The Book of Luke, The Woes of Christ, Part III - Lesson 152
Dr. Hobbs mentioned on Wednesday about the response of Isaiah to King Uzziah’s death and his response included a declaration of woe upon himself for he said:
Woe is me! for I am undone; because I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips: for mine eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts.
I think this is in line with what we have been talking about these last few weeks regarding the woes which Christ pronounced upon the Pharisees and the experts in the law.
For this “woe” response of Isaiah was due to the taking of King Uzziah by the Lord and the loss of support that Isaiah felt after losing this great king.
King Uzziah’s death left Isaiah empty and caused him to turn to the Lord where he saw him sitting on a throne, high and lifted up where his holiness was declared by the seraphims.
God’s holiness revealed Isaiah’s unholiness and this is what caused Isaiah to place himself in a state of grief over his condition of uncleanness and the uncleanness of the people with whom he dwelled.
Isaiah’s declaration of “woe” upon himself was the right response for he saw himself as God desired him to see himself.
I believe that when God draws a person to himself there will be times of “woe” in that person’s life where he sees himself as God sees him.
This is the forerunner of repentance.
Grief about the sinful condition that you are in.
This then was the Lord Jesus Christ’s intention for the hearers of his “woes”.
By these pronouncements of woes they were to see themselves as God saw them and to come out from the self erected covering that their religion provided.
But as we will see this did not take place for their hearts were hardened.
In this study of Luke 11 we have been witness to the Lord Jesus Christ pronouncing three woes upon the Pharisees and three woes upon the experts in the law.
The first woe addressed to the Pharisees concerned their obsession with the fine points of the law, while missing the fundamentals of the law.
The second woe concerned the Pharisees’ preoccupation with their position, their preoccupation with their need for prestige, and their desire for the praise from men.
We are told by Jesus Christ that they loved the uppermost seats, and they loved greetings in the markets.
But the third woe pronounced by the Lord upon the Pharisees was the most damning for in this woe Jesus declared that the Pharisees were a source of defilement, rather than what they saw themselves as, a source of purification.
They saw themselves as purifying the land but Jesus Christ saw them as graves full of decay.
After addressing the Pharisees and receiving a response from a lawyer, an expert in the law who recognized that the words of Christ were pointed at him also, Jesus Christ continued by also directing woes at this group.
We discussed the first woe last week that was directed against the “experts in the law”.
46And he said, Woe unto you also, ye lawyers! for ye lade men with burdens grievous to be borne, and ye yourselves touch not the burdens with one of your fingers. (Luke 11:46).
These burdens consisted of the many rules and regulations which the rabbis and experts in the law had used to bury the purity of God’s law as given to Moses.
By their excessive rule making and additions to the law they had created a system whereby men were expected to obey minute and detailed regulations in order to earn salvation and favor with God.
And not only was this the case these experts in the law had no intention of helping men with these burdens and had even developed ways to avoid these burdens for themselves.
Kinda like our congress who make up laws or exceptions for themselves which isolate them from the laws that burden the common folk.
The second woe which Jesus placed upon the experts in the law is directly related to the first.
47Woe unto you! for ye build the sepulchres of the prophets, and your fathers killed them. 48Truly ye bear witness that ye allow the deeds of your fathers: for they indeed killed them, and ye build their sepulchres. 49Therefore also said the wisdom of God, I will send them prophets and apostles, and some of them they shall slay and persecute: 50That the blood of all the prophets, which was shed from the foundation of the world, may be required of this generation; 51From the blood of Abel (Jesus calls Abel a Prophet) unto the blood of Zacharias, which perished between the altar and the temple: verily I say unto you, It shall be required of this generation. (Luke 11:47‑51).
We have already noted that the experts in the law and the Pharisees majored on the minors.
They not only focused on the small details, missing the design or intent of the Law, but they also focused on the Law without the warning message of the prophets.
The prophets were the ones who called Israel to the major matters of loving God and men, of loving mercy and loving justice.
In these words of woe, Jesus shows us how strongly the Pharisees resisted the prophets.
Not only did they reject the teaching of the prophets, they are guilty of being accomplices in their deaths.
The conclusion here is that they are covering their hatred for the prophets by making a show out of the sepulchers that they are building for them.
These men wanted the people to think by building or rebuilding the tombs of the prophets they were honoring the prophets!
Not every magnificent tomb in the cemetery was put there because the one who lies there was beloved by all but sometimes a very elaborate funeral and tomb is evidence of guilt, more than of love.
Some people go overboard with the burial of those about whom they feel guilty, or to make it look as if they loved them when they did not.
This is the case regarding the experts of the law for Jesus Christ knows their heart and this is how he explains it to them and to us.
If they really wanted to honor the prophets they would live their lives according to the teaching of the prophets but they chose instead to cover up their own wickedness by building grand tombs in memory of the prophets.
It is like giving great amounts of money to build a great church building to try to impress others of your spirituality.
In addition these experts in the law are guilty of the blood of the prophets as their fathers were.
For Jesus Christ tells them that they allow the deeds of their fathers which means the experts in the law would have done the same thing to the prophets as their fathers had done.
They have rejected the teaching of the prophets, just as their forefathers had done and they continue to reject the prophets as they presently reject the teaching of the greatest Prophet of all, Jesus Christ.
For soon, they would kill Him and in addition, they will kill those who will follow Christ and preach Christ.
All of this puts these experts in the same category of sinners, just like their forefathers.
They were not the spiritual elite, they were just like the rest, just like those who had gone before them, those who had killed the prophets.
The very things they condemned they were guilty of themselves.
The third woe upon the experts in the law is the chief of the woes for it concerns their hindrance to the key of knowledge:
52Woe unto you, lawyers! for ye have taken away the key of knowledge: ye entered not in yourselves, and them that were entering in ye hindered. (Luke 11:52).
They have taken away “the key of knowledge,” Jesus said.
In its simplest form, the “key of knowledge” is the divinely revealed knowledge of the Scriptures.
The experts in the law, the ones who were self‑appointed to teach the truth of the Law to their nation, were the very ones who were withholding and thereby concealing that truth.
They set aside the written Law for the oral law and man’s distorted interpretations of the Scriptures.
They set aside the prophets and all of the inspired insight which God had revealed through them.
They made themselves experts and discouraged men from studying the Word of God for themselves.
This is how religion operates for religion gives men false hope on which they so blindly pin their eternity.
Can you get any more modern than this?
A man will go through life trusting in error which had been given to him by momma, daddy, grandpa, the priest, the preacher, or even the imam of islam.
It is amazing how little thought the average man or woman gives to their eternal destiny instead frittering away their life in vain and temporal efforts.
Millions throughout the world are satisfied and content that their eternity is secure for they hold to the teaching of their fathers, their community, their nation.
Teaching others carries with it the greatest of all responsibilities for with any teaching comes the possibility of teaching error and building hopes in men that are founded upon shifting sands instead of the solid rock of the Jesus Christ.
But here we see, by Jesus declaring woes upon the experts in the law, those who thought themselves to be the guardians of the truth, and the teachers of the truth, that in fact they were the concealers of the truth.
And any who would seek to find the truth and to enter into life through it, were resisted by these experts in the law.
They were not pointing out the way to life, but they were pushing people away from life by proclaiming that their way was the true way.
Their sin was so great and their eyes so blind that soon it would result in the crucifixion of the very one who wished to open their eyes.
53And as he said these things unto them, the scribes and the Pharisees began to urge him vehemently, and to provoke him to speak of many things: 54Laying wait for him, and seeking to catch something out of his mouth, that they might accuse him.
The response of the Pharisees and the experts in the law was not grief and repentance, but rejection and resentment.
This was the “last straw.”
They would not seek to work with Him, nor to straighten Him out any longer.
They would now become His fiercest opponents, trying to prove Him to be incompetent in the Scriptures, and waiting for the opportunity to put Him down.
This was the beginning of the end. The cross is on the horizon.
This passage shows us that Jesus Christ must be about His father’s business for his fathers business was one of redemption and this face to face confrontation with the religions rulers had to be done in order for the cross to come.
This was no accident along the way to the cross but a direct connection with the cross and Jesus Christ knew full well that it had to take place in order for the Father’s business to be carried out.
We have learned in this passage that those who are guilty of the most serious sins are the ones who want to be most holy, and who think that they are.
These Pharisees and experts in the law declare a belief in God, a belief in His Word, a belief in miracles, and Satan, and sin, and even of salvation.
But their desire to be holy has become distorted.
Their commitment to lead others into holiness has actually produced the opposite.
The lesson here is that the only way to know about holiness is though God’s Word and not man’s self developed rules and regulations.
For God and God alone can make you holy and that holiness is only though Jesus Christ.
The lesson also is here that people can be so committed to holiness but can stray far from it by perverting the Scriptures.
Just as Satan sought to use the Scriptures to tempt our Lord, so he employs the Scriptures to defeat the Christian.
For those who hold the Scriptures in high esteem, Satan seeks to twist their understanding of the Scriptures.
He accomplishes this is by working to make God’s Word merely a duty, and not a delight, to make it a burden, and not a blessing.
If the grace of God can be overshadowed by man’s guilt, if man’s efforts can be the focus rather than God’s, if the ministry of the Spirit can be set aside, then Satan has achieved his purpose.
And if Satan can get our attention on but one portion of the Scriptures (as the Law was for the Pharisees) and not on the whole Bible, then we are sure to have a distorted understanding of God’s Word.
Also, if he can cause us to focus on one area of truth, to the exclusion of others, the Scriptures can be (mis)used to produce sin and not righteousness.
The heart attitude with which we come to the Scriptures, as well as the way we study them plays a vital role in our Christian walk.
As Christians we must read, study, and obey the Word of God for ourselves.
We must be as the noble Bereans for they received the Word with all readiness of mind, and searched the scriptures daily, whether those things were so.
This passage should also caution us against corporate belief.
Belief is personal and you are personally accountable.
This church will not stand before the judgment seat of Christ.
You will stand alone and cannot blame others for your error.
Another lesson of this passage is that we as Christians can slip into focusing on outward acts or appearances, rather than focusing on what takes place in the heart.
Jesus teaches us that when the inside is clean, when our attitudes and our motives are pure, our outward lives will clean up.
Often, cleaning up only the outside tends only to corrupt the inside more.
Now, having cleaned up the outside, we find pride and self‑righteousness to be added to our list of inner evils.
Let us learn from our Lord that holiness begins inside and works out, and not the reverse.