Meals with Jesus: At a Pharisee’s

Please read: Luke 11:37-54

I can hear it now, “Mum why do I have to wash up? Jesus didn’t wash up before dinner. Why do I have to?” In these days of almost overdone hygiene, the reader is astonished that Jesus would walk into the Pharisee’s house, recline at table, and not wash up.

But as Jesus does, He turned it into a lesson or rather a severe rebuking of the Pharisee’s hypocrisy of being concerned with the outer rather than paying attention to the inner.

Jesus was always eager to show divine mercy to everyone but so much for light dinner conversation here. You can almost tangibly feel the intensity… the awkwardness. Jesus speaks not only with intensity…but with a profound sharpness. Imagine being one of the guests… perhaps one of the disciples… this would be one of those times when you lower your head… are not sure where to look… nervously move things around on your plate. It’s a very, very awkward conversation This encounter raises a few different feelings. One may feel a little put-off, thinking that Jesus is getting too harsh. After all, when you are invited to dinner, you don’t treat the host this way. This passage might have you reassessing whether you would want to have a meal with Jesus. Some however may find themselves cheering… because those who have abused their positions of power are being called out. For some, this cheer may come from a deeper place … because of significant hurt by some leader in a position of authority even spiritual authority. C.S. Lewis wrote, “Of all the bad men, religious bad men are the worst.” Jesus is good, can be trusted and can offer healing.

Jesus knew the Pharisees were tough nuts to crack. He knew they had most likely asked him to dinner, heeding the advice “Keep your friends close but your enemies closer.” They imposed all kinds of extra rules on themselves and others and slammed anyone who didn’t follow their example. Moreover, they practised a kind of extortion in scenes like today’s meal, actively condemning anyone who did not act like a Pharisee. I suspect that this Pharisee was about to throw Jesus out if He didn’t submit to the purification ritual.

At the moment through this pandemic, we have been told to wash our hands often. Jesus wasn’t opposed to washing your hands before you eat. He was opposed to worrying more about what was on the outside than what was on the inside. He said that what comes out of a person shows what is inside. We can wash our hands constantly, and we can avoid getting sick as a result. But Jesus would ask were we already sick inside before we washed our hands. There are many things that will cause our hearts to be unhealthy. In this passage, Jesus nails the Pharisees and tells them they need to give to the poor, something he often teaches. You see, the Pharisees were so busy following the law that they were missing the most important things. They were failing to love. They followed God out of a sense of obligation. And while they might give money to the church if people were watching, it was all about the show. They did not care for the poor or those in need. Their hearts had turned to stone. The Pharisees did what they did… to be seen and noticed by others. They spent all their energy on external appearances but nothing inside. We too can easily fall into this. Jesus calls us to be real and honest. He does not and cannot use a heart that has turned to stone. The challenge for us is to pay attention to the inner and to keep our hearts alive. Woe to us, too, I am sure if we don’t.

PRAYER: Please God keep my heart and my motives pure so as I might be an effective witness for you. Amen.

SONG: Change My Heart O God by Maranatha Music –