Archive for the ‘Luke’ Category

When? Wait!

Posted: December 10, 2017 in Luke, Uncategorized

Luke 21:5-19, “When? Wait!”

Failed predictions about the timing of the rapture and Jesus’ return are common, and increasingly so. What used to be spaced apart by a few years now seems to only take a few months before some new self-proclaimed prophecy-expert gives a series of dates detailing the end of the world. There is little question that we are in the end-times, so perhaps it’s to be expected that speculation will increase at the same rate as other false teaching in the church. (And though it may be with good intentions, it is false teaching.)

The sad part about all of these failed predictions is that it’s all unnecessary. Jesus told us exactly what to expect with His return, and He also specifically told His disciples that it would take time. All of the things we tend to look to for confirmation of the popular prophecies are the very things that Jesus said would always exist, and these things end up being distractions and disappointments.

Jesus didn’t give prophecies about His return for our disappointment; He gave it so that His church would have hope. He gave it so that His church would have confidence. We don’t need to worry about the end of all things; we simply need to trust our God. He has it under control.

Question: Why study about the 2nd coming of Christ in December? Shouldn’t we be talking about Christmas? (1) This is where we are in our verse-by-verse study of the gospel of Luke, and all of God’s word is relevant at all times. (2) The fact that we can talk about a 2nd coming means that there was a 1st – and that’s what we celebrate at Christmastime. Whenever we think of the Babe in the manger, we cannot help but think of His entire ministry: His death on the cross, His resurrection from the grave, and His reign as the King of kings & Lord of lords. The song “Joy to the World,” one of the most beloved Christmas carols, actually speaks more of Jesus’ 2nd Coming than His 1st. Listen again to the 3rd and 4th stanzas:

No more let sins and sorrows grow / Nor thorns infest the ground / He comes to make His blessings flow / Far as the curse is found…

He rules the world with truth and grace / And makes the nations prove / The glories of His righteousness / And wonders of His love…

Those are expectations of the Millennial Kingdom, when King Jesus lives and rules upon Planet Earth. As Psalm 98 says of that day: Psalm 98:7–9, “(7) Let the sea roar, and all its fullness, The world and those who dwell in it; (8) Let the rivers clap their hands; Let the hills be joyful together before the LORD, (9) For He is coming to judge the earth. With righteousness He shall judge the world, And the peoples with equity.” In the Bethlehem manger, the King of all the world was first seen by the shepherds – but there is soon coming a day in which He will be seen by all the earth. That is a day worth celebrating & studying.

And that is a day of which Jesus taught in great detail – much of which is contained in what is often called the “Olivet Discourse,” which Luke condenses to most of Chapter 21. It is similar, though not identical, to the versions of the Olivet Discourse found in Matthew & Mark (as we’ll see), but the overall point is the same: Jesus is returning, and while His people are to be ready, they are not to worry. God has all things under His control.

It will take us several weeks to worth through the passage. We begin with a prophecy and a follow-up question from the disciples that leads to a lengthy, yet simple answer from Jesus. As to the question “when” all of the future things take place, Jesus says “wait.” Patience is a virtue – not only in life, but as we await the return of our Lord & King.

Luke 21:5–19

  • Prophecy: Destruction (5-6)

5 Then, as some spoke of the temple, how it was adorned with beautiful stones and donations, He said, 6 “These things which you see—the days will come in which not one stone shall be left upon another that shall not be thrown down.”

  1. If it seems like vs. 5 picks up in the middle of a narrative, that’s because it does. We need to remember our overall context. This is the last week in the earthly ministry of Jesus, just a few days before His death on the cross & Sunday morning resurrection. Jesus had entered Jerusalem with much celebration from His disciples, but much criticism from the religious leaders. He easily defended Himself from all their attacks and exposed the Pharisees, Sadducees, priests, and scribes as religious hypocrites, not really knowing the Scriptures. Though the people needed to obey the authorities placed over them, they weren’t to follow their example, because these leaders would face the judgment of God. A far better example of a Godly heart was seen in a poor widow at the temple. When she worshipped the Lord, she gave (literally!) everything she had: her last two copper coins. She gave God her whole life & livelihood. She may not have been esteemed by men, but she was certainly noticed by God.
  2. All of this had taken place within the temple complex, and while they were there, it seems the disciples got to looking around and seeing the sights. This isn’t a bad thing at all, as it’s totally natural to appreciate beautiful craftsmanship – especially that which was meant to give glory to God, as it was found in the Jerusalem temple. Though it was known as “Herod’s” temple, it was really the continuation of the temple that was finally completed after the Jewish return from Babylonian captivity (back in the days of Zerubbabel, Ezra, and Nehemiah). What had started out as minor and insignificant (even causing some of the original witnesses of its foundation to weep in grief – Ezra 3:12) had become magnificent. It was truly a glory to behold. The Jewish historian Josephus describes it: “Now the outward face of the temple in its front wanted nothing that was likely to surprise either men’s minds or their eyes, for it was covered all over with plates of gold of great weight, and, at the first rising of the sun, reflected back a very fiery splendor, and made those who forced themselves to look upon it to turn their eyes away, just as they would have done at the sun’s own rays. But this temple appeared to strangers, when they were at a distance, like a mountain covered with snow; for, as to those parts of it that were not gilt, they were exceeding white.” (Wars of the Jews, Book 5, Chapter 5.) The stones were massive, impressive not only in size but in appearance. It would have caused any observer to stop and stare a bit.
  3. As all of the temple decorations and stones were being admired, it gave Jesus the opportunity to give a sobering prophecy: one day, it would all be “thrown down.” This temple which had taken so many years to build to completion, which was so beautiful and wondrous – all of it would be utterly destroyed. The marble pillars – the gold and silver gates – the very stones of the temple itself (each of which were massive) would be demolished, thrown into a state of ruins. And it was! When the Roman general Titus commenced his final invasion of Jerusalem, he apparently had not intended to destroy the temple, but a Roman soldier started a blaze that soon engulfed everything. In order to salvage the vast amounts of gold, the stones were overturned and scavenged…leaving Jesus’ prophecy fulfilled to the letter. Proof of the prophecy’s fulfillment can be seen to this day. 
  4. All of that leads to a natural question…
  • Question: When? (7)

7 So they asked Him, saying, “Teacher, but when will these things be? And what sign will there be when these things are about to take place?”

  1. The disciples ask the obvious: “When”? Keep in mind this wasn’t merely academic for them – the prophecy given by Jesus would have been truly disturbing. The temple was the center of Jewish life. It was their national place of worship – the location where they celebrated the presence of God among them – where sacrifices were offered and sin was atoned. This was the place the people longed for while in Babylon, and was important to rebuild upon their return. In a sense, the temple stood as a symbol for the nation as a whole. If the Jewish temple was to be destroyed, what would come of the Jews? This was unthinkable to them. For Americans, it might be as if we were admiring all of the buildings of Washington DC, only to be told it would all be reduced to ash and rubble. Such a thought would be beyond comprehension.
  2. Yet it was true. If it was spoken from the lips of the Lord Jesus, there could be no doubt that it was 100% accurate. Though it grieved the disciples to hear, they needed to know more. That’s when they asked their follow-up question to Jesus. Technically, they asked two follow-up questions: (1) When would it take place? (2) What sign could they watch for in order to know when it was about to happen? Jesus answers each question in turn.
  3. Notice what question is not included by Luke, but that was also asked by the disciples: Matthew 24:3, “Now as He sat on the Mount of Olives, the disciples came to Him privately, saying, “Tell us, when will these things be? And what will be the sign of Your coming, and of the end of the age?”” Although some of these things will be addressed by Luke, this is the first clue to the reader that his emphasis is going to be different than that of Matthew. Whereas Matthew truly hones in on the end-times (specifically regarding the Great Tribulation), Luke focuses on the destruction of the temple & the city of Jerusalem. These aren’t contradictions between Matthew & Luke – it’s just an indication of different writers with different emphases. Jesus taught it all; each writer only recorded some. (Which ought to make us grateful for the whole of the Biblical record!)
  4. So the question has been asked, and thankfully Jesus doesn’t leave His disciples hanging. He provides them the answer…
  • Answer: Wait (8-19)

8 And He said: “Take heed that you not be deceived. For many will come in My name, saying, ‘I am He,’ and, ‘The time has drawn near.’ Therefore do not go after them.

  1. Right off the bat, we see this isn’t going to be the answer the disciples were looking for. They were looking for dates, and Jesus doesn’t give any. Instead, He starts talking about the danger of deception. In fact, deception will be so prevalent regarding these things (the destruction of Jerusalem & Jesus’ 2nd Coming) that Jesus actually begins with a command: Don’t be deceived – don’t go after the false teachers. Don’t be led astray – don’t go wandering away from the teachings that Jesus has given. More than that, don’t go wandering away from Jesus Himself! There will not only be false teachings about the end, but there will be false teachers about Christ. There will be imposters claiming to beMany will come in My name, saying ‘I am He.’” Be warned! Be wary!
  2. There have always been false messiahs, and no doubt there will always be false messiahs until the True Messiah returns in His 2nd False messiahs had already been common in Judea prior to Jesus. The rabbi Gamaliel reasoned with the Sanhedrin regarding how to treat the apostles of Jesus in light of the false messiahs of Theudas and Judas of Galilee (Acts 5:36-37). This only continued through the years and centuries. Menahem ben Judah was a leader of the Zealots leading up to the Roman-Jewish war, who claimed to be the messiah, only to be soon assassinated. He was followed by Bar Kokba and many others.
  3. False messiahs are not unique to the Jews. All kinds of people have claimed to be the messiah, if not the 2nd coming of Jesus Himself. Sun Myung Moon (the Moonies) has claimed the title, though he died in 2012. Jose Luis de Jesus Miranda was a cult leader in Miami who claimed be both Jesus and the Antichrist…he died in 2013. David Koresh was another, who famously died in Waco, TX in 1993. 
  4. How are Jesus’ followers to respond to these imposters? “Do not go after them.” It would seem obvious, would it not? Yet the warning is necessary. All kinds of people get caught up in these cults. They want to see Jesus’ return (rightfully so), but they let themselves be led astray in the process. How so? They wander from the safety of the Scripture. Like a guardrail on the side of the highway, or a fence on the edge of a cliff, the Bible is a God-given gift to keep us from dangerous doctrine. Yet when the Bible is discarded or ignored simply because a guy is a charismatic speaker or seemingly has a winning personality, that’s when people get into trouble. That’s when people open themselves to deception.
    1. Don’t be deceived! Stay in the Scriptures! When you keep your eyes in the Bible, you’ll keep your eyes on Jesus. He Himself will guard you from being led astray…but you have to be willing to follow Him.
  5. BTW – what these false teachers typically say about themselves is telling: “Many will come in My name, saying ‘I am (He).’” Technically, the “He” is assumed. The words that Luke records Jesus using is Ἐγώ εἰμι, “I am.” This is the same terminology John uses over and over again throughout his gospel, referring the claims of Jesus to be God. To be sure, Luke doesn’t use the term in the same way as John, but it’s an interesting word choice, nonetheless. Jesus basically warns His disciples that people will come in His own name, claiming to be “I AM.” Anyone who does so is a deceiver and a heretic. This is a dead giveaway of false teaching. Per vs. 27, when Jesus comes, it will be obvious to all the world. Jesus isn’t going to sneak in under the radar with another earthly ministry revealed only to a few people. Again…don’t be deceived!
  6. That’s not the only “don’t.” 9…

9 But when you hear of wars and commotions, do not be terrified; for these things must come to pass first, but the end will not come immediately.”

  1. First, Jesus warned not to get caught up with false teachers/messiahs; next He warned not to get caught up in false panic over signs. The word used for “terrified” is interesting in that it isn’t the normal word used for “fear” – in fact, this word is used only twice in the New Testament, both times by Luke. When used in the LXX, it translates a Hebrew word that speaks of ‘being shattered’ or ‘filled with terror.’ Imagine being reduced to a state of collapse because of one’s own fear – that’s the picture painted by Jesus. Don’t panic – don’t worry. “When you hear of wars and commotions,” don’t fall to pieces.
  2. Why? Because other things need to take place first. Jesus could be translated as saying, “For it is necessary these (things) come to pass, but the end is not immediate.” These other wars and conflicts are not merely possible; they are assured. These things most definitely will happen before “the end” takes place. How many times have we seen panic regarding Jesus’ return with every new military conflict? This is exactly what Jesus said not to do. Jesus’ return will not take place immediately…of that we have His precise word.
    1. This is a primary difference between the doctrines of the Rapture and Jesus’ 2nd Although we often use the terms interchangeably, they refer to distinct (though connected) events. The Rapture is when Jesus calls His church home to Him in heaven; the 2nd Coming is when Jesus sets foot upon earthly ground as King. The Rapture is when we’re are caught up in the clouds with Jesus; the 2nd Coming is when we come in the clouds with Jesus. The Rapture is when we are delivered from the wrath of God; the 2nd Coming is the culmination of the wrath of God as Jesus splits the Mount of Olives in two upon His return and puts an end to the battle of Armageddon. Why make such a distinction between the events? Because the Rapture is imminent; the 2nd Coming is not. The Rapture can happen at any moment without warning; the 2nd Coming is preceded by a very specific series of events already prophesied by Jesus in the Olivet Discourse and in the book of Revelation. Thus when Jesus says that “the end will not come immediately,” and that it is necessary for certain things to happen, He means it. 
    2. Christian: the main prophetic event we await is not any war, aligning of the stars, or any other earthly thing; it’s the Rapture. Stop looking to men to tell you when you will see Jesus; just look for Jesus! Be ready for Him at any moment!
  3. The warning in vs. 9 is true on a couple of levels. It certainly applies to us today as we look at the state of our world & we wait for Jesus, but it was also true for the disciples in the context of the destruction of Jerusalem. For them, they would see all kinds of things rise up, and they would experience all kinds of trouble – but those things didn’t necessarily signify the final end of the temple or the destruction of the city. That would come later (as Jesus will teach in vs. 20).
  4. In the meantime, what are we to expect? We will see the same worldwide catastrophes that we always see. Vs. 10…

10 Then He said to them, “Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. 11 And there will be great earthquakes in various places, and famines and pestilences; and there will be fearful sights and great signs from heaven.

  1. Would these things be seen before the destruction of Jerusalem? Will they be seen before Jesus’ return? Yes. So stop panicking! Don’t fear – don’t tremble with terror. It seems that every time a new massive earthquake hits (of which there are many), people think it’s the end. Every new war & every new disease sets off another round of speculation. 
  2. Beloved, this needs to stop. Jesus specifically tells us these things will take place, and that the end is not yet. We need Christians to stop following every so-called prophecy-expert always claiming to have interpreted the next major sign. Everything we see in this world is something that Jesus told us to expect. If we’re looking for signs in the heavens, in natural catastrophes, in political turmoil, or in worldwide conflicts, we’re looking in the wrong places. The fact that these things exist simply prove Jesus’ point: these things will always exist, because it comes in the natural course of the world. Will these things increase? Most certainly. The account from Matthew 24 shows that the increase of these things “are the beginning of sorrows,” (Mt 24:8). But these things by themselves are not the end. The existence of these things are not even the main items we are to watch for in regards to the end.
  3. So what are we to watch for? Again, look to the fencing & guard of Scripture: 1 Timothy 4:1–3, “(1) Now the Spirit expressly says that in latter times some will depart from the faith, giving heed to deceiving spirits and doctrines of demons, (2) speaking lies in hypocrisy, having their own conscience seared with a hot iron, (3) forbidding to marry, and commanding to abstain from foods which God created to be received with thanksgiving by those who believe and know the truth.” We look to the state of the church… 2 Timothy 3:1–5, “(1) But know this, that in the last days perilous times will come: (2) For men will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, (3) unloving, unforgiving, slanderers, without self-control, brutal, despisers of good, (4) traitors, headstrong, haughty, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, (5) having a form of godliness but denying its power. And from such people turn away!” We look to the state of our culture – its rejection of God & influence upon the church… And of course, we look to Israel and the vast number of prophecies concerning the reestablishment of the Jewish nation – many of which have come true; others are yet future.
  4. All of these things are very specifically listed for us in the Scripture. If we stick to this, we’re on good prophetic ground. It’s when we get caught up in other speculation (blood moons, Shemitah, etc.,) that we get into trouble. Again, the important event for us to await is the Rapture. We don’t need to look to blood moons or stars; we look for our Lord Jesus!
  5. Not only are worldwide catastrophes inevitable, so is persecution. 12…

12 But before all these things, they will lay their hands on you and persecute you, delivering you up to the synagogues and prisons. You will be brought before kings and rulers for My name’s sake.

  1. When Jesus speaks here of persecution, He’s clear on the context. “They will lay their hands on you.” Although persecution can certainly be mental & emotional harassment, this is something tangible. Jesus plainly tells His disciples that they will physically suffer. They will be beaten, arrested, and put on trial.
    1. Question: Is this for all of us, or just the immediate disciples of Jesus? Yes & yes. Christians throughout the ages have suffered physically for their faith in Christ. Although it seems so foreign to us, we need to understand that American Christians have lived in a bubble in history. No Christian has ever been as free from persecution as have been those of us in the United States. The fact that we see this freedom eroding is unwelcome, but it shouldn’t be unexpected. This has been the norm for all of Jesus’ followers throughout the past 2000 years.
  2. Even as the general principle applies to all, it most definitely applied to the original apostles. That’s why Jesus could say “before all these things,” in the context of before the wars & earthquakes & famines & pestilences, etc. This demonstrates the difference between Matthew 24 & Luke 21. If we assume Luke 21 is simply a parallel of Matthew 24, then it would seem strange for Jesus to say that this persecution would happen “before all these things,” considering that Matthew 24 seems to walk sequentially through the opening events of the Great Tribulation, lining up fairly well with the various seal judgments of Revelation 6. Yet Luke 21 shows a difference, demonstrating that these accounts are not fully parallel. Again, whereas Matthew 24 focuses on the signs and events surrounding the end of the age, Luke 21 focuses on the destruction of Jerusalem and the temple. In Luke’s account, Jesus does still refer quite a bit to His 2nd Coming, but the description leading up to it fits the different context. – All of that explains the “before these things.” Yes, nations will rise against one another & earthquakes will take place all over the world, but before most of those things can happen, Jesus’ disciples will be persecuted. Not even a single generation would pass before the apostles experience the same persecutions as faced by their Master. How do we know? Just look to Luke’s 2nd book: the book of Acts. The point? Although the other worldwide events would take time, this wouldn’t. Persecution would come to the disciples, and it would come quickly. They needed to be ready.
  3. Why would it come? On account of Jesus: “for My name’s sake.” When the disciples were identified with Jesus of Nazareth as the Messiah, the Son of God, they would be persecuted in the same way that Jesus was persecuted. They would be beaten, arrested, brought to the Jewish leadership, and to Gentile rulers. Jesus would face all of this in a matter of hours from His time of speaking; the apostles would face their own soon enough.

13 But it will turn out for you as an occasion for testimony.

  1. Is persecution always bad? It’s certainly not something to pursue or desire…but it can lead to something good: evangelism. For the disciples, the times they would be brought to synagogues and kings would be God-given occasions for them to share their testimonies. They would (in a literal translation) be “martyrs” for the Lord Jesus, even prior to their deaths. According to the original word, that’s exactly what the word “testimony” means. (μαρτύριον) Technically, a martyr doesn’t have to die for Jesus; a martyr is a faithful witness of Jesus. Can this lead to death? Yes – as it did for most of the apostles. Even that itself is a witness unto Christ. It was the 2nd century apologist Tertullian who said that “the blood of the martyrs is the seed of the church.” When the world witnesses a Christian’s hope & faith in Jesus unto death, it is a powerful testimony of the eternal life we have in Him. 
  2. Of course, there would be many occasions for the disciples to testify of Jesus before they were eventually executed. What would they say? How would they be prepared for that moment? Jesus tells them…

14 Therefore settle it in your hearts not to meditate beforehand on what you will answer; 15 for I will give you a mouth and wisdom which all your adversaries will not be able to contradict or resist.

  1. It almost seems contradictory, does it not? “Settle it in your hearts not to meditate beforehand” – establish a plan not to have a plan. Or better yet, plan to rely upon the Lord & not upon yourselves. Instead of practicing a speech or rehearsing the best apologetic arguments, Jesus tells the disciples to determine in advance to not worry, but simply respond to the leading of the Holy Spirit. Jesus Himself will assist them, so their own assistance is unnecessary.
  2. So how exactly would Jesus prepare them? He seems to refer to what Paul later describes as the word of wisdom (1 Cor 12:8) – the spiritual gift displayed by Jesus when He was answering the Pharisees & Sadducees. It is the perfect word at the right time – an answer of wisdom unable to be contradicted or resisted by even our worst enemies. Not that the word of wisdom puts an end to the persecution, but it exposes the persecution for what it is: an unjust act against the people of God. The bottom line is that God the Son promises to give His followers the right words at the needed time. As when Isaiah and John each ate the words of God, Jesus fills our mouths with His word when we need it most.
  3. Again, we might ask if this is just a promise for the original disciples, or for all Christians everywhere? It certainly applied to the disciples, as the book of Acts goes on to demonstrate. That said, the general principle still applies today. Christians on trial for the name of Jesus need not worry about what to say. Our Lord is faithful, and He will not abandon us in our hour of need. There is not a single born-again believer in history who has faced his/her persecutors alone. Be assured that Jesus has given them a mouth to speak!
  4. That said, be careful not to take this promise out of context. It does not mean:
    1. That Christians ought to never prepare anything. That’s a ludicrous thought. A steady diet of the Scriptures and time spent in prayer is needful preparation for all aspects of life…especially persecution! All Jesus is saying is not to rehearse speeches in our minds. If we’ve been reading the Scripture, we can be sure He will pull out what He’s already implanted into our hearts and minds.
    2. That God will provide a defense for the troubles we bring upon ourselves. Remember that the whole context is of persecution for Jesus’ name sake (vs. 12). If we commit a crime, we’d better retain a lawyer. That sort of trial is a natural consequence of our action, and one which the Lord will readily allow us to face.
    3. That Bible teachers don’t need to prepare for lessons, but rather simply rely on Jesus to give them the words. This is likewise ridiculous, but it a frighteningly common thought! Paul wrote to Timothy that he was to study to show himself approved, as a worker who did not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth. (2 Tim 2:15) God forbid that pastors use supposed spirituality as an excuse for their laziness! Those who teach the Scriptures are held accountable for what they teach, so they’d better do the work necessary.
    4. All in all, vss. 14-15 is a glorious promise of Jesus’ comfort to the believer and presence with the believer during times of persecution; it’s not carte-blanche for us to do whatever we want & expect God to clean up after us.
  5. Persecution wouldn’t come only from the outside. 16…

16 You will be betrayed even by parents and brothers, relatives and friends; and they will put some of you to death. 17 And you will be hated by all for My name’s sake.

  1. Just as the disciples were to expect persecution, they were also to expect betrayal & hatred. Friends and family would turn against them on account of their love for the Lord Jesus. To be sure, this would be far more painful. It’s one thing to expect opposition from our enemies; it’s quite another to have loved ones become our enemies. Although the book of Acts is relatively quiet regarding what the disciples experienced regarding betrayal, there’s no doubt this has been experienced by Christians throughout the ages. Even today, this happens at an alarming rate throughout the Middle East and Asia. Muslim-born believers are quite often exiled by their families, or counted as dead – and likewise for born-again Christians from Hindu households. Other times, secret church meetings are exposed by neighbors once believed to be friends, and lives are lost as a result.
  2. Should this be a surprise? Not at all. If Jesus endured these things, we can be assured of it as well. A servant is not greater than his master, and since the world hated Jesus, the world will hate Jesus’ disciples & followers. (Jn 15:19-20) Again, all of this comes as a result of being identified with Him. This is for His “name’s sake.” These are experiences that we not only expect, but for which we can expect the Lord’s comfort and presence. 
  3. Other experiences don’t have the same promises. If we suffer hatred because we’ve been jerks, that’s not persecution; that’s reasonable. … Suffering is expected, but if you’re going to suffer, suffer for the right reason. 1 Peter 3:15–17, “(15) But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts, and always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you, with meekness and fear; (16) having a good conscience, that when they defame you as evildoers, those who revile your good conduct in Christ may be ashamed. (17) For it is better, if it is the will of God, to suffer for doing good than for doing evil.”

18 But not a hair of your head shall be lost. 19 By your patience possess your souls.

  1. There will be persecution, but there will also be protection. Question: what kind of protection? Is Jesus saying that none of His disciples will lose their lives? Not at all. He clearly spoke of physical persecution in vs. 12, and just got done saying that some would be put to death in vs. 16. Real persecution and suffering was guaranteed to the disciples. So what is Jesus saying? The disciples would suffer, but they wouldn’t be lost. Some would be killed, but their souls would not perish. Their spiritual eternal protection was assured. Their (and our) eternities were safe in the palm of His hand. Though the whole world turn against us, when we belong to Christ Jesus, we are His forever.
  2. What did they need in the meantime? They needed to endure. The Amplified version says, “By your steadfastness and patient endurance you shall win the true life of your souls.” This is not a statement of earning salvation; it’s simply a description of seeing things through to the end. The way you finish a marathon is simply to finish. Whether you’re running, walking, or crawling makes little difference, as long as you cross the finish line. Those who finish are those who have endurance. … Christians need to endure! Don’t give up – don’t turn aside from Christ. Whatever happens, stay in Him – abide. He is faithful for us; we ought to be faithful for Him. (And we can be faithful, through the power of the Holy Spirit!)

Conclusion:

To the news that their beloved temple would be utterly destroyed, the disciples asked the logical question of when it would take place. Jesus’ answer: wait. There would be much that would happen in the meantime – both in the leadup to the temple destruction, and in the days leading up to Jesus’ return. Jesus’ disciples were not to be deceived, nor led astray – they weren’t to panic nor were they to be surprised by the persecutions that awaited them. Instead, they were to stay focused upon Jesus, upon His word, and stay reliant upon His power and His Spirit. Jesus would see them through; they just needed to patiently endure.

So do we. Much of what Jesus taught already had one fulfillment, but there is still much to come as the days draw nearer to the Great Tribulation. So beware! Beware false teachers & false messiahs – beware false promises of speculative interpretation of prophecy. It’s so easy for us to get distracted and led away from the simple truths of Jesus. Stay focused on Him, His word, and the gospel mission. Instead of spreading the message of the latest fly-by-night prophecy teacher, spread the message of the gospel! Endure in the Great Commission of Christ! Tell people about Jesus with every chance you get, even (and especially) when those opportunities come via persecution and hatred.

Time is short; we dare not waste it.

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The Knockout Punch

Posted: December 3, 2017 in Luke, Uncategorized

Luke 20:41-21:4, “The Knockout Punch”

In every great competition, there comes a moment when the eventual victor performs the finishing move, making his/her victory inevitable. In boxing, it’s often the knockout punch, something for which boxers like Mike Tyson, and Evander Holyfield were known. In racing, it’s the final surge or finishing kick. At most recent New York Marathon, Shalane Flanagan became the first American woman to win the race since 1977, due partly to a surge at mile 22 pace dropped from a 5:26 minute-per-mile pace to 5:09, soon leaving her competitors behind. Name your sport, and there’s usually a moment that comes when there’s no turning back…from that point on, the victory is assured.

The same thing can happen in a debate, when an argument is so compelling that the other side is left utterly speechless – and that’s exactly what happened in the theological contest between Jesus and the religious leaders of Jerusalem. After round upon round of the various Jewish scholarly factions attempting to discredit Jesus, the Lord Jesus suddenly turned the tables upon them. The question He posed to them left them speechless, and ultimately exposed or the hypocrites they were. These men had precisely the opposite sort of faith that God desired to see in His people: true sincerity and surrender unto God.

Before we get into the text, we might ask ourselves: why does the Bible spend so much time detailing these debates? Sure, it shows Jesus having a masterful intellect, and supernatural wisdom – but what does all of this mean for today? 

Of course, that itself is reason enough to study it. Jesus does demonstrate supernatural wisdom and insight into the Scriptures. He is the premier teacher of the Scriptures, able to teach with unmatched authority. This only serves to underscore the fact that Jesus is the Author of Scripture, being the Son of God. But more than that, all of this debate serves a broader purpose in the gospel narratives. Remember where Jesus is about to head: arrest, deliverance to the Romans, and the cross. When arrested by the Jews and placed on trial, was Jesus found guilty because He was unable to answer for Himself? No. Was the Jewish Sanhedrin able to turn Him over to the Romans because they somehow outwitted Jesus? Absolutely not. All of this can be seen in this series of debates Jesus had with the Jewish scholars earlier in the week. Jesus is superior to these men in every way imaginable: spiritually, intellectually, wisdom, etc. The only reason that Jesus was later convicted by these men is because Jesus allowed Himself to be. This was the plan of God leading unto our salvation, and Jesus was fully submitted to His Father in it.

That’s one of the major benefits of this whole series of events in Chapter 20: it emphasizes that God was always in control. The Pharisees, Sadducees, and scribes never gained the upper-hand over Jesus; Jesus gave Himself over to them, because that was the way to the cross, and thus to the resurrection & our salvation. These passages aren’t here to necessarily help us learn how to win theological arguments and debates; they’re here to establish Jesus’ credibility in the gospel! Everything Jesus did was to point us back to Him, His gospel, and the glory of God. Regardless of what Scripture you read, be sure you don’t miss that!

Let’s be sure to establish our context… Upon arriving in Jerusalem, Jesus was immediately questioned by the religious rulers of the city. The Pharisees rebuked Jesus before He even entered the gate, unwilling that He should receive the rightful praise that He deserves as the Messiah. The priests demanded to know the credentials of Jesus after He cleansed the temple, exercising His authority as the Great High Priest. Later, the Pharisees sent spies to try to trap Jesus with a trick question regarding taxes, to which He have a divinely inspired answer showing His wisdom as God. Finally, the Sadducees hoped to discredit Jesus with what they believed was an unanswerable question regarding the resurrection. In response, Jesus not only answered the unanswerable, but exposed the Sadducees as being ignorant of the Scriptures and the God they claimed to serve. Through it all, Jesus was unfazed, showing Himself as the authoritative Teacher of Israel and the Messiah. He countered every move, and the rulers were finally too fearful to ask Him any more public questions.

It’s at this point that Luke goes on to show Jesus turning the tables, but there’s a huge difference here between Luke and the other two Synoptic gospels (Matthew & Mark). Luke leaves out the famous question from the Pharisaic lawyer/scribe regarding the greatest commandment in the law. (Mt 22:34-40, Mk 12:28-34) This is when Jesus was asked about the greatest (most important) commandment, to which Jesus answered that it was to love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, and strength – and that the second was like it, to love your neighbor as yourself.

Question: Why didn’t Luke include it? Perhaps because Luke had already dealt with the substance of this command in regards to the parable of the Good Samaritan. (Lk 10:25-37) When a lawyer asked Jesus about the same commandments, the lawyer also asked Him who exactly was his neighbor (because the lawyer wanted to justify himself). That’s when Jesus taught the parable, illustrating what true selfless love looks like.

Regarding the debates of Luke 20, Luke’s account is not contradicted by Matthew & Mark, nor vice-versa. They simply chose different emphases, being different authors. Remember that the gospels are not biographies (though they contain biographical material), nor are they unabridged transcripts of the words of Jesus. Each gospel writer specifically chose what to include & leave out, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. Thus, even though the question/attempted-trap of the greatest commandment did take place, Luke didn’t need to include it in his book.

Instead, Luke moves on to the closing argument, the knockout punch. After everything said by the Pharisees, Sadducees, and scribes, it’s now Jesus’ turn. He would ask them His own unanswerable question, with the exception that He did know the answer. They could too, if they simply surrendered themselves to God in sincere worship. They weren’t willing, but there were others in Jerusalem who would. That’s whom God was seeking: those who would love Him & thus love the Lord Jesus with everything.

Luke 20:41–47

  • Jesus’ turn to question (41-44)

41 And He said to them, “How can they say that the Christ is the Son of David?

  1. Although it’s unmentioned in Luke, Matthew notes that Jesus asked this directly to the Pharisees, and Mark says that Jesus spoke this while in the temple regarding the teaching of the scribes. The idea is that this was a public question, possibly posed back to the same scribes (who were normally Pharisees) that complemented Jesus in vs. 39 regarding His answer to the Sadducees about the resurrection. Remember that although the scribes were opposed to Jesus, they couldn’t help but gloat a bit when they heard Jesus’ response to the trick question of the Sadducees. That was a riddle that no doubt had been used against them in ridicule, and Jesus was able to answer it without breaking a sweat. Jesus’ question to them is almost a bit of a rebuke, as if He’s saying, “Don’t get cocky. You’ve got issues of your own regarding the testimony of Scripture.” After all, the scribes and Pharisees may have agreed with Jesus regarding the resurrection, but they were still in rebellion against God, because they rejected Him as the Messiah. Jesus wasn’t going to let them off the hook so easily.
    1. And praise God He doesn’t! Jesus wants us to be saved. God’s express desire is that all people would come to repentance and faith (1 Tim 2:4). If that means He needs to make us uncomfortable in order that we would seek Him, then so be it. Better to be humbled, than to be forever lost! … May our pride be broken!
  2. The question itself is a good one. “How can they [the scribes] say that the Christ [the Messiah] is the Son of David?” It was readily acknowledged that the Messiah was supposed to come from the lineage of David, as that was part of the original Davidic covenant. 2 Samuel 7:12–14, “(12) “When your days are fulfilled and you rest with your fathers, I will set up your seed after you, who will come from your body, and I will establish his kingdom. (13) He shall build a house for My name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever. (14) I will be his Father, and he shall be My son. If he commits iniquity, I will chasten him with the rod of men and with the blows of the sons of men.” There are actually two sons mentioned in this word of God to David: (1) Jesus, as the Messiah who is given an eternal throne, and (2) Solomon (and his lineage) who was chastened by God after committing sin. (Dual-fulfillment of prophecy.) Whatever one’s interpretation of 2 Sam 7:14 might be, the interpretation of 7:12 is absolutely clear: the Messiah comes from the “body” (lineage) of David. (Thus making Him the legitimate king of Israel.)
    1. This doesn’t seem to be a theological problem, until Jesus explains the issue in vss. 42-43…

42 Now David himself said in the Book of Psalms: ‘The LORD said to my Lord, “Sit at My right hand, 43 Till I make Your enemies Your footstool.” ’

  1. So where’s the problem? We have to look a bit closer. The quote of Psalm 110:1 reads the same in the Greek as it does in the English, “The Lord said to my Lord,” but that’s because our English Bibles follows the same convention as the Greek LXX in regard to substituting the title “Lord” for God’s personal name. The true distinction can be seen in the Hebrew: “YHWH said to my Adonai,” or “the I AM said to my Lord.” What David is saying is that the Almighty Creator Covenant God of Israel spoke to another person that was the Lord of David. Granted, the title “Lord” could simply refer to a position of respect or superiority, but even that raises an interesting question: who in Israel could be considered superior to the king of Israel? Other than Saul and David’s father (both of whom had died, and neither of whom would fit the rest of the psalm), what human would King David ever refer to as “Lord”? Who is David’s Master?
  2. The rest of the quote goes even further with the mystery. Knowing that the Messiah/Christ was to be David’s son, how could this plainly Messianic psalm refer to a human Messiah as sitting at the right hand of Almighty God? On earth, God’s throne was symbolized by the mercy seat on top of the Ark of the Covenant sitting in the Most Holy Place in the temple. That God’s chosen king would sit at His right hand was symbolized by the fact that the palace was built next door to the temple. [MAP] Yet that’s all on earth…the symbol. What about the reality? God’s true throne is in the heavens, and that was where God promised the Lord of David that He would sit, as YHWH God gave Him an eternal victory. Every enemy would be forever conquered, and David’s Lord would be able to stand on their necks.
  3. Put it all together, and what is in view? This Lord of David, the Messiah has to be more than human; He has to be God. If YHWH God puts this Lord into a place equivalent with Him, giving this Lord eternal victory, then this Lord has to be the LORD, God Himself. That’s when Jesus really puts the theological screws to the scribes & Pharisees…

44 Therefore David calls Him ‘Lord’; how is He then his Son?”

  1. Here’s the rub. The scribes rightly acknowledge the Messiah to be the physical descendant of David. That is something totally clear in the Scriptures. Yet the Bible also indicates that the Messiah is to be God. Regarding His humanity, Genesis 3:15 specifically states the Messiah is to be human, coming from the seed of the woman. God’s covenant with Abraham points to a human descendent, who would bless the nations of the world (Gen 22:18). This is affirmed through the various repetition of the covenant promise throughout the generations (to Isaac, Jacob, and Judah). Regarding His deity, Daniel 7:13-14 speaks of the Son of Man coming with God’s cloud of glory, standing in the presence of God, reigning for eternity. Isaiah 9:6-7 prophecies of a Son to be born who is specifically called “Mighty God” and “Everlasting Father.” So on one hand, the Bible shows that the Messiah is to be human, while also showing that the Messiah is to be God. How can He be both? That’s the question Jesus puts to the scribes.
  2. What is all of this? The question Jesus posed to the scribes and Pharisees is about what Christian theologians call the hypostatic union of Christ, or the dual-nature of Jesus. He is both God and Man. This is no mere mixture of natures, or a watering down of either nature, such as a mixing of DNAs from mother & father as a child is conceived – neither is this describing two separate natures existing side-by-side within Jesus; this is something totally different than any other concept on earth. Jesus is simultaneously 100% God and 100% Man. Though foretold in the Old Testament, this is something totally unique in Jesus. He has always been 100% God, being God the Son, the Eternal Word/Expression of God, the 2nd Person of the Godhead. As such, He is the image of the invisible God (Col 1:15), appearing to Adam, Abraham, Moses, and more. Yet once the Holy Spirit came upon Mary, impregnating the virgin, God the Son also became a true human being. This is the incarnation & what we celebrate at Christmas.
    1. And it is the only way we can be saved! Jesus’ humanity ensures that He is a perfect substitute and sacrifice for us. His deity ensures that His sacrifice is sufficient, and that His victory over death is total. In the doctrine of the incarnation is our only hope!
  3. With all that in mind, think back to the debate between Jesus & the scribes & Pharisees. The dual-nature of Christ is a difficult enough concept for Christians to understand. It wasn’t until the 5th century that the church finally settled on the correct language to describe the Biblical concept (Council of Chalcedon, 451AD). Imagine being a Jew in the 1st century listening to Jesus! Even the most well-trained Biblical mind, with all of the Old Testament and rabbinical writings at his disposal would have been stupefied by this. Much of what we can affirm about the dual-nature of Jesus is because we can look back at His work at the cross & resurrection, and (equally important) we as the church have the guidance and instruction of the Holy Spirit. The 1st century Jews of Jerusalem did not. What Jesus just laid out for them would have blown them away. This was His knockout punch, the coup-de-grace that closed out any possible notion of them besting Jesus in an argument. Jesus was the Victor, period!
    1. Jesus is fully God, fully Man, and fully victorious. This isn’t Someone to argue with; this is Someone to whom we ought to submit & surrender.
  • Jesus’ warning for the people (45-47)

45 Then, in the hearing of all the people, He said to His disciples,

  1. Just as the final argument was done in public, so was the warning that followed. The religious leaders had attempted to discredit Jesus and failed miserably. They tried to trap Him with the Scriptures, only to find that they didn’t know the Scriptures nearly as well as they thought they did. What was at the root of their rebellion and resistance to Jesus? They believed themselves superior to Jesus, wanting to control Jesus just like they controlled the people of Jerusalem. This was something that needed to be exposed, and that’s what Jesus did next.
  2. He may have said it publicly, but He spoke it “to His disciples.” The people heard His words, but the multitudes may or may not have paid attention. In fact, many did not, considering how easily they were manipulated by the Jewish leadership in the following days when Jesus was arrested. But His disciples definitely needed to pay attention. The religious leaders among the Jews were hypocrites; the future religious leaders among the Christians needed to be different. Those who follow Jesus need to follow Him sincerely, in spirit & truth. And for that, much can be learned by looking at the poor examples of the scribes & Pharisees.

46 “Beware of the scribes, who desire to go around in long robes, love greetings in the marketplaces, the best seats in the synagogues, and the best places at feasts, 47 who devour widows’ houses, and for a pretense make long prayers. …

  1. Luke shows Jesus calling out the scribes, but keep in mind that the scribes were mostly Pharisees. Matthew’s gospel goes into far greater detail here as Jesus lambasts them both, calling out with the refrain, “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites!” (Mt 23:13, 14, 15, 23, 29.) These may have been the teachers and leaders among Israel, and thus deserving of the respect of the people, but they weren’t to be followed in their examples. Instead, the people were to be warned of their hypocrisy & sin.
  2. First of all, the scribes were full of greed and pride. They loved the best of clothing, especially the robes that would indicate their religious status among others. They loved the involved greetings that they would receive, as men would state their titles in their introductions. They loved receiving the seats of honor in the synagogues, and at feasts, knowing that men revered them as their religious leaders. They loved all the trappings that came with their social status, and longed for more.
    1. Sadly, this didn’t disappear with the ancient scribes & Pharisees of Jerusalem, but carried over into the church. Many men have entered the ministry because of their love of status, rather than their desire to serve. And likewise, they engage in the same prideful acts of the scribes. Some wear clothes intended to point out to others that they are ministers, deserving of respect and titles. Others brag about their $1000 suits, and other expensive items. They want to be addressed with massive titles, “The Most Right Reverend Dr. ____,” or to always be seated in the place of honor right up front in luxurious throne-like chairs. It’s the same sinful pride as the scribes and the Pharisees, and it’s still wrong.
    2. We have to remember that “ministry” by definition, means “service.” There is none more worthy of honor than the Lord Jesus, and even He didn’t come to be served, but to serve. (Mk 10:45) Any person who seeks the ministry simply as a career field, or for the stuff associated with it, ought not to be in ministry at all.
  3. Second, the scribes were dangerous. The greed of the scribes and Pharisees led them to go so far as to “devour widows’ houses,” as they took advantage of the people least able to defend themselves. As teachers of God’s word, they knew better than anyone how often God spoke of His desire to bring justice to widows and orphans, yet they engaged in the same crimes that God condemned. These women would have trusted the scribes and Pharisees to help them, but instead they were taken advantage of, and deceived by them.
    1. Again, this is still seen today. How many widows send in the bulk of their Social Security check to false teachers under the guise that they’re sending to “men of God”? The prosperity-gospel preachers promise a 100-fold return on the widows’ gifts, when in reality, they’re looking for a 100% profit for themselves.
  4. Third, the scribes were hypocrites. Their spirituality was fake, as their lengthy prayers were all “for a pretense.” They may have prayed with eloquent words and lifted their hands in supposed reverence, but it was all for appearances’ sake. It was all done for show.
    1. For examples of this, Christians don’t have to look far. This sort of spiritual hypocrisy shows up in more than just formalized religion or among the heretical televangelists. Evangelicals can be just as guilty. Anytime people pray to impress human ears rather than to humbly address God is a time that prayer is being done under pretense. That’s not to say beautiful language in prayer in wrong, but it depends on our motive behind the language used. Prayer is speaking to God, and corporate prayer is leading others in speaking to God – which means (by definition) others will be listening and (hopefully) joining. But even when we pray with others, they aren’t our audience; God is. And God isn’t impressed by our vocabulary. By all means pray, but pray sincerely. Let the Spirit and the Scripture be your guide as you speak to the Lord in reverence, humility, and praise.

… These will receive greater condemnation.”

  1. All of the actions listed by Jesus would not be ignored by God. These hypocritical rulers among Israel would be judged! God was not blind to their sin, not in the least demonstrated in the fact that God the Son was pointing out their sin at that very moment! He knew their deeds, their motives, and the sin in their hearts. And because He knows the future, He also knew that these men would never repent. Thus, they would be judged, receiving “greater condemnation.
  2. Why “greater”? Because as the teachers of Israel, they had greater responsibility. They were supposed to not only teach the word of God, but teach the character of God. They were supposed to set the example, but instead they led others astray. In doing so, they shut people out of the salvation of God that could have been shown to them in the Scripture. All of their attempts to discredit Jesus were examples of them getting in the way of God’s salvation. Matthew recorded Jesus this way: Matthew 23:13, “But woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you shut up the kingdom of heaven against men; for you neither go in yourselves, nor do you allow those who are entering to go in.” They stood in the doorway of the kingdom, unwilling to follow Jesus, and unwilling to allow anyone else to do so either. Truly, their condemnation was just!
  3. All hypocritical teachers will be judged, even (and especially) within the church. James 3:1, “My brethren, let not many of you become teachers, knowing that we shall receive a stricter judgment.” The Bible commends those who desire to be teachers, saying that if a man desires to be a bishop/overseer, then he desires a good work (1 Tim 3:1), but at the same time, that is a desire to be carefully weighed. No man should enter the ministry unless he is called – otherwise he’s setting himself up for failure. Beyond the challenges in this life, there is yet a judgment to face after. Teachers today face a stricter judgment tomorrow.
  4. Keep in mind that the general principle isn’t limited to teachers. Hypocritical Christians will give account. Perhaps it will not be the greater/stricter judgment reserved for teachers, but any judgment of God is strict enough! All of us teach to some degree or another, as we set examples for our family and friends. Others look to us to know what the gospel of Jesus is all about, examining the patterns of our lives, even if they never pay close attention to our words. Hypocrisy in all its forms is dangerous, and it will be something for which we must answer.
    1. Thankfully, the forgiveness of God is freely available! Who among us hasn’t been hypocritical at times? Obviously, our desire is to live free of hypocrisy, but when we fall, never forget that we have an Advocate and a Savior in Jesus!

So the scribes and Pharisees were left speechless by Jesus’ question, and in addition, they were exposed as religious hypocrites who went so far as to take advantage of widows. Speaking of widows, Chapter 21…

Luke 21:1–4

  • Jesus’ example of sincerity (1-4)

1 And He looked up and saw the rich putting their gifts into the treasury, 2 and He saw also a certain poor widow putting in two mites.

  1. Neither Luke nor Mark tell us exactly when this takes place (Matthew doesn’t mention it at all), whether it happened right after Jesus (rightly) reamed out the scribes & Pharisees, or if a bit of time passed & things calmed down. Whenever it was, Jesus was back in the temple, and witnessed the financial offerings taking place. All kinds of people came through, including the rich & poor. Things proceeded mostly as usual until Jesus noticed one “certain poor widow putting in two mites.” The “two mites” are described as two copper coins (λεπτός). According to scholars, this was equal to “six minutes of an average daily wage. This was next to nothing in value.” (NET)
  2. Yet it wasn’t nothing to Jesus! 3…

3 So He said, “Truly I say to you that this poor widow has put in more than all; 4 for all these out of their abundance have put in offerings for God, but she out of her poverty put in all the livelihood that she had.”

  1. This was real The widow gave everything – even her whole life. “livelihood” = βίος (~ biology). This was everything she had to sustain herself, her whole “house” given freely unto the Lord. Unlike the rich who “gave out of their abundance,” the widow gave it all.
    1. Keep in mind that it’s not that what the rich gave was bad; note that Jesus does not condemn them. But there is a massive contrast between their giving, and the gift of the widow. They gave what they could afford to give – no doubt much of it was appropriate, from the heart, and possibly sacrificial. Yet the widow gave more than what she could afford…the widow gave all.
  2. What was this? A demonstration of the heart of the Great Commandment. Deuteronomy 6:5, “You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength.” That could hardly be demonstrated more than someone giving their whole life, or in this case, her whole livelihood. To love God according to the Great Commandment is to love God with everything: with all that you are & all that you have. It is full & complete surrender to God as your Father, Creator, King, and Savior. When the widow gave her two mites to the Lord in worship, she was trusting her God with everything. Unless the Lord provided for her that day, she wouldn’t eat. Unless God sheltered her, she would have no place to sleep. Her two mites contained all her hope, and she put 100% of it in the Lord.
    1. Can we say the same? This same sort of trust is what God desires from each of us. Don’t misunderstand: it’s not about financial giving; it’s about the giving of your heart. Finances are important, and often our money can be an obstacle to our full-fledged worship of God – that’s one reason we give to Him from our finances, ensuring that He is Lord over all our lives. But ultimately, it is your heart God desires. God doesn’t need your money; He’s perfectly capable of providing for Himself. You’ll never impress God with the number of zeroes you can put on your tithe check. What He most desires from you is all-in worship, wholehearted trust.
    2. Are you able to give that sort of trust to the Lord? If not, why? Whatever the obstacle may be, remove it.
  3. How does this all relate to the previous section? Easy: the widow was everything the religious leaders were not. The scribes and Pharisees were hypocrites. They made long prayers out of pretense; the widow worshipped God in purity & sincerity. The scribes & Pharisees took from the people of God; the widow gave freely unto God. The scribes & Pharisees called attention unto themselves; the widow put her everything into the Lord. If the people of Jerusalem needed an example to follow in true spirituality, they didn’t need to look to the scribes & Pharisees; they needed to look to the widow among them.

Conclusion:

In the grand showdown between Jesus and the religious leaders of Jerusalem, Jesus came out the clear winner. He had easily withstood the toughest theological attacks they had to offer, and came back with a knockout punch they couldn’t counter. In the end, it was no contest at all, and Jesus exposed the hypocrites for what they were: religious frauds.

What they lacked in true faith, the widow demonstrated in abundance. She trusted God with everything she had, demonstrating that she loved God with everything she had. Hers was the example to follow; not that of the scribes & Pharisees.

Which example do you follow?

Round 2: Jesus vs. the Sadducees

Posted: November 26, 2017 in Luke, Uncategorized

Luke 20:27-40, “Round 2: Jesus vs. the Sadducees”

As a kid, I would occasionally catch it when flipping the channel, but it always seemed a bit “over the top” for me. Yet there’s one term from wrestling nearly everyone knows: tag-team. In tag-team wrestling, teams of wrestlers go up against one another, with (supposedly) only two people allowed in the ring at any given point. For the 2nd person to come in, they have to be “tagged” (tapped) by their teammate. Of course, invariably the entire ring gets swarmed, chaos breaks out, and the WWE makes a lot of money. 

Although the Pharisees and Sadducees were rarely on the same side for anything, their opposition to Jesus made them virtually like tag-team wrestlers. Just as soon as one gets done attempting to discredit Jesus (and failing in the process), the other jumps in for their turn (and they fail as well). They would have done well simply to listen to Jesus, but they didn’t. Instead, they tried to take Him down, and they end up embarrassing themselves along the way. It’s a fool’s errand to try to trap the Son of God; it can’t be done!

Perhaps not surprisingly, this is still quite common today. Especially that atheism and opposition to Christianity is in-vogue, quite a few people believe they’ve discovered the perfect argument against faith. They think they’ve come up with the one question that can never be answered by any religion (much less Christianity), and that they hold the final nail to put in the coffin of faith. And after a tiny bit of research, they (like their ancient forbearers) find themselves mistaken & likely embarrassed. There’s not an objection to Jesus that hasn’t been asked and answered. Again, Jesus isn’t so easily trapped.

Remember that there has been opposition to Jesus ever since He entered Jerusalem for the week of Passover. Obviously there was much acclaim over Him as He approached the city, but that was from His disciples and the crowds accompanying Him from Jericho and Bethany. The Pharisees were actually the first to oppose Him before He even came through the gates of Jerusalem, rebuking Him for not rebuking His disciples. Of course, there was no reason to rebuke them. They were proclaiming Him to be the Messiah, and He is!

Jesus had offended the Sadducees next, being that they were the priestly party, and thus in charge of the temple. Jesus had gone into the Jerusalem temple, seen the corruption that had once again arisen, and He performed a work of cleansing by driving out the people who were commercializing the things of God. The priests later demanded that Jesus give an account of His authority & right to do this, to which Jesus proved that His authority was obvious & given by God (just as was John the Baptist’s). The religious leaders may not like the fact that Jesus has inherent authority, but it doesn’t change the fact that He does, and they would be held accountable for their rejection of Him.

Later, the Pharisees came at Jesus again, with what they hoped would be a surefire trap for Him in regards to taxes, putting Him between the anger of the crowds and the anger of the Romans. In response, Jesus gave a perfect answer – a supernatural word of wisdom, with which neither the Jews nor the Romans could find fault. In any contest, God always comes out as the Victor.

The same principle is seen here, in the latest encounter between Jesus and the Sadducees. They’ve been “tagged” once more for the ring, and they truly believe that they have a dilemma that will leave Jesus on the ropes, struggling to provide an answer. Once left speechless, the Sadducees would be able to denounce Jesus in front of the crowds, leaving Him discredited and humiliated. Or at least, that was their plan. As with the Pharisees, the Sadducees would fail, and they would find that the humiliation fell upon them.

How foolish it is to try to trap & stump the Son of God…it can’t be done! Don’t try to shut Jesus down; believe Him & the Scriptures, and find your life in God!

Luke 20:27–40

  • Ridicule of the Sadducees (27-33)

27 Then some of the Sadducees, who deny that there is a resurrection, came to Him and asked Him,

  1. Luke begins by introducing his readers to the Sadducees – a necessary task, considering that Luke’s original readers were likely Gentiles, without the cultural background needed to know the Sadducees’ theological biases. There were several religious scholarly groups/sects within 1st century Judaism, the Pharisees and the Sadducees being the most famous. Whereas Jesus had the most conflicts with the Pharisees, at least their theology was mostly sound, even if their practices were hypocritical and legalistic. The Sadducees, however, had a lot of political power, but terrible theology. They were the theological liberals of their day, giving credence to only the five books of Moses, and denying most supernatural beings and acts (angels, demons, miracles).
  2. Along these lines, as Luke points out, they also “deny that there is a resurrection.” They neither believed in an eternal life, nor a physical resurrection from the dead that would lead to eternal life. This was a well-known position of the Sadducees to all the Jews, and thus any question from them regarding the resurrection would have to be heard with caution. It was obviously going to be a dishonest question, because they didn’t believe in the resurrection in the first place.
    1. As with the spies of the Pharisees in the previous section, these were skeptics, but they were dishonest skeptics. An honest skeptic has nothing to fear from the truth, because if someone is truly honest in his/her skepticism, he/she is seeking the truth – wherever it might lead. Thus an honest skeptic who hears the gospel is eventually going to be glad, because it’s going to lead them to a conviction of sin & (hopefully) faith and salvation in Jesus. Dishonest skeptics, on the other hand, are a different story. These are people who have no interest in the truth; they just want to argue their preferred beliefs. These are people that even if they were confronted with irrefutable evidence regarding Jesus, would still refuse to believe.
    2. What do we do with dishonest skeptics? Do what Jesus did: answer with the truth, but don’t waste a lot of time on them. It’s interesting that with as much opposition Jesus experienced from the religious leadership in Jerusalem, Jesus didn’t spend the majority of His time on Passover week with them. Most of His time was spent either in public teaching, or among His disciples in private instruction. He certainly addressed the Pharisees and Sadducees when He was around them, but there’s no indication that He actively sought them out trying to debate them or change their minds. Why? They were dishonest skeptics; they weren’t willing to change. Plus, there were too many other people in Jerusalem who did want to hear what Jesus had to say. Far better to spend His time among them. In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus told His hearers not to give what was holy to dogs, nor cast their pearls to swine. (Mt 7:6) Dogs & pigs don’t appreciate what is precious & holy. Neither do dishonest skeptics appreciate the grace of God available in the gospel. What they need is conviction of sin & brokenness – and that comes through the law; not the gospel.
    3. As for us, beware of getting caught up in fruitless debates with dishonest skeptics. By all means, share with them the truth of God, and their need for salvation – but if they aren’t willing to hear, shake the dust off your feet and go to someone else. There will always be others waiting to hear the gospel of grace – let us spend our time reaching them with the good news of Jesus!
  3. In any case, Luke gives the background of the Sadducees to the reader, then he records what they said. They began well enough, referring back to a teaching of Moses. 28…

28 saying: “Teacher, Moses wrote to us that if a man’s brother dies, having a wife, and he dies without children, his brother should take his wife and raise up offspring for his brother.

  1. It makes sense that the Sadducees would quote Moses, considering that his books were basically the majority of what they believed in their Judaism. They sum up his teaching well enough, not necessarily quoting a specific verse of Scripture, but paraphrasing the doctrine known today as “levirate” marriage. Deuteronomy 25:5–6, “(5) If brothers dwell together, and one of them dies and has no son, the widow of the dead man shall not be married to a stranger outside the family; her husband’s brother shall go in to her, take her as his wife, and perform the duty of a husband’s brother to her. (6) And it shall be that the firstborn son which she bears will succeed to the name of his dead brother, that his name may not be blotted out of Israel.” Although the command might sound bizarre to modern ears, it was actually a gift of mercy for widows would otherwise be destitute. Keep in mind that in ancient cultures, there was no federal or state welfare office – there was family and the charity of others, and that was it. Even beyond Israel, women in ancient cultures typically had very few ways of supporting themselves, always being dependent upon their families. Either their father, their husband, or their sons would support them, ensuring they had food to eat & a roof over their heads. Yet what would happen if her husband died, and she had no children? She’d be left penniless & a beggar. That’s where levirate marriage comes in. The widow’s brother-in-law would take her to himself as a wife, providing financially for her, and hopefully providing an heir for his brother – which would in turn, provide future security for the child’s mother. Is the concept of levirate marriage needed today? No. But it was certainly an act of mercy that God gave to the Hebrews.
  2. In addition, levirate marriage was also important from the standpoint of the covenant that God had with the tribes of Israel. Remember that a huge component of God’s covenant with Israel was the land of Israel. This was passed from father to son over the generations. Yet how would this land continue if the family line didn’t continue? That’s one more blessing of levirate marriage for the Hebrews.
    1. For a beautiful example of how levirate marriage was supposed to work, simply read the book of Ruth. There, a woman and her daughter-in-law are left mourning and destitute, with little hope of survival until a relative takes on his family responsibility and becomes their kinsman-redeemer, marrying the widow of the son, and purchasing the land for himself. How good were the results of his mercy? He became the great-grandfather of King David.
  3. All that to say is that (although it might sound weird to us), the command of God was a wonderful thing. It was His word based in His love and mercy. Yet this is what the Sadducees chose for their tool of humiliation. They took the good word of God, and twisted it to their own perverted purposes.
    1. People still do this today, and just as it was for the Sadducees, it’s still pathetic and evil. In fact, it’s downright Satanic. In the Garden of Eden, Satan questioned the word of God. During the temptation of Christ, Satan twisted the Scripture. Satan has always tried to use the inspired word of God for his own gain, and when dishonest skeptics do the same thing, they’re following in his footsteps.
  4. The Sadducees begin their twisting in vs. 29…

29 Now there were seven brothers. And the first took a wife, and died without children. 30 And the second took her as wife, and he died childless. 31 Then the third took her, and in like manner the seven also; and they left no children, and died. 32 Last of all the woman died also. 33 Therefore, in the resurrection, whose wife does she become? For all seven had her as wife.”

  1. The thing to note about this example is its extreme absurdity. It starts out well enough in vs. 29, but quickly escalates to ridiculous imaginary proportions by vs. 32. It’s one thing for the first of seven brothers to die and leave a widow. It’s conceivable that it might even happen with the second (the very scenario occurs in Genesis 38 when Judah’s two sons died, and Judah refused to provide another husband for his widowed daughter-in-law Tamar). But for this to happen seven times in a row goes beyond credibility. The chances of this happening are next to nothing, making the whole scenario imaginary, impossible, and insulting.
  2. What makes the whole thing insulting was the trap in vs. 33, intentionally laid for Jesus. The Sadducees sneer, “therefore, in the resurrection,” as if they actually believe the resurrection. They don’t! Remember that Luke made that clear to his readers back in vs. 27. They don’t believe in the resurrection; they believed themselves intellectually superior to the people who did believe in the resurrection. Unlike those moronic Pharisees, they were the ‘enlightened’ ones, knowing that such supernatural things like resurrection from the dead is impossible & non-existent. (Sound familiar?) Scholars note that everything about the scene sounds like a classic trap. AT Robertson writes, “They had a stock conundrum with which they had often gotten a laugh on the Pharisees. So they volunteer to try it on Jesus.” This was their trump-card, their unbeatable scenario. This was their ancient equivalent to “If God is all-powerful, can He create a rock He cannot lift?” or “If God is so good, how can He allow evil to exist?” To modern atheists, these are their unanswerable questions, and it seems as if every new atheist that asks it thinks him/herself to be the first one to discover it. So they smugly ask, intending to ridicule those who disagree with them.
    1. How do we respond to such things: (1) We remember that there are answers to the questions. Christians have a great advantage here, in that we have 2000 years of questions and answers. There’s not yet been an objection raised to Jesus that has not been answered. A bit of research on Google will provide all the answers a person needs, if they are willing to read for a minute. (2) We remember that anything can be pushed to a ridiculous extreme. Just because an example is awful doesn’t mean that the underlying concept is wrong. Food and water are both essential for life, but too much of it in too short a time can kill you. The theology of God’s goodness and His sovereignty is Biblical & sound, but even that can be pushed to an extreme where it might seem lethal. The problem isn’t with the theology of the question; it’s with the bias of the questioner.
  3. So how does someone get to the bias of the questioner? Look to what is at the core of their bias: pride. They believe it is impossible for them to be wrong, and they proudly assert themselves over God and anything having to do with God. Yet God is used to dealing with proud people. God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble. Take people back to God and His word, and let Him speak to them directly through His Spirit-inspired word. That’s what Jesus did, even as He engaged them head-on.
  • Response of Jesus (34-38)

34 Jesus answered and said to them, “The sons of this age marry and are given in marriage. 35 But those who are counted worthy to attain that age, and the resurrection from the dead, neither marry nor are given in marriage; 36 nor can they die anymore, for they are equal to the angels and are sons of God, being sons of the resurrection.

  1. Before we get to Jesus’ response, we might ask ourselves, why did Jesus even address the issue? After all, if it’s obvious to us that the Sadducees were insincere in their question, attempting to trap Jesus, surely it was even more obvious to the Son of God. Why spend valuable time on this at all? (1) Because He’s Jesus. He cannot be trapped, nor can He be intimidated. The skeptic that believes he/she can catch Jesus off-guard is in for a surprise! (2) Because He was questioned in public. Remember that all of this took place in Jerusalem in the days leading up to Passover. The very reason the Sadducees were trying to humiliate Jesus with their stock-objection was because they wanted to discredit Jesus in the eyes of the people. He had interfered with their money-changing racket in the temple, and He was being seen by many as the Messiah, and the Sadducees couldn’t have that sort of competition. Jesus wasn’t going to engage much with all of these dishonest skeptics, but He did need to engage a little – just enough to turn the tables and maintain His testimony among the crowds.
  2. There are actually two parts to Jesus’ response – the first is found in vss. 34-36. There are differences between the “sons of this age” & the “sons of the resurrection.” Assuming that there is indeed a resurrection (which there is), then the example of Sadducees had some ideas that were fundamentally wrong. Considering that even the ridiculous example given by the Sadducees assumed an age of resurrection, Jesus picks up the assertion, correcting their obvious and false mistakes along the way.
  3. Difference #1: For now, people “marry and are given in marriage.” Marriage is good & normal for this age and time. Obviously not every person gets (or remains) married, but it is an acceptable cultural norm. Marriage is an institution given by God for our benefit and for His glory – which is why Biblical marriage is meant to be between one man and one woman for life. Anything less is less than God’s standard for marriage. – In the future age, marriage is different. Those who are resurrected in Christ will not engage in future marriage in the same way that it happens now. To assume that life in eternity will continue exactly as life on earth today is simply false. People will be different, and thus relationships will be different.
    1. That’s not to say that marriage itself will not exist. There is a marriage that is celebrated throughout the age of the resurrection: the marriage between Jesus and the Church. It is the relationship between Jesus and the Church that is the main focus and example for all marriages between husbands and wives today. Ephesians 5:25–32, “(25) Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for her, (26) that He might sanctify and cleanse her with the washing of water by the word, (27) that He might present her to Himself a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing, but that she should be holy and without blemish. (28) So husbands ought to love their own wives as their own bodies; he who loves his wife loves himself. (29) For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as the Lord does the church. (30) For we are members of His body, of His flesh and of His bones. (31) “For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.” (32) This is a great mystery, but I speak concerning Christ and the church.” He may have written of a mystery, but Paul didn’t mince words. The instruction he gave to Christian husbands is based on the example of Jesus’ own love and labors for His own bride, the Church. The Bible is clear: there is indeed a glorious marriage celebrated in eternity; it’s simply different than the ones often celebrated on the earth. The Church is presented as a bride to her husband, and her husband is Christ Jesus, the Lamb of God slain for her. (Rev 21:9)
      1. As an aside…husbands, this is exactly how & why we are supposed to love & serve our wives. We are to be like Jesus. He did it for us as the Church; we are to do it for our wives in return.
    2. Question: Does this mean that current husbands and wives will not know each other in the age of the resurrection? In all likelihood, we will know one another better then, than we do now. Will the nature of our relationships change? Most likely, yes – that’s exactly the implication of Jesus’ teaching. There is going to be some sort of change, but we can safely assume that whatever change there is will be good. God’s gifts to us and plans for our future are not evil. He is a good God who gives good things, and there is not a single born-again Christian who will be disappointed with heaven. For those who truly love their spouses today, unable to imagine an eternity without them, know this: if you’re both born-again Christians, you won’t be without them. You will know your spouse in a new & better way in eternity, as you each know Jesus in a new & better way, and it will be wonderful.
  4. BTW – note from vs. 35 that not everyone is going to experience the blessings of the future age of the resurrection. Only “those who are counted worthy to attain to that age” will be there. To the Sadducees listening to Jesus that day, this was a distinct warning! To people listening to Jesus’ words today, it’s the same thing. Not everyone attains to the age of the resurrection, as individuals must be found worthy to enter it. That begs the question: how can anyone be counted worthy? After all, we have no worth on our own! The reality of our sin defiles us, counting us worthy only of the wrath of God. Answer: we have to be found in Christ. The Lord Jesus is our worth! He’s the One who loves us & gave Himself for us. He’s the One who sanctifies us & cleans us up. How do we attain to the age of the resurrection? It is only by the grace of Jesus!
    1. And that is something that can be experienced by anyone! All you need do is repent & believe!
  5. Difference #2: The sons of the resurrection cannot die. Jesus made this clear in vs. 36: “nor can they die anymore, for they are equal to the angels and are sons of God, being sons of the resurrection.” In the age of the resurrection, death is no more. Leading up to the eternal state, the Bible goes so far as to showing even death itself being thrown into the lake of fire, alongside the devil and his minions. (Rev 20:14) Today, it sounds difficult to believe, but it makes perfect logical sense if we think about it. After Jesus resurrects us from the dead, there is no need for us to ever die again. Once we’re raised to resurrection life, death has no more power over us. (That’s not the case for those who reject Christ, because in so doing, they reject His resurrection life. Thus when they are raised from death unto judgment, they are raised only unto their second death. Those who reject Christ are born once and die twice; those who believe upon Jesus are born twice and die once. Believe!)
  6. Before moving on, three questions:
    1. What does it mean to be “equal to the angels?” Jesus’ context shows this in regards to the inability to die. (Which, FYI, is specific in the Greek. It’s not that we simply won’t die after the resurrection; we cannot die after that point.) Jesus never once states that Christians become angels in heaven. No human ever becomes an angel. Angels are created beings, totally distinct from humans. Although it is a commonly held belief that people become angels in heaven, that is a false No born-again Christian ought to ever say, “Heaven just gained another angel”…it’s unbiblical.
    2. Why “sons of the resurrection?” First of all, this doesn’t exclude females. The term is used generically. Second, it points to our new relationship with God, we have been born of the Holy Spirit, and have been given the spirit of adoption. We can call Him “Father,” because of the grace of Jesus. Third, it seems to point to the idea that we follow Jesus in His own resurrection. He is the firstfruits of those resurrected from the dead (1 Cor 15:20), being the firstborn (preeminent one) of God. We follow in the footsteps of our Lord & our co-heir.
    3. Why is all of the focus on the resurrection, rather than eternal life? Obviously, this was the scenario posed by the Sadducees, so Jesus responds naturally to their question. But there’s an important difference between resurrection and eternal life: resurrection requires a death. Angels have eternal life, but they are never resurrected. Humans were created to experience eternal life in the same way, but we sinned & fell into death. Death comes because of sin, and Jesus came to save us from those consequences. By focusing on the resurrection, Jesus keeps the focus upon the gospel. 

37 But even Moses showed in the burning bush passage that the dead are raised, when he called the Lord ‘the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.’ 38 For He is not the God of the dead but of the living, for all live to Him.”

  1. This is the second major part of Jesus’ response: an affirmative proof from the Scriptures of the concept of the resurrection. Just as the Sadducees referred back to Moses and affirmed Moses as an authoritative teacher, Jesus did the same thing. If the Sadducees wanted to argue Moses, they were welcome to do so…they just didn’t know they were arguing Moses with the Person who taught Moses!
  2. Here, Jesus actually does quote the Scripture. This is the famous instance at the burning bush when Moses has a personal encounter with the Lord for the first time. Exodus 3:5–6, “(5) Then He said, “Do not draw near this place. Take your sandals off your feet, for the place where you stand is holy ground.” (6) Moreover He said, “I am the God of your father—the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.” And Moses hid his face, for he was afraid to look upon God.” Literally, the Hebrew actually quotes God saying, “I – God of your father, God of Abraham…” – the verb “am” is assumed at this point in the text. (Unlike Exodus 3:14 when God gives His name as “I AM.”) God is saying that this is who He is, currently – His identifying mark to Moses was in regard to the people who worshipped Him. Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob had all worshipped God in the past, but it wasn’t only in the past; they were presently worshipping Him, because God was currently their God. As Jesus concludes (by answering the supposedly unanswerable question), “For He is not the God of the dead, but of the living, for all live to Him.” IOW, out of the few Hebrew prophets the Sadducees actually honored, Moses affirmed the fact that Hebrew saints who had previously died afterwards lived in the presence of God. Life after death is the very definition of “resurrection,” thus it could be positively concluded from the Scripture “that the dead are raised.
    1. BTW – what else did Moses testify in his writings? That he saw Jesus. If Jesus is the image of the invisible God, who did Moses “look upon” when he saw the burning bush? He looked upon the pre-incarnate Jesus. Every time Moses looked upon God (which was often, being that God talked to Moses as a man talks to his friend – Exo 33:11), Moses looked at Christ. It wasn’t only Moses’ writings concerning the resurrection that pointed people to Jesus; Moses could testify personally of Him!
  3. The bottom line is that this was a knock-out punch. The Sadducees had brought out their biggest theological gun – they brought the one argument to which no Pharisee or anyone else had ever been able to counter. They threw it out to Jesus, expecting to laugh Him off just like they laughed off everyone else. All of a sudden, they weren’t laughing. Jesus not only shot down their argument, but He just demonstrated that the priests of Israel were fundamentally clueless about the Scriptures. The Sadducees had come to destroy the credibility of Jesus, and found their own shattered. This didn’t go unnoticed by the crowd. 39…
  • Reaction of others (39-40)

39 Then some of the scribes answered and said, “Teacher, You have spoken well.”

  1. The scribes were mainly Pharisees, and although they were equally opposed to Jesus, they couldn’t help but gloat a little bit. No doubt they had gotten trapped in this question from the Sadducees in the past, and they finally learned the answer to the riddle. They may not have liked Jesus, but they had to admire His words. “Teacher, You have spoken well” – yes, He most certainly did. What else would you expect from the Messiah? 😊 If only the scribes had been willing to listen to Jesus for everything He taught! They learned how to win a theological debate with the Sadducees, but they could have learned how to receive eternal life. They could have learned how they could have been counted worthy to enter that age.
  2. How sad it is to be so close, yet so far from the kingdom of God! That isn’t unique to the scribes & Pharisees – the same thing is seen in church buildings around the world. So many people sit in the pews, singing the songs of the redeemed and listening to words of Jesus to His church, and yet they never truly partake. They get enough from the Scriptures in order to help them feel better about themselves, but not enough to truly cast themselves upon Jesus in faith for the forgiveness of sin. Maybe they pick up their attendance around Christmas services and a few times a year, but mostly they look at their faith as their good morals and relatively well-behaved lives. They read the parts of the Bible that mostly affirm what they already believe, and skip over the rest. Like the scribes, they are so close, yet so far from the kingdom!
    1. Don’t merely listen to the words of Jesus to win your arguments or to give yourself a pat on the back; listen to what He really says – look to who He really is! He is the Perfect & Holy Son of God, and we must cast ourselves upon Him & His grace if we are to receive forgiveness & eternal life.

40 But after that they dared not question Him anymore.

  1. Both Matthew & Mark place this concluding statement a bit later in their chronologies, but neither of them phrase it in a way that contradicts the other gospel writers. For Luke, this was the last of the objections he records, so it made sense for him to place it here.
  2. The whole idea is that Jesus shut them down. To this point, the Pharisees and Sadducees were each smug & bold in their perceived ability to debate & discredit Jesus; now they lost their nerve. They refused to convert in faith, but they had a newfound respect for Jesus and feared to debate Him in public. Even when tag-teaming, they learned they could not defeat Him openly, so they would have to resort to more subversive means. (Which is exactly what they did in their conspiracy with Judas Iscariot.)

Conclusion:

Try as they might, the religious elite could not take down Jesus. They may have been the theological heavyweights of their day, but they were nothing compared to the Son of God! Try as they might, they could not stump the Son. Their attempts to discredit Jesus left only themselves humiliated, and Jesus will come back in the remainder of Ch. 20 to seal the deal, and warn all the people of the false religion of their leaders.

For those who, like the Sadducees, are dishonest skeptics – drop the act. Stop pretending that you have the unanswerable question & final nail in the coffin of Christianity. Every objection to Biblical Christianity has been asked and answered; the burden of proof is on you. But it doesn’t need to be a contest! Deep down, you know the truth that you’ve sinned against a Holy God, and that you’re deserving of His punishment. God’s law is written upon the heart of every human, and our consciences testify against us, no matter how badly we might try to drown it out. Stop resisting the conviction of God & humble yourself before Him. Cast yourself upon Jesus, who proved His ability to save not through His debating skills, but in His historical resurrection from the dead. Humbly surrender your life to Him, asking Him to save you, and He will…no matter what you did or said in the past. When Jesus forgives, He forgives all.

For all of us, Christians included, don’t resist Jesus; find your life in Him! It’s easy for born-again Christians to get to a point where we find ourselves arguing against God, as if we think we’ll actually win the argument. That’s not the relationship He wants with us; He wants us to surrender to Him & find our life in Him. He’s the author of Life & the giver of the resurrection life, providing life in all of its abundance. That’s what the Sadducees missed, but it’s something we can enjoy. Enjoy it, by enjoying Him.

Round 1: Jesus vs. the Pharisees

Posted: November 19, 2017 in Luke, Uncategorized

Luke 20:20-26, “Jesus vs. the Pharisees”

There’s something about fights that get people excited. In the 70’s, it was the “Fight of the Century” between Muhammed Ali & Joe Frazier, or the “Rumble in the Jungle” between Ali & George Foreman. More recently, it was the August 2017 match between UFC star Conor McGregor and the undefeated boxing champion Floyd Mayweather. So many people watched the event through Pay-Per-View that the two boxers reportedly received over $400M between them. Of course, it goes far beyond the sport of boxing. There’s a reason why so many action movies come out of Hollywood: people want to see them. They want to see the struggles, the underdogs, and the victories.

If someone was to look for the fighting matches in the life and earthly ministry of Jesus, they would need to look no further than Luke 20. There, the Jewish leadership comes out against Jesus in force, with all of their theological arguments swinging. The major difference between this match & our modern sports is that this was no contest. Jesus was no underdog, and there was zero possibility of His defeat. The theological minds of the Pharisees, Sadducees, and scribes may have been the sharpest of their day, but they were going up against the Son of God. When they believed they could take Jesus down, they found that they were in for a rude awakening!

Although the Jewish leadership was hopelessly outmatched by Jesus, they didn’t know it, and they took their best shot at theological battle with Him. All the various factions among the Jews eventually took their turn, the first being the Pharisees and Herodians (although unidentified by Luke). Their strategy in Round 1 was basic: try to trap Jesus in a Catch-22. They thought that if they could get Him into a no-win situation, then He would basically take Himself out of contention. Jesus can never be trapped or tripped up, because Jesus is God!

Remember what led up to this point. After many months of active ministry, Jesus has arrived in Jerusalem for what was to be His final Passover. His entry was triumphant, and quite the spectacle as the people shouted out praises to Him, proclaiming Him to be the fulfillment of Messianic prophecy. Jesus Himself wept aloud as He drew near to the city, fully aware of His soon rejection by the Jews and the physical destruction that would come as a result. Once in Jerusalem, Jesus cleansed the temple of all kinds of wickedness which had been allowed there by the priests, and they confronted Him regarding what authority gave Him the right to do this. Jesus’ authority was plainly obvious to all (even if the priests had blinded themselves to it), and to illustrate this, He taught the Parable of the wicked vinedressers. Just as the vinedressers in the parable rejected the son of their lord, and earned their destruction, so would the priests and other Jewish leadership do the same.

That all brings us to the spiritual battle & debate found in Luke 20. For all of the smokescreens put up by the various groups, the main issue at hand is their lack of submission to Christ, and their attempts to entrap Him. In a contest between men & the Messiah, Jesus will always come out as the victor.

Don’t fight against Jesus; surrender to Him as He saves you. Give what is God’s to God, and that includes your very life.

Luke 20:20–26

  • The pretense (20)

20 So they watched Him, and sent spies who pretended to be righteous, that they might seize on His words, in order to deliver Him to the power and the authority of the governor.

  1. Question: who are the “they”? Again, Luke does not say, but Matthew and Mark each point out that this was a combined effort of the Pharisees and Herodians. Normally, these would be two parties in opposition to one another. Although we think of the Pharisees as the religious legalists (which they certainly were, at points in time), they were really the ancient equivalent of the religious conservatives. They held the Scriptures in high regard, and one of the reasons why they enforced their tradition so much is because (in their minds) their traditions kept them from breaking the Biblical commandments. They desired purity among Israel, and they were willing to go to great lengths to see it done. The Herodians, on the other hand, were those in favor of the secular government. The sons of Herod the Great had political power in Judea simply because they kept the favor of the Romans, and they cared little to nothing about the law of God & traditions of the Jews, other than the things that they could exploit. Thus normally, the Pharisees & Herodians were on opposite sides of the aisle in regards to how life should go on in Judea. What brought them together? Their hatred, fear, and rejection of Jesus. Jesus was a threat to the Pharisees because He taught the truth of God over & above the traditions of men. Jesus was a threat to the Herodians, because He was (is!) the legitimate King of the Jews (which is why Herod the Great sought to kill Jesus after He was born). It’s often said that “politics makes strange bedfellows,” and that was certainly the case here!
  2. To say that they “watched” Jesus is not to speak of casual observance; it’s to say they watched Him with malicious intent. They were looking for an opportunity to take Him down (as Luke goes on to say). What did they do in their waiting & watching? They “sent spies” to Jesus “who pretended to be righteous.” Interestingly, the word translated “pretended” is the verb form of the Greek word we transliterate as “hypocrite.” You might say that the spies were “hypocriting” themselves as if they were righteous/just. Obviously no one is truly righteous, but they tried to present themselves in that light, as if they truly thought they could learn from Jesus how to be made more Considering 100% of it was done in deception, it was public hypocrisy at its finest.
  3. Why? Again, to take Him down. The Pharisees and Herodians wanted a reason to hand Jesus over to the Romans. They wanted Jesus dead, but they didn’t want to have to pull the trigger themselves (so to speak). Remember that Jesus was (at this point) well-received by the crowds in Jerusalem, so for them to attempt to take and kill Jesus themselves would have been politically dangerous. The crowds could turn on them, and defend Jesus, and the Pharisees & Herodians didn’t want to deal with that possibility. Far better, in their estimation, to force Jesus into committing some sort of crime or sedition that would necessitate involving the Romans. That way, the Romans could be “blamed” for Jesus’ death, and life for the Pharisees & Herodians could go on as normal.
  4. The bottom line in all of this is that right from the start, Luke tells us that these are not honest people with honest questions. They were purposefully hypocritical, pretending they were something they weren’t, all because it fit their agenda to reject and discredit Jesus. They were skeptics, but they were dishonest
    1. We live in an age that is increasingly skeptical of the existence of God, and especially of the claims of the Bible. Much of this skepticism is led by the so-called “New Atheists,” represented by men like Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris, etc. It’s important to understand the motives of these atheists, if we are going to respond to it effectively. To do so, we need look no further than the spies of the Pharisees. There is a pretense at an outward persona, but another agenda thinly hidden beneath the surface. It’s no different for the New Atheists. The pretense is the supposed quest for truth. Surely, everyone should desire the truth, for there is nothing to fear from truth. Yet the real agenda is the desire to do away with personal accountability to God – to do away with Biblical morality and the idea that some things are inherently sinful. If there is no sin, then we can do whatever it is society allows us to do, and we become our own highest authority; not God.
    2. Why is this important for Christians to know? Because it helps us direct our conversations wisely. When presented with an objection from a skeptic, we could either get caught up in long debates over minor things, in which neither one of people speaking has any intent whatsoever to change his/her mind – or, we could talk about the real issue at hand: sin, death, judgment, and the free gift of God in the Savior. Too many well-meaning Christians spend too much time debating issues that are really mere distractions. Don’t do it. Keep the main thing, the main thing – keep the focus upon Jesus and our need for His grace. (FYI, this is exactly what Jesus does!)
  5. The pretenders had presented themselves – now they present their question.
  • The trap (21-22)

21 Then they asked Him, saying, “Teacher, we know that You say and teach rightly, and You do not show personal favoritism, but teach the way of God in truth:

  1. The words sound smooth, but you can almost see the deception dripping from their lips. The spies flatter Jesus, hoping to butter Him up & catch Him off-guard. Satan doesn’t always speak in obvious growls and snarling. If he can disguise himself as an angel of light, surely his words can sound righteous, enticing, and flattering as well!
  2. That being said, the compliments the spies spoke deceptively to Jesus were actually true. Jesus doesteach rightly;” He does “not show personal favoritism;” and He does “teach the way of God in truth.
    1. To say that Jesus teaches “rightly” is to say that He teaches according to the correct standard. “rightly” = “ὀρθῶς” ~ “orthodoxy.” The word literally refers to standing upright, or being in a straight direction. IOW, Jesus’ teaching doesn’t lead anyone astray.
    2. In regards to personal favoritism, the literal phrase used is “You do not take hold/grasp the face.” It’s an idiom basically implying that someone doesn’t take one person’s face as being better than someone else. A king might look more favorably upon the words of his son than of another person, because his son’s face is precious to him. Jesus doesn’t do this – He looks at everyone the same. It doesn’t matter how many theological degrees a person has, how long they’ve professed to be a Christian, what kind of family background they possess – we are all the same at the foot of the cross. We all have an equal need for Jesus, and He looks upon us with equal grace.
    3. The last description is self-explanatory. Jesus does teach the way (the road) of God in truth. He doesn’t teach it according to the way someone might desire to hear it (in a show of partiality) – He doesn’t teach it in a way that leads someone down the wrong path – He teaches it as it truly is. Jesus IS the truth, and Jesus teaches the truth. 
    4. There is no one better qualified to teach the things of God than the Son of God. Do you want to know of God’s truth & salvation? Look no further than Jesus! (Just be sure to look to Him sincerely, as opposed to the spies!)

22 Is it lawful for us to pay taxes to Caesar or not?”

  1. Here it is…this is what the spies have been waiting to say. They’ve laid out their flatter, pretended that they want to know the truth of God in order to live rightly. Now they pose a question of ethics, with seemingly no good answer.
  2. To grasp how tricky this question is, we’ve got to remember the culture. The Jews lived in their traditional homeland of Israel (known at the time as Judea), but they did not live in freedom. The current empire controlling the region was Rome, with Caesar Tiberius as the emperor at the time. The Jews hated their Roman occupiers, and small revolts were common. One of the reasons that the crowds around Jerusalem were so excited at Jesus’ arrival was because they believed the Messiah (the Son of David) would throw off their oppressors, grant them national freedom, and reestablish the Jewish kingdom. (It was the right idea, but the wrong timing.) With that in mind, one of the very last things a potential Messiah would do was to give any credence to the Romans. To uphold Roman taxation in front of the Jews was political suicide. A person who did so would risk the crowds turning on him, and be fully rejected in an instant. – At the same time, it was equally dangerous to deny Rome’s right to tax its subjects. Remember that Jesus and the others were in Jerusalem just days before the Passover (a celebration of Hebrew freedom from Egyptian slavery), and the full attention of the Roman authorities would be upon any man who attracted the kinds of crowds that Jesus did. The spies of the Pharisees hadn’t posed this question to Jesus in some small town in far-away Galilee, where His response might never be heard by the Romans; this was right in front of their faces in the capital city of their Judean province. For Jesus to say Rome had no right to tax was tantamount to sedition – an act which would bring immediate consequences.
  3. So what was Jesus to do? From the world’s perspective, things would seem pretty bleak. The spies of the Pharisees believed they had Jesus on the ropes, caught between the Romans and the crowds. If Jesus was on the ropes, then He was pulling a rope-a-dope, because He was about to give them an answer they had no way to expect…
  • The response (23-25)

23 But He perceived their craftiness, and said to them, “Why do you test Me?

  1. Stop there. The first few words of vs. 23 tell us everything we need to know about Jesus’ mind regarding His response. He knew this wasn’t an honest question. He knew full & well that this was a trap, that the Pharisees & Herodians were acting in “craftiness,” testing Him. Manuscripts differ as to whether or not Luke included Jesus’ question “Why do you test Me?” but considering that it is also included in Matthew & Mark, there’s no doubt the words are original to Jesus. Jesus knew what was in their hearts & minds, of their “cunning and unscrupulousness” (per the AMP). There was no fooling Jesus that this was anything less than a trap.
  2. On the surface, the question was one of the two kingdoms: the kingdom of God vs. the kingdom of man. Which one has priority, and does it always have priority? Of course, the issue of the kingdoms was a pretense – simply the strategy employed by the spies in order to trap Jesus. But it is still an important question! How are Christians to live as citizens of two kingdoms? What are our responsibilities to God in relation to the government? What happens if/when those kingdoms come into conflict? All of this is answered through the simple, yet incredibly wise statement of Jesus…

24 Show Me a denarius. Whose image and inscription does it have?” They answered and said, “Caesar’s.” 25 And He said to them, “Render therefore to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.”

  1. In a display of supernatural wisdom given in the moment (remember that for now, we’ll get back to it in a bit!), Jesus asks for a coin to be given to Him. A “denarius” was the standard wage for a day-laborer, and probably the most common coin in the land. It’s interesting on two counts (at least!), in that (1) Jesus didn’t have a coin on Him to be able to show to others – something that the so-called “prosperity” teachers ought to notice, and (2) these were likely the same coins that were being exchanged in the temple the previous day. The priests had ensured the Roman money was “no good” in the temple, and that made for a lucrative money-changing industry. No doubt Jesus’ actions were still strongly impressed in the minds of the people, and this would have jarred their memories on this once more.
  2. The question Jesus asked was simple: “Whose image and inscription does it have?” The people could look at the coin for themselves, and answer. [PIC] Nothing was hidden or overtly symbolic on the coin – the image (icon) was that of Caesar Tiberius, son of Augustus, and the embossed letters made it perfectly clear whose coinage it was: Rome’s. Our monetary system is no different. [PIC] Our money may say “In God we trust,” but the notes & coins themselves belong to the Federal Reserve bank of the United States of America. We might have dollars in our pockets, but they aren’t really our dollars; they are United States dollars, of which we have possession. They are good for use in the United States of America, and many countries around the world, but only in countries that choose to accept them. Otherwise, US Dollars need to be exchanged for local currency (Russian rubles, British pounds, etc.). The individual nation owns its own currency, and permits its use among its people. The people around Jesus easily recognized this, and they were able to answer rightly: the image & inscription was “Caesar’s.
  3. Thus the conclusion was logical: “Render therefore to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.” What belongs to the government goes to the government; what belongs to God goes to God. How simple, yet profound! It was the perfect answer for what the Pharisees believed was the perfect trap. The Jewish people could have no complaint against Jesus, for He did not affirm the Roman occupation – He simply affirmed the basic and obvious right of ownership. The money was handed out by the Romans, so it belonged to the Romans. To withhold it was theft: something no Jew could condone. Nor did the Romans have any complaint against Jesus, for He never told people not to pay taxes. They permitted a limited freedom of worship among their client nations, so they had no issue with the second part of Jesus’ statement, even if it did assert a loyalty to Someone other than themselves. Again, it was the perfect answer, simply & succinctly put.
    1. What Jesus demonstrated is likely an example of what Paul described within the spiritual gifts as the “word of wisdom,” (1 Cor 12:8) – a perfect word at the perfect time. For Christians, it is an answer given by the prompting of God the Holy Spirit – an answer we would have never have thought up on our own, but one that cuts to the chase and glorifies Jesus. The word of wisdom may not be the most famous of the spiritual gifts, but it’s one for which we ought to ask more often!
  4. Knowing that the main issue was one of entrapment and discrediting Jesus (in which the Pharisees failed miserably), there’s still the surface-level issue of the two kingdoms. Jesus’ answer deals with it wonderfully.
    1. Give to Caesar what is Caesar’s. What belongs to the government? For one thing, taxes. No one likes paying taxes, but no Christian can look to the Bible for an excuse not to pay them. Again, our money is issued by the government, has the government’s name upon them, so they have the right to tax it. Something else that is owed to the government: civil obedience. Caesar sets the laws of the land, so we need to do our best to obey & submit to those laws (when they are not in conflict with God). These aren’t patriotic arguments; they are Biblical ones. Romans 13:1–7, “(1) Let every soul be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and the authorities that exist are appointed by God. (2) Therefore whoever resists the authority resists the ordinance of God, and those who resist will bring judgment on themselves. (3) For rulers are not a terror to good works, but to evil. Do you want to be unafraid of the authority? Do what is good, and you will have praise from the same. (4) For he is God’s minister to you for good. But if you do evil, be afraid; for he does not bear the sword in vain; for he is God’s minister, an avenger to execute wrath on him who practices evil. (5) Therefore you must be subject, not only because of wrath but also for conscience’ sake. (6) For because of this you also pay taxes, for they are God’s ministers attending continually to this very thing. (7) Render therefore to all their due: taxes to whom taxes are due, customs to whom customs, fear to whom fear, honor to whom honor.” The Bible could hardly be plainer on the issue: Christians are to obey the government, and pay our taxes. One other thing we owe the government: our prayers. The Bible commands us to pray for kings and all who are in authority. (1 Tim 2:1-2) How can we expect to have freedom to live as Christians if we never pray for Godly national leaders? How can we expect evil leaders to come to faith in Christ, if we never intercede on their behalf? Prayers heard by God are one of the things that Christians can give our government that no other citizen can offer; if we neglect it, it won’t get done. The bottom line is this: God (in His sovereignty) has allowed the government (even evil ones) to exist, so we are to submit to its rule as best as possible. This is the kingdom of men, of which we are all inherently citizens. Yet it is a kingdom that is limited. By what? The kingdom of God…
    2. Give to God what is God’s. What belongs to God? Everything – life itself. That’s not a cop-out; that’s a simple fact. The things created by God belong to God, and God created everything. People themselves belong to God. Just as the Roman coins were imprinted with the image of Caesar, so are human souls imprinted with the image of God. (Gen 1:26) That means we not only owe God our ultimate obedience, but we owe Him our very lives. We may pay our taxes to the national government, but we owe our existence and eternity to our Heavenly Father. How does this work out?
      1. In conflicts between God and the government, God wins. Although payment of taxes is not optional, there are certain areas of civil obedience when it becomes impossible for a Christian to fulfill. When Christians in Rome were demanded to call Caesar their lord & offer a pinch of pagan incense to him, they rightly refused. When Christians in Soviet-era Russia were prohibited from worshipping Jesus in public, they met in forests in order to worship Him privately. All around the world this very day, there are Christians who face physical danger from their governments because they refuse to convert away from Christianity. They disobey the kingdom of men, because they are being truly obedient to the kingdom of God. This has been the case throughout the history of the church, going back to the apostles. When commanded by the Jewish Sanhedrin not to teach the name of Jesus, Acts 5:29–32, “(29) But Peter and the other apostles answered and said: “We ought to obey God rather than men. (30) The God of our fathers raised up Jesus whom you murdered by hanging on a tree. (31) Him God has exalted to His right hand to be Prince and Savior, to give repentance to Israel and forgiveness of sins. (32) And we are His witnesses to these things, and so also is the Holy Spirit whom God has given to those who obey Him.”” For them, there was no question: between God & government, God wins.
      2. Whereas the kingdom of men is limited, the kingdom of God is not. Nations have borders; faith doesn’t. The United States has sovereignty up to the Atlantic & Pacific oceans, and a few areas beyond, but that’s as far as it goes. God has sovereignty over all of life and all of the universe. More than that, there are some things that simply do not belong to the government, even within national borders. We don’t owe the government our worship – we don’t owe the government our families, etc. This was something acknowledged by the writers of the US Declaration of Independence, as they noted three things that God inherently gives to every person, irrespective of government: life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. No matter what nation in which someone lives, certain things come from (and are owed to) God alone, as God alone grants them.
  • Submission to God is something He is owed. His salvation is a free gift, as nothing can be done to earn it. Yet just because it’s free doesn’t mean that it isn’t a sin to refuse it. Only those who believe upon Jesus in faith truly call Him “Lord,” but that is a title He is owed from all people (and will one day receive, according to Phil 2). To refuse to surrender to Jesus today in worship as the Living God is to actively refuse to give to God what belongs to God – and it confirms a person in sin. (Thankfully, this is something that can be rectified!)
  1. Practically speaking, what does this mean? It means Christians don’t have an excuse not to pay taxes. It also means that everyone everywhere owe everything to God. Give Him your worship; He deserves it!
  1. All of that is an important issue, but remember, it was the side-issue. That was the deflection used by the Pharisees and Herodians to trap Jesus. What was the aftermath? 26…
  • The result (26)

26 But they could not catch Him in His words in the presence of the people. And they marveled at His answer and kept silent.

  1. The spies of the Pharisees failed. Though they tried their best, they couldn’t trip up Jesus. He had said nothing upon which they could seize and use as an excuse to deliver Him over to the Romans. They had hoped to have a multitude of witnesses to Jesus’ self-condemning words, but they ended up with nothing. Obviously, it doesn’t mean that they gave up – but they certainly lost Round 1. For now, they “kept silent.” In the face of the supernatural wisdom of Jesus, there was nothing left to say!
  2. Yet that wasn’t the only response of the spies. Luke tells us they also “marveled at His answer.” Granted, the “they” is fairly generic, and it could include the crowds who were listening to Jesus – but the grammar strongly implies that it was the same people who could not catch Jesus in His word that marveled in amazement at His answer. Even the skeptics were impressed by Jesus. When they came face-to-face with the truth of God, they could not help but be astonished.
  3. The one thing that did not happen (sadly) was their conversion. The spies were impressed by Jesus, and left speechless by Him, but they did not submit to Him. They had tried to trap Jesus into a question of what was to be given to Caesar, and they ended up in a place where they refused to give to God what belonged to God: their faith.
    1. In the end, it doesn’t matter how impressed someone might be with Jesus – if they never put their faith in Him, they’re still lost. The wonder of Jesus doesn’t save us; we need to worship Him.

Conclusion:

It was only Round 1, but Jesus came out as the unquestioned victor. Between God and the skeptics, God wins – between God and the government, God wins. God wins, every time.

Are all skeptics as dishonest as the spies of the Pharisees? Of course not. Not all people are purposefully deceptive…although many might be deceiving themselves as to the real reasons they do not believe. Some have intellectual or philosophical questions, and for those who do, there are answers. There’s not a single intellectual or philosophical issue that exists, for which there is not a reasonable and Biblical response, for those willing to actually read what has been written during the past 2000 years of Christian thinking. For those with honest questions and a willingness to learn, there are honest answers.

As for the rest, it’s time to get rid of the smokescreens and side-issues. It’s time to deal with the real problem: their unwillingness to submit to God. That was the issue for the Pharisees and Herodians. It’s not that they didn’t believe in the existence of the Messiah (at least for the Pharisees…they very strongly believed it!); they just didn’t want Jesus to be the Messiah! They didn’t want to be accountable to Him. Thus they tried to take Him down – to get Him to discredit Himself…and they failed. The Son of God won’t be discredited – He won’t be defamed – and in the end, He cannot and will not be denied.

At some point, every person will deal with Jesus. Even the most confirmed atheist will one day stand before the God he claimed never exists, and he will be judged. In that moment, it won’t matter how many academic degrees someone has, or how many iron-clad arguments (so-thought) they have against the Bible. All of those things will fall away as the illusions they are, as they stand in the reality of their Creator.

What will you do in that day? Will you be able to gratefully worship the Lord Jesus as your Savior – or will you offer up every excuse for why you never acknowledged Him in life? Maybe you’ve been hurt by a Christian – maybe you’re dealing with grief & loss, blaming God – maybe you’re dealing with a sin you don’t want to give up or even call a sin. At least be honest about those things, and go to Jesus with them. He can heal the hurt, give the comfort, and address the issue in truth – He certainly won’t lead you astray. Just go to Jesus…not as an unrelenting skeptic, but as we all go to Him: sinners in need of a Savior.

Give to God what belongs to God. That’s true for skeptics as well as saints. Give Him your life, holding nothing back. Give Him your worship, and your faith, casting yourself fully upon Jesus. Give Him your all.

Bucking Authority

Posted: November 16, 2017 in Luke, Uncategorized

Luke 20:1-19, “Bucking Authority”

Some people have a problem with authority.  Keith Richards, guitarist for the Rolling Stones is claimed to have said, “If you’re going to kick authority in the teeth, you might as well use two feet.”  There is not a parent alive who has not had to deal with some level of rejection of authority along the way – it’s simply a part of life.  The problem arises when our tendency to buck authority becomes so ingrained in us that it is who we are.  People who never recognize any authority become dangerous to themselves & sometimes to the rest of society.  Those are the people who think speed limits and stop signs never apply to them, and end up causing horrific accidents.  If rules apply to everyone but “us,” then they apply to no one at all…and that leaves everyone in chaos.

That’s bad enough in general society, but it’s infinitely worse when it comes to our relationship with God.  After all, it’s one thing to mouth off to a police officer – it’s unwise, and can likely get you fined or thrown in jail.  It’s another thing to finally reject God – that is something that affects our eternal destiny.

Speaking from personal opinion, I believe this sort of rebellion against God’s authority is at the heart of the modern atheist movement today.  It seems that far fewer atheists turn to atheism because of any solid intellectual arguments, then the ones that turn to atheism because of their willful rejection of Christianity and God as a whole.  Perhaps they experienced pain at the hands of so-called Christians – perhaps they grew up under false teaching in the name of religion.  Whatever the case, they don’t want God to exist because they don’t want to be held accountable by God in eternity, and thus they simply write off God altogether.

That sort of reaction might be understandable, but it ignores a glaring problem: it doesn’t change the truth.  God does exist, Jesus is risen from the dead, and the Bible does contain the truth about Him.  It doesn’t matter how much someone might want to reject the authority of God, He has authority, and we will answer to Him.

That is where the Jewish leadership in Jerusalem found themselves with Jesus just a few days before Passover.  Jesus had demonstrated on numerous occasions His obvious authority as the God-given Messiah, but the priests & elders didn’t want Him.  They rebelled against His authority because they wanted to be their own authority.  In the end, it didn’t matter what they wanted in their imaginations – it only mattered if they recognized the truth.  That would be the only way any of them could be saved.

Remember what led up to this time: Jesus has had a grand entry into Jerusalem, coming down from the Mount of Olives with people praising Him as the Messiah, shouting “Hosanna!” while the Pharisees rebuked Jesus for not rebuking the crowds.  Just prior to entering the city in the midst of all of this triumph, Jesus actually broke down in weeping.  He knew what was soon to come: the people would reject Him, and the city of Jerusalem would be destroyed.  What the people could not imagine was clearly seen by Jesus, and it grieved Him to know how many would die in their sin.  Soon afterwards, Jesus went to the temple, cleansing it from the corruption that was there – sinful practices that had been allowed to remain & fester by the approval of the priests.  Once it was cleansed, Jesus was able to use the temple for its intended purpose as He taught there on a daily basis.  Chapter 19 thus ended with the Jewish leaders desiring Jesus’ destruction, but with the people hanging on His every word.

How would the priests and others try to destroy Jesus?  They begin through a smear campaign, in an attempt to discredit Him.  They don’t want His authority, so they try to undermine it.  It won’t work here, nor will it work through the rest of the chapter.

Don’t buck against the authority of Jesus; recognize Him as the King!

Luke 20:1–19

  • Questioning Authority (1-8)

1 Now it happened on one of those days, as He taught the people in the temple and preached the gospel, that the chief priests and the scribes, together with the elders, confronted Him

  1. With the beginning of verse 1, there is a direct tie to the end of Ch. 19. After Jesus cleansed the temple, He used it on a daily basis that week for teaching.  20 opens by showing what happened during those days.  Based off the chronology in Mark 11, it seems the question of the priests came on Tuesday of Passover week.
  2. Remember that the tensions are high at this time. Not only is it the week prior to Passover, but there are people openly proclaiming Jesus to be the Messiah.  Passover crowds in Jerusalem were always large, but there were now additional crowds surrounding Jesus, being that He attracted special attention.  As a whole, the people hated the Romans, and now there was Someone in the city who seemed to have the power to overthrow them, as He operated with the obvious blessing of God.  The Jewish leaders had always been opposed to Jesus in general, but now they had extra reason to follow Him and criticize His every move (which they will do throughout the chapter).
  3. Even with all of that, none of this swayed Jesus from His mission. He obviously knew He would be rejected & crucified within a matter of days.  In fact, He had prophesied His death several times, the last being just prior to His ascent to Jerusalem. (Lk 18:30-33)  Yet this did not slow down His ministry.  He knew things would play out exactly according to God’s timing, so He took advantage of every minute He had along the way.
  4. What exactly did He do? (1) “He taught the people,” (2) He “preached the gospel.”  Jesus taught & evangelized.  IOW, Jesus did what He always
    1. Jesus was a teacher of the Scriptures. Everywhere He went, He taught people about the heart of God from the word of God with the authority of God.  No one taught with such authority as Jesus…and for good reason: He is God!
      1. Don’t overlook the importance of sound Biblical doctrine. It was so important to Jesus, that He taught it everywhere.  Yes, Jesus performed countless miracles (healings, demon exorcisms, multiplying loaves & fish, etc.), but the miracles simply gave a platform for His teaching.  It gave extra credibility to the things He said. …  We need solid doctrine!
    2. Jesus was a preacher of the gospel. Interestingly, the word Luke uses to describe this is all one single word.  NKJV translates it as “preached the gospel,” but the Greek simply has one word which means all of that.  It’s the same word from which we derive the term “evangelism,” and it simply means to proclaim the good news.  Jesus never shied away from preaching the good news of salvation.  This was His regular habit, wherever He went.  (And for good reason: it’s good news!)
    3. Note: both are needed. We need Biblical teaching and we need the proclamation of the gospel.  Done right, the two should go hand-in-hand.  However, in practice among American Evangelicals, it often does not.  There are some Bible teaching churches that rarely share the good news of salvation, and there are other churches with altar calls every week yet have little-to-no depth of teaching.  Jesus did both – so should we!
  5. So Jesus was busy during this week, actively engaging with the crowds at the temple through His teaching and gospel-preaching. This was something the Jewish leadership could not stand, so that’s when the “chief priests and the scribes, together with the elders, confronted Him.”  When Jesus initially approached Jerusalem, it was the Pharisees who rebuked Him (19:34); at this point it now includes the party of the Sadducees, as they were the people of the priestly class.  The bottom line is that all factions of the Jewish leadership were in opposition to Jesus at the time.  They might argue against each other, but they were united in their rejection of Jesus.

2 and spoke to Him, saying, “Tell us, by what authority are You doing these things? Or who is he who gave You this authority?”

  1. Remember that Jesus had just cleansed the temple (most likely on the previous day), so at first glance it might seem natural for the priests to demand His credentials. Who was He to step over their own authority in the temple?  They were the priests; He was just some upstart itinerate preacher from Galilee.  Sure, He did all kinds of healings, knew the Scriptures better than anyone else they had ever known, cast out demons, and raised the dead…but He didn’t have any formalized rabbinical teaching.  Where was Jesus’ degree?  Who was His professor/rabbi?  Who gave Him any authority over the priests regarding the temple?
  2. There’s no question that Jesus’ authority was obvious to all. It was inherent to who He was.  When a player from the NBA shows up on a high school basketball court, people don’t need to ask him about his stats & college career; his skills are evident.  When Mozart sat down at the piano or picked up a violin and started to play, not a single listener questioned his youth or supposed inexperience; his abilities were evident.  Likewise with Jesus.  When He walked into a room, He walked in with the authority of God.  How could it be otherwise?  He is God!  He didn’t need material riches or governmental power or rabbinical pedigrees to back up any authority He claimed; He is the authority.  All Jesus needed to do was to show up, and He had all the authority required.
  3. Ultimately, the priests & others were less concerned about the legitimacy of Jesus’ credentials, and more concerned with their attempt to discredit Him. Jesus was messing up their own position of authority among the people and at the temple, and had the potential of messing up the good thing they had going with the Romans.  Thus they needed to get rid of Jesus, and do it quick.  Luke noted at the end of Ch. 19 that they “sought to destroy Him,” and though they couldn’t do that, they could try for the next best thing: destroy His reputation & discredit Him among the people.  (Of course, they wouldn’t be able to do that, either!)
    1. Skeptics still attempt to discredit God today. Perhaps they don’t mind their diluted version of Jesus too much, but they certainly don’t like overall portrayal of God in the Scriptures, nor the Bible as a whole.  Try as they might, they cannot destroy God in our culture, so they try to discredit Him instead.  “The God of the Bible is cruel & violent!  He sends good people to hell simply because they believe differently – He commands whole civilizations in the Old Testament to be destroyed – He commands bigotry against homosexuals, etc.”  They throw out all kinds of horrendous accusations against God, with the hope of casting enough doubt on Him in the minds of enough people, that people will turn away from God altogether.
    2. How do we respond to this? (1) Remember that God is more than capable of defending Himself. He always shows Himself to be true.  (2) Remember that although skeptics doubt God in the present, they will see God face-to-face in the future, and they will have to answer for their rebellious accusations at the judgment.  (Which gives us much reason to continue sharing the gospel with them today!)  (3) Remember that every accusation has an answer.  There is not a single charge leveled against God today that does not have a reasonable response from the pages of Scripture.  God is not capricious, cruel, or bigoted.  He is holy & righteous, judging all sin among all people.  But He also sent Jesus to the cross to bear that judgment.  The cross and empty tomb is the answer to every attempt made to defame the character of God, because in the cross of Christ the love of God revealed.  God IS holy & righteous, so much so that He sent His only begotten Son to die in our place in order to satisfy His holy wrath.  God will not be discredited or defamed; in the cross His loving character is made known.

3 But He answered and said to them, “I also will ask you one thing, and answer Me: 4 The baptism of John—was it from heaven or from men?”

  1. Jesus answers their question with a question. Since they asked Him about His authority, perhaps they could answer where John the Baptist received his own authority.  The same priests questioning Jesus in the present day had asked John in the past about his own role within the kingdom of God.  They openly wondered if John the Baptist was the Messiah, the revisited Elijah, or the Prophet promised by Moses. (Jn 1:19-21)  The Pharisees and the Sadducees had visited John at his baptisms, and John openly accused them of hypocrisy, calling them a “brood of vipers.” (Mt 3:7)  They didn’t openly oppose John at the time, because they readily understood God was doing something through him.  John was the first prophet sent to the Jewish people in 400 years; the Pharisees and Sadducees listened to his authoritative voice, even though they didn’t do anything in response to it.
  2. So the question from Jesus was simple: What about John? If they saw John’s authority as being obvious & inherent, they should see Jesus’ authority the same way, for John openly testified of Jesus.  If they believed John was a fraud, then they should say so openly, and that would give them at least a platform from which they could claim Jesus was a fraud.
  3. Of course, Jesus knew it wouldn’t be that simple for the priests, and that’s when they huddled up and tried to formulate a response. 5…

5 And they reasoned among themselves, saying, “If we say, ‘From heaven,’ He will say, ‘Why then did you not believe him?’ 6 But if we say, ‘From men,’ all the people will stone us, for they are persuaded that John was a prophet.”

  1. The priests, scribes, and elders quickly saw that they were between a rock & a hard place. (Pun intended. J) This was a no-win situation for them.  If they answered that John’s authority was obviously sent by God, and that he was recognized by them as a prophet, then they had no excuse as to why they didn’t believe him or obey him when he told them to bear fruits worthy of repentance. (Lk 3:8)  Yet if they denied John’s heavenly authority, they feared for their own lives.  The Jewish crowds certainly believed John was a prophet, and apparently, they were willing to stone anyone who claimed otherwise!  Stoning is no doubt extreme, but from the crowd’s point of view, if their own religious leadership refused to recognize an obvious prophet in their midst, then they had no business being religious leaders.  Priests who didn’t recognize obvious prophets were frauds, and the crowds had a way of dealing with religious frauds at the time: death.  (Better to fire them & help them come to repentance!  But that was their culture at the time.)
  2. So if they didn’t have a good answer, what could they do? Not answer at all…

7 So they answered that they did not know where it was from.

  1. It was a cop-out, but to the priests, it seemed to be their best option. They were too humiliated to tell the truth, and too fearful to tell a lie.  Thus they did like any modern politician does today & voted “abstain.”

8 And Jesus said to them, “Neither will I tell you by what authority I do these things.”

  1. The non-answer from the priests gave Jesus an out from answering their original question. If they weren’t willing to tell Him the truth, then He wasn’t forced to tell them anything at all.  They could have received a straight-answer from Jesus, but they chose theological cowardice instead.
  2. Of course, Jesus being Jesus, He answered them anyway…at least in a round-about fashion. He didn’t answer their direct question, but instead told a parable that provided all the answers they supposedly wanted.
  3. BTW – As with John the Baptist, the answer regarding Jesus’ authority was obvious. Just as the priests knew that John had been sent by God, they also knew Jesus had been sent by God.  They just wanted Jesus to say it, so they could attempt to turn the crowds against Him, as they tried to paint Him as a crazy religious nut or egomaniac.  Jesus’ turning of the tables was masterful (as might be expected!), as He was able to both (1) expose the foolish hypocrisy of the priests, and (2) demonstrate His divine authority yet one more time.
    1. This won’t be the last time the Jewish leadership tries to argue with Jesus, but they get the same results every time: failure. It’s impossible to argue with the Lord!  (Why do we even try?)
  • Parable of the Vinedressers (9-19)

9 Then He began to tell the people this parable: “A certain man planted a vineyard, leased it to vinedressers, and went into a far country for a long time. 10 Now at vintage-time he sent a servant to the vinedressers, that they might give him some of the fruit of the vineyard. …

  1. The situation described by Jesus was (like most of His parables) a common one. Land-owners might initially develop a piece of property, and lease it out to workers, on the basis of sharing in the profits from the crops.  Eventually, there might be an opportunity for the workers (in this case, vinedressers) to end up acquiring the land for themselves in a kind of rent-to-own sort of fashion, but that would take several seasons worth of work.  In the meantime, it all belonged to the landowner, no matter where he might live.  Businesses today often have phantom-owners, where a single person or family holds the ownership rights to the business, but does little-to-nothing on a daily basis for its upkeep.  They still receive the profits, and they have every right to them as ownership.
  2. The specific type of land/crop in question would have gotten the attention of the Jewish leadership & all of the crowds listening to Jesus. Students of the Scripture would be very familiar with the picture of Israel as a vineyard, as that is exactly how God described His relationship with the nation through the prophet Isaiah. [Isaiah 5:1-7] Historically for Isaiah, he would have originally thought of the sins and conquests of the northern and southern kingdoms, Israel & Judah.  The idea of God laying His vineyard to waste would have been fulfilled when the Assyrians conquered Israel, and when the Babylonians did the same to Judah.  For Isaiah, all of that was in the future, but for the Jews of Jesus’ day, it was all behind them.  They came out of Babylonian captivity & had been living in the land for several centuries by this point.  Surely the words of Isaiah 5 no longer applied to them, right?    When Jesus introduced the idea of a vineyard again, no doubt more than a few ears perked up as to what He had to say.  Would things go well between the Jews and God this time?  Would it be a different outcome?  Not so much…

…But the vinedressers beat him and sent him away empty-handed. 11 Again he sent another servant; and they beat him also, treated him shamefully, and sent him away empty-handed. 12 And again he sent a third; and they wounded him also and cast him out.

  1. As Jesus continues to tell the parable, He describes the owner sending servant after servant (technically “slave after slave”) to collect his portion of the crop, only to have each of them beaten and humiliated. Each of the servants had been sent with the authority of their master, and each of them had been treated “”  This was outright rebellion from the vinedressers as they continued in unrepentant sin.
  2. In all of this, take note of the patience of the landowner. He had the right to send in armed soldiers after the very first instance of violence.  Yet he patiently sent servant after servant, never responding to the violence of the vinedressers in-kind.  (One wonders what went through the mind of the 3rd servant!  It’s not exactly a prime assignment! J)
  3. In all of this, there is a distinct difference between Jesus’ parable, and the original parable told through Isaiah. In Isaiah 5, the sin of Israel & Judah is represented by wild grapes; in Jesus’ parable, the sin is represented by wild vinedressers.  Yet this is a necessary change, as it demonstrates exactly how Israel went wild with sin.  Although parables should not usually be interpreted as allegories, with a parallel explanation being given for every single item, this particular parable seems to be the exception that makes the rule.  The servants sent by the landowner are equivalent to the prophets sent by God.  And how had the Jews treated the prophets (by and large)?  Rejection and violence. Earlier, when pronouncing woes upon the Pharisees, Jesus accused them of being guilty of the blood of all of the prophets throughout the entirety of the Scriptures: from Abel listed in the opening chapters of Genesis (Gen 4), to the Zechariah who was listed in the last book included in the Hebrew canon. (2 Chr 36; Lk 11:51)  And it wasn’t just the Pharisees – all of the Jews of Jerusalem had been guilty of killing the prophets.  Luke 13:34, “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the one who kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to her! How often I wanted to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, but you were not willing!”  The Jews of Jerusalem routinely rejected the prophets sent by God, just like the vinedressers rejected the servants sent by the landowner.
  4. As the parable continues, that’s when the landowner comes up with a plan. 13…

13 “Then the owner of the vineyard said, ‘What shall I do? I will send my beloved son. Probably they will respect him when they see him.’

  1. Question: Is this wise?! Considering what happened to the other servants, was the father being exceptionally foolish?  Not at all.  Each of the servants represented a bit of their master; the son represented the fullness of his father.  For the son to go to the vineyard, it was if the father himself had gone.  The son should have been treated with the same respect as his father.  In fact, the vinedressers should have been especially cautious in their dealings with the son, because the son was “beloved” by the father.  That’s a line any reasonable person would have known not to cross.  (Of course, the vinedressers weren’t reasonable, as the parable will go on to show.)
  2. Before moving on, there are a couple of items of note:
    1. The “owner of the vineyard” could literally be translated the “lord of the vineyard.” The context in which the word is used definitely lends itself to a translation of “owner,” as the word could simply be a title of respect (like “sir”).  But considering the obvious reference to the Lord God’s vineyard of Isaiah 5, it should not be surprising at all to see the owner referred to in this way.  This would not have been lost upon Luke’s readers.
    2. The son is specifically described as “my beloved son.” Although that could be said by any father of his son, there seems to be more than a slight reference back to both the baptism and transfiguration of Jesus, as God calls Jesus “My beloved Son.” (Lk 3:22, 9:35)
  3. The bottom line: if the servants can be thought of as representing the prophets, then the owner & son can be thought of as God the Father and the Lord Jesus. Even if Jesus’ initial listeners were not able to grasp quite all of the meaning at the time (which they likely did), it ought to be obvious to us!
  4. Question: Knowing that unlike the father in the parable, God the Father actually knew what the response of the people would be to Jesus, does that make God foolish in sending Jesus to the Jews? Does that make Him cruel, sending His beloved only begotten Son to certain suffering and death?  Not at all!  That’s not cruel; that’s the gospel!  Both God the Father and God the Son absolutely knew what would happen to Jesus, and Jesus came anyway.  That’s how much He loves us!  That’s how much He desires us to be saved, and it was the only way He could accomplish our salvation.  If God the Father hadn’t sent Jesus, or if Jesus had somehow refused to come, not a single human being would have any hope at all of eternal life.  We’d all be lost, forever doomed to face the judgment of God due to our sin.  But God desires for us to be saved – He is glorified through the redemption that Jesus provided when Jesus shed His blood for us.  So yes, God knew, and although it might seem foolish to the world, it is the power of God unto salvation for those who believe!  (1 Cor 1:18)

14 But when the vinedressers saw him, they reasoned among themselves, saying, ‘This is the heir. Come, let us kill him, that the inheritance may be ours.’ 15 So they cast him out of the vineyard and killed him. …

  1. Did the vinedressers give pause when they saw the son approaching? Only long enough to conspire against him in bloodshed.  They foolishly believed that the owner would surrender the vineyard to them upon the death of his son.  Perhaps they believed that the lack of an heir would mean that the land would go to the people in possession – perhaps they believed that the father would simply give up.  Whatever their foolish & evil reasoning, they planned and performed premediated murder, and killed the son.

…Therefore what will the owner of the vineyard do to them? 16 He will come and destroy those vinedressers and give the vineyard to others.” …

  1. No doubt! This is the righteous response of the lord of the vineyard!  The vinedressers had violently beaten the previous servants, but they killed the son.  They took their evil and rebellion to the next level of depravity, and the owner acted swiftly and in justice.
  2. Does this still fit God’s relationship with the then-present Jews of Jerusalem?   Remember that Jesus had prophesied of Jerusalem’s soon destruction, even weeping over the city. (19:41-44)  Because they had not known the time of their “visitation” – i.e., they had not recognized the arrival of the Messiah, the Son of God among them – they would face utter destruction at the hands of the Romans.  In 70AD, the Roman general Titus besieged Jerusalem, and it & the temple were destroyed, exactly as Jesus had foretold.  It’s this same destruction referenced in the parable.
  3. That being the case, how is the parable’s vineyard given to others? The “vineyard” isn’t a reference to the city of Jerusalem, so much as it is to the relationship between the Jews and God.  They were His covenant people, which is why He sent so many servants/prophets to them warning them of how they were in violation of their covenant.  At their final rejection of His Son and His death at their hands, that covenant was horribly broken, and would now be extended “to others.”  To whom?  To the Gentiles.  The Messiah of Israel went first to Israel – but when they rejected Him, His covenant blessings were made available to the rest of the world.  As Paul wrote to the Romans, the gospel “is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the Greek.” (Rom 1:16)  If the Jews would not receive the salvation of Jesus through the gospel proclamation, then it would be given to the Gentiles.  This is the very reason we have heard the gospel & can be saved!
    1. Has Israel forever lost their opportunity for salvation? No – praise God, no!  Though Israel rejected Jesus as the Messiah and ended up in spiritual blindness, one day their blindness will be removed and they will see Jesus for who He is.  One day, all Israel will be saved. (Rom 11:26)  This is the awesome graciousness of our God!  This is His love & kindness!
  4. With this, the parable ends, and the priests and people respond…

…And when they heard it they said, “Certainly not!”

  1. The light has started to turn on, and they’re beginning to understand exactly what Jesus was saying. It was inconceivable to them that God might reject them as His people, and allow His covenant to be given to the Gentiles.  “Certainly not!” could be translated “May it never be!”  To them, this could never come into existence…but of course, it did.
  2. This was the response Jesus anticipated, and He was ready with an answer from the Scripture. 17…

17 Then He looked at them and said, “What then is this that is written: ‘The stone which the builders rejected Has become the chief cornerstone’? 18 Whoever falls on that stone will be broken; but on whomever it falls, it will grind him to powder.”

  1. Should it have been a surprise to the Jews that Jesus would teach of the rejection & killing of the Messiah? Not in the slightest.  The Messiah was prophesied to be rejected, in many places in the Scripture – one of which is quoted by Jesus.  Psalm 118:22–24, “(22) The stone which the builders rejected Has become the chief cornerstone. (23) This was the LORD’s doing; It is marvelous in our eyes. (24) This is the day the LORD has made; We will rejoice and be glad in it.” (Interestingly enough, this was the same psalm quoted by the crowds on Palm Sunday as they proclaimed, “Hosanna!  Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!”  In fact, those are the very next verses following the verses referenced by Jesus.)  As for the original psalmist, he was praising God for God’s work of deliverance & salvation, when all of a sudden he writes of this rejected stone.  Perhaps initially referring to himself, the one that was discounted & cast away by his enemies was made victorious by the work & salvation of the Lord God.  Yet ultimately, it speaks of the Messiah.  The promise of Messiah was the most important promise ever made by God to the Hebrews, and it was a promise that existed literally from the days of Adam, forward throughout the history of Israel.  Yet when the Messiah was to appear, it is clear that Hebrew people wouldn’t recognize Him, and would actually reject Him.  Like a bunch of bricklayers working on a project who discount the most important piece for the building, so would (and did) the Jews discount the most important Person for their nation: their Messiah King.  The very Person they rejected was the Person that was the “chief cornerstone.”  And again, this isn’t a one-off prophecy – this idea is found throughout the Scriptures.  Isaiah 53:3, “He is despised and rejected by men…and we hid, as it were, our faces from Him.”  Zechariah 12:10, “they will look on Me whom they pierced.”  Daniel 9:26, “And after the sixty-two weeks, Messiah shall be cut off.”  Psalm 22:6, “But I am a worm, and no man, a reproach of men, and despised by the people.”  And the list could go on!  The whole story of Joseph in Genesis sets forth an example of a blessed son who was rejected by his own people, and later raised to the highest authority by the sovereign work of God.  Jewish scholars long believed that there would be a Messiah along those lines.  This may not have been a prophecy pleasing in the ears of Israel – it certainly didn’t flatter Israel at all – but it was true, nonetheless.
  2. But it doesn’t stop with rejection. The Messiah was also prophesied to bring judgment.  Here, Jesus doesn’t quote a particular Scripture, so much as summarize a teaching from the prophet Isaiah. Isaiah 8:14–15, “(14) He will be as a sanctuary, But a stone of stumbling and a rock of offense To both the houses of Israel, As a trap and a snare to the inhabitants of Jerusalem. (15) And many among them shall stumble; They shall fall and be broken, Be snared and taken.”  Contextually for Isaiah, he quoted the Lord God who was telling the prophet not to act like the people around him.  The masses believed a conspiracy was working against them, but in reality they had been working against Almighty God.  Isaiah was to fear & worship God alone, knowing that those who didn’t would run up against God like a brick wall, unable to succeed.  The application to the Messiah is obvious.  The nation might reject the chief cornerstone, but they would still need to deal with Him.  They would still face Jesus for judgment, at which time those still in rebellion against Him would be crushed into powder.
    1. The point? Stop rebelling against Jesus!  Historically speaking, Jesus was long ago rejected by His own people, sent to the cross, and resurrected from the grave in power & victory.  The Jews of that generation faced a terrible judgment when God allowed the Romans to come in and destroy Jerusalem in 70AD.  That is all done.  Yet we’re fooling ourselves if we think that these prophecies are only fulfilled in that time by those people.  Scores of people still reject Jesus today – He’s still the chief cornerstone, their only hope for salvation – and people still trip over Him and face His crushing judgment for all eternity.  What’s the solution?  Look at the choice offered in vs. 18: a person can either “fall” on the stone of Jesus, or have the stone fall upon him/her.  We can either willing submit ourselves to Christ Jesus in humble brokenness, or we can be broken by the Lord at His great white throne judgment.  The choice is ours – and the results are drastically different! (Make the right choice!)
  3. The priests & other Jewish leaders made their choice that day…sadly, the wrong one…

19 And the chief priests and the scribes that very hour sought to lay hands on Him, but they feared the people—for they knew He had spoken this parable against them.

  1. By this point, the priests & scribes completely caught on to what Jesus was saying, and it infuriated them. “They knew He had spoken this parable against them.”  There wasn’t any need for a special private session with Jesus, asking Him the interpretation; it was obvious & evident.  They were so angry that they almost acted out the final part of the parable right then & there!
  2. What stopped them? “They feared the people.”  As with their theological cowardice regarding John the Baptist, they allowed their fear of the crowds determine their actions.  For the time being, they still had a position of power among the masses, and they weren’t going to take any risks that might jeopardize that.
  3. What else stopped them, though it isn’t mentioned? The will of God.  It wasn’t yet time for Jesus to be arrested and killed. That would come in just a few days, but it wouldn’t happen until God allowed it to happen.  He was sovereignly in control.

Conclusion:

The priests, scribes, and elders bucked against the authority of the Messiah.  It was exactly what the Scripture prophesied would happen, and they would face the inevitable results of that rejection…also according to prophecy.  It’s not that they didn’t recognize the authority of Jesus, or weren’t aware of what they were doing; they simply didn’t care.  They weren’t seeking to please God – they wanted the applause and submission of men…and they were willing to do anything to keep it.  Jesus offered them so much more!  If only they had been willing to listen!

By bucking the obvious authority of Jesus, they were bucking the obvious authority of His Father.  They were rebelling against God, and that left them only one eternal option: judgment.  Instead of being built on the rock of God, they would be crushed by Him and His truth.

Don’t let that be the case with you!  It was prophesied that the Jews of Jerusalem would reject Jesus, and it is inevitable that multitudes of people throughout history and around the world will do the same…but it doesn’t have to happen to you.  Everyone is given a choice, and everyone has to make it for himself.  Make the right one.

Have you been rebelling against the authority of God?  Have you simply not wanted there to be a God?  Know this: Jesus is the Messiah, God in the flesh who dwelt among us, died upon the cross for our sins, and rose from the grave.  Those are facts, not opinions, and the way we respond to those facts effect our eternal destinies.  Don’t buck against the authority of Jesus; surrender to it!  Give yourself humbly into His hands, asking Him to save you, and He will. …

Lest we think that the application is only to non-Christians in order that they come to Christ, consider this: up to this point, the Jewish priests & elders were the people of God.  They were the workers in the vineyard, and they rejected the one who had rightful Lordship over them.  Christians can (and do) rebel against the authority of our Lord & King.  The Rock upon which our salvation is founded will also be used in our discipline, if we’re not careful.  God loves us too much to let us remain in perpetual rebellion against Him. … If that’s you, humble yourself before Jesus today.

 

Last Chance!

Posted: November 5, 2017 in Luke, Uncategorized

Luke 19:41-48, “Last Chance!”

If you’ve ever driven out west, you’ve seen the signs: “Last chance for gas, for 200 miles.”  It makes you check your tank and do some quick calculations.  Depending on how fueled up you are, you might be paying a pretty penny for gasoline!

Far more important than food or fuel is our opportunity to receive God’s forgiveness & eternal life!  Is there ever a moment when it becomes our last chance?  Yes.  No one knows when that might be.  Certainly, anyone with a still-beating heart has the opportunity to receive Jesus as their Lord & Savior – but just because a heart is beating doesn’t mean it isn’t hard.  Not every person is ready at all times to receive Jesus.  Some have said “no” to Him so often that their hearts have become permanently hard, and apart from a miracle of God, they will not be saved.  Others have a limited opportunity to ever encounter the gospel of salvation (such as those who live in Islamic, Hindu, or Buddhist nations), and if they don’t respond in their present moment, they might not get another chance in the future.  Who knows when another missionary might visit them?  Who knows if they’ll ever again hear the truth?

For the Jews in Jerusalem during the final week of Jesus’ earthly ministry, they had a mix of the two.  On one side, these were the final days before Jesus went to the cross.  Soon, He would be crucified, dead, and buried (and thankfully, resurrected three days later!), and only a limited number of people would ever again see Him in the future.  On the other side, there were some in Jerusalem who had been so vehemently opposed to Jesus for so long, that their hearts were completely hardened to Him, even when seeing Him face-to-face and hearing His teachings directly.  This was their last chance to be saved (both physically and eternally), and they were wasting it.

Remember the events that led up to this point.  For weeks, Jesus had been headed to Jerusalem with His disciples, and when they were near to the city, Jesus reminded them all of what was to come: deliverance to the Gentiles, humiliation, torture, death, and resurrection. (18:31-32)  These things were absolutely certain, being the fulfillment of prophecy.  That might have turned many of us away, but not Jesus.  He was still set to go to Jerusalem, knowing everything that lay ahead of Him.  After travelling through Jericho, performing miracles of granting sight and salvation, Jesus eventually arrived at the outskirts of Jerusalem with great fanfare.  Riding to the city gates from the Mount of Olives on a donkey’s colt, His disciples (both the 12 and the massive crowd surrounding Him) hailed Him (rightly!) as the Messianic King.  Jesus is the fulfillment of all the promises that God made to David in regards to a restored Jewish kingdom, and the people finally proclaimed Him as such.  Of course, this outburst of praise was detested by the Pharisees and Jewish leadership, and they rebuked Jesus for failing to rebuke the crowd.  Jesus’ response to them was wonderful, noting that the praise would not be stopped.  Even if every mouth was silent, the rocks themselves would shout for joy!

It was quite the entrance!  What followed all of this grand excitement?  Weeping.  It wasn’t exactly the most-expected response to the cheering of the crowds!  The city He was entering and the people He was teaching were about to experience their last chance to be saved, and many (most!) of them would waste it.

Don’t waste your opportunity!  Respond to the grace and gospel of Jesus while you still have the chance.

Luke 19:41–48

  • Lamenting over the city (41-44)

41 Now as He drew near, He saw the city and wept over it,

  • Notice Jesus’ location: “as He drew near.”  Apparently, Jesus wasn’t yet in the city.  He was still riding the donkey’s colt, surrounded by His disciples shouting His praises & receiving rebuke from the Pharisees who disapproved. One might expect that all of this excitement would lead to joy, or at least some sort of pumped-up response from Jesus.  Yet He’s weeping.  Strange timing?  Not at all, though it certainly would have seemed that way from the perspective of the crowd.  We can imagine the reaction of the disciples when they saw what was going on with Jesus.  No doubt, they were shocked.  One moment, Jesus was telling the Pharisees that He wouldn’t quiet the crowds, the next moment, He’s crying.
  • Understand that when Jesus wept at this point, it wasn’t a quiet act with silent tears running down His face, as it had been with Mary & Martha at the tomb of Lazarus. (Jn 11:35)  The word used by Luke indicates a bewailing, with a sort of bitter/vehement weeping. This is the same word used of those who engaged in ritual mourning at someone’s death: a loud wailing.  Of course, in Jesus’ case it was sincere – but it was still loud enough to be made known. Something truly grieved the heart of the Son of God.
    • What grieves God’s heart?  People who are eternally lost, suffering, and damned to hell. God mourns the loss of life – eternal life, all the more.  There’s no doubt that God’s righteousness is known in His wrath, and He receives glory from the awful result of His judgment – but that doesn’t mean He wants people to receive it. To the Jews headed straight for the terrible suffering of Babylonian conquest and captivity, He told them that He took “no pleasure in the death of the wicked.” (Eze 33:11)  In fact, He implored with them to turn from their evil ways – to repent, and live.  Their judgment was deserved, but God didn’t want them to face it.  He (better than anyone) knows what the fullness of His wrath includes, and although it glorifies Him, He doesn’t desire it upon anyone.
    • What does God want?  He wants people to be saved!  This is not a theological statement that needs to be guessed, or inferred from obscure interpretations of Scripture; this is something that God’s word plainly states.  When writing of the need for Christians to pray for all men, even evil national leaders, Paul concludes with this: 1 Timothy 2:3–4, "(3) For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, (4) who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth."  And it’s not just Paul; Peter writes virtually the same thing in regards to a question of Jesus’ return: 2 Peter 3:9, "(9) The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness, but is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance."  Does God want all people to be saved?  Yes!  There ought to be no doubt in our minds, nor debate in the church.  God’s desire is that people be spared from His righteous wrath, and enjoy His marvelous grace.  God may be glorified through His judgment, but He is also glorified through His redemption – and that’s what He desires the most!
    • The question for you is whether or not you’ve experienced it.  God desires you to be saved…are you?  Jesus wept tears over Jerusalem, knowing that many of them would not be saved – no doubt, He’s wept over untold numbers of people today, grieving their eternal fate.  He’s willing that you receive life…receive it!
  • Question: why is Luke the only author who mentions this?  All four gospels write of Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem, but Luke is the only one who writes of Jesus’ lament on the way. Ultimately, it’s impossible to say – perhaps the Holy Spirit wanted Luke to emphasize that Jesus took no joy in Jerusalem’s destruction.  Perhaps it’s a way of emphasizing that Jesus’ joyous reception would soon be replaced with something grievous.  At the very least, it demonstrates that each of the gospels offers something different.  Even among the Synoptics (Matthew, Mark, and Luke), there are no mirror accounts.  Each author brings his own perspective and thus gives us more detail about Jesus.  If we want a complete view of our Savior, all of the Scripture is necessary.

42 saying, “If you had known, even you, especially in this your day, the things that make for your peace! But now they are hidden from your eyes.

  • There is an emphasis in Jesus’ words.  If Jerusalem, even Jerusalem, had truly understood what was happening among them, things would turn out vastly different.  What made Jerusalem different?  Among other things, their name made their future violent destruction ironic.  “Salem” is derived from “shalom,” meaning “peace.”  This was a supposed city-of-peace, with the Prince of peace among them, fully willing and available to offer them true peace…yet they were blind.  They had so much going for them in the present “day.”  Jesus was actively at work among them, and the eternal plan of God for the salvation of mankind was unfolding right before their eyes.  The Son of God walked among them, offering them the gospel, but they saw nothing.  These things were “hidden from [their] eyes.” Again, they were blind.
  • The Jewish people are still blind today!  Christians often wonder how it can be that Jews don’t see the obvious fulfillment of Messianic prophecies such as Isaiah 53, Psalm 22, Zechariah 9,11,12, etc., in Jesus.  It’s because they are blind.  God has sovereignly (and graciously) allowed the Gentiles (i.e. us!) to hear the good news of salvation through Jesus, and it means that for a time, the Jewish nation is to be blind.  The gospel was to go to the Jews first, and then to the rest of the world.  And that’s what happened.  It went to the Jews, they rejected it, and now it has gone out to every nation around the world.
    • That being said, know this: they won’t always be blind.  Romans 11:25–26, "(25) For I do not desire, brethren, that you should be ignorant of this mystery, lest you should be wise in your own opinion, that blindness in part has happened to Israel until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in. (26) And so all Israel will be saved, as it is written: “The Deliverer will come out of Zion, And He will turn away ungodliness from Jacob;"  One day, the Jews will come to faith in Jesus and they will be saved!  That’s the graciousness of our God!
  • Question: If the truth of Jesus as the Messiah is hidden from them, are they still responsible for their sin & rejection of Him?  Yes!  Keep in mind, all their sin is still a willing choice.  No one forces them to sin against God. (Just like us!)  Beyond that, the fulfillment of Messianic prophecy has been done in full view for all to see.  The same thing is true with Jesus’ resurrection from the dead – those things were not done in a corner, or in private.  The news and proof of Jesus has been fully revealed to all the world: Jew and Gentile alike.  Individual Jews have come to faith in Jesus, by the bucket-loads.  The initial church was all Jewish! …  Even so, by & large, the Jewish nation is blinded.  They are blinded by their sin – they are blinded by their pride.  They don’t want Jesus to be Messiah, so they don’t see Jesus as Messiah. 
    • Is this part of the plan of God?  Yes – but this stretches into the mysteries of His eternal knowledge & wisdom.  Ultimately, this falls into the category of things that cannot be known.  We need to be okay with a bit of mystery in regards to the infinite God.
  • BTW, never forget that we worship a God who heals the blind.  If someone is blinded to the truth of Jesus, what should be our response?  We pray that the blindness be removed – we pray that God grants them spiritual sight.  What they need is a miracle, and we serve a God who works miracles in abundance!

43 For days will come upon you when your enemies will build an embankment around you, surround you and close you in on every side, 44 and level you, and your children within you, to the ground; and they will not leave in you one stone upon another, because you did not know the time of your visitation.”

  • Some have criticized this passage, saying that it was so descriptive of what the Roman general Titus did to Jerusalem in 70AD, that there was no way Jesus could have known about it.  Thus (they claim), Luke wrote all of this afterwards, inventing the prophecy.  There are two responses to this: (1) What Jesus said was typical of Roman war tactics.  Jerusalem was not the first city leveled by the Romans, nor would it be the last.  If Jesus was going to describe a Roman destruction of Jerusalem, it would only make sense this would be the way He would do it.  (2) Jesus is God.  Those who dismiss Jesus’ prophecies dismiss His deity…thus the critics can be dismissed altogether!  Of course, Jesus knew how the Romans would conquer Jerusalem, because He as the Son of God has all knowledge.  Whether He states it specifically or generically isn’t really the point; it’s the fact that Jesus prophesied that Jerusalem would be destroyed at all.  Yes, He knew it in advance, and that’s not a reason to doubt His deity; it is proof of His claims.
  • So was He right?  Was the city truly leveled in the way Jesus prophesied?  Yes.  Josephus (Wars of the Jews, Book 7, Ch 1): “(1) Now, as soon as the army had no more people to slay or to plunder, because there remained none to be objects of their fury (for they would not have spared any, had there remained any other such work to be done) Caesar gave orders that they should now demolish the entire city and temple, but should leave as many of the towers standing as were of the greatest eminency; that is, Phasaelus, and Hippicus, and Mariamne, and so much of the wall as enclosed the city on the west side. (2) This wall was spared, in order to afford a camp for such as were to lie in garrison; as were the towers also spared, in order to demonstrate to posterity what kind of city it was, and how well fortified, which the Roman valor had subdued; (3) but for all the rest of the wall, it was so thoroughly laid even with the ground by those that dug it up to the foundation, that there was left nothing to make those that came thither believe it had ever been inhabited.”  Stones still exist in Jerusalem today (specifically outside the temple) that had been thrown down during the Roman siege.  What Jesus spoke was 100% accurate.
  • Why would all of this terrible destruction come? “Because you did not know the time of your visitation.”  The word for “visitation” is interesting, in that it’s the same word from which we get the denominational name “Episcopal.” (ἐπισκοπή) It’s a compound word that literally speaks of “watching over” something.  A different form of the word is what’s often translated as “bishop/overseer.” Jesus is basically saying, “All of this terrible trial is going to come to you, because you didn’t recognize the hour that the Messiah came among you to watch over you.  You didn’t recognize the time of your supervision.”  It’s one thing to do your job – most people have a fairly good work ethic.  It’s another thing to do your job while being directly supervised by your boss.  Even if you did everything right on your own, you take special care to do it correctly then!  Why?  Because you recognize something’s different – someone else is present, and you want to treat that time appropriately.  The people of Jerusalem during Jesus’ day didn’t recognize the time.  They were blinded to the hour.  They didn’t recognize Jesus as their Messiah King & God walking among them, offering them His salvation, and thus their opportunity to be saved would be wasted.
    • How terrible it is to have been visited by Jesus, and never recognize Him!  It seals one’s own destruction. 

All of this took place outside the city, as Jesus was still on His way in.  What happened when He arrived?  Things got pretty interesting pretty quick.  Both Matthew and Luke write generically, making it seem as if the following events took place that afternoon.  Mark’s account fills in a few more details, noting that on the day Jesus arrived in the city, He went to the temple, but didn’t stay there.  Because it was already getting late, He left the town and stayed in Bethany overnight (most likely at the home of Lazarus, Mary, and Martha).  The next day He came back, and that’s when Jesus started to make some waves.

  • Action in the temple (45-48)

45 Then He went into the temple and began to drive out those who bought and sold in it, 46 saying to them, “It is written, ‘My house is a house of prayer,’ but you have made it a ‘den of thieves.’ ”

  • For as much as the other gospel writers say about this, Luke’s account is profoundly short.  He gives the basic details, and that’s all that is required.  The previous day (Sunday), Jesus had seen the corruption within the temple.  On Monday, He addressed the problem head-on.  As might be expected, Jews came to the Jerusalem temple in order to worship – especially during this week leading up to Passover.  They came with their sacrifices, only to be told their sacrifices weren’t any good.  Invariably, some defect would be found in the sheep or goat to be offered, so they would be turned away…or, they could purchase some of the temple-approved livestock that ‘just happened’ to be available that day.  Oh, and by the way, Roman money is no good in the temple, considering those coins were tainted because they were Gentile.  What they needed was temple money, which could easily be exchanged…for a small fee, of course.  The practice was a farce, corrupt to its core, and Jesus didn’t stand for it.  Early on in His ministry, He had driven out these charlatans from the temple (Jn 2:13-17), but in the months & years following, the practice had regrown (like a cancer).  So Jesus did it all over again.   He drove out/expelled the merchants from the temple grounds, exhibiting just a taste of His righteous wrath that was sure to come.
  • Was the problem the money?  Yes & no.  Money was simply the symptom of the actual issue: God’s holiness had been despised.  The temple had been defiled, and the priests were the ones responsible.  They may not have been the ones to actually sully their hands and sell the merchandise, but they certainly gave their approval to the ones who did.  They were the ones who set up the corrupt system to take advantage of worshippers.  The merchants and money-changers had their own faults, doing what they did of their own freewill, but they wouldn’t have been there at all if the priests hadn’t invited them.  The men who had the responsibility of representing God’s holiness to the people, and leading God’s people in worship had defiled it all.  The holy house of God had been turned into a means for greed, and Jesus wasn’t going to stand for it.
  • That wasn’t what God had intended for His temple!  He desired “a house of prayer.”  Quoting Isaiah 56 – the general context being God’s call to His people to live righteously, seeking the salvation from the Lord.  God promised to pour out His blessing upon the Jew, the foreigner, and even the eunuch.  That’s when God had invited all people to come to His house of prayer: Isaiah 56:6–7, "(6) And the foreigners who join themselves to the LORD, to minister to him, to love the name of the LORD, and to be his servants, all who keep the sabbath, and do not profane it, and hold fast my covenant— (7) these I will bring to my holy mountain, and make them joyful in my house of prayer; their burnt offerings and their sacrifices will be accepted on my altar; for my house shall be called a house of prayer for all peoples."  The whole point is that the temple was to be a place of worship; not of commerce.  People were supposed to go there and seek salvation; not encounter a sales pitch.  They were invited by God to come freely, yet the priests had set up obstacle after obstacle, in order that they might gain some corrupt profit.
    • Jesus judged it then, and there’s no question that Jesus will judge it today.  Christian leaders who take advantage of God’s people for financial gain earn the judgment they will surely reap!  Pastors are to be those who love and shepherd the flock of God; not fleece them for our own benefit.
    • That said, keep in mind that the primary issue was a lack of reverence for God.  The things of God were degraded into cheap tools to feed the greed of the priests – but that sort of devaluation of God’s holiness can be done by anyone.  It’s perhaps easy to think of abuses on so-called “Christian” TV that does this, but we need to think about issues closer to home. Maybe we rip Scripture from its context to make us feel good about “what it means to me.”  Maybe we treat the assembly of the saints in worship as a side-show, where we go to get an emotional-high, or we go merely to have our own needs met without any thought as to what God might have us to for Him or for others…if we show up at all.  Maybe we treat the Bible as a spiritual buffet line, picking which commands of God we want to obey & which we want to ignore.  All of that devalues the holiness of God.  It moves God from the position of ultimate authority to us.  Instead of us giving our worship and devotion to Him, it places our attention on ourselves, for the things we can gain…exactly as the priests and merchants did in the temple.
    • What can be done about it?  The same thing that happened with the temple: we need the cleansing of Jesus.  If we confess our sins, He is faithful & just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. (1 Jn 1:9)  Dwell in the word of God richly, in order that Jesus might continue to cleanse us by His washing, and sanctify us (purify us, set us apart) by His truth. (Eph 5:26, Jn 17:17)  Bottom line: submit yourself humbly & wholly to God.  Ask Him do His work within you for His glory, and He will do it.
  • It was quite the beginning to Jesus’ week in Jerusalem!  Of course, things didn’t end there – not even in the temple.  Once the temple was cleansed, then Jesus could start using it for its intended purpose.  Vs. 47…

47 And He was teaching daily in the temple. But the chief priests, the scribes, and the leaders of the people sought to destroy Him, 48 and were unable to do anything; for all the people were very attentive to hear Him.

  • Vs. 47 begins with a summary statement.  Note that this isn’t a specific description of a specific day; it’s a general statement of what Jesus was doing “daily.”  For the next several days, if someone in Jerusalem wanted to find Jesus, all they needed to do was to go to the temple.  Generally speaking, that’s where He was: teaching.
  • Never forget that Jesus is a teacher!  For as many miracles as Jesus performed, what He did most often was teach the word of God.  Even on the occasions when He healed as many people as came to Him in a single day, Jesus was still teaching the entire time (as Luke has often showed).  Physical healings would last for a time – perhaps all the way until the person’s eventual death – but each of them had an expiration point.  What people needed most was a spiritual healing that brought them from eternal death to eternal life, and that only comes as a result of Biblical teaching of the gospel of God.  As Paul wrote to the Romans: Romans 10:17, "So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God." Romans 1:16, "For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the Greek."
    • The teaching of God’s word and the gospel was, and is still necessary!  If the priests and the people had been continually submitted to God’s word in the Scriptures, there’s no way that the corruption in the temple would have ever arisen in the first place, much less return after Jesus’ initial cleansing.  What is the best way for us to remain pure, fit to be used by God for His glory?  Us being submitted to His word, filled with the Holy Spirit, grounded in the gospel of Christ.  We need the word of God.  This is His primary way of speaking to us, and equipping us for every single thing we face in life. (2 Tim 3:17)
    • When Paul was writing to the Romans, his primary context was obviously the gospel.  That is the most important word of God.  Even all, all of God’s word is necessary for us.  When Jesus taught in the temple & around Judea, He obviously taught the gospel, but He taught vastly more than only news of how-to-be-saved.  He taught about prayer – what it means to live by faith – the importance of obedience – the value of humility, etc.  Jesus taught all kinds of things regarding Gods’ word because all of God’s word is necessary & edifying for us.  Again, His major & primary activity during the course of His earthly ministry was teaching
  • There were two responses to the teaching of Jesus.  The first was from the Jewish leadership, who rejected Him outright and “sought to destroy Him.”  By this point, there were no “and’s, if’s, or but’s” in regard to the intent of the priests, scribes, and Pharisees regarding Jesus.  They didn’t want Him somehow corrected or deflected; they wanted Him dead.  They sought out any opportunity they had to destroy Him – both in His reputation, and in His person.  Ch. 20 will detail their failed attempts to discredit Jesus; Ch. 22 will detail their conspiracy with Judas Iscariot which actually does lead to Jesus’ death.  Does that mean they were ultimately successful?  No…it means they were only able to do what God the Father allowed them to do.  Until the timing was right, they weren’t allowed to do anything at all (as Luke notes in vs. 48).  Try as they might, they couldn’t do anything against Jesus until God let them…and then He freed them to accomplish the fullness of their wickedness.
    • The point is that God was always in control.  That’s a theme that becomes incredibly important to remember as the narration of the final week of Jesus continues.  As bad as things get, God never stops being sovereign – His ultimate plan for salvation is never derailed.  The things that happen are things that God allows to happen, and all of it is used to glorify Himself, His Son, and to offer to us His salvation.
    • God is always in control!  Never forget!
  • The second response to Jesus’ teaching came from many of the regular people in Jerusalem.  They didn’t balk at Jesus’ words; they hung upon every one of them.  Luke writes that they “were very attentive to hear Him.”  The word for the NKJV’s “very attentive” literally means “to suspend something from an area” (BDAG) or “to hang from” (ESL).  It could be said that they were “hanging upon what they were hearing” from Jesus.  They couldn’t get enough…at least for a time.  What Jesus said, they received gladly.  They were, as Jesus quoted back to Satan in His wilderness temptation, living on every word that proceeds from the mouth of God. (Mt 4:4)
    • Is that what describes you?  Do you hang upon His words – do you cling to His teaching?  The necessity for the word of God in the life of a Christian cannot be overemphasized!  If we don’t value His word so much that we cling to it – if we don’t hang to it as our very life – we need to ask ourselves why not.  At that point, something’s wrong.
    • Think about it: If God’s word is truly our daily bread, then something is terribly wrong if we can go months (or even weeks) without eating & never feel any effect.  A person might be able to fast from food for a time, but eventually some kind of hunger pang is going to kick in.  At some point, life kicks in & your ability to function suffers.  If there’s not, it means you’re not dependent on it in the first place.  From a food perspective, that means something is terribly wrong…our basic humanity is off.  The same principle is true from a spiritual perspective.  A Christian who is unaffected by a lack of Biblical spiritual food has something terribly wrong – that’s simply part of who we are as born-again believers.  At that point, there is something foundational that is wrong.
    • What do you do about it?  Start feeding!  People who make foundational dietary changes often have trouble going back to the way things were. Their bodies start to desire the good stuff.  If someone is a true born-again Christian, when they start feeding upon the Scriptures, hanging upon the words of God, then his/her spirit is going to start desiring the good stuff.
  • Notice what had to happen for the people to react this way to Jesus: nothing.  As long as they could see Him clearly, and hear His words for themselves, that was enough.  When Jesus is lifted up, He draws people to Himself.  No gimmicks, no marketing required.  When we as the church clearly demonstrate the person, love, and truth of Jesus Christ, others around us won’t be able to help from seeing Him.  And that’s good news!  After all, it may be their last chance to be saved.  If they don’t see Jesus in us, they might not see Jesus at all.  Let His word dwell richly in you, in order that you might show Him clearly to others!

Conclusion:
Jesus wept – Jesus cleansed – Jesus taught.  He wept over the people and city who would soon reject Him and face terrible punishment and judgment.  He cleansed the temple from the defilement that existed due to the devaluation of God’s holiness on the part of the priests.  He taught daily in the temple, giving people their final opportunity to hear the word of God and to respond to it.

When Jesus showed up in Jerusalem, He gave the people their last chance to be saved.  Would they take it?  Will we?

For some of us, we responded to the gospel of Jesus years ago, gratefully turning from our sins & believing upon Him as our Lord & Savior.  For us, it would be tempting to read these verses & think of how wonderfully they might apply to someone else.  After all, He doesn’t need to weep over us – we know Him.  We’ve not lost our chance to be saved, because we are saved.  Praise God!  Even so, consider this:

  • Just because we’re saved doesn’t mean we’re hanging upon the words of God.  Just because we’re born-again believers doesn’t mean we never devalue God’s holiness.  We can fall just as much into those traps as anyone else, and we need to take heed.  Take stock of your own walk with Jesus – make the adjustments needed to ensure you’re relying fully upon Him, and His grace.  Make sure you’re seeking His glory & not your own, giving Him the reverence and worship He’s due.
  • What we’ve heard is what others need to hear.  You may have responded to your last chance, but many others have not.  We need to reach them with the good news of Jesus before they’ve reached their last chance.  It’s been observed that 150,000 people die every single day.  How many of those have perished without ever responding to the news of Jesus?  How many have never even heard the message of Jesus?  Beloved, we are the ones to take it to them…may we do so with faithful purpose!

For others of you, this is your opportunity to be saved.  And who knows?  Perhaps it is your last chance.  Don’t waste it!  While you hear the invitation of Christ to respond in faith, do it!  While you feel the leading of God the Holy Spirit, move!  If today you understand that Jesus truly is the Son of God who died for your sins at the cross & rose back to life from the grave – if today you understand that He offers true & eternal forgiveness of sin to those who ask – then this is something to which you must respond.  Turn away from your sins in repentance, and believe upon Jesus.  Trust Him alone for the forgiveness of sins.  The Bible makes His promise clear: Romans 10:9, "that if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved." 

Celebrating the King

Posted: October 29, 2017 in Luke, Uncategorized

Luke 19:28-40, “Celebrating the King”

Royal coronations are something special.  They are intentionally majestic affairs (pun intended), underscoring the importance of the royal office being assumed.  The last coronation in the United Kingdom (England, Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland) was in 1953 with the crowning of Elizabeth II.  Some 8000 guests were formally invited, nearly 16000 lined the streets for the processional parade, with another 400K Canadians celebrating in Quebec alone…and that’s just a partial list.  People rejoiced over their queen, celebrating their monarch and their nation.  Obviously we have no king or queen here in the United States, but we get a taste of something similar every 4-8 years whenever a new president is inaugurated.  Depending on who’s counting, the inauguration of Donald Trump drew 300K-600K to Washington DC (and sparked an infamous debate), and the first inauguration of Barack Obama had anywhere from 1-1.8M people attending.  Whatever the actual numbers may have been, there’s little debate that people get excited about a recognition of national leadership.

The population size and available technology to the Jews of Jesus’ day may have been vastly different, but their excitement was not.  In fact, they had far more reason to rejoice: they hadn’t seen an independent Jewish king in 90 years (during the days of the Maccabees & Hasmonean dynasty), and beyond that, they hadn’t seen a king in the lineage of David since the final fall of Jerusalem to the Babylonians in 587BC…well over 600 years in the past.  No wonder so many Jews were excited to see Jesus approach Jerusalem!  They were eyewitnesses to the fulfillment of prophecy, and they believed themselves on the cusp to seeing the renewal of their ancient kingdom.  Of course, a new kingdom was in-process, though it was very different than what they thought. They were looking through the expectations of men, rather than God, and their rejoicing would soon change to reviling within a matter of days. 

Remember the context: Jesus had been travelling to Jerusalem, passing through the town of Jericho on the way.  There, He healed a blind man and forgave a tax collector, pronouncing the salvation of God upon them both.  (To the blind man, Jesus literally said, “Your faith has saved you,” – 18:42; to Zacchaeus, He said “Today, salvation has come to this house,” – 19:9.)  The people following Jesus had been excited to hear His declaration that the Son of Man had come to seek & save the lost, thinking it to indicate that Jesus would immediately bring the institution of the kingdom when He went to Jerusalem.  Knowing this was on their minds, Jesus taught the Parable of the Minas, showing that more time would pass prior to the kingdom, yet His true servants needed to be faithful until the day of His return, when He would execute judgment upon His enemies.

Now finally, Jesus is on the cusp of Jerusalem, and He enters the city with grand acclaim as people rejoice at the arrival of their King.  It was the original Palm Sunday, and the people were glad. (If only for a brief while.)

Question: Why does all of this matter?  We might understand why we remember this around Easter/Passover, in celebration of Palm Sunday – but why should it matter any other time of the year?  We might even understand the significance this would have been to the Jews in Jerusalem at the time, but why does this matter to 21st Century Christians?

  • It’s the fulfillment of prophecy
  • It’s the climax of Jesus’ earthly ministry.  He would never be more received by the Jews than how He had been received that day.
  • It’s how Jesus should have been received all along!
  • It points to how He will be received in the future.

The bottom line for us is that Jesus’ triumphal entry on Palm Sunday shows Jesus revealing Himself for who He truly is: God’s Messiah King – the ruler of Israel and ruler of the world. This is who He is, yet He still laid it all aside in order to go to the cross.  The glorious King of Israel laid aside His glory to willingly become the sacrifice for all the world.  His reception by Israel underscores the magnitude of His love for us.  This is what He should have received; what He did receive was the scorn of the world and the wrath of God that was due to our sin.  How much does Jesus love you?  How much did the Son of God desire to fulfill the will of His Father?  Enough to leave glory and embrace grief – enough to leave the smiles of the crowd and embrace the sufferings of the cross.

This is why we remember the Triumphal Entry: it celebrates Jesus for who He truly is & what He had set forth to accomplish.  The Messiah King has come…rejoice!

Luke 19:28–40

  • Instructions of the King (28-31)

28 When He had said this, He went on ahead, going up to Jerusalem.

  • Notice that verse 28 is directly connected with the end of the Parable of the Minas.  Your Bible translation might have a break with a new section title, but the original text from Luke did not, and Luke purposefully brings the two events together.  Remember the background Jesus gave to the parable (19:12), “A certain nobleman went into a far country to receive for himself a kingdom and to return.”  Luke is basically showing that Jesus’ “going up to Jerusalem” is the fulfillment of the earlier text – this was His going into a country to receive a kingdom for himself.  This was Him being presented to the kingdom citizens who would soon choose to reject Him (19:14).  The things Jesus had just finished teaching were about to play out in real-time.  (Thus the reader needs to pay close attention, in order not to be counted as one of the enemies in the parable!)
  • This brings up a good point regarding Jesus’ teachings.  Jesus never taught random parables.  He didn’t simply sit around thinking up pithy bits of wisdom like a stereotypical guru on top of a mountain somewhere.  What He taught, He taught purposefully.  What He taught, He taught within a context, and with specific reasons.  Some people like to pick Jesus apart, taking little sayings and phrases from Him, framing His words outside of the Biblical context. (Like a Chicken Soup for the Soul…)  Know this: the context is absolutely required.  Without the context, we have no idea why Jesus said what He did, and that can potentially & dramatically change the interpretation.
    • Why do people do this?  If for no other reason, they want to be in control of Jesus.  They want to pick & choose the things He says so they can pick the things they like & avoid the things they don’t.  That way, when Jesus’ word brings conviction, they can simply ignore that part & move on to more “comfortable” sayings. 
    • News flash: Jesus didn’t come to make us comfortable; He came to bring us to salvation!  A person can be truly comfortable in his/her sin.  The devil doesn’t care if you’re happy, as long as you’re on the way to hell.  Sometimes discomfort is the very thing that opens up our eyes to our need for salvation.  Don’t resist the conviction God’s word brings; welcome it, in order that it might lead you to Christ!
  • Regarding our context here, Luke makes note that Jesus was leaving Jericho, “going up to Jerusalem.”  This was the culmination of His ministry.  Geographically speaking, Jesus had no choice except to “go up” to Jerusalem – if His destination was Jerusalem, He would have to physically ascend a hill to arrive.  Thematically speaking, this is the event to which Luke has been leading his readers since Ch 9:51.  This is the theological “high point” of Jesus’ earthly ministry – the very thing He had been waiting for since the moment of His incarnation.  All He required was the right time, and it had finally come.
  • Now that it arrived, Jesus would introduce it in the most proper of ways.  Vs. 29…

29 And it came to pass, when He drew near to Bethphage and Bethany, at the mountain called Olivet, that He sent two of His disciples,

  • Bethphage & Bethany are simply a couple of towns on the outskirts of Jerusalem.  Bethany is famous for being the hometown of Lazarus, Mary, and Martha.  Jesus had raised Lazarus from the dead at some point in the past, which had caused quite a stir in the region, no doubt generating an even greater crowd waiting to see Jesus enter Jerusalem.  The gospel of John tells us that when Jesus passed through Bethany at this particular time, he stopped at the home of Lazarus, Mary, and Martha, when Mary anointed Jesus in worship – unknowingly performing a prophetic action regarding His soon death and burial. (Jn 12:1-8)  Bethphage is mentioned only here in each of the Synoptic Gospels, being the town from which Jesus sent the disciples looking for the donkey.
  • Of more importance is the Mount of Olives.  This is on the immediate outskirts of Jerusalem, necessary for Jesus to cross if He was going to enter the city by the Temple.  It also happens to be the place the Bible tells the Jews to expect the Messiah when He appears to them as their King.  Zechariah 14:3–4, "(3) Then the LORD will go forth And fight against those nations, As He fights in the day of battle. (4) And in that day His feet will stand on the Mount of Olives, Which faces Jerusalem on the east. And the Mount of Olives shall be split in two, From east to west, Making a very large valley; Half of the mountain shall move toward the north And half of it toward the south."  Obviously the battle written of by Zechariah was not taking place at the time, but there’s little doubt that Jesus’ entry to Jerusalem from the Mount of Olives would have added to the excitement of the day.  After all, here’s a Man who has raised the dead (in Bethany), who recently healed the blind (in Jericho), and who comes with the authority of God to forgive sin and grant eternal life (with the tax collector).  Now He appears on the Mount of Olives with a growing crowd on the Sunday prior to Passover.  If the people didn’t get excited, then they weren’t paying attention!
    • Sometimes we get the idea that the excitement of the people over Jesus was a bad thing, as if it was somehow misguided.  Obviously, they didn’t understand all of the Biblical prophecies, and it’s no doubt that they imposed their own expectations of the Jewish kingdom upon Jesus.  BUT…Jesus is exciting!  How could you be in the physical presence of Jesus and not glorify God?  These Jewish men and women were responding to the work of God in their midst in the only way that they knew how, recognizing much of what Jesus did from the pages of Scripture.  For what they understood, what they did was right.
    • If only 21st century Evangelicals got as excited about Jesus as did the Jews of Jerusalem that day!  We know the fullness of what Jesus came to do – we know exactly why Jesus came & exactly what He accomplished – we know Him personally as the Son of God who saved us from our sin.  Why then, do we so often worship as dead fish?  Why is our praise perfunctory and our prayers half-hearted?  Beloved, we know Jesus…so praise Him like you know Him!  Glorify Him on earth as you know that you will one day do in heaven!
  • Of course, the praise of the people was yet to come.  There was still more prophecy needing to be fulfilled until that time.  When Jesus and the disciples got near to Bethphage, He gave two of them very specific instructions.  Vs. 30…

30 saying, “Go into the village opposite you, where as you enter you will find a colt tied, on which no one has ever sat. Loose it and bring it here.  31 And if anyone asks you, ‘Why are you loosing it?’ thus you shall say to him, ‘Because the Lord has need of it.’ ”

  • Entering Jerusalem from the direction of the Mt. Olivet wasn’t the only prophecy to which Jesus pointed – in fact, it wasn’t even the main one.  With Jesus’ instructions, He specifically sought to fulfill a different prophecy of Zechariah.  Zechariah 9:9–10, "(9) “Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion! Shout, O daughter of Jerusalem! Behold, your King is coming to you; He is just and having salvation, Lowly and riding on a donkey, A colt, the foal of a donkey. (10) I will cut off the chariot from Ephraim And the horse from Jerusalem; The battle bow shall be cut off. He shall speak peace to the nations; His dominion shall be ‘from sea to sea, And from the River to the ends of the earth.’"  Interestingly, Zechariah wrote of both the 1st and 2nd Comings of the Messiah back-to-back.  Vs. 9 shows the Messiah in humility, while vs. 10 shows Him in His military and royal glory.  To the Jews, the Messiah was to show Himself meek; to the world, He would show Himself strong.
  • It’s the first aspect of this prophecy that was fulfilled by Jesus on Palm Sunday.  He had the foal of a donkey brought to Him, and that was His mount as He rode into Jerusalem.  Why a donkey?  There’s a bit of Biblical precedence for princes and kings riding donkeys, but it’s far more likely that this spoke less of His royalty and more of His humility.  Unlike kings of the past like Jehu, who rode furiously into Jezreel, ready to take the crown by force (2 Kings 9:20), Jesus came into Jerusalem in incredible humility, inviting people to respond out of their own freewill.
    • Keep in mind, Jesus could force everyone to bow their knee…and one day everyone will bow their knee.  But for now, He comes in humility and gives us the opportunity to willingly respond to Him.  Being God the Son, the 2nd Person of the Trinity & the Incarnation of the invisible God, Jesus has every right to be worshipped by every sentient being in the universe.  As created humans, we owe God our allegiance and worship.  Jesus could have demonstrated this in His entry into Jerusalem by coming furiously on a warhorse or chariot, with the angels of God surrounding Him, speaking with a thunderous voice sounding of many waters, and demanding that the Jews receive Him as their King & worship Him as their God.  But He didn’t.  He came in meekness & humility, offering His love and grace.  Jesus invites people to respond to Him…and simply the invitation is a demonstration of grace.
    • The real question is: have you done it?  Have you responded to Jesus in His humility, in order that you can now know Him in His glory?  Keep in mind that if you waited until His glorious appearance, you’d never have the opportunity to be saved.  At that point, it’s too late.  You’d be standing in your sinfulness before the Holy Perfect God, and forced to account for yourself.  You’d have no hope.  It’s only because Jesus first came in humility that any of us have the chance to be saved.  So take advantage of your opportunity!
    • Keep in mind there are a lot of people today who know Jesus in a similar way as did the Jews in Jerusalem that day.  They believed the accounts of His miracles & power – they heard His teaching – some of them even knew His disciples, the men and women who knew Him personally…but they themselves didn’t know Him.  Churches are filled with people who are acquainted with Jesus, even believing in His power & identity, but never truly knowing Him at all.  That can all change in an instant.  All you need do is respond in faith.
  • BTW – were Jesus’ instructions to the two disciples a bit strange?  Surely it would have seemed that way.  Obviously, Jesus didn’t command sin; the donkey was to be willingly lent out by the owner, but this certainly wasn’t the usual errand that Jesus would have sent the disciples to accomplish.  This was far different that passing out loaves & fish, or bringing back some food.  The disciples would need faith to walk in obedience, but thankfully, that was exactly what they had.  Vs. 32…
  • Obeying the King (32-36)

32 So those who were sent went their way and found it just as He had said to them.

  • Of course they did.  Jesus is God. J  By this point in their time with Jesus, they were (hopefully) no longer surprised to see things exactly as Jesus told them they would be.  He had demonstrated His supernatural knowledge on too many other occasions for them to start doubting Him now.
    • Do you ever find yourself doubting the promises of God?  Why?  How many times has Jesus already proven Himself true?  Christian, at some point you have to make the decision to walk by faith.  Saving faith is a gift of God, and so is faith necessary to work miracles (1 Cor 12:9) – but when it comes to daily faith & trust in Jesus, that’s often a choice.  James Hudson Taylor, the British missionary to China and founder of the China Inland Missions made his decision to walk by faith early on – while he was still a young man in preparations for the mission field.  While training in London, he declined two offers to pay his expenses while in the city – one from his father, and another from his sending organization.  In his words, “I therefore wrote declining both propositions, and felt that without any one having either care or anxiety on my account I was simply in the hands of God, and that He, who knew my heart, if He wished to encourage me to go to China, would bless my effort to depend upon Him alone at home.”  And so He did!  God routinely provided in miraculous ways for J Hudson Taylor, and this decision to walk by faith led untold numbers of people to faith in Christ.
    • You may be at a crossroads deciding whether or not you’re going to trust Jesus.  Trust Him!  He’s trustworthy.
  • The two disciples of Jesus not only found the colt as Jesus said they would, but they also encountered the owner as Jesus said they would.  Vs. 33…

33 But as they were loosing the colt, the owners of it said to them, “Why are you loosing the colt?” 34 And they said, “The Lord has need of him.” 35 Then they brought him to Jesus. And they threw their own clothes on the colt, and they set Jesus on him.

  • This aspect of the event is interesting on a couple of levels: (1) It wasn’t mentioned in the original prophecy of Zechariah, yet Jesus knew it down to the wording.  It is one more indication of His supernatural knowledge & demonstration of His deity.  When Jesus says something is going to happen, it’s going to happen!  (2) The owners had no objection when they heard the purpose of taking the colt.  This seems to indicate that they knew who the two disciples were speaking of, even though they’re never recorded mentioning Jesus by name.  Think of it in modern terms: say you have an older work-truck and you notice a couple of guys getting into it wanting to drive it off.  No doubt, you’d have objections – probably dialing 911 on your way out the door!  If they came off with the excuse saying that God needed the truck, you’d not only think they were crazy, but you’d keep calling the police.  What’s the only thing that could possibly change your mind?  Answer: if somehow you knew they were telling the truth.  How these owners knew the truth of the disciples’ story, we don’t know.  Perhaps they knew Jesus was close to town, and that these were two of His disciples.  Perhaps Jesus had sent someone ahead to prepare these men for the disciples & their reasoning.  Perhaps God the Holy Spirit gave the owners a dream depicting this event.  All kinds of scenarios are possible, but obviously something happened.  The bottom line is that there were two sets of people walking by faith in that moment: the disciples, and the owners of the donkey.  Both made the decision to trust Jesus and obey God.
  • In the end, the humble donkey was borrowed, brought to Jesus, and was instantly made a royal steed the moment Jesus sat on him.  This itself would seem to be a minor miracle.  I don’t know much about breaking horses or donkeys for riding, but I know this much: it’s not an instantaneous event.  This was a young foal, never ridden upon, and yet Jesus rode him.  When it’s the will of God, anything can happen!
  • Rejoicing over the King (36-38)

36 And as He went, many spread their clothes on the road. 37 Then, as He was now drawing near the descent of the Mount of Olives, the whole multitude of the disciples began to rejoice and praise God with a loud voice for all the mighty works they had seen, 38 saying: “ ‘Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the LORD!’ Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!”

  • This is the moment of praise to which everything else has led.  Jesus is on a donkey, riding to Jerusalem from the Mount of Olives.  He’s fulfilling prophecy at that moment, and He’s not the only person who realizes it.  The “whole multitude” with Him is overcome with excitement, and they “began to rejoice and praise God with a loud voice” together.  They had seen the miracles – they had heard the teaching – now they were witnessing the One they believed to be the Messiah enter the city of kings for what they thought was going to be a Passover they would never forget. (And they were right!)  They couldn’t hold back their praise!
  • Neither should they have done so.  Again, sometimes we impute far too many criticisms to the crowd that day.  They were simply doing what they believed was right with the information they had.  Keep in mind that the 12 apostles were included among the larger group of disciples praising God for Jesus’ arrival.  If anyone, they should have known that Jesus was headed to Jerusalem to suffer and die – in fact, Jesus reminded them of this very thing right before they entered Jericho. (18:31-33)  To this point, the disciples didn’t understand what Jesus meant when He told them of His resurrection, and they could barely comprehend the reality that He really would be crucified.  The first time Peter heard of it, he actually rebuked the Lord for saying so! (Mt 16:22)  So when the 12 apostles are cheering with the rest of the multitude of disciples, they aren’t doing so in light of Jesus’ future resurrection – they are simply rejoicing in the present event, along with everyone else.  In that moment, Jesus was seen for who He is: the Messiah King, and it didn’t matter what lay ahead…He was worthy of praise.
    • And He is!  Jesus is worthy of our praise!  Although we often praise Him for His work (and it is right to do so), we also need to remember that Jesus is worthy of our praise simply for who He is.  Jesus is God the Son, and He is inherently worthy of praise.  Simply the fact that He IS and that He has revealed Himself to us is a reason to rejoice.
    • Of course, the people of that day did praise Jesus for His “mighty works.”  They were witnesses to His miracles, and they rejoiced.  So can we…so should we!  Each & every born-again believer is a witness to the miracles of Jesus.  If you can count nothing else, you have at least two: (1) Jesus’ own resurrection from the dead, of which you must be absolutely convinced simply to be a believer in Christ, and (2) your own salvation, in which Jesus brought you from spiritual death to spiritual life.  No doubt, there are many other miracles of Jesus for which you can bear witness, but you are at least a witness to what He has done in your life.
    • So praise Him!  Praise Him loud!  There are appropriate times for quiet, intimate singing and prayers – but there also comes a time to turn it up!  The crowd engaged in loud praise – “mega-phone” praise, according to Luke.  They were truly passionate in that moment, and the only way to truly express it was from the volume in their lungs.  Question: when was the last time you praised God like that?  Have you ever praised God loud?  We often sing a song quoting from Psalm 47, a song of the sons of Korah: Psalm 47, "(1) Oh, clap your hands, all you peoples! Shout to God with the voice of triumph! (2) For the LORD Most High is awesome; He is a great King over all the earth. (3) He will subdue the peoples under us, And the nations under our feet. (4) He will choose our inheritance for us, The excellence of Jacob whom He loves. Selah (5) God has gone up with a shout, The LORD with the sound of a trumpet. (6) Sing praises to God, sing praises! Sing praises to our King, sing praises! (7) For God is the King of all the earth; Sing praises with understanding. (8) God reigns over the nations; God sits on His holy throne. (9) The princes of the people have gathered together, The people of the God of Abraham. For the shields of the earth belong to God; He is greatly exalted."  What about any of that sounds like soft, gentle worship with our hands neatly folded & a sweet smile on our lips?  None of it!  This is unrestrained, full-throated worship because our God is the King who rules over the universe, and who has chosen to love & save His people.  This is our Jesus!  Give Him loud praise!
      • As a pastor, let me encourage you to take this literally.  When the Bible says that we are to praise Him loud, it means we are to praise Him loud.  That doesn’t mean turning up the guitars or the mics; it means turning up the congregation.  There is no substitute for God’s people filling their lungs with air, and praising God with literal physical strength coming through their voices.  As a musician, there’s no sound I enjoy more than when I hear the congregation over the monitors, and there’s no doubt in my mind that God prefers to hear the whole group of us rather than a few of our instruments.  If you don’t regularly praise God in this way, I implore you to start.  It will change your walk and relationship with God for the better.
  • As for the multitude of disciples praising God for Jesus, there’s no doubt they lifted all kinds of songs about Him that day, but there was one song that all four gospels record the crowd proclaiming: Psalm 118:24–26, "(24) This is the day the LORD has made; We will rejoice and be glad in it. (25) Save now, I pray, O LORD; O LORD, I pray, send now prosperity. (26) Blessed is he who comes in the name of the LORD! We have blessed you from the house of the LORD."  Modern evangelicals have turned vs. 24 into a kids tune and forgotten about it, but the whole thing is really a song of salvation.  The covenant God had come to save His people, and the day of their salvation had arrived.  “Save now” = Hosanna – the very word recorded in other gospels as being shouted from the lips of the crowd.  They were expecting their national salvation from the Romans – and they would soon be disappointed.  This is one reason why although disciples shouted the praises of Jesus when He entered Jerusalem, so few disciples were found when He was beaten and crucified outside it.  Yet if they had but known the psalm just a tad better, they would have seen that this too was expected: Psalm 118:22–23, "(22) The stone which the builders rejected Has become the chief cornerstone. (23) This was the LORD’s doing; It is marvelous in our eyes."  Jesus must first be rejected before He could be exalted.  He had to be put to death before He gained victory over death.  He had to become the sacrifice before He would be the Savior. 
    • Question: if the disciples had realized all of this, would Jesus have been any less worthy of praise?  Not at all!  In fact, this is how we know Jesus to be today.  Because He was rejected, now His salvation is made available to all the world…truly His name is blessed & to be praised!
  • Of course, not everyone was happy to see Jesus. Vs. 39…
  • Rebuking the King (39-40)

39 And some of the Pharisees called to Him from the crowd, “Teacher, rebuke Your disciples.” 40 But He answered and said to them, “I tell you that if these should keep silent, the stones would immediately cry out.”

  • When the Pharisees told Jesus to rebuke His disciples, what they were really doing was rebuking Jesus.  They were saying, “How could you allow your followers to make such a ruckus over you?  Don’t you know that they’re proclaiming you as the Messiah?”  Yes, Jesus knew. 🙂  The Pharisees didn’t acknowledge Jesus as the Messiah, but just because they had religious training over the crowds didn’t make them right.  The multitude of disciples following Jesus may not have understood all that would unfold over the next several days, but at the moment they had gotten this much right: Jesus is the Messiah, and He is worthy of praise!
  • One thing you’ll never find Jesus doing is rebuking heartfelt praise from a sincere worshipper.  There are several examples in the gospels when Jesus silences demons.  Even though the demon might be quoted as speaking truth about Jesus’ identity, Jesus didn’t want their testimony.  But when it comes to a sincere worshipper, Jesus never shushes them or shoos them away.  Praise offered from a man or woman of faith is welcome!  Background or education doesn’t matter.  It could be a tax-collector, a prostitute, a Pharisee, a Gentile, or an average Joe.  As long as it’s sincere, it is sincerely welcomed by the Lord Jesus.
    • Is praise ever not desired by the Lord?  Yes – when it’s hypocritical, insincere, or offered with sinful motives.  The prophets routinely rebuked Israel for offering insincere praise.  Jesus quoted the prophet Isaiah when He said of the hypocritical Pharisees that they “honor Me with their lips, but their heart is far from Me.” (Mt 15:8)  If you’re just going through ritualistic motions in your worship, don’t bother.  If you’re giving in order to get, keep it to yourself.  If you’re raising your hands to put on a show of spirituality, then you’ve already received your reward.  God desires worship, but He wants it to be sincere.
    • And there’s no reason not to give it to Him!  This is part of loving God with all our heart, soul, and strength.  Anything less is insincere.
  • What would have happened if Jesus had rebuked and silenced His disciples?  The noise wouldn’t have ceased.  Creation itself would have erupted in praise!  The heavens already declare the glory of God (Ps 19:1), and God promised that the mountains & hills would “break forth into singing” when they witnessed the deliverance He promised to Israel. (Isa 55:12)  How much more should the rocks cry out when witnessing the Savior?  One day, every being in all of creation will sing out in praise over Jesus!  Revelation 5:11–13, "(11) Then I looked, and I heard the voice of many angels around the throne, the living creatures, and the elders; and the number of them was ten thousand times ten thousand, and thousands of thousands, (12) saying with a loud voice: “Worthy is the Lamb who was slain To receive power and riches and wisdom, And strength and honor and glory and blessing!” (13) And every creature which is in heaven and on the earth and under the earth and such as are in the sea, and all that are in them, I heard saying: “Blessing and honor and glory and power Be to Him who sits on the throne, And to the Lamb, forever and ever!”"  He is worthy!  The only question is: why wait for then to praise Him?  Praise Him now!

Conclusion:
Jesus is someone worth celebrating!  He is the Messiah King of Israel, and He is the Savior of the world.  He presented Himself as the King, and was rightly celebrated as the King – even over the objections and rebuke of the Pharisees who were watching.

So what is our response to Him?  Faith & praise.

  • Our Jesus can be trusted!  The words He speaks are true, and the instructions He gives will never lead us astray.  He knows the beginning from the end, and all points in the middle.  Christian: if you trusted Him for your salvation (the most important event in your entire existence), why would you not trust Him for everything else?  Take Jesus at His word and choose to walk by faith.
  • Our Jesus is to be praised!  Worship Him with heart & soul – sincerely, with full-throated praise.  Worship begins in our hearts, but true worship never remains there.  Like steam in a pressure cooker, it needs to be released…so release it!  Let your worship of Jesus erupt from your lips, and spill out through your life.  Let’s be done waiting for rocks to give glory to God; that’s the privilege that belongs to us!

Historically & theologically speaking, Jesus came to Jerusalem only once for the purpose of presenting Himself a sacrifice for sin – but there’s no doubt He’s coming again.  Today, we still expect the arrival of our King, and He can come at any time. Do you look forward to the day?  Are you ready?