Priest's Perspective

Gospel Reflection -Luke 11:37-46

13 October 2021

As Jesus was speaking, a Pharisee invited Him to dine with him; so He went in and reclined at the table. But the Pharisee was surprised to see that Jesus did not first wash before the meal. “Now then,” said the Lord, “you Pharisees clean the outside of the cup and dish, but inside you are full of greed and wickedness. You fools! Did not the One who made the outside make the inside as well? But give as alms the things that are within you, and you will see that everything is clean for you. Woe to you Pharisees! You pay tithes of mint, rue, and every herb, but you disregard justice and the love of God. You should have practiced the latter without neglecting the former. Woe to you Pharisees! You love the chief seats in the synagogues and the greetings in the marketplaces.  Woe to you! For you are like unmarked graves, which men walk over without even noticing.” One of the experts in the law told Him, “Teacher, when You say these things, You insult us as well.” “Woe to you as well, experts in the law!” He replied. “You weigh men down with heavy burdens, but you yourselves will not lift a finger to lighten their load.

This encounter with Jesus and a Pharisee teaches us the simple lesson that our religion is not to be about external acts of visible holiness, but about a change of heart.  We need to be honest with ourselves here, whenever Jesus rebukes the Pharisees, He is talking directly to us. We need to acknowledge that we are the Pharisees in this story. It’s one of these tough ones, if you deny that you are like them, then you are behaving like them, for they the saw themselves as the righteous ones and others as sinners.

So let’s put it all on perspective. The ceremonial washing that Jesus did not do was more a symbolic gesture than an act of cleanliness. It was a methodical statement of superiority, reminding the man washing his hands that he was righteous and needed to be cleansed of the contamination of others, especially where he had been indirectly (unknowingly) defiled by other people.

The Pharisees were always giving warnings ( Woe to you) to the sinner about how they will be judged if they do not obey the letter of the law, but Jesus says that they are the one’s who need to be warned, because they are failing to love God’s people, and only putting demands on them that they themselves struggle to keep.

Our life in Christ should not be a constant battle to please God, we should not live in fear of making a mistake or overlooking some detail of the law. This is why the early Christians preached so much about freedom as a result of knowing Christ. Life is no longer about a checklist of rights and wrongs that had to be followed.  

It is critical that in our ministry to each other we adopt the same attitude of Christ and humble ourselves. I must admit this is no easy task, but it is one that we can rest in, humility comes from surrender not striving. Being humble requires us to be content to be without power and status. To be content with what we have and what is happening to us in the world. In our current circumstances I think we all want our troubles to end.

Wanting your sins forgiven and wanting your troubles to end is a good desire as long as you are wanting that for “us” and not just for you personally. The Pharisee in us is more concerned about our own salvation than the salvation of the world.  The Pharisee in us wants the ‘other’ to be at fault, the ‘other’ to apologise, the “other” is not the pharisees primary concern, but is Jesus’s primary concern and should be ours. In the text Jesus challenged them because their giving and their obedience was all for their own benefit.

 In the words of our Collect this week. Lord Jesus Christ,

You have taught us that without love

Whatever we do is worthless;

Pour into our hearts that most excellent

Gift of love

Without which whoever lives is counted

Dead before you;

For you live and reign with the Father

And the Holy Spirit

One God, for ever and ever.

Amen.

So let us receive the gift of Love. Let us be counted as alive in Christ as we receive God’s love and share it with the world.

Amen.

Leave a Reply