Luke 11:37-54


“When Jesus had finished speaking, a Pharisee invited him to eat with him; so he went in and reclined at the table. But the Pharisee was surprised when he noticed that Jesus did not first wash before the meal. Then the Lord said to him, ‘Now then, you Pharisees clean the outside of the cup and dish, but inside you are full of greed and wickedness. You foolish people! Did not the one who made the outside make the inside also? But now as for what is inside you—be generous to the poor, and everything will be clean for you. Woe to you Pharisees, because you give God a tenth of your mint, rue and all other kinds of garden herbs, but you neglect justice and the love of God. You should have practiced the latter without leaving the former undone. Woe to you Pharisees, because you love the most important seats in the synagogues and respectful greetings in the marketplaces. Woe to you, because you are like unmarked graves, which people walk over without knowing it.’ One of the experts in the law answered him, ‘Teacher, when you say these things, you insult us also.’ Jesus replied, ‘And you experts in the law, woe to you, because you load people down with burdens they can hardly carry, and you yourselves will not lift one finger to help them. Woe to you, because you build tombs for the prophets, and it was your ancestors who killed them. So you testify that you approve of what your ancestors did; they killed the prophets, and you build their tombs. Because of this, God in his wisdom said, “I will send them prophets and apostles, some of whom they will kill and others they will persecute.” Therefore this generation will be held responsible for the blood of all the prophets that has been shed since the beginning of the world, from the blood of Abel to the blood of Zechariah, who was killed between the altar and the sanctuary. Yes, I tell you, this generation will be held responsible for it all. Woe to you experts in the law, because you have taken away the key to knowledge. You yourselves have not entered, and you have hindered those who were entering.’ When Jesus went outside, the Pharisees and the teachers of the law began to oppose him fiercely and to besiege him with questions, waiting to catch him in something he might say.” Luke 11:37-54 The praise of the people, the oohs and awes in the streets, the best seats in the synagogue, the acclaim, the respect, even the disdain they felt because the crowds did not keep the law quite so perfectly, was what the Pharisees loved. They even counted their herbs and salad fixings so as to tithe on them. These outside trappings were what the job meant to the Pharisees and teachers of the law. They knew they were the embodiment of the law. They knew they were the standard for the religious community. Just look at them, perfectly groomed, perfectly dressed; they even washed their hands the exact right way.

Oh yes, they had it all together. The Pharisees and teachers of the law were one incredible gift to the world. They knew it, and they loved it.

One of those Pharisees ask invited Jesus to have dinner with him. And you know what, Jesus came. Lovely, dine with Jesus, an intimate moment with the One who humbly healed the sick, cured the lame, brought sight to the blind, opened deaf ears. This was a rare moment with a most important Guest. This was a time to sit at His feet and soak in the wisdom of the ages. Jesus had come to fellowship with them. What a glorious moment. But…this dinner was interrupted by this Pharisee’s first thought. Whoa, Jesus did not give His hands a ceremonial washing. The Creator of the Universe was seated at his table and that was what this Pharisee cared about? Jesus knew his heart. Jesus knew the hearts of every other Pharisee and teacher of the law sitting there. And Jesus did not speak words of affirmation. He did not say, “Well done good and faithful servant.” Jesus said, “Woe to you!” Woe to you for cleaning the outside of the cup and missing being cleansed on the inside. Woe to you for tithing on salad and neglecting justice and the love of God. Woe to you for the heavy burden of law and no room for helping to lift the burden. Woe to you. Woe to you. Are we any different? Do we sit down to the table in our church services and our first thoughts are about the music we don’t like or the worship team’s a little off, or the pastor doesn’t look quite so pastoral. Do we miss the intimacy with Jesus because we are consumed with the outside and not the heart? What are the words Jesus is speaking to us?

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