Luke 11:52 – The Scribes and the Key of Knowledge
The Wrong Key: Recently I locked myself out of an office space and when I went to retrieve the key they gave me something that resembled a rats nest wrapped around a ring. There were literally a couple dozen keys on there. Since the building owners hadn’t used the internal keys for a couple of years it was my job was to go upstairs and try every single key in the door. Long story short, I tried all the keys and not a single one worked. What’s even worse than having keys that won’t fit into the key slot, is finding one that seems to fit but when you turn it the door won’t open. Regardless of whether it fits in the door or not, if it doesn’t open it you either have the wrong key or wrong door. In Luke 11:52 we find ourselves listening to Jesus as he rebukes the Scribes one last time. This rebuke was for taking away the only key that would open the door to everlasting life. Let’s read…
Luke 11:52 ESV .. Woe to you lawyers! For you have taken away the key of knowledge. You did not enter yourselves, and you hindered those who were entering.”
Matthew 23:13 ESV .. “But woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you shut the kingdom of heaven in people’s faces. For you neither enter yourselves nor allow those who would enter to go in.
Shut the Door in Your Face: I love the picture Jesus paints for us here, and He never embellished a story for the sake of making a point, for it was impossible for Him to lie. Jesus was giving us comparative imagery of what false teachers literally do to people. The last woe finds fault with how the lawyers are interpreting the Scriptures, which is ultimately holding people within their care back from obtaining the key in which to unlock the door to God’s plan of salvation. Not only do they refuse to enter, but their distorted interpretations keep others from knowing God. As Jesus puts it, they were slamming the door to salvation in their face, and if you’ve every been the recipient of that you’ll know all too well it’s not very pleasant.
Matthew 5:20 ESV … For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.
Treating The Symptoms & Masking the Problem: I doubt whether there’s ever been a person on the planet who has lived their entire existence without coming down with at least one sore throat. You know the kind that brings tears to your eyes when you swallow? All you want is to ditch it as quickly as it came on, so you head to the pharmacy and they sell you something that says this on the side of the bottle, “temporarily relieves symptoms for up to 4 hours“. If you’re anything like me you’ll read it and know that even though the bottle makes an exaggerated claim of symptoms vanishing for 4 hours, 15 minutes later you’ll be spraying your throat again and that’s a fact. Sore throats are a symptom of a greater issue, which is your body’s immunity system. There’s been excessive wear on your body; through stress, too much sweets, eating the wrong foods, whatever the case may be your body has lost its ability to fight, leaving you a vulnerable victim to every virus that comes your way. Your only hope of getting rid of the symptoms is to build your body’s immunity back up once again which will deal with the root of the problem.
We read above in Matthew 5:20 where Jesus tells the people who were under the teaching of the Pharisees, that unless their righteousness was infinitely greater than the Pharisees righteousness appeared to be, they would not see the kingdom of heaven. Can you imagine what was going through their heads? This is so important that we must force ourselves to ponder on it for a minute. Picture in your mind the most well thought of Christian leader you know of, someone that you admire and see as a great spiritual leader, perhaps Billy Graham, Charles Spurgeon, or Jonathan Edwards. Now picture Jesus walking into your living room as you are watching a podcast of your favourite preacher and He says, “Unless your righteousness exceeds the righteousness of _____________, you cannot enter the kingdom of heaven”. He was driving home a serious fault in the religious system which was that eternal life could be achieved through righteous living, or lost through the lack of it. The Pharisees had been treating the symptoms of sin for years, they’d become amazing at masking the internal issue of sin through added traditions and extra programs. Their self righteous efforts to keep themselves holy was only fuelling God’s wrath for their future punishment. They were blind guides who believed they could see, leading other blind sheep away from the truth. Jesus was calling them to an entirely different type of righteousness than what the scribes and Pharisees had been teaching.
You see, if you take pride in the fact that you have been a faithful church attender, or that you have been able to stay clean for x-amount of years, or you haven’t looked at porn in 6 months, or you have never drank a drop of alcohol in your entire life, or maybe that you have never done drugs or smoked weed, or had sex outside of marriage, simply put you may be building a self righteous façade that will one day fail when you stand before a holy God. I was once that person, I took pride in the fact that I had never touched alcohol or smoked and would frown on people who did. My self righteousness had a rancid smell to God and I was headed for an eternity where I would never see the kingdom, an eternity in hell. Any effort you could possibly make at keeping rules, staying away from sin, or cleaning up your life, could never in a million lifetimes make you right with God. God demands perfect holiness and as long as you have even sinned insomuch as once, you are officially an enemy of His kingdom. He’s pronounced you dead in your sins, and your are labelled a subject of His wrath according to the Bible.
Christ Attributes His Righteousness: Have you ever seen a Music Awards show on TV? I’m not sure that I have actually watched one all the way through before, but I do know that they have security at all those events and that if anyone tries to go back stage uninvited they will be escorted off immediately. The person may have even met one of the singers before at one time in their life but it still doesn’t mean that the singer knows them or that they have permission to go backstage.
We see this all too often in the church, people hear about the amazing things that Jesus can do for them and they quickly line up at an altar to meet him. After they are formally introduced they are lead in a recited prayer and initiated into the church with five people to follow them up making sure they stay saved and don’t backslide. They are given books on how to fight sin, and if they struggle with drinking or porn we enrol them in accountability groups subtly teaching that if they can just sanctify themselves and stay clean they will please God and be welcomed into heaven one day. It’s important to notice that it’s just the very outward obviously “dirty” sins that are often ever dealt with. I mean you don’t see any accountability groups for envy do you? Yet Galatians 5:18-21 tells us that anyone who has envy will not enter the kingdom… Check out the list for yourself.
Galatians 5:18-21 ESV .. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law. Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.
Kingdom righteousness works from the inside out, it first produces a changed heart and new desires so that the actual conduct of genuine Christians in fact does exceed the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees. In and of ourselves you will never please God, you will forever be kicked out of His backstage. The only hope of you ever getting into the kingdom is not performing like a circus monkey but to be found in Christ. Jesus was the Only human whoever pleased God. He said, “This is my beloved Son in whom I am well pleased”. Spiritual blindness is so deceptive that it can even fool you into thinking you are able to see (Luke 11:35). Our hearts by nature are wicked and dead, we have no hope in ourselves (Jeremiah 17:9). Our only hope is to be like blind Bartimaeus who cried out to Jesus in the midst of his blindness pleading for sight. Bartimaeus exemplifies someone in humility who recognizes that without divine intervention from Christ he is trapped in blindness forever. When it seems that Jesus is about to pass him by He cries all the louder until Jesus stops and responds to His call and opens his crusted blind eyes. God draws the ones who have recognized their inability to save themselves, the ones who are trembling at His holiness, and the ones who, in humility cry out “I’m blind, I’m a slave to sin, I deserve your wrath, please remember me when you come into your kingdom”. He grants them godly sorrow, He grants them repentance, and He saves them. You see a person cannot make Jesus Lord of their life but rather it’s He who makes a person His child. Jesus is Lord of your life whether you bow your knee here or later.
Philippians 3:9 ESV … and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith—
2 Corinthians 5:17 ESV .. Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.
Jeremiah 32:40 .. I will make an everlasting covenant with them, that I will not turn away from them, to do them good; but I will put my fear in their hearts, that they shall not depart from me.
Hebrews 8:10 ESV .. For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, declares the Lord: I will put my laws into their minds, and write them on their hearts, and I will be their God, and they shall be my people.
Conclusion: We just read how if a person is in Christ, meaning they are His, they belong to Him, they will produce the fruit of righteousness, they will no longer be a slave to sin, they won’t need 15 accountability groups and a dozen net nannies on 12 different computers, why? Because when God saves us He put a new heart in us, this one actually wants to do His will, this one comes complete with His law engraved on it, and the new mind He gives us has His laws seared into it. We no longer fear losing salvation but continue to trust not in our own works but in His finished work. We no longer are slaves to sin nor do we love it, we abhor evil and are free from its grip.
Take 10 minutes right now to examine the fruit of your life, do you fear God? I mean genuine fear and trembling, do you hate sin, or do you kinda like some of it, does it still please you? Are you actually a new creation or the moment you slip away from your accountability group do you do you fall back into your old habits? If you do, you may have been headed to the door of eternity with the wrong key in your hand. There is hope, and it looks like a blind beggar on the side of the road and a condemned criminal hanging on a cross. Jesus will never leave a humbled man on a cross and never a man on the side of the road begging for sight. Stop treating the symptoms, look to Him and Live. Call on the Name of the Lord and be saved!
Preparing The Way