Saturday, July 31, 2010

Luke 12, Part One

Fear Him! (vs. 1-7)--Jesus' denunciation of the Pharisees brought together "an innumerable multitude of people" (v. 1). His message, however, was "first of all" to His disciples. He warned them of the "leaven" (hypocrisy) of the Pharisees. Nothing can be hidden from God, and some day, it will be manifest to all (vs. 2-3). Yet, "My friends," don't fear men; all they can do is "kill the body, and after that have no more that they can do" (v. 4). The One to fear is He who can cast both body and soul in hell (v. 5). It is tempting in this world--and natural--to desire to protect our physical bodies from harm and pain. But Jesus' point is that such only lasts a short time. Hell is for eternity and our real nature, the spiritual one, will abide there forever if we deny Him to save our skin. Yet, God knows and sees. Sparrows are cheap (v. 6), but God doesn't forget them. Certainly He sees us for "you are of more value than many sparrows" (v. 7).

Don't deny Him (vs. 8-12)--And while, again, there was a whole multitude gathered at that time and His message is for all of His disciples, there was a special sense in which Jesus was talking to His apostles because, as His chief ambassadors, they would bear the brunt of men's hatred and opposition to the new religion. So He tells them (and, by extension, us), that if we will be faithful to Him before men, He will be faithful to us before "the angels of God"--the numberless host that will be around the throne on the Day of Judgment (vs. 8-9). Yet, denial of Him here will mean denial of us then. Jesus mentions in verse 10 the blasphemy of the Holy Spirit in a context of denying the Lord and His word. Since the Holy Spirit is the One who directly inspired God's message, to reject that message is to "blaspheme" Him Who gave it (see further comments on this subject in Matthew 12). The Spirit would give the apostles their message when they needed it (vs. 11-12); the apostles did have the freedom of choice to reject that message themselves and not preach it. That would constitute the "blasphemy" Jesus speaks of here. And also helps us understand His warning against denying Him before men.

It is extremely important to realize that this context is for the apostles only! We are not given such miraculous aid today; otherwise, we would be as inspired as they were. They did not have the completed, written word of God, thus the message had to be given them directly. However, we do have the completed revelation, thus extra-spiritual help is not needed. It would be nice, but that isn't the way it works. God wants to see how faithfully we will handle His word; He has entrusted it us to (I Thess. 2:4), and we better not be found wanting.

Beware of covetousness (vs. 13-21)--Some people never pay attention to the preacher, or are so absorbed in their own petty problems that what is truly important slides right past them unnoticed. Jesus had been delivering some important spiritual truths, but there is a man in the audience who can think of nothing but money. "Then one from the crowd said to Him, 'Teacher, tell my brother to divide the inheritance with me'" (v. 13). Jesus appeared to have been irked by the request: "'Man, who made Me a judge or an arbitrator over you?'" (v. 14). Jesus did not come to settle judicial disputes. He then warns against covetousness: "one's life does not consist in the abundance of the things he possesses" (v. 15). The spiritual, not the physical, is what's important, and Jesus them emphasizes that with a parable of a suddenly-rich man who made plans to enjoy his wealth for the rest of his life (vs. 16-19). "But God said to him, 'Fool! This night your soul will be required of you; then whose will those things be which you have provided?’” (v. 20). Be rich towards God; lay up treasures in heaven, for some day--maybe this day--our soul will appear before God.

Have faith in God (vs. 22-34)--Rather than trust in "uncertain riches" (I Tim. 6:17), place your faith in God. This is Jesus' next message. Don't worry about the things of this life (vs. 22-24). There are more important matters than food or clothing (v. 23). God feed the ravens, even though "they neither sow nor reap" (v. 24), and He clothes the lilies, yet "they neither toil nor spin" (v. 27). "If then God so clothes the grass, which today is in the field and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, how much more will He clothe you, O you of little faith?" (v. 28). God knows that our flesh worries about providing for itself; but that's part of faith. The same God Who provides grace for our souls provides food for our flesh, and He wants us to trust Him for both. We trust Him to provide for us the most important blessing and save us, do we not? Then, why do we not trust Him for the lesser? The world pursues earthly things (v. 30); God's people are to be better than that. If we live like the world, how are we any better than they? How is our religion of any value if we do not show confidence in God in all matters? Our job is to "seek the kingdom of God, and all these things shall be added to you" (v. 31). God wants to provide us His kingdom (v. 32), and that is far, far more valuable than this world. He will take care of what we need in this world so that we can concentrate on making proper preparations and application for the next one. If we are too distracted by the mundane, then it will interfere with our spiritual pursuits. God knows that, and thus counsels trust in material things, and priority to spiritual ones. Our heart will be where our treasure is (v. 34). Why would we be so foolish as to place confidence in that which we will someday lose?

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Luke 11, Part Two

Singularity of purpose (vs. 33-36)--Jesus had already taught the people that His followers were to be the light of the world (Matt. 5:14). Light is meant to be seen, not hidden; what good is a light that placed "in a secret place or under a basket"? (v. 33). The idea of "the lamp of the body is the eye" (v. 34) is to indicate the priority of purpose that Jesus is trying to teach in this section. Let your "eye" be good—fixed totally on spiritual things and obedience to God--for if it is bad—double-minded—"your body also is full of darkness" (v. 34). Such a life is neither of much use to the Lord nor of much aid to mankind. But it isn't easy to do, either, because of the pull of the world. We must strive to resist the temptation to follow the multitude to do evil (Ex. 23:2).

The hypocrisy of the religious leaders (vs. 37-54)--Jesus accepts an invitation to dine with a Pharisee. Washing before eating was a religious requirement for the strict Pharisees, and this man marveled when Jesus didn't do it. Jesus uses the occasion to level a stern blast at Phariseeism. Some of this discourse is found also in Matthew 23; there is no reason to suppose that Jesus wouldn't have spoken these words on more than one occasion. The chief accusation was hypocrisy. The Pharisees "make the outside of the cup and dish clean, but your inward part is full of greed and wickedness" (v. 39). As Jesus taught so many times, outward manifestations of righteousness are simply not enough; we must be inwardly pure as well. "Blessed are the pure in heart" (Matt. 5:8). A person who is truly "pure in heart," pure inwardly, cannot help but be pure outwardly. But an individual can be "righteous" outwardly but impure inwardly. The Pharisees, and too many like them, made no effort to keep their hearts and minds free from wickedness. But they wanted the praise of men. Jesus' harshest words are for such an attitude. "Did not He who made the outside make the inside also?" (v. 40). A great question. The same God who commands outward conformity to the law expects inward compliance as well. Your inward purity will be demonstrated by outward actions (v. 41). Then Jesus rattles off a series of "woes" that expose the Pharisees for what they truly were. They tithed down to the simplest things they owned, but "pass by the justice and love of God" (v. 42). Tithing is fine, indeed, required, Jesus says; but so is justice and love. These fake religious leaders loved to be acknowledged for their positions of power (v. 43), and do everything they can to cover their sins where men will not see them (v. 44). A lawyer--one skilled and versed in the Law of Moses--was in the audience and felt the sting of Jesus' words: "Teacher, by saying these things You reproach us also" (v. 45). Jesus didn't deny it, indeed, unloads on them as well. The lawyers are the one who placed all these extra burdens on people, but made no attempt themselves to adhere to them (v. 46). Their attitude was no different from that of their forefathers who killed the prophets (vs. 46-51); the same kind of people. They had learned nothing of the will of God through all the generations and centuries. "Yes, I say to you, it shall be required of this generation" (v. 51), probably a veiled reference to the destruction of Jerusalem about 40 years hence. The lawyers had "taken away the key of knowledge" (v. 52), had so obfuscated the Law of Moses that not only they could not enter the kingdom, but hinder those who wanted to. We've seen before how flawed the apostles' understanding of Jesus' mission was. That inaccuracy could be laid at the feet of those who taught them--the lawyers. Not surprisingly, Jesus' words set the Pharisees on a rampage, and they "began to assail Him vehemently, and to cross examine Him about many things, lying in wait for Him, and seeking to catch Him in something He might say, that they might accuse Him” (vs. 53-54). Jesus knew there was no hope of ever converting these people. Thus, He exposed them for others to see, hopefully to destroy their influence. Over the long run, it didn't really work, as very few Jews, on the whole, would obey the gospel and follow Jesus.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Luke 11, Part One

"Lord, teach us to pray" (vs. 1-13)--Prayer is such a vital part of a Christian's life, and I wonder how many of us are as dedicated and consistent with it as we should be. The Lord certainly took time out from His extremely busy schedule to converse with His Father. The disciples, feeling the inadequacy of their own prayer life, asked for instruction on the matter. Jesus repeats to them basically what is called the "Lord's Prayer"--a human term, not a Biblical one--which is first found in Matthew 6. It's simply a model prayer, outlining basic principles that should characterize our prayers: Praise to God, a desire for His will to be done, a request for the provisions of life (acknowledging our physical dependence upon Him), and a request for spiritual blessings (in realization of our need for the greatest of all blessings). Then, beginning in verse 5, Jesus tries to encourage His disciples to be more diligent in their prayer lives by telling them that God does, indeed, hear our prayers and answer them. But, be persistent: "I say to you, though he will not rise and give to him because he is his friend, yet because of his persistence he will rise and give him as many as he needs" (v. 8). Jesus is not telling us to badger God, He is simply teaching that we may not receive the answer we desire immediately; our heavenly Father knows our needs (Matt. 6:32). We should always pray that God's will be done in our lives, and live by His direction. He will only give us good things, so if the answer to our prayer is negative, that would be because our request is not in our best interest. We must have the faith and dependence to accept that. Yet if we have a certain desire, ask, for we do not know if, when, or how He will answer. Verse 13, "If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him," is a fortiori--if He will give us such a great blessing as the Holy Spirit, then He certainly can provide us with the simpler blessings we desire and ask for.

The divided house (vs. 14-23)--This section is largely a repetition of Matthew 12:22-30, and I reproduce here my thoughts from that section:

"The setting for this contest was Jesus healing a demon-possessed man (v. 22). Some in the attending multitudes asked “Could this be the Son of David?” (v. 23), in other words, the Messiah. The Pharisees couldn’t handle that, so they claimed that Jesus was casting out demons by the power of “Beelzebub, the ruler of the demons” (v. 23). Jesus told them that that wasn’t terribly intelligent or logical, because “every kingdom divided against itself is brought to desolation…If Satan casts out Satan, he is divided against himself” (vs. 25-26). Thus, Jesus is casting out demons by the power of the Holy Spirit, which indicates that “surely the kingdom of God has come upon you” (v. 28). You are either with Me or against Me, Jesus said, and from His language to the Pharisees, it’s pretty obvious He didn’t think they were with Him: “Brood of vipers! How can you, being evil, speak good things? For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks” (v. 34). A good heart brings forth good things and an evil heart brings forth evil things (v. 35). This section ends with a very frightening warning: “But I say to you that for every idle word men may speak, they will give account of it in the day of judgment. For by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned." Of course, in the context, Jesus is talking about the Pharisees and their blasphemy, but the principle is certainly valid and established elsewhere in the New Testament (cf. James 3)."

As frequently happens, Luke's account is briefer than Matthew's; Luke covers more events in Jesus' life, but usually not with the length of the other synoptic gospels (Matthew and Mark). Luke says nothing here regarding Jesus words on the idle tongue, and Matthew then has Jesus speaking of the blasphemy of the Holy Spirit, a teaching Luke omits entirely, at least in this context.

The unswept house (vs. 24-26)--Again, Matthew covers this, in almost the same words (Mt. 12:43-45). My comments:

"These verses are interesting. An unclean spirit gets cast out of a man and wanders, trying to find another home. He can’t locate one, so he returns from whence he came, hoping to reclaim his earlier abode. Sure enough, the original home is available—“empty, swept, and put in order” (v. 44). So the unclean spirit goes and gets seven buddies and they enter and dwell in the empty home. Moral? When you are cleansed of sin, replace it, fill your life, with righteousness and godliness. No unclean spirit can dwell in a heart filled with God’s spirit. But leave your life empty, don’t replace what was ejected, and sin will return with a vengeance and you’ll be worse off than before."

Luke adds--or subtracts--nothing substantial from Matthew's account.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Luke 10, Part Two

The Good Samaritan (vs. 25-37)--One of the more famous stories in the Bible, and with good reason. A "certain lawyer" asked Jesus the most important question in the world: "Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?" (v. 25). The knowledge of how to get to heaven is more valuable than all the material wealth in the world, for "what shall it profit a man if he gains the whole world and loses his own soul?" (Matt. 16:26).  Jesus directs the man correctly: "'What is written in the law? What is your reading of it?'" (vs. 26). "What does the Bible say?" That is the only location we will find the answer to the question. The lawyer lived under the Law of Moses, but the answer is actually the same today, viz., to love God with all our being and our neighbor as ourselves (v. 27). When the lawyer provided that answer, Jesus responded, "'You have answered rightly; do this and you will live" (v. 28). The Judge of all the earth has just told us how to get to heaven! Are we listening?

Yet, too many of us are like the lawyer, "wanting to justify" ourselves (v. 29). We want to feel good about our religion; we want the preacher to tell us things we want to hear--not what we need to hear--to make us feel good and to let us think that we are right in God's sight. And, no doubt, that is what the lawyer wants confirmed.  But Jesus will only tell people the truth; He plays no favorites, He waters down nothing. His aim was not to make people "feel good" about themselves, but to get them to heaven--whatever it took.

So He relates the story of the Good Samaritan, which I will not bother with the details here, except to make a couple of points. The so-called "religious" people in the story, the priest and Levite, did nothing to help the poor unfortunate who had fallen among thieves. It was a despised (to the Jews) Samaritan who showed brotherly love. When Jesus asked the lawyer, "So which of these three do you think was neighbor to him who fell among the thieves?" (v. 36), the man couldn't find it within himself to say "the Samaritan;" he could only respond, "He who showed mercy on him" (v. 37). Jesus' response was "Go and do likewise" (v. 37).

There are many great lessons in this story, too many to recount in this short summary. But I must make mention of the crucial point. What was it that different about the Samaritan from the priest and Levite? Why did he act and they did not? The Samaritan was a man of principle, who did not need a specific command in order to actuate his religion. One writer has well penned, "A man cannot be a thief or a liar without crossing a well-marked boundary between right and wrong, but he may be a selfish churl without knowing it, because it regard to benevolence, the law is left indefinite, being, indeed, like an algebraic formula, expressed in terms so general that they need to be translated by the occasion into definite particulars. Where the law is so broad as to be applicable to all circumstances, there is always a danger that some will feel no obligation to obey it in any circumstances, and only the heart which has imbibed the principle or spirit of the law will feel its force continually" (emphasis mine, MKL). If there had been a specific command to stop and help a poor unfortunate along the road, then no doubt the priest and Levite would have helped him. But the law didn't say that; it said, "love thy neighbor as thyself." A person must let that sink in, become a part of his very being, be actuated by principle and not just overt commands. Therein lies the difference between the true Christian and the counterfeit.

Too many Christians aren't doing very much for the Lord for the simple reason that they are like the priest and Levite--they are waiting for a direct command in order to do something for the Lord. But when we imbibe the spirit of the law, and not just the letter, then we'll find plenty of work to do in the kingdom of God.

Mary and Martha (vs. 38-42)--Another marvelous story with countless lessons. Jesus came to a certain village and was invited into the house of sisters named Mary and Martha. Jesus began to teach; Mary sat and listened to Him, while Martha "was distracted with much serving" (v. 40). She complained about it to Jesus, urging Him to tell Mary to help her. Jesus so gently rebukes her: "'Martha, Martha, you are worried and troubled about many things. But one thing is needed, and Mary has chosen that good part, which will not be taken away from her'" (vs. 41-42). What Martha was doing was absolutely, positively not wrong, indeed, it was a very good thing. It just wasn't the most important thing at the moment! There is nothing more valuable than the words of Jesus; Mary understood that while Martha needed to learn it. Oh, how often do we let the good interfere with the best!

Monday, July 12, 2010

Luke 10, Part One

The 70 sent out (vs. 1-20)--This is sometimes called the "Limited Commission." At one point, Jesus sent only His 12 apostles on a restricted mission (Matt. 10), but this time, He dispatches 70. Luke is the only one who records this. Some of Jesus' instructions are the same in both cases. Pray for more laborers (v. 2); how they are needed! The world is vicious to the humble people of God (v. 3), but trust the Lord and He will provide (vs. 4-7). That's a pretty good commentary on the entire book of Revelation. We simply must not think that we can please the world and God, too. The Lord's statement in verse 4, "greet no one along the road," is interesting. He isn't counseling rudeness here, He simply doesn't want His workers getting distracted by others. Those who reject the message that the "kingdom of God has come near you" will suffer sorer punishment on the Day of Judgment than Sodom (v. 12).

And, indeed, some had already rejected the word. Chorazin, Bethsaida, and Capernaum come in for special condemnation by Jesus: "if the mighty works which were done in you had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago, sitting in sackcloth and ashes" (v. 13). Tyre and Sidon were legendary for wickedness, so this is truly a damning indictment. Capernaum "will be brought down to hell" (v. 15, KJV; NKJV and ASV have "Hades," which is the transliteration of the Greek word used here). Rejecting a messenger of Jesus is the same as rejecting Him, which is the same as rejecting the One Who sent Him (v. 16).

After some time (we don't know how long), "the seventy returned with joy, saying, 'Lord, even the demons are subject to us in Your name'" (v. 17). This represented a partial defeat of Satan--the beginning of the end for him (v. 18)--and the Lord further encouraged His disciples by giving them even greater power. But that wasn't the most important thing: "Nevertheless do not rejoice in this, that the spirits are subject to you, but rather rejoice because your names are written in heaven" (v. 20). Men can be easily distracted by small victories and glamorous things. Jesus helps us keep our priorities straight. The only truly significant thing is that our names are written in heaven. Everything fades into inconsequentiality when compared to that.

"Blessed are the eyes" (vs. 21-24)--Jesus has made this point before that God has "hidden these things from the wise and prudent and revealed them to babes" (v. 21). Jehovah doesn't literally close the eyes of the "wise and prudent," He has simply made the gospel so simple, so endearing, yet so challenging, that the "elite," the "intellectual," the "esteemed" refuse to acknowledge its truth and submit to it. It is only they with the humble trust of a child who will enter God's kingdom (Matthew 18:1-4). God looks at the heart, not the brain. The disciples of Jesus were indeed blessed. Men, for thousands of years, had waited for the coming of the Messiah. "Many prophets and kings have desired to see what you see, and have not seen it, and to hear what you hear, and have not heard it" (v. 24). How many great men of the past had spoken of the days of Christ? Well, nearly all of the prophets whose books we have, several writers before them (Moses, David, Samuel, even Job), and many, many other men of God who taught and encouraged their people to faithfulness, based upon the fact that one day, Jehovah would send a Savior to redeem them from sin. He had finally arrived. Yes, indeed, "Blessed are the eyes which see the things you see" (v. 23).

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Luke 9, Part Three

With Him or against Him (vs. 49-50)—Mark 9:38-41 covers this in a little more detail. Here’s what I wrote there:

“’The disciples said to Jesus, “’Teacher, we saw someone who does not follow us casting out demons in Your name, and we forbade him because he does not follow us’"’ (v. 38). We have no idea who this fellow was, but he could scarcely have been working miracles in Jesus’ name without the Lord’s authority. He was probably a disciple of John the Baptist or one of the 70 Jesus sent out on the “limited commission” (Luke 10). Jesus told His apostles not to forbid the man, for “he who is not against us is on our side” (v. 40). He again makes the point about humble service: “For whoever gives you a cup of water to drink in My name, because you belong to Christ, assuredly, I say to you, he will by no means lose his reward” (v. 41). It might be a small thing to us, but the Lord sees it.”

The only addition I wish to make to this is to correct a serious error on my part. In my post in Mark 9, the end of the second sentence reads “….with the Lord’s authority.” I have corrected the “with” to “without,” which is what it should be, and have also made the amendment in the Mark 9 post. No man can work miracles unless God be with him, and I apologize for that slip. Hard to catch all my boo-boos.  If the reader sees one (or what he/she thinks is one), I would appreciate you letting me know.

Rejected by a Samaritan village (vs. 51-56)—Jesus is on His way to Jerusalem (for the final time) and passes through a Samaritan village which “did not receive Him” (v. 53) because of His Jewish heritage and inclinations. James and John were affronted by this rebuff and asked Jesus, “Lord, do You want us to command fire to come down from heaven and consume them, just as Elijah did?" (v. 54), perhaps showing off a little of their knowledge of Hebrew history. Jesus corrects them: “The Son of Man did not come to destroy men’s lives, but to save them” (v. 56). There are four distinct attitudes present in this story. One, Jesus’ determination to do God’s work, to finish what He came to do: “He steadfastly set His face to go to Jerusalem” (v. 51). Nothing was going to keep Him from doing God’s will. Two, the prejudice of the Samaritans: “they did not receive Him, because His face was set for the journey to Jerusalem” (v. 53). Jews and Samaritans, of course, did not get along. The latter were considered half-breed riff-raff by the Jews, and thus of inferior blood. The Samaritans reacted to this attitude as most men would. Three, the temper of James and John, in effect, “Lord, let’s wipe these people out.” Their first thought was revenge, not salvation. But, four, Jesus’ compassion spared the village. The very reason He was going to Jerusalem was to save men. Who knows? Perhaps, in time, some of these Samaritans heard and obeyed the gospel. Not too surprisingly, in these four attitudes, the two shown by men were bad, the two demonstrated by Jesus were good.

Conditions for discipleship (vs. 57-62)—We’ve seen in this chapter that Luke has a number of short, pithy anecdotes, some of which were covered in much more detail in other gospels. Matthew 8 includes some of the information of this section, and with an addition or two that is noteworthy. In verses 57-58, a scribe (Matthew informs us) tells Jesus that he will follow the Lord everywhere. Jesus, in effect, tells him to count the cost and be prepared to leave all. In the second example, Matthew says this fellow is a disciple. “Lord, let me first go and bury my father” (v. 59). The implication here is that the man’s parent was near death, not gone. Jesus tells him, “Let the dead bury their own dead, but you go and preach the kingdom of God’" (v. 60). Jesus is not being cruel. He hears an excuse for not putting God first, and there’s nothing more important than that. But notice, He speaks those words to a disciple. Some of His followers still had a long way to go to enter the kingdom of God. The third example (vs. 61-62) has some similarities to the previous one. “Another also said, ‘Lord, I will follow You, but let me first go and bid them farewell who are at my house’" (v. 61). Notice how each of the last two men said “first” let me go do such and such. Something was coming between them and allegiance to Christ. But He must come first. To this second man, Jesus responded, “’No one, having put his hand to the plow, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God’" (v. 62). So in these three examples, Jesus teaches us, regarding the kingdom of God, be prepared to leave all. Do it now. And don’t look back.

Luke 9, Part Two

The transfiguration (vs. 28-36)—Both Matthew and Mark cover this, and here are my remarks from Matthew 17:1-9:

“Jesus took Peter, James, and John to a high mountain for an event we call the “transfiguration.” “He was transfigured before them. His face shone like the sun, and His clothes became as white as the light” (v. 2). Moses, the great lawgiver, and Elijah, the great prophet, appeared and talked to Him. Peter spoke up, suggesting that three tabernacles be built, one each for Jesus, Moses, and Elijah. But in Mark’s account of this event, we learn that Peter didn’t really know what he was saying because the three apostles “were greatly afraid” (Mark 9:6). Apparently the point of the transfiguration is found in verse 5: “While he was still speaking, behold, a bright cloud overshadowed them; and suddenly a voice came out of the cloud, saying, ‘This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased. Hear Him!’" The authority of Jesus, above that of Moses and Elijah is established—hear Christ, not Moses.”

Luke adds nothing of real substance to that, except that the apostles were asleep (or almost so) while Jesus was praying (v. 32). He, of course, knew what was truly important.

Jesus heals a demon-possessed boy (vs. 37-42)—Again, Matthew covers this and has some material that Luke doesn’t, and thus my thoughts are again worth reproducing (from Matthew 17:14-21):

“His disciples had been unable to cure this demon-possessed boy, and Jesus is a bit frustrated at them: “’O faithless and perverse generation, how long shall I be with you? How long shall I bear with you?’” (v. 17). Jesus casts the demon out and the disciples asked Him why they had failed. They didn’t have enough faith, Christ told them, then tried to encourage them by saying, “’for assuredly, I say to you, if you have faith as a mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, “Move from here to there,” and it will move; and nothing will be impossible for you’” (v. 20). Jesus obviously is speaking in hyperbole here, but His words are designed to let us know the power of faith. He also comforted the apostles by indicating that the demon He cast out was apparently an especially tough one: “this kind does not go out except by prayer and fasting” (v. 21). We have no real clue, practically, of what that means because the age of literal demon possession is over.”

Predicting His betrayal and death (vs. 43-45)—After this miracle, people “were all amazed at the majesty of God” (v. 43). Yet, Jesus deflates this attitude in speaking to His disciples: “’Let these words sink down into your ears, for the Son of Man is about to be betrayed into the hands of men’" (v. 44). Verse 45 indicates the total lack of understanding of His apostles; how could someone who had done the things Jesus had done fall into the hands of men? They did not understand His mission, of course, and will not until after His resurrection and ascension to heaven.

Who is the greatest? (vs. 46-48)—The apostles could be extremely petty, but they were probably all young men, early to mid-twenties, and, as noted above, had virtually no comprehension of Jesus’ work. So they argued over which of them would be the greatest. Jesus’ answer no doubt astonished them: “Whoever receives this little child in My name receives Me; and whoever receives Me receives Him who sent Me. For he who is least among you all will be great" (v. 48). The humble, trusting servant is the truly great one in the kingdom of God.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Luke 9, Part One

The apostles sent out to preach (vs. 1-6)—Over the next several chapters, we have some of the most poignant, decisive, and thought-provoking material on Christian living anywhere in the New Testament.  It crops up from time-to-time, but we will learn, clearly, that the Lord demands total obedience, right now, and brooks absolutely no interference with complete, utter commitment to Him.  Chapters 9 through 14 of Luke present some of the most powerful, determinative teaching anywhere in the Bible.  I shall make note of it as we proceed.

But we start innocuously enough.  The Lord sends out His twelve apostles to “preach the kingdom of God and to heal the sick” (v. 2).  Yet even here, there is a jaded reference to trusting Him implicitly:  “Take nothing for the journey, neither staffs nor bag nor bread nor money; and do not have two tunics apiece” (v. 3).  He would take care of them (and us).  Do we have that kind of faith?

Herod desires to see Jesus (vs. 7-9)—This is Herod Antipas, the son of Herod the Great, who was “king” when Jesus was born.  When this latter Herod died, his territory was divided among his sons.  Herod Antipas became “tetrarch” of Galilee and Perea.  Technically, a tetrarch was to rule over only a quarter of a territory, but in effect, governed all.  This is the Herod who killed John the Baptist.  He had some idle curiosity about Jesus.  By the time of the events recorded here, he had already killed John (v. 7).  He’s hearing rumors about Jesus and wants to see Him (v. 9).  He’ll get his chance, but not until Christ’s trial, when Jesus will appear before him (Luke 23:7).

Feeding the 5,000 (vs. 10-17)—This has already been covered in my comments on Matthew 14:13-12.  They read as follows:

“When Jesus heard about the death of John, He departed to a deserted place, but the multitudes followed Him. “He was moved with compassion for them, and healed their sick,” (v. 14). But when evening came, His disciples came to Him and suggested that He had best send the people away to find something to eat (v. 15). Jesus responded that such wasn’t necessary, that the disciples could feed them (v. 16). “And they said to Him, ‘We have here only five loaves and two fish’" (v. 17), which Jesus then used to feed the throng. When all the food had been divided up, there was 12 baskets full of leftovers (v. 20). The number fed was “about five thousand, besides women and children” (v. 21). So Jesus fed probably at least 10,000 people miraculously. A notable miracle indeed.”

Apparently, Jesus was trying to get a little respite from the multitudes at the time (v. 10), but when they came, He turned them away.  He never turns people away when they come truly searching for His aid.

Peter’s confession and the cost of commitment (vs. 18-27)—Matthew goes into much more detail, in chapter 16 of his gospel, regarding this grand confession of Peter’s, including discussing the church and Peter’s role in founding it (click this link to go there:  Matthew 16:13-20, Peter's Confession).  I won’t relate that material here, but I want to proceed on to the rest of the discussion.  This belief that Jesus Christ is the Son of God costs something—or it will, if we truly believe it and intend to live by it.  Jesus is the “Son of God,” which is simply a Hebraism to state that He is God.  Thus, since He is God, He has the right to demand total submission to Himself; can you imagine a human with the gall to insist that people deny themselves, and follow Him, regardless of the cost (v. 23)?  Eternal salvation is dependent solely upon our response to Him, and if we love our lives on this earth more than Him, we will be lost eternally (v. 24).  And how vain that will be in eternity:  “For what profit is it to a man if he gains the whole world, and is himself destroyed or lost?” (v. 25).  If we are ashamed of Him in this life, He will be ashamed of us on the Day of Judgment (v. 26); that doesn’t bode well for our eternal destinies.  Again, Jesus only has the right to make these claims if He was, indeed, God incarnate.  Total, complete submission to Him.  Nothing else is acceptable.  He will tighten those screws repeatedly over the next several chapters of Luke.

Yet, this section ends with an encouraging words to His disciples, who were the initial receivers of this unyielding message.  Some of them would be alive to see the coming of the kingdom—the church.  I go into great detail on this thought in my discussion of Mark 9:1.  Click on the following link if you are interested in reading further about this (Mark 9:1).