Jesus Rebukes the Pharisees

The Pharisees and teachers of the Law are telling you what Moses says you should do. You may do what they teach, but do not copy what they do, because they do not practice what they preach (Matthew 23:2,3 Eyewitness).

Eyewitness: pp. 149,150, 203-205
In Your Bible: Luke 11:37-54; Matthew 23:1-34



When you read a Pharisee invited Jesus to his home, you might wonder, “What were they thinking?” Perhaps they wanted to learn from him privately? Why is this account in the Bible? Could this be a Pharisee who became a believer? All these questions are valid. I think this passage is also there for believers to learn and be wise about legalism.

When Jesus and a Pharisees sat down to eat, the host noticed Jesus did not first ceremonially wash** his hands, as required by the Law. Jesus, who knew his thinking, then addressed many errors the religious leaders did that misled the people. Yes, it incensed these religious leaders.

Jesus Illuminates Errors of the Pharisees

* They emphasized ceremonial washing – But didn’t understand God makes you clean
* They burdened the people with the Law – But did not keep the Law themselves
* They had specific directions on giving – But neglected justice, mercy, and God’s love
* They were proud and vain – But forgot humility pleases God
* They hid the key to knowing God – Because only they interpreted the Scriptures
* They were hypocrites (honored OT prophets) – But ignored NT prophets (John the Baptist)

For centuries the Jews struggled with strictly following the Law. What a difficult path to trod, following leaders who could not adhere to the Law, yet insisting others do so. The Bible shows that no man can follow the letter of the Law except Jesus – God incarnate.

Keep it Simple

Man makes complicated rules. God’s rules are simple. Jesus said, If you obey my commandments, you will remain in my love, just as I have obeyed my Father’s commandments and remain in his love……This is my commandment: Love others as I have loved you (Eyewitness John 15:10,12).

The prophet Micah said it right, But he’s already made it plain how to live, what to do, what God is looking for in men and women. It’s quite simple: Do what is fair and just to your neighbor, be compassionate and loyal in your love, and don’t take yourself too seriously–take God seriously (Micah 6:8 The Message).

Application: We might see ourselves in the mirror of Jesus’ critique of the Pharisees and the Teachers of the Law. Beware of religious legalism that leads us away from the simplicity that God wants for the believer.

Prayer: Father, thank you for freeing us from the Law and man-made direction on how to fulfill it……..Jesus is the answer.

** A word from Bible commentator William Barclay on ceremonial washings the Law requires. “The Law laid it down that before a man ate he must wash his hands in a certain way, and that he must wash between courses. As usual every littlest detail was worked out. Large stone vessels of water were specially kept for the purpose because ordinary water might be unclean; the amount of water used must be at least a quarter of a log, that is enough to fill one and a half egg-shells. First the water must be poured over the hands beginning with the tips of the fingers and running up to the wrist. Then the palm of each hand must be cleansed by rubbing the fist of the other into it. Finally, water must again be poured over the hand, this time beginning at the wrist and running down to the finger tips. To the Pharisee to omit the slightest detail of this was a sin.” From: The Daily Bible Study, The Gospel of Luke, Westminster Press, Philadelphia. 1953, 1956, p. 158.

Photo of Pharisee – from Jesus His Life and Times, Fleming H. Revell Company, Old Tappan, New Jersey, 1979, The Genesis Project.

3 thoughts on “Jesus Rebukes the Pharisees

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