The Gospel of Luke | Three ‘Whoas!’ | Luke 11.42-45 |

by | Jul 5, 2021

cowboy, horse, western

“Woe to you Pharisees, because you give God a tenth of your mint, rue and all other kinds of garden herbs, but you neglect justice and the love of God. You should have practiced the latter without leaving the former undone. 43 “Woe to you Pharisees, because you love the most important seats in the synagogues and respectful greetings in the marketplaces. 44 “Woe to you, because you are like unmarked graves, which people walk over without knowing it.” 45 One of the experts in the law answered him, “Teacher, when you say these things, you insult us also.” Luke 11.42-45

If you’re from Texas, and you hear the word “whoa,” you might first think of a stop command given to horses. I heard my grandfather “Pop” use this word many times when riding his horse across his west Texas farm. “Whoa!” He’d cry to the horse, pulling back on the reigns and getting the mare to stop on dime.

When Jesus says “woe” it makes me think of my grandfather saying “whoa!” Different words with different meanings but similar applications and with similar results. Jesus is essentially pulling back on the reigns, telling the Pharisees to stop the teachings and behaviors that are out of line with the Law of God. “Woe!” Jesus cries, but whether or not the Pharisees would cease is another story.

Jesus offers three “woes” in as many verses. The first is the Pharisees were giving a tenth out of their garden herbs but neglecting “justice and love of God.” The second woe is given because they “love the most important seats in the synagogue and respectful greetings in the marketplaces.” And the third woe is given because they “are like unmarked graves, which people walk over without knowing.” (This is an insult if you didn’t catch it!)

Jesus is dealing with matters of the heart. The Pharisees are teaching one thing and doing another. They are self-absorbed and self-focused, serving for the sake of their own importance, rather than for the sake of the Kingdom. They are lacking love for God and love for their neighbors. They like to be recognized and honored for their “commitment to God” over serving God.

At the end of the first three woes (there are more to come in the following segment), one of the “experts of the law” says, “Teacher, when you say these things, you insult us also.” (You think?) This was the point! Jesus was not afraid to throw theological punches. In order to bring about the kingdom of God in truth and holiness, he had to address the source of the problem which begins with the hearts of the leaders.

I must confess that I am guilty of being too self-focused. Jesus’ rebuke is for all of us who love recognition, who love places of importance, who love to see our names in lights. It’s human nature to find significance in what other people think of us. But in truth, our worth comes from the Lord, living in a right relationship with him in humility and holiness.

What must you confess today to the Lord? What “woes” or “whoas” does Christ want you to stop in your life, pull up the reigns, and cease the sinful behavior which draws you away from God?

“O Lord God, you are good. I thank you for loving me and for your kindness. Even when I fail, stumble, or get stuck in self-absorption, you deliver me! You bring me hope, you throw me a rope and allow me to climb towards the light. Come now, Holy Spirit, fill me with your power and love. Help me know the truth of your Word and the grace in your hand. For you are good and your love endures forever.” Amen