puzzles some new Christians that the Prince of Peace met with such opposition.
But, as we have seen, Christ places before us the Great Divide – and some will
choose to be on the side of sin.
when He had spoken, a Pharisee *asked Him to have lunch with him; and He went
in, and reclined at the table. When the
Pharisee saw it, he was surprised that He had not first ceremonially washed
before the meal. But the Lord said to him, "Now
you Pharisees clean the outside of the cup and of the platter; but inside of
you, you are full of robbery and wickedness. "You
foolish ones, did not He who made the outside make the inside also? "But give that which is within as charity, and then all
things are clean for you. "But woe to you
Pharisees! For you pay tithe of mint and rue and every kind of garden herb, and yet disregard justice and
the love of God; but these are the things you should have done without
neglecting the others. "Woe to you
Pharisees! For you love the chief seats in the synagogues and the respectful
greetings in the market places. "Woe to
you! For you are like concealed tombs, and the people who walk over them are unaware of it." One
of the lawyers *said to Him in reply, "Teacher, when You say this, You
insult us too." But He said, "Woe to you
lawyers as well! For you weigh men down with burdens hard to bear, while you
yourselves will not even touch the burdens with one of your fingers. "Woe to you! For you build the tombs of the prophets,
and it was your fathers who killed them. "So you are
witnesses and approve the deeds of your fathers; because it was they who killed
them, and you build their tombs. "For this reason also the wisdom of God said, 'I will
send to them prophets and apostles, and some of them they will kill and some they will persecute, so that the blood of all the prophets, shed since the
foundation of the world, may be charged against this generation, from the blood of Abel to the blood of Zechariah, who was
killed between the altar and the house of
God; yes, I tell you, it shall be charged
against this generation.' "Woe to you
lawyers! For you have taken away the key of knowledge; you yourselves did not
enter, and you hindered those who were entering." When He left
there, the scribes and the Pharisees began to be very hostile and to question
Him closely on many subjects, plotting against Him to catch Him in something He might say.
(Luk 11:37-54 NASB)
little background is necessary. We know from the customs of the time, which
were well documented, that Jesus and the Pharisee are returning from the
synagogue after morning prayers. It was customary to go to morning prayer
before breakfast; afterwards, a brunch. This is the meal to which the
Pharisee has invited him.
will see the word “reclined.” Tables were low and something like a couch was
brought up to them. You reclined on the couch and ate by taking things off the
table. Hence, “reclined.”
must not mistake the ceremonial washing here with your mother’s command to
“wash your hands before dinner.” Indeed, they would ask you why you’d get rid
of all that dirt. Washing meant a ritual cleansing, not a physical one. You
would dip your hands in a bowl, down to the wrist. You would then raise your
hands, and wait for the first drop of water from your elbow. Then you would
lower your hands and wait for the first drop of water from your fingertips. No
soap required. The concept of germs still lies some 1800 years into the
the lion’s den
may pause here for a question: If Jesus so disapproved of these people, why
did he go?
answer is that this is his mission – to seek and save the lost. If this
particular Pharisee is a devout man, then he will be blessed by the
presence of Christ. If he is a hypocrite, then he will be warned.
too, that this is a private conversation – not a debate in public. Jesus
wants to give them the chance to repent – without having to do it in
public. This is brunch with the poobahs.
danger, of course, is that Jesus could be co-opted into the Pharisees way of
thinking. Perhaps this was the purpose in asking him to brunch; they assumed
that the young firebrand could be straightened out better in private. Little
did they know….
of our best lessons come without words. By his actions here Jesus makes three
a man of God, he can go even into the hypocrite’s den. Courage is a
requirement for the Christian.
not washing, he rejects the additions of the ceremonial law.
so doing, he sets up his main illustration. His actions here are designed
to open the door for his words.
Center of the Argument
now goes to the heart of the matter. In effect, he says, “You think you are
religious, but you’re not. And because of the high position you have among
God’s people, your punishment for this will be far worse.” He then gets down
to specifics, announcing them with “woe to you.”
to you Pharisees
does Jesus pronounce woe upon them? Consider these three reasons:
they have separated worship from service. They are diligent about all the
ceremonial law, but do not act accordingly. Worship in the formal sense
shows what we should be doing as service during the week.
they love the praise of men – above the praise of God. “Good morning,
teacher” sounds better to them than “well done, good and faithful
of all is this: they spread their insidious corruption to others.
should note here that one of my sons is a lawyer. I was going to write a disclaimer
about this, but it would never get past legal review).
lawyers – experts in interpreting the Mosaic law – are the next in line. They
even stand up and ask for it. Christ brings three accusations against them,
by their authority they make the worship of God a great burden to others.
They drain the joy from worship and service.
yesteryear’s mistake is this year’s tradition. For example, we have
churches which refuse to use a piano for worship; the arguments of
yesteryear become the dogma which today divides the body of Christ.
they obscure the knowledge of God, making it difficult for ordinary men to
get – while not following it themselves.
fine and good, and I’m sure those hypocrites got what was coming to them – but
what’s that got to do with me today?
with today’s Pharisees
no mistake about it: this problem has not gone away. The Pharisees are ever
with us; they are the enemies of the faith from within the faith. So what
should we do about it?
that the problem is now, not just then.
do we recognize such people? By their fruits. If their piousness on
Sunday doesn’t match their dealings on Monday, the light should go on.
should therefore be cautious about accepting hospitality from such
people; there is the temptation to be polite and agree with them.
real danger is this: that they will co-opt you into their way of doing
things. When you feel the tug to “belong” but know that it is not right,
it’s time to leave.
test for Pharisees
thing is clear: these people really didn’t see the problem. They didn’t feel
guilty about being hypocrites. In fact, it felt good! So how would we test
ourselves to be sure that we are not going down their path?
you love the praise of other people? Do you like to have it said that
you’re a wonderful Christian?
you faithful on Sunday – but for the rest of the week you excuse yourself,
saying, “Some people just don’t understand what it takes to survive in
of all: are you always ready with good advice for other people? But have
difficulty accepting it yourself?
works of a Christian
his condemnation Christ gives us a list of things that we should be doing:
first is simply this: giving to the poor. It amazes me how many churches
see this as a low priority item – and how much emphasis Christ places on
second is similar, but more personal. We are to bear each other’s
burdens. If your Christian brother is in need, in pain, in sorrow, what
should you be doing?
all your dealings, be just. Be fair. Never try to skim off a little
extra, but provide all that is fair. Let it be said that a Christian
would never cheat someone.
of all: be loving. God loves us; we are his children; we should act
like we are in his family.