In our reading plan, we come to Luke 12 today.
In the meantime, when so many thousands of the people had gathered together that they were trampling one another, he began to say to his disciples first, “Beware of the leaven of the Pharisees, which is hypocrisy. (Luke 12:1 ESV)
In the previous chapter (Luke 11:37-54), we saw the difference between the teachings of Jesus and the teachings of religion, of the Pharisees. To help us understand, here is part of a sermon on Luke 11 from Matt Chandler, of The Village Church in Texas:
Jesus tends to be for people who are really a mess. He tends to speak softly to them, very gently to them. But when people got religious and started to try to lay religion on other people, Jesus got very upset. Look at verse 37.
Let me explain something cultural to you. This in not what you do with your kids before dinner. This is not about germs or external cleanliness; this is a spiritual, religious act for them that was symbolic.
“And the Lord said to him, “Now you Pharisees cleanse the outside of the cup and of the dish, but inside you are full of greed and wickedness. You fools! Did not he who made the outside make the inside also? But give as alms those things that are within, and behold, everything is clean for you.”
Here’s what He’s saying: “You’ve spent so much time building up this religious persona of external perfection that you’ve neglected the state of your heart. So in the end, you’re dead, dry and dirty, and if you would just be honest about where you really are, both would be clean.” Let’s look at where He goes after that.
“But woe to you Pharisees! For you tithe mint and rue and every herb, and neglect justice and the love of God.”
Here’s what He’s saying: “Externally you’ve got all the rules down, but you have no real love for people and you have no real love for God.
“These you ought to have done, without neglecting the others.”
So just for the record, He’s saying, “You tithe, you do these religious acts well, but you don’t love people and you don’t love God.” And then He says, “You should love people, you should love God, but you should tithe too.” Let’s keep going. Verse 43,
“Woe to you Pharisees! For you love the best seat in the synagogues and greetings in the marketplaces. Woe to you! For you are like unmarked graves, and people walk over them without knowing it.”
Now does it sound like pretending you’re okay when you’re not and building a religious persona and spending all the vitality inside of you trying to be good is what God is after in Jesus Christ? You don’t have to be an intellectual to see that Christ is looking at these very religious men and saying, “You’ve missed it.”
I love this next part. Verse 45,
“One of the lawyers answered him, “Teacher, in saying these things you insult us also.””
Here’s why I love texts like this. Do you remember that picture of Jesus that we grew up with where He’s a white guy and He’s got product in His hair? He’s the most effeminate looking dude you’ve ever seen in your life. He’s like wearing a white bathrobe and His hands are folded. This is not that Jesus. And one of the things that has happened because of this push and pull in culture is that Jesus has been relegated to the role of “Love Fairy,” this effeminate male that runs around sprinkling love on everyone. But here’s the thing about genuine love. Genuine love has a ferocity to it. Genuine love engages in places where it hurts. So yes, love wins, but it’s holy, ferocious, truth-filled love. The lawyer should have just kept his mouth shut. I would have just sat against the wall and said, “I’ve been telling ‘em. I don’t know why they won’t listen.” But instead he just threw it out there. So look at Jesus. Let’s watch this “I love everybody” effeminate Jesus.
“And he said, “Woe to you lawyers also! For you load people with burdens hard to bear, and you yourselves do not touch the burdens with one of your fingers.””
So here’s the job of a lawyer. The lawyer is to take the sacred text and teach it to God’s people in such a way that they are lead to and walk with God. And what He just accused them of doing is taking the light yoke of God and increasing it to where it’s so burdensome and impossible that it will crush men and putting that on them. When Jesus says, “My burden is easy; My yoke is light,” yoke is what a rabbi would call his teachings. It’s not a reference to farming. He’s saying, “My teachings are light. They’re simple.” He said, “Woe to you lawyers. You’ve made this thing unbelievably complex. Woe to you lawyers. You put impossible rules on My people.”