Jesus wasn’t going around just trying to make enemies of anyone, but He was fearlessly living and telling the truth no matter the circumstances. What we read in Luke 11:37-54 is how the scribes, Pharisees, and experts on the Law were living by the gospel according to self. They looked really righteous and knowledgeable on the surface, but of course Jesus can see below the surface at what’s actually going on in the heart and mind. It seems that there are several reasons why Jesus offended these religious leaders on this occasion.
He Exposed “Surface Spirituality” (37-41). They were so obsessed with appearances, doing things to look good to others. Yet, Jesus said they were full of corruption and wickedness in their hearts. They knew how to look spiritual without being godly, a deadly condition!
He Exposed “Majoring In The Minors” And “Minoring In The Majors” (42). He doesn’t rebuke the attention to details, but says they neglected what really mattered when making gestures that appeared to show how scrupulous and careful their religion was. True religion is supposed to stand on huge pillars like divine justice and love. Operate from those qualities and you are well on your way to true righteousness.
He Exposed “Appearance-Driven Actions” (43-45). Jesus called them on their love of the chief seats and respectful greetings. Surely most people appreciate being appreciated, but such can never be what drives or motivates us to do praiseworthy things.
He Exposed “Hypocritical Holiness” (46). They were good at making rules others needed to follow while not bothering to live by those same rules. Beware holding others to a standard you do not submit to yourself. Here, these appear to be their own convictions which they bind on others rather than God’s laws.
He Exposed “Artificial Admiration” (47-51). They seemed to conclude that revering long-dead prophets was the spiritually acceptable thing to do, but they rejected and hated the greatest man in history–God in the flesh. While decorating the tombs of men their ancestors had slaughtered throughout the Old Testament, from Abel (Gen. 4) to Zechariah (2 Chron. 24:20-21)–like saying A to Z, they were actively fighting One even greater and ready to do the same to His disciples.
He Exposed “Wicked Watchdogs” (52). Jesus’ last accusation is as piercing as they come. He says they took away the key to knowledge. They refused to enter the kingdom, but they actively hindered others who were trying to enter. They made themselves the gatekeepers to God, a presumptuous but also misguided effort.
And did they humbly repent and change their ways when the Son of God called them out? No. Their pride overrode any other impulse, and they grew more hostile, plotting how they might trap Him in something He might say. They became more critical and vicious. They had hardened their hearts that much. The takeaway for me is abundantly clear. What do I do with Jesus’ will? Do I take to heart His admonitions and challenges, or do I allow sinful pride to eclipse my view of it? Do I dig my trenches deeper or do I allow His will to shape and influence me? I pray that I will choose the latter!