HG106-107 Luke 11:14–54

Harmony of the Gospels  •  Sermon  •  Submitted   •  Presented   •  25:55
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Luke 11:33–54 ESV
33 “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 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.
Thanks to Lindy for reading this passage to us today. You may have noticed that the passage would have started at verse 14 but we have already covered the verses up to 32 in other sermons including in our evening services on Jonah.
So, let us look at what we have got before us from verse 33 onward.
Today we are looking at religion and faith. Religion, in the sense we are using it today, is man’s effort to please God through good works or/and obedience to the law. Faith is not like this. Faith is trusting in Jesus for our righteousness because of the work of the cross and then we do good works and obedience to the law as a result. In this passage we shall see the outcome of doing religion and in what it is to be a people of faith. In fact, Jesus starts out by saying that we are either light or darkness. And this is evident in whether we are people of faith or a people of religion.
Let us be clear. Religion in and of itself is not wrong except in the way we are understanding it today. In fact, Scripture makes it clear that religion can be good or it can be evil: For example:
James 1:26–27 ESV
26 If anyone thinks he is religious and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his heart, this person’s religion is worthless. 27 Religion that is pure and undefiled before God the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world.
But, to make sense of this, we need to go back to the definition of religion which is our effort to please God through works or obedience. Religion is shambolic for every effort to try to please God fails. It is impossible to bridle the tongue. Though we are able to do the good to a point. And religion is a waste of time for as we know elsewhere in Scripture we are told:
Hebrews 11:6 ESV
6 And without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him.
God receives us not because of our good works or because we have kept the law for it is impossible to please God in these ways. But we can come with confidence to God through faith in the finished work of Jesus on the cross, and His burial, and His resurrection. We can come into the holy of holies because the blood of Jesus was shed for us: The reason He came the first time at all.
Now Jesus shocks those who hear Him. He has been invited to dinner but He deliberately forwent the washing of his hands. Now, the washing of hands was not about cleanliness from what one had touched and fear of contaminating the food but a ceremonious hand washing which had a number of rules laid down. If you did not hand wash then you were unclean in the ritualistic sense. Oh boy! Something like that was bound to be noticed. And the host noticed! One wonders why he invited Jesus anyway. But Jesus has set out to provoke them, not to condemn them but to open their eyes to see that they were in a dark place indeed.
In summary Jesus places charges against them:
The Gospel according to Luke (King James Version) K. The Severe Charges against Religionists, 11:37–54

2. The first charge: religionists are ceremonially clean, but inwardly unclean (vv. 39–41).

3. The second charge: religionists obey God in tithing, but ignore justice and love (v. 42).

4. The third charge: religionists crave prominence and honor (v. 43).

5. The fourth charge: religionists mislead others to become unclean and corrupt (v. 44).

6. The fifth charge: religionists burden men with rules and regulations (vv. 45–46).

7. The sixth charge: religionists honor the true prophets of God—as long as they are dead (vv. 47–51).

8. The seventh charge: religionists have taken away the key to the truth about God (v. 52).

Washing the outside is all well and good but what about the inside? Now here is the key: give alms of what is inside and you will be clean. In other words give everything within your hearts to God and His work not just put on the outward show.
Then Jesus pronounces six woes:
42 What can be wrong with tithing? The Pharisees tithed absolutely everything. And notice: Jesus commends them for this aspect. In fact, most fellowships would love such people to come along: “Come, all you Pharisees, and heavy-laden givers, and you shall find rest for your chequebooks!”
Too often monies are kept for extravagant buildings and livelihoods and personal comfort—monies that God wants used to feed the hungry, clothe the naked, house the orphan, care for the widows and reach the lost. Such extravagance and misuse of the tithe reveals an unjust heart. It is cheating the needy of the world. It is as Jesus said, passing over justice. It is overlooking what is right and just in a world that just reels under the weight of millions, if not billions, who are in desperate need.
Whilst being generous to their Church they were miserly and scrooges to the world and the very needy, to the stranger, fatherless and widow. In all their giving they had forgotten justice:
Micah 6:8 NKJV
8 He has shown you, O man, what is good; And what does the Lord require of you But to do justly, To love mercy, And to walk humbly with your God?
Amos said a similar thing:
Amos 5:21–24 ESV
21 “I hate, I despise your feasts, and I take no delight in your solemn assemblies. 22 Even though you offer me your burnt offerings and grain offerings, I will not accept them; and the peace offerings of your fattened animals, I will not look upon them. 23 Take away from me the noise of your songs; to the melody of your harps I will not listen. 24 But let justice roll down like waters, and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream.
The issue was that if you do not personally care and help others you do not really love God.
1 John 3:17–18 ESV
17 But if anyone has the world’s goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God’s love abide in him? 18 Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth.
We should never be those who say: I gave at Church, I can’t help you. We should be those who give and love mercy and justice
43 What was the best seat in the house? The ones at the front. Not like in a theatre but facing the congregation. The loved to be seen by all. But their folly was that they were full of pride that left no room for the God they supposedly served.
Jesus asked this question before:
John 5:44 ESV
44 How can you believe, when you receive glory from one another and do not seek the glory that comes from the only God?
You cannot look for praise for yourself AND praise for God. You cannot seek both. And God will not give His glory to another. There is a flyer for a Christian event that says: All-star worship band. Is it upon the worshippers we should concentrate or upon God? Someone said to me before the funeral that if I preach well then you may get invites all over the world. Really? That is the purpose of preaching? If we are keen in drawing attention to ourselves we are doing a disservice to our God.
44 Woe to you for you are like unmarked graves that are walked over. This is not understandable to us without an explanation. Graves were ceremonially defiling so they were clearly marked. Otherwise you might step unaware on a grave, be defiled and pollute the temple. Indeed they whitewashed the graves to make sure you did not. These Pharisees were so concerned about external religion they were actually the source of contamination to unsuspecting worshippers. They were deceived and were deceiving. They were ruining people spiritually. They were spiritual Typhoid Marys: diseased, defiling, infecting and polluting. Which is why

it is imperative that our thoughts, our desires, our actions have roots in the faith we confess with our lips.

45-46 Now this was plain daft of the lawyer. Talk about putting your chin out there you are just about to get a whack. I bet he regretted it afterwards. This lawyer was thinking, right, go get the Pharisee! Who cares! They get things wrong for we know what is best and how to follow the law. Though oftentimes they were in cohorts together, and indeed, at the end they really are together against Jesus. You see the problem with the lawyer was everybody else but me. Yes, I see that so and so has a problem. Great preaching. Perfect for John or Robert or Melissa but not for me. Plainly they need to get sorted out but I’m OK Jack!
Except some of the things Jesus encroached on with the Pharisees had a direct hit upon the lawyer who spoke up. It got a little too close to home! But he did not know that he was about to be on the receiving on of even more condemnation for their behaviour. But this passage is just for the Pharisee and the Lawyer right? Not for any of us here, surely? Friends, if there is nothing here that convicts you today then may I speak of pride. Are you or I really better than anyone else here?
Self-righteousness leads to self-justification. And we are very much about noticing the outward evil rather than dealing with what God wants to deal with, the inward heart of evil.
You might think that we are not possibly like this. But this is the point. We are all susceptible to it. We can become one-issue Christians: The issues vary: Which version of the Bible do you read? Are you a pacifist? Do you drink? Do you believe in prophecy (if so, which kind)? Have you demonstrated for civil rights, for no-nukes, for peace? Do you speak in tongues? Are you a tither, and what kind—before or after taxes, gross or net? Are foreign missions the focus of your faith? Are you a voter of the Conservatives or Labour or, God forbid, UKIP or Greens, and there are other political parties? Are you a vegetarian, and if so, what about eggs and fish? These single-issue people are the legalists of today.
These experts of the law manufactured more laws to, in their thinking, protect the written law of God. And so the 613 laws of Scripture became over 6000!

For example, it was taught that on the Sabbath a man may not carry a burden in his right hand or left hand, in his bosom or on his shoulder. But, he may carry it on the back of his hand or with his foot, or with his mouth, or with his elbow, or in his ear, or in his hair, or in his wallet, if it is carried mouth-downward or between his wallet and shirt or in the hem of his shirt or in his shoe or sandal.

it was an even greater offense to offend against the scribal interpretations that made everything so clear (M. Sanhedrin 11:3)! Thus life had become impossible for the average Israelite in Jesus’ day. Oppressive religion took the spring from his footsteps.

Jesus’ initial woe to the experts in the Law echoes tellingly down through the corridors of the last twenty centuries and rightly falls on us today. We must beware of all expressions of Christianity that place tradition on an equal footing with the Scriptures

How quickly things become tradition that we must not do without and over which we argue as if they are law.
But we have to hear the words of Jesus:
Matthew 11:28–30 ESV
28 Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”
Our rest is found in the Word of God. Jesus made it clear that the Law, the Word of God, was adequate by itself. Man did not have to add rules and regulation to it.
47-51 Then we hear Jesus give a woe about building the sepulchres of the dead prophets. You might think this unfair but the meaning comes through well enough: Your forefathers killed the prophets and you make sure they stay dead. They completed the work of the work of those who killed the prophets. They were in partnership with the prophet-killers. They simply did not want the Word of God to be declared. And so Jesus said that all the blood that had been shed would be paid for by that generation.

Jesus’ contemporaries comprised the most privileged of all generations in Israel’s history. They possessed the accumulated witness of all the prophets. God had sent them the greatest prophet ever—John the Baptist. And then he sent the Messiah himself—the Word of God preaching the Word! Along with him came the Christian apostles who lived out the exhortation to “Preach the Word” (2 Timothy 4:2). The apostolic preaching of the cross was a more glorious statement of the gospel than any previous generation had ever heard. And when Jesus’ generation rejected it, they demonstrated that they were partners with their forefathers in killing the prophets. Indeed, they were far more guilty than their ancestors because they rejected the Word preached by greater prophets and apostles.

In 70AD Jerusalem fell to the Romans and Israel ceased to exist from 135AD.
We also have responsibility having had 2000 years of having the whole Word of God.
52 The last woe is damning too. They had the Word of God, the way of salvation but they were not content in revealing it and those who were entering they bogged down in their legalism, their own ideas and thoughts. I say to you that you should know the Word of God for yourself and test all that I and others say from the pulpit. The Word of God is the key to true knowledge. We must be people of the Book.
Needless to say what Jesus said went down like a lead balloon where they joined forces in trying to bring Jesus down. Would we have been stubborn like them or would we have been cut to the heart and examined oneself to see whether it really was true of us? If the latter our hearts are in the right place.
I return at the end of the sermon to what Jesus said at the beginning about being light rather than darkness. Either we are like these Pharisees and Scribes of the law , a people of religiosity, or we are a people of faith. Let us be those who give our all to God and His work.


Philippians 4:7 ESV
7 And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.


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Morris, L. (1988). Luke: an introduction and commentary (Vol. 3). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.
Schaff, P. (Ed.). (1879). Introduction, and the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke (Vol. 1). Edinburgh: T & T Clark.
Exported from Logos Bible Software, 22:42 01 December 2018.
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