Luke 11:37-44

Wednesday Evening Bible Study

May 2, 2001


We usually look at the Pharisees as the guys who wore the black hats in the New Testament.  After all, they were one of the groups who tried to bring Jesus down.  But I think in thinking this way, we often think of the Pharisees as “those people” and miss out on some of what is going on.

The Pharisees were the Jews who believed in the inspiration of the Scriptures.  They believed in the power of God to perform miracles.  They believed in angels.  They believed in a resurrection.  They believed in heaven.

In a huge sense, the Pharisees are us.  Those of us who have been believers for a while, those of us who believe by living our lives according to the Scriptures, we are a very similar breed to the Pharisee.

I’d like to challenge you to look at the Pharisees as people that you and I can become like.  Perhaps we’re already like them.

:37And as he spake, a certain Pharisee besought him to dine with him: and he went in, and sat down to meat.

to dinearistao – to breakfast; by later usage, to dine

sat down to eatanapipto – to lie back, lie down; to recline at a table, to sit back

Keep in mind, Pharisees would only eat with “clean” people.  They wouldn’t eat with Gentiles or “sinners”.  This gives you a clue as what kind of category this Pharisee puts Jesus.

:38 And when the Pharisee saw it, he marvelled that he had not first washed before dinner.

he marvelledthaumazo – to wonder, wonder at, marvel; to be wondered at, to be had in admiration

washedbaptizo (“baptize”) – to dip repeatedly, to immerse, to submerge (of vessels sunk); to cleanse by dipping or submerging, to wash, to make clean with water, to wash one’s self, bathe; to overwhelm

It was the Jewish custom to dip the hands in water before eating and often between courses for ceremonial purification.  They would wash their hands by immersing them up to the elbow before eating.  When they had been to the market, or among any large number of people, or had reason to think they had, or feared they had touched any unclean person or thing, they immersed themselves all over in water.

The law required that you wash your hands in a certain way.  Large stone vessels of water were kept for this purpose as ordinary water may be unclean.  You must use at least a quarter of a log of water.  The water is first poured over the hands beginning at the finger tips and running down to the wrists.  The palm of each hand was to be cleansed by rubbing the fist of the other hand into it.  Again water is poured over beginning at the wrists and running down over the fingertips.

dinnerariston – the first food taken early in the morning before work, breakfast; later usage: dinner

Don’t think that this is a matter of not having clean hands before eating, this is about ceremonial cleanliness.


Pharisaism is rooted in ritual

When you begin to do something for the sake of habit, and you lose the proper heart and motivation, you can slip into ritualism.
The heart of the Pharisee is the one who does everything correctly on the outside, but neglects the inside.

:39 And the Lord said unto him, Now do ye Pharisees make clean the outside of the cup and the platter; but your inward part is full of ravening and wickedness.

cuppoterion – a cup, a drinking vessel

platterpinax – a board, a tablet; a dish, plate, platter

make cleankatharizo – to make clean, cleanse; from physical stains and dirt; utensils, food; in a moral sense; to free from defilement of sin and from faults; to pronounce clean in a Levitical sense

inward partesothen – from within; within, that which is within, the inside; your soul

is fullgemo – to be full, filled, full

raveningharpage – the act of plundering, robbery; plunder spoil

This is the stuff you get when you rip someone else off.

wickednessponeria – depravity, iniquity, wickedness; malice; evil purposes and desires

Imagine that you want to pour yourself a cup of coffee.  After you make the coffee, you go to find a cup to drink from and there on the top shelf is one last cup.  From where you stand, the cup looks just fine, until you take it down from the shelf and look inside and see that there is a dead, rotting mouse inside the cup.  Will you drink from that cup?  Yuck!!!!!

:40 Ye fools, did not he that made that which is without make that which is within also?

foolsaphron – without reason; senseless, foolish, stupid; without reflection or intelligence, acting rashly

The Pharisees might work hard to keep their outward actions clean as a way of honoring God.  But God made the inside of man just as much as the outside of man.


It is foolish to ignore your heart.

In reality, we have slipped into Pharisaism when we become more concerned with the outside instead of the inside.
In reality, a Pharisee isn’t concerned what God sees, a Pharisee is concerned about what others see.

:41 But rather give alms of such things as ye have; and, behold, all things are clean unto you.

But ratherplen – moreover, besides, but, nevertheless; besides, except, but

almseleemosune – mercy, pity; esp. as exhibited in giving alms, charity; the benefaction itself, a donation to the poor, alms

things as ye haveeneimi – to be in, what is within, i.e. the soul

are cleankatharos – clean, pure; in a Levitical sense; clean, the use of which is not forbidden, imparts no uncleanness; blameless, innocent

Give mercy from what’s inside and behold all things are clean to you”


Clean starts inside

The way to make the outside pure is to make the inside pure.
Kenneth Wuest translates this verse, “Rather, the things which are inside give as alms, and behold, all things are clean to you”.
The way to clean up a dirty vocabulary is not to brush your teeth but to cleanse your heart.

What are the “things as ye have”, the “thing’s inside”?  Read on …

:42 But woe unto you, Pharisees! for ye tithe mint and rue and all manner of herbs, and pass over judgment and the love of God: these ought ye to have done, and not to leave the other undone.

ye titheapodekatoo – to give, pay a tithe of anything; to exact receive a tenth from anyone

mintheduosmon – sweet smelling, garden mint; a kind of small odoriferous herb, with which the Jews used to scatter on the floors of their houses and synagogues

ruepeganon – rue; a shrubby plant about 2 feet (60 cm) high, of medicinal value

herbslachanon – any pot herb, vegetables

These are all “exterior” kinds of things to give.

judgmentkrisis – a separating, sundering, separation; selection; judgment; right, justice

The Pharisees were good at “judging” other people, but not good at “justice”, doing the right thing.

loveagape – brotherly love, affection, good will, love, benevolence

these ought ye to have done – tithing is a good thing, Jesus doesn’t condemn it.  The problem was that they were only dealing with exterior things, not things inside their hearts.


Don’t pass the big things for the details.

God really cares about the attitudes of our hearts.  Those are the big things.
We can think, “Well, I have a hard time loving my brother, but I’ll at least I’ll learn to drive the speed limit.
Driving the speed limit is a good thing.  But it is even more important that you love others.  Do both.

:43 Woe unto you, Pharisees! for ye love the uppermost seats in the synagogues, and greetings in the markets.

ye loveagapao – of things; to be well pleased, to be contented at or with a thing

uppermost seatsprotokathedria – to sit in the first seat, the first or chief seat

Don’t think of the highest seats at Angel Stadium, this is the “place of honor”.

greetingsaspasmos – a salutation, either oral or written

marketsagora – any assembly, especially of the people; the place of assembly; market place, street


Be careful of wanting recognition

The brilliant physician and writer Oliver Wendell Holmes Sr., and his brother John represent two radically different views on the subject of flattery.  Dr. Holmes loved to collect compliments, and when he was older he indulged his pastime by saying to someone who had just praised his work, “I am a trifle deaf, you know.  Do you mind repeating that a little louder?”  John, however, was unassuming and content to be in his older brother’s shadow.  He once said that the only compliment he ever received came when he was six.  The maid was brushing his hair when she observed to his mother that little John wasn’t all that cross-eyed!
Corrie Ten Boom used to tell the story about a proud woodpecker who was tapping away at a dead tree when the sky unexpectedly turned black and the thunder began to roll. Undaunted, he went right on working. Suddenly a bolt of lightning struck the old tree, splintering it into hundreds of pieces.  Startled but unhurt, the haughty bird flew off, screeching to his feathered friends, “Hey, everyone, look what I did! Look what I did!”
This old woodpecker reminds me of people who think more highly of themselves than they should.  Usually they are so busy bragging about their achievements and their greatness that they fail to recognize God as the source of all their abilities.  They are suffering from spiritual delusions of grandeur.  Without the Lord no one amounts to anything, and in our own strength we cannot please Him.
How to Be Perfectly Miserable
1. Think about yourself.
2. Talk about yourself.
3. Use the personal pronoun "I" as often as possible in your conversation.
4. Mirror yourself continually in the opinion of others.
5. Listen greedily to what people say about you.
6. Insist on consideration and respect.
7. Demand agreement with your own views on everything.
8. Sulk if people are not grateful to you for favors shown them.
9. Never forget a service you may have rendered.
10. Expect to be appreciated.
11. Be suspicious.
12. Be sensitive to slights.
13. Be jealous and envious.
14. Never forget a criticism.
15. Trust nobody but yourself.

:44 Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye are as graves which appear not, and the men that walk over them are not aware of them.

scribes – these are the men who made the written copies of the Scriptures, the ones who knew the Scriptures the best.

hypocriteshupokrites – one who answers, an interpreter; an actor, stage player; a dissembler, pretender, hypocrite

gravesmnemeion – any visible object for preserving or recalling the memory of any person or thing; a memorial, monument, specifically, a sepulchral monument; a sepulchre, a tomb

appear notadelos – not manifest, indistinct, uncertain, obscure

The Law said that a person who touched a dead body, or even a grave, would be unclean for seven days:

Nu 19:16  And whosoever toucheth one that is slain with a sword in the open fields, or a dead body, or a bone of a man, or a grave, shall be unclean seven days.

For a Pharisee, one of the purposes of marking a grave would be so you wouldn’t come near it.  It would be horrible to think that you’ve been walking on an unclean grave and hadn’t even known it.

Yet for the person who has spent time with a Pharisee, that’s exactly what’s happened, says Jesus.


Wash or contaminate?

In a sense, this is kind of the choice we can make when we spend time with people.
Are people “contaminated” when they come into contact with us, or are they cleansed?
Part of the answer to this question depends on what is inside of us.

Examples of contamination:

Lust:  When a guy’s heart is filled with all kinds of lust, and he spends some time with a gal, even in church, a gal ends up feeling kind of dirty afterwards.  And for good reason.

Greed: I think of a greedy salesperson who is out to make a sale.  They don’t really care about you, all they care about is how much money they’re going to make off of you.  For those of you in a sales position, you need to be extra careful that you don’t abuse your relationships with others by trying to make sales off of all your friends.

Envy:  When a person wants something I’ve got, whether a possession, a relationship, anything, you’re going to feel defiled.  You’re going to hear a lot of criticisms, a lot of jabs.

In contrast, Jesus wants us to be washing one another.
(John 13:1-15 KJV)  Now before the feast of the passover, when Jesus knew that his hour was come that he should depart out of this world unto the Father, having loved his own which were in the world, he loved them unto the end. {2} And supper being ended, the devil having now put into the heart of Judas Iscariot, Simon's son, to betray him; {3} Jesus knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he was come from God, and went to God; {4} He riseth from supper, and laid aside his garments; and took a towel, and girded himself. {5} After that he poureth water into a basin, and began to wash the disciples' feet, and to wipe them with the towel wherewith he was girded. {6} Then cometh he to Simon Peter: and Peter saith unto him, Lord, dost thou wash my feet? {7} Jesus answered and said unto him, What I do thou knowest not now; but thou shalt know hereafter. {8} Peter saith unto him, Thou shalt never wash my feet. Jesus answered him, If I wash thee not, thou hast no part with me. {9} Simon Peter saith unto him, Lord, not my feet only, but also my hands and my head. {10} Jesus saith to him, He that is washed needeth not save to wash his feet, but is clean every whit: and ye are clean, but not all. {11} For he knew who should betray him; therefore said he, Ye are not all clean. {12} So after he had washed their feet, and had taken his garments, and was set down again, he said unto them, Know ye what I have done to you? {13} Ye call me Master and Lord: and ye say well; for so I am. {14} If I then, your Lord and Master, have washed your feet; ye also ought to wash one another's feet. {15} For I have given you an example, that ye should do as I have done to you.

I think there is a real sense in which we can bring a kind of cleansing for each other if our relationships with each other are healthy.

Bearing each other burdens, praying for each other, listening to the other person unload and confess their sins without condemning them.

The key is humility.  Jesus took the role of a servant when He washed the disciples’ feet.

I think this is one of the greatest antidotes to Pharisaism – humility.