…The Pharisee was astonished to see that He did not first wash before dinner (Luke 11:38).
Jesus is on His way to Jerusalem for the last time. One Sabbath He stops to teach in a synagogue. After the service a Pharisee invites Him to share His morning meal. Before they eat, the Pharisee and his other guests carefully wash their hands, according to Jewish traditions. They believe eating with unwashed hands would contaminate the food which, in turn, made the body unclean in God’s eyes.
It was time for Jesus to confront that error. Knowing all humans are contaminated by the sinful nature they receive from their parents and not from eating unclean food, Jesus refuses to wash His hands. His host is astonished, but Jesus refuses to back down.
He then starts blasting the traditions they trust to earn their way to heaven. It may seem unwise for Jesus to turn up the heat, but it is the greatest act of kindness anyone could do for them. If they keep straining to wash a little uncleanness from their hands, they will never let God remove the uncleanness and sin from their hearts, minds and souls.
This brings a complaint from the scribes. When He attacks the Pharisees, Jesus is really attacking the scribes, whose traditions the Pharisees are following. Jesus turns the heat up again. He accuses the scribes of burying God’s gracious Old Testament promises beneath their traditions, which deceive people into relying on their own works rather than God’s free forgiveness as given through His Son, the Messiah.
The Pharisees and scribes strenuously object. They pressure Him to speak on more things, lying in ambush, hoping He will blurt out something carelessly.
THE PRAYER: Almighty God, Your Son Jesus made clear there is only one way into Your presence, through faith in Him. Drive from my heart and mind the lie that there are many ways. I pray in Jesus’ Name. Amen.
*Thank you to Lutheran Hour Ministries for providing this devotion.