THE KEY OF KNOWLEDGE
Luke 11:52-54 Woe unto you, lawyers, for ye have taken away the key of knowledge: ye entered not in yourselves, and them that were entering in ye hindered. And as He said these things unto them, the scribes and the Pharisees began to urge Him vehemently, and to provoke Him to speak of many things: laying wait for Him, and seeking to catch something out of His mouth, that they might accuse Him.
It is evident that these Scribes - these Jewish lawyers, allegedly to be the best Old Testament interpreters of the Jewish nation, failed to understand the prophecies that told of the promised coming of the Messiah. Had these "highly educated" spiritual men not been biased and misled by self-wisdom and opened their minds to the truths found in God's word, they could have led the nation of Israel to understand and accept Jesus Christ as the Son of God and Savior of the world. Keys are extremely important. A key is used to insert into the keyway, move the internal bolts, or pins into certain positions, and thus close or open the mechanism known as a lock. Another definition of a key is that item that holds together the various parts of a mechanical device. The application of the key, as comparatively used in the lesson text, carries this definition: a person that is able to fully explain a theory or concept which has a hidden meaning, or a meaning that is difficult to understand without the aid of one with sufficient knowledge.
In the lesson text, Jesus accuses the Jewish lawyers of taking away the key of knowledge from the men and women of the Israelite nation. With their false interpretation of the Old Testament, that held the spiritual knowledge of God, they hindered and misled the Jewish nation into rejecting the promised Messiah that God had sent to them in the human form of the man known as Jesus of Nazareth. The key of knowledge to God's plan of salvation, which, by inspiration of His Holy Spirit, was revealed to, and written by, His prophets had been taken from His chosen people, the children of Israel. Not only did these lawyers misinterpret God's word, but also they caused the Jewish nation to also fail in understanding its truths. This is what Luke meant when he compared lawyers teaching false doctrine to that of not entering into the temple to worship and also refusing to allow the Jewish people to do so either. He said that the lawyers entered not in yourselves, and them that were entering in ye hindered. The key that could have opened the door of knowledge for the Jews had been taken away from them by human wisdom used by the lawyers to pervert God's word in order to satisfy their own selfish interests.
Enraged by Jesus' condemnation, which accused these lawyers of leading the Jewish people astray, they counteracted by vehemently bombarding Him with many questions. Their intent was to entrap Jesus, find fault with His teaching, and accuse Him of some form of blasphemy worthy of death. As if they were aggressive animals seeking their prey, Luke says that these lawyers were laying wait for Him, and seeking to catch something out of His mouth, that they might accuse Him. By their actions, the lawyers were, in a sense, laying snares and stumbling blocks in Jesus' path that they might catch Him in some comment or action that would be a sufficient reason to bring Him before the Sanhedrin and seek the death penalty for His teaching.
Matthew, in a similar instance, accused the scribes and Pharisees of being hypocrites, telling them that they shut up the kingdom of heaven against men (Matt. 23:13b). In other words, these seemingly pious Jews, the very ones that should be responsible for leading the nation of Israel to hear, believe, and accept Jesus as the Savior, were instead hindering, and even preventing, them from gaining the kingdom of heaven. Indeed, they were hypocrites because they were merely acting as sincere religious Jews, just as a stage actor takes on the character of the person in the role they are playing. A hypocrite deceives others into believing the things they say and do are sincere, when in fact they are fraudulently misleading those they influence by their outward conduct. The fact that they erringly refused to accept Jesus as the Messiah caused them to, not only openly reject and persecute Him, but, by their teaching and conduct, led others to do the same. They shut up the kingdom of heaven against men. Instead of leading the nation of Israel to accept God's plan of salvation through Christ Jesus, they led them down paths of condemnation. Indeed, they took away the key of knowledge. As interpreters of God's word, they could have used the key they held to open the doors to the soon-coming kingdom Jesus died to establish. Instead, however, they used the key to lock the door to heaven, would not enter themselves, and kept others from doing so.