Have you ever been exposed to a wonderful speech, sermon, prayer, song, piece of art and you are convinced that the person sharing it is certainly someone who loves God and who loves people?. You get close to them and try to make it through the crowds to express your gratitude, only to the disappointment that they seem bothered by your comments as you don’t mean anything to them!. Yes, it might be their temperament, but then again arrogance is hard to conceal.
I was having a hard time choosing a picture that would give you a visual description of the passage we are focusing on today. I did not want to choose something that would offend anyone. Our reading is not merely about a tomb or about gold but about those who represent God in our time and I am afraid I am going to offend someone in the process of going through this scripture no matter what.
Jesus was harder on those that claim to know God. I used to think of it as being unfair. My thoughts were “They were trying to do God’s will the way they knew how to”. Perhaps God will have mercy on them, because they did not have a resurrected Savior like we do. The fact that Jesus made it clear that He rejected such a way of representing God was to teach us what not to do. We can gain understanding if we pay attention to His frequent speech and at times rebellion against legalism and ritualistic behavior.
Some of God’s representatives in the time of Jesus were the pharisees and Sadducees. In our time, well, It is some of the unreachable, untouchable preachers, theologians or Christians who have convinced themselves that The Word is only given to them. That salvation is only for certain people, certain race, certain political association, or certain “religion”. For those who worship in a particular style, wear the appropriate attire, have the proper education, play the right kind of music, say the right kind of prayers, are the chosen gender, or are even at the appropriate place.
It is the Minister who once started out of love for Jesus!. He or she had the passion to serve but became trapped in the must and must nots, lost love for humanity and forgot why he or she started in the first place. Now instead of serving, he or she feels should be served. The one who loves the especial seats and recognition. The one who spends more time in the search for higher position within the church, within the ministry, academic institution or even in the missionary field.
I am not trying to judge anyone and I am not trying to say it is wrong to seek higher positions, but do evaluate your motives and clarify why you do what you do in the Kingdom. Above all ask for a heart of humility and refocus your attention on Jesus’s teachings. I am writing what I am given today as I read the passages. I am reflecting upon myself as well and I am guilty. It is easy to get off track.
Our reading is from Luke 11:37-54. Jesus was approached by one of the pharisees who wanted Jesus to come sit at his table for a meal. The scripture says Jesus did not “ceremonially washed his hands”. We are not talking about washing his hands routinely but using their ritual forms of washing for spiritual purity. Perhaps Jesus was looking for a teaching moment when He refrained to comply with such.
He condemned the pharisee for putting so much emphasis on cleaning the outside. He was not kind to this man. In his unkind attitude, He was loving him by trying to get him to truly see his error and have a true relationship with The Father and with people. He is loving us also by teaching us to reflect and correct our error.
He said: Now, you pharisees, you clean the outside of the cup and of the platter but the inside of you, you are full of robbery and wickedness. You foolish ones, did not He who made the outside make the inside also? Give that which is within as charity, and then all things are clean for you. Does this not sound like the verse we have been using over and over again from Matthew 6:33? “but seek first the Kingdom of God and everything will be added unto you!”
It seems to me that He is saying: Give freely of yourself to God, seek to please Him above all, seek to love your neighbor as yourself. Don’t waste your moments of communion seeking to find fault with me, with your neighbor, but seek to spend quality time with me for you know that what makes you clean is God! He purifies you as you give Him your heart.
Can you imagine the pharisee’s face? what would he be thinking? Perhaps something like this: “Who is this man who dares to speak to me this way?” “The carpenter’s son?” “I have studied the Scriptures for years!, I know how to worship God!”. What does He know anyway?” I would like to think that he thought something like this instead: “This man has shown some wisdom and people really respect him” “Could it be that I need to change something about myself?”” I really want to please God, could He really have a point here?”and that he would pray for wisdom.
Jesus also said: You wretched Pharisees, you give all kinds of gifts to God out of your material wealth but you ignore Justice and Love for Him which are primordial. Yes you should give Him gifts, but don’t ignore Justice and Love. You Wretched Pharisees, you love the special seats and the recognition. If you were to show your Spiritual appearance, you would appear dead and the people are unaware of it.
On Luke 11:45 one of the Lawyers said to him: “Teacher, when you say this, you insult us too” We are not talking about today’s career Lawyer but a man who was a Law abiding person during that time. Jesus did not respond with a soft word or with a political correct response but He said: You wretched lawyers, you tell people to obey certain laws and you are not able to carry them yourselves.
You wretched people, it was your fathers who physically killed the prophets but your actions continue to accomplish the same thing. You have not learned. God has sent you Prophets and Apostles and you and your fathers have killed them and have built their tombs together. The blood of all of them are on you! for you have refused to listen to their message and continue to do the same things. Wretched teachers of the law, you really have not learn anything and have hindered those who have tried. You took away the key of knowledge.
I pray that from this passage we have learned or are reminded of a few things. The first one is that God does not require sacrifice or rituals but our love. He wants our heart and if out of your heart comes a desire to worship in a certain way then, The Lord knows. Salvation is not acquired by works but by grace through Jesus and God cares about your heart and not your rituals. What you know and the position you have is not due to you but is a gift from God. It is to be used for His Kingdom just as much as the person who is doing a lower kind of service. If you are serving God, measure your success by the lives you are touching and not by your popularity. Remain humble and in touch with God’s kingdom no matter your position. Wasn’t The Lord of Lords and The King of Kings a true servant, Humble and willing to wash your feet?