December 6 Esight, 2011

“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.” When Jesus went outside, the Pharisees and the teachers of the law began to oppose him fiercely and to besiege him with questions, waiting to catch him in something he might say (Luke 11.52–54).Last week we talked about Jesus’ accusation of the Pharisees, that they were only offering lip service to the prophets and what Jesus’ kingdom was truly about, but in their hearts they were truly hostile to it. These words are the harshest spoken by Jesus in the Gospels. This is not the way we see Him talking to those who have been abused by religion or who were outside of His kingdom. This is the way we find Him speaking to the religious leaders of His day, who were claiming to represent the Kingdom, but in all actuality were the greatest obstacle and barrier to folks actually attempting to enter the Kingdom. This distinction, I believe, is important. Too often, people misinterpret these harsh words and take them to mean that evangelism of the lost should be done with harsh denouncements of others and their sins. It would behoove us to remember that this is not how Jesus addressed those who were considered to be “sinners,” but rather those who considered themselves to be guides, leaders or teachers. You’ve got to imagine Jesus saying all of this with passionate tears and anger in His voice on behalf of those who have been hurt by the religion of His day.

There are three phrases in this week’s passage I’d like to look at as we close this series of eSights on the Woes of Luke 11: 1) You have taken away the key of knowledge; 2) you yourselves have not entered in; and 3) you have hindered those who were in the process of entering.

First let’s talk about this key of knowledge.

One of the key distinctions of the Gospel is that it actually sets you free. It’s not oppressive. It’s not bad news; it actually is good news that empowers you and changes you from the inside out. Many times, we can see in our day that the good news of the Gospel really has been twisted so that it is bad news. These perversions of God’s Word don’t bring light; they bring darkness. The truth of the Kingdom becomes obscured. It has a certain negative, oppressive, “gotta” or “should” ring to it. It shames people through legalism rather than empowering them to live out the radical Love of the Kingdom. All of this is rooted in a wrong picture of God. It has all the right terms and phrases, but at its heart is a fundamentally different picture of what God is like than the picture Jesus revealed and referred to as the “key of knowledge.”

What is this key? Our first clue is found in In John 5:39, where Jesus said, “You search the scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life, but these are they that testify of Me.” If you have this key then you begin to see that Jesus is what all of the Scriptures are testifying of. Jesus is the lens through which we discover the truth about what God is like. He is “the exact representation” of what God’s character is (Hebrews 1:1–3). But if you do not have this key, if it is taken away, then you can search and study the scriptures all day long and miss all of this entirely. You study the Bible but you get distorted pictures of God, distorted theologies, and distorted views of salvation. And too often, in this context, the Bible becomes used as a weapon. (Completely misunderstanding what Paul is saying in Ephesians 6, some call it a sword; although Paul indeed refers to the Bible by this name, his intent in this passage is not that the Bible is to be used as a weapon against people; rather, our enemy, remember is not “flesh and blood.” In other words, if it has “flesh and blood” it’s not our enemy! The Bible is NEVER to be used as a sword or weapon on other “people”… ever.) When this happens, the Bible ends up leaving others with a jaded perception of itself and of God. What then is this key?

It’s found in 1 John 4:8: “God is love.” The Greek word for ‘love’ in this passage, “agape,” indicates radical, other-centered, self-sacrificial love. When this kind of love is rejected in theory or practice, we lose the very key that enables us to gain a correct knowledge of God and the Bible. This love is demonstrated in living form in the person of Jesus Christ. So one could say that this Key is Jesus Himself. Yet, remember that the reason this is true is that Jesus is the incarnate embodiment of what God really is—Love. And only by love is love awakened.

When this love is rejected, this true key is abandoned, we get a distorted view of all things related to God including His character, and in this process, we, in our rejection of love, refuse to enter into God’s kingdom of radical, self-sacrificial, other-centered love and everything that flows out from our religiosity becomes a hindrance, a barrier, a hurdle to those God is drawing into His kingdom of love in spite of us. In John 1:9, Jesus is called the true light that gives light to everyone. He is right now drawing “all people” to Himself (John 12:32). Every person on Planet Earth is, at this very moment, being drawn toward God’s kingdom of other-centered love and if they do not resist, they will be drawn to the foot of the cross. The question we must answer, as those who claim to be followers of Jesus today, is: are we ourselves entering into this love, not just as a theology, but as the way we do life? Are we ourselves entering in or are we refusing to be drawn and, in our religiosity rather than love, in our religiosity that could very well be associated with “Jesus” in name only, are we—in our rejection of love and how we relate to others—hindering those who themselves are also being drawn?

Especially during this consumer-driven holiday season, may we, as followers of Jesus, be characterized by the other-centered, self-sacrificial love of our God. May His humble servant love be seen in us, and may we not be part of the hindrances that abound, but a help and even a conduit to the grand universal drawing of God’s love that is taking place all around us.

Happy Holidays to each of you.

Keep living in love, loving like Christ and building the kingdom.

I love you guys,

Herb