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Dining with a Pharisee, Jesus Denounces That Sect.

5-15. DINING WITH A PHARISEE, JESUS DENOUNCES THAT SECT.
c LUKE 11:37-54.

      c 37 Now as he spake, a Pharisee asketh him to dine with him: and he went in, and sat down to meat. [The repast to which Jesus was invited was a morning meal, usually eaten between ten and eleven o'clock. The principal meal of the day was eaten in the evening. Jesus dined with all classes, with publicans and Pharisees, with friends and enemies.]

  38 And when the Pharisee saw it, he marvelled that he had not first bathed himself before dinner. [The Pharisee marveled at this because the tradition of the elders required them to wash their hands before eating, and, if they had been in a crowd where their bodies might have been touched by some unclean person, they washed their whole bodies. It was a custom which ministered to pride and self-righteousness.]

  39 The Lord said to him [Our Lord's speech is unsparingly denunciatory. To some it seems strange that Jesus spoke thus in a house where he was an invited guest. But our Lord never suspended the solemn work of reproof out of mere compliment. He was governed by higher laws than those of conventional politeness], Now ye the Pharisees cleanse the outside of the cup and the platter; but your inward part is full of extortion and wickedness.

  40 Ye foolish ones, did not he that made the outside make the inside also? [Since God made both the inner and the outer, a true reverence for him requires that both parts be alike kept clean.]

  41 But give for alms those things which are within; and behold, all things are clean unto you. [That is, give your inner life, your love, mercy, compassion, etc., to the blessing of mankind, and then your inner purity will make you against outward defilement-- Matthew 15:11 ; Titus 1:15 ; Romans 14:4 .]

  42 But woe unto you, Pharisees! for ye tithe mint and rue and every herb, and pass over justice and the love of God: but these ought ye to have done, and not to leave the other undone. [The Pharisees in paying the tenth part, or tithe, to God, were so exact that they offered the tenth part of the seed even of the spearmint, rue and other small garden herbs, and many contended that the very stalks of these plants should also be tithed. Jesus commends this care about little things, but nevertheless rebukes the Pharisees because they were as careless about big things, such as justice, and the love of God, as they were careful about herb seed. Rue was a small shrub about two feet high, and is said to have been used to flavor wine, and for medicinal purposes.]

  43 Woe unto you, Pharisees! for ye love the chief seats in the synagogues, and the salutations in the marketplaces. [They were vainglorious, loving the honors and attentions given by men ( John 5:44 ). They loved on week days to be saluted in the marketplace, and on the Sabbath to sit in the semi-circular row of seats which were back of the lectern, or desk of the reader, and which faced the congregation.]

  44 Woe unto you! for ye are as the tombs which appear not, and the men that walk over them know it not. [According to the Mosaic law, any one who touched a grave was rendered unclean ( Numbers 19:16 ). That they might not touch graves and be made unclean without knowing it, the Jews white-washed their graves and tombs once a year. But Jesus likens a Pharisee to graves which defiled men unawares. Their hypocrisy concealed their true nature, so that men were injured and corrupted by their influence without being aware of it. Jesus pronounces three woes upon the Pharisees for three sins, viz.: 1. Hypocrisy, shown in pretending to be be very careful when they were really extremely careless; 2. Vainglory; 3. Corruption of the public morals.]

  45 And one of the lawyers answering saith unto him, Teacher, in saying this thou reproachest us also. [Lightfoot supposes that a scribe was one who copied the law of Moses, while a lawyer expounded the oral law or traditions of the elders. But it is more likely that the terms were used interchangeably. They leaned to the Pharisee party, and hence this one felt the rebuke which Jesus addressed to that party. The scribe intimated that Jesus had spoken hastily, and his speech is a suggestion to Jesus to correct or modify his unguarded words. But Jesus made no mistakes and spoke no hasty words.]

  46 And he said, Woe unto you lawyers also! for ye load men with burdens grievous to be borne, and ye yourselves touch not the burdens with one of your fingers. [We have seen in the traditions with regard to the Sabbath how these Jewish lawyers multiplied the burdens which Moses had placed upon the people. They were careful to lay these burdens upon others, but equally careful not to bear them themselves--no, not even to keep the law of Moses itself-- Matthew 23:2 Matthew 23:3 .]

  47 Woe unto you! for ye build the tombs of the prophets, and your fathers killed them.

  48 So ye are witnesses and consent unto the works of your fathers: for they killed them, and ye build their tombs. [Tombs were usually dug in the rock in the sides of hills or cliffs. To build them therefore was to decorate or ornament the entrance. Though their act in building the sepulchres was a seeming honor to the prophets, God did not accept it as such. A prophet is only truly honored when his message is received and obeyed. The lawyers were not in fellowship with the prophets, but with those who murdered the prophets: hence the Saviour pictures the whole transaction from the killing of the prophets to the building of their sepulchres as one act in which all concurred, and all of which were guilty. Abbott gives the words a figurative meaning, thus: your fathers slew the prophets by violence, and you bury them by false teaching.]

  49 Therefore also said the wisdom of God, I will send unto them prophets and apostles; and some of them they shall kill and persecute;

  50 that the blood of all the prophets, which was shed from the foundation of the world, may be required of this generation [The phrase "wisdom of God" has been very puzzling, for the words spoken by Jesus are not found in any Old Testament book. Among the explanations the best is that which represents Jesus as quoting the trend or tenor of several prophecies such as 2 Chronicles 24:19-22 ; 36:14-16 ; Proverbs 1:20-33 . It may, however, be possible that Jesus is here publishing a new decree or conclusion of God, for the words specifically concerned the present generation. If so, Jesus assents to the decree of the Father by calling it "the wisdom of God," and the language is kindred to that at Matthew 11:25 Matthew 11:26 ];

  51 From the blood of Abel unto the blood of Zachariah, who perished between the altar and the sanctuary: yea, I say unto you, it shall be required of this generation. [Abel is accounted a prophet because his form of sacrifice prefigured that of Christ. His murder is described at Genesis 4:1-8 , the first historical book of the Bible, while that of Zachariah is described at 2 Chronicles 24:20-22 , in the last historical book of the Old Testament. From the record of one, therefore, to the record of the other embraces the entire catalogue of the Old Testament martyrs. Tradition assigns one of the four great sepulchral monuments at the foot of Olivet to Zachariah. That generation sanctioned all the sins of the past and went beyond them to the crucifixion of the Son of God. The best comment on this passage is the parable at Luke 20:9-16 . God made that generation the focus of the world's light and privilege, but the men of that time made it the focus of the world's wickedness and punishment. The punishment began about thirty-seven years later in the war with Rome, which lasted five years and culminated in the destruction of Jerusalem.]

  52 Woe unto you lawyers! for ye took away the key of knowledge: ye entered not in yourselves, and them that were entering in ye hindered. [A true knowledge of the Scriptures was a key which opened the door to the glories of Christ and his kingdom. This the lawyer had given away by teaching not the contents of the book, but the rubbish and trifles of tradition. They did not open the door for themselves, and by their pretentious interference they confused others in their efforts to open it.]

  53 And when he was come out from thence, the scribes and the Pharisees began to press upon him vehemently, and to provoke him to speak of many things;

  54; laying wait for him, to catch something out of his mouth. [They plied him with many questions, hoping that they could irritate him into making a hot or hasty answer. For methods used to entrap Jesus see Matthew 22: ]