Unmarked Graves Explained
In case you were wondering where Jesus’ comment on unmarked graves originates, here’s the scripture to refresh your memory.
42“But woe to you Pharisees! For you tithe mint and rue and every herb, and neglect justice and the love of God. These you ought to have done, without neglecting the others.
43 Woe to you Pharisees! For you love the best seat in the synagogues and greetings in the marketplaces. 44 Woe to you! For you are like unmarked graves, and people walk over them without knowing it.”
45 One of the lawyers answered him, “Teacher, in saying these things you insult us also.”Luke 11:44 – 45
As many of the things Jesus said, there’s a lot of depth and meaning hidden in his sayings and not just in his parables.
In this instance there are two audiences he’s targeting with his sniper rifle of wit and words. The Pharisees and His disciples.
The message to His disciples
The warning to the disciples here is that there are many that wear the name of God in their lives, even their sleeves (see phylacteries). The disciples shouldn’t be deceived by this, because people who live like this are like places that contain death.
The Pharisees based their lives around appearances – seeming the devout follower of Yahweh, but really doing it for selfish gains. He warns His disciples with this: Don’t follow that way, it doesn’t lead to life.
The message to the Pharisees and the law makers
To understand the offense brought to the Pharisees and Law Makers, you need to understand something of the Jewish law.
Corpses were “unclean” (Numbers 19:16) and your proximity to a corpse made you “ceremonially unclean”. It wasn’t a problem to be unclean, the problem only came in to play if you were unclean and entered the presence of God in the temple.
These laws were only applicable to the High Priest and those who entered the temple to minister before the alter. For various reasons, the Pharisees applied these laws to their day to day lives. Their main drive in life was to live in a state of ceremonial cleanliness, and get others to live like this too.
If you have the time to dig into what defines ceremonially clean, you will notice that there are a lot of items that would make you unclean. And living in a way that avoids uncleanliness isn’t just a lot of work, but it would make you an unkind person.
The Pharisee offense bombshell
Simply put, Jesus told the Pharisees that they were in ceremonially unclean, all the time. Their life’s mission was a failure and they weren’t pleasing God in any form or shape.
By calling the Pharisees unmarked graves, He was telling them that they were making everyone they were encountering ceremonially unclean.
In essence they were failing in their pursuit of righteousness personally, but they were also preventing others from entering the presence of God.
Thanks to Tim Maas referenced Numbers 16 in his answer on www.ebible.com