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Luke 11: 37-41 – Week 28 Ordinary Time, Tuesday (King James Audio Bible KJV, Spoken Word)

37 ¶ And as he spake, a certain Pharisee besought him to dine with him: and he went in, and sat down to meat.
38 And when the Pharisee saw it, he marvelled that he had not first washed before dinner.
39 And the Lord said unto him, Now do ye Pharisees make clean the outside of the cup and the platter; but your inward part is full of ravening and wickedness.
40 Ye fools, did not he that made that which is without make that which is within also?
41 But rather give alms of such things as ye have; and, behold, all things are clean unto you.

The letter kills, the spirit gives life. So writes Paul in his Second Letter To The Corinthians. Much of the opposition to Jesus, as depicted in the Gospels, is from a legalistic standpoint, in which the scribes and Pharisees challenge Jesus concerning the ways in with he and his disciples do not seem to adhere to the letter of the Old Law.

By the time of the composition of the Gospel of Luke – the date is uncertain but potentially the 80s – Jerusalem has fallen to Rome and the Sadducees are no more. It is therefore the Pharisees who are depicted as bearing the brunt of Jesus’ criticisms, especially as, following the destruction of Jerusalem in AD 70, the widespread flourishing of Christian communities, living largely in Hellenic contexts, became defined oppositionally to the Jewish culture which emerged to reinvent itself, now in the absence of Temple worship.

The Pharisees observe the Law strictly, and dedicate much time each day to the study of the Law. Here we discover the roots of Jewish Orthodoxy. Jesus, however, has come to fulfil and to complete the Law.

In these Gospel verses, the particular issue is concerning ritual cleansing. There were many prescriptions for the cleansing of the person and of pots and vessels, which must be scrupulously observed, according to the Pharisees. Jesus’ host marvels, therefore, when Jesus does not follow the prescriptions of the Law. In a remarkable reversal of thought and purpose, away from the conversation or dialogue of hospitality, Jesus is stinging in his rebuke to his host, accusing him of hypocrisy.

This is a very heightened manner of storytelling, focussing our attention on Jesus’ message. We are taught in these verses to ensure that our soul is clean, that our thoughts are clean, that our heart is clean, rather than to lavish excess attention on our external appearance, while inside we are fallen in sin. Jesus comes to cleanse us through and through.

Concluding Prayer | Love Revealed By Jesus Christ

Increase in us, Lord, your gift of faith,
so that the praise we offer you
may ever yield its fruit from heaven.
We make our prayer through our Lord.

King James Audio Bible KJV | King James Version | Endnotes

How Shall I Be Clean?

In Luke 11:37-41, we find a conversation between Jesus and a Pharisee who invited him to dine with him. As they sat down to eat, the Pharisee was surprised that Jesus did not wash before the meal, as was the custom of the Jews. In response, Jesus rebuked him, saying that the Pharisees were so concerned with outward cleanliness but neglected inner purity.

This passage raises an important question: How shall we be clean? Is it merely a matter of following external rituals and traditions, or is there something more profound at work? To explore this question, we can turn to the teachings of the Bible and the wisdom of religious authorities throughout history.

Firstly, it is important to note that the Bible frequently speaks of cleanliness and purity in a spiritual sense. For example, in Psalm 51:10, a penitential psalm, King David prayed: ‘Create in me a clean heart, O God; and renew a right spirit within me.’ Here, David recognizes that true purity comes from within, from a heart that is right with God.

Similarly, in Isaiah 1:16-17, God says: ‘Wash you, make you clean; put away the evil of your doings from before mine eyes; cease to do evil; Learn to do well; seek judgment, relieve the oppressed, judge the fatherless, plead for the widow.’ Here, God calls his people to repent of their sins and turn towards righteousness.

Furthermore, the New Testament repeatedly emphasizes the importance of inner purity. In Matthew 5:8, Jesus says: ‘Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God.’ In 1 Peter 1:22, the apostle writes: ‘Seeing ye have purified your souls in obeying the truth through the Spirit unto unfeigned love of the brethren, see that ye love one another with a pure heart fervently.’

So, we see that according to the Bible, true cleanliness and purity are matters of the heart and soul, not merely external actions. However, this does not mean that external actions are unimportant. On the contrary, as Jesus says in Matthew 23:26: ‘Thou blind Pharisee, cleanse first that which is within the cup and platter, that the outside of them may be clean also.’ In other words, external cleanliness is a reflection of internal purity.

Religious authorities throughout history have recognized the importance of both internal and external cleanliness. For example, in the Catholic Church, the sacrament of confession is a powerful tool for purifying the soul. As the Catechism Of The Catholic Church states: ‘By the grace of the Holy Spirit, we receive forgiveness of sins and reconciliation with God and the Church.’ (CCC 1489) Through the confession of sins and the receiving of absolution, Christians are able to restore their internal purity and move towards external cleanliness as well.

Similarly, in Protestant Christianity, baptism is seen as a symbol of both internal and external cleansing. As the apostle Paul writes in Romans 6:3-4: ‘Know ye not, that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into his death? Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life.’ Through baptism, Christians are symbolically washed clean of their sins and enter into new life in Christ.