New Testament passage for Sunday, April 6, 2014: Luke 11:37-12:7
Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like graves which are not seen, and the men who walk over them are not aware of them.” Luke 11:44 (NKJV)
Jesus' Strongest Rebukes
Jesus was unrelenting and unflinching in His negative evaluation of outward, hypocritical religion. His words are scathing. The strongest rebukes of Jesus' ministry do not go to the Roman invaders, nor to the prostitutes and thieves. They go to the best people in town -- at least by outward appearance.
It's a warning to us. The Pharisees started out as sincere as anyone can be. They fell into a spiritual trap. They knew their Bible. They had spiritual mileage under their belts. They even felt they had sacrificed for their relationship with God.
The Fatal Flaw
But Jesus exposed their fatal flaw. They ceased trusting God and began trusting their own pedigree. As a result, they majored on...
Woe to you Pharisees! For you love the best seats in the synagogues and greetings in the marketplaces. Luke 11:43 (NKJV) The admiration of others became everything to them.
...the SINFUL (hidden)
Then the Lord said to him, “Now you Pharisees make the outside of the cup and dish clean, but your inward part is full of greed and wickedness. Luke 11:39 (NKJV) While looking pure on the outside, they carried dirt on the inside.
“But woe to you Pharisees! For you tithe mint and rue and all manner of herbs, and pass by justice and the love of God. These you ought to have done, without leaving the others undone. Luke 11:42 (NKJV) In Matthew 23:24, Jesus said it another way. The Pharisees "strained a gnat but swallowed a camel." It's called selective obedience.
When the Pharisee saw it, he marveled that He had not first washed before dinner. Luke 11:38 (NKJV) Ceremonial washings were symbolic of something deeper. If you separate the ritual from what it stands for, you are left with lifeless religion.
Clean and unclean were huge in Old Testament Judaism. In an endeavor to be the cleanest people in town, the Pharisees became the dirtiest. It was not outwardly obvious, but underneath the slick exterior was a stinky interior. Jesus said it was like an unmarked grave.
Old Testament law (Num. 19:11-22) stated that anyone touching a dead body or a grave became unclean -- unable to enter worship until ceremonially cleansed. The Pharisees were like a walking graveyard, defiling everything they touched.
We Need Cleansing
Have you ever stepped in dog dookie and didn't know it? The smell follows you around. That's something like the Pharisees' condition. They carried to stink of religion -- the smell of "unclean" -- all the while thinking they were the best people in town.
The answer to hypocritical religion is heart-felt relationship with God. Like David, we pray, "Cleanse me, and I will be clean; wash me, and I will be whiter than snow" (Ps. 51:7)