45 One of the lawyers *said to Him in reply, “Teacher, when You say this, You insult us too.”
Looking back, Jesus had been healing those suffering from demonic influence, and some of the Pharisees and scribes had attributed His good works to the devil, while others had demanded Jesus perform more signs to appease them. Jesus had refused. One of the Pharisees present decided to invite Jesus to lunch for reason that are not stated, but took offense that Christ and His disciples did not properly wash their hands according to their religious tradition.
In the last section, Jesus tore into the Pharisees for their hypocrisy in their religious practice, both in their personal motivations and in their promotion of the obscure traditions above larger concepts like justice and mercy.
You can imagine the room is pretty uncomfortable. One of the other guests, perhaps trying to restore order to the situation, butts in to tell Jesus that He is insulting the other guests (likely also scribes, lawyers, and Pharisees.)
Jesus, however, also has some choice words for these experts in the Mosaic law.
46 But He said, “Woe to you lawyers as well! For you weigh men down with burdens hard to bear, while you yourselves will not even touch the burdens with one of your fingers. 47 Woe to you! For you build the tombs of the prophets, and it was your fathers who killed them. 48 So you are witnesses and approve the deeds of your fathers; because it was they who killed them, and you build their tombs. 49 For this reason also the wisdom of God said, ‘I will send to them prophets and apostles, and some of them they will kill and some they will persecute, 50 so that the blood of all the prophets, shed since the foundation of the world, may be charged against this generation, 51 from the blood of Abel to the blood of Zechariah, who was killed between the altar and the house of God; yes, I tell you, it shall be charged against this generation.’ 52 Woe to you lawyers! For you have taken away the key of knowledge; you yourselves did not enter, and you hindered those who were entering.”
There are three primary charges that Jesus lays against these experts in the Law.
Injustice: They held others to a higher religious standard than they held themselves to. They were partial to themselves, their friends, and their class.
Pride: They had pride in their religious heritage and they took pride in their religious observance, ignoring their own history and the humility that should have come from knowing that history. In response to this and to reveal their hearts, God will test them by sending these religious leaders modern day prophets, whom they will persecute and kill.
Deception: Through their focus on the minutia as opposed to the larger concepts, and through their hypocrisy, they were presenting a false image of what a man of God should look like.
Where are we in relation to these things?
Do these qualities mark our own religious observance? Do we treat people differently based on appearance? Wealth? Social Status? Race?
What about in regards to their personal sin? Do we hold some people to a higher standard than we hold ourselves? Do we look upon the unwed pregnant teen with scorn, while we excuse our own lustful thoughts or pornographic consumption or other sexual sin? What about homosexuals? Do we look down upon them, thinking that we are more righteous than they are? If you take a stand for righteousness in the public square, are you confident that you’re doing the same in your private home?
Have we let pride creep into our habits and thoughts? Do we revel in our cathedrals and their modern garish counterparts thinking that out of everyone on planet Earth, that we’re the ones that God has specially blessed because we’re so great? Are we really so sure that we wouldn’t have been one of the ones crying out to crucify Jesus for challenging our assumptions and misconceptions about God?
And what exactly does our faith and our actions say about our God? We take the name Christian, we bear the name of Christ. If you asked someone outside of the church what Jesus was like based on their perceptions of us, what would they say?
This isn’t a call to feel guilty or to try harder, but a call to live an introspective life, with our eyes fixed on some of the broader concepts of our faith that Jesus practiced: Charity, mercy, equality, humility, honesty or authenticity.
53 When He left there, the scribes and the Pharisees began to be very hostile and to question Him closely on many subjects, 54 plotting against Him to catch Him in something He might say.
Christ’s words are immediately polarizing. Whatever doubts some of the Pharisees had about Him before, there is no doubting now. Christ is a threat to them and their practice. They step up their attacks on Him hoping to trip Him up in a question of the Law so they can discredit Him before the people. And we’ve seen these attacks in the other gospels and will see more in the rest of Luke and John’s gospel.
The attacks are predictable because that’s what we humans usually resort to when our world views are challenged. We lash out because the alternative of admitting that we’ve gotten it all wrong requires a willingness to be wrong. Humility.
If someone challenges our deeply held beliefs, how do we respond to them?
Our actions define our God for those who see us.
What does our God look like to them?