Luke 11:37-54

Read Luke 11:37-54
Jesus never had anything good to say about the Pharisees. As we observe him moving through his earthly life, his ministry intensifies, especially when he relates to the Jewish religious leaders. There were a variety of ranks and factions in the leadership, but together the Pharisees, Rabbis, Lawyers, and Scribes, represented the Jewish rulers in the time of Christ. Luke 11 records Jesus calling out the hidden sins and grievous errors in their hearts.

When a Pharisee invited Jesus to share lunch, Jesus went in and reclined at a table. Noticing that Jesus had not performed the ceremonial washing before the meal, the Pharisee was surprised. But even before the ruler spoke, Jesus rebuked his thoughts. He spoke clearly, ‘You Pharisees clean the outside of the cup and platter; but inside you are full of robbery and wickedness.’ The outside may have looked clean and holy, but inside their hearts were dirty. We too live in an ‘outside matters’ culture. Whether it’s our homes, our bodies, our children, our marriage, or our jobs, we desire for it all to look good and be ‘cleaned up’ on the outside. The opportunity for self-promotion is at an all-time high as social media allows us to be known without really being known at all. We can give impressions that present only our best life, easily displaying a few minutes of our best life and then hiding other parts of our day.

Jesus continues by mentioning issues of compassion and justice. He remarks that the Pharisees gave just enough of their earthly resources to pay their required tithe, while neglecting those who were truly in need. Continuing to expose them, Jesus then speaks to their desire to be regarded highly and honored in the markets and in the temple. Their position was misused and instead of lifting others up, it was used for self-promotion. The Pharisees were extremely skilled at looking and acting holy, and while many people were unaware of their motives, Jesus was not impressed. We also notice that Jesus links compassion and justice directly to available resources. Both the use of our money and our time reveal what we value and how intentionally we care for others. Perhaps we can pray and ask God who we might be ‘neglecting’.

A lawyer who had been listening finally spoke up and exclaimed that Jesus was insulting them. Unmoved, Jesus then confronts the specific sin of the lawyers- writing and imposing an increasing number of laws and ordinances for the Jews to follow. Jesus called these ‘hard burdens to bear’, burdens that even the Pharisees were not observing. This is hypocrisy, expecting others to observe rules that we ourselves do not follow. Our expectations of others can be spoken or unspoken and may place heavy burdens on those we love the most.  

The thought that we resemble the Pharisees may be disconcerting to us. But it is actually grace to us. It is grace, because Jesus sees us as we really are, and knows our hearts. He recognizes our desire for others do life the way we do it, he sees the ways we yearn to be admired and esteemed, and he knows our inclination to indulge our resources on ourselves, and our tendency to neglect the needy. It is grace to us, that in spite of his complete knowledge of our hearts, Jesus meets us with unending love. His word leads us to a life of honesty, humility, and serving others.
Linda Miller | Ministry Development

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