An Equal Opportunity Offender

This morning was a full day at church with Debbie helping lead the Grief Share class whileKen_Lew Gaiter I assisted in the prayer times during the second and third services. I was pleased to spend some time this morning with Lew Gaiter. Lew is a Larimer County Commissioner and fellow believer. He was the key initiator of our Tuesday morning prayer time for our government officials.

BIBLE VERSE FOR TODAY… “How terrible for you Pharisees! You give to God one tenth of the seasoning herbs, such as mint and rue and all the other herbs, but you neglect justice and love for God. These you should practice, without neglecting the others. “How terrible for you Pharisees! You love the reserved seats in the synagogues and to be greeted with respect in the marketplaces. How terrible for you! You are like unmarked graves which people walk on without knowing it.” Luke 11:42-44

Jesus was an equal opportunity offender when it came to the religious groups of the day. It was not only His actions that caught ire of the Scribes and Pharisees, but His words that pointed out their hypocrisy and focus on the external more than the heart, proved a sore spot as well. For the Pharisees is was all about “the show.” If you look religious, if you tout your spiritual pedigree and insight, that is all that matters.

The Pharisees tried to put Jesus in tough spots with the questions they asked Him. They were not sincere questions, they were designed to “catch Jesus in His words” and accuse Him of being less than what He was in the eyes of the people. But we see Jesus took the position of judge and condemner of the Pharisees actions. I wonder what it would have been like to actually hear Jesus’ words with the intonation and sharp rebuke with which they were spoken. The ones who delighted in judging others, were being “called out” by Jesus. Talk about risk, talk about authority.

Other translations use the preface to Jesus words as, “Woe to you….” This is more than a shaking of the finger. I recall the “woes” pronounced by angel messengers in Revelation. This is an indication of not just disapproval, but coming judgment.

Why did Jesus condemn the Pharisees? Because they focused on what was easy for them and neglected the difficult and true devotion. It was easy for them to “tithe.” It was hard for them to love God and show God’s love through mercy and justice. Jesus did not condemn what they did, as much as what they did not do.

The Pharisees loved the parade and the respect of man more than the respect of God. They were man focused, not God focused. They elevated themselves in the eyes of people and not the Lord. The Apostle Paul, who was a member of the Pharisees, would say as a Christ-follower, “follow me, as I follow Christ.” The Pharisees of Jesus day just said, “follow me.”

That last condemnation of Jesus carries the most vivid word picture, “you are like unmarked graves.” For those who loved the “show” and were committed to ritualistic purity, this would have hit them hard. They were all about being noticed and respected. To be told the opposite would have been a strike to the core of their identity.

As the Scribes (Teachers of the Law) hear Jesus’ words, they say,“Teacher, when you say this, you insult us too!” (Luke 11:45) That was an invitation for Jesus to tell them what He really thought about them.

 Jesus answered, “How terrible also for you teachers of the Law! You put onto people’s backs loads which are hard to carry, but you yourselves will not stretch out a finger to help them carry those loads. (Luke 11:46) This is quite a contrast for the one who said, “…my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” (Matt. 11:28)

What is important to remember today? Remember that it is easy to “cluck our tongues” at the Pharisees, but fail to see spiritual arrogance, or air of superiority in our own lives. Christ calls us to not just what we find easy, but that which we can only do in His strength.   That requires a life of obedience in following Him in our actions and character. We are reminded that we must walk humbly before the Lord and to always point others to Him. Christ is our example and Lord. The rest of us are fellow sojourners in this life as those who are following Him.