Woes to the Pharisees and Lawyers
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.
Observations and Reflections
Luke’s version of this story departs drastically from Mark’s version. However, it’s nearly identical to Matthew’s. This has lead many to believe that this was another story that came from the theorized Q source.
The Pharisees and some of the teachers of the law who had come from Jerusalem gathered around Jesus 2 and saw some of his disciples eating food with hands that were defiled, that is, unwashed. 3 (The Pharisees and all the Jews do not eat unless they give their hands a ceremonial washing, holding to the tradition of the elders. 4 When they come from the marketplace they do not eat unless they wash. And they observe many other traditions, such as the washing of cups, pitchers and kettles. (Mark 7:1-4)
Luke and Mark show a Jesus that is particularly harsh towards the pharisees and scribes. But why is Jesus so worked up? It seems that the answer is in verse 52 where Jesus says,
“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.”
The behavior of the Pharisees was repugnant because they were the gate keepers. They were tasked with keep God’s people Holy, even if the task wasn’t directly given by God. Yet, rather than purifying the nation (as they do their hands at meal time) they were literally keeping people from entering into the kingdom by their legalism and fake piousness.
Jesus here is touching on matters of the heart. If one takes the time to clean the outside of a cup or plate and does not bother to make sure the inside is clean, what good is it. The whole use of that dish is to use the inside of it. In order to make sure the food or drink will not be contaminated, one needs to make sure that the most important part of the dish is clean, which is on the inside.
The Pharisees were know for always making sure they looked respectable and presentable on the outside. They wore nice expensive garments and clothes that made them stand out above the religious leaders in their society. They boasted about how much knowledge they possessed about scripture and were very good at reciting a lot of what their old testament laws had to say. Yet none of which they preached, was at all reflecting their heart.
Their words and outside appearance although polished and refined, did not match what was going on inside. Their hearts were filled with evil and jealousy towards Jesus. They resented Him for being able to have such a profound impact on so many lives and grew bitter towards the fact that He was able to call those out on their sin.
Unlike the Pharisees, Jesus spoke with Grace, Love and ultimately the true authority of God. They rejected all that He was and stood for and in doing so, rejected the Gospel and Salvation. The plot towards wanting to kill Jesus begins here. The end of this chapter signifies Jesus’ death in motion and there was no stopping it. Their hearts were not filled with God’s word, it was filled with a hatred for Jesus and a desire to seek and destroy Him and any mention of the Gospel.
This passage comes a challenge for us as Christians to truly examine our hearts and words. If we are true ambassadors and representations of Christ, then our hearts ought to reflect exactly what is going on in our lives. There should be no distinction between what our hearts feel and what our mouths say. Everything should up and all should point towards a love for Christ and a heart that seeks to follow after Him.