(The fourth banquet in Luke)
Luke 11: 37 – 42
(This is a transcript of the conversation I, Joseph, a Pharisee, had with my Lawyer friend, Abel. The year was 31 AD, the place somewhere in Israel.)
37 While he was speaking, a Pharisee invited Jesus to dine with him; so he went in and took his place at the table.
“It is two weeks since the unforgettable or forgettable dinner party, I gave.. Among my guests were fellow Pharisees, Lawyers and Jesus!”
39You Pharisees clean the outside of the cup and of the dish, but inside you are full of greed and wickedness.
“Is what I hear about the dinner party you gave, true,” asked Abel?
“Much worse,” I replied! “I have never been so embarrassed in all my life. He had the cheek to compare us to a pot, shiny bright on the outside with the inside full of old scraps of rotting food. Was labelling us ‘street angels and house devils’? There was no need for him to tell us to practice what we preach.”
42 You tithe mint and rue and herbs of all kinds, and neglect justice and the love of God;
“I am told that he attacked our concern for tithing everything,” Abel commented.
“Not really. He quite approved of our emphasis on tithing. Bluntly, he told us that we had forgotten about the two greatest commandments, ‘You have been told, O man, what the Lord requires of you: act justly, love tenderly and walk humbly with your God.’ (Mic 6: 8) Speaking for myself I have to admit that there is room for improvement but why did he have to remind me in public and in my own home.”
Abel’s reply was to the point. “It is the ‘walk humbly’ that I take exception to!”
43You love to have the seat of honour in the synagogues and to be greeted with respect in the marketplaces.
“Surely this is our due. You know, as well as I do, that we are a cut above the rest of society. Our concern for the smallest part of the Law places us apart and above everyone else,” responded Abel.
“Talking about places in the synagogue reminds me that I must chat to the chairman of the Synagogue Council about the re-whitewashing of our graves. You have no idea of the trouble Isaac got into. By mistake he trod on an unmarked grave. When he told the Rabbi he was promptly pronounced ritually unclean. It took ages to have his unclean status revoked. That brings me to what really cut me to the core.”
44 You are like unmarked graves, and people walk over them without realizing it..
“I really resent being told that people who come in contact with us become impure. It is unbelievable that Jesus should have such a low opinion of us.”
Abel went on, “I am told that we Lawyers caught the rough end of the stick, as well.”
“Yes, indeed,” I replied, thankful that we were now talking about the Lawyers. “He really thinks you people go over the top with your inventing sins and making up more and more rules that people have to keep. Jesus thinks that even you lawyers do not keep your own rules.”
46 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.
Full of indignation Abel responded. “I take the strongest exception to that!”
“Calm down,” I said, “there is worse to come.”
52 Woe to you lawyers! For you have taken away the key of knowledge; you did not enter yourselves, and you hindered those who were entering.
“Abel, I am not saying he is right, but you know it is our sacred duty to bring the Word of God to our people. We have to teach them that ours’ is a wonderful God. In the book of Micah we read:
‘Who is there like you, the God who removes guilt and pardons sins; who does not persist in anger forever, but delights rather in clemency, and will again have compassion on us, treading underfoot our guilt? You will cast into the depths of the sea all our sins. You will show faithfulness to Jacob.’ (MIc 7: 18 – 20)
I just wish that my guests could have stopped for a moment to think about what was said and not react so extremely.”
53 When he went outside, the scribes and the Pharisees began to be very hostile toward him and to cross-examine him about many things, 54 lying in wait for him, to catch him in something he might say.
“I hope Jesus invites me to dinner some day.”