Peninsula Community Church
Inside Out and Right Side Up
August 13, 2017
Luke 11:37-41 While Jesus was speaking, a Pharisee asked him to dine with him, so he went in and reclined at table. The Pharisee was astonished to see that he did not first wash before dinner. 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. You fools! Did not he who made the outside make the inside also? But give as alms those things that are within, and behold, everything is clean for you. “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. Woe to you Pharisees! For you love the best seat in the synagogues and greetings in the marketplaces. Woe to you! For you are like unmarked graves, and people walk over them without knowing it.”
I began my formal ministry in 1979. Immediately following Bible College, I moved to New York where I began to minister in a number of different ways to a number of different communities. One of the things I remember about my earlier days of ministry is that there were times where I learned more about what not to do in ministry than what to do from those who were around me. Now granted, those that surrounded me were not evil people, they just lived out of the distortions in their life. It was these distortions that directly impacted the way they did ministry. After a couple of years of ministry, I realized that some of those to whom I was connected loved themselves more than they loved God. They loved the notoriety of being a pastor more than they did the glory of God. They tended to use people for their gain, but did little to personally assist in the growth of individuals.
As I read this passage, I began to identify with what Jesus was confronting here. It is noteworthy that throughout Jesus’ ministry, He showed such grace and mercy to the sinner and the struggling believer. He did, however, reserve His harshest criticism for the Pharisees and the spiritual leaders of His day. At one point, Jesus described them as tombs that were painted white on the outside but were empty on the inside (Matthew 23:27). The idea presented by Jesus is that outwardly they appeared to have it all together, but inwardly they were empty. Because of the emptiness experienced by the Pharisees, they tended to focus more of their attention on their outward appearance than on their inward depth. Spiritually they were wide but not deep. Today, we will look at the attitudes exhibited by the Pharisees and then make an application of this truth.
First of all, we find that the Pharisees were empty on the inside so they flexed their spiritual muscle on the outside. Listen to Jesus’ words here. Woe to you! For you are like unmarked graves, and people walk over them without knowing it (Luke 11:44). And then in Luke 11:46 Jesus had this to say. “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 (Luke 11:46). Here is the bulk of the problem for the Pharisees. They burdened people with rules, laws, and requirements that they themselves were unable to obey or follow. I have often said that when our hearts are not right with God it is easier to make a law than it is to allow God to transform our hearts. Jesus is and has always been more about the transformation of the heart than He is about obeying man’s religious rules. The Pharisees missed this as they thought they could legislate morality but from my experience you cannot legislate morality. And for that matter you cannot legislate immorality. Legislation does not make right wrong nor does it make the wrong right. For Jesus, it was more about relationship than it was the law. Now unless you misunderstand, there are biblical, godly principles that we are called to obey but when applied correctly they are not burdensome but in reality they are very freeing and they move us to a place of growth and depth.
Jesus had the Pharisee’s number. He uncovered the fact that they not only forced others to obey these mandates but they did little to help others to obey. Those to whom Jesus referred to as lawyers, loved to weigh people down with laws and regulations. They were well educated, well trained people but they loved to place great burdens on others. The problem is that they imposed laws on others but were not willing to lift a finger to help carry the burden they forced on others. This is juxtaposed to Jesus’ desire for us to help each other, encourage each other, and push each other to do our best.
These actions were a result of their emptiness and dryness inside. Their emphasis was on the outward man and not the inward. As you know, I love football. To me there are two types of players. There are the ones who are puffed up and brag about how great they are and then there are the guys who go out on the field and prove they have the ability they say they do. That brings us to our second point.
The second characteristic related here is that instead of grace they functioned from a perspective of legalism and idolatry to the rules. “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 (Luke 11:42). They thought the rules applied to everyone else but not themselves. They felt they were above the law. They expected everyone else to tow the line. They expected everyone else to follow the rules. And yet, they bent the rules when it favored them. It could be said they worshipped the rules of God more than they worshipped the God of the rules. When this occurs, it creates a disconnect between what is true and what is false.
Notice here that they were good at giving gifts. They were dutiful and followed through with outward spiritual disciplines but they missed what was important. They attended church. They sang in the choir. They even taught a class but they missed the mark by failing to exhibit justice and love. These can be summed up in one word, grace. They lacked grace. They were well educated on the rules but missed the mark of loving others and showing others the amazing grace they had been given. Outwardly, they were obedient and rigidly held to the rules of the day, but inwardly they were empty and lacked spiritual depth. Here is a truth for us. Following the rules is great but to do so without grace and love leaves us cold and indifferent.
The third characteristic is that the Pharisees were all about control which was centered in a spirit of pride. They wanted the best seats in the house. They wanted to be recognized in the town. They would enter a room with great fanfare and pomp and circumstance. You knew they were in the room because they made sure you knew they were there. Once again listen to Jesus’ words. Woe to you Pharisees! For you love the best seat in the synagogues and greetings in the marketplaces (Luke 11:43). The Pharisees were the type that would arrive late and would make a fuss coming into the building so that you would know they were there. They were the type that would continually remind you how important they were. Again this action was a means for them to cover up the emptiness within them.
The fourth characteristic of the pharisee, and this for me is the saddest one of all, is that they stripped people of the joy of knowing God. 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 (Luke 11:52). Because they burdened people with the law, they failed to minister with grace, and they exhibited a spirit of pride that stripped people of the joy of knowing God. The fact is they gave what they had, a lifeless, empty lifestyle. They stood in the way of others knowing the truth by virtue of their attitudes and actions toward others. Rather than seeking a knowledge of God by way of a personal relationship, they rejected that for an attitude of performance and outward visibility.
As we close this today, I am keenly aware that there two ways we can apply this passage to our life. First of all, we can look at this study and do an evaluation and then come to the conclusion that we often act as the Pharisees did. We want others to tow the line but we give ourselves grace and compromise on the very rules we set in place. We judge and condemn others while crying out for grace in our life. We are good at knowing the rules and we make sure that everyone else follows them when we fall short in accomplishing that ourselves. One way to illustrate this how do you respond when someone asks you about your Christian walk. Do you list your good deeds or do you list the good deeds of a heavenly father that loves us more than we will ever know or understand this side of heaven? Are we more concerned about following the rules, or receiving God’s grace which actually assists us in obeying the rules? Are you more concerned about how others follow the rules or do we come along side of others to help them grow in the knowledge of God.
The second way we can make application of this passage is to recognize that we often live under Pharisaical influences. We are subjected to the judgment and criticalness of one who knows the rules and expects everyone else to obey while they themselves fail to do so. They hold us to a different accounting than they are willing to hold themselves. The result is that we can become discouraged and weakened in our spiritual state. We are hindered by the words of others. But the truth is we don’t have to be. We can recognize that God’s grace is there for us and we do not have to be subjected to the emptiness of others. The fact is we must show the grace of God of those who show so little grace to us.
Here is the deal there is grace at the foot of the cross. There is grace to overcome the Pharisaical attitudes we express. There is grace to overcome the power exerted over us to obey the rules at the cost of a depth in Christ. In Matthew West’s song “Grace Wins Every Time” reminds that grace wins in every situation. We receive grace and we give grace.
For an audio of this message go to http://pccministry.org/media.php?pageID=14
Copyright © 2017 All Rights Reserved Robert W. Odom