Jesus challenges the Pharisees

Tony Worner reads today’s Gospel from Luke (11:42-46) in which Jesus continues his conversation with the Pharisees about the practice of their faith.

In reflecting on this Gospel, Tony says that one of the jobs a biblical scholar might research is how each of Gospels might be composed? How it’s structured? What are the themes? He says the verses we hear today come from a section of Luke’s Gospel come with the theme ‘the gift of the Spirit’ and in particular ‘spiritual transformation’. Before this can happen the Pharisees, and indeed us, need to let go of something and focus on God.

The Gospel today opens with Jesus continuing his confrontation, indeed rebuke, of the Pharisees. He’s extremely angry, even brutal with them, and with those who associate with them – the lawyers (the scribes) – for doing things simply to look good, rather than acting out of love of God and/or love and concern for their neighbor. Jesus attacks them for their scrupulous observance of even the tiniest of regulations, not because that is wrong but because they by-pass the love of God which is what really matters. He attacks them for their status-seeking. They expect people to look up to them and give them honour because of their supposed high level of religious observance.

The Church itself over the centuries has not been above criticism in this area, and perhaps it is still true, in some cases, today. Sometimes church leaders have been more anxious to preserve traditional practices rather than lead people to a deeper love of Christ and of each other.

Teachers and parents too, can be guilty when they follow double standards, making one rule for themselves and another for their children. The same can be said, in some cases, between employers and employees: “Do as I say; don’t do what I do”!

Pharisaism is alive and well in our society but, as Tony reflects, the first I need to check-in with is me! Today, Jesus is challenging each of us to examine why we do what we do! Do we do it simply because it is expected of us? Or do we act in a certain way because we want others to think well of us? Or do we choose to do something because it is the “loving” thing to do?

As we walk through our day, Tony invites us to be mindful of our motivations and to pray that today and every day, all our actions will flow from our love for God and our love for God’s people.

Let us pray …
Come, Holy Spirit, and fill the hearts of your people and kindle in them the fire of your love. Give us delight in God’s truth so that we may be drawn to Christ and imitate his love in ways to build up communities of peace. Amen.