He was a likeable man, and well respected in his Church and community. When he walked to the end of his drive to collect the morning paper, bystanders could be assured to hear him say, “Good morning! Isn’t this a beautiful day that the Lord has made?” He always had an expensive, late model car in the driveway and owned an attractive, well maintained suburban home. And his lawn regularly received honorable mention in the Home Owner Association newsletter.
He never missed Church and was always the loudest, most well dressed person on the “amen” pew. Those who did miss Church could be assured that he would greet them with a smile and a hand shake upon their return to the assembly. After which, he would politely provide them with unsolicited counsel regarding proper Church attendance.
Yes, he was charming and successful. He always seemed to do everything right and had a handle on keeping up outward Christian appearances. Yet, there was more to the man than met the public eye. None of his acquaintances knew how the treated those who could do nothing for him.
They assumed that, because they saw him put a paltry sum in the Church collection plate, he was a charitable man and filled with the love of Christ. However, this wasn’t true. The man was filled with greed and this fact was evidenced by way he earned his living abroad. He was always happy to profit at the expense of others and never once in his life sacrificed his own comfort or resources for those less fortunate than himself.
The ugly truth about the man was this. He made sure to clean and polish his visible exterior, but was a far different person in his heart. In our chosen Bible passage for this written work, we see an example of Jesus’ interaction with a real person very much like the fictitious fellow described above.
Our study verses are Luke 11:37-41:
37 And as he spake , a certain Pharisee besought him to dine with him: and he went in , and sat down to meat .
As Jesus was yet speaking to the public assembly, a Pharisee politely interrupted to invite him to dinner as it was that time of day. Now, one should be willing to give the Pharisee the benefit of a doubt and hope pure motives led him to invite Jesus to dinner. We should also, in modern scenarios, hope that well mannered people always have honorable intentions, but we know this was not true of the Pharisee and often isn’t true of folks today.
The truth, as scripturally demonstrated, is that the Pharisees doggedly pursued opportunities to accuse Jesus of blasphemy and heresy. Jesus was a faithful witness to God’s pure Truth and this conflicted with the Pharisees’ religious ideology. So, it is reasonable for us to suspect that the Pharisee was up to no good.
Yet, in spite of this, Jesus graciously accepted the invitation and set the perfect example for His attending disciples. He could easily have declined the invitation, but chose instead to be gracious and friendly. The alternative was to isolate Himself from those who wished Him ill. However, this would have eradicated all opportunity to instruct the Pharisee and all others.
This example is something we should prayerfully reflect upon when dealing with difficult personalities and even enemies. Lost people need Jesus and it is up the Christian to introduce them to our Savior. While it’s advisable to take the proper precautions regarding the company we keep, taking a too rigid stance prevents us from being a light to the world.
38 And when the Pharisee saw it, he marvelled that he had not first washed before dinner.
The Pharisee, upon seeing that Jesus failed to wash before dinner, was taken by surprise. Why would a Jew of Jesus’ stature violate thus custom? Undoubtedly, the Pharisee had provided Jesus and all his guests with necessary facilities. Yet, Jesus chose to go ahead sit down.
Was this a deliberate, purposeful act on Jesus’ part? The implication here is that Jesus was indeed deliberate in this. He intentionally refused to engage in that which the Pharisees would impose upon the people by their dictation of ceremonial law. And, because He knows all hearts and even all things, He knew the Pharisee would respond negatively.
By the Pharisees’ visible abhorrence of what he saw, his heart was exposed and the stage was set for Jesus to rebuke him. This was necessary because, the Pharisee concerned himself with appearances rather than weightier matters and it was this type of error Jesus taught against.
39 And the Lord said unto him, Now do ye Pharisees make clean the outside of the cup and the platter; but your inward part is full of ravening and wickedness.
Christ’s use of parallel here is most instructive. What good can be done by washing only on the outside of vessels from which we eat and drink? The obvious and most logical method is to clean such things inside and out. Likewise, our hearts must also be clean before God and not only our outward behavior which is visible to man.
Keeping up appearances for appearances sake is not Godly, but rather deceptive behavior when the heart is not right before God. In fact, its really nothing more than self serving pretense. We are no better than any other type of hypocrite if we polish up our lives through the observance of self serving behavioral habits and leave our hearts unclean. Concerning onself with publicly observed moral uprightness, is only part of what God expects from us. The most important part cannot be left undone.
40 Ye fools, did not he that made that which is without make that which is within also?
Jesus’ message on this topic is clear and He didn’t candy coat it for the Pharisees. Take note of the strong language He used. He even called them fools and was known to publically castigated the Pharisees with great vigor. (Mt. 23)
Christ was God’s Word in the flesh and therefore faithful to his Father’s counsel in all places and at all times. He made the truth known and concerned Himself with driving points home rather than being a respecter of persons. God’s will should always trump man’s want of social pleasantries.
41 But rather give alms of such things as ye have ; and, behold , all things are clean unto you.
It is not ceremonial washing or observing superficial religious practices that make us clean before God. This is done by doing things like giving of ourselves from the heart. It is sharing some of what God Himself has given to us. To do this effectively the heart must be changed, be purified. Otherwise, even the act of giving can be cancelled out when done begrudgingly.
In conclusion, we are cleansed by being saved by Christ and made cleaner still during the process of sanctification. When we give ourselves over to Christ and turn from our former ways, He is faithful to change our hearts and make us clean inside as well as outside.