Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Luke 8, Part Two

Jesus stills the storm (vs. 22-25)--Luke lumps a series of miracles together here to show Jesus’ absolute power over all elements of existence. Much of this I’ve discussed in earlier gospels, so I won’t go into as much detail here. In this event, Jesus demonstrates His authority over nature by stilling a violent storm. He and His disciples were journeying to the eastern shore of the Sea of Galilee when a strong tempest broke out and the boat began to be filled with water. Jesus was asleep, but upon being awakened by His frightened disciples, He “rebuked the wind and the raging of the water. And they ceased, and there was a calm” (v. 24). He then rebuked His followers for a lack of faith (v. 25). They “were afraid, and marveled” (v. 25). Man had never been in the presence of such awesome power before. We are at the total mercy of nature and her elements. Nature and her elements are at the total mercy of the God Who created them.

The healing of “Legion” (vs. 26-39)--This second miracle reveals Christ’s authority over the spirit world. The boat arrived in the country of the Gadarenes (Garasenes, KJV), and they were met by a man who had been grievously tormented by demons “for a long time” (v. 27). Matthew tells us that there were actually two men, but obviously one of them was dominant. Jesus held an interesting conversation with the demons, including asking their name. “’Legion,’” because many demons had entered him“ (v. 30). I would figure that most demons probably do not have names, so Jesus was asking the man his identity, but the power of the demonic host within him answered instead. These evil spirits recognized Who Jesus was--they came from the same realm--and, realizing His deity, showed great deference and humility (v. 31). Because of that Jesus granted them their request not to be cast into the abyss (it would certainly be interesting to learn more about that place, but if demons didn’t want to go there, then we probably do not, either), but rather to be sent into a herd of nearby swine (vs. 32-33). The swine were destroyed by running down a hill into the lake (v. 33). The keepers of the animals reported to a nearby city what had happened (v. 34). The people came out, and they, too, “were afraid” (v. 35) when they saw for themselves what had happened. Once again, such power demonstrated over something man had no control over was an awesome and frightening thing. Who is this and what might He do next? The people were so afraid that they asked Jesus to leave (v. 37), but the man from whom Jesus had cast the demons wanted to go with Him (v. 38). However, Jesus told him, “Return to your own house, and tell what great things God has done for you" (v. 39). And the man went “and proclaimed throughout the whole city what great things Jesus had done for him” (v. 39). He got it right--Jesus is God.

The daughter of Jairus and the bleeding woman (vs. 40-58)--Luke now presents two miracles where Jesus shows His power over the flesh and over death. There is nothing He is not Lord of. Jesus returned to the other side of the lake (v. 40) and was met by a “ruler of the synagogue” (v. 41), named Jairus, who confronted Him with the news of his grievously ill daughter. Jesus went to his aid (vs. 41-42). But on the way, a woman who had had a bleeding disease for 12 years touched “the border of His garment” (v. 44) and was immediately healed. Jesus dealt with the matter and commended the woman’s faith (v. 49). After that, the news arrived that Jairus’ daughter had died, thus “do not trouble the Teacher” (v. 49). Forget it, Jairus, Jesus can’t raise the dead. But, of course, He can, and did. So we see in these four miracles Christ’s power (authority) over nature, the spirit world, the flesh, and death. What else is there? He came to prove that He is God, and thus His atoning sacrifice would be effective for the cleansing of our sins. He accomplished His mission.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Luke 8, Part One

Jesus’ female assistants (vs. 1-3)—Jesus wasn’t one to shun anybody. He lived in a decidedly patriarchal, male-dominated society, but readily—and equally—accepted women into His company. We are introduced here to “Mary called Magdalene, out of whom had come seven demons” (v. 2), and a couple of others, including Joanna, the wife of a servant of Herod Antipas, who was the current tetrarch of Galilee. The word “tetrarch,” technically, refers to a ruler of only a fourth part of a province, but in all practicality he ruled the whole thing. Joanna, interestingly, was one of the women who came to the tomb at Christ’s resurrection. She is mentioned only by Luke, here and in Luke 24:10.  I have a note about Mary Magdalene at the end of this post.

The parable of the sower (vs. 4-18)—Matthew and Mark also record this parable of Christ, perhaps His most famous. Here are my comments from Matthew 13:

“After all the enmity and activity Jesus had endured in the previous chapter, this one starts out by saying “On the same day…” (v. 1). The Lord had the busiest life a man of His age ever lived. He told the people several parables, the first being what is commonly called the “parable of the sower. Well, I guess it’s called that because Jesus does (v. 18). A sower scattered his seed, and it fell on different types of soil. Not all ancient farmers plowed their land in strips, as modern farmers do. They would simply go out, throw their seed, and let it fall where it may. Some fell on “the wayside,” some on stony ground, some among thorns, some on good soil. Jesus explains that in verse 18-23. The different types of soil represent different types of human hearts. The seed is the word of God. The wayside is an impenetrable heart and the word never penetrates it. So “the wicked one comes and snatches away what was sown in his heart” (v. 19). The stony ground has some soil, but not much: “This is he who hears the word and immediately receives it with joy; yet he has no root in himself, but endures only for a while. For when tribulation or persecution arises because of the word, immediately he stumbles” (vs. 20-21). The thorny ground is good soil, but it’s already occupied, so “the cares of this world and the deceitfulness of riches choke the word, and he becomes unfruitful” (v. 22). This is the one so many of us need to watch out for. Interested in spiritual things, but our lives are too cluttered with the world. The fourth soil, of course, is the good ground, the good heart: “he who hears the word and understands it, who indeed bears fruit and produces: some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty” (v. 23). It’s instructive. Three bad types of heart, and only one good. Some self-examination would be worthwhile for us all.”

Before He explained the parable to them, His disciples asked “What does this parable mean?” (v. 9). Jesus initially tells them that only the pure in heart will understand His word (v. 10), and that, of course, was the true meaning behind the parable. One of the evidences of having truly received the word of God with an “honest and good heart” (v. 15) is that we will shine our light throughout the world (v. 16); such is one of the great duties of Christians, to be a light to the world (Matt. 5:14). Anything we try to hide will one day be revealed anyway (v. 17). Thus, “take heed how you hear” (v. 18)—make sure you keep your heart open and honest, as pure as possible. Such a heart will produce a life that will be richly rewarded. It’s interesting that Jesus not only says “take heed how you hear,” but also “take heed what you hear” (Mark 4:24). Both are essential, for certainly if our hearts are bad, such will be manifested in our lives. But if we believe error, even in sincerity, it can be costly and destructive.

Spiritual versus familial relations (vs. 19-21)—From my comments in Matthew 12:

“While He was speaking, His mother and brothers wanted to talk to Him. Jesus turns this into a wonderful spiritual lesson: “’Who is My mother and who are My brothers?’ And He stretched out His hand toward His disciples and said, ‘Here are My mother and My brothers! For whoever does the will of My Father in heaven is My brother and sister and mother.’” (vs. 48-50). Jesus, of course, is not denigrating physical family relations. He is simply saying that our spiritual family is, ultimately, more important than the physical. Remember: “He that loveth father or mother more than me is not worthy of Me” (Matthew 10:37). There is no condemnation here of loving father and mother; certainly not. Just don’t love them more than Jesus.”

It should be fairly obvious why the “spiritual” family is more important than the “natural” one. Our relations with our brothers and sisters in Christ will never end, while the physical family is severed by death. Hopefully, our families will all be obedient to God and be part of that eternal, spiritual bond, but tragically, that is not always the case.

Addendum on Mary Magdalene:  She has the nomenclature "Magdalene" because she was from a town called Magdala in Galilee.  There is this interesting tidbit about Magdala in Smith's Bible Dictionary:  "The Magdala, which conferred her name on Mary the Magdalene, [is] one of the numerous migdols, i.e. towers, which stood in Palestine, was probably the place of that name which is mentioned in the Jerusalem Talmud as near Tiberias, and this again is probably the modern el-Mejdel, a miserable little Muslim village, of twenty huts on the water's edge at the southeast corner of the plain of Gennesareth. It is now the only inhabited place on this plain."

Smith's is pretty old, dating back to the 1860s, but has a lot of useful information.  However, whether that "miserable little Muslim village" still exists, I do not know.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Luke 7, Part Two

That generation (vs. 29-35)—Jesus always had a strong following among the multitudes; “even the tax collectors justified God” (v. 29), accepting the baptism of John. Yet, as noted so many times before, it was the religious leaders of the day with whom Jesus had His dispute—and John, too, for that matter, for “the Pharisees and lawyers rejected the will of God for themselves, not having been baptized by him [John]” (vs. 30). It was a popularity thing with them, and both John and Jesus drew larger crowds than they did. Plus, their self-righteousness might have led them to conclude that they had no sins to forgive (see the next story), so why be baptized (baptism was always for the remission of sins, and still is, Acts 2:38). No amount of evidence was going to convince these hard-hearted Pharisees (vs. 32-34). John did one thing and they condemned him, Jesus did the opposite and they censured Him as well (v. 34). But wisdom and truth will win out in the end (v. 35).

Who loves the most? (vs. 36-50)—“Then one of the Pharisees asked Him to eat with him” (v. 36). Given this fellow’s attitude as demonstrated later in the story, it’s possible that he is hoping that some of Jesus’ popularity would rub off on him. A woman came in to the Pharisee’s house—a very, very bold act. She was a well-known “sinner” (v. 37), though we have no idea what her sin(s) amounted to. But coming uninvited into this man’s home while a meal was being served…this was the height of presumption. But she wanted Jesus’ forgiveness, and was so desirous of it that she risked grave rebuke and reprimand. Jesus accepted her, however, so she got away with her actions. Here is an awakened sinner. She “stood at His feet behind Him weeping; and she began to wash His feet with her tears, and wiped them with the hair of her head; and she kissed His feet and anointed them with the fragrant oil” (v. 38). The Pharisee (whose name was Simon, v. 40) was scornful and “he spoke to himself, saying, ‘This man, if He were a prophet, would know who and what manner of woman this is who is touching Him, for she is a sinner’" (v. 39). Jesus knew his thoughts, and related a short parable about a creditor who had two debtors, one who owed him a small amount and the other who owed him a substantial sum. “He freely forgave them both. Tell Me, therefore, which of them will love him more?” (v. 42). The answer seemed obvious, and was—the one who owed the greater debt. Jesus then made the application. Simon, a self-righteous Pharisee with little, if any, cognizance of his own sins, showed the Son of God very little respect and no sense of mourning in the presence of He Who could forgive sins. But the woman, convicted of her mighty transgressions, showed much contrition and sorrow (vs. 44-46). “Therefore I say to you, her sins, which are many, are forgiven, for she loved much. But to whom little is forgiven, the same loves little." Then He said to her, "’Your sins are forgiven’” (vs. 47-48). There is a palpable application here. Many who grew up in the church and have basically been “good” people seem to have very little recognition of their sinful condition and need for forgiveness; or at least, their appreciation appears minor. Those who come from the world and realize just how wicked they have been tend to value their salvation the most. This isn’t always the case, of course, but, as a preacher, I’ve seen a lot of apathy among church members over the years, and I have long thought it was because of ingratitude—simply not appreciating the forgiveness of their sins due to a weak sense of being a sinner; most of us haven’t been overtly “wicked,” which is a good thing, naturally, but might tend to lessen our thanksgiving for the Lord’s mercy towards us. To conclude the narrative at hand, some of those at the table wondered “Who is this who even forgives sins?” (v. 49). Only God can do that, of course, so this is another instance of Jesus, implicitly, claiming deity. He doesn’t bother to explain that; let people come to their own conclusions. He ends by commending the woman for her faith, her belief that Jesus could, indeed, forgive her of all her transgressions. She could now be at peace in that thought (v. 50).

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Luke 7, Part One

Healing the centurion’s servant (vs. 1-10)—We’ve run across this story in Matthew 8. Here are my comments there: “A centurion was a Roman military officer, so he wasn’t a Jew. He had a “dreadfully tormented” paralyzed servant (v. 6), and requested that Jesus come heal him. The Lord immediately agrees, but the centurion, who actually had sent friends rather than go himself (Luke 7:6), told Jesus to just speak the word and the servant would be healed. The officer, a man of authority, knew how powerful the spoken word could be. Jesus marveled at his faith, perhaps because he was a Gentile, or perhaps just because he showed great faith. Christ then indicates in verses 11-12 that many Gentiles will be saved but many Jews lost. The servant was healed at that very hour.”  The “great faith” (Luke 7:9), as noted, appears to have been that the centurion was, number one, a Gentile, and number two, he didn’t have to see to believe. The statement I made in Matthew 8, “who actually had sent friends rather than go himself” raises an interesting issue, but it will take too long to deal with here. When I get to Luke 7 on my “Bible Journeys” blog, I will consider it. It’s actually a very important point and a misunderstanding of it has led to grievous interpretive errors. Stay tuned and check that blog periodically. I’ll be there soon.

Raising the widow of Nain’s son (vs. 11-17)—This miracle is peculiar to Luke, and puts two miracles, back-to-back, that are a little unusual. The healing of the centurion’s son was not so irregular, except that it was via long distance, and here, Jesus raises a dead man. Luke is giving some very solid evidence for the deity of Christ. In this story, Jesus and His disciples approach a city called Nain, which was about 25 miles southwest of Capernaum. The dead man was “the only son of his mother; and she was a widow” (v. 12). That could put her in dire straits; there was no government “safety net” to take care of destitute people; children were expected to provide for their aged parents, and without this son, the widow had lost her protection, though she might have had other family to help. Luke does indicate “a large crowd from the city was with her” (v. 12), so she obviously had friends, but poverty was the rule among people of that day, so her pickings might have been slim. Regardless, Jesus raises the young man and “presented him to his mother” (v. 15). One can only imagine how she felt--euphoria, no doubt.  The response of the multitudes was typical: “fear came upon all” (v. 16), they wondered who He was, and “this report about Him went throughout all Judea and all the surrounding region” (v. 17). If modern day “faith healers” would truly raise the dead, then their fame would be legendary as well and people would wonder about their identity, too.

On John the Baptist (vs. 18-28)—Matthew covers this material in some detail in Matthew 11:2-15, and I do, too. Here are my thoughts at that location: “Jesus just wasn’t acting the way the Jews thought he would. Even as great a man as John the Baptist was apparently expecting an all-conquering Messiah, which was the common, and desired, Jewish wish of that day. Jesus was running around preaching, not raising an army. So John, who was in prison at the time, sent a couple of his disciples to query Jesus, “Are You the Coming One, or do we look for another?" (v. 3). Christ doesn’t answer with a direct “yes” or “no.” Any fool can claim to be the Messiah, so He points them to His works: “’Go and tell John the things which you hear and see: The blind see and the lame walk; the lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear; the dead are raised up and the poor have the gospel preached to them’” (vs. 4-5). What does the evidence say? Jesus asks them. Draw your own conclusions. Jesus didn’t want people to believe in Him just on His say-so; a lot of people will do that. Jesus wanted our faith to be grounded in something much deeper than simply human words—believe because of the demonstrations of power and good works. That would produce a greater, deeper foundation for commitment to Him. God has never asked us to believe anything without evidence, so this is in total keeping with the way He constituted man in the first place. He gave us a mind, a brain, a logical intuition, and He expects us to use it. But if we put emotion, prejudice, human reason, or desire before that, then our vision will be skewed and we will not see the truth of the evidence laid before us. God doesn’t make the evidence so overwhelming that we can’t reject it; that would deny our freedom of choice. But the proof is there if we are willing to receive it….John was indeed a great man, a prophet (v. 9), and the fulfillment of Old Testament prophecy (v. 10). There were none greater—except the least in the kingdom of heaven (v. 11). Jesus, of course, is not slapping John here, He is exalting God’s kingdom. The lowliest widow in the church is greater than John the Baptist. Verse 12 is a bit confusing: “And from the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven suffers violence, and the violent take it by force.” The Greek is clearer. Without going into word studies, the basic idea is that those who enter the kingdom of heaven are so earnest to do so that they will let nothing stop them, even if, in effect, they must be violent about it. Jesus is emphasizing again the value of the kingdom: don’t let anything, or anybody, keep you from being right with God. Jesus then tells His hearers that John was the “Elijah” who was to come, an expectation of the Jews from Malachi 4:5—“ Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the LORD.” The “day of the Lord” will be “great” for those who accept Jesus, and “dreadful” for those who do not. Some thought Jesus was the “Elijah” to come (Matt. 16:14), but John was. Jesus is the Christ.” Matthew has some material that Luke does not cover and I included it as well.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Luke 6, Part Two

Beatitudes and woes (vs. 20-26)—Again, this section has generally been called the “Sermon on the Plain” because Jesus “came down” (from a mountain, v. 12), and “stood on a level place” (v. 17). Much of the material is the same as the Sermon on the Mount, but there are some differences. The first four statements—“beatitudes,” we call them—are similar to four beatitudes in Matthew 5—blessed are those who are poor, hungry, weeping, and hated for His sake (vs. 20-23). The first three are no doubt spiritual conditions—a poverty of spirit that recognizes nothing of worth outside of a relationship with God; a hungering to be right with Him; a weeping over our sins and depraved condition. People with that demeanor put themselves into a position where they can truly be “blessed” by God. Being persecuted for His sake is a cause for rejoicing (v. 23), “for indeed your reward is great in heaven.” Such an idea—persecuted for righteousness’ (Jesus’) sake shows the tremendous decadence of mankind, for who would want to hurt someone for doing right? But exposing evil is not something men enjoy, so it becomes necessary for the wicked to, in some way, silence those who do it. Verses 24-24 contain four “woes” which aren’t in Matthew 5, and they are basically the opposite of the beatitudes of verses 20-23: woe to the rich, the full, those who laugh, and “when all men speak well of you.” The self-satisfied cannot be helped by God, and that is truly a sad thing.

Love your enemies (vs. 27-36)—God’s people are to be different, and this teaching certainly sets Christianity apart from the world. There are four exhortations here in rapid fire—love, do good, bless, and pray, all towards those who maltreat us (vs. 27-28). We are not to seek revenge (vs. 29-30), and the “golden rule” is stated in verse 31: “just as you want men to do to you, you also do to them likewise.” Not “do good to others so that they will be inclined to reciprocate and do good to you,” but treat others with the same mercy, compassion, and fairness that you desire. Our love simply must be superior to the world’s: “if you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them” (v. 32, and there are similar examples in verses 33 and 34 as Jesus drives this point home). Loving one’s enemies is being like God, “for He is kind to the unthankful and evil” (v. 35). Much of this is based on our own need for mercy: “Therefore be merciful, just as your Father also is merciful” (v. 36). We, who are in such need of the mercy of God, should not be arrogant or unmerciful towards others. A proper understanding of our need for grace will help us have a godly perspective on life and be merciful to those who haven’t yet come to the perception of their own sinfulness and hopeless condition before God.

Proper judgment (vs. 37-42)—Because of the “therefore” of verse 36, there appears to be a change of topic in these two verses, and in a sense there is, but certainly unmerciful judgment would not be in harmony with the love God expects to have towards mankind. Again, Jesus gives us a series of exhortation is rapid, concise form: judge not, condemn not, forgive, give (vs. 37-38). We are to be fair and just; Jesus never censures that. But that “fairness” must be tempered with mercy. James writes, “mercy triumphs over judgment” (James 2:13). God’s “justice” helps us to see our sin; His mercy is necessary because of our shortcomings. We cannot outgive God (v. 38), but “with the same measure that you use, it will be measured back to you.” The more generously we give, the more generously we will receive. Now the motive for our giving must not be selfish, i.e., just so I can get more in return. Purity in heart is one of the great qualities of Christianity (Matt. 5:8). But nonetheless, our giving and proper attitude will be rewarded, “good measure, pressed down, shaken together, and running over will be put into your bosom” (v. 38). Without the right spirit, we’ll only lead people astray (v. 39). Never become so spiritually arrogant that you think you know more than your Teacher, the One by whom we can “perfectly trained” (v. 40). Hypocritical judgment is condemned (vs. 41-42). We are to judge “righteous judgment” (John 7:24).

“Why do you call Me, Lord, Lord” (vs. 43-49)—People will know, by our actions, whether we are true disciples or not (vs. 43-45), and true discipleship comes from the heart (v. 45). We might be able to fool man, but we’ll never fool God, and eventually what is truly in our hearts and spirits will come forth. So we cannot call Jesus the “Lord” of our life is we aren’t willing to do the things He says (v. 46). The very idea of “lordship” means unconditional surrender and obedience to the will of that “lord.” It was so in medieval Europe, and it is true of our Lord Jesus Christ. True wisdom is to hear and do the words of Jesus (vs. 47-48). But “he who heard and did nothing” builds his life on a foundation that will some day crumble and fall (v. 49). A rich, rich sermon. I’d need to write a book to do it justice, but then, Jesus can say more in 100 words than I could in 10,000.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Luke 6, Part One

Plucking grain on the Sabbath (vs. 1-5)—I have a rather lengthy discussion of this event in my summary of Matthew 12:1-8. It’s so lengthy that I’m not going to reproduce it here. I will simply summarize by saying that I do not believe that Jesus is endorsing David breaking the law (which he did). The Lord is condemning the hypocrisy of the Pharisees, who did not censure David’s actions (which were wrong) but are denouncing Jesus’, which weren’t. You can check my comments in Matthew 12, Part One, if you are further interested in what I have to say on this.  (Follow this link to that article:  Matthew 12, Part One.  The Mt. 12 post will open in this window, not a new one, but simply hit the "back" button to return here.)

Healing on the Sabbath (vs. 6-11)—One of the major themes of Jesus’ life was His conflict with the religious leaders, especially the Pharisees, who added a plethora of traditions to the Law of Moses and then condemned people for not submitting to those human-created strictures. Jesus wasn’t going to do it (submit). In regards to this event, to the Pharisees, just about anything constituted “work,” and thus a violation of the Sabbath. So when Jesus healed on the Sabbath they considered Him a law breaker. The fact that He succeeded in this miraculous healing was indication that God approved of His actions; the Almighty would certainly not certify sin with a miracle. But Jesus’ popularity, as much as anything else, is what riled the religious elite, and after this demonstration of Christ’s power, “they were filled with rage, and discussed with one another what they might do to Jesus” (v. 11). The fact that a miracle had been performed was totally irrelevant to them. Evidence means nothing to some people, not when their self-aggrandizing interests are at stake.

The selecting of the 12 apostles (vs. 12-16)—This selection included Judas Iscariot (v. 16), who would betray Him. Jesus knew Judas would do this, of course, but it was the fulfillment of Old Testament prophesy, which was a further indication of Who He was. I find it extremely interesting that, before this monumental decision, Jesus ”continued all night in prayer to God” (v. 12). All night in prayer. How many of us have ever done that? The last time I can recall staying up all night was to fix my computer, and I was talking to techies, not God. But this was, as I said, a monumental decision—who were going to be the 12 men (11, actually) who would be His “witnesses” (Acts 1:8) to the first century world, and among whom, eight of the New Testament books would be written. Jesus needed men He could trust, and His selection was wise. But He didn’t do it until He had “continued all night in prayer to God.”

Healing a multitude (vs. 17-19)—These three verses actually introduce the rest of the chapter. He had been on a mountain when He had made His choice for apostles. He then “came down with them and stood on a level place” (v. 17). The sermon He is about to preach is often called “The Sermon on the Plain.” It has many similarities to the Sermon on the Mount, but it’s not the same occasion. Nearly every preacher has preached basically the same sermon in different locations; I have several lessons I’ve preached in many places. Jesus did the same. There was “a great multitude of people from all Judea and Jerusalem, and from the seacoast of Tyre and Sidon, who came to hear Him and be healed of their diseases” (v. 17). He took care of them, as well as casting out some demons. Once He had done that, He began his sermon, as recorded in verses 21-49, and will be discussed in part two of my summary of Luke 6.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Luke 5, Part Two

The calling of Matthew and the banquet at his home (vs. 27-32)—This story is also related in Matthew 9:9-12, and I’ll post my comments from there in just a moment. Luke refers to him as “Levi”; Matthew apparently liked calling himself “Matthew.” His name was obviously Matthew Levi. Some people had two names, others had one; usually, to distinguish individuals, they would be called “son of,” which would be “bar” or “bin.” “Simon bar Jonah” is the name Jesus used to refer to Peter in Matthew 16:17. Jesus would be known as “Jesus bin Joseph.” Or, as sometimes, the location of where they lived: “Jesus of Nazareth.” The problem with the latter is the “Jesus” was a pretty common name among the Hebrews; it could also be translated “Joshua.” So there was probably more than one “Jesus” in Nazareth. But He became so famous that people would know of whom they spoke when they referred to “Jesus.”

Anyway, back to the call of Matthew Levi. Here are my comments from Matthew 9:9-12: “Matthew was a tax collector, a despised profession to the Jews, who hated paying taxes to the Romans. Yet Jesus perceived something good in him, and called him to be an apostle. Matthew then made a great feast (Luke 5:23), and invited some of his friends—also tax collectors and “sinners,” to the Pharisees. Those self-righteous hypocrites couldn’t figure out why Jesus would eat with sinners. Jesus very logically responded that it is the sick who need healing—sinners are the ones who need salvation. He then quotes an Old Testament passage to them (Hosea 6:6): “I desire mercy and not sacrifice.” As I discussed in detail in the Sermon on the Mount, inward purity, not outward ceremonialism is what God looks for. Those who are inwardly pure will indeed be obedient in all matters, including the “ceremonies.” But “ceremonialists” are not always pure in heart, indeed, in their own eyes, they don’t need to be. That was the Pharisaic problem, front and center.”

Fasting and the new law (vs. 33-39)—This is also found in Matthew 9, verses 10-13. Luke’s account is essentially the same but I have little to add to what I wrote in Matthew 9, which goes like this: “’Why don’t your disciples fast?’ Jesus was asked. Fasting was a vital part of the old law, but not of the new, and Jesus is trying to teach that here. Don’t try to put a new piece of cloth (the New Testament) on an old garment (the Old Testament). The same with new wine and old wineskins. They won’t match. Christianity is something new, not an extension of Judaism.” That last statement is the one that will eventually cause the rejection of Christianity by the mass of Jews. If the apostles had been willing to allow the rituals of the Law of Moses as part of Christianity, more Jews would doubtless have accepted it. But there was a clear break, as indicated by Paul’s writings—and Jesus’ statement here.

Luke 5, Part One

The calling of the first four apostles (vs. 1-4)—Luke adds some information about the call of Peter, Andrew, James, and John that Matthew and Mark don’t have (in fact, Luke doesn’t mention Andrew at all). A multitude “pressed about Him to hear the word of God” (v. 1), and apparently pressed so closely, that He was forced out into one of the fishermen’s boats (v. 2). The boat was Simon Peter’s (v. 3), who had been cleaning his fishing nets (v. 2). After He taught the people, He instructed Simon to “launch out into the deep and let down your nets for a catch” (v. 4). Peter told that they had had no success all night in their fishing, but he would do as Jesus commanded (v. 5). A great haul resulted (vs. 6-7). Jesus was obviously working a miracle here to help substantiate His message to the crowd. It awed, and scared, Peter who, realizing he was standing in the presence of someone special, besought the Lord to “depart from me, for I am a sinful man” (v. 8). Whether Peter was simply overwhelmed by what had happened, or whether he truly recognized Jesus’ deity is debatable; probably the former. As I mentioned earlier, this event is in the second year of Christ’s ministry; John’s gospel indicates that the four fishermen had met Jesus the previous year, so this wasn’t the initial contact He had with them. We learn in verse 10 that James and John, the sons of Zebedee, were partners with Simon (and Andrew, although again, the latter is omitted here from Luke’s record). Jesus tells them, “do not be afraid. From now on you will catch men" (v. 10). And they make the decision: “they forsook all and followed Him” (v. 11). The word “forsook” in the Greek is an interesting one. It’s basic meaning is “to send off,” and is found 146 times in the New Testament. It is variously translated “leave,” “forgive,” “allow,” “let,” “forsake,” “let alone.” These first four apostles didn’t just “leave” their profession, they “sent it off.” A curious concept.

Jesus heals a leper (vs. 12-16)—Jesus then passed on to “a certain city” and was met by a man “who was full of leprosy” (v. 12). The man fell on his face and “implored Him, saying, ‘Lord, if You are willing, You can make me clean” (v. 13). He had it correct. The Lord can do whatever pleases Him (Psalm 115:3), and we should also “implore” Him in our requests. But then realize that sometimes, for His own reasons, He is not willing. Faith is necessary, and this leper demonstrates such. Jesus told him, “I am willing; be cleansed.” The healing was immediate, and Jesus then instructed the man to go to fulfill the Law of Moses’ diktats on the healing of leprosy. These are found in Leviticus 14. Whether the man did it or not we don’t know, but we do know that Jesus healed many more at this time (v. 15). But Luke also tells us that He took time from His busy schedule: “He Himself withdrew into the wilderness and prayed” (v. 16). If He could find time to pray, why can’t we?

The healing of the paralytic (vs. 17-26)—This is detailed in Matthew 9:1-9. Here are my comments at that location: “Jesus was teaching in a house in Capernaum when this event took place (Mark 2:1). There were so many people there that nobody else could get in. The friends of a certain paralytic, full of faith and determination, went up to the roof, removed the tiles, and lowered the sick man down to Jesus. The Lord, perceiving their faith, pronounces the man’s sins forgiven. That caused consternation among some of the scribes who thought Jesus was blaspheming—only God can forgive sins. Which is true. Which means Jesus is God. The Lord knew what these scribes were thinking, so, in order to prove that He had the authority to forgive sins, He healed the paralytic as well. In other words, He confirmed His word with the miracle. That was largely the purpose of the miracles—to authenticate who He was. Of course, forgiveness was by far the greater of the two blessings, and that’s why Jesus bestowed it upon the man first.” The usual reaction followed such an event: “And they were all amazed, and they glorified God and were filled with fear, saying, ‘We have seen strange things today!’" (Luke 9:26). Strange, indeed. Things never seen before or since.