Fighting Phariseeism

Finding and Eradicating the Seeds in Our Own Lives

After he invited Jesus to a meal in his home, a Pharisee viewed Christ condescendingly for having not washed His hands according to the man-made ceremonial tradition. In response to this condescension, Jesus spoke some pointed words about Phariseeism in Luke 11.

First, He exposed his attitude. Many times we have trouble seeing ourselves and tend to give ourselves the benefit of the doubt. Of course Jesus sees our very motives and has the unique ability to expose them. He exposed the Pharisees as those who possessed a preoccupation with the external (vs. 39–44). Satisfied with a form of religion that appeared sparkling clean to onlookers, their inner parts were corrupted with greed and wickedness. Pharisees also possess a passion for exaltation (vs. 43). They love to occupy important positions; they desire to be recognized for their lofty status and to be greeted as prominent leaders. Condemningly, Jesus labeled these hypocrites as those who were poisonous in their example (vs. 44). Like an unmarked grave over which a person might inadvertently walk and thereby be defiled, these Pharisees were poisonous leaders who defiled their unwitting followers with their proud and twisted approach to serving God.

At this juncture in the message, a lawyer (an expert in the Mosaic Law) intoned his disapproval: “By condemning the Pharisees, you are also rebuking us!” Jesus couldn’t have agreed more readily. His assessment of the situation was correct—Christ was rebuking them as well. In fact, Jesus (and for those of you who are outline-challenged, this is the second main point!) expanded his assessment. In three pointed ways, Jesus expanded upon the assessment of this lawyer.

Jesus rebuked the lawyers because they burdened men but were disobedient personally (vs. 46). Their multifarious man-made laws were a heavy burden upon those on whom they were imposed, but they were not burdensome at all to the lawyers because they didn’t apply the rules to themselves! They expected of others what they were unwilling to do themselves. Additionally, the lawyers built mausoleums but despised the prophets for whom they were building them (vs. 47–51). They made a pretense of honoring their rich religious heritage when, in fact, they were simply children of a long line of men who rejected the prophets and their messages. Indeed, they would reject the ultimate Prophet—the Lord Jesus Christ. Finally, Jesus demonstrated that these lawyers tended to blur the message and deceive the people (v. 52). Not only were they living in self-delusion with disregard to the key of knowledge (Scripture) available to them, but also they were hindering their followers from ever understanding the true focus of Scripture—the Lord!

Unfortunately, these religious Pharisees, scribes, and lawyers refused to see themselves (vs. 53—54). Instead they sought to discredit the Messenger, a daunting task when one considers that the Messenger was the Lord Himself. May each of us determine to look inward and eradicate even the smallest cells of an ever-encroaching Phariseeism.

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