Jesus vs Religion part 1 - inside out
This is part 1 in a series on Jesus vs the Pharisees in Luke 11:37-54
In this passage, Jesus speaks very harshly to the Pharisees. Many people might find it strange to think of Jesus speaking harshly to anyone due to a mistaken view of what He is like. Jesus is loving (and that is true – all the time), but it's easy to fall into the trap of thinking that means he was always sitting in meadows surrounded by children with his hair blowing in a gentle breeze, telling people to be nice to each other. That’s the romantic-comedy version of love, but in reality, the most loving thing for Jesus to do in any situation is to reveal who He is to people. For some that meant speaking to them gently, for some that meant making a whip and chucking over tables to get their attention, and for the Pharisees, the respected religious leaders, it meant getting in their faces and telling them they had got it wrong. Loving people is pointing their attention towards Jesus.
In this passage (among many others) we see that religion (systems and rules for living to earn God's favour) isn’t what Jesus is looking for. Jesus hates religion.
Jesus starts off by entering into a controversy about ceremonial washing of hands, cups and dishes. Jesus uses it as a metaphor for life. The pharisees have washed the outside, they live by the letter of the law, they look good, but inside they are full of greed and wickedness. This is what religious people still do today, and it is what we still naturally want to do today!
We see external problems and think we've got to get them into check, when actually they come from a problem with the heart. We think we’ve got to control/modify our behaviour but we’ve actually got a problem with the desires of our heart. Religion can't solve our problems, because only Jesus can transform our heart. If all we do is behaviour modification - that's not Christianity.
Religion is outside-in, it thinks that sorting our behaviour out means that everything is ok. Christianity is inside–out, recognising that we need Jesus to change our hearts and that change will affect everything in our lives.