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Summary: A preacher is very much like a traffic engineer. And the preachers of Jesus’ day were routing the traffic right off a washed-out bridge with no warning. For real love always stands against deception.

While Jesus was speaking, a Pharisee asked him to dine with him, so he went in and reclined at table. The Pharisee was astonished to see that he did not first wash before dinner. And the Lord said to him, “Now you Pharisees cleanse the outside of the cup and of the dish, but inside you are full of greed and wickedness. You fools! Did not he who made the outside make the inside also? But give as alms those things that are within, and behold, everything is clean for you.

“But woe to you Pharisees! For you tithe mint and rue and every herb, and neglect justice and the love of God. These you ought to have done, without neglecting the others. Woe to you Pharisees! For you love the best seat in the synagogues and greetings in the marketplaces. Woe to you! For you are like unmarked graves, and people walk over them without knowing it.”

One of the lawyers answered him, “Teacher, in saying these things you insult us also.” And he said, “Woe to you lawyers also! For you load people with burdens hard to bear, and you yourselves do not touch the burdens with one of your fingers. Woe to you! For you build the tombs of the prophets whom your fathers killed. So you are witnesses and you consent to the deeds of your fathers, for they killed them, and you build their tombs. Therefore also the Wisdom of God said, ‘I will send them prophets and apostles, some of whom they will kill and persecute,’ so that the blood of all the prophets, shed from the foundation of the world, may be charged against this generation, from the blood of Abel to the blood of Zechariah, who perished between the altar and the sanctuary. Yes, I tell you, it will be required of this generation. Woe to you lawyers! For you have taken away the key of knowledge. You did not enter yourselves, and you hindered those who were entering.

As he went away from there, the scribes and the Pharisees began to press him hard and to provoke him to speak about many things, lying in wait for him, to catch him in something he might say.” (Luke 11:37-54)

This is the second time Luke records Jesus dining inside a Pharisee’s home (Luke 7:36-50). And this is the sharpest and most verbally violent confrontation in all of Luke’s Gospel. Indeed, Jesus is so sharp in today’s story that some people have questioned if Jesus really did this. But as we’ll see, it isn’t necessary to question the authenticity of this story. In order to get our arms around this, we need to see a story in our day.

Warren Jeffs is a “spiritual leader” who is “married” to 78 wives, 24 of them were underage. The leader of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Days Saints orchestrated the construction of a 1,600 acre compound near Eldorado, Texas just south of San Angelo. Each one of his “wives” was promised heaven simply because of their marriage to Jeffs. Warren Jeffs is simply one in a long line of infamous cult leaders that include the likes of Jim Jones who lead some 900 people to drink poison in Guyana (a socialist country in South America) and the FBI standoff with David Koresh in nearby Waco. Each of these “spiritual leaders” made the national news when their spiritual abuse became apparent.

Few things are as sinister as when religion turns evil. No one understood this better than Jesus Himself. Inside the home of a religiously devout Pharisee, Jesus issues a fierce warning against those who twist and abuse those who follow in the footsteps of their devotion. Whether you call them wolves in sheep’s clothing or simply someone who manipulates a spiritual system to their own advantage, spiritual abuse has a long history. Ancient natives of Hawaii would throw their infants into the water with sharks. But they were not the only tribes to place newborn babies at risk for American Indians, Chinese, as well as Egyptians all similarly, sacrificed their children in the name of religion. The Old Testament also mentions child sacrifice by the nearby tribes surrounding Israel and even a few of the Hebrew people adopted these horrific practices. Today we read about certain branches of religious practice that withhold medical treatment from people who are very ill, believing it’s better just to pray. Religious abuse is common throughout history. But in our story, Jesus goes on the attack against a more subtle, softer version of religious legalism that almost anyone else would give a pass.

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1. Why is Jesus So Angry?

If you remember in Pixar’s Toy Story that Mrs. Potato Head tells Mr. Potato Head, “I’m packing your extra pair of shoes, and your angry eyes just in case,” all the while she places them in his extra compartment. Does Jesus pack His angry eyes? In a word, “Yes.”

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