37 When Jesus had finished speaking, a Pharisee invited him to eat with him; so he went in and reclined at the table. 38 But the Pharisee was surprised when he noticed that Jesus did not first wash before the meal.
39 Then the Lord said to him, “Now then, you Pharisees clean the outside of the cup and dish, but inside you are full of greed and wickedness. 40 You foolish people! Did not the one who made the outside make the inside also? 41 But now as for what is inside you—be generous to the poor, and everything will be clean for you.
42 “Woe to you Pharisees, because you give God a tenth of your mint, rue and all other kinds of garden herbs, but you neglect justice and the love of God. You should have practiced the latter without leaving the former undone.
43 “Woe to you Pharisees, because you love the most important seats in the synagogues and respectful greetings in the marketplaces.
44 “Woe to you, because you are like unmarked graves, which people walk over without knowing it.” ~ Luke 11:37-44
The Lord Jesus unleashed His fiercest threats on the religious. Of all the sins and inequities in the world, religion is the worst. The Lord Jesus was hardest on the religious who pervert the God of the Bible by presenting Him as a selfish ogre who is out to get us when we do anything wrong.
In today's text we learn religion is purely external. And, in order to live out one's religion and put on a convincing show, one has to accentuate the externals, including endless rituals, rules, and regulations. Of course, these rituals, rules and regulations are a means to earn the favor of God. But, we all know, we can't earn God's favor. Religion is not the answer because it is man reaching to God. The problem with that is we can't reach high enough.
In v.37 we read, "When Jesus had finished speaking..." The Lord Jesus had informed these religious leaders that they did not have a light problem, they had a sight problem. They were blinded by their sin which had not been atoned for and forgiven.
In the middle part of v.37 we read, "a Pharisee invited him to eat with him; so he went in and reclined at the table." The Pharisees defined themselves as the separated ones. They were not priests, they were fundamentalists. They were sticklers for the specific laws and the traditions of the Jews. They were self-righteous, proud, and they abused people for personal gain.
This Pharisee invited the Lord Jesus for lunch, and when He arrived at the Pharisee's house, the Lord Jesus intentionally did not wash His hands. And, according to v.38, "the Pharisee was surprised when he noticed that Jesus did not first wash before the meal."
His response of note wasn't about dirty hands. This requirement of washing hands was a ritual that had not been issued by God. The religious leaders had come up with this ceremonial washing to outwardly show their desire to be clean from all the defilements of the world. But, this ritual was man-made and not to be found in the Old Testament. The Lord Jesus ignored the tradition, and the Pharisee was bothered.
In v.39-40 we read, “Then the Lord said to him, “Now then, you Pharisees clean the outside of the cup and dish, but inside you are full of greed and wickedness. You foolish people! Did not the one who made the outside make the inside also?" Knowing what this Pharisee was thinking, the Lord Jesus questions him. He highlights the fact that this Pharisee had cleaned the outside of the plate which didn't matter. He cleaned the outside of the cup and the outside of the platter. The real issue was the inside of the dishes which the Lord Jesus uses to teach this Pharisee an important lesson. All of his symbolic rituals didn't address his real issue, the sinful condition of his heart. This man wasn't concerned about the wickedness of his heart.
Then, in v.41 we read, "But now as for what is inside you—be generous to the poor, and everything will be clean for you." The Lord Jesus understood the rituals inside and out. He knew that the Pharisees were more interested in the money, prestige and power than they were the real issues in a persons life. This made them hypocrites. In fact, it enabled the Pharisees to rob the people of their money. Therefore, He was able to render a verdict. Love on the needy. Stop making life about money, position, religion or a better you. This man needed a broken heart to be able to understand the most important issues in his life.
In v.42-44 there are three "woes" which are pronouncements of judgment on the hypocrite. God prescribed giving for the believer, but if we give with the wrong heart, our giving is in vain. The Pharisees didn't love the Lord their God with all their heart, soul, mind and strength, nor their neighbor as themselves. They were preoccupied with the minutia of religion. These Pharisees wanted to be admired, revered with their elevated positions and their religion and titles.
The Old Testament required us to give a tenth of our income, but there was never a command to tithe "mint, rue and all other kinds of garden herbs." Even though, all of their righteousness was outward, there was no transformation of the heart. These Pharisees had no humility, no repentance, no faith in God's grace and power to forgive, no love for God and people.
In v.44 we read, "Woe to you, because you are like unmarked graves, which people walk over without knowing it." These religious leaders put their reputation above God. Otherwise, the priorities of God would have been theirs. They thought that sitting in the right seats and being acknowledged by the right people would fulfill them.
The Jews were careful not to be defilement by dead bodies, so, they made sure the graves were carefully marked. But the Pharisees were dead and like unmarked graves that did not look like graves at all! This meant that they were unconsciously defiling others when they thought they were helping them to become more holy! Instead of helping people, the Pharisees were harming them.
Once we have entered into a personal relationship with the God of the Bible, He will begin to give us His heart. When His heart begins to over take ours, we will reflect Him through our lives. We will begin to operate from His posture which is less of me and more of you.