Summary: The analysis of the response of Jesus to the Pharisees' ridicule in Luke 16:14-18 teaches about their misunderstanding of possessions, the kingdom of God, and the law.
Luke 16 primarily deals with the topic of possessions. There are three sections in the chapter. The first section is the parable of the dishonest manager (16:1-13). Jesus responds to the ridicule of the Pharisees in the second section (16:14-18). And the third section is about the rich man and Lazarus to show that God is concerned not just about the use of possessions but how the poor are treated (16:19-31).
Today we are going to study the second section. It is a difficult passage to understand. Darrell Bock says of Luke 16:14-18, “This short unit forms a bridge between the parable of the unrighteous steward (Luke 16:1–13) and the parable of the rich man and Lazarus (16:19–31). The logic of the thought is difficult and has been the object of much discussion.” So, though it is difficult, we shall seek to explain the text.
Let’s read about the law and the kingdom of God in Luke 16:14-18:
14 The Pharisees, who were lovers of money, heard all these things, and they ridiculed him. 15 And he said to them, “You are those who justify yourselves before men, but God knows your hearts. For what is exalted among men is an abomination in the sight of God.
16 “The Law and the Prophets were until John; since then the good news of the kingdom of God is preached, and everyone forces his way into it. 17 But it is easier for heaven and earth to pass away than for one dot of the Law to become void.
18 “Everyone who divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery, and he who marries a woman divorced from her husband commits adultery.” (Luke 16:14-18)
On December 6, 1865, just months after the Civil War ended, the thirteenth amendment outlawing slavery was ratified and became the law of the land. But that didn’t mean every state approved the ratification of the amendment. Did you know that Mississippi’s state legislature did not immediately approve the ratification of the amendment? One hundred and thirty years passed before Mississippi took action. By 1995 Mississippi was the only state in the Union that had not approved the ratification of the thirteenth amendment.
Finally, on Thursday, February 16, 1995, the Mississippi Senate voted unanimously to outlaw slavery by approving the ratification of the thirteenth amendment to the Constitution.
Senator Hillman Frazier, a member of Mississippi’s Legislative Black Caucus, said, “I think it’s very important for us to show the world that we have put the past behind us.”
Just as there was resistance in some states ratifying an end to slavery in the United States, so there is resistance in some people accepting God’s kingdom.
Although this is true in our day, it was also true of the Pharisees in Jesus’ day. They resisted Jesus’ teaching about the arrival of the kingdom of God. In fact, they ridiculed Jesus for his teaching. But Jesus, as he always did, responded to them.
The analysis of the response of Jesus to the Pharisees’ ridicule in Luke 16:14-18 teaches us about their misunderstanding of possessions, the kingdom of God, and the law.
Let’s use the following outline:
1. The Ridicule of the Pharisees (16:14)
2. The Response of Jesus (16:15-18)
I. The Ridicule of the Pharisees (16:14)
First, let’s look at the ridicule of the Pharisees.
In the early 1990s when President George Bush had fiery John Sununu as his chief of staff in the White House, Sununu was once asked by a reporter if his job was difficult. He answered a quick and deliberate “No.” The reporter thought that Sununu had misunderstood the question, so he asked again. And got the same reply.
The chief of staff explained, “I have only one constituent.” He knew his job was to please the President.
I don’t know if John Sununu is a Christian. But he understood what Jesus had taught his disciples in Luke 16:13, “No servant can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money.” Jesus wanted his disciples to understand the truth that love of money will displace one’s love for God.
Although Jesus had taught this truth to his disciples, the Pharisees also heard his teaching. Luke said in verse 14 that the Pharisees, who were lovers of money, heard all these things, and they ridiculed him.
The Pharisees apparently regarded money as their rightful reward for their faithful observance of the law. They believed that had God blessed them with financial abundance because of their obedience to God’s law. Norval Geldenhuys says, “The covetousness of the Pharisees is independently attested, and they regarded their wealth as a special blessing for their carefulness in observing the Law. Hence their contempt for teaching which declared that there is danger in wealth and that as a rule it promotes unrighteousness.”