Today we will be reading from Luke 11: 37-52:
37 While he was speaking, a Pharisee invited him to dine with him, so he went in and took his place at the table. 38 The Pharisee was amazed to see that he did not first wash before dinner. 39 Then the Lord said to him, “Now you Pharisees clean the outside of the cup and of the dish, but inside you are full of greed and wickedness. 40 You fools! Did not the one who made the outside make the inside also? 41 So give as alms those things that are within and then everything will be clean for you.
42 “But woe to you Pharisees! For you tithe mint and rue and herbs of all kinds and neglect justice and the love of God; it is these you ought to have practiced, without neglecting the others. 43 Woe to you Pharisees! For you love to have the seat of honor in the synagogues and to be greeted with respect in the marketplaces. 44 Woe to you! For you are like unmarked graves on which people unknowingly walk.”
45 One of the experts in the law answered him, “Teacher, when you say these things, you insult us, too.” 46 And he said, “Woe also to you experts in the law! For you load people with burdens hard to bear, and you yourselves do not lift a finger to ease them. 47 Woe to you! For you build the tombs of the prophets whom your ancestors killed. 48 So you are witnesses and approve of the deeds of your ancestors, for they killed them, and you build their tombs. 49 For this reason the Wisdom of God said, ‘I will send them prophets and apostles, some of whom they will kill and persecute,’ 50 so that this generation may be charged with the blood of all the prophets shed since the foundation of the world, 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 charged against this generation. 52 Woe to you experts in the law! For you have taken away the key of knowledge; you did not enter yourselves, and you hindered those who were entering.”
In our passage today, we find Jesus in conflict with the religious leaders, something that happens so very often in the Gospels. We see Luke’s account of His “woes” to the Pharisees today. This is when He condemns the religious leaders for the fact that they do not actually believe what they say.
They claim to be religious, but there is nothing in their actions or in their hearts that show they have the true love of God in their hearts. They claim to desire the law when they do not follow the laws themselves, and they use it as a burden on the backs of others. They claim to love the prophets of God when they were the ones who had killed the prophets and would crucify Jesus.
In other words, they did not do the very things that they claimed to believe and claimed to do.
I think this is a word for us as Christians today. So often, we make our faith about the things that we “do.” The church we go to. The books we read. The things we post on social media. Even our moral stands. These things are all fine; they are all good.
But they are not our faith. Our faith is a daily, personal submission to the Lordship of Jesus. That is what Christianity calls us to. It is not so much about what we say that we believe or what we claim to know, but it is simply this.
Have I laid down my life, taken up my cross, and followed Jesus? Have I submitted my life to His Holy Spirit, allowing it to transform and remake me, reform me, restore me? Am I seeking, through the power of the Holy Spirit, to love God and love my neighbor with all that am?
Is my faith not just what I claim to have but something I actually have?
The religious leaders could talk a good game. They could even look the part. But they didn’t believe or live out their faith. It would be easy for us to make that same mistake, to have our faith be about what we claim to believe instead of what we actually believe and what we actually do.
May we not make that same mistake. May we seek to submit our lives completely and totally to Jesus.
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