Summary: Jesus warns us of the danger of spiritual hypocrisy.
Jesus encountered growing opposition on his journey from Galilee to Jerusalem. Today’s text “contains Jesus’ most direct rebuke of the Pharisees and [lawyers], a significant portion of the Jewish religious leadership.”
37 While Jesus was speaking, a Pharisee asked him to dine with him, so he went in and reclined at table. 38 The Pharisee was astonished to see that he did not first wash before dinner. 39 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. 40 You fools! Did not he who made the outside make the inside also? 41 But give as alms those things that are within, and behold, everything is clean for you.
42 “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. 43 Woe to you Pharisees! For you love the best seat in the synagogues and greetings in the marketplaces. 44 Woe to you! For you are like unmarked graves, and people walk over them without knowing it.”
45 One of the lawyers answered him, “Teacher, in saying these things you insult us also.” 46 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. 47 Woe to you! For you build the tombs of the prophets whom your fathers killed. 48 So you are witnesses and you consent to the deeds of your fathers, for they killed them, and you build their tombs. 49 Therefore also the Wisdom of God said, ‘I will send them prophets and apostles, some of whom they will kill and persecute,’ 50 so that the blood of all the prophets, shed from the foundation of the world, may be charged against this generation, 51 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. 52 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.”
53 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, 54 lying in wait for him, to catch him in something he might say. (Luke 11:37-44)
In February 2013, Great Britain’s Food Standards Agency closed a slaughterhouse and a processing plant after investigators found horse carcasses had been used to make beef burgers and kebabs sold in Britain. A month later, Swedish furniture giant IKEA was drawn into the food labeling scandal as authorities said they had detected horsemeat in frozen meatballs labeled as beef and pork and sold in 13 countries across the continent.
Shortly after the European horsemeat scandal broke, the story took an unexpected twist. When officials in Iceland heard about horsemeat getting into beef products, they decided to run tests to ensure the same thing wasn’t happening in Iceland. Icelandic meat inspectors didn’t find any horsemeat, but one brand of locally produced beef pie left it stumped: it contained no meat at all. Instead it appeared to be some kind of vegetable product. One of the lead inspectors said, “That was the peculiar thing. It was labeled as beef pie, so it should be beef pie.”
Hypocrisy may be defined as “the practice of professing standards, beliefs, etc., contrary to one’s real character or actual behavior.” Well, it is hypocritical to call something a beef pie when it is not a beef pie. But it is far more hypocritical to call someone a Christian when he or she is in fact a spiritual fraud.
The religious leaders of Jesus’ day had substituted true godliness with spiritual hypocrisy. So, Jesus spoke vigorously against their spiritual hypocrisy.
The analysis of the incident of Jesus’ pronouncement of woes upon the Pharisees and lawyers in Luke 11:37-54 warns us of the danger of spiritual hypocrisy.
Let’s use the following outline:
1. The Setting for the Rebuke (11:37-38)
2. The Statements of the Rebuke (11:39-52)
3. The Reaction to the Rebuke (11:53-54)
I. The Setting for the Rebuke (11:37-38)
First, let’s look at the setting for the rebuke.
People had been demanding a sign from Jesus to show that he was indeed the Son of God and savior of sinners. But Jesus said that his death, burial, and resurrection would be the only sign they would receive. What people needed was not some other sign, but faith to believe what God said in his word about the person and work of Jesus. Jesus was giving people plenty of light regarding the gospel, but the blindness of their sin was keeping them from believing the gospel.