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Plain speaking at a dinner party

While Jesus was speaking, a Pharisee asked him to dine with him, so he went in and reclined at table. The Pharisee was astonished to see that he did not first wash before dinner. And the Lord said to him, “Now you Pharisees cleanse the outside of the cup and of the dish, but inside you are full of greed and wickedness. You fools! Did not he who made the outside make the inside also? ….. But woe to you Pharisees! For you tithe mint and rue and every herb, and neglect the judgment and the love of God.   Luke 11: 37-42


Plain speaking is not the done-thing at dinner parties in Jersey – or elsewhere.


Observations about guests, their behaviour, their religion or their personal cleanliness are unsaid until they are gone. How true that it’s best to be the last person to leave a dinner party – so as to be maligned the least.


In the incident in bold above from around AD 32 it seems that the Pharisee host was openly astonished about the cleanliness of his invited guest, Jesus Christ. But make no mistake – it had nothing to do with bacterial or similar cleanliness. The host’s astonishment arose because Jesus had come in from a street where non-Jews were walking. His host saw him as being ceremonially defiled by having been among Gentiles. And all Pharisees had made a rule that openly expressed their cleanliness – their true and real purity – compared with all other nationalities. The Pharisee host couldn’t believe his eyes – Jesus didn’t enact the usual mime – he failed to make it clear to all that he was not defiled-Gentile. How awful.


One wonders how well such a washing-mime would be received at London 2012.... Jesus would certainly not have performed such a mime at the Olympics if he did not do so in Jerusalem AD 32.


But Jesus was a man of integrity. In fact he was an integer – a single digit, not two-faced. So he speaks aloud the truth about the self-righteous.


Maybe he took into his hands a crockery dish and then told the truth about Pharisees. They were clean dishes outside but full of greed (harpage) and wickedness (poneria) inside. The Greek harpage means “rapacity”; and ponereia means “malice”. “Full of rapacity and malice..... You fools!


In order to ensure that he was not being mis-understood, Jesus explained himself. “Did not he who made the outside make the inside also?“ God Almighty, his Father, made mankind – just as man made the crockery. Hosts would never offer guests a cup which was clean outside but contained rottenness and maggots inside; God wants mankind – the most wondrous of all his creation - to be clean inside and out. God is absolutely opposed to all evil, evil without and evil within.


When God had made man and thereby completed creation he had looked at it all and had declared it all to be “very good”. What went wrong?


Self-orientated desire entered all humanity.  It’s within every child, every adult. God did not make it to be so. It’s awful.


The AD 32 dinner party host (and all his fellow Pharisees with him) were so keen on polishing their outsides that they even publicly ensured that all the tiny herbs which grew each year in their gardens (“mint and rue and every herb“) were counted and weighed – and exactly one-tenth given (tithed) to God. They publicised their own clean-ness and the dirty-ness of all others.


There’s a major question still to be communicated at this dinner party. “How is the inside to be made clean?” Will Jesus have the courage to tell the truth about that? “You … neglect the judgment and the love of God.


The “judgment“ of God upon us because of our self-orientated internal desires is being worked out in our world over the centuries through what we do to each other. No hand-washing mime can cleanse us within from that.


The “the love of God is made public in Jesus Christ. He took the self-orientation of others upon himself and bore the judgment of God upon it. He replaced it in others with his own Father-orientated and love orientated obedience. Such realities are there to deal with the insides of those of his enemies who will turn to follow him.

‘Nothing is easier than self-deceit. For what each man wishes, that he also believes to be true.’ (Demosthenes, Greek statesman, BC 384-322.)
‘The distinguishing mark of a Christian is his confidence in the love of Christ, and the yielding of his loves and desires to Christ in return.’ (C H Spurgeon, preacher and writer, 1834-1892)
Richard Syvret

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