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. Luke 11:52
I’ve talked about our unhealthy interest in being gatekeepers before. We love the idea of determining who is in and who is out. We like the control. Most of the time I don’t even think we realize we do it, but we are always evaluating, always comparing ourselves to others to figure out who is better; who is more right. In a sense that is what Jesus is talking about here in Luke 11.
The Pharisees were keeping people out of the kingdom; out of relationship with God. Jesus says of them that they have taken away the key to knowledge. The gospel of Matthew records Jesus saying this another way.
Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You shut the door of the kingdom of heaven in people’s faces. You yourselves do not enter, nor will you let those enter who are trying to. Matthew 23:13-14
Shut the door, withhold the key. I think the imagery is pretty clear. These Pharisees are standing in the way of people being able to enter the kingdom. What’s the door they are shutting, what’s this key to knowledge they are taking away?
He’s always the sticking point. These Pharisees loved their religion, but found Jesus to just be getting in their way. They wanted to practice their rules, evaluate their neighbors, display their spiritual prowess, and Jesus came and tore it all to pieces. So they didn’t accept him, didn’t follow him.
Jesus brought grace. With grace everything else becomes secondary. Everything else becomes unnecessary. Grace means we don’t have to earn, we don’t have to be approved or meet expectations. We are accepted. We are given the keys, the door is opened, the kingdom is where we belong.
As I read these words of Jesus and consider all we’ve heard Jesus say to the Pharisees this week—all the woes he has spoken—I realize how much of the time people get in the way of Jesus; how often people hinder people from finding grace. I realize that, most of the time, we the followers are what make it hard for others to be followers of Jesus.
The good news is we don’t have to be like these Pharisees. We don’t have to be guilty of the woes Jesus spoke about. After a week of woes I’m praying. Praying that I won’t be guilty of hindering others from the kingdom; praying that I won’t be like I am so easily inclined to be. Praying that I won’t be like the Pharisees Jesus described in Luke 11.
And so I pray and trust in grace.