Luke 11:37-54 (ESV)
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.
Jesus accepted an invitation to dine with one of the Pharisees. Others were also present at the meal. The Pharisee was shocked when he saw that Jesus didn’t wash before the meal, which was a sign of purity to the religious community. But Jesus rebuked the Pharisees for making such a fuss about the outside of things while tolerating ugly or unclean attitudes in their hearts. He then pronounced “woes” upon them. The first was for focusing on minor issues while ignoring the call to justice and love. The second was for desiring attention, which stemmed from their pride, and the third was for causing those who followed them to be contaminated by their false teaching. Then one of the lawyers present told Jesus he had insulted the law professionals. So Jesus pronounced three woes upon the experts in the law or the scribes. First, he said they placed enormous burdens on others, yet gave them no help in carrying those loads. Like the Pharisees, they too were hypocrites. Next, they rejected God’s messengers, the prophets, and finally they weren’t following the path of true knowledge, so they kept others from finding it as well. Clearly, the Pharisees and scribes were not happy with that lunch conversation. After this, they began to go all-out in their attempt to entrap him into saying something wrong. They couldn’t wait for him to mess up.
Jesus came down hard on the religious leaders for their hypocrisy. Without repentance, they were destined for judgment. Sadly, they didn’t listen to the tough but loving words of Jesus. Instead, they became even more calloused and hardened against him and his teaching. In verse 40, Jesus illustrated the foolishness of the two-faced lives they were leading. He asked rhetorically, “Did not he who made the outside make the inside also?” In other words, we may feel like we can divide our lives into inner and outer or private and public, but this is insulting to the character or God who sees both. If you are a follower of Jesus today, check your heart. Are you living one way before man and another way when no one is watching? If so, ask God to make you as sincere as possible. Though others may focus on our outward behavior, God looks at our hearts. Ask the Holy Spirit to cleanse you today from the inside out today.