Matthew 23, 29-31
Something to read
Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! because ye build the tombs of the prophets, and garnish the sepulchres of the righteous, And say, If we had been in the days of our fathers, we would not have been partakers with them in the blood of the prophets. Wherefore ye be witnesses unto yourselves, that ye are the children of them which killed the prophets.
King James Version
'Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you build the tombs of the prophets and decorate the graves of the righteous, and you say, "If we had lived in the days of our ancestors, we would not have taken part with them in shedding the blood of the prophets." Thus you testify against yourselves that you are descendants of those who murdered the prophets.'
New Revised Standard version
Something to think about
This is a form of hypocrisy that's not based on appearances. It's the idea that we can claim we would have acted differently from other people in certain circumstances, and the pride and self-righteousness that this entails.
Once again Jesus turns the tables, pointing out that the scribes and the Pharisees are 'descendants' of the wrongdoers. 'Children' in the KJV brings it closer still to us: to be 'the son of' someone in Semitic languages means to be like them.
Once again this teaching seems horribly close to home, particularly in our current blame culture. The younger generation blames their parents' generation for messing things up for them; a national leader or government claims that every crisis is the fault of their predecessors. We would have done things differently, they say. Would they? Given our shared sinfulness that seems unlikely.
As the time of Jesus' death approaches, his charge that the religious leaders are descendants of those who murdered the prophets seems almost insignificant by comparison with what these people themselves are about to do – murder the Messiah whose coming was proclaimed by those selfsame prophets.
Something to do
Write down the name of someone you know who has done something you would have done differently, for example a teacher or parent. Then list some people you don't know, such as bankers, government ministers, lawyers. Pray for them all.
Something to pray
Father, forgive us for our readiness to blame others for our own situation. Open our eyes to the opportunities we have to make things better for others as well as for ourselves.
Today's contributor is the Rev Dr Paula Clifford, Christian Aid's Head of Theology.