Woe to You Pharisees Part 2 – Taking the Best Seat

Luke 11:43

Opening Thoughts: What’s the first thing that you think about when you see a sign that reads “Beware of Dog”? My first thought is “keep walking” maybe even run! People post signs like that because they are trying to protect their stuff, themselves and their homes from being broken into. The “beware of dog” sign will keep away anyone who values life. Although my main text comes from Luke tonight I wanted to direct your attention to Mark as well. In Luke Jesus is addressing the Scribes and Pharisees directly and in Mark He’s addressing the people about the scribes, their teachers. These leaders were all the Jews had ever known, they are the teachers that they went to for advice and council, they were taught by them and now out of the blue Jesus is telling them to ‘Beware of the scribes’. He was trying to ward people away from their fallacies. They had added so much to the scriptures that what they were teaching had become complete rubbish. You will likely agree with me that there are many (Christian) leaders today that add and subtract from the scriptures, they teach what people want to hear and remove things that they don’t particularly enjoy themselves. Consider the recent debate on Hell and if it literally exists. Do you really think this one is up for debate? Of course it isn’t, yet many people are willing to abandon this truth because a prominent leader decides that Hell doesn’t exist and that really all people who are relatively good will go to heaven. If Jesus was here today in his skin I wonder how many leaders he would tell us to “Beware of“? Thankfully we have a Bible and if we read for ourselves we can see when someone is teaching the truth or not.

“What is the best safeguard against false doctrine? The Bible regularly read, regularly prayed over, regularly studied.” ~ J.C. Ryle

Main Text: Luke 11:43 ESV - Woe to you Pharisees! For you love the best seat in the synagogues and greetings in the marketplaces.

Supporting Text: Mark 12:38-39 ESV … And in his teaching he said, “Beware of the scribes, who like to walk around in long robes and like greetings in the marketplaces and have the best seats in the synagogues and the places of honor at feasts.

The Best Seats: Have you ever been to church and found that someone was sitting in your seat? You may have been sitting in that same spot for years and are dismayed that someone would have the audacity to sit in your seat. Now likely you wouldn’t say anything to the poor sap who sat in the chair with your name invisibly engraved on the back. In Jesus day the synagogues were filled with people from every financial means,  some people were poorly dressed and others dressed in fine linens, some were very well to do and others were barely getting by.  Just like the way we know which seat is ours, the people of wealth or status knew which seats were theirs as well and they made good and sure they got them. We know this was a huge issue as James brings it up in order to instruct Christ followers to act in a different way.

James 2:1-4 ESV … My brothers, show no partiality as you hold the faith in our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory. For if a man wearing a gold ring and fine clothing comes into your assembly, and a poor man in shabby clothing also comes in, and if you pay attention to the one who wears the fine clothing and say, “You sit here in a good place,” while you say to the poor man, “You stand over there,” or, “Sit down at my feet,” have you not then made distinctions among yourselves and become judges with evil thoughts?

The Desire to be Recognized: The Pharisees wore long robes with boxes on their arms called phylacteries, they would showcase their attire in the marketplace as to draw attention to themselves kind of like subtly saying “Do you know who I am?” The scriptures say that they enjoyed being greeted in the marketplace, in other words it fed their ego and they enjoyed it when people would address them as men of knowledge and power and influence. This was completely opposite of how Jesus told His disciples to dress when they went into the marketplace to share the gospel.

Luke 10:4 ESV ... Carry no moneybag, no knapsack, no sandals, and greet no one on the road.

No one was drawn to the disciples for what they looked like. Just like how the moon is an ugly old piece of dirt and there’s nothing truly amazing about it, except that it’s in the perfect spot to reflect the light of the sun. The moon is simply a reflector, it has no light of it’s own to shine. We’re just like the moon, we’re just lumps of dirt that are given the rare privilege of reflecting the light of the true SON. Jesus wants His disciples not to draw attention to themselves, but to be a humble reflection of His glory. Our goal as Christians should not be to get famous or to be recognized by fame, both of which are the sin of Pride. Pride is an ugly monster, it exalts itself above God and receives the glory that is due to Him, it’s high treason against the King of Kings. God will always convict His children of their pride so that they will never rob Him of His glory.

Acts 14:8-18 ESV .. Now at Lystra there was a man sitting who could not use his feet. He was crippled from birth and had never walked. He listened to Paul speaking. And Paul, looking intently at him and seeing that he had faith to be made well, said in a loud voice, “Stand upright on your feet.” And he sprang up and began walking. And when the crowds saw what Paul had done, they lifted up their voices, saying in Lycaonian, “The gods have come down to us in the likeness of men!” Barnabas they called Zeus, and Paul, Hermes, because he was the chief speaker. And the priest of Zeus, whose temple was at the entrance to the city, brought oxen and garlands to the gates and wanted to offer sacrifice with the crowds. But when the apostles Barnabas and Paul heard of it, they tore their garments and rushed out into the crowd, crying out, “Men, why are you doing these things? We also are men, of like nature with you, and we bring you good news, that you should turn from these vain things to a living God, who made the heaven and the earth and the sea and all that is in them. In past generations he allowed all the nations to walk in their own ways. Yet he did not leave himself without witness, for he did good by giving you rains from heaven and fruitful seasons, satisfying your hearts with food and gladness.” Even with these words they scarcely restrained the people from offering sacrifice to them.

Conclusion: After reading how Paul and Barnabas dealt with people praising them my thoughts are racing through all the times that I have held my chest out when someone has complimented me on a gift that I was given by God. The times when I have wanted to be noticed by Pastors and leaders. The times when I’ve been stopped by someone in church to talk about something only to cut them short to talk with someone else I felt to be of more earthly importance. People that I have thought would be of more benefit to me in this life. I want to tear my clothes thinking about it. If you and I want to be true disciples of Jesus we need to ask God to SEARCH our hearts as David did and ask Him to show us any grievance. Maybe you don’t struggle with this issue, but if God has revealed anything to you through this post please leave a comment and tell me about it. Maybe I can pray with you and you for me that as disciples we’d be content with a pair of sandals, one coat and a backpack instead of long robes, prayer boxes and positions.

Preparing The Way
Shane Martin