Luke 11:37-54

37When Jesus had finished speaking, a Pharisee invited him to eat with him; so he went in and reclined at the table. 38But the Pharisee, noticing that Jesus did not first wash before the meal, was surprised.

39Then 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. 40You foolish people! Did not the one who made the outside make the inside also? 41But give what is inside the dish to the poor, and everything will be clean for you.

42"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.

43"Woe to you Pharisees, because you love the most important seats in the synagogues and greetings in the marketplaces.

44"Woe to you, because you are like unmarked graves, which men walk over without knowing it."

45One of the experts in the law answered him, "Teacher, when you say these things, you insult us also."

46Jesus 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.

47"Woe to you, because you build tombs for the prophets, and it was your forefathers who killed them. 48So you testify that you approve of what your forefathers did; they killed the prophets, and you build their tombs. 49Because 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.' 50Therefore this generation will be held responsible for the blood of all the prophets that has been shed since the beginning of the world, 51from 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.

52"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."

53When Jesus left there, the Pharisees and the teachers of the law began to oppose him fiercely and to besiege him with questions, 54waiting to catch him in something he might say.

The Pharisees - the definition by Strong's Concordance: "A sect that seems to have started after the Jewish exile. In addition to OT books the Pharisees recognised in oral tradition a standard of belief and life. They sought for distinction and praise by outward observance of external rites and by outward forms of piety, and such as ceremonial washings, fastings, prayers, and alms giving; and, comparatively negligent of genuine piety, they prided themselves on their fancied good works. They held strenuously to a belief in the existence of good and evil angels, and to the expectation of a Messiah; and they cherished the hope that the dead, after a preliminary experience either of reward or of penalty in Hades, would be recalled to life by him, and be requited each according to his individual deeds. In opposition to the usurped dominion of the Herods and the rule ofthe Romans, they stoutly upheld the theocracy and their country's cause, and possessed great influence with the common people. According to Josephus they numbered more than 6000." (emphasis added)

It is easy for us to read Jesus' scathing words to the Pharisees, walk away with a feeling of contempt towards this group, and fail to ask ourselves whether we might possibly have any pharisaic tendencies that need to be put to death. Surely one of the reasons why so much space in the Gospel accounts is given to confrontations between Jesus and the Pharisees is that the Lord knew there would be many "religious" people in every age who define holiness primarily, if not entirely, in terms of the particular things they do and don't do. In light of Jesus' words in this last section of Luke 11, let us examine ourselves, lest we find that we are among such people.

Characteristics Of Those Who Seek For, And Are Content With, An External Holiness

1. They are shocked by the works and words of Jesus (vv. 37-38).

Of course, the ways of Jesus are such that he can make anyone uncomfortable - even his most devoted disciples. But the point here is that those who have "set aside the Word of God for the sake of their tradition" (Mark 7:9) will not only find that Christ's ways are totally foreign to them, but are even offensive.

2. They pay no attention to the true state of their hearts (vv. 39-40).

The Pharisee's attention on surface behaviours and observations made them forget about "the greed and wickedness" that filled their hearts. They had not reflected on those Old Testament scriptures that give God's verdict on the universal depravity of humanity (2 Ch 6:36; Ps 14:2-3; Prov 20:9; Ecc 7:20; Isa 64:6). No external performance on the part of the Pharisees could change this fact.

3. They do not give of themselves to those in need, and thus do not truly love God (v. 41, 42, 46).

"Give what is inside the dish to the poor, and everything will be clean for you" (v. 41). Jesus is not suggesting that people can gain favour with God by meeting the needs of the poor; rather, he means that these kinds of actions will reveal one's true piety towards God, and will give her much assurance in her relationship to God (1 Jn 3:17-23; 2 Pe 1:5-9).

The fact that the Pharisees paid no attention to the plight of the less fortunate around them meant that they had no true love for God: "For anyone who does not love his brother, whom he has seen, cannot love God, whom he has not seen" (1 Jn 4:20).The ways in which the Pharisees' lack of love towards people revealed itself was that they neglected seeking justice for those who were oppressed (v. 42) and refused to help people who were seeking to be right with God (v. 46).

4. They love attention and prominence, and their search for these reflects their great pride (v. 43).

Contrast this with Jesus' injunction in Lk 14:7-11.

5. They have no true spiritual life in them (v. 44).

"There is a way that seems right to a man (in this case, scrupulously following fine detailed man-made commands having their origins in God's Law), but in the end it leads to death" (Pr 14:12).

6. They have murder in their hearts for all who speak God's truth (vv. 47-51, 53-54).

When people align themselves with the actions of others who have killed God's people, this is tantamount to having killed them themselves. This is what Christ accuses the Pharisees and law-teachers of doing as a result of building tombs for past prophets.

7. They are a stumbling block not only to other people's pursuits of wisdom, but their own as well (v. 52).

Discussion Question: In what ways can we grow in Christlike character so that we truly become more...

a) self-examining?
b) self-sacrificing?
c) humble?
d) spiritual?
e) teachable?
f) encouraging to truth-seekers?