“While he was speaking, a Pharisee invited him to dine with him; so he went in and took his place at the table. The Pharisee was amazed to see that he did not first wash before dinner. Then the Lord said to him, ‘Now you Pharisees clean the outside of the cup and of the dish, but inside you are full of greed and wickedness. You fools! Did not the one who made the outside make the inside also? So give for alms those things that are within; and see, everything will be clean for you.
‘But woe to you Pharisees! For you tithe mint and rue and herbs of all kinds, and neglect justice and the love of God; it is these you ought to have practiced, without neglecting the others. Woe to you Pharisees! For you love to have the seat of honour in the synagogues and to be greeted with respect in the market-places. Woe to you! For you are like unmarked graves, and people walk over them without realizing it.’”
We begin our scripture reading of Jesus coming to the table and to share a meal. This meal is with a surprising companion, a Pharisee, one that in any other setting and with any other Jew in the first century, it would be an honor to ‘oh and ah’ over the setting, the home, the tableware, the meal set before them. This was a home where certain things were expected of you, presentation mattered. Yet before they could enjoy their first bite or take the first sip, the Pharisee takes offense to Jesus not doing what is considered custom. Jesus did not wash up.
And then Jesus, did an even more surprising thing. He draws a metaphor of washing and looking presentable on the outside to the cups on the table, as he clearly sees the real inside of these Pharisees, are dirty inside as well. Jesus makes the proclamation, astonishing them all, God cares about the inside, that spiritual center, and a relationship to God that can not be faked. God’s deep concern for justice and neighbors is more important than the expensive tableware or herbs they sacrifice. In one meal, and one gathering of the most important leaders, Jesus reminds us as well to really focus on grace and love of God found in him. A meal and joy of his presence can be unsettling to what we’ve thought was most important, Jesus has a way of rearranging and resetting those expectations and invites them back to learn again.
Gracious Lord, we pray that through fellowshipping with you we can learn again what is most important. You require love and commitment of our whole hearts, not just the shiny exterior we offer to others. May Christ’s invitation to truly practice such love be one we accept, even with dirt under our finger nails. Amen.