Summary: Today’s lesson is about the conversation between Jesus and a certain Pharisee that took place during dinner. Jesus says many of those things to the Pharisee and his guests that He will say to them later in the temple. Jesus is consistent in what He says
Lesson: Judgment Against Lawyers and Pharisees
Jesus was a dinner guest in the home of a Pharisee, but He did not flatter His host or the other guests by avoiding the truth. He exposed their hypocrisy and condemned them for their sins (Matt. 23). They ruined people (v. 44), burdened them (v. 46), and locked the door on them (v. 52), while posing as holy men of God. Instead of taking the opportunity of repenting and being forgiven, they opposed Jesus and attacked Him. Today’s lesson is about the conversation between Jesus and a certain Pharisee that took place during dinner. Jesus says many of those things to the Pharisee and his guests that He will say to them later in the temple. Jesus is consistent in what He says; He will not say anything in private that He would not say in front of a large congregation. Now let’s read what Luke reported about what happened at this dinner.
(Luke 11:37-38) And as he spake, a certain Pharisee besought him to dine with him: and he went in, and sat down to meat. And when the Pharisee saw it, he marvelled that he had not first washed before dinner.
The Pharisees were very careful to maintain outward cleanliness, but sometimes they were unconcerned about the inside. Jesus probably ate without washing on purpose to point this out to His host. This necessity for ceremonial purity symbolized removing the dirt of the sinful world from their hands. The principles of ceremonial cleanness affected every part of a Hebrew’s life.
While He was speaking, a certain Pharisee interrupted him with a request to come and dine with him. We do not know what this Pharisee had in mind, but, whatever it was, Christ knew it. We need to be cautious about the company we keep, but we should not be rigid. We need to have non-Christian friends to witness to. We are to be in the world; not of the world. Jesus did not wash His hands before setting down to eat, and this caused the Pharisee to wonder how a holy man, a prophet, a man devoted to God, could sit down to eat, without first washing His hands. The Pharisee himself and all of his guests, no doubt, washed their hands in the prescribed manner.
(Luke 11:39-40) And the Lord said unto him, Now do ye Pharisees make clean the outside of the cup and the platter; but your inward part is full of ravening and wickedness. Ye fools, did not he that made that which is without make that which is within also?
Now notice what they are guilty of. Jesus made this accusation: "You Pharisees clean the outside only, you wash your hands with water, but do not wash the wickedness from your hearts. And you are full of greed and hatred, greed for what others have, and hatred of good men.’’ There are certain sins that we can get rid of by washing the outside of the cup; but, the more gross, and immoral, and inexcusable sins continue to keep the inside dirty. The Lord says that is foolish: "Ye fools, did not he that made that which is without make that which is within also?" God gave the Jews the Law of Moses which included ceremonial washings, but you should also cleanse and purify your hearts? What benefit could there be to clean the skin if the heart is not made clean also?’’
God, who made us these bodies, also made our souls. He expects us to take care of both; and therefore we should not only wash the body, and make the hands clean for the work He has for us to do. But, we must wash the spirit also, and get the leprosy in the heart cleansed.
(Luke 11:41-42) But rather give alms of such things as ye have; and, behold, all things are clean unto you. But woe unto you, Pharisees! for ye tithe mint and rue and all manner of herbs, and pass over judgment and the love of God: these ought ye to have done, and not to leave the other undone.
Here the Lord tells them that there are better ways to spend their time: “Instead of washing your hands before you eat, give something that you have to the poor.” We can enjoy the gifts of God’s ourselves when we give part of what we have to those who have less than we do. What we have is not our own, unless we give God His tithe out of it. He accuses them of stressing trifling matters, and neglecting the weighty matters of the Law. They were sticklers for the Law, especially those Laws which related to religion, above all those Laws concerning the maintenance of the priests. He said, “Ye pay tithe of mint and rue.” Rue is a shrub with strong-smelling leaves that grows on hills in the Holy Land. Both mint and rue were tithed by the religious leaders. Now Christ does not condemn them for being so exact in paying tithes, but for thinking that this would atone for them neglecting their more important duties.