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Jul 6 / Chuck Smith, Jr.

July 3, 2011

Now when He had spoken, a Pharisee asked Him to have lunch with him; and He went in, and reclined at the table. When the Pharisee saw it, he was surprised that He had not first ceremonially washed before the meal. Luke 11:37-38 (read verses 37-54)

INTRO: Have you ever worked for a boss that was a jerk?

When the righteous increase, the people rejoice,
but when a wicked man rules, people groan.
(Pr. 29:2)

– in other words, a jerk with power is the worst jerk of all

What was your boss’s favorite weapon? Ridicule? Rage? Threat?
– why do some bosses do these things to other people?
– why do some parents do these things to their children?

Jeffrey Schwartz provides a helpful insight. He explains that the brain generates

“intensely uncomfortable sensations that can be physical or emotional. Because of how unpleasant and powerful the sensations are, you feel an urgent desire to make them go away. As a result, you respond in an automatic (habitual) way that is ultimately unhelpful or unhealthy for you.”

– some of the ways people discharge their unpleasant sensations is through bullying, shaming, and frightening others

Does this cycle go away naturally or instantly when a person become a Christian?
– that question will be answered in this passage

Religion can be a source of healing or it can get in the way of healing
– it can be used to mask a disorder and can even become a way to act it out
Kenneth Leech observed,

“Religion may, of course, be a cover for deep inner disturbances. It may not further any healing process, but rather increase sickness.”
“When does religion assume pathological forms? The simple answer is: when it ceases to be an integration of the personality, and becomes a form of escape from being human.” Then, “It shields [people] from new awareness, new understandings, new insights.”

Gerald May issues a similar warning and he gives, as an example, “spiritual narcissism,” which “consists of using spiritual insights or practice to increase self-importance rather than to deepen humility.” (He also lists eleven personality disorders that can interfere with spiritual growth or take it in a wrong direction)

Before we come down too hard on bad religion, remember:
∙ we have all been there, or
∙ we are there now, or
∙ we may eventually go there, or
∙ we still have a few of these characteristics

Verses 37-38, Another mealtime episode

Dinner parties in Luke never turned out well – Jesus always seemed to get himself into trouble
– it makes no difference whether he is eating with sinners or dining with a Pharisee
– all three times Jesus accepted a dinner invitation from a Pharisees, he somehow caused a scandal (7:36-39; 14:1-6)
So, once again, Jesus is swimming with the sharks

The host was “surprised” at Jesus (the same word is translated “amazed” in v. 14)
– not just that Jesus didn’t wash his hands, but that he didn’t share his theological views or his whole religious system

It is difficult, if not impossible, for some Christians to understand how other believers could have opinions or interpretations of scripture that are different from their own

Verses 39-44, Jesus skips the polite dinner conversation

Is it possible that Jesus did not wash his hands intentionally so as to intensify the impact of the message he wanted to deliver?

Jesus’ criticism of the religious practice of the Pharisees:

  1. They were obsessed with repetitive rituals (meant to ward off impurity)
    Beneath this religious mask, there was unfinished business
    – in their fixation with external cleansing, they overlooked inner purity
    – the label, fool, in the Hebrew Scriptures had a similar connotation to what we mean by jerk
    – what is more important in God’s sight? Hands that have been washed in water or a heart free from theft and evil?
  2. They were compulsive in their performance of religious duties – they tithed on herbs!
    – as an expression of their devotion they gave great attention to detail (trivialities)
    Beneath this religious mask, the neglect more important issues was hidden
    – justice (inequality and social justice are big themes in Luke) and love, which is qualified as “love of God” (agape), because they did have love for something else
  3. They had a strong attachment to public attention (“For you love . . .,” agape)
    – especially in regard to their superior religious status
    -social respect created an illusion of God’s favor
    Beneath this religious mask is a misplaced devotion
    – they overlooked the love of God, but were enthralled with love for attention
    – they were more interested in looking good than doing good or being good
  4. They were themselves the hidden danger they feared
    – to walk over a tomb would cause impurity
    – usually you are not able to see what these bad religion people are really up to (until it’s too late)
    – you do not see at first the harm that bad religion people can do

What is verse 41?
– it is a way out from behind the mask
– give attention to your inner-self; purify the robbery inside of you with alms (generosity)

Jesus is showing them how to turn toward God through love
– the point he is making is, “You can change”

What happens to me when Jesus gets a hold of me? What happens within me?
– these are the questions we need to ask concerning the uncomfortable sensations that could otherwise cause us to mistake God’s work in us and so take a wrong turn with religion

Verses 45-52, The religion of the Pharisees was not the only problem

In verse 44, “you” is not specified (cf., “Woe to you Pharisees” in vv. 42-43)
– a lawyer sitting there picks up on this generalization

Jesus’ criticism of the practice of the experts of the law

  1. They had turned religion into an overwhelming burden
    – one year I was a counselor at an “evangelistic crusade,” which meant, among other things, I was to tell new converts what they had to do now that they had become Christians
    – as I was going through the list with one young man, I suddenly realized I wasn’t doing those things
    – it is all too easy to add rules (about things that we know are good to do) for other people
  2. This is subtle, but we need to see how they created a tension between the law and the prophets
    – they were ready to build tombs for the martyred prophets – i.e., to bury prophecy
    – in this whole section, when Jesus’ use the “woe” he is borrowing a prophetic form of speech (Isaiah 5:8-22) and, in this way, he is associating himself with Israel’s prophets – and he will also share their fate (13:33)
    – the law is static, subject to interpretation, and somewhat controllable
    – I naturally look for some way to control religion and the law can give me a way
  3. They constricted their experience of God and that of others
    – people went to them for insight into God’s revelation
    – they did not explore or experience everything God offered, but used their biblical knowledge to manipulate and control others

We might notice how all these religious issues involved other people, who become:

  • an audience for their piety
  • a neglected aspect of their piety
  • misled by their piety
  • manipulated by their piety

Verses 53-54, After-dinner activities

They did not hold to a neutral opinion of Jesus but took a definite turn against him

They could have listened closely to him and, followed his counsel, and taken a close look within
– instead, they became hostile to him and they went gunning for him

CONC: The point of Jesus’ dinner-party speech: We can get it wrong

These people, who were radically devoted to religion, were far from God
– there’s a fundamental difference between their religion and what Jesus was all about

We find in this story a motivation to take a closer look at ourselves
– in fact, this is exactly where Jesus takes it in the next scene (12:1)

But if we can get it wrong, we can also get it right and the first thing I know to do, is for us to open our hearts to God

  • sit before him in silence, surrendering the moment to him
  • let your mind rest and your body relax
  • then ask God to search your inner-self, without fear, the same way you submit to a medical examination
  • whatever God brings up, hold in his presence, offering it to him in the name of Jesus
  • trust in God to work in you, redeeming and healing what he has brought to your attention
  • then, get up and, in love for God and others, go do something good for someone else
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