In their hypocritical religious exercises, the scribes and Pharisees built up the tombs of the prophets, and garnished the sepulchers of righteous men.  All the while they boasted that, had they lived in the days of their fathers, they would not have joined with them in the murder of the prophets.  Christ turns this idle boast against them, telling them that they are tacitly acknowledging themselves to be the children, not of the prophets, but of those who killed the prophets.  Therefore, they would fill up the measure of their fathers.  There seems to be a prophetic note about this utterance, which would tragically come to pass when they plotted and perpetrated the murder of the Lord Jesus, and then persecuted with great violence the apostles and the early church.

What a dreadful word is this with which the blessed Lord closes His denunciations of the religious hypocrites!  “Ye serpents, ye generation of vipers, how can ye escape the damnation of hell?”  Is there hope for such stony-hearted hypocrites?  Such cases are dreadful indeed, and truly it is rare to see a person so hardened in hypocrisy and religious formality ever rescued from their dreadful condition.  The great problem is that they think they are satisfying God through their external observations, even when their hearts and private practices are nothing but an ocean of sinful corruption.  But, it must be iterated before passing on, that even the vilest of hypocrites is not without hope so long as there is a living Saviour reigning in heaven.  If ever the hypocrite is brought to acknowledge that he is a fake and an impostor, if ever he is brought to realize that his religious forms are unacceptable before the throne of God, and he is brought to cast himself into the dust and revile himself as a hateful sinner, then there is hope for that person.  The Lord Jesus came to call sinners to repentance.  The great issue with the hypocrite is that he does not acknowledge himself a sinner needing to be cleansed by the precious blood of Christ.  But if ever the Spirit of God grants him to see himself as God sees him, then he will abhor himself and repent in dust and ashes.  Every other hope of the hypocrite shall perish.  But if ever he bethink himself of his sins, abandon his hypocrisy and turn to Christ, he will find that there is salvation even for such a vile one as he.