|Luke 11:37-54||Read Online|
But the Lord said to him: “Now you Pharisees clean the outside of the cup and dish, but inside you are full of greed and evil.”
People say impressions and reputation are everything. “Fake it till you make it.” But what does that really accomplish? A bunch of posers, walking around, all pretending to be something or someone we’re not.
For better or worse, Jesus is always able to look past the masquerade. That’s exactly what He does in this passage. He called the Pharisees and the Scribes out. The story opens with Jesus at a Pharisees’s house and He didn’t bother to wash His hands before eating.
This wasn’t the same as when your mother tells you to wash up before dinner. This was part of the ceremonial law where your hands must be washed a certain way between courses. In fact, they kept large stone vessels with water specifically for washing, just in case ordinary water might be unclean! There had to be at least a quarter of a log of water (enough to fill one and a half eggshells).
First, the water was poured over your hands, beginning with the fingertips and running down to the wrist. Then, you had to rub your fist into the palm of the other hand, cleansing it. Finally, water was poured over your hands again, this time beginning with the wrist and running down to your fingertips.
If you omitted the slightest detail, it was considered a sin. Jesus told them if they spent half as much attention to cleaning the inside of their hearts as they did to maintaining their appearances, they would be better people.
It’s easy to read this passage and think, “I’m glad we don’t do that anymore.” Phew! But, I’d argue, our “ceremonial laws” are subtler and more socially acceptable.
The Pharisees and Scribes concentrated on the externals. So do we. Did you go to church this week? Did you read your Bible today? Did you tithe your last paycheck? These are all good things and should be done, but if they’re done so I can mark them off my checklist, what good is it?
First Corinthians 13, the love chapter, tells us that without love, we’re a sounding gong or a clanging cymbal. We’re nothing and we gain nothing. So if we do all these things without loving God and without loving people, who am we kidding? No wonder the church has a reputation for hypocrisy.
The synagogue leaders also focused on the details. How many times have we literally gotten lost in the weeds of theological details and have quickly forgotten that we’re surrounded by sin and sorrow everyday? We allow the small things to distract us from the power of the cross.
The Gospel of Luke (The New Daily Study Bible) by William Barclay
- What does Christianity mean to you? How is the kingdom of God different? Should the two look any different?
- What religious details do you allow yourself to get bogged down with? How does love change that?