Luke records this discourse taking place while Jesus was eating dinner with a Pharisee. The Pharisee was “astonished,” as Luke puts it, and inquires. Jesus took the occasion to point out how inconsistent and hypocritical their lives were. Mathew records a whole list of charges that indicted the Jewish leadership. They were not bringing people into a closer relationship with God but actually the disconnect between what they preached and how they lived was pushing people further away. The car was shiny but the engine was missing.
Something that has been important to me this past year has been looking under the hood of our church. I have been using the phrase, “I want people to be more impressed the deeper they get into this organization.” Jesus had popped the hood on the religious organization of the day, and it wasn’t only disappointing - it actually made the paint on the outside look like a cover up job. Like someone had intentionally sprayed really nice paint over a bucket of rust.
They loved the place of authority. When they were sitting in the place of authority in the synagogue, they were assuming the authority of Moses. That had to feel good. They went to great lengths to project the image of authority without actually following the requirements they imposed on everyone else. They loved being able to rule people but were ineffective at leading them.
4 They tie up heavy burdens, hard to bear, and lay them on people’s shoulders, but they themselves are not willing to move them with their finger.
15 Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you travel across sea and land to make a single proselyte, and when he becomes a proselyte, you make him twice as much a child of hell as yourselves.
They loved doing whatever they wanted but looking righteous.
5 For they make their phylacteries broad and their fringes long, 6 and they love the place of honor at feasts and the best seats in the synagogues 7 and greetings in the marketplaces and being called rabbi by others.
The mentality was not concerned with being holy but looking holy. Holiness always intersects with the way we treat other people. The way we treat others always indicates how close to God we are.
25 “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you clean the outside of the cup and the plate, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence. 26 You blind Pharisee! First clean the inside of the cup and the plate, that the outside also may be clean. 27 “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs, which outwardly appear beautiful, but within are full of dead people’s bones and all uncleanness. 28 So you also outwardly appear righteous to others, but within you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness.
They lived a “me first” mentality - whatever is convenient for me regardless of how it effects others.
Time to pop the hood.
1. Leadership is about serving, not ruling.
The Pharisees were heaping heavy loads on people; Jesus was inviting people to have them removed.
Matt 11:28-30 28 Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”
11 The greatest among you shall be your servant. 12 Whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted.
2. Are we leading people to Jesus or standing in the way?
13 “But woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you shut the kingdom of heaven in people’s faces. For you neither enter yourselves nor allow those who would enter to go in. 15 Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you travel across sea and land to make a single proselyte, and when he becomes a proselyte, you make him twice as much a child of hell as yourselves.
How do our desires and preferences get in the way of leading others to Christ? Rules vs. vision
16 “Woe to you, blind guides, who say, ‘If anyone swears by the temple, it is nothing, but if anyone swears by the gold of the temple, he is bound by his oath.’ 17 You blind fools! For which is greater, the gold or the temple that has made the gold sacred? 18 And you say, ‘If anyone swears by the altar, it is nothing, but if anyone swears by the gift that is on the altar, he is bound by his oath.’ 19 You blind men! For which is greater, the gift or the altar that makes the gift sacred? 20 So whoever swears by the altar swears by it and by everything on it. 21 And whoever swears by the temple swears by it and by him who dwells in it. 22 And whoever swears by heaven swears by the throne of God and by him who sits upon it
The Pharisees made rules people couldn’t follow, and Jesus cast a vision of how much the Father loved people and showed them how to experience that love and forgiveness.
3. Grace to put others first
American liberty or the Gospel of others first? Jesus railed against the Pharisees for not putting a concern for others first and living out whatever freedom they had to do whatever they wanted.
What is the requirement for salvation?
Belief in Jesus or voting record?
Belief in Jesus or participation in a protest?
Belief in Jesus or the right to say anything we want?
When you look under the hood of the church there should be grace for people who have accepted Christ and may think different. We cannot preach grace to get people to Christ and then yank the rug out from under them when they get there.
This “serve others first” lifestyle shows up in how we disagree with people and how we forgive people.