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20/10/05 Luke 11:47-end

Jesus said...LK 11:47 "Woe to you, because you build tombs for the prophets, and it was your forefathers who killed them. 48 So you testify that you approve of what your forefathers did; they killed the prophets, and you build their tombs. 49 Because of this, God in his wisdom said, `I will send them prophets and apostles, some of whom they will kill and others they will persecute.' 50 Therefore this generation will be held responsible for the blood of all the prophets that has been shed since the beginning of the world, 51 from the blood of Abel to the blood of Zechariah, who was killed between the altar and the sanctuary. Yes, I tell you, this generation will be held responsible for it all. 52 "Woe to you experts in the law, because you have taken away the key to knowledge. You yourselves have not entered, and you have hindered those who were entering." 53 When Jesus left there, the Pharisees and the teachers of the law began to oppose him fiercely and to besiege him with questions, 54 waiting to catch him in something he might say.

Jesus was having a meal with some Pharisees and he is denouncing them for their hypocrisy. They claimed to follow the ways of God, yet they are more concerned with their pride and rules than with care and compassion. Their predecessors persecuted and killed the prophets. Prophets were and are people who speak the word of God at a given time. The Old Testament prophets called God's people to turn back to God. To trust in Him and worship Him alone.

Although the Pharisees in Jesus day built the prophets tombs and claimed to honour the prophets, they would go on to reject, persecute, and even kill the prophets of the New Testament. Jesus said that they would be held responsible for this by God and, about 40 years later in A.D. 70 Jerusalem was reduced to rubble and its inhabitants murdered by Roman forces. There were no Christians there because Jesus had warned them about this forthcoming judgment.

This is a reminder that as well as being a God of love and compassion, God is also just and righteous and will punish sin.

The Pharisees thought that they possessed the way to God. They were very religious, they studied the Old Testament diligently. They lived life according to a moral code. But they were proud and self-assured. They condemned people who were not like them. They were insular and mean.

Rather than possessing the key to eternal life and sharing this with others they held on tightly to the key themselves, not realizing that this was not the way to God. So not only did they fail to open the door for themselves, they prevented others from entering, too.

This was a terrible indictment on their leadership. Jesus was angry with the way they hindered people's walk with God. I think he would still be angry today at some who claim to follow Him. It is a reminder to those who lead churches and preach that we have a wonderful privilege but an awesome responsibility. We must not proclaim a religion that is defined by good works and religious acts. Whilst these things should flow from our faith they are the effect not the cause.

The cause should be the new life that we have found in Jesus. This involves rejecting rules and good works as a way of earning God's favour. Instead we need to realize that we are not good enough for God and that we need his mercy and forgiveness shown to us through the life, death and resurrection of Jesus. The effect is once we come to God sorry for our sins and asking for His forgiveness through Jesus we are free to live for Him. To put Him and other people first. To live better lives that will involve good deeds and regular worship.

A lot of people, including some who go to church, muddle the cause, trusting in Jesus, with the effect, living a better life. They think that they are a "good person" so this makes them a Christian. They may even think that they are better than someone who is a Christian and goes to church. They may also think that because Christianity is about being a good person then they do not need to go to church to do this.

What we are talking about is heart religion and not head religion. Our trust in Jesus should be radical and life changing, not just living life according to a moral code and attending public worship. Our whole lives are called to be an act of worship, something we pray in this service after we have received the bread and the wine.

ROMANS 12:1 Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God's mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God--this is your spiritual act of worship. 2 Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.

We cannot come to God with hands full of our pride, rules and good works. We can only come to Him aware of our own unworthiness and inability to be worthy of a right relationship. We can come to Him with open, empty hands, willing to receive His mercy and undeserved favour. When we do this He will fill us with His Holy Spirit so, instead of being full of ourselves we are full of Him. We will then be equipped for every goo work that he has prepared for us to do ( Ephes. 2:10 ).

If you have not received the mercy of God before. If you have tried to live a good life, give up and turn to Jesus. He is the way to God.

If you know the grace and mercy of God in Jesus rejoice. Continue to live in it, and share it with others, many of whom will have no idea what it truly means to be a follower of Jesus.