The Jesus of the Gospels is, seriously, my hero.
In Luke 11:37-54, Jesus is invited by a Pharisee to dine with him. Innocuous enough, right?
Accepting the invitation, Jesus walks in to take his place at the table, but:
“The Pharisee was amazed to see that he did not first wash before dinner.” (Luke 11:38, NRSV)
The Son of God Incarnate, neglects the ritualistic pre-dining cleansing expected of all good Jews.
On purpose, mind you. And hilarity ensues…
Jesus spends the next 5 verses addressing the hypocrisy of those around the table. These same words hold true for us religious folk today, so, you may want to reserve your laughter:
“Then 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.
Did not the one who made the outside make the inside also?
So give for alms those things that are within; and see, everything will be made clean for you.'”
Luke 11:39-41 (NRSV)
If I was sitting at that table, this would have been my response:
Um… Jesus? Didn’t you just get done telling us that we are full of greed and wickedness? I’m supposed to give that as alms?! Really?!?
But, that wasn’t the response of the dinner guests. They weren’t really listening to Jesus’ words, but rather, reacting to them defensively. Hang on, Jesus isn’t done with his diatribe:
“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.
Woe to you Pharisees! For you love to have the seat of honor in the synagogues and to be greeted with respect in the marketplaces.
Woe to you! For you are like unmarked graves, and people walk over them without realizing it.”
Luke 11:42-44 (NRSV)
Ok… This is getting personal. I like being greeted with respect by others…. Are you talking to me here, Jesus?
In all honesty, we all find ourselves tempted by what Jesus is addressing here. In the next chapter, Jesus turns to his disciples and warns:
“Beware of the yeast of the Pharisees, that is, their hypocrisy.”
Luke 12:1b (NRSV)
Phew…. I was getting worried there for a moment. But I’m the Ungodly Woman, and I don’t pretend to be something greater than that of my own power. So, crisis averted?
If you are still with me, I’m getting to the hilarious part now…
“One of the lawyers answered him, ‘ Teacher, when you say these things, you insult us too.’
And he (Jesus) said, ‘Woe also to you lawyers! For you load people with burdens hard to bear, and you yourself do not lift a finger to ease them.'”
Luke 11:45-46 (NRSV)
I can just see the indignation on the faces of the other dinner guests. Maybe they thought:
Jesus, your words are insulting to our image of ourselves. I don’t think I’m ever going to dine with your kind again…. What? You are going to insult our doctors of the law too?! Well, I never in all my life….
Proof that Jesus is awesome– because he didn’t regard any human being as superior in status to another. (Much to the chagrin of human beings believing themselves to be superior).
Pure impartiality, no holds barred.
Plus, Jesus does it with style and a finesse that I can only aspire to.
You, Sir, are my hero.