The Book of Luke, Looking on the Outward Appearance - Lesson 147
We are in Chapter 11 of Luke where were have studied the events following the Lord’s casting out of the demon from the dumb man.
We have listened to those of the witnessing crowd who attempted to explain this miracle apart from recognizing that Jesus is the Messiah.
Now following this event we are given another encounter with the Pharisees who were in opposition to this man Jesus and looked for ways to trip him up and expose him as a pretender.
So we read in: Luke 11:37‑44, 37And as he spake, a certain Pharisee besought him to dine with him: and he went in, and sat down to meat. 38And when the Pharisee saw it, he marvelled that he had not first washed before dinner. 39And 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. 40Ye fools, did not he that made that which is without make that which is within also? 41But rather give alms of such things as ye have; and, behold, all things are clean unto you. 42But 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. 43Woe unto you, Pharisees! for ye love the uppermost seats in the synagogues, and greetings in the markets. 44Woe 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.
Samuel the prophet was told by God to go to the family of Jesse to meet the next King of Israel.
He carefully examined the firstborn of Jesse, a son named Eliab, the eldest of David’s brothers, and quickly came to the conclusion that this man Eliab was fit to follow Saul who had been rejected by the Lord as king.
We are told in I Samuel 16:6: “that he looked on Eliab, and said, Surely the LORD’S anointed is before him.
Based upon this observation Eliab no doubt was quite a man according to his appearance.
For Samuel was greatly impressed for when he looked on Eliab his conclusion was that this was the Lord’s anointed!
But Samuel’s conclusion was limited by his very nature which only allowed him to look on Eliab’s outward appearance for he knew nothing of Eliab’s heart.
This limitation was quickly revealed to Samuel by the Lord who said to him in I Samuel 16:7, Look not on his countenance, or on the height of his stature; because I have refused him:
for the LORD seeth not as man seeth; for man looketh on the outward appearance, but the LORD looketh on the heart.
This is a truth that must be constantly before us as we judge others according to appearance.
We are told by God that this will bring error for if Samuel had his way Eliab would have been king and not David, the youngest of Jesse’s sons.
This truth had been neglected in Israel for we find that the Lord Jesus Christ on many occasions was being judged according to appearance.
According to appearance He did not measure up to the expected Messiah and like Samuel of old this judgment was also in error.
We are told in scripture that we are not to judge others in a condemning way for we are not capable of knowing the heart and our judgment will most likely be in error.
The Gospels are full of examples where judgment is given based upon outward appearance.
The prime characters who display these examples in the Gospels are known as Pharisees.
Jesus Christ addresses these Pharisees in our passage for today, for it was at the house of a certain Pharisee where this incident took place.
A Pharisee was a member of a conservative Jewish sect that rose up in Roman-occupied Palestine in the 2nd century before Christ in protest against all movements favouring compromise with Greek and Roman culture.
The Pharisees were devout followers of the law, both as found in the Torah and in the oral tradition known as the Mishnah.
After the fall of Jerusalem, Pharisee ideas became the basis of orthodox Judaism as the people were dispersed throughout the Western Roman Empire.
The word “Pharisee” is derived from a term which means “to separate.”
They desired to achieve holiness by separation.
The Pharisees sought to produce spiritual holiness and spiritual reformation.
They recognized that Israel’s condition was the result of sin, specifically a disobedience to the Law.
It was their intention to identify, to communicate, and to make possible obedience to God’s law, which would, according to their thought, produce holiness and make way for the kingdom of God to be established on the earth.
The Pharisees believed in the inspiration and authority of the Old Testament.
They believed in the supernatural, in Satan, angels, heaven (the earthly kingdom of God at least) and hell, and the resurrection of the dead.
The problem with the Pharisees is not in what they believed, and not even in what they hoped to do, but in what they actually became and what they actually did.
They looked for a Messiah according to their own specifications but Jesus did not match that which they presupposed for their presuppositions were distorted by their interpretation of the law.
Instead of being the first to recognize Jesus as the Messiah, they were the first to reject Him.
Rather than turning the nation to Him, they attempted to turn the nation against Him.
The major problem with the Pharisees was an one-sidedness in their understanding of the scriptures.
They emphasized the law to the neglect of the message of the prophets.
This law emphasis to the neglect of the messages of the prophets was intimated by Christ when he said to them in verse 42 of our passage:
42But 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.
They believed that the Old Testament was divinely inspired but they came to dwell too heavily on the law while neglecting the message of the prophets which was aimed at the inward and not the outward.
They emphasized the “letter” and not the “spirit” of the Law.
They concentrated much on the details of the Law but neglected its purpose.
The directions that they chose resulted in an oral law which took precedence over the written law as given in the Old Testament.
The written Law became of secondary importance, while their traditions as expressed in the oral law became most important.
We see today an example of this emphasis taking place in our country in relation to our Supreme Court and the Constitution.
Our president wants strict constructionists as judges.
This means that they look to the constitution as the prime document in their deliberations and keep the written tradition of the Court and its past rulings in check and in its proper place.
Jesus Christ was in conflict with the Pharisees for several reasons.
First was their self‑righteousness, their feeling that they were spiritually superior to others and pleasing in God’s sight.
Second was their mishandling of the Old Testament Scriptures.
Third was their traditions, to which they gave higher priority than God’s revealed Word.
Fourth was their resistance to Himself, and their efforts to discredit Him and to turn the nation from Him.
God gives us much instruction concerning the errors of the Pharisees because it is so easy to commit those errors and we are all prone to do so.
Unless checked by the Spirit of God we will bask in our own righteousness.
We will not rightly divide the word of God.
We will give higher priority to our traditions and our way of doing things than God’s word, and we will resist God’s working in our lives as he works to conform us to the image of his Son.
Our basic nature is to look on the outward for we are unable to look on the inward.
God gives us instruction like this that if we come with open hearts and minds we will recognize those sins of the Pharisees which we are also prone to do.
Our passage begins with Luke 11:37‑54, 37And as he spake, a certain Pharisee besought him to dine with him: and he went in, and sat down to meat.
Jesus had just finished speaking and a Pharisee asked Him to come to his house to eat.
In light of the strong words that Jesus had said it is a wonder that he was invited to the house of a Pharisee.
We do not know the motive of the Pharisee nor do we know if the words of Jesus offended him but we do know that Jesus was asked to share a meal with him.
We also know that this Pharisee was taken aback because Jesus did not first wash before dinner.
38And when the Pharisee saw it, he marvelled that he had not first washed before dinner.
There is no indication that the Pharisee spoke to Jesus about not washing.
But Jesus knew his thoughts and his response was pointed toward these thoughts.
Now this washing up before dinner was not the washing up before dinner like our mothers insisted we do before sitting down at the table but this was a ceremonial washing of the hands following a certain approved procedure acceptable to the Pharisees.
Mark 7:1‑5 shows us how strong this tradition was among the Pharisees:
1Then came together unto him the Pharisees, and certain of the scribes, which came from Jerusalem. 2And when they saw some of his disciples eat bread with defiled, that is to say, with unwashen, hands, they found fault. 3For the Pharisees, and all the Jews, except they wash their hands oft, eat not, holding the tradition of the elders. 4And when they come from the market, except they wash, they eat not. And many other things there be, which they have received to hold, as the washing of cups, and pots, brazen vessels, and of tables. 5Then the Pharisees and scribes asked him, Why walk not thy disciples according to the tradition of the elders, but eat bread with unwashen hands?
So the concern here is not the dirty hands of Jesus Christ but ceremonial defilement.
What did Jesus touch before coming to dinner?
Perhaps he came in contact with a common sinner on his way to the table.
So this was a “washing away of the defilement of ones daily walk” that was required by the traditions of the Pharisees, rather than by the Law itself.