Sunday, November 07, 2010

Beware of...

"The Scribes and Pharisees 
sit in Moses' seat" 
by Alexandre Bida, c. 1874

TODAY'S SPECIAL: Luke 20:27-47

TO CHEW ON: "Then in the hearing of all the people, He said to His disciples, 'Beware of the scribes, who desire to go around in long robes, love greetings in the marketplaces, the best seats in the synagogues and the best places at feasts, who devour widows' houses, and for a pretense make long prayers. These will receive greater condemnation.'" Luke 20:45-47

Jesus' sharp public criticism of the scribes in this passage, coming seemingly out of nowhere, may surprise us.

To set the scene, Jesus and the various religious experts are going back and forth on the fine "what if" points of religion. The Sadducees try to catch Jesus in a question about the resurrection — their hobby horse: they claim there is none. Jesus shows them from Scripture that there is.

Then He goes on to talk about David addressing Christ — who is his son or descendant — as "Lord." "How is He then his son?" Jesus asks, rhetorically posing a theological riddle that insists on the answer that Christ is more than just David's descendant.

And after that He lashes out against the scribes.

However, a parallel passage of this incident shows that Jesus was here actually critiquing what the scribes taught: "How is it that the scribes say that the Christ is the Son of David..." (Mark 12:35-37).

Such sharp criticism from Jesus comes out only when He speaks to or about the religious leaders of the time. We can come to some conclusions about what offends God as we watch Jesus interacting with and responding to them here.
  • He is not impressed with their fine-points questions — designed more as a way to show Him up than as sincere inquiries about how to believe and live (vs. 27-44).
  • "Beware the scribes..." (vs. 46) Jesus warns, pointing out their love of display and public deference. I think His warning is double-edged, telling the disciples don't get taken in by their show, and don't do this yourselves.
  • He disdains their show of piety that would saddle others with the rules they make. In this example, Jesus unmasks its root of greed (vs. 47).
  • He singles them out for "greater condemnation" — to a worse punishment than others would get because they should know better (vs. 47).

We search our hearts to see if they contain similar hypocrisy. Do we ever discuss and argue for the sake of proving our brilliance instead of with a sincere desire to know? Do we love the respect and praise of people? Are we ever guilty of priggish religiosity that would make others conform to our rules and has at its root a different motivation than to bring glory to God? Would Jesus ever tell people to "Beware" of us?

PRAYER: Dear God, sometimes the thought of how well You know human nature is unnerving. Help me to know myself with the same insight and, with the help of Holy Spirit, to make the changes you point out. Amen.

MORE: Jason Upton sings "Freedom"

Vs. 2: "Well, we live in a country supposedly Pharaohless
But all over town and in churches abide
Powerful weaklings who practice their politics
Stealing from Jesus his beautiful bride
Whether you're Pharisees, Sadducees, heresies
You best get outta God's way!
(God is sayin')


Do your 8-12-year-olds have daily devotions? Point them to Bible Drive-Thru.

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