Luke 11:33-54 Jesus is the Son of Man: Whitewashed Tombs

Luke 11:33-54

Jesus is the Son of Man

Whitewashed Tombs

All right, let’s go ahead and turn in our Bibles to Luke chapter 11. As most of you know, if you do not have a Bible, if you need a Bible, please see me after the service and I will make sure we can get one into your hands.

 

So, Jesus is continuing in the same setting, continuing to speak to the same crowd, the same gathering that we have seen him in the last few weeks. And his main message has been, blessed are those who hear the Word of God and keep it.

Jesus is emphasizing a combination of head knowledge, inner trust and outward action. There is an inner change first, and then, flowing from that, there is the outer, behavioral change.

Its important to remember that our works and our behavior flow from our faith and salvation, not the other way around. All of that, the points Jesus makes and the things that he says, all continue to flow into the passage we are looking at this morning.

We are going to be reading Luke chapter 11, verses 33-54, a bit of a longer passage to read. I’m going to be reading out of the English Standard Version, my preferred translation, and I encourage you to follow along in your preferred translation.

Luke 11:33-54, the Holy spirit inspires Luke to write:

 

“No one after lighting a lamp puts it in a cellar or under a basket, but on a stand, so that those who enter may see the light. 34 Your eye is the lamp of your body. When your eye is healthy, your whole body is full of light, but when it is bad, your body is full of darkness. 35 Therefore be careful lest the light in you be darkness. 36 If then your whole body is full of light, having no part dark, it will be wholly bright, as when a lamp with its rays gives you light.

37 While Jesus[e] 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.

 

May God Bless the Reading of the Word

 

So, a lot to get into here. Starting with the first section here, Jesus is saying two different things in regard to light shining. First is, of course, that the light inside of us cannot and was never meant to be hidden. That inner change, that heart change is meant to be shown to those around us.

That light that shines from that heart change inside of us, what good is it if we hide it? Light is meant to shine, there is no point in being a lamp, if you are going to be covered up. When the light is lit inside of us, it will make itself known.

Secondly, Jesus’ work, the light of the Gospel, the signs and wonders he did, His death, burial and resurrection, they were down in plain sight, for all the world to see.

The scriptures, especially psalm 119 show us that the word of God is the light of the world. I especially like two verses from psalm 119, verse 130 says

The unfolding of your words gives light;
it imparts understanding to the simple.

 

          and verse 105:

Your word is a lamp to my feet
and a light to my path.

 

Then Jesus also uses the analogy of our eyes being the lamp of our body. The correlation regarding blindness and sight, between lightness and dark. When your eyes see, when they are working correctly, when God has taken the blindness away form you, you can see the light that already exists, The light of the Gospel, even better.

We talked the last few weeks about the desire for more signs, more wonders, more evidence of who Jesus was. In the words of RC Sproul, Jesus here is saying, “The people seeking a sign did not need more light, but better receptiveness to the light they already had. What God was doing in Jesus was plain enough.”

          The light and the darkness are used biblically to describe our spiritual condition and our sin nature. When we are in the darkness, we desire the darkness. We want to stay in the darkness because that’s where we are comfortable. We are comfortable in and with our sins. We think we are good because we avoid or protest against certain sins, but we have our own secret pet sins that we keep in the dark.

But the light drives out the darkness. The light of the Gospel inside of us exposes us to our sins, exposes our sins to us. We desire to stop and quit those sins because the darkness cannot exist in the light.

In verse 37, the scene starts to shift. One Pharisee invites Jesus to dinner. Now, many will tell you that this was a setup and that this pharisee was trying to trap Jesus from the beginning. That might be true, however, there is nothing in the text that indicates this.

Not all the individuals who were pharisees were Jesus enemies. Nicodemus was a pharisee. This unnamed pharisee invited Jesus to dinner and Luke does not tell us that there were ulterior motives.

Jesus knew what was going to happen. He knew how it was going to turn out and he still went. One commentator points out one principal from this is that we should always be looking for opportunities to build relationships, to build bridges and get to know people.

Jesus accepted the invitation and went to eat with the pharisee, seemingly at a big dinner party with lots of other pharisees and lawyers, or scribes.  And Jesus sat down with out ceremonially washing his hands before the meal.

THE SCANDAL!

The pharisees added so many man made traditions and rules and regulations to the law, to the rules that God gave down and this was one of them. The idea here was that our hands got dirty each and every day, some of it was ceremonially and ritually unclean. Since many of the meals in that day were eaten directly with the hands, this presented a problem to them.

The Mishna is major written collection of the Jewish oral traditions which is known as the Oral Torah. This is where all the man-made traditions of the pharisees and the rabbis throughout Jewish history to that point were written down. We have the records of what was a part of the pharisaical law of the time. In the Mishna it says that “tradition is the man-made fence around the law.”

          The noble idea being, the further away from the line we stay, the less likely chance we have at crossing it. We will return to that later.

 

          So, Jesus shocks His host and the pharisees by not ceremonially washing his hands. When they say something, Jesus comes back at them. He tells them outer physical cleanliness is not enough.

          In fact, outer cleanliness matters less than inner holiness, than inner righteousness. The condition of the heart is what God sees. It is not our outward behavior that makes us clean. Its why we sing and read in the Bible, “Create in me a clean heart.”

          Our outward behavior needs to flow from a clean heart that God gives us. This is the opposite of what our nature tries to do which is that we need to behave outwardly in order to cleanse ourselves.

          God tells the Israel through the prophets, throughout the Old Testament, in many different ways, I desire Mercy not sacrifice. This is, in essence, what Jesus is telling the group here. You misunderstand what it is that God desires from you.

          You are taking what is good, taking the law that God gave, taking what is right and you are taking it an extreme absurd. Your focus is more on your outward appearance and behavior than on the Heart of God.

          The pharisees were focused on confronting and avoiding sin, which is a good thing. They would have been protesting against same sex marriage and abortion and all sort of other sins. They would have been setting up boycotts of various companies and businesses because of their support of various things or their selling of stuff. Fighting sex trafficking and prostitution and pornography.

          The problem is not that they were fighting those causes or trying to eliminate those sins and that evil.  The problem was that they were more focused on all that instead of, or at the expense of loving God and loving neighbor and treating all people as image bearers of God.

          Jesus says, you are supposed to do both. You are supposed to fight against sin and evil as a way of loving God and loving your neighbor, not as a way to avoid loving God and loving your neighbor.

 

          But, like so many that we see in this world, and maybe like so many that we know, Jesus shows that they were more interested in people seeing them and their good works and their status’. They wanted to make sure people knew they were going to church, that they were pillars of the community, that they gave to the needy, that they volunteered, that they were a moral compass.

          Again, all of those are good things, except when that is the reason that you do them. Goods deeds done for the wrong reasons are not good. The right thing done for the wrong reasons are wrong.

          People see the outward signs and outer moral shell and they are tricked into not realizing that a person is spiritually dead on the inside.

          Jesus speaks of unmarked and hidden graves. Graves would make people ceremonially unclean. Hidden and unmarked graves would be a hidden source of spiritual impurity.

          The pharisees, because their outer behavior was not often accompanied with the inner heart change, they were hidden sources of spiritual impurity to those around them. They made people want to be like them, act as good as them, and that this was the key to earning favor with God.

         

          Jesus was not holding back any punches here. And the people in the room knew it. He was talking about them, and they were not happy. They were feeling convicted. One of the lawyers, one of the professional theologians, he says to Jesus, woah now, you are insulting us!

          The lawyer would have been at home here today. Jesus don’t say what your saying, even if its true, because we might be offended. And if we are offended then it must not be true, so there. As we know, there is no greater sin in today’s society than to offend somebody. It seems it wasn’t so dissimilar 2000 years ago.

          Now, it is very easy, when confronted with your sins, to respond by getting offended. The first thing we need to do, if someone says something that we get offended by, is to look deep in ourselves. We need to see if there is any truth or validity to what is being said. Often times getting offended is a defense mechanism for trying to avoid acknowledging the truth.

          That being said, we know that Jesus offends, that the Gospel offends, the light of the Gospel, as we mentioned earlier shines a lot on people’s sin and that makes people offended and defensive. However, nowhere in scripture does it allow for us to be offensive. As Paul says in Ephesians 4, we are to speak the truth in love.   Let Jesus and the Gospel do what they are going to do, we are to share it in love.

 

          This lawyer says Hey, you’re offending us. Jesus’ response, Woe to You!

 

          Woe to you putting extra burdens on the law. Jesus came to lift these burdens, burdens that God never designed us to be able to bear.

          Again, the original idea was to avoid getting close to sin, to avoid getting close to breaking Gods law. The pharisees had a great respect for the holiness of God and wanted to obey what they understood was the purpose of His laws.

          But what does this lead to? How far can I go without it being sin? How can I avoid breaking this law but still do whatever I want? This goes back to Eve in the Garden. God told Adam, don’t eat from the tree. When the serpent asked Eve, she said God said don’t even touch it. This extra level of fence around the law, as the Mishna out it, adds extra burden to us that is hard for us to bear.

          Even when the lawyers and pharisees were “honoring” the fallen prophets of the past, it was an outward honoring. They were still rejecting them. When the prophets were active, Israel, the kings, all the people, they refused to listen to the prophets, refused to hear the Word of God. They persecuted and killed them all.

          They were still refusing to listen to them. They were pretending to honor them but were really dishonoring them. If they wanted to honor the prophets of the past, they would live how the prophets described and to do what they said to do.

          This generation, the generation that Jesus was talking to, they were held even more responsible because they had Jesus right there in front of them, physically, literally right there, sitting with them and dining with them. And they rejected, persecuted and kill Him just as their fathers had done to the prophets, just as they and their children would do to the Apostles. There are clear allusions to verses 31 and 32 here as well, that Jesus is the greater prophet and the greater Apostle.

          In verse 52, Jesus rebukes the lawyers, saying, “you have taken away the key of knowledge.” The lawyers felt that their additions to the law should be even more held to than Gods laws because they were clearer and easier to understand. Jesus is telling them they are wrong. As one commentator points out that these traditions, these additions to the law, they made it impossible for the regular people to understand the meaning and purpose of the law.

 

          Instead, the lawyers used these additions and traditions to avoid the demands of the law itself. As I mentioned earlier, how can I technically keep the law but still do whatever I want?

          As Jesus leaves this scene, this crowd and especially the people who he was at dinner with, he leaves many of them mad and scheming. They would spend the rest of His life trying to get him to say something wrong, to answer questions, to teach something that would allow them to persecute and prosecute Him. Jesus, as of chapter 9 has set his eyes on his journey to Jerusalem. Here and know, the Pharisees and lawyers have set their eyes on Him. And not in the right way.

 

          Philip Ryken writes that the Christian faith is not a law to keep but is a Gospel to believe. Our morals, our values, our behavior they mean nothing in terms of us being saved.

          Now, of course, we will bear fruit once we are saved, but our works and our fruit are not what save us. Good works and fruit do not equal Christian. Being pro life does not equal Christian. Being anti sin does not equal Christian. Being pro Bible does not equal Christian. Believing that a God exists does not equal Christian. Reading and memorizing Scripture does not equal Christian. Voting for a particular party does not equal Christian. Church attendance does not equal Christian.

          Trust and faith in Jesus Christ and his work on the cross, his death, burial, resurrection. Trust and faith in his righteousness, not ours. Trust and faith in his sinlessness, not our sins. Trust and faith in his perfect obedience, not our attempts. Hearing the Word of God and keeping it. Complete and total dependence on Him and resting in his good work. That equals Christian.

 

Let’s Pray.  

            

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