In Luke 11, Jesus offers a series of rebukes to the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law. These leaders not only had the Word of God but held authority for the Word of God in the lives of others. This should stop us in our tracks as pastors, ministry leaders, elders, or anyone who has some role of authority in the lives of others.
There are certain things about us – things we do and things inside of us – that are distasteful to Jesus. We must hear this side of Jesus’ teaching. We must reconsider whether we only take in Jesus’ loving, gentle words or whether we hear the comprehensive breadth of Jesus’ words. We must open our ears and hear even the words of rebuke as if they were spoken to us.
If our first response to the rebuking words of Jesus is to think of how they apply to another, then we are likely avoiding the word that Christ is speaking directly to us. We must receive the rebuking words of Christ with radical humility and openness to correction for our thorough transformation. The spotlight is upon us and we should not be quick to retrain it upon another.
The piercing sword of rebuke is a grace and we need to remember that fact. The first step toward healing is an accurate diagnosis. Jesus’ rebuke is the difficult diagnosis that leads to the Soul-physician’s surgical grace in removing sickness from us in order to make our souls whole.
Jesus rebukes the Pharisees first of all because there is a different type of cleanness than what concerns them. They are concerned about external (superficial) cleanliness but not the internal (deeper) cleanliness. They are concealing deeper uncleanness of soul under the cover of superficial cleanness; like whitewashed graves that are clean outside but hold death.
The cure is found through Jesus the Life-giver who points the way through generosity to the poor (Luke 11:41), attention to justice, and practicing the love of God (11:42). Is this a salvation by works? No, it is the fruit of repentance as we turn from self-seeking religion and hypocrisy. It is the healing pathway out of soul-sickness.
Jesus secondly rebukes the experts in the Law because they have kept life from others. They weigh people down with religious burdens, locking the door to life by their mishandling of God’s Law. The Word intended to bring life – in fact, which brought us to life at Creation – is wielded in such a way that life is snuffed out through incorrect usage.
The anger of the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law reflects the reality that Jesus has touched upon a nerve with His rebuke. Do we feel angry or uncomfortable with the words of Jesus? Do we attempt to turn the attention of the difficult diagnosis toward someone else? Is it too painful to hear?
Linger in it. Do not flinch. Open your heart and mind to the rebuke of Jesus. Inside the rebuke is a grace of a loving and healing God.