When Jesus had finished speaking, a Pharisee invited him to eat with him; so he went in and reclined at the table. But the Pharisee was surprised when he noticed that Jesus did not first wash before the meal.
Then the Lord said to him, “Now then, you Pharisees clean the outside of the cup and dish, but inside you are full of greed and wickedness. You foolish people! Did not the one who made the outside make the inside also? But now as for what is inside you—be generous to the poor, and everything will be clean for you.
“Woe to you Pharisees, because you give God a tenth of your mint, rue and all other kinds of garden herbs, but you neglect justice and the love of God. You should have practiced the latter without leaving the former undone.
“Woe to you Pharisees, because you love the most important seats in the synagogues and respectful greetings in the marketplaces.
“Woe to you, because you are like unmarked graves, which people walk over without knowing it.”
One of the experts in the law answered him, “Teacher, when you say these things, you insult us also.”
Jesus replied, “And you experts in the law, woe to you, because you load people down with burdens they can hardly carry, and you yourselves will not lift one finger to help them.
“Woe to you, because you build tombs for the prophets, and it was your ancestors who killed them. So you testify that you approve of what your ancestors did; they killed the prophets, and you build their tombs. Because of this, God in his wisdom said, ‘I will send them prophets and apostles, some of whom they will kill and others they will persecute.’ Therefore this generation will be held responsible for the blood of all the prophets that has been shed since the beginning of the world, from the blood of Abel to the blood of Zechariah, who was killed between the altar and the sanctuary. Yes, I tell you, this generation will be held responsible for it all.”
Woe to you experts in the law, because you have taken away the key to knowledge. You yourselves have not entered, and you have hindered those who were entering.”
Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner. Are you staying with it? I’m not going to leave you alone about it. I want this to become the prayer of your heart. I want you to understand, though, that this is not a self-deprecating prayer. To say you are a sinner is not to shame yourself as a bad person. It is to come to grips with the fact that you (and I) are a broken person. We aren’t necessarily broken by anything we have done’though those things we have done and left undone have certainly contributed to our brokenness. You and I are broken by virtue of being a member of the human race. We are not sinners because we sin. We sin because we are sinners.
There are two basic ways to approach righteousness. There’s the outside-in approach and the inside-out approach. External conformity to the law by performance versus internal fulfillment of the law by grace. This outside-in approach captures the methodology of the Pharisees. The inside-out approach captures the way of Jesus. The Pharisees concerned themselves with clean hands. Jesus was after a pure heart. It seems to me the Pharisees were all about rightness, while Jesus was all about goodness.
Then the Lord said to him, “Now then, you Pharisees clean the outside of the cup and dish, but inside you are full of greed and wickedness. You foolish people! Did not the one who made the outside make the inside also? But now as for what is inside you—be generous to the poor, and everything will be clean for you.”
The Pharisees show us that sometimes you can get it all right and be all wrong.
“Woe to you Pharisees, because you give God a tenth of your mint, rue and all other kinds of garden herbs, but you neglect justice and the love of God. You should have practiced the latter without leaving the former undone.”
The outside-in approach of the Pharisees tries to cover over brokenness. The inside-out approach of Jesus aims to transform it.
And that raises the biggest problem. As long as we are trying to cover our brokenness we cannot be healed. But the minute we become honest about the fundamental problem of our brokenness (i.e., I am a sinner), grace will not only save us but make us into the people we most want to become.
Bringing it full circle’this is why the Jesus Prayer matters so much. “Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner.”
Stay with it.
Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner.
Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a son/daughter.
Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a saint.
Are you coming to grips with your brokenness as a member of the human race, or are you still trying to cover it over yourself? What about that?
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