Luke tells us today about a dinner Jesus was invited to. I wonder if this dinner was on that Jesus should have passed on.
While Jesus was teaching one day, one of the Pharisees asked Him to dinner and He accepted. What was Jesus’ thinking when He accepted this invitation? What were the Pharisee’s motives in offering the invitation? Was this dinner a trap from the beginning? Did Jesus intentionally plan to deliver a message to those dining with Him?
Jesus grew up in a “good” Jewish home. I have no doubt that His earthly parents taught Him the customs and religious practices. The research I have been doing tells me that ALL the Jews were supposed to do the ceremonial washing before any meal where bread is served. This was a tradition of the elders and not a commandment from God.
We know that Jesus and His disciples were called on this a couple of times by the Pharisees. I’m wondering if this dinner happened before the one Mark talks about; where Jesus was questioned about His disciples’ behavior instead. I’m also wondering if Jesus set this situation up on purpose. I would think that when one is a guest one is on their best behavior and abides by the customs of their host. I wonder if Jesus performed this ritual when going to other people’s homes for dinner. Did He do it while dining with Matthew? How about Zacchaeus? Did He tell His disciples when to participate and when to abstain? I’m pretty sure that everyone abstained that day on the mountain with the five loaves and two fish.
Jesus knew how to push the Pharisees’ buttons. I don’t believe He did it just to spite them, but to move them along to the position He needed them to be in for their part in God’s plan. He also always had a message that came out of His button pushing activities. Today’s story is no exception.
Luke tells us that the Pharisee was “astonished” to see that Jesus didn’t engage in the ceremonial washing before dinner. Jesus apparently went on in and “reclined at table” without stopping by the washing bowl on His way. Did the Pharisee host say something to Jesus about this or did Jesus move on into His object lesson right away? I’m wondering if we even made it to the meal on this occasion.
Jesus’ words immediately focus on the inside condition of the Pharisees’ hearts. He tells them that all their outward “cleanliness” was worthless without inward cleanliness first. The condition of the heart is what makes a person clean or dirty, not the ritualized activities. Rituals never made anyone right with God. “To do righteousness and justice Is desired by the LORD more than sacrifice” (Proverbs 21:3). This is what Jesus is trying to impress on His dinner companions.
Jesus gets even stronger when He actually pronounces three woes on His host and His host’s profession. Jesus’ first woe was for their not attending to a right heart first and foremost, but replacing righteousness with ritual. His second woe is for their arrogance and pride. His third woe was a real punch. Jesus said that the Pharisees who were supposed to be making the people right with God were actually defiling the people instead. That one had to hurt!
The comment following this pronouncement makes me smile. A lawyer in the group speaks up, “Teacher, in saying these things you insult us also” (verse 45). Did he think Jesus was going to apologize to him for the lesson? Or did he think Jesus would say that He didn’t really mean to include lawyers in His example? Sorry to burst your bubble Mr. but Jesus was not one to apologize for speaking plainly. Instead he got, “Woe to your lawyers also!” (verse 46).
In my mind I hear Jesus saying, “Oh did I accidentally offend you? Here let me clarify my point. I didn’t mean to accidentally offend you. I intend to directly put you on notice too that YOU are just as guilty!” How do you like them apples!?
Jesus then tells the lawyer (or scribes) EXACTLY what it is He has against them too. He gives them three woes also. His first one deals with how the lawyers interpret God’s laws and add to them to make them so oppressive that NO ONE can bear up under them, BUT the lawyers exempt themselves from living under these same requirements. “Do as I say not as I do.”
The second woe for the lawyers focused on the treatment of all the prophets. Every one of the prophets of old was treated shamefully by their period peers. Not one was welcomed by those they spoke God’s correction to. Most of Israel’s kings and their religious leaders did everything they could to discredit and stop the prophets from speaking. Most of the prophets met their death as a result of speaking God’s word, especially His correction for their behavior. But AFTER their death and AFTER their predictions came true, THEN they were honored and revered. “If they were such great prophets then why didn’t you listen to them in the first place!? Don’t “honor” what you wouldn’t even listen to! You don’t even acknowledge that you are the ones who killed them. And for what? For trying to tell you the truth! Your own fathers are the ones who killed them; yet you don’t even acknowledge that part of it. You simply gloss it over and talk about how great they were and pay tribute to them now. Their blood, from the FIRST one slain, Able, to the last one, Zechariah, will be on YOUR heads.”
Jesus then immediately launches into His last woe to the lawyers. This one deals with what was going on right then when Jesus taught the crowds. Jesus’ words were filled with the truth and the scribes KNEW it. They recognized the prophecies and proofs being lived out in Jesus’ life; they just refused to accept them. And in their rejection of them they influenced the people to reject them too. A very good example of this was when Jesus was asked by what authority He did His works and He asked them what authority John operated under instead. They knew the truth but they plotted instead to cover their butts by pretending not to know. Their denying the truth was directly hindering many people from moving into the truth Jesus was sharing.
This last woe is still happening today. The religious leaders STILL refuse to acknowledge Jesus as the Messiah, regardless of the numerous proofs He has given. If you have ANY doubt, check out this chapter of the book “Science Speaks” by Peter W. Stoner. If it was simply a question of waiting for prophecies to be fulfilled, like they did with the prophets of old, ALL the religious leaders should be shouting from the rooftops that Jesus was and is indeed the Messiah. But they still refuse to accept that fact.
I’m pretty sure that dinner was called to a halt after this. Luke tells us that the Pharisees and scribes began an earnest campaign to provoke Him into incriminating Himself. They were furious and determined that He was “going down!”
Father God, thank You for Your MOUNTAIN of proof regarding Who Jesus is. Thank You Jesus for being willing to push a few buttons to bring us the truth. I’m so sorry that there are still people who doubt, including some in my own family. I don’t get it! Please show me what I can do to help my family see the truth; even if it means standing aside and letting You send someone they will listen to. Bring my family back Lord. Please!