The Gospel of Luke

This devotional is written by Hannah Fairclough. Hannah is really looking forward to spring. Crocuses are her favourite flower.

Luke 11: 37-54

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

39 Then 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. 40 You foolish people! Did not the one who made the outside make the inside also? 41 But now as for what is inside you – be generous 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 practised the latter without leaving the former undone.

43 ‘Woe to you Pharisees, because you love the most important seats in the synagogues and respectful greetings in the market-places.

44 ‘Woe to you, because you are like unmarked graves, which people walk over without knowing it.'

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

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

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


I quite like it when Jesus gets angry and has a rant in the Bible. Jesus has some of the best slams I know and to get the full affect, I would recommend reading this passage again in The Message translation. "You're just like unmarked graves: People walk over that nice, grassy surface, never suspecting the rot and corruption that is six feet under." Boom! * Mic drop, Jesus exits stage left.

But of course, Jesus is quite right to be angry. He is calling out the Pharisees and teachers of the Law as hypocrites, and no one likes a hypocrite. Just think how often we complain about hypocrisy in things like politics. When you know someone isn't following through on what they are saying, it causes you to lose faith in anything they may say, trust is broken, scepticism sets in and we're left in a state of mistrust and distance.
In the same way, religious hypocrites, those who: put on a false appearance of virtue or religion, have a major effect on people coming to know God. How often have we heard our non-Christian friends say they don't like religion because "they are all hypocrites"?

In the case of religious hypocrisy, this has the dyer consequence of some people turning away from God altogether as they associate the person's actions or message with those of God. General hypocrisy in society is bad, but religious hypocrisy can hold eternal consequences. No wonder Jesus was more than a bit annoyed!

Obviously, we all fall short of the perfect example that Jesus sets for us, so in a way we are all hypocritical. The difference is your attitude. Do you come back to God humbly, acknowledging your faults and asking his help to try again, or do you continue speaking one way and acting another, or even being seen to do the right thing but with the completely wrong intentions.
The Pharisees were taking it upon themselves to ensure their pureness by following all the rituals and making sure they were being seen to do them. Jesus exposed this at this meal to show them that God is the only one who can change our hearts to make them pure and this cannot be done without him.

• Thank God that it is only through him that we are made whole and pure in his sight
• For forgiveness for the times we have tried to do this in our own strength
• For those who have turned away from Christianity because of the hypocrisy of leaders

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