As Jesus was speaking, a Pharisee invited Him to dine with him; so He went in and reclined at the table.
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.)
(C. H. Spurgeon.)
(A. Maclaren, D. D.)
(The Gospel in all Lands.)
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