We come now to our time in the Word of God and I invite you to open your Bible to the 11th chapter of the gospel of Luke. Believe it or not, we are just barely past half-way through Luke, for those of you who are keeping track of such things. This is an immense, immense triumph, I think, for all believers who are exposed to the glory of this gospel. And when I say triumph, I mean a triumph in a sense over the typical realities of life that never provide an in-depth look at such a glorious book as the gospel of Luke. So many Christians dust lightly the gospels, if at all. It is just monumental treatment of the life of Christ to which we are exposed, which, of course, is a triumph over all those circumstances which befall most people, and that certainly by the grace of God who has given us this opportunity. Every passage is rich beyond my ability to convey, and yet what is conveyed is in itself a wealth of value to every believer.
The passage before us is no different, verses 45 to 52 of Luke 11. Let me read it. "And one of the lawyers said to Him in reply, 'Teacher, when You say this You insult us, too.' But He said, 'Woe to you, lawyers, as well, for you weigh men down with burdens hard to bear while you yourselves will not even touch the burdens with one of your fingers. Woe to you! For you build the tombs of the prophets and it was your fathers who killed them! Consequently you are witnesses and approve the deeds of your fathers because it was they who killed them and you build their tombs. For this reason also, the wisdom of God said I will send to them prophets and apostles and some of them they will kill and some they will persecute in order that the blood of all the prophets shed since the foundation of the world may be charged against this generation, from the blood of Abel to the blood of Zechariah who perished between the altar in the house of God, yes I tell you, it shall be charged against this generation. Woe to you, lawyers! For you have taken away the key of knowledge! You did not enter in yourselves and those who were entering in, you hindered." That last line is compelling. That last line is dramatic. That last line is shocking. Jesus said to these religious leaders, "Those who were entering in, you hindered."
What did He mean by that? Those people who were on some path in the direction of divine truth and salvation and the kingdom of God and heaven, you hindered. Could anything worse be said about a religious leader? I don't think so. You in the name of religion, in the name of the Old Testament, in the name of God, in the name of righteousness, in the name of holiness prevent people from salvation. That is the ultimate discredit to a religious leader. Every normal person, every reasonable person understands how important it is to be told the truth. If you look at it just from the viewpoint of common life, in the routine of everyday circumstances, we want people to tell us the truth. We really count on it whether it's about our job, or whether it's about the house we're about to buy, or the loan we're about to get, or the insurance policy we're about to put in place, or the car we're about to purchase, or whether it's what the mechanic tells us when we take the car in to be repaired, we depend on people to tell us the truth. Even when we buy an appliance, or a computer, certainly when we go to the doctor, we want the lab report to be correct. We want truth. We understand that life disintegrates, it unravels, it becomes chaotic if we don't know the truth about these things that make up our lives. We expect lawyers to be honest, accountants to be honest, our business associates to be honest, the people that manage our retirement to be honest. We expect our parents to be honest. We parents want our kids to be honest. I mean, life sort of requires that.
But I want you to understand something. You could live in a world of liars, you could live in a world where no one told you the truth about those things, you could live amidst deceivers all your life and still be OK in the life to come if just one person told you the truth, and that one person would be your pastor, your preacher, your religious teacher. You could have lies about everything in this world and you can be OK if you get the truth about the world to come. But on the other hand, you could live in this world in the midst of people who tell you the truth about everything, you could live in this world among people who never deceive you, who are honest and forthright and give you the truth all the time, and you could be damned forever by just one liar in your whole life if he was your spiritual leader that you trusted. It is infinitely more important to be told the truth about salvation, about the way to heaven than about anything else. Therefore, the realm in which the truth matters most is the spiritual realm. If the doctor lies to you or the lab lies to you, it could affect you physically. If your accountant lies to you or your money manager lies to you, or business associate lies to you, it could affect you economically. If your spouse lies to you or your children lie to you, it could affect you socially. I mean, there are a lot of things that can go wrong in this life but if whoever you trust to tell you the truth about the life to come lies to you, it damns you forever.
Now the world is full of religious liars, always has been, always will be, is now. They are everywhere, everywhere. There is a very sophisticated system basically under the direction of Satan, the arch enemy of God and all of his demons who work the system across the face of the earth and have since the Fall of man and will until Jesus destroys the universe and creates a new heaven and a new earth. False teachers are always around and they are around now. Their platform is greater today than it's ever been because of media and at a time when false teaching proliferates, discernment disappears and false teachers damn people's souls. They shut the door to heaven. They hinder people from salvation. I cannot think of a more frightening judgment than the judgment of God that falls upon the people who slammed the door to the kingdom in the face of those who were entering. But that's what they do and that's what the Pharisees did in Israel. And they had been doing it for a long time, shutting heaven. They were obstructionists. They were hinderers. It goes on even today. Even so-called Christians want to tolerate false teaching and false teachers in the name of love, in the name of acceptance, in the name of kindness, in the name of preserving peace. But false teachers in the realm of religion are the most dangerous people on the planet. And their lies matter more than any others because they damn people's souls forever.
So when Jesus came and began His ministry, He engaged in a necessary proclamation of truth and alongside that proclamation of the truth was an equally necessary assault on the obstructionists, those who slammed the door to the kingdom, those who hindered those who were entering. Jesus was actually merciful to them as harsh as He was. There was still a mercy in His harshness, for the words that He spoke to them which were so harsh were intended not only to warn others about them but to warn them about themselves and to bring them to a true examination of their hypocrisy and repentance and faith in Him. So what you see in the ministry of Jesus is a ministry of immense and escalating conflict. There are some people who would like you to think that the life of Jesus was a life of kind deeds and miracles and gentle teaching and He was surrounded by women and children and everything was just sort of warm and fuzzy and nothing could be further from the truth from the time that He started His ministry, it was a ministry of immense conflict, escalating conflict. It was a ministry in which the hatred of the religious leaders in Judaism grew to a fever pitch until against all reason and revelation they manipulated the Romans to crucify their own Messiah. That was not simply a result of some kind of hot-headed reaction at the end of His life. That had been mounting since the beginning of His ministry. The first time He ever preached a sermon in His own synagogue in Nazareth way back in chapter 4 of Luke, one sermon in His own synagogue where everyone knew Him, and they tried to throw Him off a cliff because they so resented the message. It attacked their false religious system. He always did that, always. And anyone who wants to follow in the path of Jesus Christ has to expose liars and their lies.
So when you look at the life of Jesus and you get in the flow of His life, you see this constant escalating conflict. And we've been looking at it as we've gone through Luke and we see it again in bold relief in this incident that is occurring before us in the text that I just read. It's not surprising that the conflict reaches this level and takes center stage because truth has never been here in a more pure form. Remember we talked about the Law of God a couple of weeks ago and I told you that the law of God came in the Mosaic form, but it was inferior to the form in which the law of God came incarnate, that Jesus was the living personification of the law of God in perfect manifestation and therefore He was the perfection of truth. And that brought Him into conflict with error like nothing else. That escalated the demonic assaults on Jesus, the satanic assaults on Jesus. When John wrote his first epistle, at the end of it he said this, "The whole world lies in the lap of the evil one." Very vivid language; the whole world lies in the lap of the evil one. What is he saying? He's saying the world has gone to sleep in the arms of Satan. In what sense? In the sense that they have found their comfort and their peace in his deceptions; all false religions are people reposed in the arms of their soul killer, Satan.
It was true in Israel. The recognized spiritual leaders were the Pharisees and the scribes. They were blind. You will notice verse 52 says, "You did not enter in yourselves." They couldn't lead anybody into the kingdom because they weren't in the kingdom. They couldn't tell someone how to get in the kingdom because they didn't know how. They couldn't show anyone the path of life because they were dead. They couldn't give anybody spiritual sight because they were blind. They couldn't set anybody free because they were prisoners. They couldn't tell anybody how to have the burden of sin relieved because they never had theirs relieved. They were useless to do what they purported to do. You think you are the spiritual leaders; you're the blind leading the blind and everybody goes in the ditch. But they were proud and self-righteous and horribly deceived.
They put a spin on Jesus. It comes out in verse 15. Jesus cast a demon out of a man and verse 15 of the 11th chapter says, "Some of them said He cast out demons by Beelzebul, the ruler of the demons." Beelzebul was a popular name for Satan. So the Pharisee and Sadducee and certainly the scribes spin on Jesus was that He did what He did by the power of Satan. So, in effect, they called God Satan, and that is the ultimate blasphemy. Oh, they were religious. They talked about Yahweh, the true God, and His commandments and the Old Testament, etc. But they were the most extreme blasphemers, calling God Satan. And that's why in verse 29, "As the crowds were increasing, He began to say this generation is a wicked generation." Most people would have classified that generation as a highly religious generation, a very religious generation, if not a fanatically religious generation. Jesus says you're nothing but a wicked generation. "It's going to be more tolerable in the Day of Judgment for Nineveh and Sodom and Gomorrah than it's going to be for you." There's going to be horrific divine judgment that's going to fall on you.
And so Jesus sees this escalating, understands it completely, and confronts these who are the pervasive liars who have the whole nation basically following them right into hell. And we see that confrontation in our text. Before we look at it in particular, just a reminder that all false religion is hypocrisy, all of it, all of it. All false religious leaders are hypocrites, they're phony, they're fake, they're frauds, they're illegitimate. They're liars and deceivers. They claim to know God, they don't. They claim to know truth, they don't. They claim to know salvation, they' don't. They claim to know the way to heaven, they don't. It's all a charade, it's all a game, it's all a sham but it's very sophisticated, it's very highly developed, it's very complex because Satan's brilliance and Satan's experience has made it so.
Now in the text before us, Jesus steps right into the face, as it were, of the false teachers in Israel in an occasion that's introduced to us in verse 37. "When He had spoken, a Pharisee asked Him to have lunch with him, and He went in and reclined at the table." Now we looked at that passage last week down through verse 44. Jesus went to lunch with a Pharisee. He wasn't the only Pharisee there. They are always in groups and that's why verse 42, "Woe to you, Pharisees," is plural. Verse 43, "Woe to you, Pharisees," again is plural. Verse 44: another woe to them, collectively. He was invited to lunch. He went to the lunch. His host was a Pharisee and there were other Pharisees there as well. Jesus unmasked their hypocritical religion. He unmasked their falsity. And you remember what I told you, if you don't have the truth and you don't know God, and your heart isn't changed, and you are full of robbery or rape and pillage and plunder and wickedness, as He describes them, if you're wretched on the inside and have only cleaned the outside, then you're left simply with what is superficial. And so I said you can look at a religious system and where you see a multiplication of the symbolic, you see the indication of the absence of the real. False religions are left to dote on the symbolic, the simplistic, the secondary and their status — chief seats, titles, etc. But their hearts, according to verse 39, are filled with robbery and wickedness. They're clean on the outside, and not on the inside. They're full of pride and verse 44 says they pollute and defile the people who get near them. And that was Jesus' message at lunch.
Now the air must have been so thick it would take a steak knife to cut it. I mean, they were outraged. Nobody talked to them like that. They wanted respectful titles everywhere. They expected to be treated in a manner that they were used to being treated, with great respect and reverence. They must have been stunned with shock and disbelief, and anger flushed their hypocritical faces. And in response, verse 45, "And one of the lawyers said to Him in reply, 'Teacher, rabbi, when you say this you insult us, too.'" Lawyers, what are they? Well it's not too hard to interpret this, nomikōn, law experts, law experts, also called scribes. Down in verse 53 they're called scribes. But “law experts” is really the right thing. That's what they were; they were the experts in the law. The Pharisees, as a total group, were committed to fastidious observance of the religious system. Within the Pharisees were the lawyers, the experts of the law. Not all Pharisees were lawyers, but many were. But if you were one of the lawyers, one of the law experts who were associated with this system, you would be a Pharisee because you couldn't be a theoretician without being a practitioner. But to make a little bit of a distinction, the Pharisees were the practitioners of the system developed by the law experts. To put it simply, the law experts were the theologians, the exegetes, the expositors. They were the academicians. They were the interpreters of the Scripture and they came up with the system which the Pharisees practiced. And so not all Pharisees were law experts, but within the Pharisees they had the law experts that developed the system. The Sadducees, different than the Pharisees, had a religious system. And they had some of their own experts interpreting the law their way. But these that Jesus talks with here — or refers to here — were part of the Pharisaic system and they were the dominant force in Israel.
So these were the men who crafted the perverted, corrupt, apostate Judaism that existed that shut the door to the kingdom of God and sent people to hell. And the two were inseparable. The practicing Pharisees were dependent upon the lawyers to interpret the law for them and to find them the loopholes which they were very adept at doing. You could never meet with Pharisees without having to meet with lawyers because some of the Pharisees would be lawyers and they were inseparable, they were always together. To criticize the Pharisees then was to criticize the lawyers because it was the lawyers who developed the system. And so incredulous is this man and he says, "Do you know what You've just done? You've insulted us, too." And these self-styled experts, exegetes, expositors, interpreters of Scripture just couldn't believe that anyone would question their scholarship. They were skilled in the law and tradition. They were the theorists who put it all together, who crafted the traditions, the routines, the rituals, the system that had nothing to do with the heart because their hearts had never been changed. Nothing to do with true holiness, nothing to do with true righteousness, but they had concocted a complex of behaviors that left no room for choosing anything. It was an endless list of thousands and thousands and thousands of methods and means, a labyrinth of behaviors imposed upon the people as if it were the true will of God, so complex that you had to have a lawyer around to interpret it. It's like those legal documents you get written by lawyers. Lawyers write them and you need lawyers to read them. Lawyers wrote the system and you needed a lawyer to explain the system to you it was so complex.
In Matthew 23 you have that long, extended diatribe of Jesus against the Pharisees and the scribes. And at the beginning He says, "They have seated themselves in Moses' seat." They literally pushed Moses out. That is a way of saying they got rid of the law of Moses and took over. And what was the will of God and the true revelation of God was not the law of Moses which God had revealed on the pages of Scripture which is clear and comprehensible as it sits, but impossible to keep. They had moved that out and replaced it with their bizarre, twisted, perverted, allegorical, mystical, spiritual interpretations of the text to take the pressure off. They had invented a religion they thought they could keep because it was all external and therefore justify themselves before God. They literally put themselves in Moses' seat. They really are a picture of all false religious leaders, all those who misinterpret the Bible, who misrepresent what it teaches, all the wicked exegetes, interpreters, expositors, theologians, scholars, academicians who pervert the Bible to create damning religious systems, whether they're Protestant, Catholic, Orthodox, cultic, or whatever they are. Every false religious system has them. They all have some theologians, some interpreters, both historically and in the present tense. And all their hearts are unchanged and corrupt and void of God and full of robbery and wickedness and they plunder and pillage people's souls and they are themselves wicked.
So Jesus says in response what we read, "Woe to you, woe to you, woe to you," and comes down to that last statement again in verse 52, "You're hindering those entering." Boy, He doesn't mix words, does He? I mean, that is so direct, that is so direct. It's very much like Matthew 23 verse 13 which the Lord will say later, it's back in Matthew but it's forward in time. Listen to Matthew 23:13 what Jesus says to them, "But woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites, because you shut off the kingdom of heaven from men." That's what you do. "For you do not enter in yourselves, nor do you allow those who are entering to go in." You are obstructionists. You keep people out of the Kingdom. That's what they all do. That is what they all do. They cannot do anything other than that. Verse 15: "You hypocrites, you travel about on sea and land to make a convert and when he becomes one you make him twice as much a son of hell as yourselves." You're just literally making sons of hell everywhere you go, not sons of God.
If I sound a little strong on this, this is how Jesus speaks, isn't it? If it sounds a little different than what you hear today, then you know how far we've moved from the way Jesus spoke. It's really pretty staggering to think about it, but the world is full of these false religious people who literally are leading souls into hell. There's only one way to heaven and that's through the true gospel of Jesus Christ. Anything else damns. There's no salvation in any other name. I am the way, the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father but by Me, Jesus said. There is no other way.
And, you know, it's really staggering to think about. Just look. ..and this is something that's always interested me, even when I was a kid, the study of world religions, just think about the millennia of religious accumulation in the world, with all of its rites and rituals and literature and accumulated ceremony and systems and methods and behaviors and expectations. It's staggering; sophisticated quote-unquote, “revelations, visions, mystical insights,” whether you're talking about Hinduism, Buddhism, or Islam. Centuries of accumulated data and all kinds of people understanding and implementing and applying all of these principles to all the complexities of life and all the scholars and theologians of all these systems, amassing all their interpretations and applications through the centuries, and all of the systems that have grown up, whether...and I've stood there in the Kali temple in Calcutta where they worship in the most gross fashion and still offer animal sacrifices with horrendous sexual overtones to the Hindu gods, all the way to the city of Mecca and Medina and the incredible worship that goes on there to a god they assume to exist they call Allah and all of the complexities of Islam all over the world, the complexities of the Roman Catholic Church system. It is so complicated that even the most devout Catholic could never sort it out. And that's why for years the whole Roman mass was in Latin because it didn't matter if anybody understood it. In fact, they were afraid somebody might. That's why when William Tyndale translated the New Testament into English, the Catholic Church executed him. It's the complexity that perpetuates the system. It's the inability to understand what is being said that makes it work. Then you're dependent upon the system and the purveyors of the system could keep the kingdom locked. They are the servants of Satan. And whether it's liberal Protestantism which, of course, killed the main denominations and all of the original theological institutions and quote-unquote “Christian colleges” of our country, liberal theology which denies the authority and inspiration of Scripture and even denies the deity of Christ and on and on and on, all in the name of scholarship....
The complexities of Judaism were the same thing. The Pharisees started in the time of Ezra. For 400 years they've been refining all these unbelievable technicalities. And it's true even today. I listened to some tapes by probably the leading teaching rabbi in America, and the interpretations of the Old Testament are so novel as to be absolutely bizarre. There is no way that looking at the words, historically at the grammar and understanding language in its normal sense you could ever possibly come up with the interpretations they come up with. Allegories, mystical interpretations, secret meanings create a labyrinth that people can't get through and could they get through, they'd find themselves in hell anyway because the truth isn't there. And Jesus has said the worst thing you could ever say to a religious leader, "You prevent people from God and His kingdom." And it's still going on, people.
I want to take you to a text, and I'll close with this. I am just going to do the introduction this morning. John 7, John 7, this really kind of sums up how the Pharisees and scribes saw themselves. There was a lot of discussion going on about who Jesus was. Jesus, back in verse 37 of John 7, said, "If any man is thirsty, let him come to Me and drink and he who believes in Me, as the Scripture said, from his inner most being shall flow rivers of living water," relating back to Isaiah's prophecy. And verse 41, "Some of the people in the crowd were saying, 'This is the Messiah.’” This is the Messiah. And so, verse 43 says, "There was a division in the multitude because of Him." People were beginning to listen to Jesus and say, "Wow, maybe this is the Messiah." And verse 44 says, "Some of them wanted to seize Him but no one laid hands on Him." I mean, that's how rankled they were. That's...He was so confrontive, He was so absolute in what He said that when He attacked and exposed the false teachers, they wanted to seize Him their rage was so strong. But they didn't. Verse 45: "Officers,” temple police, “came to the chief priests and Pharisees and said to them, 'Why did you not bring Him?'" I mean, if He's a heretic, why didn't you get Him? "And the officers said, 'Never did a man speak the way this man speaks.'" They were basically sunned into inaction. They were paralyzed by His power in what He said.
And then verse 47 really tells you about the Pharisees. "The Pharisees therefore answered them, 'You have not also been led astray, have you? No one of the rulers or Pharisees has believed in Him, has he?' But this multitude which doesn't know the law is accursed." You haven't been led astray like the scum, have you? Like the riff-raff? That's how they viewed the people: stupid masses that don't know the law. They were the only ones who could understand their law. It's just the stupid people who don't know the law who follow Him. None of us has believed in Him, has he? They were so protective of their system. And they could only imagine that anyone who would believe in Him didn't know their system. And you know what? They were right because to commit to their system was to commit to deception. Jesus said the way is narrow, and few there be that find it. And one of the reasons is, because there are so many people hiding it, covering it up. How easy would it be for a person in Los Angeles to wake up one morning and say, "I want to go to a religious place to hear the truth?" How many places would they have to go before they heard it? The kingdom of God is walled up by false teachers.
Go back to the text for a minute and I'll give you a quick preview of what's going to happen. Jesus says the reason...the reason that you close up the kingdom is threefold. And I'm going to give you these points and we're going to look at them next time. Number one, woe to you, lawyers, verse 46, you weigh men down with burdens hard to bear and you don't even touch the burden with one of your fingers. The first problem: False religion lacks spiritual power. They put upon them burdens they can't carry, rules they can't keep. It lacks spiritual power.
Then He says in verse 47, "Woe to you! For you build the tombs of the prophets." In other words, you decorate the tombs of the prophets that your fathers killed as if you're something better than they and you want to overturn some kind of stigma or guilt. But the truth of the matter is, while you're decorating the tombs of the prophets, you're planning to kill Me, the prophet of all prophets, which tells Me the reason you don't have any spiritual power is because you are just like your fathers and you don't have any spiritual life. And that becomes the issue in verses 47 to 51, don't have any life.
And so one other thing He says in verse 52, "Woe to you, lawyers, for you've taken away the key of knowledge.” You have no power because you have no life. You have no life — listen to this — because you have no truth. You took the key of knowledge and you threw it away." That's false religion. There's no truth so it provides no life so it gives no power.
The people in it are doomed. It was true of Judaism, it still is. It's true of anything but the pure gospel of Jesus Christ. And we'll see how that unfolds next time. Let's pray.
What can we say, oh God? Thank You is too meager for delivering us from the liars and the lies. We are in awe of the fact that You have brought to us the truth, that You have awakened us from dead condition, You have given sight to us when in blindness. Lord, we are so grateful that You have brought to us the truth and with the truth life and with the life power. And, Father, we ask that You would help us to understand this issue clearly, to know how critical the truth is and to know that of all people that we depend upon to tell us the truth, those who give us words about the next life have the greatest potential to bless or to harm. May we be careful who we believe and measure everything against the true and clear interpretation of Your Word. And, Lord, would You use us to rescue people, to snatch brands from the burning who have been deceived. Because it is our privilege to know the truth, it becomes our duty to proclaim it. And may we have the boldness of Christ to confront those in error, even the teachers, to shake them into a true understanding of their hypocrisy and deception. We would ask not only that You would deliver people from their influence, but that You would deliver false teachers from their own deception and that some would be converted to Christ. Thank You for the time of worship. Again we thank you for Clayton and the gift that he is to us all and how he knows how to blend our praise with Your teaching in Your Word. What a blessing it has been. And now, Lord, send us out to internalize and apply and be used by You, we pray in the Savior's name.
You may reproduce this Grace to You content for non-commercial purposes in accordance with Grace to You's Copyright Policy (http://www.gty.org/connect/copyright).