Charged with the Blood of Prophets

Luke 11:47-54
Rom 3: 21-30 / Psa 130

Alas for you lawyers who have taken away the key of knowledge! You have not gone in yourselves and have prevented others from going in who wanted to.
(Luke 11:52)

The sins our ancestors committed
The prophets paid for at the stake.
Woe to sinners who take for granted
The blood that they shed for our sake.

Jesus said: “Woe to you! You build the memorials of the prophets whom your ancestors killed! In this way you both witness to what your ancestors did and approve it; they did the killing, you do the building. That is why the Wisdom of God said, ‘I will send them prophets and apostles; some they will slaughter and persecute, so that this generation might be charged with the blood of all the prophets shed since the foundation of the world, from the blood of Abel to the blood of Zechariah, who perished between the altar and the Temple.’ Yes, I tell you, this generation will have to answer for it all. Woe to you, scholars of the law! You have taken away the key of knowledge! You have not gone in yourselves and have prevented others from going in who wanted to.” When He left there, the scribes and the Pharisees began a furious attack on Him and tried to force answers from Him on innumerable questions, lying in wait to catch Him out in something He might say. (Luke 11:47-54)


Being omniscient, Jesus was denouncing the scribes and Pharisees of His generation not only for the prophets that their ancestors had killed, but for the early Christian martyrs, including Himself, that He was prophesying these Jewish religious leaders would eventually persecute. The Pharisees and scribes claimed to be the traditional keepers of God’s laws, but in reality their main concern was to maintain the status quo, whereby the regulations and rules contained in the Talmud (that they themselves crafted) gave them power over the people. Jesus’ immediate concern was to free the people from the burden of these laws, thus earning the enmity of the religious elite of that generation. As Jesus foretold, they would have Him crucified, and His followers persecuted, jailed and murdered. And true to His words, the Jews in turn would be punished, because in the year AD 70, the city of Jerusalem would be destroyed by the Roman forces.

There is a lesson here for some of us who might consider ourselves “on the right path” just because we study the scriptures diligently, and go to mass daily, or hold positions of rank or authority in our church or community. Like the Pharisees who were very zealous in living their life according to a moral code, we can also become proud and self-assured. For instance, do we shun people who are not like us, just because they belong to another denomination, faith or community? Or are we only concerned about our own ‘spiritual growth’, never bothering to share God’s message of salvation to others? Do we make judgments about other people, and telling our associates to steer clear of them, or don’t believe what they are claiming “because they are corrupt” (based only on hearsay) or some such unfounded accusations? Then we are no different from the scribes that our Lord condemned, for “taking away the key of knowledge”. By our prejudice we fail to enter into a deeper understanding of God’s law of love, and we even prevent others from being enlightened. As leaders of our community, we must never forget that we will be held accountable for everything that we teach or reveal to those who are under our care. As our Lord Jesus said, “I tell you that on the day of judgment everyone will have to render an account for every careless word they have spoken. For by your words you will be acquitted, and by your words you will be condemned” (Matt.12:36-37).

Thank you, Lord for teaching us in today’s Gospel that we have a great responsibility in reaching out to others in spiritual assistance, just as you have been as generous to us in all the lessons that we have learned from You. Thank You for making us understand that our faith is not defined by rules and religious acts, but by Your grace alone. Amen.

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