(Eighth of a Series)
Then one of the lawyers answered and said to Him, “Teacher, by saying these things You reproach us also.” And He said, “Woe to you also, lawyers! For you load men with burdens hard to bear, and you yourselves do not touch the burdens with one of your fingers. Woe to you! For you build the tombs of the prophets, and your fathers killed them. In fact, you bear witness that you approve the deeds of your fathers; for they indeed killed them, and you build their tombs. Therefore the wisdom of God also said, ‘I will send them prophets and apostles, and some of them they will kill and persecute,’ that the blood of all the prophets which was shed from the foundation of the world may be required of this generation, from the blood of Abel to the blood of Zechariah who perished between the altar and the temple. Yes, I say to you, it shall be required of this generation. Woe to you lawyers! For you have taken away the key of knowledge. You did not enter in yourselves, and those who were entering in you hindered.”
It is a mark of this wicked world that not all whom we encounter will be like Sergius, seeking to hear the Word (see Acts 13:7-12). John the baptizer reproved Herod for his sin, and we know what happened to John (see Matthew 14:3-12). Yet it must be done. Our goal is that expressed by Peter to Simon Magus in reproving him, “Repent therefore of this wickedness of yours, and pray to the Lord that, if possible, the intent of your heart may be forgiven you” (Acts 8:22).
We notice first of all in Luke chapter eleven that this man had not the same attitude as the one in Mark chapter twelve. The impenitent may argue over and at least resent your words. The lawyer would defend the integrity of his fellows. Defend hypocrisy? The Lord, of course, could read the man’s heart and knew his was no innocent and merely misguided question.
Since we do not have that ability, we must judge by what the person says and does. There are those manifestly impenitent to whom we, like our Lord here, speak only the law. An early Lutheran circuit rider in the United States by the name of Wyneken once came upon a wicked blasphemer who just would not listen. So Wyneken mounted his horse and left the man with the words, “Then go to hell.” The story goes on that the man was so upset that a pastor would say this to him that he rode after him—with a good result of repentance.
That is our goal also. Our Lord’s words pin the lawyer to the wall. “…You load men with burdens hard to bear and you yourselves do not touch the burdens with one of your fingers.” We have no way of knowing how long such an encounter for us will last and so want to peg the sin clearly for the person to think about. Here it is hypocrisy, and the Lord points out how they operate with such an unfair double standard.
“The prophets…Abel…Zechariah…” Our Lord speaks from His perfect acquaintance with the Word. On the other hand, ours is not so perfect and has to be worked on so that we too might speak words readily applicable.
At the end of the narrative the Lord lays upon him the guilt of hindering others. No man is an island. Each influences others. And especially the respected lawyer would be an influence. “You did not enter yourselves, and you hindered those who were entering.” Perhaps this would have some weight with one who prided himself on his influence among the people. We could also take this tack depending on the encounter.
But basically it is only the law of God that we speak to those who exhibit impenitence. The hearts of such need to be prepared for the gospel. Our witness of the gospel to such could result in casting pearls before swine (Matthew 7:6) who could tear and rend in mockery of the Word.
With examples from Holy Scripture we are trying to learn ways and attitudes which will better enable us to witness to our Lord. These examples, drawn from the four Gospels and from the book of the Acts of the Apostles, are by no means exhaustive.
As with the basketball strategy of one-on-one, we are looking at examples of one Christian witnessing to another individual. We are not considering what was said to individuals already in the faith, though that is also applicable. We are not considering what was said to groups, though that also is applicable as a witnessing technique. We will be considering various situations where it was one-on-one, and the one being witnessed to was living in unbelief….
The ultimate goal in all witnessing is to be like John the baptizer and point to Christ as the Lamb of God that takes away the sin of the world. While we want to try earnestly to develop our skills in this area, we don’t want to forget John’s motto, “He must increase, but I must decrease” (John 3:30).
No matter what spiritual gifts we have and how we develop them, we are not looking for glory for ourselves. We are looking to have another soul join us in glorifying our Savior-God.