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Midweek Devotionals

Published weekly on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursdays.

Midweek Devotional 10/29/14

Robert Chen

Dear Church:

LUKE 11:37-52

37While he was speaking, a Pharisee invited him to dine with him; so he went in and took his place at the table. 38The Pharisee was amazed to see that he did not first wash before dinner. 39Then the Lord said to him, "Now you Pharisees clean the outside of the cup and of the dish, but inside you are full of greed and wickedness.40You fools! Did not the one who made the outside make the inside also? 41So give for alms those things that are within; and see, everything will be clean for you.

42"But woe to you Pharisees! For you tithe mint and rue and herbs of all kinds, and neglect justice and the love of God; it is these you ought to have practiced, without neglecting the others. 43Woe to you Pharisees! For you love to have the seat of honor in the synagogues and to be greeted with respect in the marketplaces. 44Woe to you! For you are like unmarked graves, and people walk over them without realizing it."

45One of the lawyers answered him, "Teacher, when you say these things, you insult us too." 46and he said, "Woe also to you lawyers! For you load people with burdens hard to bear, and you yourselves do not lift a finger to ease them. 47Woe to you! For you build the tombs of the prophets whom your ancestors killed. 48So you are witnesses and approve of the deeds of your ancestors; for they killed them, and you build their tombs.49Therefore also the Wisdom of God said, 'I will send them prophets and apostles, some of whom they will kill and persecute,' 50so that this generation may be charged with the blood of all the prophets shed since the foundation of the world, 51from the blood of Abel to the blood of Zechariah, who perished between the altar and the sanctuary. Yes, I tell you, it will be charged against this generation. 52Woe to you lawyers! For you have taken away the key of knowledge; you did not enter yourselves, and you hindered those who were entering."

I believe I might have said this before: Jesus is Not Nice. If "nice" means people-pleasing, affection-seeking, offense-avoiding. Jesus can be downright offensive and insulting. Ask the Pharisees and the lawyers above.


There's a good book on this topic, Jesus Mean and Wild: The Unexpected Love of an Untamable God.


The back cover of the book says: "God loves you and has a w̶o̶n̶d̶e̶r̶f̶u̶l̶  difficult plan for your life." This brings a smile to my face. See: 


Niceness is overrated; meanness is underrated. OK, way too simplistic to put it this way. What I mean is, being nice but unloving is worse than being mean and loving. 


Jesus is "mean" to the Pharisees and the lawyers not because he just hates them. No, Jesus is mean because both the Pharisees and lawyers (i.e., religious lawyers) hinder the people from entering into God's life. Pharisees, in the eyes of Jesus, are like unmarked graves into which people fall (to their spiritual death). You see, Jesus loves people too much to be quiet and passive about what's actually going on in the company of Pharisees and lawyers. To remain silent or to be "nice" would be an unloving act, not a loving act. 


Jesus gets to the root of why the Pharisees are such a stumbling block. It's all about them. It's all a show for their own glory and satisfaction. What's important is neglected for the sake of public recognition. Their own greed and wickedness, their own love of honor and freebies at the local restaurants, their complimentary drinks and appetizers, are the true drivers for doing what they did. The weightier matters of justice and love of God were more or less a nuisance, something to give lip service to but not to actually live out.


No wonder the Pharisees became blind, hypocritical guides.


Jesus really isn't mean. Jesus corrects. Jesus rebukes, Jesus warns. For people easily offended, for people who think too highly of themselves, for people whose self-esteem is sacrosanct, Jesus' less-than-kind words do seem personally offensive and insulting. But we need to get over ourselves. Jesus corrects, rebukes, and warns because He loves.

"Those whom I love I rebuke and discipline. So be earnest and repent" (Rev. 3:19). "... Because the Lord disciplines the one he loves, he chastens everyone he accepts as his son" (Heb. 12:6). 


If we do not understand the Lord's rebuke as an expression of love, then we will find ourselves deeply confused and discouraged. But if we understand the Lord's rebuke as an expression of love, then we will mature and find ourselves encouraged.


[Proverbs 27:5, "Better is open rebuke than hidden love." Thanks, H and H, for sharing this.]


Jesus is "mean" and wild. Jesus is untamable. Jesus is kind and gentle. Jesus is loving. Let us tell the Lord that He can say whatever He wants to say to us because we know in all that He says and does He says and does out of love.


Let's pray: Lord Jesus, we trust Your Heart because You are always motivated by love. May we understand that out of love you sometimes correct us, discipline us, and rebuke us, so that we can grow up, get back on track, stop hurting ourselves and others, etc. As we grow in knowing Your Heart, may we grow in appreciating and understanding the full range of Your language of love. You are for us. We are for You. In Your Name, Amen.