“You build tombs for the Prophets and decorate the graves of the righteous ...” (Matthew 23:29-33)

“Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You build tombs for the Prophets and decorate the graves of the righteous. And you say, 'If we had lived in the days of our forefathers, we would not have taken part with them in shedding the blood of the Prophets.' So you testify against yourselves that you are the descendants of those who murdered the Prophets. Fill up, then, the measure of the sin of your forefathers! You snakes! You brood of vipers! How will you escape being condemned to hell?” (Matthew 23:29-33)

Jesus and the Prophets

Jesus is pointing out that many of God's representatives that preceded Jesus - "//www.realteachingsofjesus.com/2011/05/teachers-of-law-and-pharisees-sit-in.html" - were murdered or otherwise persecuted by the same institution that was criticizing Jesus - and would eventually try him.

According to Jesus' statement, these Prophets were murdered by the forefathers of some of those same institutionalists who were proud of their worship of these Prophets.

From this statement, we can see that Jesus is quite upset about this. Why was Jesus so upset? Why did Jesus say such terrible things about these institutional temple teachers and officials who were supposedly worshiping the same Prophets that Jesus followed and quoted?

Because they were offending these Prophets with their lives and their teachings. Jesus is upset because of his love for the Prophets, and because these teachers and Pharisees were supposedly representing the teachings of the Prophets, but they were actually taking advantage of their titles and positions, and becoming wealthy and powerful on the backs of their temple followers.

While Jesus recognizes that they outwardly did not condone the murder of Prophets by their forefathers, Jesus sees that they are continuing the tradition of their forefathers by condemning Jesus, which eventually led to the murder of Jesus' body.

They were threatened by Jesus' teachings

This was because they felt threatened by Jesus' teachings. Why were they threatened by Jesus' teachings, which we know by Jesus' constant quoting of scripture, strictly followed the teachings of the Prophets? Because Jesus threatened their positions of authority amongst their temple followers. Jesus questioned and criticized their teachings, their devotion to God and their very authority to represent the Prophets.

This is the very same equation that occurs repeatedly within the physical world. In His mercy, God sends His loving servants to the earth in an effort to bring us home to Him. His representative tries to teach us to love and serve God, showing us by example how to devote our lives to Him.

And what happens? Those who occupy those positions of power who feel threatened by God's representative persecute them in an attempt to retain their authority. We can see this occurred not only in Jesus' life, but also in Jesus' teacher, John the Baptist's life, and so many other saintly persons before and after them.

Jesus is pointing out that this act is the most heinous act of all: To murder the body of one of God's loving servants. And Jesus is very upset that not only are these institutional temple teachers the descendants of those who have killed God's representatives, but they are proud of their positions of power while feeling threatened by Jesus: This is the ultimate in hypocrisy, as Jesus indicates.

So we must ask: How did these institutional temple teachers and officials gain their positions of authority, since as we see from Jesus' remarks, they were not true followers of the Prophets?

Political appointment

They gained their positions by appointment - through politics. By impressing the councils that appointed teachers amongst the institutional temple, these teachers gained their positions. They did not, as Jesus did with John the Baptist, submit themselves to one of God's representatives who had submitted themselves to one of God's representatives within a lineage of devotion. They did not commit their lives to the service of God without compensation, title or any pomp and circumstance as Jesus did, John did, and Jesus' disciples did. They were appointed by a council of men and embraced their paid positions together with their flowing robes and began to exert authority over their followers.

As Jesus, John the Baptist and all the Prophets before them, the representative of God is not given authority by a council, and elected through political process. God's representative is empowered and chosen by God, after they submit themselves to one of God's representatives. Here they learn from God's representative, and then commit themselves to passing on the teachings of God's representative as empowered by God.

Jesus illustrated this process by example as he took baptism (a ceremony representing becoming a disciple) from John, and then took students and disciples on himself. Jesus then sent his disciples off to teach, just as he had. These are not coincidences. This is how God's empowerment works: Connection with God is gained by pleasing His loving servant and establishing a loving relationship with God - not through a political process among councils.

And previous to Jesus' disciples, Jesus and John the Baptist, we find many other instances of this student-teacher relationship among the Prophets, including Samuel and Eli, David and Samuel, Solomon and David, Joshua and Moses, Abraham and Melchizedek and many others. All of these Prophets were first students who pleased and became enlightened by their teacher, and then were empowered by God (via a personal loving relationship with Him) to represent Him. None of them were elected by political councils.

Profiting on the backs of followers?

Today we find amongst those who supposedly represent Jesus, the same ecclesiastical systems of gaining authority found amongst the institutional temple teachers and officials that Jesus is criticizing here. We find preachers, priests, ministers, reverends, popes, bishops and others all elected to their positions. We find them paid for their services just as the Pharisees were paid. They drive around in their big cars (and pope-mobiles) and live in big houses, paid for by those who innocently attend their churches and give tithings.

In some cases, we find charismatic ministers, reverends and priests who earn millions of dollars every year from their ministries and indulge in many luxuries from salaries paid for by their ecclesiastical organizations that trick people to donate money with their prayer towers and prayer handkerchiefs. Like wolves, they prey on unfortunate people who believe that if the reverend prays for them, they will receive relief from their suffering.

And do they teach what Jesus taught? Do they teach love for God and doing God's will? No. They teach that we can pray to Jesus to gain wealth, health and a good job. They teach that Jesus can give us power and prestige. They teach that we can live it up as long as we come back to their church on Sunday and "be saved" by the depictions of the persecution of Jesus' body.

Is this what Jesus taught? Think again. The sad yet ludicrous thing is that the very same hypocrisy that Jesus was criticizing in this statement is now taking place in the name of Jesus.

Jesus never taught us to pray to him to get wealthy, or to get our leg fixed or get a great job. Jesus taught:
“Not everyone who says to me ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.” (Matt. 7:21)
Jesus also taught, just as Moses taught:
"Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.'" (Mark 12:30)
This teaching is, according to Jesus, "The most important one," (Mark 12:29) and precisely what the prophet Moses also taught - illustrating how the pure spiritual teachings were passed down through this succession of spiritual teachers:
"Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength." (Deut. 6:5)