Let's take a look at the Pharisees and notice a couple of interesting things about them.
Reading through some passages the other day, as we were preparing for one of the ABC classes and we were talking about as the Israelites were carted off into captivity, we were finishing up in the Kings and looking at some of the historical consequences for what they had been through. And of course, the same eventually happened to Judah, as well. As we were looking at that, eventually what happened was they came back out of Babylon. Now the Israelites got this first all over, but the Jews eventually had the opportunity to come back. And as they came back, they were faced with some very difficult problems, because there was no longer a temple. How can a good Jew worship without the temple? So it created a problem. How were they going to do that? How did they do that as they were dispersed? Well, they began to develop this system of the synagogues, but the issue still was that they didn't have a priesthood that could perform all the sacrifices. So as they tried to sort through “how can we worship God properly?”, they had to come to a way of striving to do that without a temple.
So a couple of interesting groups began to develop. One of them, of course, was the Pharisees. And as they came back, they began to develop, because they wanted to be sure that what happened under Antiochus Epiphanies would never happen again – that they would never, ever fall into idol worship, that these pagan customs would never become a part of their culture. So it's interesting that, as the Pharisaical system developed, there became different groups of them. So you had the Shammai, who were very, very strict, and the Hillel were a very bit more liberal in their interpretation of the Torah. You had the Haberean. They would be the ones that washed very, very carefully and were very strict on those kind of things. Of course, we're probably familiar with the Zealots – those that were probably well known in their view as far as Masada and defending the faith and those kind of things. Then there were the Herodians who were taken in by supporting the government.
And so, as you look at these different groups, it was an interesting array of interpretations of God's way and how they should worship. Of course overall, because they didn't want this infection from other paganism involved in the true worship of God, they came up with a system in order to be sure that they didn't fall into that. So they wanted to separate themselves, especially from pagan worship. Sometimes they wanted to separate themselves from the influence of the Romans and the Greeks. And so that's where the word Pharisee comes from. It means to separate, pharaz means to separate. So what does that lead you to when you have to decide something, whether this is an honor to God or not? We have to make a choice on this and are there grey areas? We see for a Pharisee, no, I think in terms of black and white, there's not much grey area. Now when you begin to think of things in terms of black and white, then you begin to act judgmentally, because it's either right or wrong and if it's not right, it has to be wrong. There's nothing in-between. And who decides whether it's right or wrong? Well the Pharisees decide whether it's right or wrong. They're the ones that get to choose. So they were also known as the pious ones. The pious ones – the Hasidaens – were the pious ones because they were the ones that said the priests, this more of a religious political type of system, grew out of those coming back from the Babylonian captivity. So they became very, very strict in their interpretation of the word of God and of course by the time we get to Christ, you know things had been going on probably for a couple hundred years as this system was developing and the temple being rebuilt and things like that. It was an interesting array of characters that Christ came in contact with and yet when He did, He was very specific in how He dealt with them. So over and over again, Christ dealt with the Pharisees and their interpretation and their habits. He dealt with them and their interpretations and so He showed many times over, how hypocritical they were and how their way of thinking didn't match with the worship of God that they were trying to protect. So it's kind of an interesting thing. You may look at that and say that's kind of harsh. Were they all really selfish, were they all really hypocrites, is that being too judgmental on the judgmental Pharisees or what? Well let's take a couple minutes to take a look at the Pharisees and notice a couple of interesting things about them. Now this isn't to be all and end all the system of the Pharisees, but we can at least take a little thumb nail sketch of what Christ said about them and especially as we look at this, I think we'll begin to see that just like a bad habit, old Pharisees die hard. Old Pharisees die hard and Christ dealt with them over and over and over again and it seemed like they were never going to get the point as He talked with them, as He ate with them, as He confronted them in different situations, as He just talked with them. It's an interesting scenario and there's an especially interesting section of scripture. It's in Luke, chapter 11. In fact if you have a little ribbon in your bible you might put it in Luke 11, we'll come back here a few times throughout the sermon but we'll begin to notice one situation where Christ began to deal with the Pharisees. Luke 11, verse 37 is where we'll begin. Christ begins to deal with a certain Pharisee and the situation here is they're having dinner together.
Luke 11:37 Luke 11:37And as he spoke, a certain Pharisee sought him to dine with him: and he went in, and sat down to meat.
American King James Version× And as He spoke, a certain Pharisee asked Him to dine with him. So He went in and sat down to eat.
Now that's kind of interesting right there, isn't it? This Pharisee who certainly wants to separate himself from anything that would be wrong, anything that would be bad. Christ's attitude wasn't that. Despite how the Pharisees had a tendency to be, Christ ate with them.
Verse 38: And when the Pharisee saw it, he marveled that He had not first washed before dinner.
Now that doesn't mean coming in from the playground and not washing your hands just like we yell at our kids. That's not what it's talking about. That's talking about ceremonially washing your hands all the way up to your elbows in a very righteous, pious, ceremonial way. So it seems like this particular Pharisee would have been one of those Haberean, one of those table washers that was very strict when it came to those specific washing. In fact we'll see that again come up again in just a moment. So this Pharisee was surprised, in fact marveled, he was astonished of the fact that Christ hadn't ceremonial washed His hands. But, what did Christ say?
Verse 39: But 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.
Verse 40: Foolish ones! Did not He who made the outside make the inside also?"
They were very concerned about not how clean their dishes were. It's like going to a restaurant and ordering a cup of coffee. If you had been there before, maybe their cups were not always clean so you might go there with your wife and say "I want a cup of coffee but could I have a clean cup?" Then the waitress comes back and says "O.K. here's your coffee, which one of you ordered the clean cup."? Well they didn't worry about that kind of clean, they were worried about the ceremonial clean. But He's pointing them to the greater truth in it all. The greater truth was what's inside.
Verse 41: "But rather give alms of such things as you have; then indeed all things are clean to you."
Give up what's in the cup and it's clean.What's He talking about there? Well they wanted to separate unclean things. They wanted to separate the people. Who's the clean people and who's the unclean people? They were denying the poor while their cups were so beautifully clean what was in them, the food was not shared with the poor. So He said, "Listen, use what's in the cup for a Godly purpose and that's where you'll really begin to serve God. That's how you really become clean before God." So He begins to show the Pharisees and us that we need to make sure that that old Pharisee will die, that old Pharisee within us has to be put to death and so He goes through a series of woes. There are six woes here in the book of Luke and they show very precisely what our attitudes can be and how we need to overcome those, how the Pharisees needed to change. But, it wasn't just a lesson for the Pharisees. It was a lesson for all of us on how we need to come out of that way of thinking. Notice this first woe:
Verse 42: "But woe to You Pharisees! Watch out, be careful, you're missing something. This is something very important. 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."
You see we begin to realize the Pharisees were very meticulous. Have you ever seen a mint leaf? It's a tiny little thing, aren't they? They're tiny. How about the rue? The rue was a plant like a dill plant. So Christ isn't referring even to the leaves on the dill, He's referring to all those little seeds and if any of you have ever canned before, you put the dill seed in the pickles or whatever you want to pickle, you put it in whatever, the beets, right? You put all those little seeds in. Well these Pharisees were being so meticulous and counting out every little seed. How many seeds are on a dill plant? There could be hundreds or thousands and yet they're going to sit there and they're going to count out. Imagine if you have a thousand, you have to count out a hundred of those so that you could tithe appropriately. So here Christ is pointing to that. He said yes you should tithe, but the bigger picture is, you can't pass by justice, you'd better be loving because that principle is so much more important and so this first woe deals with missing the big picture because they missed it. The Pharisees missed the big picture, they got the fact that we have to tithe of these little plants of mints and these little seeds of the dill, the rue, but they missed justice, they missed kindness, they missed mercy, they missed love and can you picture Christ calling out, can you picture Christ saying this? Hold you place here in Luke, go over to a parallel passage over in Matthew. Matthew 23:23 Matthew 23:23Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for you pay tithe of mint and anise and cummin, and have omitted the weightier matters of the law, judgment, mercy, and faith: these ought you to have done, and not to leave the other undone.
American King James Version×, a parallel passage to this says it a little bit differently.
Matthew 23:23 Matthew 23:23Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for you pay tithe of mint and anise and cummin, and have omitted the weightier matters of the law, judgment, mercy, and faith: these ought you to have done, and not to leave the other undone.
American King James Version× "Woe to you scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you pay tithe of mint and anise (there's that dill) and cumin and have neglected the weightier matters of the law. Now you're doing these physical things but you're missing the spiritual application you're missing:
justice and mercy and faith. These you ought to have done."
Yes, you've got to have these spiritual characteristics in your life and by the way don't forget, yes you do have to tithe, that is a requirement, don't leave that undone. But He says, you're someticulous, He says:
Verse 24: "Blind guides, who strain out a gnat and swallow a camel."
So they strained out every single little duty, but they missed the biggest; they swallowed a camel size offense against their brother. Are we like that? You see Christ is making a point, don't miss the big picture. If you claim to love God, you'd better love people. You'd better serve people. Loving God and loving people go hand and hand, you can't separate those out. The Pharisees were trying to separate the clean from the unclean people, but God says it's through Jesus Christ here, you love God, you'd better love people, you'd better love them.
Over in Mark 12:28 Mark 12:28And one of the scribes came, and having heard them reasoning together, and perceiving that he had answered them well, asked him, Which is the first commandment of all?
American King James Version×we see an example of one of the scribes that came and they asked Christ what's the first commandment? What's the greatest commandment of all? They weren't really asking the question because they wanted an answer, they were trying to trick Him, trying to fool Him, trying to catch Him in a trap so they could accuse Him. But what did Christ say?
Mark 12:29 Mark 12:29And Jesus answered him, The first of all the commandments is, Hear, O Israel; The Lord our God is one Lord:
American King James Version× Jesus answered him, "The first of all the commandments is: 'Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one.
So He goes all the way back to Deuteronomy and He says:
Verse 30: 'And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength. This is the first commandment.
Verse 31: And the second like it is this: 'You shall love your neighbor as yourself.' There is no other commandment greater than these."
So when you put that together, you can't love God without loving your neighbor. We know that I John says that so clearly. Loving the brethren is showing our love to God. So when we tithe to God, we must be fair and love people. It's not an either or thing. It's not I can do this, but I can't do that. It's both and an end. Yes we have to do both. So we have to step back I think a little bit. Are we missing the big picture? Are we so worried about the gnat issues that we miss the camel? Are we so focused on the small things that that is what occupies our mind? The tiniest of things is what we become most concerned about. Is that the way we are? You see, we can observe the tiniest detail and yet disregard the greatest virtue. Christ was telling the Pharisees, don't miss the big picture. We're striving to put on the character of Christ, we must love God, we must love His people.
Let's go back to Luke chapter 11, in verse 43 we come to the second woe.
Luke 11:43 Luke 11:43Woe to you, Pharisees! for you love the uppermost seats in the synagogues, and greetings in the markets.
American King James Version× "Woe to you Pharisees! For you love the best seats in the synagogues and greetings in the marketplaces."
Now it's kind of interesting if you've ever looked at what a synagogue, especially in the first century looked like, even today many of them have the same type of configuration. The seats, especially the best seats, the chief seats, the rulers of the synagogue, guess where their seats were? Now we might think, well there they be, they might be right in the front row, right? Nope. The seats would be behind the lectern and they would be facing all of you peons out here. That's where their seats were. So they had the best seats, they faced the congregation. So everybody knew, those are the big shots, those are the leaders. Right? Rabbi Judah Ben Joseph, boy he is the man, he is the leader of our synagogue. There he sits, right there, we all know he is the one and so you imagine that. They loved the pomp, they loved the circumstances. Just the way they would enter and take their places. They were even above the one that was speaking or reading from the scrolls because it's like those strange addresses, even we have them in the United States as well. When the President gets up and gives the state of the union, he's got those two guys sitting behind him, it's just kind of weird seeing them. I always watch those things, are they ever going to fall asleep? But just imagine that, it's like a king purveying his subjects, basking in the admiration of the congregation and that's what it would have been like. So what Christ was bringing in the question here is their motivation. Why were they doing the things that they did? That's woe number two, what's your motivation? Why do we do the things that we do? Christ was showing the Pharisees, they loved those seats, they loved the recognition, they loved the salutations in the marketplaces. Oh, there he is, hi how are you today? They loved that. Well, can you picture that? Just imagine the reality of that. Oh there's the Pharisee, he's our ruler, he's our leader in our synagogue. Maybe he'll notice me. They call out surely you've heard of our Rabbi. So you can imagine the lesson that Christ is trying to bring to them. It's definitely not that they lived by Philippians 2 where it talks about let nothing be done through selfish ambition, let nothing be done. That's the lesson Christ is trying to teach them. So when it comes to us, what's our motivation? Why do we do the things that we do? Do we do it because we need a pat on the back? Do we need the recognition? You see Christ is showing here, he values character. He doesn't value titles. He doesn't value positions. He doesn't care what our job is? That's not what it's about. He hates grandstanding. Christ is showing us so clearly here, why do we do what we do? When we bring it down to why are we here today? Why do we study? Why do we pray? Why do we sing? Why do we serve? What's our motivation behind it? If nobody noticed, would we still do the things that we do? Why do we obey? Is it to be appreciated? Is it to fit in? Is it to be promoted? Is it to be recognized? You see, Christ is questioning our motivation and if we're craving the limelight, we'd better examine ourselves. If it's applause that we're after, that's unacceptable. If we're self important, or seeking to be found as important, we're in trouble. Christ is not interested in us protecting our positions. He's got a job to do, He wants to use us to accomplish those things. So He says, Godly motivation is what it's all about. In this case, the Pharisees certainly didn't handle that correctly. So it comes down to us as well. Why do we do the things we do? Woe He says, what's your motivation?
Now in the next verse, verse 44, He comes to the third woe. Here's a warning. Remember that woe can mean that. Here's a warning to you Pharisees. You better get your head on straight when it comes to this.
Luke 11:44 Luke 11:44Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for you are as graves which appear not, and the men that walk over them are not aware of them.
American King James Version× "Woe to you scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! Of course the scribes were another category. When we talked about the various categories of the leaders here describes also came back from that Babylonian captivity, they seemed to be the ones that would be doing the transcriptions of the word. A scribe could be a member of any of these different sects of the Pharisees, but their job was to copy the manuscripts. Their job was to interpret the manuscripts. They would be some of the teachers that sort of took over some of the duties of the priests in that way. So here Christ talked to those scribes. He said: For you are like graves which are not seen and the men who walk over them are not aware of them."
Now you might read this and say what does this have to do with anything? So what's the big deal about walking over a grave? Well if you think about the tradition of the customs at that time. Before the holy days, do you know what they would do in Jerusalem? They would paint all the tombstones. They would paint those markers because if you stepped on a grave, you would become unclean. Having anything to do with the dead or a dead body or coming in contact with them, that would make you unclean and then you could not keep the feast, you'd be outside the camp. So you couldn't do that so what they would do is they would paint those tombs so that nobody accidently walked over a grave and would be ceremonially defiled. So they painted them to be sure they were crystal clear, they stood out. Here's Christ saying you're like that marker, you're like that gravestone. In a sense He's saying, you know somebody should have white-washed you so nobody comes in contact with you. That's pretty serious. Can you imagine somebody saying that to you? Or you rub people the wrong way, everybody should just avoid you, nobody wants to come in contact with you. Now that's probably the way we say it today. He said you're white-washed tombs, you're like a grave, it had to be an insult, it would definitely get your attention, wouldn't it? The Pharisee would say, well death? I have nothing to do with death, death is for sinners, that's for evil people, we're morally pure before God, we're the righteous ones, it's those sinners, they're the ones that deserve death, not sanctimonious Pharisees. Right? We wouldn't deserve any of that. But Christ is drawing the point here. It's me first attitude and so He says, woe to you, if you have a me first attitude. That what matters to Me is what's most important. But, Christ is telling them, if you put yourself first, you are a contamination. You're contaminating unsuspecting people that come in contact with you. That's what He's telling them. So for us, do we have that 'me first' kind of attitude? Christ warned the Pharisees, He's warning us, that's hypocritical, that's like putting on a mask. That word for hypocritical in Greek really means to be an actor, we're just playing a game, we're just playing a role and that's what the Pharisees were doing. They were acting religious because they were in charge, they had the power, it was a good thing to be in power, it was a good thing to be the one that got all the limelight. They saw that as what brought them importance, but Christ was saying you know that's a contamination among the people of God and so where did their opinions come from? Where did their ideas come from? Many times, probably most often then not, they had hundreds and hundreds of rules and regulations to guide them so that they would never sin and that became their god in so many ways. So where did they draw those ideas from? Christ said if it wasn't from God's word, it was from their own opinions, it was from their own ideas. Well God said to keep the Sabbath, sunset to sunset, but we'd better make sure we don't violate it, so you're going to have to get in your house, you're going to have the candle lit before that sun even gets near the horizon or otherwise you're going to be violating the law of God. That's not what the word says. It says from sunset to sunset doesn't it? So Christ saw the acting that was going on. He saw the hypocritical attitude that they had. So for us, we have to look at ourselves and we have to ask ourselves, where do I get my principles from? Where do I draw that opinion from? Is it my opinion? Are my opinions the ones that count or is it God's opinions? You see if we think that our opinion is so much better than someone else's, what are we going to do? Well we're going to begin to separate people. We're going to look down on others like the Pharisees tended to do. But we can't. It says we cannot be like a white-washed gravestone. That is unacceptable.
This reminded me of a story I heard about Howard Carter. Howard Carter was the archeologist who found King Tut. So he was one of those who was out digging in Egypt and he was the one who uncovered the tomb. The story is an interesting one because as he got into that tomb, they found the casket and as they uncovered this casket they finally decided to open it up. So they opened up that casket of King Tut and you know what they found? Another casket. There was another casket inside. So they worked with that one and got it all set and then they opened that one. You know what was inside? Another casket. There was a third casket inside and then they opened that one and you know what was inside. A fourth casket was inside and it was just beautiful, it was solid gold. Can you imagine that? You've seen some of the pictures, maybe you've visited the exhibit. I know that came through Cincinnati at one time, some of the artifacts of King Tuts tomb. Just an amazing thing. Can you imagine finding a solid gold casket inside all these other caskets? Then they opened up the fourth one, the solid gold one and you know what was inside? No, not another casket! Finally there's the body. It was all wrapped in this beautiful gold cloth. Of course it had that mask that we're all very familiar with, solid gold face mask. It was just amazing. Just beautiful, absolutely gorgeous and then they began to unwrap that beautiful gold threaded cloth. You know what they found? A dead guy! A dead, shriveled up, leathery body. A dead guy. It didn't matter how beautiful this wonderful tomb was, but it was still a casket. That's where you put dead bodies and Christ drew that very same analogy I think here when He talked about the white washing of the tombs, wasn't it? It didn't matter how beautiful King Tuts tomb was, it still was a dead body, it was for dead people. That's what it was and that's disgusting no matter how interesting it might be. So I think that's where the lesson lies to this third woe, this me first attitude that sometimes we can fall into. If we try to hide behind the goal, we try to hide behind the beautiful cloth, we try to hide behind that mask, we're still hiding, we're still just hiding. It doesn't matter what the outside looks like, that's the point that Christ was making. If we've got that 'me first' attitude, that becomes evident and as much gold as we have, it doesn't change what's inside. That's an interesting connection with death. What is death? The absence of life. There's no life so if we've got the mask on, we're trying to impress others, we've got the 'me first' attitude, Christ is saying that is death. There's no spiritual life there. You've left that behind just like this grave, this marker, it's like this gold casket, it's for holding the dead. It's for holding something that has no life. It's kind of a scary thing when you think about it. Christ doesn't want us to fall into that.
Luke 11:45 Luke 11:45Then answered one of the lawyers, and said to him, Master, thus saying you reproach us also.
American King James Version× Then one of the lawyers answered and said to Him: All right, now I want my turn. You've embarrassed these other guys, now it's my shot at it. Then Christ said, all right bring it on. Well maybe He didn't say it exactly like that, but you can imagine. If you were listening to this conversation, if you were part of the group, would that irritate you, would that make you mad? He just called us dead bodies. You just insulted us. You just called us white-washed tombs. You criticized us for wanting the best seats. You criticized our leadership and so that's exactly what He said to them in verse 45. "Teacher, by saying these things You reproach us also." All right, I'm a lawyer. I'm associated with these guys, but hey, I'm offended too. You insulted us. You insulted me too the man said.
Verse 46: And Christ said, "Woe to you also – they didn't let him off the hook – you lawyers! For you load men with burdens hard to bear, and you yourselves do not touch the burdens with one of your fingers."
So here's probably one of those scribes, one of those lawyers that came and he came to Christ and Christ said "Woe to you, you pile it on." Right? You add to others. You add more expectations, more requirements, more burdens, more guilt and He said: "Lawyers, not just old Pharisees that never die." Right? Even old lawyers. They say old lawyers never die. Why? They just loose their appeal. That's the lawyers. Okay everybody together, oh yeah, okay they loose their appeal. Well this guy was probably not very happy about his appeal here to Christ, was he? We could fall into this too. Do we pile on other people? Do we add guilt and burdens to others or even do we have unrealistic expectations on others? Sometimes we do it in those terms as well. Here's the lawyers, they piled it on. Christ said you loaded them down with burdens and of course some of those burdens were those over 600 rules and regulations that they were going to enforce. Right? You cannot do these things or you will be in violation and a terrible sinner before God. But wasn't the motivation o.k.? But what were their actions? You see how we have this opinion of lawyers. It seems like lawyers can do amazing things, but they can always find a way around it, can't they? It seems that way sometimes. Maybe that's not a total fair assessment, but sometimes it seems that way. But here at the time of Christ, that was the way. For example, one of their laws was, you couldn't tie a knot. Sailors, if you were tying a knot, that might mean you could do your job on the Sabbath and so we do not want you on the Sabbath tying any knots, whether it's a driver's knot or a knot in a rope, you cannot do that because that would be work, so you must not tie a knot on the Sabbath. But, ladies if you wanted to wear a girdle, you could tie a knot in the girdle because that wouldn't be work, that would be part of your dress and that was acceptable. So what would happen if you were really thirsty on the Sabbath and you forgot to draw water out of the well the day before on the day of preparation. What would you do, go thirsty? No, a good lawyer could get around that real easy. You can't tie a knot in a rope because that would be work, so what would they do? Tie the bucket to the girdle and lower it down in the well. They weave around this thing a little bit, pretty amazing, isn't it? Pretty ingenuous when you think about it. They could take the water that way. Of course then you know the Sabbath, you cannot walk very far. Right? It was only the Sabbath Day's journey. You could only go so many feet, maybe you're stretching it if you go a football field from your doorpost. They said you cannot go any further then this away from your doorpost because that would be a violation of the Sabbath. That turns into work then. So what would the lawyers do? Well they'd make sure one of their doorposts were a little loose so they could pick it up and then carry it with them. So I'm not walking too far from my doorpost because I've got it with me. I can go wherever I want. That's the way the lawyers were. They found these ways to get around it. So how could it be that one of these things would be a sin and yet the other one wouldn't be? You see, Christ is pointing out the fact that these scribes or these lawyers, the Pharisees were great at chiseling out all these rules and regulations, but it broke the back of the everyday person. That became their god instead of God Himself. All their rules and regulations were supposed to make it easier, because if you go to New York city, you certainly wouldn't want to press the button on the elevator because that would be work and so what the Hassidics do, they have the elevator stop in every floor in their apartment building so they don't have to do work by pressing the button. Amazing when you think, does it make it easier on them? I don't have to decide for myself because we already have all these rules and all these regulations all mapped out and the people don't have to make any decisions because this is the way it is. Does that work because somebody tells you this is what you have to do? Well you might do it for awhile, but what happens when somebody says you don't have to do that. Really? What happens when somebody says you don't have to keep the Sabbath? I don't? No, you don't have to worry about unclean meat anymore, that's an old rule. What happens if somebody is not forced to do it or impelled to do it? Well, I guess they say, well I guess I don't, great, wonderful. Is that what the intent here is? You see, Christ is saying, we've got to take on some personal responsibility here and what did the lawyers do? What did the scribes and Pharisees do? They added the guilt onto others. They piled on to others or in other words, they judged others for doing the same things they did themselves. But they just had a little way of looking at it that was a little bit different so it seemed like it could have been o.k. but in reality, it wasn't. So I wonder, how much do we pile on, how much do we add to others, to have unrealistic expectations on others? How are we when it comes to that? Do we condemn someone, let's say for smoking? But, then we eat too much. Is that what our prospective is? I would never curse, I would never swear, but you have any juicy little tidbits you can tell me? I haven't heard the latest gossip. You see, do we marginalize the way of God and justify ourselves in those ways? That it's o.k. to do this, but boy I'd never do that. Do we judge someone else for their behavior when we forget to look in the mirror and see what our behavior is? Christ is really coming right down to it. Are you willing to take on the word of God and live by it, stand by it?
Over in Romans, chapter 2, hold your place in Luke. Here I think Paul is making this same point. Christ said it over and over again that we judge others for the things that we do. He talked about getting the mote, plank out of our eyes before we get the little speck out of our brother's eye. He tells us to do that. Here in Romans at the very beginning of the chapter, he said:
Romans 2:1 Romans 2:1Therefore you are inexcusable, O man, whoever you are that judge: for wherein you judge another, you condemn yourself; for you that judge do the same things.
American King James Version× Therefore you are inexcusable, O man, whoever you are who judge, for in whatever you judge another you condemn yourself; for you who judge practice the same things.
You see that's not talking about discerning things, there are times we have to discern things. Am I going to do this or not and I have to make a decision on that according to the word of God. But this is talking about a condemnation that we put down others, we criticize others, we judge their behavior and we basically send them to the lake of fire when we ourselves do the very same things. He says we practice that. That's even worse than slipping up, making a mistake, we practice it. That's our regular behavior. We put these wrong things into our practice. He says, that's not right. So we have to be so careful when it comes to this. Are we adding guilt to others? Are we piling on and forgetting to look at ourselves? Do we have that right? Do we have the right to tell everyone how right we are? That was part of the Pharisaical outlook that they had. How right I am and how wrong you are. We have to be careful of that. You have to be very careful.
Over in I Peter, chapter 2, verse 17 here we see a similar principle being taught. The apostle Peter in this general letter is recording something for us. I think we're all even familiar with this. He starts this little section by saying:
I Peter 2:17 Honor all people.
Who gets left out of that? Well, it says all.
Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the king.
So in a sense he's saying, show honor to everyone. Some translations say practice love, practice love for the brethren. Like we read in Romans, instead of practicing this judgmental attitude, practice love for the brethren. Practice reverencing God. How do we do that? Do we do that by condemning others or do we do that by arguing? Do we do that by saying can you believe what they're doing now? Is that the attitude? Do we point out how ridiculous what they're doing is all about? Is that what we have to do? You see, they've got to agree with us or they're wrong. Has God given us that seat to be the judge? Back up just a little bit,if you go back to verse 15, instead of that attitude, instead of vocalizing that kind of an approach, it doesn't mean we accept wrong behavior, it doesn't mean we encourage it, it doesn't mean we just turn a blind eye to that, no, but our reaction instead of piling on adding guilt, condemning others, notice what Peter says here:
Verse 15: For this is the will of God, that by doing good you may put to silence the ignorance of foolish men.
You see he turns it all around. Instead of judging and condemning, do the right thing. Do good. The 20th century New Testament says, do what's right. Ultimately, what does God say about that? We get rid of that condemning nature that we have and we put on this approach by doing good, showing the fruit of the spirit, that's what He's talking about here, that's going to be evident, that's what's going to be seen and down in verse 19 we see very clearly. This is commendable, this is grace before God, this is showing true Godly love, this is what wins God's approval, by doing what's right. That's kind of turning it around 100% the other way, isn't it? So we don't pile on and we don't become judgmental, we do just the opposite. We do good. That eliminates that low then. Back to Luke for just a minute.
Luke 11:47 Luke 11:47Woe to you! for you build the sepulchers of the prophets, and your fathers killed them.
American King James Version×we come to the fifth woe. You don't have to worry, there's only one more after this. How many woes are there anyway? Well, this is number five. Christ probably in one sense, well I've dealt with the Pharisees, I've dealt with the scribes, I've dealt with the lawyers, and oh by the way, you.
Luke 11:47 Luke 11:47Woe to you! for you build the sepulchers of the prophets, and your fathers killed them.
American King James Version× "Woe to you! For you build the tombs of the prophets and your fathers killed them.
Of course the Pharisees probably wondered what in the world is He talking about because, we Pharisees, we honor the prophets, we built monuments, the monuments of old that were built to honor the prophets, we constructed them, we remodeled them, we put a new face on these things and so how could Christ criticize us building the tombs of the prophets, we are honoring them, we are making sure that they are not going to fall down, we're going to support them and we're going to put a shiny new face on them. Of course the problem was, why did they do that? The motivation was to impress people rather than honoring those people of the past. It's interesting that as they constructed these monuments to the dead prophets, what did they build their lives on? Did they build their lives on what the prophets taught? That was the question here. Christ was saying their only link to the prophets was that their forefathers killed them, not some monument, not some wonderful tomb, not some memorial, but their link was that your fathers killed them. Look at verse 48.
Verse 48: In fact, you bear witness that you approve the deeds of your fathers; for they indeed killed them and you build their tombs.
Wow, that's pretty clear. Christ just cuts right down to the bone, doesn't He? He says your fathers killed them and now you're honoring your fathers because they're murderers. That's pretty amazing.
Verse 49: Therefore the wisdom of God also said, 'I will send them prophets and apostles and some of them they will kill and persecute,
So they fulfilled that.
Verse 50: that the blood of all the prophets which was shed from the foundation of the world may be required of this generation,
Verse 51: from the blood of Abel to the blood of Zechariah who perished between the altar and the temple. Yes, I say to you, it shall be required of this generation."
From the beginning of the Hebrew bible all the way to the end, A to Z, Abel to Zechariah, the blood of the martyrs were on their hands and they're trying to impress God, they're trying to impress the people. Well this woe tells us you can't fool God. You can't fool God because here they built these wonderful memorials, these wonderful monuments, but they had that same hateful, murdering spirit. That's what they were infected with. On the outside they looked great, they got all the attention, but inside was that harbored spirit of murder. That was just a facade. It was just hypocrisy and we have to make sure we can't act like this, we can't fool God. God knows who we are. God know who we really are. He knows everything about us and we can't put up a facade.
I was reminded of this the other day. I was reading an article about the French Riviera and you've probably all heard about the vacation spots on the French Riviera, beautiful, water and the whole area is just wonderful. But one of the things that was interesting this article pointed out was that there were certain things that were status symbols when it came to living on the Riviera. If you lived in that area and you had an apartment, you were moving up the ladder. You were becoming someone, but the big status symbol if you lived on the Riviera was if you had a balcony because then you could go out of your apartment and you could survey this wonderful, beautiful vacation spot and you could look down on all those tourists because you lived here and you have a balcony and this is just wonderful. So it was kind of interesting because one of the things this article pointed out that one of the common things on the Riviera is that there's all kinds of apartments, but most of them don't really have balconies. So if you don't have a balcony, what do you do? Well on the Riviera they paint balconies on the side of their building so it looks like they have a balcony. You look up and say look at that beautiful balcony and it's just a painting, just a facade. So some of them in the pictures they get very intricate, so that you see that painting and it's just a stupid painting on the side of the brick wall. Well, in order to counter that impression, they would even paint clotheslines and then laundry hanging on the line so that the impression is, that is a real balcony. So they even went to that extreme in order to make it look like it was real, a little touch of reality. But, yet just a facade. There still was no balcony over there, even though it looked like there was.
I think in a sense Christ is saying, be careful. We have to be careful, we'd better watch out. A touch of reality still isn't reality, right? A facade is a facade. An actor is an actor. A hypocrite is a hypocrite. You can't fake obedience while you look religious because you can't fool God. Rule number five is you can't fool God with looks. It's not going to happen. Fake obedience doesn't amount to anything but being a fake.
This brings us to number six the last woe.
Luke 11:52 Luke 11:52Woe to you, lawyers! for you have taken away the key of knowledge: you entered not in yourselves, and them that were entering in you hindered.
American King James Version× "Woe to you lawyers! For you have taken away the key of knowledge. You did not enter in yourselves and those who were entering in, you hindered."
So here they not only took peoples physical lives, but they hindered them from entering in, finding the door and ultimately by the time of Christ with the Pharisees saying, wow look at this, here's this miraculous teacher, here's this wonderful individual who seems to be fulfilling all the prophesies about the Savior, about the Messiah. You know all the Pharisees came to that conclusion, so many preached that, they taught, no the didn't do any of that. What did they want to do? They wanted to kill Christ, so in a sense Christ is saying here, you hindered people from coming to the truth, from seeing the true plan of God. They stole away their physical life, devoted them to so many rules and regulations and traditions, not only that, they hindered them from seeing the true Savior, the true door, the true entrance to the Kingdom of God. They took it away from them because no one knew better than these scholars, right? Did they have an idea that Christ would appear at this time? Yes, you read some of the historians. They knew that this era was this time that the Christ should appear. No wonder there were so many false ones along the way because they knew it was about that time. They could have unlocked that door. They could have shown the way, but instead they took that key and threw it away. They threw it away. They had an opportunity to do the right thing and yet they chose not to and so it really brings the point, do we help or hinder? The lawyers, the Pharisees, they hindered the work of God. They tried to put it to an end. They thought that by crucifying the Christ would put an end to this whole story, but it didn't, but they wanted to do everything they could to stop it. So it should remind us that we can't be someone who hinders. We've got to be the one who serves and helps. It kind of brings us to the understanding that just knowing something, that's not what it's about. The knowing is only part of it. It comes down to the doing. We have to be doers. We can read through the whole book of James that talks about that. Just being a hearer doesn't amount to much. We have to be a doer. Faith without works is dead. We've got to put these things into practice. We can't hold back. Can a strong church of God be built on weak Christians? It can't. So these people were out to make themselves look good and defend their reputations by making Christ look bad. Some are like that, some can only feel their self-worth when they put down others and they hinder others and that somehow makes them feel better. They go up the ladder by stepping on others along the way, but Christ says that's unacceptable. Look what happens:
Verse 53: "And as He said these things to them, the scribes and the Pharisees began to assail Him vehemently
That's the Greek word Deinos. You know the dinosaurs, the terrible lizard. This is that same word, terrible, violent. and to cross-examine Him about many things,
They assailed Him, they attacked Him verbally. This set the stage then.
Verse 54: lying in wait for Him and seeking to catch Him in something He might say, that they might accuse Him."
They were just looking for every opportunity to put Him down so that they could look good. We can't be that way. We can't be a hindrance to others. We have to be doers of the word so we have to begin to more fully put on the mind of Christ. In fact when we think of these six woes, I hope one thing comes to mind. What comes to my mind when I read these things? Woe is me. You've heard that phrase before, woe is me. Don't think of it in the normal way that phrase is used. I have to think, how do these woes apply to me? How do these woes apply to me? It's a reminder, I've got to absolutely, completely admit that I'm guilty of these things in my own little way. I can be proud, I've been a hypocrite, I demand my own way, I haven't fulfilled the command of God. I have to repent, I have to take these woes to heart. Woe is me because I haven't fully strived to measure up to the standard of Christ. That's my goal, that's our goal. That's what we all want to do and so we all have to unconditionally and unqualified have that willingness to change. We want to get rid of the intolerant attitude. We want to get rid of the prejudicial thinking, we want to get rid of the judgmental attitude and put on the mind of Christ and turn absolutely and fully away from our own Pharisaical tendencies. That's what we have to do.
So as we think of these six woes, let's go before God and ask Him to help us to see ourselves as we really are. We are who we are and we don't want to stay that way. We want to become like Christ. So let's petition God, let's take these woes to heart and let's respond to God's leadership. The Pharisees missed out because they turned the other way from Christ, but we have a great opportunity. God loves us and He cares for us and He's never going to leave us or forsake us and with His help we know that that old Pharisee will die, it might die hard, but no doubt old Pharisees with God's help do die.