Jesus openly opposed legalism and yet opened himself to those ensnared in hypocrisy to help them see the reality of God’s intent and anointing of grace. In today’s reading we have the story of an awkward dinner conversation, perhaps fodder for the old admonition against speaking of politics or religion at the table. Hypocrisy and legalism are serious obstacles to our Christian living. May we humbly abandon such foolishness and at the foot of the cross learn to live and serve in the power of the Holy Spirit.


Audio: Coming soon.


Section 107 | Woes against the Pharisees and the Teachers of the Law while Eating with a Pharisee

Luke 11:37-54
37 Now as he spoke, a certain Pharisee asked him to dine with him. He went in, and sat at the table. 38 When the Pharisee saw it, he marveled that he had not first washed himself before dinner. 39 The Lord said to him, “Now you Pharisees cleanse the outside of the cup and of the platter, but your inward part is full of extortion and wickedness. 40 You foolish ones, didn’t he who made the outside make the inside also?1 41 But give for gifts to the needy those things which are within, and behold, all things will be clean to you. 42 But woe2 to you Pharisees! For you tithe mint and rue and every herb, but you bypass justice and God’s love. You ought to have done these, and not to have left the other undone. 43 Woe to you Pharisees! For you love the best seats in the synagogues, and the greetings in the marketplaces. 44 Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like hidden graves, and the men who walk over them don’t know it.” 45 One of the lawyers answered him, “Teacher, in saying this you insult us also.” 46 He said, “Woe to you lawyers also! For you load men with burdens that are difficult to carry, and you yourselves won’t even lift one finger to help carry those burdens. 47 Woe to you! For you build the tombs of the prophets, and your fathers killed them. 48 So you testify and consent to the works of your fathers. For they killed them, and you build their tombs. 49 Therefore also the wisdom of God said, ‘I will send to them prophets and apostles; and some of them they will kill and persecute, 50 that the blood of all the prophets, which was shed from the foundation of the world, may be required of this generation; 51 from the blood of Abel to the blood of Zachariah, who perished between the altar and the sanctuary.’ Yes, I tell you, it will be required of this generation. 52 Woe to you lawyers! For you took away the key of knowledge. You didn’t enter in yourselves, and those who were entering in, you hindered.” 53 As he said these things to them, the scribes and the Pharisees began to be terribly angry, and to draw many things out of him; 54 lying in wait for him, and seeking to catch him in something he might say, that they might accuse him.


Group Dialog:

  1. What are the three woes Jesus expressed of each group?
  2. How can we ensure that we ‘do justice’ and ‘love God’, rather than any lists of religious activity?
  3. How have hypocrisy and legalism in your own life diminished your faith in Christ and witness of God’s grace?

Learning objectives: Relationship with Jesus, personal obedience that enlivens our faith, personal and corporate faith, legalism, hypocrisy,  grace, the law of Moses, the Mishnah.


Notes:

  1. Jesus responds to the Pharisees thought or comment by confronting the Pharisee with the hypocrisy and externalism of the pharisees.
  2. Jesus utters six woes, three to Pharisees and three to lawyers (Scribes, experts in the Jewish law, the Torah, the Hebrew Bible, and in expounding its commandments).