What does your life look like on the inside? What is happening inside of you? Are you real? Is what people see the true you? Or is there the true you and then the you that you let people see? I think this is one of the issues that we face today. We are so connected and have so many social friends, but there is not one person who really knows us. So we feel alone even though we have this seeming circle of friends. Jesus is going to look into this problem and help us find the solution to this difficulty.
The Scene (11:37-38)
Jesus was still teaching and a Pharisee invites him to dinner. So Jesus goes with this Pharisee for dinner. Remember that the Pharisees are a group of respected religious leaders in Judaism in Jesus’ day. They were a select group who held strongly to the oral traditions passed down from their forefathers. Jesus goes with the Pharisee and sits at the table. The Pharisee is utterly shocked because Jesus did not first wash his hands. This shock is not coming from hygiene. The Pharisees is not having a problem because he knows about bacteria and viruses and the need to wash hands before putting one’s hands in one’s mouth. The issue is about ceremonial cleanliness. Listen to the tradition that the Pharisees had, as recorded in Yadayim 2.3.
“The hands are susceptible to uncleanness, and they are rendered clean up to the wrist. Thus if a man had poured the first water up to the wrist and the second water beyond the wrist, the water flowed back to the hand, the hand becomes clean; but if he poured both the first water and the second beyond the wrist, and the water flowed back to the hand, the hand remains unclean. If he poured the first water over the one hand alone and then bethought himself and poured the second water over the one hand, his one hand is clean. If he had poured the water over the one hand and rubbed it on the other, it becomes unclean; but if he rubbed it on his head or on the wall it remains clean.”
Are you not glad that we do not live under such a religious system? These are human rules that are not found in the scriptures. But people like to make rules to generate conformity. Jesus did not do this and did not subscribe to any human rules. Jesus enters the house and sits down at the table. You can imagine the Pharisees are over here doing this water routine and Jesus is watching and waiting on them. The Pharisee is shocked. Jesus recognizes the Pharisee’s shock and now uses this moment as an opportunity.
The Teaching (11:39-41)
Jesus addresses the issue. The Pharisees clean the outside of the cup and dish, but are full of greed and wickedness inside. This is a fairly disgusting image. A dirty cup on the inside is not useable. I’m not thrilled with dirty on the outside of the cup, but if it does not affect where I put my mouth it is not a big concern. But a cup that is dirty on the inside becomes a useless cup. No one washes dishes and cleans only the outside of the cup. There was a time, kids, when we did not have dishwashers. Well, we had dishwashers and they were called children. My mother and my grandmother’s house did not have a dishwasher so we washed them by hand. Do you know how to clean the cup? Where do you start? You start on the inside of the cup. You took the rag or sponge full of soapy water, and you cleaned the inside of the cup. Then we would clean the rim of the cup where people had put their mouths. Finally, we would clean the outside of the cup and then rinse the cup out. No one cleaned the outside of the cup first and then acted like the cup was clean. But this is what these religious people are doing. They are not starting with the inside, that is, the heart. They are only concerned about ceremonial, external defilements. However, God made the internal and the external and both count before the Lord. Jesus says that the problem is the Pharisees is that they are so concerned with these external acts to make sure they are not defiled or unclean on the hands, but do not care that they are defiled and unclean in the heart! You are worried about outward purity but give no concern to inward purity. In verse 41 Jesus makes the point very clear. Pay attention to your heart to find purity. Give from your heart. Generosity of heart will clean the inside of the cup completely. But Jesus does not leave the teaching here. He knows that we will justify ourselves and act like our hearts are clean. So Jesus is going to expose our hearts. Jesus is going to exposes us from the inside out so that we can see who we truly are.
Your Cup Is Not Clean When… (11:42-54)
We are more concerned about the rules I think are important than what is important to God (11:42).
The Pharisees were keeping commands. They are tithing and with meticulous accuracy. But they are not obeying with a love for God or a love for what is right. They had lost the joy of giving in their tithing. They were keeping God’s laws in some areas but were ignoring the other commands of God. Where was the precision in keeping the rest of God’s laws? They were so concerned about certain commands but not all of the commands of God. They neglected justice and the love of God. How easy it is for us to pay attention to the commands we want to keep but ignore the commands we do not like! We will not steal but we will live with our boyfriend or girlfriend. We will be honest and truthful but we will cheat on our spouse. We will obey the command to assemble together but ignore the command for self-control. We will do good to others but we will ignore the command that marriage is for life and we will divorce our spouse. Churches will make sure that there are prayers, songs, and the Lord’s Supper but ignore the world and not show them the love of Christ. They will not make sure that they understand what is happening so they also can glorify God, as 1 Corinthians 14:24-25 commands. How often major at the things we are good at keeping and ignore the commands that do not appeal to us or the commands we simply do not want to keep! True disciples are concerned about all of God’s laws.
We love to be seen (11:43).
Too often we act because we want others to know that we are doing something for the Lord. We are seeking attention and craving for people to recognize our spiritual accomplishments. We want people to know what we are doing for the Lord. The Pharisees wanted to be seen as pious and holy. They wanted people to know that they were doing good works. They would make sure people could tell they were fasting. They would make sure people knew they were giving. The attention must always be placed on Jesus and not on us. Sometimes we will think, “But no one knows what I am doing for the Lord!” Good! Don’t tell people what you are doing. Jesus said in Matthew 6:2 that if you let people know what you are doing, then you have received your reward. You have not obeyed for the love of the Lord but you want people to know what kind of Christian you are. Don’t tell me what you are doing. Don’t go up to others and tell them what you are doing. Just do it and do it quietly. True disciples keep the focus on Jesus and do not want attention for the good they are doing in the kingdom.
We are spiritually dead inside and are defiling others because of it (11:44).
In Numbers 19:16 the Law of Moses records that touching a grave or dead body made one unclean for seven days. The Jewish leaders decided to marked and whitewashed so that people would see the grave and not become defiled. We see the imagery that Jesus is using in his teaching. You are like unmarked graves. People who come in contact with you become defiled because you are spiritually dead. You are a corrupting influence. You are not helping people spiritually (you might think you are) but you are defiling them because the inside of your cup is unclean. We do this when we leave a poor example. When we act selfishly we are corrupting others. When we do not speak and act toward each other with love and godliness we are defiling others with our rottenness. When we lack a zeal for the Lord, we are a corrupting influence. When we do not grow in our knowledge of the scriptures, we are defiling others by our ignorance of God. We believe things that are not in the Bible and teach things that are not in the Bible. We spout off things like, “God helps those who help themselves” which is not only not in the scriptures but is the opposite of what the scriptures teach. What misery is coming upon those of us who are dead inside and, worse, defile others with our filthiness!
Verse 45 is terrific. As Jesus is pronouncing these woes on the Pharisees, one of the lawyers at this dinner asks Jesus, “Don’t you know that you are insulting us when you say these things?” Jesus’ response is great because he turns to the lawyers and starts pronouncing woes on them! Basically, Jesus is saying, “I know.” If we sit back and are offended by these words then we do not understand at all what we are supposed to be learning. Jesus is revealing our hypocritical lives. Jesus is exposing the filth that is in our hearts. If our only reaction is that we are getting our feelings hurt and are being insulted, then you just have revealed that you are the one Jesus is talking about. You are exposing your external religion and lack of inward purity.
We burden others, but not ourselves (11:46).
We are good at this. We tell other people all the things that they ought to be doing, but are unwilling to do it ourselves. This happens all the time. People will complain, “Why doesn’t the church do this?” “Why don’t the shepherds do this and that?” “Why doesn’t the preacher do thus and so?” Jesus answers your question with his own question: “Why don’t you do it?” Stop putting burdens on others and you pick up the burden. I know there is so much that needs to be done. I could use a little help here. You do it! Stop telling other people your good ideas and just do them. Anytime a person comes up to me with a good idea of something we should do, my response will always be, “It is a good idea, so why don’t you do it?” Please consider: just because something sounds like a good idea for you and your life doesn’t mean it is good for other people. Do not assume that others are slacking. Assume they are busy doing the work and it is time for you to be busy doing the work as well. We want your good ideas. But more importantly, we need you to execute your good ideas. If you are unwilling to spearhead the work, then it must not be as important and necessary as you think. True disciples think of the work they can do and do not think of the work others can do.
We honor the people we are ignoring (11:47-51).
The people in that generation were honoring the prophets by building tombs for them. They were doing memorials for these prophets of God who had been killed by previous generation. Yet the people were not listening to the prophets’ message, doing the very thing those who killed the prophets had done. Jesus’ point is simply this: your ancestors killed the prophets and you make sure they stay dead because you do not listen to them either. They were dishonoring the prophets by the lives they led while outwardly showing reverence for the prophets. We can have the same rejecting spirit. We dishonor the apostles and prophets by continuing to practice sin in our lives while coming here and acting like we honor God’s holy word. If you truly honor God’s holy word then you will do what he says. You will put away your sinful activity. You will stop sleeping around. You will stop living with your boyfriend and girlfriend. You will stop divorcing and remarrying. You will stop cheating on your spouse. You will stop engaging in wickedness. Stop pretending that you love God when you are ignoring what God plainly told you to do. True disciples honor God by honoring his word.
We fail to be a light in this world (11:52).
These religious leaders were supposed to be leading people to the Lord. They were supposed to be teaching God’s word to the people. They were given the key to knowledge. They were given the tools to reveal God to the world. Not only did they not enter into God’s kingdom, they prevented others from entering also. We are supposed to be leading people to salvation. We have been given the very words of God with the purpose of teaching people God’s will. We are taking away the key to knowledge also when we refuse to enter because of our hypocrisy and then block others from learning because our own defilements. Our cup is full of wickedness and so we fail to share the knowledge of God with others. We confuse people because our lives do not match up with what we are teaching. Woe to us if we do not teach the word of God to people. We have failed if we do not open God’s word and learn from his word. We have failed if we do not share the good news but bury the key to knowledge. The true disciple never forgets his mission to seek and save the lost.
What will you do with these woes? Jesus’ words had no effect on the scribes and Pharisees (11:53-54). They began to test him and provoke him to try to discredit Jesus. But Jesus’ teaching is true even if we do not like hear it. What is inside your cup? The reason we feel alone and secluded is because we are living two lives. We are pretending to be Christians on the outside, but the inside is full of evil. We need to be cleansed from the inside out. You cannot draw near to God until you give God your heart for cleansing.
Let us draw near with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. (Hebrews 10:22)