The Woes

The Woes

The Woes

Luke 11:37-54 – January 16, 2022

Woe!: uttered in grief or denunciation/condemnation

Luke 11:37-38. A quick note about the Pharisees: Pharisees were members of one of the most important and influential religious and political parties of Judaism in the time of Jesus. There were more Pharisees than Sadducees (according to Josephus, there were more than 6,000 Pharisees at about this time). 

Ceremonial washing: One began by pouring the water over the hands starting at the fingers and running down towards the wrist. Then each palm was cleansed by rubbing the fist of the other hand into it. Water was poured over the hands again, this time from the wrist towards the fingers. 

But Jesus knew what the Pharisees there were thinking and had the following to say. 

Luke 11:39-41.  I believe reference to washing (clean the outside of the cup) shows Jesus knew what they were thinking and deliberately set up a contrast that charged them with hypocrisy. He had had enough! When Jesus refers to them as You foolish people! this is a real rebuke which in the OT clearly indicates people who are blind to God. Then He asks a rhetorical question that could only have a positive reply as of course God is the maker of both the inside and the outside, and He is concerned for what is inside as well as outside.

When Jesus then tells them be generous to the poor, and everything will be clean for you He is telling the Pharisees to give from within themselves to those in need instead of just giving some of their possessions. If they did this, they would be showing true generosity acceptable to God.

Luke 11:42.  Woe here is a term of denunciation throughout. Jesus is condemning what the Pharisees and the givers of the law do. They were so careful with their tithes. In today’s terms they were careful to tithe down to the penny. While Jesus acknowledges tithing was good, He denounces them for neglecting justice and the love of God. He is harking back to Micah 6:8, and Zechariah 7:9-10. 

Luke 11:43. In the synagogues the most important seats were also called “seats of honor” facing the congregation and near the ark, a cabinet containing the scrolls of the Torah and other sacred writings. 

Luke 11:44. The you here refers to “experts in the law and Pharisees, hypocrites” and some versions say this. 

In Judaism, if you were to come into contact with the dead or what is associated with them, even without your knowing it, makes one unclean. 

Luke 11:45. Someone understood what was going on and did not want to be included and called Jesus, Teacher. And when he said what we interpret as insult, its meaning here is say things that bring shame to those addressed. What Jesus was saying was so strong it was bringing shame to them. 

Luke 11:46. They made no effort to help others fulfill their requirements by what they said. As the interpreters of the law, they laid heavy burdens on the people – yet with elaborate evasions and loopholes much as we see done in government. To do so puts one under this same woe and condemnation of Jesus as covered in verse 42. 

Luke 11:47-51.  Or “that this generation may be charged with”; or “the blood of all the prophets…may be required from this generation.” This is a warning of judgment. These people are responsible for the shedding of prophetic blood. And further it was a condemnation from Jesus, saying that those who rejected Him and His apostles and prophets would face a greater and unique accountability.

Luke 11:52. Their legalistic approach had taken away understanding and knowledge. By giving the people a list of rules by which they could supposedly save themselves, they didn’t help them at all. It is bad enough for someone to not enter into heaven themselves; but it is far worse to hinder another person from entering in.

Luke 11:53-54. They would now lay out ambush after ambush to try to trap Him as they hunted Him like an animal to be put to death. They wanted Him dead. Just like the prophets of old. Their anger was like a quiet white rage. They had no intention of taking His words to heart and changing their ways. They were the top dogs and no itinerant rabbi was going to change their way of thinking and doing. War was being declared. 

As a result in the next chapter Jesus when addressing a crowd of thousands starts with these words,

Be on your guard against the yeast of the Pharisees, which is hypocrisy.


Are we being religious? Or are we following God, following Jesus, letting the Holy Spirit direct us? The Pharisees and the teachers of the law were religious, very religious, but their hearts were filled with darkness. 

Why are you here? To look religious? Or to learn more about what God wants and expects from you? Will you go home and forget everything you heard and learned here today or will you put what you heard and learned into practice once you are outside these four walls.