Wednesday, February 28 | Luke 11:37-53

Eduardo Vieira Neto


Again, Jesus is invited to dine with a pharisee – Simon in Luke 7:36-50, and an unknown Pharisee here in Luke 11:37-53. His host is astonished because Jesus does not wash his hands before eating. (This does not come from an idea of hygiene – as a matter of fact, bacteria and viruses will only be known in the 19th century). The issue is about ceremonial cleanliness. The Pharisees were a party of the Jewish people that were scrupulous observers of the Law as interpreted by the Scribes, in accordance with oral tradition. Scribes or lawyers were Rabbis that continually studied the Law (Torah), extracting from it rules for every aspect of life.

The religious leaders and scribes from Luke 11 to Luke 22 will relentlessly plot against Jesus. But why didn’t Jesus wash his hands? Jesus wants to emphasize the contrast between the external and the internal aspects of our relationship with religion and ultimately to God. Jesus is not against the Law, rituals, and traditions.

What he is against is making these external (outward) dimensions as a way to separate us (the undefiled ones, the (self) righteous, the chosen ones) from the others – the ordinary people, forgetting what are most important: love, generosity, open-heartedness in our relationship with our neighbors and God. To use a contemporary term, especially in his rebuke to the scribes, Jesus is charging them of promoting a toxic theological system: “For you load people with burdens hard to bear, and you yourselves do not touch the burdens with one of your fingers” – verse 46.

Two questions for all of us: is our faith and commitment to Jesus a matter of the surface? Do we demand from others a strict observance of religious rules that we ourselves are not able to follow?

Eduardo arrived in Pittsburgh in 2020 with his husband, Antonio, coming from Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. They never felt like foreigners or strangers as they were from the first moment welcomed by the community of Trinity Cathedral.

Find all Lenten Devotionals from Trinity Cathedral here.