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Faults of the Evil Generation III

Today we are in Luke 11:45-54.  We have been looking at a section where Jesus reveals several things that were problems in his day.  Yet, he classified his generation as an evil one.  Previously we looked at two things that Jesus rebuked them for: their spiritual eyesight had been damaged, and their sin had caused them to focus on their outward life to the expense of their inner life.

These two rebukes set up a situation in which a lawyer, who is offended at what Jesus said, receives 4 more rapid fire rebukes from our Lord.  In each of these rebukes we need to be faithful to compare ourselves to the actions described and ask God to reveal to us if we have similar things we are neglecting, or how we can deal with those things better.

Offended by Correction

Although Jesus does not say this, it is important to see that the lawyer begins at a place of being insulted by the rebukes of Jesus.  Now we wouldn’t be human if we didn’t bristle at correction.  No one likes to be told they are wrong and need to change.  This tendency rears its head early on in our lives and, if not dealt with, will continue to control our reactions on into our adult life.  Those who are given over to wickedness especially do not like correction.  Even God himself is unable to correct them without them getting their feelings hurt.  This is an important point.  No one loves you more than God.  If He corrects you, He does so with the best intentions and purest motivations.  He is trying to save you from the bad results of your choices.  If we should accept hard things from anyone then God should be at the top of the list.  In Christ, God Himself had come down to correct His people because they were destroying themselves individually and as a nation.

Yet, the leaders and the people as a whole were offended or insulted by Jesus.  The word “reproach” in verse 45 (NKJV) literally means an injury or public insult.  Our attachment to our sin will take what is intended to help us and is offered in sincere love as an insult.  In other words it is received as an action of hate.  Was Jesus a hater?  Of course not, but he is received so by those who hate what he has to say.  Yet, if you desire to put to death the wicked deeds of your heart (as true godly people desire) you will make good use of rebukes that even come from those of ill-will.  Think of David when he was fleeing Jerusalem because one of his sons was leading a coup against him.  David was the true king and it is truly evil for his son to usurp the throne from him.  However, David knew that he had his own sins too.  He had committed adultery with Bathsheba and created tensions between the families of his wives.  As he leaves Jerusalem there is a man named Shimei who was a relative of the previous King, Saul.  Shimei was running along the road cursing David and saying that God was paying David back for usurping the throne from Saul.  This, of course, was a pack of lies.  The man is speaking out of the bitterness and jealousy of his own heart.  Yet, David receives what he says and “spits out the bones.”  David knew that even though the man was not right in what he said, God really was rebuking David for his true sins.  Thus the wicked will receive rebukes from no one.  But a righteous man is able to hear the voice of the Lord even through the voice of the wicked.  Lord help us to be careful how we respond to rebuke.

Ultimately this man is trying to justify himself.  Thus, he deflects his own wickedness and accuses Jesus of wrong.  This technique is abundantly practiced in our society.  Whether in politics or religion, we use the failings and sins of the other person to justify ourselves.  We will even use the appearance of sin and accuse others of ulterior motives so that we can discount their message and promote our own.  The godly do not do such things.  The godly person trusts in God as their justifier.  They do not need to hide their faults, nor do they argue with others through character assassination.  Without arrogance and in repentance, we must stand before God and trust in his justification whether society accepts it or not.

They Enforce Duties Hypocritically

In verse 46 Jesus points out that the Lawyers were not as innocent as this man wanted to believe.  Now, there needs to be leaders and people who are able to instruct us in what our duties to society are.  But how this is done is critical.  These guys not only loaded up the people with a huge amount of regulations, but also enforced them hypocritically.  Now a heavy amount of duties is bad enough.  The picture here is like that of loading up a donkey or some such animal.  Each animal has a maximum that they can carry without detriment to the animal.  These lawyers tended to load up people with a heavy amount of laws and regulations.  Take note that God gave Israel laws.  But the rabbis and lawyers had added a great amount of added regulations.  Now it is bad enough to have a heavy load to carry.  But, it would be easier to take if the person who is doing the loading is also carrying the same size load.  Yet, these lawyers, when they made the case against others were very strict.  But when it comes to them, they don’t even lift up one finger to do the regulations.  This hypocrisy makes the heavy weight even heavier. 

God did not do this.  In fact, in Christ, God comes down and carries the burden for us and even takes upon himself most of the burden.  To the point that he could say, “Come unto me all you who are weary and heavy burdened and I will give you rest…My yoke is easy and my burden is light.”  We see this same dynamic among our own leaders.  They pass all manner of laws to lay upon the citizens, but don’t have to lift a finger to carry the same burden.  They use all manner of loopholes, justifications, and flat out exemptions only for themselves.  This hypocritical enforcement causes the nation as a whole to groan under the weight of such heavy regulations.  If they break the law there is generally much mercy and grace.  But if an average person breaks the law, they are legalistically and harshly penalized.

Of course this is used as a means of control and manipulation by those in power.  When people are harassed and fearful of punishment, they are more easily subdued to tasks they did not ask for and directions in which they do not want to go.  God’s purpose in giving mankind commands and knowledge about life is not to imprison and control.  Rather, He only gives commands that will set us free from the prison of our own sinful flesh, and the tyranny of our own sinful desires.

They Reject the Prophets God Sends

In verses 47-51 Jesus points out their rejection of the prophets.  This is not just a problem that Israel had.  It has been a problem throughout every generation that we tend to hate those whom God uses to call us to account.  The majority rejects the narrow path of God’s Way and embraces the wide path of destruction.  Sure in some nations at some points in time a majority may choose God.  But these times are few and far between when compared to all the other nations and points in time.

Jesus points out that their tendency to make great shrines to the prophets was itself evidence that they rejected them.  How?  The problem is not so much the graves.  But think of it this way.  The only prophets they honored were dead ones.  Do you see the hypocrisy in that?  A dead prophet is not around to point out your sin and neither can he point out your twisting of his words.  Thus it is always safe to honor a prophet after he is dead.  But their fathers put those prophets to death, they hated them so bad.  Why turn the grave into a shrine?  They would honor a prophet by dressing up his tomb and yet not give honor to the message he stood for by living out its corrections.  Even now they were rejecting Jesus who was the Prophet of prophets, and the exact image of God.  His message was without error and the perfect brilliance of God’s Truth.  There could be no excuse to reject Him and still claim it was for God’s sake.  In fact all the prophets who were killed before were pointing to Jesus.  Thus the tombs themselves become a hypocritical cover and self-justification.

Yet, Jesus states that God will call their bluff.  They claim to love the prophets, yet God will send them prophets and apostles.  They will not only reject Jesus, but also the apostles and prophets that are sent to them by Jesus.  It is a mercy of God that He always calls our bluff.  He loves us too much to let us deceive ourselves and not call us out.  Just as God called their bluff, so he will call ours.  If we refuse to receive the Truth when it comes then the very thing that was sent to help us will become irrefutable evidence against us.  Thus we demonstrate what side we are on (the godly or the wicked) by our actions.

There is an ancient tradition of those who stand for God’s ways and those who rebel against them.  Even in the first family we find Cain being filled with hatred for his brother simply because God accepted Abel’s sacrifice and not his.  Cain kills Abel.  Jesus uses this first jealous murder and the death of the prophet Zechariah as book-ends to a long history of godly men being put to death by wicked ones.  This Zechariah seems to be the prophet referred to in 2 Chronicles 24.  Joash had become king at a young age.  So the High Priest Jehoida had taken him under his wing and taught him all the ways of God.  The Bible says that Joash was a good king all the days of Jehoida.  But then one day Jehoida died.  Then Joash’s heart was turned away from the ways of God and idol worship became prevalent in the land once again.  Zechariah was the son of Jehoida.  He stood up and confronted the king and the people with their sin.  Joash commanded the son of his mentor to be put to death.  How tragic for a man to be so good for so long and then in the end choose the side of wickedness.  We might ask ourselves which side we are on?  God has been faithful to send his prophets and ministers throughout the land.  Where you attend church says a lot about which side you are on.  The prophets were always killed by self-righteous religious people and that will be true in the future as well.  Be careful how quick you are to reject those who come in the name of the Lord.  Take time to compare it to what the Bible says.  Pray for God to cleanse your heart and reveal those things you need to deal with.

They Obstruct the Way of God

In verses 52-54, Jesus points out their tendency to block people from the truth.  It is bad enough to refuse the truth of God.  However, such people often attempt to obstruct those who are trying to follow God.  Thus Jesus uses the picture of a key.  A key is necessary to open a locked door.  Now there are two ways to take this word picture.  First, Jesus could be talking about the key that opens our ability to receive knowledge or enter into it.  According to Solomon, the fear of the Lord is the beginning (key) of wisdom.  Without it we will never enter into God’s wisdom and knowledge.  Humility, repentance, and a desire to change will open for us the door to wisdom and knowledge from God.  When I know that, on my own, I am the fool and God is the wise sage, I am then enabled to hear Him.

Another way to take this picture is to see knowledge itself as the key.  In Matthew 25 Jesus accuses the Lawyers of shutting up the way to heaven.  Thus the knowledge which God gives opens the door to heaven (dwelling with God).  Yet, the rabbis and lawyers had corrupted the knowledge of God by misrepresenting it and misinterpreting it to the people.  They had twisted the key of knowledge so badly that it people were hampered in getting close to God.  In fact, most people will abandon a key that does not fit or turn a lock anymore.  Our own sins lock us out of relationship with God.  But in His Word He has given us the knowledge to unlock that barrier.  Ultimately Jesus and what he has done is the key that removes that barrier.  Yet, we must believe on him and can only do that through understanding all God said to point us to Jesus.

The religious leaders had become like a mad dog that stands on the porch and won’t let anyone go through the door.  They wouldn’t go in and stood in the way of others getting in.  Yet in his mercy God sent prophets and lastly Jesus so that those who were being blocked could get around such dogs.  Well the last verses point out that the lawyers could not receive these rebukes either.  They are angered and began to verbally attack Jesus and when the opportune time had come they physically attacked him and killed him; offended by correction.  God help us to not follow such outwardly religious and inwardly wicked people.  Take care how you listen and to whom you give most of your time.  You will be accountable before God for the choices you make.  For even though wicked men may have stood in your way, God in His mercy has been faithful to offer you the Truth in many irrefutable ways.  So get into God’s Word for yourself and honestly seek what He is saying.