yes, I tell you, it will be required of this generation.
Matthew 23:29-36 ESV … “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. You serpents, you brood of vipers, how are you to escape being sentenced to hell? 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.
Your Fathers Killed the Prophet’s & You Make Monuments for Them: The forefathers of the Pharisees and Scribes had killed almost every Godly prophet that had come their way. In fact Jesus says right from Abel through to Zechariah, all of them were killed by their own, namely because they were obedient to the Lord and the message they preached was hard to hear. The Prophet’s of old were serious about God’s messages, they were continually calling people out on sin and commanding them to repent and flee the wrath to come and to run into the arms of grace. The forefathers hated these hard messages and to numb conviction they would have the true prophets killed. This is what they would say to them:
Isaiah 30:9-12 ESV .. For they are a rebellious people, lying children, children unwilling to hear the instruction of the LORD; who say to the seers, “Do not see,” and to the prophets, “Do not prophesy to us what is right; speak to us smooth things, prophesy illusions, leave the way, turn aside from the path, let us hear no more about the Holy One of Israel.” Therefore thus says the Holy One of Israel.
The Scribes and Pharisees in Jesus day had built large monuments and tombs to remember the true prophets of old that were killed by their forefathers. Just like how the people in the 180 Movie said they would have never killed the Jews like the Nazis did, nor condoned it like the rest of the nation at the time, these religious leaders said “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.” … Jesus tells them that they would have and to prove it He said to them, “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”. How does this relate to us?
Men of Old Persecuted: I venture to say that many people reading this post will know who George Whitefield is. George was one of the men responsible for the great awakening. This mighty vessel in the hand of his Master endured much persecution and was in perils often, but he rejoiced in being counted worthy to suffer for his Lord. He said, “I was honored to have rotten eggs and dead cats thrown at me as I preached Christ.” It was the way his Master went, should not His servants go that way as well?
Charles Haddon Spurgeon: One of the most powerful preachers of all time, he is even called the prince of preachers, however during his lifetime he was scorned and mocked to an unbearable degree. Some of his persecution came from the world but much of it came from the church leaders of the day. During his early years in London, Spurgeon received intense slander and scorn. In 1881 he could look back at those years and say, “If I am able to say in very truth, `I was buried with Christ thirty years ago,’ I must surely be dead. Certainly the world thought so, for not long after my burial with Jesus I began to preach his name, and by that time the world thought me very far gone, and said, `He stinketh.’ They began to say all manner of evil against the preacher; but the more I stank in their nostrils the better I liked it, for the surer I was that I was really dead to the world.” At the time, however, Spurgeon wavered between rejoicing in such persecution and being crushed by it. In 1857 he wrestled with his feelings: “Down on my knees have I often fallen, with the hot sweat rising from my brow under some fresh slander poured upon me; in an agony of grief my heart has been well-nigh broken…This thing I hope I can say from my heart: If to be made as the mire of the streets again, if to be the laughing stock of fools and the song of the drunkard once more will make me more serviceable to my Master, and more useful to his cause, I will prefer it to all this multitude, or to all the applause that man could give.”
One night Spurgeon was preaching a series of meetings in the Surrey Hall, capable of holding up to twelve thousand, this night it was overflowing with an additional ten thousand people in the gardens. The service was underway when, during Spurgeon’s prayer, several people (intending to destroy the work) shouted, “Fire! The galleries are giving way!” In the ensuing panic, seven people died and twenty-eight were hospitalized with serious injuries. Spurgeon, totally undone, was literally carried from the pulpit and taken to a friend’s house where he stayed for several days in deep depression. Later he remarked, “Perhaps never a soul went so near the burning furnace of insanity, and yet came away unharmed.” At last he found comfort in the verse, “Wherefore God hath highly exalted him, and given him a name that is above every name.” Spurgeon was but a soldier; the Lord was the captain of the host, hence victory was assured. Yet until Spurgeon’s death, the spectre of the calamity so brooded over him that a close friend and biographer surmised: “I cannot but think, from what I saw, that his comparatively early death might be in some measure due to the furnace of mental suffering he endured on and after that fearful night.”
One pastor in the same town as Spurgeon wrote this in a local newspaper “I have my doubts of the divine reality of his conversion”. They often commented on his physical appearance referring that he was homely, one newspaper clipping said “his forehead is low and his eyes are small”. Others said he was “short and thick”, and the reason he grew a beard was to cover his face because of all the personal ridicule he took over his appearance. When speaking of his preaching many leaders called him an actor, “that he has shot up like a rocket and will come down like a stick”. They accused him of pulpit buffoonery and ludicrous interpretations of scripture. Spurgeon’s wife wrote in his autobiography after he passed away “no defense of my beloved is needed now, God has taken him to Himself“. She also said “I have even smiled once again, the unjust and cruel words written by his enemies for he is so safe now with God eternally shut in, and I can bless the Lord for the suffering all ended”
Spurgeon and Whitefield are not the only ones to have been persecuted, Jonathon Edwards suffered persecution for preaching “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God”, and many other great men of the faith that preached a message hard to hear. Jesus compared Himself to Jonah in that He was also calling people to repentance and salvation. Jesus Himself preached a hard message that many local “pastors” and church goers in His day did not like.
Matthew 5:11-12 ESV … “Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.
The Application: So maybe you’re wondering how bringing up the preachers of the past reflects and relates to us and what Jesus was saying to the Pharisees? Well, Jesus accused the Pharisees in His day of stating that they would never have shed the blood of the true prophets if they had been there themselves. He accused them of building monuments of honor to these dead prophets who were murdered by their forefathers, while at the same time they were persecuting and murdering the current prophets that He had sent them once again, speaking namely of Himself and John the Baptist and the future disciples to come.
After reading about some of the past preachers that we respect and love today, who through persecution contended for the faith, do you have the same thoughts as the Pharisees had? If I had lived in the day of Charles Spurgeon I would have never persecuted him like that? Is there other men of the faith today that you have been guilty of scrutinizing simply because their message made you uncomfortable? What about Whitefield who was one of the greatest open-air preachers of the past, would you have mocked him for hitting the streets and preaching a hard message of sin, hell and repentance accompanied by the gospel of grace? Maybe you say you wouldn’t have, but have you criticized others for preaching on the streets, for handing out tracts, for witnessing to strangers, maybe even calling them unloving for warning people of the wrath to come?
Just the other day I heard of a group of missionaries who are over in Nepal open air preaching, and in one of the towns at about the middle of the message the crowd turned into a mob and attacked them, they were beaten with two-by-fours, sticks and stones, they narrowly escaped with their lives. The very next day these courageous men went to another town to proclaim the gospel. Guess what, instead of encouraging them there are many Christians who are criticizing them for preaching on the streets. If Peter, Paul, Timothy, James and John hadn’t hit the streets you and I would still be lost. Maybe you say you wouldn’t have critiqued and scrutinized Edwards for preaching “sinners in the hands of an angry God” yet perhaps you criticize any one who would preach that God is a God of anger because it doesn’t fit into your LOVE saturated view of Him. You know the “Jesus is your Boyfriend” motto… Yes, God is LOVE, He is also Holy and Just and Good; failing to warn people of their tragic fate is to seriously mess up the Gospel. Would you lure a child off the street with a lollipop as a car is bearing down on them? No! You would YELL and warn them of the danger and exert all your energy as you run and attempt to snatch them from the jaws of death, if they resist your rescue efforts, they will surely die! But if they recognize their fatal situation they will leap into your loving arms of salvation and be saved from the destruction of the vehicle. The “God is Love” message is only Good News if we first realize that we are in the direct line of a fire and He is our only HOPE.
Final Thoughts: I am eternally grateful for the Paul Washer’s, Ray Comfort’s, John Piper’s, Matt Chandler’s, Francis Chan’s and many more of our day who have boldly proclaimed the message in spite of the heat that they have received, may God receive the glory He so richly deserves. Let every one of us examine our lives to make sure we have not been shooting our own prophets with one breath while we exalt the dead ones with another breath. Let us not be guilty of the same sins as the blind Pharisees. Grace & Peace
Preparing The Way
~ Shane Martin