Let’s hop directly into Scripture today, turning Ezekiel 18:19-20:
19 “Yet you say, ‘Why should not the son suffer for the iniquity of the father?’ When the son has done what is just and right, and has been careful to observe all my statutes, he shall surely live. 20 The soul who sins shall die. The son shall not suffer for the iniquity of the father, nor the father suffer for the iniquity of the son. The righteousness of the righteous shall be upon himself, and the wickedness of the wicked shall be upon himself.
Sisco, based on that…will you be held accountable for what your dad has done?
Will your dad be held accountable for what you have done?
No, “The soul who sins shall die. The son shall not suffer for the iniquity of the father, nor the father suffer for the iniquity of the son.”
Keeping that in mind, let’s now read Luke 11:45-52 together:
45 One of the lawyers answered him, “Teacher, in saying these things you insult us also.” 46 And he said, “Woe to you lawyers also! For you load people with burdens hard to bear, and you yourselves do not touch the burdens with one of your fingers. 47 Woe to you! For you build the tombs of the prophets whom your fathers killed. 48 So you are witnesses and you consent to the deeds of your fathers, for they killed them, and you build their tombs. 49 Therefore also the Wisdom of God said, ‘I will send them prophets and apostles, some of whom they will kill and persecute,’ 50 so that the blood of all the prophets, shed from the foundation of the world, may be charged against this generation, 51 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. 52 Woe to you lawyers! For you have taken away the key of knowledge. You did not enter yourselves, and you hindered those who were entering.”
Who was going to be held accountable for “the blood of all the prophets, shed from the foundation of the world”?
See the problem? Well, at least the problem on the surface?
[ These are quick sermon notes…not cleaned-up…and missing the “extras” that come out in the audio (which is available here). All quotes are from the English Standard Version unless otherwise noted. ]
Why should “this generation” (when Jesus spoke the words) be held accountable for the sins of previous ones? How do we harmonize this with “The soul who sins shall die. The son shall not suffer for the iniquity of the father, nor the father suffer for the iniquity of the son”?
Here are some options to harmonize…
First, maybe we shouldn’t harmonize. For instance, Exodus 34:6-7 says:
6 The LORD passed before him and proclaimed, “The LORD, the LORD, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness, 7 keeping steadfast love for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, but who will by no means clear the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children and the children’s children, to the third and the fourth generation.”
Not only will a child pay for his father’s iniquity…but so will his kids and grandkids.
Is that a satisfactory explanation for “this generation” being held accountable for “the blood of all the prophets, shed from the foundation of the world”? That there is nothing to harmonize. That God makes the children pay for their ancestor’s bad behavior?
Not for me…and I would suggest that what we just read in Exodus has more to do with God making it clear that He is just (people aren’t allowed to get away with wrongs) and acknowledging that people do not sin on an island. For instance, we know that abusers often were abused themselves. Sin hurts. Sin infects. Sinful behaviors are passed from generation to generation.
So, can we all agree that option one…that we shouldn’t harmonize the apparent conflict between Ezekiel and Luke…shouldn’t be chosen? God is trustworthy; a God of contradictions would be far from that.
Our second option is that, in Luke, Jesus is just talking about timing. That things have culminated over many years, that the time of reckoning is here, and that “this generation” would see it. The exile to Babylon was a similar situation. You could say that the sins of Israel up to that point were “charged against this generation”…that is, the generation that experienced the exile.
And, based on looking at a bunch of commentaries, this seems to be the most commonly accepted explanation.
It does make sense, and the destruction of the temple in 70 A.D. was definitely a judgment based on a culmination of sins. If we look at the equivalent “this generation” in Matthew, along with what follows…it seems the best explanation:
34 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, 35 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. 36 Truly, I say to you, all these things will come upon this generation.
37 “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it! How often would I have gathered your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you were not willing! 38 See, your house is left to you desolate. 39 For I tell you, you will not see me again, until you say, ‘Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.’ ”
24 Jesus left the temple and was going away, when his disciples came to point out to him the buildings of the temple. 2 But he answered them, “You see all these, do you not? Truly, I say to you, there will not be left here one stone upon another that will not be thrown down” (Matthew 23:34-24:2).
Not only do I like “all these things will come upon this generation” better than “may be charged against this generation,” Matthew immediately goes into the upcoming destruction of the temple.
So…option 2 works…and if you were answering a test question on a test at a seminary…it’s what I’d recommend going with, but I’d like to offer one more option.
Let me ask you…was the destruction of the temple the biggest thing that happened to “this generation” that Jesus spoke to?
No. Something much larger. Something extremely more consequential.
Something we commemorate each week during the Lord’s Supper.
What if…as a twist to our option #2…the culmination wasn’t the destruction of the temple, but…
Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross?
49 Therefore also the Wisdom of God said, ‘I will send them prophets and apostles, some of whom they will kill and persecute,’ 50 so that the blood of all the prophets, shed from the foundation of the world, may be charged against this generation, 51 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 (Luke 11:49-51).
I mean, who really paid for all the sins that came before…and came after?
Jesus paid for “the blood of all the prophets, shed from the foundation of the world.” The punishment of the Jews in the first century didn’t. The destruction of the temple didn’t.
Jesus paid for their blood with His blood.
21 For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God (2 Corinthians 5:21).
Yes, the sins of Israel (and the world) had culminated…and “this generation” saw the results.
4 But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, 5 to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons (Galatians 4:4-5).
Right or wrong…option 3 came to mind when I woke up early in the morning and heard Johnny Cash, in an audio book of the New King James Version New Testament, speak of “this generation.”
I’d love to say I was an inspiration, but it’s more likely the random thoughts of a not-fully-rested mind. 🙂
However, I do think it’s worth consideration. In the end…Jesus is the culmination of everything. He took care of sin at His first coming. At His second, He will end sin once and forever.
Amen. Come Lord Jesus. (See Revelation 22:20.)