Cleaning the Inside: Luke 11:37-54

Focus Passage: Luke 11:37-54 (NIrV)

37 Jesus finished speaking. Then a Pharisee invited him to eat with him. So Jesus went in and took his place at the table. 38 But the Pharisee was surprised. He noticed that Jesus did not wash before the meal.

39 Then the Lord spoke to him. “You Pharisees clean the outside of the cup and dish,” he said. “But inside you are full of greed and evil. 40 You foolish people! Didn’t the one who made the outside make the inside also? 41 Give freely to poor people to show what is inside you. Then everything will be clean for you.

42 “How terrible it will be for you Pharisees! You give God a tenth of your garden plants, such as mint and rue. But you have forgotten to be fair and to love God. You should have practiced the last things without failing to do the first.

43 “How terrible for you Pharisees! You love the most important seats in the synagogues. You love having people greet you with respect in the market.

44 “How terrible for you! You are like graves that are not marked. People walk over them without knowing it.”

45 An authority on the law spoke to Jesus. He said, “Teacher, when you say things like that, you say bad things about us too.”

46 Jesus replied, “How terrible for you authorities on the law! You put such heavy loads on people that they can hardly carry them. But you yourselves will not lift one finger to help them.

47 “How terrible for you! You build tombs for the prophets. It was your people of long ago who killed them. 48 So you show that you agree with what your people did long ago. They killed the prophets, and now you build the prophets’ tombs. 49 So God in his wisdom said, ‘I will send prophets and apostles to them. They will kill some. And they will try to hurt others.’ 50 So the people of today will be punished. They will pay for all the prophets’ blood spilled since the world began. 51 I mean from the blood of Abel to the blood of Zechariah. He was killed between the altar and the temple. Yes, I tell you, the people of today will be punished for all these things.

52 “How terrible for you authorities on the law! You have taken away the key to the door of knowledge. You yourselves have not entered. And you have stood in the way of those who were entering.”

53 When Jesus went outside, the Pharisees and the teachers of the law strongly opposed him. They threw a lot of questions at him. 54 They set traps for him. They wanted to catch him in something he might say.

Read Luke 11:37-54 in context and/or in other translations on BibleGateway.com!

Periodically throughout the gospels, Jesus accepts invitations to people’s homes to eat. Sometimes these invitations are from some of the less reputable people in an area, while other times the invitation comes from one of the religious leaders.

During one of these invitations to eat at a Pharisee’s home, the Pharisee host was surprised when Jesus did not wash before the meal. Luke describes this to us by saying, “A Pharisee invited him to eat with him. So Jesus went in and took his place at the table. But the Pharisee was surprised. He noticed that Jesus did not wash before the meal.” (v.37b-38)

Before food was even served, this Pharisee had found a fault in how Jesus had acted. Whether the Pharisee had invited Jesus in an attempt to trick or trap Him we are not sure. I am inclined to believe that, at least on the front end, this Pharisee was genuine with his invitation. The Pharisee, and the other elite religious leaders who were present, may have been so accustomed to certain rituals that they had never been around someone who didn’t do them simply because they were what one was suppose to do.

However, Jesus’ response to the Pharisee and those present virtually eliminated any chance that they would become friends. Jesus begins His response by saying, “You Pharisees clean the outside of the cup and dish, but inside you are full of greed and evil. You foolish people! Didn’t the one who made the outside make the inside also? Give freely to poor people to show what is inside you. Then everything will be clean for you.” (v. 39-41)

Jesus immediately challenges the shallow, prideful focus that these Pharisees had. It would seem that their washing before the meal had become about much more than simply a sanitary action. They had given it spiritual significance – and then they had elevated the spiritual significance above many other spiritual things.

It is interesting that Jesus doesn’t really challenge the act of washing before a meal. Instead, Jesus challenges the leaders on the emphasis they had placed on washing while ignoring the sins within their lives. Jesus’ initial statement points out that with greed and evil in their hearts, nothing the Pharisees could wash on the outside would remove this “inner dirt” from making them unclean.

Jesus offers a solution. He prompts them to be generous as a way of cleaning up their hearts and lives. While this is a challenging passage for those present, Jesus gives these leaders a solution to the true sin that they should deal with.

The truth Jesus shared with these leaders is the same for us today. If we struggle with maintaining a good appearance on the outside, it may be because our inner lives struggle with evil. Generosity and love are the ways to clean up our inner lives, and when our inner lives are clean, then our outer lives will be clean as well.

This thought was inspired by studying the Walking With Jesus "Reflective Bible Study" package. To discover insights like this in your own study time, click here and give Reflective Bible Study a try today!

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