Jesus slams the Pharisees and teachers of the law in this passage – but is he also slamming you?
45 One of the experts in the law answered him, “Teacher, when you say these things, you insult us also.”
46 Jesus replied, “And you experts in the law, woe to you, because you load people down with burdens they can hardly carry, and you yourselves will not lift one finger to help them.
47 “Woe to you, because you build tombs for the prophets, and it was your ancestors who killed them. 48 So you testify that you approve of what your ancestors did; they killed the prophets, and you build their tombs. 49 Because of this, God in his wisdom said, ‘I will send them prophets and apostles, some of whom they will kill and others they will persecute.’ 50 Therefore this generation will be held responsible for the blood of all the prophets that has been shed since the beginning of the world, 51 from the blood of Abel to the blood of Zechariah, who was killed between the altar and the sanctuary. Yes, I tell you, this generation will be held responsible for it all.
52 “Woe to you experts in the law, because you have taken away the key to knowledge. You yourselves have not entered, and you have hindered those who were entering.”
53 When Jesus went outside, the Pharisees and the teachers of the law began to oppose him fiercely and to besiege him with questions, 54 waiting to catch him in something he might say.
There is a lot of honesty and warning in what Jesus says in this passage. We should be careful not to overlook what Jesus is saying to the Pharisees and teachers of the law, thinking it doesn’t apply to us, because if I am being honest, often my own attitudes and actions align all too easily with that of the Pharisees.
It seems as though they were burdening people by imposing laws and rules upon them; more so than what the Jewish law already required. The Pharisees and teachers of the law posed as righteous and pointed fingers at others claiming that they ‘weren’t good enough’, yet they failed to give any assistance (v46). To me the equation for righteousness in their eyes was faith + obedience + perfection. Pretty outrageous.
Jesus also calls the Pharisees and teachers to take responsibility for the many deaths of the prophets before them. The prophets and apostles who were sent from God to deliver messages to the people reminding them of God’s presence. This did not go down well with the Pharisees and teachers. If we keep reading further in the book of Luke, we find that the Pharisees and teachers can be found responsible for yet another death: Jesus’ death.
So where does this leave us? God’s perfect standard for us has been graciously fulfilled by Jesus. We could never have met the requirements of the law, considering even the Pharisees fell short. If we create our own needs or requirements for our righteousness (like the Pharisees and teachers did), we will never be able to reach them. We need to remember that Jesus died – not just for the righteous but for the unrighteous, to bring us all to God (1 Peter 3:18). Jesus died for our hypocrisy and the hypocrisy of the Pharisees and teachers. This is the grace that was freely given to everyone, so that we may live freely and freely share it with others.
Head: What attitudes and behaviours are similar between the Pharisees/Teachers and your own?
Heart: How can you fall under God’s grace today and show that to the people around you?
Hands: Look out for hypocrisy in your life. Change it with graciousness and humility. Truly practice what you preach about Jesus’ grace in your life.
Gracious Father, you are so merciful and gracious to us. Lord, we are sorry for the ways that we abuse the grace and righteousness you give us to put others down. Help us to see how we can live lives that truly reflect your humility and grace, to live lives that honour and glorify you. Thank you for sending Jesus and for changing the way we live our lives.
We pray this by the power of the spirit at work within us, Amen.
A song to listen to: When I Survey
Ellen Wilcox – Living Church Creek Road