“Teacher,” said an expert in religious law, “you have insulted us, too, in what you just said.”
“Yes, “said Jesus, “what sorrow also awaits you experts in religious law! For you crush people with unbearable religious demands, and you never lift a finger to ease the burden. What sorrow awaits you! For you build monuments for the prophets your own ancestors killed long ago. But in fact, you stand as witnesses who agree with what your ancestors did. They killed the prophets, and you join in their crime by building the monuments! This is what God in His wisdom said about you: ‘I will send prophets and apostles to them, but they will kill some and persecute the others.’ As a result, this generation will be held responsible for the murder of all God’s prophets from the creation of the world— from the murder of Abel to the murder of Zechariah, who was killed between the altar and the sanctuary. Yes, it will certainly be charged against this generation. What sorrow awaits you experts in religious law! For you remove the key to knowledge from the people. You don’t enter the Kingdom yourselves, and you prevent others from entering.”
As Jesus was leaving, the teachers of religious law and the Pharisees became hostile and tried to provoke Him with many questions. They wanted to trap Him into saying something they could use against Him.Luke 11:45-54
As I asked a couple of days ago, “What was it Jesus said that insulted them?” The question is how far back do we go? Or when did the experts in the Law join the discussion? They must have been there from the start of the invitation to eat with the Pharisees at the Pharisee’s home. They were here at the home in this part of the story. They have been clearly listening to proceedings. In fact the teachers of the Law were considered part of the religious leadership of Israel despite not strictly being Pharisees as such. I suspect they were part of this whole discussion from the beginning. In other words listening to Jesus’ comments from the beginning of the request for a sign. After all the controversy and the events which called forth Jesus response stemmed from the request for a sign. Besides, it is hardly likely that the band of experts in the Law gate crashed the gathering after the meeting had started if none of them had been a part of the original discussion. That does not make sense. It makes more sense to think of the experts in the Law being part of the discussions in the Pharisee’s house, if not present at the outset of the request for a sign.
If that assumption is true then the two elements that most likely caused them to take offense are:
- suggesting the light they think they have in them is actually darkness (twice)
- criticizing the extreme practice of tithing mint, dill and cumin.
One of the “Religious Lawyers” favourite themes was to discuss the “light” and the revelation from the Torah, the Prophets and the Writings. They loved to wax eloquent about the meaning of the text and to discuss endlessly the various interpretations that existed on each knotty passage. They frequently added to the burden of the Law. They intensified the requirements of the Law and spelled out all the ways in which the Law should be interpreted and applied in all the small details so that the common people would not miss any possible application of a particular law. The inference here is not that the Pharisees and experts in the law exempted themselves from such requirements. In fact they seemed to take delight in their stoic approach to the extra burdens they themselves added. Seemingly counting leaves on mint and dill plants and extra burdens imposed on Sabbath keeping was supposed to make you a better person. But in reality law keeping does not save you. So it was all futile while appearing to be extra spiritual. Such practices merely added burdens without adding benefit. Any one of the comments of Jesus could have stirred their ire but I personally think it is was one of these two matters. Probably both, and. . . .
When we read Jesus’ response to the expert in the Law who indicated he had been offended, it makes the nature of the offense clear. “What sorrow also awaits you experts in religious law! For you crush people with unbearable religious demands, and you never lift a finger to ease the burden.” Jesus’ comment indicates His interpretation of the complaint. Jesus Himself sets the comment in the centre of where I suspected it would be. The minutiae of Laws the Pharisees and the experts in the Law put upon the people in the way they themselves interpret what it meant to keep the Sabbath, pay tithe etc.
Now that is interesting because Jesus did that too. Read Matthew 5:17-22. However the motivation is vastly different. Jesus’ comments related to fulfilling the Law or filling it up are to make it clear to us that we can’t measure up. If we break one of these laws then we are law breakers and guilty of breaking all the Law. The conclusion is you can’t do it; accept God’s way of dealing with it. The Pharisees’ purpose is one of applied legalism. You think this is all you have to do to keep the Sabbath or pay tithe but in actual fact you also need to count the leaves on the mint sprig and the dill leaves. The requirement is more than you imagined. Allow us to interpret the Law for you. You can’t trust yourself to interpret it correctly. We will gladly point out your shortcomings in your failure to keep the “full” Law and remind you that if you don’t keep it to fullest extent you will not partake in the Life of the Age to Come. Now for that privilege we will require an offering from you as well as the extra tithes you are paying now.
The experts in the Law demonstrated a typical legalist’s approach to Law. No Grace, All Law and half truth at that. Are there any portions that offend you or cause you take the Pharisees or Experts in the Law’s side?
That is for you to work out with the Holy Spirit. I don’t know if anything caused you to prickle at Jesus response. But you will know if there is anything there that stirred you to take offence. Do you realise it is just as much a sin to take offence as it is to give offence? Think about it. Do you also realise your (my) reactions indicate something of what is happening beneath the surface of our being. Particularly if we react strongly to something without really knowing why. If Jesus’ comments cause unexpected emotions in us; cause us to get angry, depressed, reactive, defensive or any other strong emotions, we don’t know why they surfaced it requires investigation. Yours, not mine. You deal with yours; I will take responsibility for mine.
Are there any difficult portions?
- This generation will be held responsible for the murder of all God’s prophets from the creation of the world
- Anything that is not clear and needs to be explained?
- For you build monuments for the prophets your own ancestors killed long ago.
- But in fact, you stand as witnesses who agree with what your ancestors did. They killed the prophets, and you join in their crime by building the monuments!
We will look at these two segments in the next Gem. Enough for now. I have spent longer on this segment than I intended to do.
When you say you agree with a thing in principle you mean that you have not the slightest intention of carrying it out in practice.Otto von Bismarck
It is easier to fight for one’s principles than to live up to them.Alfred Adler
Live truth instead of professing it.Elbert Hubbard
How many observe Christ’s birthday! How few His precepts! O, tis easier to keep holidays than commandments.Benjamin Franklin