Luke 11:37-54 Woes On The Scribes, Pharisees, And Lawyers.

Given what Jesus has said concerning the leadership of Israel, it seems surprising that a Pharisee would invite Him to his house for meal (v. 37). In keeping with their preoccupation with outward ceremonies, the Pharisee is disturbed by Jesus bypassing the act of washing before dinner (v. 38). This seems to be a tradition they had, which was of higher concern to them than the law of God, in some cases using their tradition to reject God’s law (Cf. Mt. 15:1-20; Mk. 7:1-23). They lacked integrity. Where our outward behaviour should reflect our core or the heart, mind, and conscience of who we are, for those following these manmade traditions, they went to great lengths to wash the outside while inside they were contaminated with all sorts of corruptions (v. 39 Cf. Gen. 6:5; Mt. 23:25; Titus 1:15). But as Jesus said, He who made the outside made the inside also (v. 40 Cf. Gen. 1:26-27). Giving from the heart to help others was far more important, and in keeping with God’s revealed will (v. 41 Cf. Is. 58:7; Dan. 4:27; Lk. 12:33; 16:9).

To this condition Jesus pronounces His woes (Cf. 6:24-26). Tithing certain herbs was fine, but not to the neglect of “justice and the love of God” (v. 42 Cf. Jn. 5:42), or as Matthew has it, “the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faith” (23:23). This echoes the message of the prophets. Hosea emphasized mercy and the knowledge of God (6:6), and Micah pointed to justice, mercy, and humility before God (6:8). This knowledge and love of God and humility before Him, goes hand in hand with justice, mercy, and compassion. However, when it came to the Pharisees they exchanged humility for pride, desiring the “best seats in the synagogues and greetings in the marketplaces” (v. 43 Cf. 20:45-47; Mt. 23:6-7; Mk. 12:38-40). The scribes and Pharisees were like graves with people not aware that death was inside them (v. 44 Cf. Mt. 23:27; Ps. 5:9). The lawyers sensed that they were as guilty as the scribes and Pharisees, but instead of absolving them, Jesus has some special woes for them (v. 45).

The lawyers were guilty of multiplying burdens on people without offering assistance, and who built tombs for the prophets whom their fathers had killed (vv. 46-47 Cf. Mt. 23:4, 29; Acts 7:52), they thus bore witness against themselves (v. 48). Therefore, God in His wisdom was bringing on that generation the judgment of all those leaders in apostate Israel down through the ages, who rejected God’s holy and infallible word, “from the blood of Abel to the blood of Zechariah who perished between the altar and the temple” (vv. 49-51 Cf. Gen. 4:8; II Chr. 24:20-21; 36:16). This whole section of woes is in effect and in reality, the Lord’s covenant lawsuit against an apostate leadership and people (Cf. Dt. 28:15ff.). “Moreover all these curses shall come upon you and pursue and overtake you, until you are destroyed, because you did not obey the voice of the LORD your God, to keep His commandments and His statutes which He commanded you. And they shall be upon you for a sign and a wonder, and on your descendants forever” (Dt. 28:45-46).

“Yes, I say to you, it shall come upon this generation” (v. 51). In rejecting Jesus, that generation was also rejecting the law and the prophets which spoke of Him. In doing this they had taken away “the key of knowledge”, not entering themselves they also hindered others from doing so. “Through their traditional interpretation of the law, the “lawyers” had made it impossible for ordinary people to understand the true meaning of the law. The Pharisees and lawyers themselves also used their traditions to evade the demands of the law (cf. Mark 7:5-13).” (NGSB, p. 1629) Sadly, this same process happens with those who operate with faulty methods of bible study or biblical hermeneutics. Not surprisingly, the scribes and Pharisees didn’t like what they were hearing and began to cross-examine “to catch Him in something He might say, that they might accuse Him” (v. 54). Rather than answer His examination of them, in their pride they presumed to sit in judgment on Him. Once again we see that with Jesus there really is no neutral ground.

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