Summary: Christianity is an inside job - Jesus deals with the Pharisees who are obsessed with externals.
Jesus is on the way to Jerusalem to die on the cross, rise again and ascend to the Father so the Spirit can come!
Along the way, there’s a series of meals with Jesus where we learn much about the gospel and the Christian life
1) Levi - the traitor to Israel has repented and joined the kingdom and had a banquet mixing his Christian and non-Christian friends, so we can learn aboaut mission through meals and that repentance, turning to God in your thinking is the way in,
2) Simon the Pharisee and the unclean woman - at this meal we get to see the kingdom is for anyone, no-one is too messed up or too religious to repent and join and the Kingdom reconciles us together from all sorts of backgrounds into God’s family
3) At the feeding of the 5,000 we discover we are sent on a humanly impossible mission, which becomes possible when we trust Jesus
4) At the home of Mary and Martha we discover that our call is to love God first and allow that to fuel the mission of loving our neighbour. It’s both/and not either/or.
As we reach Luke 11 - Jesus gets invited to a Pharisees house for luncheon as he is teaching.
He’s taught about prayer, taught that it is in his name we can cast out demons, that if you were set free from a demon you need to be be filled or you will end up worse. Then he reveals the sign of Jonah - an enigmatic prophetic statement that he will die and 3 days later like Jonah come back bringing repentance and forgiveness in a greater way than Nianevah received. Then just before luncheon he tells us our eyes are the window of our souls and thus Christianity is an inside job first and foremost.
Let’s read Luke 11:37-54 here we see that Christianity is an inside job not external observance.
There are certain ways you could tell the Old Covenant people of God apart and they were external boundary markers - Sabbath observance, food observance and circumcision.
The new covenant replaces these with internal boundary markers - because Christianity is an inside job. We are a Spirit filled people.
So with that in mind Jesus addresses the hypocrisy that is so easily goes hand in hand with external observance. If you can be a good Jew or acceptable to God, just by external observance, then your heart doesn’t need to change.
So for those that could bear to watch The Secret on ITV recently - For Colin Howell in the traditional Northern Irish Baptist scene - divorce meant excommunication. An external thing meant he wasn’t a good Baptist. So he came up with a way of murdering two people, making it look like it was suicide, so he didn’t to divorce to get the woman he loved and still be a good Baptist.
The trouble with external markers of being a good Christian or Jew is that our hearts can be rotten and sin can be hidden and shame can linger, but as long as we put on a good show we are okay.
Jesus shows us the inside needs cleaning up - and the outward lifestyle results from that.
So Jesus turns up at the luncheon - I call it by it’s posh name, because reclining at a table at luncheon implies the Pharisee was wealthy enough to be at leisure in the middle of the day. The Pharisee is shocked that Jesus doesn’t do the external rituals of washing before the meal like a good Jew should do.
The law [in this case out of the Talmud, not the Law of Moses] laid it down that before a man ate he must wash his hands in a certain way and that he must also wash them between courses....large stone vessels of water were specially kept for the purpose because ordinary water might be unclean; the amount of water used must be...enough to fill one and a half egg-shells. First the water must be poured over the hands beginning at the tips of fingers and running right up to the wrist. Then the palm of each hand must be cleansed by rubbing the fist of one into the other. Finally, water must again be poured over the hand, this time beginning at the wrist and running down to the fingertips. To the Pharisee, to omit the slightest detail of this was to sin."
Now with that in mind why didn’t Jesus wash his hands before he sat down? Was it just an oversight on his part? Did he just forget, like our children sometimes do? I don’t think so. I believe Jesus had no intention of washing, because He knew what kind of reaction He would get from the Pharisees and He wanted to take this opportunity to let them know exactly what He thought about them.