Luke 11:37
We have seen pictures in which no regard whatever has been paid to the laws of perspective, and in which, as the consequence, the mountain has appeared as small as the men, the men as large as the mountain. These have been objects of amusement, but not of admiration. Unfortunately, there was nothing either amusing or admirable in these practical pictures of piety which the Pharisees were drawing, wholly out of perspective, in the time of our Lord. In them were -

I. OBJECTS OF GROSS EXAGGERATION. Our Lord pointed out the exaggerated importance which they attached to the outward, to the bodily, to the minute. They made everything of religious observances and customs. To wash the hands after coming from market, before eating bread, was to them quite a serious obligation, which they would on no account neglect; to tithe the small herbs that grew in their garden was to them a sacred duty, which they took pains to observe; to make the outside of their culinary vessels clean was a rule by no means to be forgotten; to carry no smallest stick on the sabbath day was a very sacred law, etc. These things, and such things as these, were made the staple of their religion; their piety was composed of small observances, of conformity to prescriptions and proscriptions which only touched the Outside and not the inner sanctuary, which only affected the body and not the soul; they made everything of that which was only of very slight importance; they exaggerated the minute until these became misleading and practically false.

II. OTHER OBJECTS FATALLY OVERLOOKED OR SLIGHTED. These were:

1. Inward purity. What did it matter if some cups were not quite clean? Something certainly, but very little comparatively; it was a matter of infinitesimal consequence. But it mattered much that their "inward part," their soul, was "full of ravening and wickedness." If they were themselves corrupt, no ceremonial cleanness would avail them. It is of infinite consequence to any man that he should be "all glorious within;" that there should be truth and purity "in the inward parts," in the deep recesses of the soul. It is the pure in heart alone that can see God and that can enter his kingdom.

2. Charity; a kind heart showing itself in a generous hand. Whoso has this disposition to pity, to heal, to help; whoso spends himself in endeavors to do good, to lighten the burdens of the afflicted, to brighten the path that lies in shadow; - this man is one to whom "all things are clean." He who is earnestly concerned to mitigate the sorrow of some bleeding heart, or to extricate some fallen spirit from the cruel toils of vice, or to lead some weary wanderer from the desert of doubt into the bright and happy home of faith and love, - he is not the man to be "greatly moved" because he carries a speck of dust upon his hands, or because a utensil has not been washed the proper number of times in a day.

3. Rectitude. The Pharisees passed over "judgment;" but they should have given to this a front place. To recognize the righteous claims of men on our regard, on our considerateness, on our fidelity, on our truthfulness, - is not this a very large part of any piety that is of God, commended by him and commending us to him?

4. The love of God. This also the Pharisees slighted. But it was of the very first importance. Their Law laid stress upon it (Deuteronomy 6:4, 5). It is the heritage and glory of manhood (see homily on Luke 10:27). To make little of this was so to misrepresent as to lead into ruinous error. Purity, charity, rectitude, the love of God, - these are the precious things which make man great, worthy, dear to God his Father. - C.







A certain Pharisee besought Him to dine with him.
I. THE INVITATION.

1. The prominence with which the Pharisees figure in our Lord's life is noticeable.(1) In view of their profession of preeminent piety.(2) In view of their scrupulous conformity to all the outward forms of religion.(3) In view of their bitter emnity against Jesus, and their craft and various forms of cunning used to ensnare Him.(4) What a commentary on the powerlessness as well as hollowness of attention on the mere formalities of religion.

II. OUR LORD'S ACCEPTANCE OF THE INVITATION.

1. Our Lord accepted the invitation with full knowledge of the insincerity with which it was offered.(1) But He knew it would give Him the opportunity of giving utterance to truths which the occasion would naturally call forth.(2) May we appreciate the value of opportunity.

2. Our Lord accepted the invitation with full knowledge of the painful consequence that would follow His honest utterances on the occasion. We must not shrink on account of consequences to speak the truth which God gives.

III. THE SURPRISE OF THE PHARISEE.

1. This surprise was natural from the Pharisee's standpoint.

2. And this ceremonial washing had a high moral design.(1) To remind constantly of the need of inward purity.(2) But its spiritual significance was lost sight of in the mere rite itself.

3. Our Lord's omission to wash before the meal was premeditated.(1) That He did nothing that was not premeditated, shows this.(2) The moral lessons He drew which the occasion furnished Him, prove this.(3) In our Lord's life the lower was ever sacrificed for the higher.

IV. THE PRACTICAL LESSONS WHICH OUR LORD DREW.

1. From the folly and wickedness of having a form of godliness while denying its power.

2. A lesson on true cleanliness.

V. THE FEARFUL JUDGMENTS PRONOUNCED ON RELIGIOUS FORMALISTS.

1. Upon the formalists who made great pretensions to piety — the Pharisees.

2. Upon the formalists who made great pretensions to Scriptural knowledge — scribes.

3. Upon the formalists who made great pretensions to exact analysis of the law — lawyers.Lessons:

1. In social life our Lord gives an example of impartiality in His attention and interest: publicans, sinners, Pharisees — invitations from all alike He accepted.

2. In social life our Lord gives us an example of turning every incident to practical and spiritual account.

3. In social life our Lord gives us an example of inflexible righteousness, conjoined with loving sympathy.

(D. C. Hughes, M. A.)

I. THE SEVERAL SIGNS OR DEVELOPMENTS OF PHARISAICAL RELIGION.

1. The substitution of external for spiritual purity.

2. Attention to trifles may be compatible with neglect of great duties.

3. Honour is sought from men; the honour which comes from God only is despised.

4. Doctrines and practices may be taught by those who neither believe-their own doctrines nor observe their own precepts.

II. THE EVIL AND CONDEMNATION OF PHARISAIC RELIGION.

1. It is misleading to observers.

2. It is repugnant to God.

3. It is disastrous to the spiritual life of those who trust to it. Men begin by deceiving others, and end by deceiving themselves.

(J. R. Thomson, M. A.)

Sunday School Times.
It is unfortunately not difficult to find illustrations of outward show and inward lack. The beautiful ivy-covered wall which crumbles at a touch; the rosy apple worm-eaten at the core; the leafy fig-tree which yet bears no figs; the luxuriant growth which covers the morass; the poison-ivy, fair to look at but dangerous to the touch; the rustic seat, inviting to rest, from which the serpent springs up, — may serve as examples. In mediaeval writings, mention is often made of poisonous rings. Outwardly they looked like other rings, a narrow band of gold with a clear diamond set in it. But when the ring was placed on the hand a slight puncture was made from behind the gem, and a little poison injected into the finger, and so the death of the wearer was caused, What an emblem of the Pharisee! Every child knows what a sham is. Perhaps there is not one of them but has sometime received from a "funny" playfellow a pleasant-looking sweetmeat, which when taken into the mouth, nipped and burned the tongue. Or they may have taken up, in a friend's house, what they thought was a book, and found it to be only a box imitation of one. It will be easy then to show them how the same thing appears in human things. The merchant who sells oleomargarine under the name of butter is, like his goods, a sham. The church-member who stands up staunchly for Sabbath observance and regular attendance at church, and yet during the week tells business lies and makes dishonest profits, is a sham. And the boy or girl who is known at Sunday-school as one of the best scholars, but at home is ill-natured and selfish and revengeful, is also a sham. Teach the children to be sincere. An inconsistent person is like a sum in addition, with the wrong answer at the bottom. Everybody can run up the column of figures and see how wrong the summing up is. Show how the scholars may make the sum of their life-arithmetic correct. Or the insincere person may be compared to the baskets of peaches sometimes sold at the doors — a few large, ripe peaches at the top, but, when these are lifted away, nothing but unripe or decaying fruit beneath. Who would wish his life to be like that?

(Sunday School Times.)

Hypocrites resemble looking-glasses, which present the faces which are not in them. Oh, how desirous are men to put the fairest gloves upon the foulest hands; and the finest paint upon the rottenest posts! To counterfeit the coin of heaven, is to commit treason against the King of heaven. Who would spread a curious cloth upon a dusty table? If a mariner set sail in an unsound bottom, he may reasonably expect to lose his voyage. No wise virgin would carry a lamp without light. O professor, either get the latter or part with the former. None are so black in the eyes of the Deity as those who paint spiritual beauty for spirit .... A false friend is worse than an open enemy. A painted harlot is less dangerous than a painted hypocrite. A treacherous Judas is more abhorred of God than a bloody Pilate. Christians! remember the sheep's clothing will soon be stripped from the wolf's back. The velvet plaster of profession shall not always conceal the offensive ulcer of corruption. Neither the ship of formality nor hypocrisy will carry one person to the harbour of felicity. The blazing lamps of foolish virgins may light them to the bridegroom's gate, but not into his chamber... Oh, what vanity it is to lop off the boughs, and leave the roots which can send forth more; or to empty the cistern, and leave the fountain running which can soon fill it again I Such may swim in the water as the visible church; but when the net is drawn to shore, they must be thrown away as bad fishes. Though the tares and the wheat may grow in the field together, yet they will not be housed in the granary together.

(Archbishop Secker.)

Formality frequently takes its dwelling near the chambers of integrity, and so assumes its name; the soul not suspecting that hell should make so near an approach to heaven. A rotten post, though covered with gold, is more fit to be burned in the fire, than for the building of a fabric. Where there is a pure conscience, there will be a pure conversation. The dial of our faces does not infallibly show the time of day in our hearts; the humblest looks may enamel the former, while unbounded pride covers the latter. Unclean spirits may inhabit the chamber when they look not out at the window. A hypocrite may be both the fairest and the foulest creature in the world; he may be fairest outwardly in the eyes of man, and foulest inwardly in the sight of God. How commonly do such unclean swans cover their black flesh with their white feathers! Though such wear the mantle of Samuel, that should bear the name of Satan.

(Archbishop Secker.)

If you ask the Pharisee of old what sin was — "Well," he said, "it is eating without washing your hands; it is drinking wine without baying first of all strained out the gnats, for those insects are unclean, and if you should swallow any of them they will render you defiled." His repentance dealt with his having touched a Gentile, or having come on the windside of a Publican. Many in these days have the same notion, with a variation. We have read of a Spanish bandit, who, when he confessed before his father-confessor, complained that one sin hung with peculiar weight upon his soul that was of peculiar atrocity. He had stabbed a man on a Friday, and a few drops of the blood of the wound had fallen on his lips, by which he had broken the precepts of holy church, in having tasted animal food on a fast day. The murder did not seem to arouse in his conscience any feeling of remorse at all — not one atom — he would have done the same to-morrow; but an accidental violation of the canons of mother church excited all his fears.

(C. H. Spurgeon.)

In Queen Elizabeth's time, the way in which they cleaned out the halt of a castle, the floor of which might be covered with remnants of food and all manner of abominations, was to strew another layer of rushes over the top of the filth, and then they thought themselves quite neat and respectable. And that is what a great many of you do, cover the filth well up with a sweet smelling layer of conventional proprieties and think yourselves clean, and the pinks of perfection.

(A. Maclaren, D. D.)

A missionary in India writes about what the people there call sin. He says: "Travelling across the country one day, I took shelter from the sun in a native hut. The man kindly spread a mat for me, and the shade of the thatched roof was very acceptable. Soon a large number of poor men, who had been working in the muddy road, came there to eat their mid-day meal of rice. A young man of a better class came a little afterwards. While the rice was cooking at the foot of a tree outside, I began to tell them about Jesus. But soon the young man interrupted me, saying, 'Sahib, I have not so much need of salvation as these men have,' and he pointed to their mud-covered legs, and thought of his own white clothes so free from mire. But I said again that all are sinners. 'There is none that doeth good, no not one.' At last he said, 'Ha! I made a mistake. We are all sinners.' Another day a man said to me, 'Sahib, you are a great sinner;' as he said so he looked at my dusty boots and trousers, and then at my forehead streaming with perspiration. He had noticed how I had spoken to the people as though they were my brothers, and he concluded that if I were not a great sinner I should never be so poor, or have to work so hard, or mix so freely with the natives. Hindus, you see, think that God gives riches to the good and poverty to the bad. Once a man among the crowd said to me when I was preaching, 'Yes, that's true; we may do anything to get salvation, even sin.' This was a strange mixture of ideas, was it not? But it shows that they do not think of salvation as freedom from sin. We have to teach them this. They do not even know what sin is. How can they, if they know not the law of God? If you ask a large crowd of Hindus the question, 'What is sin?' they will answer in a moment, 'Eating beef.' They say there are two unpardonable sins — killing a Brahmin and killing a cow. Sometimes we are asked, most seriously, 'Did Jesus Christ eat meat?' They think that if He did, He too was a sinner. From this it will appear how difficult it is to get natives to understand what sin is not."

(The Gospel in all Lands.)

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