Archive for the ‘Luke’ Category

Helping the Humble

Posted: June 26, 2017 in Luke, Uncategorized

Luke 14:1-14, “Helping the Humble”

Common sayings that are never found in the Bible:

  • “Cleanliness is next to godliness.”  It’s a great idea to bathe, but it isn’t a Biblical admonition, nor a sin if you miss a shower or keep a messy room.
  • “Money is the root of all evil.”  This quotation actually falls short.  It is “The love of money” which is the root of all evil. (1 Tim 6:10)  Money is simply a tool.
  • “The lion shall lay down with the lamb.”  The idea is true for the Millennial Kingdom, but the imagery is incorrect.  Scripturally speaking it is the “wolf” that dwells with the lamb. (Isa 11:6, 65:25)
  • “God does not give you more than you can bear.”  Commonly quoted, but blatantly false.  There are many circumstances that we endure that we can’t handle.  We absolutely need the strength of Christ, or we will fail!  The Scripture actually tells us that God will not allow us “to be tempted beyond what you are able.” (1 Cor 10:13)  Big difference!
  • “God helps those who help themselves.”  This last one is worse than all the rest, if for no other reason than it is anti-gospel.  Yes, the Bible does promote the idea of personal responsibility for our actions, but praise God that He most certainly does help those who cannot help themselves…because none of us can help ourselves!  If we could help ourselves in terms of our salvation, there would have been no reason to send Jesus to the cross.  It’s because we were hopeless that we were given the hope of Christ!

With that in mind, think over our text. It begins with Jesus helping a man who was unable to help himself, and ends with Jesus instructing others to do the same.  Jesus personally demonstrates compassion towards the helpless and humble, and we as Jesus’ followers & disciples are supposed to do likewise.

Contextually, Luke has shown increasing conflicts between Jesus and the Pharisees (and other religious rulers), the most recent taking place over a different Sabbath day healing, when Jesus loosed a woman from her physical and spiritual bondage.  The leader of the synagogue at the time showed no compassion towards his sister in the faith, which called his own “faith” into question.  Jesus later made it clear that the kingdom would come in unexpected ways, including unexpected people…and some people who thought they would be there will actually be cast out.  It is the last who would be first, and the first who would be last.  Guess which category most likely included the Pharisees and religious elite?  These were the same sorts of people that had always persecuted the prophets of God, just like they were doing with Jesus.  It wasn’t surprising, but it was still sad.  Jesus longed that all would humble themselves under the protection & provision of God, but many still chose to rebel & go their own way.

That brings us to our current text.  Some of the best stories happen over supper, and things were no different in ancient Judea.  People would gather for meals, and there was no telling what might happen.  That was the case on another Sabbath day when Jesus was invited as a guest to the home of a Pharisee.  He wasn’t the only person invited that day, and what followed was surely nothing as the Pharisee had originally intended.  A scandal broke out, which led the way for some parables and teaching.  People had come to the meal with expectations about themselves and their own kingdom worth; Jesus would demonstrate something very different.  He had come for the humble, and those who follow Him needed to have the same mind.

Luke 14:1–14

  • Setting: healing at supper (1-6)

1 Now it happened, as He went into the house of one of the rulers of the Pharisees to eat bread on the Sabbath, that they watched Him closely.

  • Right off the bat, we notice several things that might stand out.  (1) Where it took place: the home of a Pharisee.  In fact, it was more than that – it was “thou house of one of the rulers of the Pharisees.”  This was an elite among religious elite.  We are not told the name of this man, but no doubt he would have been well-known in his community.  (2) Who was there: “they watched Him closely.”  This was no private meeting, such as what took place between Jesus and Nicodemus early on in Jesus’ ministry.  This was a semi-public event.  Yes, it took place in a private home, but this was a dinner party with more than one invitee.  Jesus may have been the guest-of-honor (perhaps?), but others were present as witnesses.  (3) When it took place: “on the Sabbath.”  It was common for people to have large meals on the Sabbath, just as it is commonplace (or used to be) for people to have large Sunday dinners after church.  But the Sabbath day timeframe is contextually important for Luke, as the last time the Sabbath was mentioned, it was regarding another miraculous healing from Jesus.
  • So put it together.  There is a ruler among the Pharisees who invited Jesus to his home, along with several others for a Sabbath day meal & gathering.  They were watching Him with sharp intent & scrutiny for a reason: something was up.  The group had planned something, and they were waiting to see Jesus’ reaction.  This was a trap, plain & simple.  It would have been the perfect setup for the Pharisees, except for one thing: they were dealing with the Son of God.  How can someone sneak up on Someone who knows everything?  They were dealing with the all-knowing, all-wise, omnipotent Son of God.  It is impossible to catch Him in a trap!
  • But try they did, and it was sprung with the arrival of another guest.  Vs. 2…

2 And behold, there was a certain man before Him who had dropsy.

  • Although it’s possible that this man simply showed up, it seems more likely that he had been invited/instructed to come.  After all, Jesus was under close watch by the people who were present, so they were expecting something to happen.  This man was that something.
  • We don’t use the term “dropsy” anymore; the more common term is edema – a swelling of bodily tissue (usually in the legs and feet) brought on by too much fluid.  There are several things that can cause edema, ranging from blood clots in inflamed veins to heart failure, kidney disease, or cirrhosis of the liver, and more.  In some cases, it could be nothing more than water retention, but other cases can be very serious, requiring medical attention.
  • What was it for this man?  We don’t know.  Although Luke was a physician, he wasn’t present at the time, and he may not have been able to give a proper diagnosis even if he had been there.  Jesus, however, was there.  He knew precisely what was going on with the man (in addition to what was going on in the minds of the Pharisees), and Jesus was not content to let this man be treated as bait or a test subject. 

3 And Jesus, answering, spoke to the lawyers and Pharisees, saying, “Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath?” 4 But they kept silent. And He took him and healed him, and let him go.

  • Again, Jesus wasn’t fooled.  He knew precisely what was going on.  This was a sting operation set up by the religious lawyers (the scribes).  We don’t have a transcript of every word spoken in the room that day, but one can easily imagine Jesus taking one look at the sick man, looking back at the lawyers & Pharisees & asking this question without any other statement made.  Jesus didn’t need to inquire about the extent of the illness, get any sort of medical background to determine if there was an emergency at hand.  He didn’t even need to say “hello.”  It was obvious this was a set-up, and Jesus wasn’t deterred in the slightest.  He asked the religious lawyers what was authorized on the Sabbath, and went from there.
  • Question: Why did Jesus ask?  Wouldn’t He have already known what was/wasn’t legal to do on the Sabbath?  Of course.  Not only does Jesus have perfect knowledge of the Scripture (which is inspired by God the Holy Spirit), but Jesus has perfect knowledge of the laws and traditions of men.  And the difference between those two things was really the point.  The law of Moses as recorded in Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy did not forbid the healing of this man.  Any objections (if they existed) were in the traditions of men that had been added to the Scriptures. 
  • Objection: “But even the Scripture says that no work should be done.  The 4th Commandment is clear that there are six days for labor, but the Sabbath is set apart for rest.  This wasn’t a dire emergency.  Couldn’t Jesus have waited a few more hours before He healed the man?  Even in the miracle, it was still a work of God.”  Go back to the foundational principle.  Why was rest required on the Sabbath?  It was for the Hebrew to affirm his/her trust in God as Provider, Covenant-King, and Creator.  What better trust in God could be demonstrated than receiving a healing from God the Son?  More than that – ultimately the rest of God points to the salvation provided by Jesus & His resurrection.  Jesus performing miraculous healings on the Sabbath is a clear testimony of the rest that only He provides – one blessed by Almighty God.  Even with all that being considered, keep in mind that this was by no means the first time Jesus healed on the Sabbath.  The New Testament records at least 7 Sabbath day healings, not all of them being set up by the Pharisees as traps.  If this was evidence of habitual law-breaking, no one would have followed Jesus…He would have been easily dismissed as a false Christ.  But that wasn’t the case.  Not only is Jesus, as the Messiah, Lord of the Sabbath (Lk 6:5), but could never be credibly accused of violating the Sabbath.  He Himself is the fulfillment of it!
  • It’s no wonder that lawyers and Pharisees “kept silent.”  They had nothing to say because they had no case.  Their entrapment scheme crumbled right before their eyes, and they were left with nothing but silent shame.
    • Have you ever gotten caught in something that you knew was wrong?  You may have wanted to win the argument, but you still knew you were on the losing side.  Such was the case with those lawyers and Pharisees.  We may have been in their shoes, but we can do something different.  Instead of shutting down and going silent, we can confess our sin & shameful attitude to the Lord, asking His forgiveness.  Born-again Christians have no reason to live in guilt & shame…there is cleansing in Christ! 
  • Obviously more needed to be said that day, but Jesus first took care of the most important business: healing the man with edema/dropsy.  Jesus wasn’t going to use him as a pawn in a theological debate (unlike the Pharisees), so He healed the man & sent him on his way.
    • Quick note: Luke barely spends any time on the healing.  It was an amazing miracle, but it was no big deal for Jesus.  He didn’t need light shows, loud music, or other theatrics to work miracles; He just did what needed to be done.  People who make a spectacle out of healings are drawing attention to themselves; not Christ.  If the focus was truly on Jesus, it would be on the proclamation of His gospel.  All the rest is simply the platform that puts Jesus front & center.

5 Then He answered them, saying, “Which of you, having a donkey or an ox that has fallen into a pit, will not immediately pull him out on the Sabbath day?” 6 And they could not answer Him regarding these things.

  • Depending what Bible translation you have, the examples Jesus uses might say “a son or an ox,” rather than “a donkey or an ox.”  Strictly speaking, the oldest manuscripts have “son,” but there are some very old & important manuscripts that say “donkey.”  The abbreviated words in the Greek in which they were written would look very similar, but the meanings are vastly different!  It’s difficult to say which of the two is original, considering the context – but the overall point is basically the same.  If life is at stake on the Sabbath, then steps are taken to ensure that life is preserved.  Granted, the urgency of the situation drastically changes whether a farmer’s livestock has fallen into a pit, versus his beloved child – but either way, people do what need to be done to save life.
  • A similar point had been made in Ch. 13 in regards to the woman who had been bent over for 18 years.  If animals could be untied in order to be led to water, then why couldn’t a woman be unbound from Satanic and physical attacks?  Life matters to the Lord Almighty – both in quantity and quality.  Would the woman have lived another 18 years?  Perhaps…but now she could live it upright (literally), and praising God.  Likewise with this man.  Could his condition have waited another day?  Certainly.  And if the Pharisees hadn’t drug this man before Jesus at the Sabbath day dinner, it’s quite possible that Jesus would have healed the man after the Sabbath came a close.  The Pharisees and lawyers were the ones who insisted on pushing the point, and Jesus wasn’t about to be intimidated.  Jesus came so that people may have life, and to have it more abundantly. (Jn 10:10)  The opportunity for this had presented itself to this man, and Jesus wasn’t about to deny him that.
    • God cares far more about people than our own theological preferences.  Not that doctrine doesn’t matter to the Lord; it does!  Doctrine matters tremendously!  Jesus made it clear that He came to fulfill the law, and not one jot or tittle (dot or decorative mark) would pass from the law until all was fulfilled. (Mt 5:18)  God values His word so much that He magnifies it according to, or even above His own name. (Ps 138:2)  Yes, doctrine matters to God.  Our own theological lenses through which we interpret His word & doctrine?  Not so much.  When our theology matches with God’s truth, wonderful!  When our theology is infected by our traditions, preferences, point-of-views, etc., then we’re going to have to expect our world to get rocked a bit.  When our theology places legalism above people, we have a problem.  When our religion picks ritual at the expense of relationship, we have a problem.  We can claim to be pious all we want, but when we start looking at people as tools rather than individuals for whom Jesus died, then our piety isn’t worth all that much.
  • The Pharisees and lawyers understood Jesus perfectly, and they fell silent for the second time that day.  They had no answer for Him.  They had presented Him with a trap, and He responded not only with compassion towards the man who needed it most, but with undeniable truth regarding the heart of the law of God.
  • This presented a tremendous teachable moment, and Jesus wasn’t about to pass it up…
  • Parable: humility at supper (7-11)

7 So He told a parable to those who were invited, when He noted how they chose the best places, saying to them:

  • How many people had been invited to the home of the Pharisee, we’re not told.  Since he was one of the rulers of the Pharisees, it can be reasonably assumed that he had a large enough residence to accommodate many people.  Who these people were, is another question.  Obviously some were Pharisees and lawyers.  But was that all?  It’s impossible to say.  The most important thing is that Jesus knew who they were, and that no matter what position they held in their religious culture, they still had much to learn.  Not only had they invited a sick man to the party for the sole purpose of being used as a trap for Jesus, but once there, they were all looking out for themselves.  Culturally, to seek the best seats & “best places” was to engage in a bit of self-promotion, and the promotion of “self” always gets us into trouble.
    • How much of our culture is consumed with self?  Self-improvement, self-esteem, self-promotion, self-obsession!  We’ve even coined a new word that captures our love for ourselves: “selfies.”  What was rare prior to 2010 with the development of the front-facing camera on the iPhone has become commonplace.  A 2015 study calculated that the average Millennial will take over 25,000 selfies over the course of his/her lifetime. (http://www.ibtimes.com/millennials-selfies-young-adults-will-take-more-25000-pictures-themselves-during-2108417)  That’s a lot of self-focus!
    • What does the Bible say about self?  Not much that’s good!  When it comes to self, we have all sinned & fallen short. (Rom 3:23)  Our hearts lie to us, being deceitful and vain. (Jer 17:9)  Our works lie to us, in that the best we can do regarding righteousness is still like defiled rags in comparison with God. (Isa 64:6)  In ourselves, we have nothing to offer. What makes the change is the love of God!  It is Someone else who changes us: the Lord Jesus. 
  • Instead of looking out for themselves, what should the people have done?  Look out for others.  After all, that’s what Jesus did.  Before entering Jerusalem on Palm Sunday, the same sort of self-interest seen at the Pharisee’s house had arisen among Jesus’ disciples, and James & John wanted to have the best seats – not just for that night’s dinner, but for the entirety of the Millennial Kingdom, requesting to sit next to Jesus.  Jesus’ response put everything in perspective.  Mark 10:42–45, "(42) But Jesus called them to Himself and said to them, “You know that those who are considered rulers over the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. (43) Yet it shall not be so among you; but whoever desires to become great among you shall be your servant. (44) And whoever of you desires to be first shall be slave of all. (45) For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.”"  We are supposed to seek out someone’s best interest, but it’s not our own; it’s others.  Think of the two greatest commandments: (1) Love God with all your heart, soul, and strength, (2) love your neighbor as yourself.  Both commandments are outward focused.  It was seeking out for himself that caused Satan to fall.  It was seeking out for themselves that caused Adam & Eve to fall.  Egotistical self-interest is a sure road to sin.  Sacrificial service is walking in the footsteps of Christ.
  • As for the people at the dinner party, Jesus tells a parable to illustrate His point…

8 “When you are invited by anyone to a wedding feast, do not sit down in the best place, lest one more honorable than you be invited by him; 9 and he who invited you and him come and say to you, ‘Give place to this man,’ and then you begin with shame to take the lowest place.

  • Today, formal dinner parties often have assigned seating, with nameplates marking where people are to sit.  Obviously that wasn’t always the case.  People would arrive, choosing their own seat, with the seats nearest the host being the best ones.  We still see this today at events like formal fundraisers, where a line of tables is at the front of the room, and the most important speakers are placed next to the podium.
  • In the parable, Jesus gives the example of a terrible faux-pas.  You walk in, choose the seat right next to the host (thinking you deserve it), only to have the host come to you & ask you to move for someone else.  You’d go from being at the head of the line, to being at the kiddie-table.  It’d be embarrassing and shameful…and it could have all been averted.  Vs. 10…

10 But when you are invited, go and sit down in the lowest place, so that when he who invited you comes he may say to you, ‘Friend, go up higher.’ Then you will have glory in the presence of those who sit at the table with you. 11 For whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.”

  • Instead of going to the highest place, go to the “lowest.”  At that point, the host will see that you’ve been seated incorrectly, and he/she will raise you to the appropriate spot.  You would have erred on the side of caution, and instead of experiencing embarrassment, you’ll be exalted.
  • Question: Is Jesus really giving etiquette lessons?  Or is He instructing ways for people to manipulate their social statuses?  Of course not.  The way the people at the Pharisee’s house had acted for themselves simply provided a setting for Jesus to give a quick lesson about humility.  They had looked out for their own self-interests, without giving any thought to the welfare of others (i.e. the man with dropsy).  Jesus will address the second part of this in a bit, but the first part is what He addresses through the parable.  The parable isn’t about how to get the best dinner seat; it’s about humility.  It’s not about trying to manipulate yourself into exaltation & social-status; it’s about truly putting yourself aside and trusting God to take control.  Think of it: if you put yourself at the best seat, what is it?  Self-promotion.  If you put yourself down in order to call attention to yourself to get the best seat, what is it?  Self-promotion, though indirectly.  Either way it’s works-based self-focus.  The point of the parable to get your focus off of yourself & your efforts, and wait for exaltation to be done to you. 
  • Although this does sometimes take place among men, ultimately it is done by God.  We lower ourselves, acknowledging our sin; He lifts us up, exalting us in Christ.  We humble ourselves; He lifts us higher.  James 4:10, "Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and He will lift you up."  Our example in this?  None other than the Lord Jesus!  Jesus humbled Himself to the lowest possible position, going from the glories of heaven to coming as a slave in the likeness of men.  He humbled Himself to the point of torturous death on the cross, allowing Himself to be treated like a criminal, and taking on all the sin of all the world.  Yet what was the result?  Philippians 2:9–11, "(9) Therefore God also has highly exalted Him and given Him the name which is above every name, (10) that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven, and of those on earth, and of those under the earth, (11) and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father."  Exaltation to infinite degree!  No one will ever be exalted higher than Jesus!  Jesus didn’t merely teach the words of this parable; He lived them.
  • So that was part 1 of the problem among the dinner party: getting their focus off themselves.  Part 2 was to get it upon others…
  • Teaching: who to invite to supper (12-14)

12 Then He also said to him who invited Him, “When you give a dinner or a supper, do not ask your friends, your brothers, your relatives, nor rich neighbors, lest they also invite you back, and you be repaid.

  • At this point, Jesus gives less of a parable & more of a straightforward teaching.  This isn’t an imagined dinner in which a person has already chosen where to sit, and dealt with the host.  Instead, this is something that any one of the people in front of Jesus might eventually do.  At some point, each of them would go on to give their own dinner party, and they would make out their own invitation lists.  This was very practical teaching for them.  That said, that wasn’t the only thing Jesus was teaching, nor even the main point.  Again, Jesus isn’t taking on the role of an ancient Martha Stewart in instructing people on social etiquette & party-planning; He’s teaching people about humility & service.  That sort of context is crucially important, as it guides our interpretation.
  • Remember that we want to interpret the Bible literally, but that doesn’t mean we interpret it woodenly.  A proper literal interpretation is to interpret it according to its grammatical, historical, and literary context; not to simply rip the words from the page & rob them of their meaning.  That’s a bit easier to do with obvious metaphors, such as when Jesus says that He is the door of the sheepfold (Jn 10:7,9).  But even here, there is a context in which Jesus speaks, and it becomes really important.  How do we interpret passages that say we shouldn’t invite our friends & family to supper?  Are we literally to forbid them from coming to parties?  Of course not.  The people Jesus mentions are the primary people most of us would invite, and rightly so.  It’s only natural for us to invite people we love & value most.  So how should we interpret Jesus’ words?  As they are: hyperbole.  A hyperbole is an extreme example used to make a point.  “I told you a million times…  I’m so hungry, I’m starving… I’m buried with work to do…”  Likewise here.  “Do not ask your friends,” etc., is the extreme example.  That is the figure of speech.  He sets up one extreme here, in order to make His point stand out.  Who are the friends & family contrasted with?  The humble…

13 But when you give a feast, invite the poor, the maimed, the lame, the blind. 14 And you will be blessed, because they cannot repay you; for you shall be repaid at the resurrection of the just.”

  • This is especially interesting in light of who Jesus said this to.  Vs. 12: “Then He also said this to him who invited Him…”  The ruler of the Pharisees had invited one man who might have been included in Jesus’ list, but it was apparent that the man with dropsy was only a pawn.  The Pharisee had filled his home with his own friends who were intent on watching Jesus for the slightest mistake, and his only regard for those who were hurting was that of contempt.  For the host, the man with dropsy was an afterthought; Jesus made it clear that his priorities were misplaced.
  • As to the teaching, instead of invited the expected, who should be invited?  The unexpected.  Instead of inviting those who can do something for you in return, invite those who can do nothing.  Seek out the least, the forgotten, the humble.  Seek out those who cannot help themselves, much less you in repayment.  Invite the least, in order that they may be blessed.  After all, that’s what Jesus does with us.  What can we offer Him?  Nothing, except our love & praise.  We certainly can’t give God something He doesn’t already own.  We can’t offer Him a history of our righteous acts, for we have none.  When it comes to eternal things that really matter, we arethe poor, the maimed, the lame, the blind.”  And yet Jesus invited us to the marriage supper of the Lamb!  He invited us to the very best place & position of honor – to join Him as His co-heirs for all of eternity.  He reached out to the least, for the least was us.
  • So we are to do likewise.  Instead of self-promotion, we should engage in service.  And even in our service, we’re still to beware of self-promotion and take care to serve those who cannot serve us in return.  Reach out to those who cannot repay.  Give gifts to people who can only receive.  That’s the point that we’re giving like Jesus.  As Christians, we are to be Christ-like.  Jesus gave selflessly to people who didn’t deserve it (us).  Go and do likewise.
    • “But this sounds so radical!”  It is. J  Again, keep in mind that Jesus is still using exaggeration here.  It’s not that every dinner party you throw from now on needs to be filled with total strangers from the hospital ward & the street; that’s not the point.  But we shouldn’t be blind to them, either.  The Pharisee had treated the man with dropsy as a pawn; not a person.  The sick man was a tool to be used against Jesus; not a true guest.  Jesus saw them both as individuals.  The man with dropsy needed healing, so Jesus gave it.  The ruler of the Pharisees needed humbling, so Jesus gave that, too. J  Sometimes we need a bit of radical teaching to help us get our priorities straight.
    • Some of this may be exaggeration, but keep in mind that all exaggeration is based in truth.  What would it look like for you to bless a total stranger who is unable to repay you?  It’d look a lot like Jesus! Maybe you see someone who’s hungry, so you buy him dinner.  Maybe you know of a family who’s struggling, so you bring by some groceries.  Maybe someone on your block has some home repair issues, so you go help them fix it.  Look around.  Maybe you have the chance to be the hands & feet of Jesus to someone.  Go do it.  You’ll find you have no better platform from which to share the gospel.  You will have put actions to your words, and your love will be tangible.  We need more tangible Christians.
  • Keep in mind that although strangers might not be able to repay, God can.  There will be a “resurrection of the just.”  Jesus spent much of Chapter 12 speaking about the future judgment that people will face, and how many folks simply aren’t ready.  Those who reject Jesus as Lord – those who aren’t able to discern the signs of the time & thus repent, putting their faith in Christ will face a final judgment, but that will be different than the one mentioned here.  There are two future resurrections: one for the just & one for the wicked. John 5:28–29, "(28) Do not marvel at this; for the hour is coming in which all who are in the graves will hear His voice (29) and come forth—those who have done good, to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil, to the resurrection of condemnation."  The wicked (those who reject Jesus) will be raised at the very end of the Millennial Kingdom to face the final judgment of God at His great white throne. (Rev 20:11-12)  But there is also a resurrection for the just (those who do have faith in Jesus).  It is actually split into two parts: the initial resurrection which takes place at virtually the same moment of the rapture (1 Ths 4:16-17), and what takes place after the Great Tribulation right as the Millennial Kingdom begins. (Rev 20:4-5)  It is with the resurrection of the just that Jesus speaks of the idea of reward.  This is the judgment seat of Christ (2 Cor 5:10), during which we will be rewarded for the things we did as born-again Christians.  At that point, all of the things we did selflessly for Christ & the glory of God will be “repaid” and rewarded by our Lord & King.
    • The point?  Don’t seek the reward of men; seek the reward of God.  What men give is temporary.  Money is spent, power fades, gifts rot, etc.  Only God gives reward that lasts eternally.  Seek the things of God, and let your contentment be in the reward that He gives you.  The very best reward?  Just as He was to Abraham, those who have saving faith in Christ find Jesus to be our “exceedingly great reward!” (Gen 15:1)

Conclusion:
It was quite a dinner party…and it wasn’t even over!  There was still more teaching to come as people had more to learn.  For now, the lesson was regarding humility.  Faced with a set-up on a Sabbath day, Jesus turned everything around unexpectedly.  He graciously helped the man who could not help himself (on the day that no one expected Jesus to help him).  And Jesus showed how everyone else in the room was supposed to do the same thing.  They were to be humble, and they were to help the humble.

We can get so self-focused & self-obsessed in our culture, and (especially as Christians) we need to beware the danger.  Our Lord didn’t come to exalt Himself; He came to serve us and exalt His Heavenly Father.  In the process, His Father did exalt Him, giving Him the name above every name.  That’s our example – that’s our model.

Some of us have been self-consumed as of late.  We’ve sought out our own interests to the exclusion of others, and we’ve forgotten what it means to serve.  Putting others ahead of ourselves may sound radical, but it’s Biblical.  If more Christians get back to doing what the Bible says to do, we might find that more people are willing to hear what the Bible says for us to tell them about Jesus.  Christians who act like Christ present a powerful testimony.

Others of us need to be reminded of our own humble dependence upon Jesus.  Who are we, but the lame, the poor, the maimed?  Just like the man with dropsy was totally dependent upon Jesus for healing, so are we totally dependent upon Him for salvation.  We cannot help ourselves; it is Jesus who must help us…and that is exactly what He offers to do!

Whose Will Be Done?

Posted: June 18, 2017 in Luke, Uncategorized

Luke 13:31-35, “Whose Will Be Done?”

It is the most famous prayer in the Bible – the pattern Jesus gave His disciples (and us) regarding how to pray: “Our Father in heaven, hallowed be Your name.  Your kingdom come, Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.  Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors.  Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil, for Yours is the kingdom & the power & the glory forever, amen.”  It is the third request that stands out in regards to our text: “Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.”  Why would this need to be prayed?  Is there ever a time when God’s will is not done?  As the sovereign Lord over all the universe, doesn’t He always see His will accomplished?

Yes and no.  Yes, God is absolutely sovereign, and anything that happens within this created universe is something that happened if not by the direct will of God, then certainly allowed by Him permissively.  But it is that idea of permission that makes us pause.  There are certain things that God allows that He does not desire.  He does not desire sin, but allows it in the course of the exercise of our free will.  He does not desire that any would perish, but obviously some do – this is something God permits because He permits humans to have freedom of choice.  Thus although nothing happens apart from God’s sovereignty, some things do happen apart from His express desires.

This is seen in our text as Luke finishes out Chapter 13.  God the Father has a prescribed will & plan for Jesus, and Jesus steadfastly obeys it to the end, despite any difficulties along the way.  God also has a desire to save His people from destruction, but His people desire something else: rebellion.  Their will comes in conflict with God’s will, and in the end, God allows them their choice.

We see the same thing today.  Jesus’ clear invitation is for all of humanity to come to Him & be saved, yet many are unwilling to do so.  He will draw, woo, invite – but He won’t force them.  He will allow them their choice, and that choice lasts into eternity.  Even from the perspective of born-again believers, we are eternally saved (praise God!), but there are times that we still choose rebellion.  God graciously and lovingly warns us away from certain choices, knowing the consequences that will come – but He will still allow us to make them.  At that point, we’re unable to blame God for the results that follow, as much it might cause us pain to endure them.

Contextually, remember that Jesus had pointed out the sin (leaven) of the Pharisees, labeling it as hypocrisy.  That specific criticism was seen in-action, as a woman enslaved by disease was criticized for being healed by Jesus on the Sabbath Day.  The legalistic religious leaders were unable to look past the ends of their own noses to not only have compassion upon those around them, but to discern the Messiah right in front of them.  Earlier, Jesus had warned the people of the reality of a future judgment, and in His teachings regarding the kingdom, let them know they were not ready for that judgment.  Many of them had already rejected Jesus as the Messiah, and as a result, they would be left out of God’s kingdom.  The kingdom would come in unexpected ways, doing unexpected things among unexpected people – and many of the Jews themselves would not be there.

No doubt this caused some waves among the people (especially the religious rulers), and they were anxious to see Jesus move along.  They shouldn’t have been too eager.  For some of them, this was their last opportunity to see Jesus for themselves, and possibly their last opportunity to be saved.  They were rejecting Jesus, and thus rejecting the will of God.

Don’t be one who rejects the will of God.  God’s will is that you be saved through Jesus Christ.  May our wills be submitted to His loving will for us.  Don’t be one who rejects Jesus – He is willing to save!

Luke 13:31–35

  • Jesus’ resolve (31-33)

31 On that very day some Pharisees came, saying to Him, “Get out and depart from here, for Herod wants to kill You.”

  • When did it take place? “On that very day,” or according to the oldest manuscripts, “in that same hour.”  Luke doesn’t always give a timeframe for the chronology between events, but he does here – and it is very specific!  The very same hour that Jesus spoke of the need for people to strive to enter through the narrow gate of the kingdom – the moments following Jesus’ clear warning that many of the Jews would be told to depart from the presence of God, even while calling out “Lord, Lord,” – that was the time that “some Pharisees” came forward with this warning.  It seems curious at the least, if not downright suspicious.  Why would the Pharisees bring a warning to Jesus about “Herod”?  Although some Pharisees had a secret faith in Jesus (i.e. Nicodemus), Luke has not shown them.  Most recently, the Pharisees had been shown openly opposing Jesus, and had been condemned by them.  The source of this warning & the timing of this warning calls the whole thing into question.  Was it sincere?  Or was it an attempt at intimidation, or at least a last-ditch effort just to move Jesus out of town?  The things Jesus had been saying had obviously been sobering, and it probably shook some of the locals to their core.  They needed this Guy gone – they couldn’t afford to have Him around!
    • It’s one thing to personally reject Jesus, despite the good news of His offer of salvation.  It’s foolish (to be sure!), but at least it’s your own choice.  It’s another thing to try to cause others to reject Him, to shut up their ears to the gospel.  In essence, that was one of the outcomes of this seeming-warning.  If Jesus was gone, the people in town would no longer hear Him.  Just as Jesus had condemned the religious lawyers of taking away the key of knowledge & standing in the way of those desiring to enter the kingdom (Lk 11:52), so had these Pharisees done in this town.
    • This same sort of thing has been routinely done all around the world, as dominant cultures have persecuted Christians, running them out of town, throwing them in jail, etc., all in their attempts to shut down the spread of the gospel.  And it has begun to spread even in our own culture.  Atheist legal groups actively look for cities in which to bring lawsuits regarding the so-called separation of church & state.  Others try to intimidate Christian business owners to deny Biblical convictions and give their artistic services to anti-Christian or anti-Biblical events.  For these groups, freedom of religion is limited to the practice of worship within the doors of a church building, never to be brought outside to the public square.  It’s no different than the actions of the Pharisees.  It’s an attempt to shut down the message of the gospel & stand in the way of those who would hear the good news of Christ.
    • That’s the reality – but we also have a great example of how to deal with that reality: the resolve of our Lord Jesus, which is demonstrated in a couple of verses.
  • Why would “Herod” be the subject of the warning?  The last reference to Herod was in Chapter 9: Luke 9:7–9, "(7) Now Herod the tetrarch heard of all that was done by Him; and he was perplexed, because it was said by some that John had risen from the dead, (8) and by some that Elijah had appeared, and by others that one of the old prophets had risen again. (9) Herod said, “John I have beheaded, but who is this of whom I hear such things?” So he sought to see Him."  Herod Antipas had been curious regarding the ministry of Jesus for quite some time, and probably fearful of retribution for the way John the Baptist had been treated.  Later, after Jesus’ arrest, Luke is the only gospel writer to show the interaction between Jesus and Herod, who seemed to delight at having Jesus finally in front of him.  Whatever the motive (which is unsaid), the facts of what was told Jesus were likely true.  It seems probable that Herod did want to kill Jesus.  This was his true desire, or “will” towards the Son of God.  For all of the conflict that will soon be seen between the will of God & the will of the Jews in Jerusalem, the first instance that the word for “will” is used is right here.  Herod’s will was to kill Jesus.
    • Although many people rebel against God’s will, and other people miss God’s will, some people actively wish to overthrow God with their own will.  They hate God, despising the idea that there may come a day that they will be held accountable by an all-perfect, all-knowing, all-powerful Creator.  Their dislike of it doesn’t change the fact.  All people will stand before God and be judged.  All sin will be brought to light, and all sin has the wage of death, leaving each and every man & woman condemned.
    • The good news is that Jesus offers to save us from that judgment!  He has taken our condemnation upon Himself when He died for us at the cross.  The very message that some people try to shut down is the same message that would save them, if they only believed!  (You can believe, too!)
  • If all of this was said to intimidate Jesus, did it work?  Nope.  It’s impossible to throw the Son of God off His game!  Vs. 32…

32 And He said to them, “Go, tell that fox, ‘Behold, I cast out demons and perform cures today and tomorrow, and the third day I shall be perfected.’

  • Jesus is unafraid.  “Go, tell that fox…”  The Pharisees throwing around the name of a power-hungry murderous dictator is not enough to intimidate Jesus.  The Son of God is not easily cowed!  In the grand scheme of things, Herod wasn’t even all that important, as Jesus implied by calling him “that fox.”  Foxes are typically thought of as cunning & sly (and Herod certainly fits that description), but among the Hebrews foxes were also thought of as insignificant.  Remember the insult of Tobiah the Ammonite towards Nehemiah as the wall of Jerusalem was rebuilt: the wall of the city was so weak that even a little fox running on it would cause it to fall. (Neh 4:3)  Here, it is Herod who is that tiny, insignificant fox.  The Romans may have allowed him the title of “king,” but he was nothing compared to the true King of the Jews!
    • By telling the Pharisees to “go” and tell this to Herod, Jesus seems to imply a bit of collusion between them & Herod.  Were the Pharisees really all that fearful of this king?  Did they really desire Jesus’ safety?  If they really knew Herod’s secret will & desires concerning Jesus, they must have had a way of finding out.  They could go back to their co-conspirator and tell him that their plan had failed.
    • God isn’t going to be intimidated, and He can never be fooled. 
  • Jesus was busy doing the work of God.  He was actively engaged in ministry, and He wasn’t going to stop what He was going to get out of town & go on the lamb (so to speak).  He was casting out “demons” and performing healing “cures” – a combination of which was recently seen with the woman earlier in Chapter 13, whom Jesus healed on the Sabbath day.  She was physically bent over with her disease, and Jesus recognized it as a bond of Satan. (Lk 13:16)  Jesus’ work was necessary in the present time (“today”) and would continue for as long as it was necessary (“tomorrow”).  He was ministering to people both spiritually and physically, and He wouldn’t stop until the time had come for it to be completed.  If Herod or the Pharisees didn’t like it, Jesus didn’t care.  He had a job to do, and He was going to see it done.
    • Christian: praise God for the tenacity of Christ Jesus!  He never stops until a work is complete.  When you put your faith in Jesus, asking Him to forgive you of your sin and to become your Lord & Savior, Jesus began a work in your life right then & there.  When will He stop?  He won’t – not until it is complete.  Philippians 1:6, "being confident of this very thing, that He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ;"  You may consider yourself a work-in-progress (as we all are!), but don’t get discouraged…the work isn’t done.  Some parts are done: you are fully saved, eternally secure, fully made a child of God, etc., but some parts are not yet complete.  We are constantly being transformed from the inside out, continually conformed to the image of Christ, gradually changing our desires from the things of the world to the things of God.  If you are in Christ, Jesus has not only done a work in you; He is doing a work.  And He will see it through!
  • Jesus was focused upon the work of God yet to be done.  Although the near future would have Jesus continuing His spiritual and physical ministry among the people, there was soon coming a day when that time would come to completion, and Jesus would “be perfected.”  The KJV & NKJV do a far better job of translating this than NASB, NIV & others that render this “I will reach My goal.”  Although the idea of completion is accurate, the voice is not.  The Greek verb is clearly in a passive voice, meaning that this is an action performed on the speaker; not by the speaker.  “I am eating” is active; “I am being eaten” is passive.  Big difference!  (Sounds like a Jurassic Park movie! J)  Yes, there was a goal that Jesus was striving towards, but there was more in mind than just a completed schedule.  There was something that would happen to Jesus that would itself be the culmination to His ministry: the resurrection.  It does not seem to be by accident that Jesus relates this to the “third” day, even though the “today and tomorrow” were not literal chronological days.  (After all, Jesus was not ascending to heaven prior to week’s end!)  On the third day following the cross, Jesus was raised from the dead, perfecting the entire work He had eternally planned to accomplish.  This was the perfect, prescribed will of God, and nothing would get in the way of it being done.
    • God’s perfect will is always perfectly accomplished.  One of the things we see in this text is the difference between God’s perfect will & God’s permissive will.  His permissive will is demonstrated in the Jewish rejection of Jesus and the prophets, but His perfect will is seen in Jesus’ journey to the cross & resurrection.  There was not a single obstacle that Satan could throw at Jesus to stop this from being accomplished.  It would happen, and it would happen exactly the way as God desired.  That’s the way things work with God’s perfect will, whereas in His permissive will, people can get in the way (as we’ll see).  The question for us is often: how can we know if something is God’s perfect will or His permissive will?  Apart from the clear direction of Scripture, we can’t – but it does show us a difference.  To declare that all things are God’s perfect prescribed will is to make God the author of evil.  It is to relegate ourselves to determinism & fate, declaring that all of our choices are nothing more than illusion, that we are nothing but pawns in a predetermined universe.
    • Is God sovereign?  Yes!  Without a doubt, yes!  Not a single sparrow falls to the ground apart from the will of our heavenly Father. (Mt 10:29)  There is not a moment in eternal past or future that God has not foreseen nor superintended.  His desire is supreme, and what He declares to be done will always be fully accomplished.  But heaven forbid that we would hold up His sovereignty as an excuse for our evil behavior – that we would relieve ourselves of our personal responsibilities, making Him the author of our rebellion.  How careful we need to be not to hold up one aspect of God’s character to the exclusion of all others!
  • Bottom line: Jesus was resolved.  Vs. 33…

33 Nevertheless I must journey today, tomorrow, and the day following; for it cannot be that a prophet should perish outside of Jerusalem.

  • No matter what difficulties, rejection, and persecution may exist (real or imagined), it would not dissuade Jesus from what He came to do.  He “must journey.”  Why must He?  Because it was part of the eternal plan of God.  Again, this was God’s prescribed, perfect will for Jesus, and Jesus had to do it.  It was necessary for Jesus to accomplish it, and He would see it done. 
  • How long would Jesus need to do it?  As long as it took.  “Today, tomorrow, and the day following.”  Again, He isn’t using literal numbers of days here.  Chronologically speaking, Jesus had not even arrived in Jerusalem in His triumphal entry, and there were at least 7 days that followed that point.  The whole idea Jesus is portraying is that of faithfulness.  Jesus would journey & keep journeying – He would keep on ministering for as long as it took, because that was what the Father had given Him to do.
  • Besides, if the Pharisees were really all that concerned for Jesus’ well-being, they shouldn’t be urging Him on to the most dangerous city on earth for a Jewish prophet: Jerusalem.  In all likelihood, Jesus was in the region of Perea at the time (which was the territory and jurisdiction covered by Herod Antipas), and Jesus was safer there with them than He was in the holy capital city of Judea.  Why keep moving on to Jerusalem?  Herod may have wanted Jesus dead, but so did the Jews!
  • Question: Is Jesus exaggerating?  Had all the prophets of Israel died inside of Jerusalem?  Historically, yes, several prophets died outside the city – Moses being perhaps the most well-known example.  Moses was not allowed even to enter the Promised Land due to his sin of misrepresenting God to the people. (Dt 32:51)  That said, it’s difficult to include prophets like Moses in Jesus’ statement, considering that Moses (and others before him) died before Jerusalem was even in the possession of the Israelites.  It wasn’t until the reign of David that it became the capital city & site of the future temple.  The Bible does not record all of the deaths of all of the prophets, but many of the ones that are recorded after the formation of the kingdom seem to take place within Jerusalem.  (Ezekiel and Daniel obviously died while in captivity.  There’s some evidence that Jeremiah perhaps died in Egypt, though the Bible never directly says so.)  Even so, the city borders of Jerusalem & the sites of physical death of the prophets is not really Jesus’ main point.  The way He speaks of the city here is similar to the way that God speaks of the city throughout many of the OT prophets: as a stand-in for the entire nation of Israel. (Metonymy)  It was the nation that rejected the prophets & that killed them in many horrible ways.  To be a prophet in Israel was virtually as dangerous a profession as being a king!
    • Consider the irony of that for a moment.  Very few of Israel’s prophets were called to serve in other lands (although many had oracles regarding other nations).  However, one was: Jonah.  Jonah was a disobedient prophet sent to whom he (and the rest of the civilized world) considered to be an extremely dangerous people: the Ninevites of Assyria.  These were people so violent that they would shove fishhooks through the cheeks of the people they conquered & use that as their “chain-gang” in carting off their newfound slaves.  (It’s no wonder Jonah didn’t want to go to them, and wanted to see God pour out His judgment & wrath!)  Yet in the grand scheme of things, Jonah was safer among the Ninevites than he was among the Jews.  In contrast, the prophet Jeremiah had an exclusive ministry in Jerusalem and he was repeatedly persecuted and imprisoned, virtually left to die in a pit.  It was more dangerous for a prophet to be among the people of God than the Gentiles!
    • Before we go pointing too many fingers, a similar observation could be made about Evangelical Christianity.  We have a tendency to eat our own.  Men and women of God who speak the truth are often told to shut up & sit down.  We don’t want to hear of sin & the need for repentance.  People come to church to feel good, and a whole bunch of talk regarding sin doesn’t do that.  Are there times to feel good?  Absolutely!  The Christian life is meant to be joyful; not sour.  But we also need the truth, thus we need pastors willing to proclaim the truth, & people in the pews hearing it & doing the same.
  • For all of Israel’s (Jerusalem’s) trouble regarding the prophets, Jesus had something so much better in mind for them!  Vs. 34…
  • Jesus’ desire (34-35)

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!

  • Again, “Jerusalem” is likely standing in for the entire nation of Israel, but there can be no denial of how dangerous this particular city was for the prophets of God.  Men like Isaiah and Zechariah ben Jehoiada (among others) were killed in Jerusalem.  And this didn’t stop with the Old Testament.  Obviously Jesus was killed by the Romans and Jews of Jerusalem.  Stephen was stoned by those in Jerusalem, while the not-yet-converted Saul of Tarsus supervised.  All kinds of prophets and faithful men of God were killed in & around Jerusalem.
  • All of that was representative of Israel’s rejection of God, but it wasn’t representative of God’s will towards Israel.  What had God the Son wanted/desired/willed?  He wanted to “gather [His] children together.”  He wanted to love them, to protect them, to shower them with His compassion and provision.  Jesus used an incredibly unusual picture to help envision this: that of a mother hen sheltering her chicks.  For all of the imagery that could be used, Jesus used a hen.  Not an eagle swooping down upon prey in ferocity, which might be thought of as protection (though more likely as attack) – not even a male animal of any sort, as might be appropriate when speaking of the Father’s love – but a mother hen.  “As a hen gathers her brood under her wings,” so did Jesus want to do with the Jews.  Seeing that most of us weren’t raised around chickens, what does this look like?  One farming website describes it: “Chickens make amazing mothers and although we do not allow breeding at our sanctuaries we have had mothers arrive with babies. Mother hens are so protective of their children that you often cannot see the chicks when you first arrive in the barn. Moms puff up and hide their babies beneath them to ensure that not one single chick is taken from their brood. Even as their children grow, mothers shield them under their wings at night safeguarding them from harm. Chicks cannot get wet and mothers cover them in the rain. … Here, we have witnessed mother hens vocalize to their babies as soon as they spot an aerial predator. They’ve even sounded the alarm on pigeons flying too low over the farm. In response, babies run directly to mother hen for cover.” (https://www.thedodo.com/farm-animals-moms-babies-affection-1132949239.html )  That was the love of Jesus for Jerusalem.  God the Son wanted to love His people like a mother, with that kind of compassion and self-sacrifice.  He wanted to stand in their place for them, protecting them from danger, taking the hit from sin & death in their place.
  • What was the problem?  The Jews ran from Him.  The will of the people conflicted with the will of God.  Jesus said of them: “you were not willing.”  In the Old Testament, God used the imagery of His people finding refuge under His wings (Ps 57:1, 91:4).  That was His will for them, but their will for themselves was different.  Their will was to run the other way, forsaking the loving protection God offered them.  Their freewill was counter to the stated will of God, and God allowed them their choice.  This gets back to the idea of God’s perfect will vs. God’s permissive will.  God’s perfect will was for Jesus to go to the cross, and not a thing in heaven or on earth could stand in His way.  God’s permissive will was for Israel to freely come to God and be loved by Him, but they were unwilling to comply.  We see this same thing in the New Testament.  Without question, we know that it is God’s will for people to be saved: 1 Timothy 2:4, "who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth." – 2 Peter 3:9, "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."  There is no doubt in either Scripture that God clearly desires people to be saved.  God takes no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but would much rather the wicked turn from his evil ways & live. (Eze 33:11)  This is God’s will.  Yet we know that not all are saved.  The Bible is clear that many perish outside of salvation.  The whole context this comes out of is one of Jesus telling Jews how many of them will be rejected from the kingdom.  Whenever hell is described, it is always described as populated.  How is this possible, if God’s will is for salvation?  This is the difference between His perfect will & permissive will.  God wants people to be saved, but He also want people to have free choice.  He wants people to freely respond to Him.  He wants to have a loving reconciled relationship with us, and that is not something that can be forced.  He invites us to come to Him in faith, but we need to be willing.
    • Are you willing?  Not everyone is, but some are.  No doubt, some listening to this today are.  But with that willingness needs to be a response.  Someone can say with their lips that they are willing to be saved, but still act opposite of that.  A person whose drowning can cry out for help, reaching forward for a hand to save them, yet still push their rescuer under water in an attempt to save themselves.  For a drowning person to be saved, he/she must surrender to the work of the rescuer.  Guess what?  You’re drowning, and you need to be rescued.  Surrender to the work of Jesus.  Let Him save you – let Him gather you to Himself to be placed under His wings.  Believe upon Him & entrust yourself fully into His hands.  He alone is able to save you; are you willing to trust Him?
  • Before we leave this, note a couple of important theological points:
    • Jesus asserts His eternality.  In the life of this 33 year old preacher & prophet, how many opportunities had He had to reach out to Jerusalem with compassion, longing for them to be gathered to Him?  Probably not too many.  As God the Son, how many had He had?  Too many to count!  Jesus had longed to shower His compassion upon Jerusalem before there even was a Jerusalem!  He had always loved His people, because He always knew them.  Likewise, He has always known us, loved us, and reached out to us.  He has known us since before the foundation of the world, because He has always existed.
    • In the same vein, Jesus asserts His deity – His equality with the Father.  Not only does the Son have the same eternal existence as the Father, but He somehow shares in the identity as the Father.  If Jesus were to point to the vast number of Scriptures showing the love of God for Israel, the Person identified there would most likely be God the Father.  Yet Jesus says that it is He who had longed for Israel’s reconciliation with Him.  How can this be?  It is part of the wonder of the Trinity.  Although Father, Son, and Spirit are separate Persons, God is still simply one God.  Thus when the Father longed for Israel, so did the Son & Spirit.  The Godhead yearned for His people, even when they were unwilling to come.
      • Jesus is God, and Jesus claimed to be God.  Never let anyone tell you otherwise.
  • What would be the result of Israel’s/Jerusalem’s rebellion?  Abandonment – destruction.  Vs. 35…

35 See! Your house is left to you desolate; and assuredly, I say to you, you shall not see Me until the time comes when you say, ‘Blessed is He who comes in the name of the LORD!’ ”

  • The Jews had forsaken the protection offered them by God, and they would eventually find themselves forsaken and desolate in return.  When would this happen?  In 70AD when the Romans came in and destroyed the city of Jerusalem and its temple.  The protection offered from Almighty God would be lost when the nation rejected Jesus, and the Jews would once more feel what it was like to have God turn away from them.  Time was getting close to their last chance, and they were blowing it!
  • Although they would be forsaken for a while, they would not be forsaken forever.  God had made a promise that Israel would be His eternal people, and He would ensure it was kept.  Eventually the Israelites would recognize Jesus as the Messiah, and worship Him as the Lord.  The reference is: Psalm 118:25–26, "(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."  This is the psalm famously quoted by the Jews outside of Jerusalem on Palm Sunday (the Triumphal Entry).  When they called out “Hosanna,” they summarized the words “Save now.”  And beyond this, the actual words of Psalm 118 were quoted by Jesus’ disciples as they descended from the Mount of Olives to the walls of Jerusalem itself. (Lk 19:37-38)  Was that the fulfillment of Jesus’ prophecy?  Perhaps to an extent, but not fully.  Matthew places this same prophecy after Jesus’ arrival in the city (Mt 23:38-39), showing that it was not yet fulfilled.  Whether Luke quotes the exact same saying in a different chronology, or if this was something Jesus said twice is debated by scholars, but it’s clear a future fulfillment is in store.  At most, it can be said it was partially fulfilled on Palm Sunday – the true fulfillment will take place on a day when the Jerusalemites both recognize and worship Jesus as the true God of Israel.
    • Will it happen?  Yes!  When?  Prior to Jesus’ 2nd Coming.  The Bible tells us that there is coming a day, after the fullness of the Gentiles has come in, that the blinders will come off of the eyes of the Jews and they will finally see Jesus as the Messiah.  In that day, all Israel will be saved. (Rom 11:25-26)  Those Jews will serve as a witness to the rest of the world that Jesus is the Christ, and people from each of the 12 tribes will be sealed for protection during the years of the Great Tribulation. (Rev 7:3-8)  Through their ministry, countless multitudes will hear the gospel and be saved. (Rev 7:14)  It may seem impossible today, but it is absolutely certain in the plan of God.  It is a wonderful marriage of the perfect & permissive will of God concerning Israel!

Conclusion:
The very thing that will one day be recognized by all of Israel will eventually be recognized by all the world: Jesus is Lord!  Every knee will bow before Him, and every tongue will confess who He is, all to the glory of God the Father.  This is the perfect will of God.

Much of what happens until that point is in His permissive will.  He gives people the freedom to choose to come to Him, but many are unwilling.  Maybe they are like the Pharisees and Herod, actively working against God.  Maybe they are like the Jews of ancient Jerusalem who refused God.  Either way, that is their choice, and it is what God allows…even when it is not what God desires.

God desires us to be saved!  He loves us, has compassion upon us, wants to protect us, wants to shelter and deliver us – but He will not force His love upon us.  That is something to which we must willingly respond.  Will you?  Don’t be one who rejects the love of Jesus!  His will is that you be saved – allow your will to be submitted to His will, and receive His salvation. 

What if you’re already saved?  Praise God!  But we can still have trouble submitting to the will of God for our lives.  Maybe we start second-guessing God’s perfect will from His permissive will – maybe we start giving ourselves excuses for our actions and consequences – maybe we even start blaming God for the bad things happening to us.  Stop.  There are some things we can clearly know from the pages of Scripture, and some things we cannot.  In the things in which we cannot be certain about God’s perfect will, there’s usually zero doubt in regards to His permissive will.  We know that God’s will for us is to love our neighbor as ourselves.  We know God’s will for us to preach the gospel and make disciples.  We know God’s will for us is to be faithful in obedience, to pray & worship, to be filled with the Spirit, and more.  Follow through on what you know, leaving the results up to God.  We can be sure that He will do what needs to be done.  Trust His ultimate plans, and continue to entrust yourself to Him & His love.

Are You In?

Posted: June 11, 2017 in Luke, Uncategorized

Luke 13:18-30, “Are You In?”

“Are you in or out?”  I remember being asked this by my grandmother many times as I stood in the doorway with the door wide-open.  Are you coming in, or going out?  Eventually a choice needs to be made, and it might as well be made when the A/C isn’t running.

Sometimes, the question isn’t so much when you’re in or out, but if you’re in or out.  That was the issue at hand with Jesus and the people He spoke with on His way to Jerusalem.  He had taught about the nature of the kingdom & its growth, which naturally caused at least one person to wonder how many people might be included in it.  Jesus redirected the question a bit: it wasn’t about others; it was about the individual.  Why worry about someone else being included in the kingdom if you yourself aren’t in it?  It’s like the pre-flight presentation given by every flight attendant: before you assist someone else with their oxygen mask, ensure yours is secure first.  Before you get excited (for good or bad) about someone else’s inclusion in the kingdom, ensure you yourself have a place in it.

Contextually, Luke had shown Jesus giving instructions to people to prepare themselves for their final judgment.  The Pharisees (and those like them) weren’t ready, because they were hypocrites.  Jesus warned people away from their infectious leaven, telling His listeners that they needed to have a righteous fear of God, and a fervent trust in God.  It was when people were humbly submitted to God in faith that they were truly prepared to see Him when the time came.  Yet many weren’t ready.  They were neither ready for the final judgment, nor were they ready for their own impending death.  Anyone could see God at any time, and they were not prepared.

This was exemplified through the hypocrisy of yet one more religious ruler.  Jesus had been teaching in the synagogue one Saturday morning, and a woman appeared who was in dire need of healing, having a terrible condition that left her physically bent in half, bound by the devil.  Jesus graciously released her from her bondage, with the synagogue ruler objecting that it took place on the Sabbath day.  This man was willing to let his sister-in-the-faith suffer, treating her worse than livestock, all to satisfy his own legalistic sensibilities & false piety.  Jesus openly confronted the man on his hypocrisy, and the crowd rejoiced in the glorious things of God.

That’s where Luke’s narrative picks up, with two parables regarding the growth of God’s kingdom, followed by an illustration showing who’s included in that growth.  How did this all fit together?  People like the Pharisees and the synagogue ruler thought they knew what the kingdom of God was all about, and believed they would be first through the gate.  In reality, they didn’t have a clue how it would come, nor was their own inclusion within it assured.  What they thought they knew, they didn’t.  They didn’t know if they were in or if they were out.

Are you included in the kingdom?  Strive to enter!

Luke 13:18–30

  • Parable of the mustard seed (18-19)

18 Then He said, “What is the kingdom of God like? And to what shall I compare it?

  • First things first: how do we know this is a parable?  There are times the Biblical writers make it clear, as Luke did earlier regarding the fig tree, when he specifically said that Jesus spoke a “parable.” (13:6)  Other times, the specific label is not used, but certain features are seen.  One of these features is Jesus’ comparisons for the kingdom of God.  This is most often seen in Matthew’s gospel when Jesus gives many comparisons for the kingdom of heaven (7 times in Matthew 13 alone!).  In Luke, the comparison is found only in these two examples, but it is still a common mark of a parable.  In fact, comparison of a real thing (be it the kingdom or not) to a fictional example is enough to have us examine the teaching as a parable.  In a proper literal interpretation, it’s important to rightly identify the genre, or we’ll miss the point entirely.
  • The realization that this is a parable helps guard us from error, which is all too easy to fall into – even for otherwise excellent Bible teachers.  Remember that in a parable, we are to look for the singular main point.  What is the main idea presented by Jesus, within the context He’s presenting it?  The details of the parables are there for illustration & fullness; they aren’t there for us to press for hidden messages.  Unless Jesus specifically gives us an interpretation otherwise, we’re not to assign symbolic meaning to every minor detail.  That transforms a parable into an allegory, and that can drastically affect the interpretation.  Basically, we want to ensure that we’re hearing the parable as Jesus’ original listeners would have heard the parable, paying attention to the main point that He was communicating to them.
    • Why make such a big deal out of this?  Because the particular parables given here have been the source of a lot of controversy from some well-meaning Bible interpreters.  Details are picked up & pointed out & made into a much bigger deal than what the context shows they ought to be – and the lesson that gets taught is likely the opposite of what Jesus originally intended.  As with all Scripture, we need to let Scripture be the final judge.  It doesn’t matter what our favorite Bible teacher has taught on the subject, if it doesn’t match up with the contextual, natural reading of the text.  We need to be Bereans, faithfully seeing the Scripture for ourselves & judge the teaching we receive accordingly.  (That’s just as true with me, as it is for anyone else!)
  • Thus the first thing we notice about this parable is that it is a comparison regarding “the kingdom of God.”  It’s not the church; it’s the kingdom.  Certainly the church is included in the kingdom, but the kingdom of God (as will be fully revealed in the Millennium and beyond) is a whole lot bigger than the New Testament church.  The Jews listening to Jesus would have immediately related to ideas regarding the kingdom, for it was the kingdom that they themselves were expecting to be restored.  They knew the promises God made to David, and they knew a Messiah would come to rule not only over Jerusalem & Israel, but that His rule would expand over the entire world.  They had a solid expectation for a tangible kingdom – one which was reinforced every time they thought of the one they called the Son of Man.  Daniel 7:13–14, "(13) “I was watching in the night visions, And behold, One like the Son of Man, Coming with the clouds of heaven! He came to the Ancient of Days, And they brought Him near before Him. (14) Then to Him was given dominion and glory and a kingdom, That all peoples, nations, and languages should serve Him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion, Which shall not pass away, And His kingdom the one Which shall not be destroyed."  Of course, “Son of Man” was Jesus’ favorite title for Himself, and one which was never far from the mind of those who listened to Him.  Every time He spoke, people wondered about this prophecy of Daniel.  Was this the time the kingdom was to come?  Was this the moment the glory of God would be revealed in power?  So Jesus gives them a parable about the kingdom.  Did they want to know about the kingdom?  He’d tell them what it was like…

19 It is like a mustard seed, which a man took and put in his garden; and it grew and became a large tree, and the birds of the air nested in its branches.”

  • There are probably a lot of images that come to mind regarding Daniel’s prophecy.  It’s doubtful too many of them look like a mustard seed. Mustard kernels are tiny, insignificant things.  How can something so small be compared to the kingdom of God?  Take notice of the growth.  It may start small, but it grows into something quite large.  The black mustard (which is/was common to Israel) can grow up to 8 feet high.  That’s quite a plant from a tiny seed!
  • Objection: “That’s not a tree!”  No – it’s not a tree like we think of as an oak or pine.  It’s not even a cedar which would have been common in nearby Lebanon.  But don’t get too hung up on the English word “tree.”  The Greek word translated “tree” can refer to any large, woody plant – which is a suitable description of a black mustard.  Objection #2: “But what about the birds nesting in its branches?”  Although the Greek preposition εν is often translated “in,” it can also be rendered “by, with, among,” and many other ways, depending on the context.  It’s not difficult to envision birds nesting in the recesses of a large mustard plant.  Nests don’t need to be high in the air to be effective.  That said, Jesus does imply extraordinary growth.  This isn’t just any mustard plant; this is a very large mustard – one that would attract the attention of birds to come and find protection for their homes.
  • All of that is nice imagery, but so what?  What does any of this have to do with the kingdom of God?  This is where the idea of a parable becomes so important.  Some look at this & say, “Yes, the seed became a large plant, but notice the birds!  Birds are symbols of unclean things & tools of Satan, so this shows the infiltration of unbelievers within the church.”  The problem is, birds aren’t the main point.  Jesus didn’t liken the kingdom to the birds; He likened it to the seed.  The birds are there to illustrate how big the seed became as a plant.  Besides, birds aren’t always bad in the Scriptures.  Certain birds were allowed to be used in sacrifices, by those who weren’t able to afford larger animals like bulls & goats.  The Holy Spirit even took on the form of a dove (a bird!) when He appeared at Jesus’ baptism.  Again, birds aren’t the main point; the seed is.
  • Others look at this & say, “This shows the growth of the church, how it gets so big that it goes throughout the world!”  While that might get closer to the main point, we need to remember that the parable is about the kingdom; not the church.  Again, the church is included in the kingdom & is the current expression of the kingdom – but it isn’t the fullness of the kingdom.  The kingdom is “now,” but it is also “not yet.”  There is a day coming when the kingdom really will be known all over the world, and all the nations of the world will recognize Jesus as King.  Every knee will bow & every tongue will confess Jesus as Lord.
  • So what’s left?  The plainest interpretation that sticks to the main point of the parable is: the kingdom will be glorious, but it won’t appear to start that way.  Again, the main comparison is that to a “seed.”  It’s not even the tree, but the seed.  That’s how the kingdom begins.  It may start small, but it will grow!  Thus, the kingdom won’t come as expected.  The Jews expected the Son of Man among clouds of glory – but that’s not what was coming, at least not yet.  The Jews expected Jesus’ 2nd Coming, but they weren’t prepared for His 1st.  They needed to receive Him in His humility before they would be received by Him in His glory.  They needed receive Jesus on His terms; not theirs.
    • That’s a problem many people share with the Jews of Jesus’ day.  They want God on their terms; not His.  They want God to fix their problems – they want God to give them their desires – they want God to give them their victories.  Basically, they want the 2nd coming without the 1st.  They want the promises of heaven without the realization of its cost.  What’s the price?  The cross.  Sinful people don’t go to heaven, and means we’ve got a big problem!  We’re all sinners!  Our sin needs to be dealt with, and that’s what Jesus does at the cross.  He dealt with all our greed, pride, anger, lusts, and other rebellions against God when He died in our place – and that was the price that needed to be paid for us to experience all of the promises God has to offer.  Without the 1st Coming of Jesus, we have nothing to look forward to at His 2nd Coming…only judgment.  It’s the 1st Coming that makes the 2nd Coming possible for us to enjoy.  So we have to receive Jesus on His terms as He came.  We have to receive His humble service & sacrifice on our behalf – then (and only then) will we know His glories.
  • Parable of the leaven (20-21)

20 And again He said, “To what shall I liken the kingdom of God? 21 It is like leaven, which a woman took and hid in three measures of meal till it was all leavened.”

  • Once again, Jesus gives a comparison with the kingdom of God, and once again the picture is unexpected.  “Leaven” is yeast – not exactly something that a person would normally associate with the kingdom.  In this particular case, it was probably a large amount, for it needed to be enough to work its way through “three measures of meal.”  That’s about 47 pounds of flour, enough to feed 100 people.  Either the woman in the parable was extraordinarily hungry, or she was preparing a feast!
  • But this idea of leaven is truly unusual.  The last time Luke records Jesus speaking of leaven was in a bad sense, when Jesus told the people “beware of the leaven of the Pharisees, which is hypocrisy.” (12:1)  In fact, that instance & here in 13:21 are the only occasions Luke uses the term.  Matthew provides the same parable & warning, and Mark provides only the warning, so they don’t broaden our understanding.  Paul uses it as an example of sin among the Corinthians & Galatians (1 Cor 5:6-8, Gal 5:9).  The Hebrew Bible primarily uses leaven in a bad sense, for it was something that needed to be removed for the Passover, and wasn’t to be offered with most of the normal sacrifices.  For this reason, many Bible teachers believe Jesus to be warning His listeners about the future corruption that would eventually infiltrate the church.  Historically speaking, there’s no doubt the church did experience corruption, both doctrinally & morally.  To this day, the church still struggles against false teaching & sinful practices among those who claim the name of Jesus.
  • Yet – is that what Jesus was teaching here?  Is that how His original listeners would have understood Him?  Probably not.  Yes, leaven was typically used in a bad sense, but it was still used among the Hebrews in their normal day-to-day cooking.  It wasn’t inherently evil, as if it should be forbidden from their kitchens 365 days a year.  Additionally, the Old Testament law actually had occasional use for leaven.  The peace offerings were made with both unleavened and leavened bread. (Lev 7:12-13)  The Feast of Weeks was celebrated with leavened bread. (Lev 23:17)  Challah bread seems to go back 4000 years, and it most certainly has yeast in it.  The point?  We don’t want to get stuck on the symbol before we look at the text.  The order of inductive Bible study is: (1) observation, (2) interpretation, (3) application.  To read this parable & immediately jump to the symbolic meaning behind leaven is to skip the step of observation altogether.  We have to first look what the text says before we can determine what it means.  What does it say?  (1) It is the kingdom of God which is likened unto leaven.  That itself makes the idea of leaven = sin unlikely!  (2) This leaven was able to affect a massive amount of meal.  That’s not necessarily a bad thing.  A little sin can have a large effect, but so can a little godliness.  Context has to determine the meaning.  And what’s the context?  There’s already been one parable about the unexpectedness of the kingdom – here, the kingdom is doing something else unexpected: changing something from the inside-out.  Put it all together, and what do we find – what’s the main point?  The kingdom of God brings massive internal change.  The true kingdom of God transforms all whom it touches.
  • This isn’t about some sort of world-wide revival, as if every single person in the world will come to faith in Christ before He returns in glory (as some Christians scholars are prone to believe) – neither is it about sin that exists within the church today, which (although true) is not equivalent to God’s own kingdom.  This is about God’s ultimate plan for the kingdom, just like the first parable.  It comes in unexpected ways, and it does unexpected things.  And one day all the earth will see it for what it is!
  • There’s a natural follow-up question to all of this, and it’s what Jesus encounters next…
  • The exclusive kingdom (22-30)

22 And He went through the cities and villages, teaching, and journeying toward Jerusalem.

  • We’re not told a timeframe here.  Luke doesn’t give a picture of one conversation flowing into another.  Rather, he’s giving snapshots in time, arranged thematically for the point of his gospel.  What came earlier was representative of the things Jesus was teaching while on His way to Jerusalem, and the conversation that follows arose out of that teaching.
  • That said, note something important: Jesus is still “journeying toward Jerusalem.”  Luke’s narrative takes quite a while to get there, but he shows that Jesus is still focused upon His mission.  Jesus is still headed to the cross, and although Luke’s narration may be a bit circuitous, Jesus was not.  He was laser-focused on what way ahead, determined to follow through on the will of God for Him.

23 Then one said to Him, “Lord, are there few who are saved?”…

  • There’s the rub.  If the kingdom of God is going to be so unexpected in so many ways, who is going to be saved?  This particular man understood that not everyone is going to be saved, and he wonders how many (or few) would there be?  Quite possibly, there’s a bit of hesitancy in the idea that Gentiles might be included.  If all the birds of the air make their nests in the branches of the mustard plant, where might these birds come from?  Who’s going to be there that some of the Jews might not like?
    • That’s not unlike what many people today think.  We’ll look at a certain person dressed a certain way & think, “There’s no way that person is a Christian!”  We might be surprised!  Heaven is likely to be full of all kinds of people who others never expected to be there – and likewise, hell is going to be full of people who never imagined themselves being there.  A person doesn’t have to meet our expectations for them to go to heaven – they simply need to belong to Jesus Christ, having believed upon Him as Lord & Savior.  After all, He saved us!  If He did it with us, why not others?
  • There’s one glaring problem with the man’s question: it was all about others.  He simply assumes he’s one of the few.  Jesus points out to him (and all those listening) that he first needed to concern himself with his own salvation…

And He said to them, 24 “Strive to enter through the narrow gate, for many, I say to you, will seek to enter and will not be able.

  • The key word here is “strive.”  The Greek word is the same from which we get our word “agonize.” (ἀγωνίζομαι)  Jesus is telling this man to fight – to struggle – to intensely do whatever is necessary to enter through what He called “the narrow gate.”  This isn’t something to take lightly – it wasn’t something to let roll by.  Salvation isn’t something received by osmosis.  We’re not included in the kingdom of God by default.  That was the idea that many of the Jews had.  They figured that because they were Jews, they were bound for the kingdom.  They put their hopes in the fact that they had been born as children of Abraham.  Yet John the Baptist made it clear: God could raise up children of Abraham from the rocks! (Lk 3:8)  Their heritage was not enough to save them.  They needed to actively ensure they were able to enter the kingdom of God in eternity.
    • So many people share this same view!  They believe that because they were raised in a church that they’re already saved.  They think because they prayed a prayer as a child that they’re bound for heaven.  Sure, they’ve given no thought to Jesus in the years following & they live like they’ve never heard the gospel, but because they identify themselves as “Christian,” they believe they’re saved.  They are deceived.  It’s not a matter of how you choose to identify yourself; it’s whether or not you belong to Jesus by faith.  It’s not a passive, indifferent viewpoint of eternal things; it’s an active striving – a grabbing hold of Jesus, refusing to let go.
    • Question: is Jesus telling the man (and us) to work for our salvation?  Is He saying there’s something we must do in order to be saved?  To the first question, no – to the second question, yes…at least, in a manner of speaking.  No – we don’t work for our salvation.  The New Testament never once teaches anything besides a salvation by grace.  If Jesus doesn’t save us, we’re not saved…period.  But yes – there is something we must do in order to be saved: we need to actively believe upon Christ.  Belief isn’t a work, but it is intentional.  It’s something in which we exercise our will.  We have to choose to respond to the work of Christ, or we do not receive His grace.  Thus, we are to strive.
  • Strive to enter what?  “The narrow gate.”  Like the parables of the mustard seed & leaven, Jesus has used the picture of the narrow gate before – this time, in the Sermon on the Mount.  Matthew 7:13–14, "(13) “Enter by the narrow gate; for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and there are many who go in by it. (14) Because narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it."  The context is different, as is the comparison – but the idea of a restricted entrance remains the same.  Jesus (like any teacher) used similar illustrations and analogies from time to time, which means we have to take each teaching in its individual context.  In Luke’s version, there’s no mention of a wide gate, and the emphasis is on those who can’t enter, versus the few who can.  Why is that?  Because at this point in Jesus’ ministry, He’s speaking to different people.  He’s facing rejection from the religious & political leaders, as will be explicitly seen at the end of Chapter 13.  Many people all over the land have chosen to reject Him, and their window of opportunity is closing.  Soon, Jesus will go to the cross, and it will be too late for them to hear Him in person, and for many, it will be too late for them to be saved.  They need to be warned of what it is they’re about to miss.  That’s what Jesus goes on to illustrate…

25 When once the Master of the house has risen up and shut the door, and you begin to stand outside and knock at the door, saying, ‘Lord, Lord, open for us,’ and He will answer and say to you, ‘I do not know you, where you are from,’

  • Why would someone rise up to shut a door?  We have to put ourselves in the ancient culture, where a wealthy man with a large home would have a gate leading into his courtyard.  If he threw a banquet, he’d leave the gate open long enough for his guests to arrive, then shutting it at some point to attend to the party.  Even on a normal day-to-day occasion, there would come some point in the evening when the gate was locked & no one else was allowed inside.
  • So what happens when someone arrives late?  They might knock at the door, but the homeowner isn’t going to open.  No matter how much they plead with him, the door is going to remain locked.  Why?  Because the homeowner doesn’t know the people outside.  This is true in our culture today.  If someone rings your doorbell late at night, you might peek through the window to see who they are.  If you know them, you’ll open – if you don’t, you won’t.  (And you might even call the police!)
  • So far, so good.  But what if the people did know the homeowner?  What then?  That was the objection Jesus showed them raising…

26 then you will begin to say, ‘We ate and drank in Your presence, and You taught in our streets.’ 27 But He will say, ‘I tell you I do not know you, where you are from. Depart from Me, all you workers of iniquity.’

  • The people outside might have known the homeowner, but the homeowner didn’t know them.  At least, the people on the outside thought they knew the homeowner, but they obviously didn’t.  They had been around him at various times – they had been in his presence at meals & teachings – but they didn’t have any relationship with him.  They didn’t know him in such a way where he knew them as well.  Thus he told them to depart.
  • This sounds very much like another teaching from the Sermon on the Mount: Matthew 7:21–23, "(21) “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven. (22) Many will say to Me in that day, ‘Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?’ (23) And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!’"  Just as in the illustration in Luke 13, there are people who call Jesus “Lord,” and claim to do things with or around Him – but Jesus does not know them as His own, and in fact know them to be lawless workers of iniquity.
  • Is this harsh?  Maybe, but it’s the truth!  Being around Jesus isn’t the same thing as knowing Jesus.  Doing Christian activities (even miracles!) isn’t the same thing as being a Christian.  Not a single person will be in heaven based on the number of times he/she walked through the doors of a church building, or how many hours they listened to Christian music, or how many Christian friends they may have had.  Praise God for all those things, but they don’t make anyone a Christian believer.  None of those things are striving to enter the narrow gate, doing whatever is necessary to enter the kingdom of God.  That might be stuff people do around Jesus, but it’s not the same as actually knowing Jesus.
    • Try treating any other relationship this way, and see how far it gets you.  The way some people treat their so-called Christianity, it would be as if you wake up in the morning, say hello to a picture of your spouse, have your breakfast by yourself, tell your friends what a great spouse you have, listen to love songs on the radio, and then generally go about your day…all the while never once actually engaging with the person you married.  It would be ridiculous, and your spouse would be right to wonder if you even knew who they were.  Worse yet, imagine doing all of that while actively engaging in activities that were the opposite of what your spouse enjoyed.  You did the things that he/she hated.  They would wonder if they ever really knew you at all.
    • That’s basically the picture here.  Does the Almighty God know every single person in the world?  Of course.  He has knit together every human baby in the womb of his/her mother.  He knows the numbers of hairs on our head – God knows us infinitely better than we know ourselves.  But in terms of a relationship with Him, He does not know everyone as His own.  He does not recognize everyone as belonging to Him.  To those who arrive at the door late, knocking on the outside pleading with the homeowner to let them in, the homeowner can rightly say: “I don’t know you.  If you truly knew me, you would have come to me when the time was right for you to arrive.  You didn’t care enough about me to come when the invitation was open, so now it’s too late.”  The gospel of Jesus is freely offered to all.  His grace is handed to us as a free gift…but there will come a point that it is too late to receive it.  The key is to respond before it’s too late.

28 There will be weeping and gnashing of teeth, when you see Abraham and Isaac and Jacob and all the prophets in the kingdom of God, and yourselves thrust out.

  • Did you notice Jesus’ consistent use of the 2nd person throughout the illustration?  This wasn’t like a parable where everything was fictional; Jesus put His listeners directly into this story.  Meaning, it wasn’t all fiction.  It was a symbolic way of making His point, but there is a literal truth to it: some of the people listening to Jesus that day would not be entering the kingdom.  They will want to enter, but they won’t be allowed inside.  In fact, they will be “thrust out” & told to “depart.”  This was a fate that many of the Jews would face, even as they saw the patriarchs & the prophets on the inside.  Remember, their hope was placed in the fact that they had been born-Jews.  They were the recipients of the national covenants that God made with Israel, and they had been raised reading the prophets, psalms, and the rest of what we call the Old Testament.  This was their heritage – this was who they were.  Yet even with all of this, they would still be cast out to the place where there is “weeping and gnashing of teeth.”  They wouldn’t be allowed into the kingdom, but would instead be left in a place of grief and torment.
  • More than that – not only would the ones who expected to be let into the kingdom be the ones cast out, there would be others included in the kingdom that they never expected to be there in the first place…

29 They will come from the east and the west, from the north and the south, and sit down in the kingdom of God. 30 And indeed there are last who will be first, and there are first who will be last.”

  • From all over the world, people will come to the kingdom of God, and be let in.  They will have striven to enter, and they will be known by Jesus (the ultimate Master of the house).  They will arrive from every nation & culture – even the ones that were despised from the Jews in Judea at the time.  Although Jesus doesn’t use the word, He strongly implies that Gentiles will arrive in the kingdom before many of the Jews.  These were the ones the Jews would have considered “last,” and yet they would be “first”…with the opposite being true for themselves!  Imagine being a 1st century Jew listening to Jesus at the time, hearing Him say that Gentiles will sit in the kingdom of God with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, but you won’t.  That would have been scandalous – shocking!  And that was the point.  Jesus hoped to shock them into reality, like someone having a bucket of cold water being dumped on his/her head.  They needed to wake up and realize their danger – wake up & understand the urgency of the moment.  They had an opportunity right now to be saved – they had an opportunity to enter the kingdom…they dare not waste it!

Conclusion:
Neither should we!  No human being is guaranteed of entering the kingdom of God, apart from one way: active faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.  If you don’t know that you belong to Him – if you don’t have the assurance that you are known by Him – then you don’t have any assurance at all.  Strive to enter the narrow gate of salvation!  Agonize & do what is necessary to ensure that you will be included in the kingdom of God!  If you aren’t 100% certain of your eternity, then make sure you are by the time you get up from your chair today.  Do what needs to be done in your heart to commit your life to Jesus Christ, intentionally & actively putting your faith & trust in Him for salvation.  Turn away from your past, and place yourself in Jesus’ hands, knowing that He is the God who died for you, who rose from the grave, and who is the only one who saves.

Are you in the kingdom?  It comes in unexpected ways, it does unexpected things, and it includes unexpected people.  It didn’t arrive in clouds of glory, but in the grandest display of humility when Jesus died upon the cross.  It did not impose itself upon the world, but it transforms believers one at a time, and will eventually spread over the entire planet during the Millennium.  It does not include everyone who expects to be included, but only those who are known by Jesus as His own.  We’ll likely be surprised by some of the people we’ll see in the kingdom…and no doubt they will be just as surprised to see us!

For those who aren’t sure of their inclusion, the biggest issue for you is to be sure.  You can be sure.  In his first epistle, the apostle John gave the purpose for his letter: 1 John 5:13, "These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, that you may know that you have eternal life, and that you may continue to believe in the name of the Son of God."  You can know that you have eternal life.  You can be sure…all you need to do is actively, knowingly believe upon Jesus.  Do it.

What if you already believe?  Take it on faith, but don’t take it for granted.  What you and I have been promised is a glorious gift!  It’s something that should be treasured & treated appropriately.  And the best part about this treasure is that’s it’s one that can be shared.  We have striven to ensure we’ve entered the kingdom – now we strive to help others do the same.  In fact, Paul used this same Greek word with Timothy when he wrote to him to “fight the good fight of faith.” (1 Tim 6:12)  Timothy needed to stay firm to his calling, and continue to proclaim the good news of Jesus.  Likewise with us.  You cannot decide for anyone else whether or not they receive Christ and enter His kingdom – but you can decide whether or not you’ll tell someone about Christ.  Tell them!  Tell them while they still have an opportunity to believe, because it won’t last forever.

Set Free on the Sabbath

Posted: June 4, 2017 in Luke, Uncategorized

Luke 13:10-17, “Set Free on the Sabbath”

Freedom.  What we give for it.  Soldiers, Sailors, Marines, and Airmen regularly offer up their lives for the sake of freedom.  It is venerated in our songs and patriotism.  It is immortalized in iconic movies like “Braveheart,” where it becomes the rallying cry of the main character.  We instinctively say that we would die for it, and perhaps many of us would.

Yet, what is it?  We recently celebrated Memorial Day when our nation is supposed to pause and remember those who have died in military service – but typically the long weekend is used for movie openings & hamburger cookouts.  Is freedom simply the ability to eat what we want & enjoy leisure time?  Or is it something more?

Without context, “freedom” is meaningless.  After all, the word implies that we’re free from something.  A POW experiences freedom when he/she is released from captivity.  A slave experiences freedom when he/she is emancipated.  What is it from which we have been freed?  In regards to the United States of America, our nation experienced freedom when it became independent from the kingdom of Great Britain.  Our men & women in uniform fight to maintain that freedom (and freedom from any opposing nation) to this very day.

That’s on a national level, but what about individuals?  Are we truly free?  After all, there is all kinds of bondage that exists beyond national citizenships.  Do we (who live in the freest nation on earth) actually experience real freedom from day-to-day?  No.  Addiction runs rampant among us, be it in the form of alcoholism, drug abuse, pornography, or even more benign things like food, sports, and screen-time on the internet.  By definition, addiction is slavery.  Paul wrote: Romans 6:16, "Do you not know that to whom you present yourselves slaves to obey, you are that one’s slaves whom you obey, whether of sin leading to death, or of obedience leading to righteousness?"  What is it we obey?  That is our slave-master.  It may be pleasure – it may be pride – but whatever it is, it has us trapped.

What do we need?  Freedom.  Where is it found?  In Christ Jesus.  Jesus gives freedom!  This is exactly what Paul goes on to write: Romans 6:17–18, "(17) But God be thanked that though you were slaves of sin, yet you obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine to which you were delivered. (18) And having been set free from sin, you became slaves of righteousness."  We are set free when become slaves of King Jesus.  When He delivers us into His kingdom, as His servants & citizens, that is when we are truly free.

What does any of that have to do with our text?  Everything.  Jesus encounters a woman in bondage, and He sets her free.  Instead of rejoicing in the miracle, a religious leader declares that he’d rather see her bound.  Jesus calls out that sort of legalism for what it is: hypocrisy.  He came to set people free, and we are to remain in His freedom!

Coming into this section of Chapter 13, it may seem as if it has little or nothing to do with what came before, but that’s not the case.  Granted, it is difficult to see how it fits chronologically, but thematically, it fits perfectly.  To get the full picture, we have to go back to the end of Chapter 11 & beginning of Chapter 12.  Jesus had seen blatant hypocrisy among the scribes & Pharisees, and He called them out on it.  They had burdened the people, and gave them no help in lifting it. (11:46)  They had taken away the key of knowledge to the kingdom, neither entering it themselves, nor allowing others to do so. (11:52)  Jesus warned the multitude against engaging in this kind of sin, calling it “the leaven of the Pharisees, which is hypocrisy.” (12:1)  He taught people of the need to be ready for the judgment of God, and to keep humble and repentant hearts.

But after all of that, Jesus found a religious leader that exemplified the Pharisaical hypocrisy He had earlier condemned.  This man did the opposite of everything Jesus had taught.  He had not prepared himself for judgment – he had not discerned the signs of the times – and on top of it all, he was willing to let another person suffer to satisfy his own legalistic religious interpretations.  Jesus didn’t put up with it.  He came to give true freedom, and that’s a freedom in which we can rejoice!

Luke 13:10–17

  • The miracle (10-13)

10 Now He was teaching in one of the synagogues on the Sabbath.

  • Several scholars note that this is the last time that Luke shows Jesus teaching in the synagogue, which may be true, but somewhat misses the forest for the trees.  The point is that Jesus was teaching in the synagogue.  He had not yet been totally rejected by the Jews, and He had an extremely active teaching ministry.  This was part of His regular, normal practice.  As a Jew, Jesus was in the Jewish synagogue every Saturday as a part of the normal Saturday Sabbath observance.  As a rabbi, it was common for Him to be asked to teach the gathered congregation, even though this was not His hometown.  It may not have been too unlike a travelling missionary or pastor being asked to say a few words when visiting another congregation on any given Sunday (though Jesus perhaps gave the entire message that day).
  • So far, so good.  All of this appears to be totally normal…and that’s the idea.  Luke paints the picture of just-another-Sabbath, and just-another-synagogue…although nothing about Jesus’ ministry could be considered “just-another” anything!  It was what was about to happen that would mark the day as being drastically different.  Vs. 11…

11 And behold, there was a woman who had a spirit of infirmity eighteen years, and was bent over and could in no way raise herself up.

  • Where did the woman come from?  How long had she been there that day?  How long had she been coming to that synagogue?  We don’t know the answers to any of those questions.  On one hand, it sounds as if she suddenly appeared – but Luke could just have easily been using a rhetorical device to draw our attention to her.  Jewish women commonly attended synagogue services, so the presence of a woman would not have been unusual at all.  What stood out about this woman (pardon the expression) is that she couldn’t stand at all.  Dr. Luke describes her as having “a spirit of infirmity eighteen years, and was bent over and could in no way raise herself up.”  Today, she might be diagnosed with a condition called Scheuermann’s Kyphosis, which is similar to scoliosis, but instead of having the spine abnormally bent from side-to-side, the spine is bent forward.  Perhaps the more common (though crude) name for it is having a “hunchback / humpback.”  In the case of Kyphosis, it apparently shows up in some teenagers, and is correctable if caught early.  But it isn’t difficult to imagine a situation in ancient Judea where a teenage girl contracted the condition, and it remained with her for 18 years.  If this was the case, she was probably in her early-to-mid-thirties at this point (perhaps the same age as Jesus), and perhaps never wed.  By any outside measure at the time, this was her life, and this was the way it would always be.  She was trapped.
  • Have you ever felt trapped?  For this woman, she was literally trapped inside her own body, locked into this terrible position.  For us, our captivity may not take physical form.  There may be circumstances from which we cannot free ourselves, though they were no fault of our own.  Other times, maybe we actually did something – but we can’t shake ourselves of the label or results.  Or maybe it’s something like a form of addiction.  99% of the time we hate it, but it’s the 1% that keeps us coming back…we’re trapped.  What do you do?  We can’t “raise ourselves up” – we can’t give ourselves freedom.  We need to be freed.  We need someone to come and emancipate us.  There’s only one Person who offers that kind of hope: the Lord Jesus Christ.  He gives us freedom from sin – He gives us freedom from our past.  In Him we have new life, new opportunities, and a new future.  It doesn’t matter how long we’ve been trapped & enslaved: 8 years, 18 years, or 80 years.  Jesus offers freedom from it all!
  • It’s interesting that Luke describes the woman has having “a spirit of infirmity.”  Being a physician, one might expect a different sort of diagnosis from the doctor.  Yet Luke understood something that modern doctors sometimes forget: there is indeed a spiritual world, and we have a spiritual enemy who has come to steal, kill, and destroy. (Jn 10:10)  Luke never describes this situation as an outright possession, but there’s no doubt of the devil’s involvement.  Jesus personally points this out in vs. 16.  A man or woman doesn’t have to be possessed by a demon in order to be afflicted by spiritual warfare.  We tend to think of these things in black/white, this/that sort of categories.  In reality, it’s not that cut & dry.  Physical ailments aren’t easily (or often) separated from spiritual issues.  As Paul wrote to the Ephesians, we do not battle against flesh & blood, but against rulers & principalities – i.e., spiritual forces. (Eph 6:12)  Does this mean that Christians should avoid medical doctors?  Absolutely not!  Medical issues are to be dealt with medically, and we ought to be grateful for the abundance of medical knowledge & technology that is available to us in this country.  That said, we shouldn’t ignore the spiritual component to these things either.  Seek medical treatment, yes…but seek the Lord as well.  Go to the hospital, but pray while you’re there.  Ask the elders of the church to pray for you & anoint you with oil. (Jas 5:14)  It’s not an either/or; it’s a both/and.
  • Of course when the incarnate Son of God is physically in the room, doctors are a bit superfluous.  This woman’s plight may have gone unaddressed for 18 years by everyone else, but Jesus gives her His full attention the moment He sees her.  Vs. 12…

12 But when Jesus saw her, He called her to Him and said to her, “Woman, you are loosed from your infirmity.” 13 And He laid His hands on her, and immediately she was made straight, and glorified God.

  • He healed her…immediately!  Jesus saw her, Jesus spoke to her, and Jesus laid hands on her.  Any one of those acts would have been enough to physically and spiritually heal this woman.  The only thing truly required was the will of God, which Jesus obviously had.  Everything else was just an outward expression of that will, and Jesus gave it in abundance.  This woman would have stood up straight simply by Jesus’ thoughts toward her; He wanted her to know why she now stood.  Her new life and healing was due solely to the grace of Jesus poured out upon her, and there would be no doubt about it.
  • Her response was only natural: she “glorified God.”  Jesus performs a powerful act of healing, and the woman glorifies God.  Is this right or wrong?  It’s right!  Did she understand that Jesus is God?  Maybe – maybe not.  Luke doesn’t give us enough information to determine whether or not she came to faith in Christ.  There’s certainly no reason to assume that she didn’t – but it’s impossible to say for sure.  Regardless, to glorify God for the grace of Jesus is absolutely appropriate.  Jesus’ own desire was to glorify His heavenly Father (Jn 12:27-28), so we ought to do the same.  Of course, being that the Son of God is the 2nd Person of the Trinity, when we give glory to God, we are glorifying the Son.  However one looks at it, it’s the right response.  We answer grace with glory.  Jesus showers us with grace, and we give glory to God.
    • Is this your reaction?  If you know Jesus as your Savior & Lord – if you have believed upon Him crucified for your sins & risen from the dead – then you have received grace upon grace from Jesus.  You have been forgiven of your traitorous deeds against God, cleansed of your lusts & defilements, brought into the family of God, and given an eternal inheritance with the Lord Jesus Christ.  You have been given incredible blessings that you could not have possibly deserved – but God gave them to you because He loves you.  What other response could we have other than praise?  How can we keep silent in the face of grace?  Glorify God!  The word comes from the same word that we get “doxology” from.  What do we do in the doxology?  We sing – we give God praise – we magnify Him with our lips & exalt Him in our hearts.
    • Is this what you do when you enter a church worship service?  Do you come with the expectation of actively exalting the God who gave you grace?  Or do you just show up, getting through the “singing” as painlessly as possible?  The reason we glorify God is because we get to glorify God!  It is a privilege given to us because we have been forgiven by Him.  So come with excitement – with anticipation – with joy that you get to sing to God and give Him praise!
    • Don’t think it’s limited only to congregational singing…it’s not!  You can praise God in your prayers.  You can exalt Him when you wake up in the morning, when you do your daily exercise, when you’re running your errands or on your commute.  There’s no limit as to when & where you can consciously & joyfully give God praise & glory.  Take advantage of every opportunity you have!
  • Notice how her healing is described: it’s freedom.  “Woman, you are loosed.”  The word for “loosed” comes from a common word in Greek that can be translated a number of ways.  This particular form is a strengthened form of the basic verb, and (depending on the context) can be rendered: “set free, released, pardoned, let go, dismissed, etc.”  Figuratively speaking, the word could refer to forgiveness, as someone is loosed from the eternal consequences of his/her sin.  In the case of this woman, her “loosing” was literal & physical, but no doubt there were spiritual applications with her just as there are for you & me.  Again, with sin comes slavery, and it is from slavery that we need freedom.  Jesus releases us from the power that sin holds over us.  The cross and resurrection are His declarations to us that those who have faith in Him have been loosed!
    • Have you been set free?  Are you living as if you’ve been set free?  There can be a big difference between those two questions.  Many Christians will say yes to the first, remembering a time when they consciously and intentionally put their faith & trust in Jesus as Lord.  Yet from that point forward, their faith has wavered, and there are times that their lives appear just as much enslaved to sin as they ever were in the first place.  That’s not what Jesus intends for us!  What would it have looked like if Jesus declared this woman to be loosed of her infirmity, have her thank Him for His loosing, and then bent over again as she walked out the door?  It’d be ridiculous!  We’d shout at her, “You’ve been freed…walk straight & upright!  Why put yourself in that position any longer?”  Perhaps the same thing should be shouted at us.  We’ve been freed!  We’ve been given liberty from sin by the Lord Jesus Christ.  He has personally freed us from the eternal penalty that was due our sin – He has freed us from the wretched power that sin has over our daily lives – and one day He will set us free from the very presence of sin as He receives us to Himself in heaven.  We have been freed!  So stop stooping over as if you’re enslaved.  Stand straight – walk tall – walk rightly with God as He has equipped you to do.
  • This woman was overjoyed to be loosed, but not everyone shared her joy.  Vs. 14…
  • The criticism (14)

14 But the ruler of the synagogue answered with indignation, because Jesus had healed on the Sabbath; and he said to the crowd, “There are six days on which men ought to work; therefore come and be healed on them, and not on the Sabbath day.”

  • If it weren’t so common in the Scriptures (and sadly among religious legalists today), then this would be unbelievable.  How could anyone possibly witness this miracle done by Jesus and do anything else other than rejoice?  Yet not only does this man not rejoice & glorify God, he gets mad.  He “answered with indignation.” This act of Jesus was an offense to him.  What was Jesus’ crime?  He “had healed on the Sabbath.”  Although barely a hand was lifted & a word spoken, it was obvious that an act of power had been performed.  This was intolerable to this synagogue ruler, and he demanded the strictest adherence to the Sabbath Day traditions.  He even implies sin on the part of the woman, saying that she could “come and be healed” on the other days of the week, as if she showed up at the normal synagogue service for the specific purpose of forcing Jesus to perform a miracle.  (Since when is being healed a work, anyway?  She was the recipient of the miracle; not the giver of it.)
  • Even if the focus is only upon the work of Jesus, was the ruler of the synagogue speaking the truth?  Was his complaint (though poorly worded) theologically accurate?  The 4th Commandment is pretty clear: Exodus 20:8–10b, "(8) “Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. (9) Six days you shall labor and do all your work, (10) but the seventh day is the Sabbath of the LORD your God. In it you shall do no work:"  Work could be done from sundown Saturday to sundown Friday, but that final night and day were holy to the Lord, set apart by Him.  God rested on the 7th day, and He set it apart as holy.  Had Jesus broken the clear commandment?  Jewish tradition divided work into 39 categories of things forbidden on the Sabbath, and interestingly enough, healing is not one of them.  Jewish tradition even has a principle called Pikuach Nefesh (Hebrew: פיקוח נפש ) in which the preservation of human life overrides other religious considerations.  The woman’s life was probably not in immediate danger (she had lived 18 years with the condition already), but it is evident things aren’t nearly as cut & dry as the synagogue ruler implies.  (Actually, the course of action Jesus took is pretty clear cut…it just isn’t favorable towards the view of the religious leader.)
  • What are the issues here?  Legalism – a lack of love – even a lack of the fear of God.  Issue #1: legalism.  Here was a guy demanding adherence to the letter of the law, without any regards to the heart of it.  This is something that Jesus addresses in His own response.  It’s not that God doesn’t care about the letter of the law & the details of His word, but He also wants us to understand the heart & spirit of the law.  This is evident from the Sermon on the Mount, when Jesus addressed some of the Ten Commandments.  The law says that “you shall not murder,” but Jesus said that if we are angry with our brother without cause, we are danger of judgment. (Mt 5:21-22)  The law saws that “you shall not commit adultery,” but Jesus said that if we look upon others with lust, we have already committed adultery in our hearts. (Mt 5:27-28)  The heart of the law is for God’s people to seek after God’s righteousness, and that is something greater than traditions regarding the legal details.  It’s the same thing here.  The detail of the law is to “do no work” on the Sabbath day.  The heart of the law is to sanctify the Sabbath unto the Lord and to rest in Him.  Jesus hadn’t chopped wood or engaged in any other kind of physical labor that distracted Him from His worship of God.  In addition, He had sanctified the Lord because the miracle performed was a reason for God to be glorified.  The woman was now resting in the Lord because she had been freed from her infirmity.  The heart of the law had been kept to the full; it was the man’s own legalistic interpretation of it which was violated.
    • As Christians, we need to be careful of two dangers of legalism: (1) That we are not burdened by it, and (2) that we not engage in it.  The first might seem obvious.  We see the Pharisees around us, and we have a relatively easy time recognizing when someone tries to push their own expectations upon us.  Even so, we need not feel pressured.  Certainly if we are confronted with possible sin in our lives, we need to examine ourselves, looking at our behavior in the light of Scripture, prayer, and solid Biblical counsel.  But if it all of that is clean, then the legalism of others ought to be disregarded.  Jesus died to give us freedom from the law, so we should stand fast in that freedom, not being entangled with a yoke of bondage. (Gal 5:1)  On the second point, we need to realize that Pharisees aren’t always other people; sometimes, they can be us.  Just because we have certain expectations for ourselves regarding Scriptural principles doesn’t mean that those same expectations apply to everyone else.  One Christian believes that he/she should never smoke, drink, dance, or get a tattoo.  Are any of those things inherently condemned in the Scripture?  They can certainly be abused & done in clearly sinful ways – but the Bible does not comprehensively forbid every use of them.  By all means, hold to your convictions…just be careful when you expect others to hold the same ones.
  • Issue #2: a lack of love.  This is something else Jesus addresses in His response.  There had been a woman in need, and Jesus had the power to do something about it.  How could that not be celebrated?  To condemn this miracle was to wish that this woman had remained in torment for at least another sundown, or maybe even longer.  After all, who can say what Jesus’ travel plans were?  He was an itinerate minister, going from place to place.  Perhaps He was leaving in the morning, or after sundown.  From the woman’s perspective, she might not ever see Jesus again.  This was her chance at healing – it was downright hateful for someone to hold her back from it…especially under the guise of false piety & religious custom.  A loving heart would take someone to Jesus; not forbid them from going.
    • Jesus calls us to love!  We are to love one another, showing compassion on them like He has shown us.  We are to model the love of Christ to all the world.  If they don’t see it in us, where will it be known?
  • Issue #3: a lack of the fear of God.  This is not something Jesus addresses directly, but it is certainly implied.  A miracle of God had just been performed in the midst of all.  Every person attending synagogue that day would have been astounded.  This woman was not a stranger to them.  They had seen her for 18 years, many of them probably knowing her before this affliction took hold of her, and they had witnessed her body slowly degenerate and hold her captive.  Now, in an instant, she stood upright and glorified God, all due to a Man of God in their midst.  That was a reason to worship; not condemn.  God’s hand was evident, and yet this synagogue ruler thought he knew better.  He identified the work of God as being sin, declaring it to be a violation of God’s Sabbath law.  That’s within a hair’s-breadth of being the same sin as the Pharisees’ blaspheming of the Holy Spirit, and it demonstrates that the synagogue ruler had no true fear of God before his eyes.  He wasn’t seeking to worship and glorify God; he was looking to put down the work of God & elevate himself.
    • Those who say we know Jesus ought to be able to recognize His work.  Those who are filled with the Spirit ought to understand the things of the Spirit.  That’s not to say that we need to agree with all things done by all people who claim to be Christian.  But we should still be able to rejoice in the things of God when they occur.  For instance, there are some TV “evangelists” that are outright heretics & should never be given a platform anywhere.  Yet sometimes, people get saved at their meetings, in spite of the speaker at the microphone.  We can rejoice in the work of God, even as we denounce the false teacher at the front.  Whatever the example, we need to recognize God’s hand when He moves, and give Him the glory.  We seek Him and His kingdom; not our own sensibilities & preferences.
  • The response (15-17)

15 The Lord then answered him and said, “Hypocrite! Does not each one of you on the Sabbath loose his ox or donkey from the stall, and lead it away to water it?

  • Before we get into the response, notice how Luke describes the manner in which Jesus responded.  “The Lord then answered him.”  The kind of spiritual abuse and manipulation handed down from the ruler of the synagogue was not going to be ignored by the Lord Jesus.  The Son of God was in the room, and He would respond with all the truth of God back at the man.
  • What was the charge?  Hypocrisy.  Just like the lawyers who took away the key of knowledge from the masses & stood in the door of the kingdom (11:52), so did this ruler of the synagogue.  Just like the Pharisees speak one thing in open & another behind closed doors (12:1-3), so did this man.  On the one hand, the synagogue ruler held himself up as a paragon of virtue – someone who truly cared about God & honoring the Sabbath rest.  On the other hand, he would rather see a woman bound with sickness & he openly disparaged a work of God in his midst.  He was a hypocrite in true form.  Someone who sincerely followed God in truth would have rejoiced at what had taken place, and especially in the One who performed the miracle.  As a hypocrite, the man not only denigrated the miracle, but also the miracle worker…and all in the name of his religious piety.  It was false piety, and Jesus called it out for what it was.
    • Once again, we need to be careful about pointing too many fingers.  It’s easy to point out the religious hypocrites around us.  Sometimes we almost make it a game, seeing how many false teachers & otherwise hypocritical Christians we can point out by name.  (That itself can be dangerously hypocritical!)  What we really need to be careful of is becoming hypocrites ourselves.  We’ll demand something of someone, while having another expectation for ourselves.  We’ll slip in & out of “church-face” depending on what person we’re talking to.  We’ll give ourselves grace, while pushing law upon someone else.  That’s hypocrisy, plain & simple. 
    • How do we deal with it?  Humility.  Humility is the antidote to hypocrisy.  People who have humble hearts don’t seek to exalt themselves, so there’s no point to try & prove.  People who have humble hearts want to seek the Lord exalted, so they’re not going to try to insert themselves along the way.  When you see hypocrisy creeping into your life, humble yourself before God.  Recommit yourself to following Jesus as your Lord & King, allowing Him to have full reign in your life. 
  • The proof of the hypocrisy?  The Jews did less for livestock.  Jesus had loosed a woman from her sickness, which was a gloriously good thing.  How could that break the Sabbath, when a basic example of animal husbandry was not?  Culturally speaking, the Jews did not cook meals on the Sabbath, but meals prepared beforehand were eaten.  They did not fast from food & drink every Saturday.  Neither did they force their animals to do so.  Milk-cows needed to remain healthy to produce dairy the other six days of the week.  Donkey & oxen needed to remain strong in order to be used for farm work.  These animals still needed to be fed & watered, and even if hay was left out for them to eat, it was no violation of Sabbath to lead them to drink.  The legalism of this synagogue ruler had led him to ridiculous conclusions.  If animals could be loosed from a stable to be led to water, how much more a human being be loosed from bondage to freedom?  Vs. 16…

16 So ought not this woman, being a daughter of Abraham, whom Satan has bound—think of it—for eighteen years, be loosed from this bond on the Sabbath?”

  • If an ox or donkey was “loosed,” this woman was “loosed” to an even greater extent, and for greater reason.  At this point, an animal is no longer in view, but a human being…and more than that, “a daughter of Abraham.”  Jesus’ focus isn’t so much on her femininity, but rather her status as a child of the Promise.  She had inherent value even beyond her basic humanity.  She was a spiritual sister to the leader of the synagogue who had condemned her.  The man who had likely taught her of the blessings of Abraham should have seen her as a recipient of the covenant of Abraham.  She too, was included in the promise.  She too had value.  She was someone whom God loved, and one who God had set apart as His own.  She ought to have been befriended by those within the synagogue; not chastised by its leader.
  • This gets back to the lack of love so evident in the man’s criticism.  He hadn’t seen the woman as he ought to have seen her.  When Jesus spoke of her illness, He literally said, “behold, ten and eight years,” calling the man to look upon her (“think of it”).  Part of the problem is that he hadn’t looked at her.  For 18 years she had come to the synagogue, hunched in bondage and pain, and he didn’t take notice of her condition.  How callous it was for him to claim there were six other days on which she could be healed!  She had come for 18 years & had not been healed!  This man hadn’t looked at her, nor had any compassion upon her.  He didn’t value her as a person, or as a daughter of Abraham.
    • The man in question was a ruler of a Jewish synagogue, but it could just as easily be said of modern-day Christians.  How often have we blinded our eyes to the people around us who are suffering?  Not just strangers, but fellow Christians – people we know.  These people have value as men & women of God.  They are brothers & sisters in Christ.  We may not be able to help them miraculously as Jesus can, but certainly we can see them through Jesus’ eyes.  We can look upon them in compassion, and demonstrate grace.  Even if all we can do is pray with them & for them, that’s something.  The opportunities we have to love one another are endless, but we need to open our eyes.  We need to look.
  • What had the woman been loosed from?  Satanic bondage.  Yes, there was a legitimate physical illness experienced by the woman, but that doesn’t mean Satan wasn’t involved.  Even if the woman wasn’t demonically possessed, she was certainly demonically oppressed.  It was from this Satanic oppression that Jesus set her free.  She was loosed from this bondage – released from spiritual and physical slavery.  And the Sabbath day was the perfect day on which to do it!  How so?  The Sabbath is all about rest.  On the seventh day, God rested from all of His work in creating the universe.  Thus the Sabbath is how we celebrate our rest in God.  For the Jews, this was an outward sign of their covenant, as they showed their trust in God as their provider, by resting in Him & His promise every week.  Today, is our rest found in a 24-hour period?  Is it found in a physical land of promise?  No.  The author of Hebrews understood that those things do not bring true rest: Hebrews 4:9–10, "(9) There remains therefore a rest for the people of God. (10) For he who has entered His rest has himself also ceased from his works as God did from His."  How then, do we enter the true rest of God?  When we rest in Jesus by faith.  When it comes to the work of salvation, Jesus has done it all.  As He declared from the cross, “It is finished!” (Jn 19:30)  There is nothing we can do to add to it – it is complete.  So we rest in Him.  We place all our faith & trust in the Lord Jesus Christ, believing upon Him for our salvation, and we find it.  That’s when we enter into His rest.  And that’s what made the Sabbath a perfect day for this daughter of Abraham to be loosed & find freedom!  She was no longer bound by Satan – she was no longer oppressed in her body & spirit by the devil – she was loosed from bondage, and could rest in the freedom given her by Christ.  This was no violation of the Sabbath; this was the fulfillment of it!
    • You can experience that same fulfillment.  You, too, can enter into the rest offered by Jesus.  Stop struggling to free yourself from sin & bondage – stop working to try to prove yourself worthy of eternal life.  Rest!  Place your faith & trust in Jesus, resting in the things He has already completed – resting in the God that He is.  In Jesus’ rest, there is freedom.

17 And when He said these things, all His adversaries were put to shame; and all the multitude rejoiced for all the glorious things that were done by Him.

  • Quite the turn-around!  The ruler of the synagogue had turned an experience of joy into an uncomfortable moment of awkwardness when he accused both Jesus and the woman of sin.  With Jesus’ response, the tables quickly turned, and it was the synagogue ruler who was “put to shame.”  And apparently, he wasn’t alone!  He was the only one that Luke recorded as speaking, but there were others who joined him in his disapproval.  Likewise, they joined him in his public disgrace.  The truth of God cut like a knife (just as it is supposed to do), and exposed this legalistic, hypocritical false piety for what it was, and those who held to it were put to shame.
  • The rest of the people “rejoiced.”  This was the response that should have come all along.  This was what was begun by the woman, and now carried over by the crowd.  They were witnesses to the miracle, and they rightly rejoiced and recognized it as a “glorious” work for which God could (and should) be praised.

Conclusion:
Do you rejoice in the work of God?  Do glorify God for the freedom He has given you?  We may not have had our backs bent like this woman for 18 years, but we certainly know what it’s like to be in bondage.  Before we met Jesus in faith, each one of us was enslaved to sin.  We had been ruled over by the devil, and we did the things of his will, even while we engaged in lusts and rebellion of our own.  But then we saw Jesus, and He gave us freedom!  We have been loosed from our slavery – pardoned from our sin – released from the power that Satan had over us.  If you are a believer in the Lord Jesus, you have experienced a miracle – a personal emancipation – and it is something for which you can praise God.

So praise Him!  Give Him glory!  Exalt His name!  Thank Him for all the things He has done for you, and continues to do for you in Christ.  Enjoy His freedom, and stay in His freedom.  Others might come along with their own legalistic bonds, but don’t be entangled by them.  Don’t let them steal your joy.  You have been set free in order to serve Christ, so serve Him; not anyone else’s expectations for you.  (That’s not license for us to sin; it’s liberty for us to live for Jesus!)

Beware the trap of legalism.  It’s not only a danger to ensnare us, but it’s a danger that we might ensnare others.  Be mindful that you point people to Christ; not to yourself & your own expectations.

The Need for Repentance

Posted: May 28, 2017 in Luke, Uncategorized

Luke 13:1-9, “The Need for Repentance”

Why do bad things happen to good people?  Even granting there is none good but God, we can still ask the question, why do bad things happen at all?  Suffering doesn’t come only to those who obviously deserve it – it’s not always a punishment for the wicked.  So why does it come?  How is it that a terrorist can kill 22 people at a concert in Manchester, England, along with wounding another 60 – all of whom were innocent bystanders?  Was it all just random?  Was God absent?  Was it all meaningless?

These are common questions asked by Christians & non-Christians alike.  Any time tragedy strikes, whether on a broad national level such as Manchester or 9/11, or on an individual level when a loved one suddenly dies – we ask the question: why.  What’s the meaning behind it all?  What was God doing?

The technical term for this area of theology is theodicy.  Formed from the word “theos/God,” (θεος) and “dike/justice,” (δικε) it refers to “divine justice.”  According to one dictionary, it is “the attempt to defend God’s omnipotence and goodness in the face of the problem of evil in the world.” (Lexham)  It was actually the basic issue behind the popular book & movie “The Shack,” in which the main character experiences a terrible evil tragedy, and has to come to grips with how all of this squares with the character of God.  (FYI – I do not endorse “The Shack.”  It is filled with all kinds of theological error, some of which is quite damaging.  That’s another subject for another day.)  Many atheists believe that the existence of evil within the world is proof-positive that an all-powerful, all-good God does not exist.  It isn’t, but how can we know?  What does the Bible have to say about it?  That’s the idea behind theodicy.  God exists, and evil exists, so the two truths must be able to be reconciled.  But how?

Some of these same questions were asked by Job & his three so-called “friends.”  For them, the existence of God was undeniable and obvious (as it ought to be for anyone with eyes to see the evidence of creation all around us).  The real question for them was: why did all of this unspeakable hardship fall upon Job?  In an incredibly short time-span, Job lost his livestock, his servants, his health, and even his own children.  So much did it seem that the full weight of God had come down upon him, that Job’s wife went to far as to tell him to “Curse God and die.” (Job 2:9)  He didn’t, and the bulk of the next 36 chapters consist of the various attempts from the characters to justify God.  The three friends (along with their 4th know-it-all youngster) all accuse Job of terrible sin against God, thereby making his suffering the punishment he truly deserved.  Job held to his integrity, but he couldn’t conceive of a reason God would allow him to endure it all.  In the end, he was simply angry, demanding a response from the Lord of the Universe.

Finally, God responded – never truly answering the question of “why,” but redirecting Job to the question of “who.”  There were many things Job was incapable of understanding; he needed to maintain his trust in God.  God had not abandoned him, even if God hadn’t acted in the way Job desired, or in the way that his friends expected.  God was there, God was sovereign, and Job could still worship Him.

The questions that were brought up by Job and his companions were some of the same things brought up to Jesus during His travels.  As might be expected, there was all kind of news during the years of Jesus’ ministry.  Sometimes we get the idea that everything in Judea stopped for three years while Jesus preached in Galilee & Jerusalem, but it didn’t.  There were still other things going on around the country, and occasionally these bits of news would be brought to Jesus for a response.  Just as we might watch a CNN or FOXnews interview with a well-known pastor for some Biblical perspective regarding a noteworthy event, so did people want Jesus’ take on current events.

This is what happens as Chapter 13 opens.  Some people bring some current events to Jesus, and they want His thoughts.  What they get in His answer is ½ theodicy and ½ warning.  Jesus moves them away from the common faulty theology of the day, in which people believed that bad things happened only to bad people.  But with that said, He also gives them a warning: worse things would come to those who don’t repent.  The need for repentance isn’t based on the uncertainty of the world; it’s based on the certainty of the judgment of God.

Luke 13:1–9

  • Who deserves judgment?  Everyone.  (1-5)

1 There were present at that season some who told Him about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mingled with their sacrifices.

  • At that season.”  Luke connects this event with the previous context.  Though we don’t know the precise chronological “season” (winter, spring, summer, fall) this was, it was the same general time period as what came before.  Thematically, this is fitting, as Jesus had also been talking about the Judgment and the need to be ready.  In the process of warning people away from the “leaven/sin of the Pharisees,” (12:1) Jesus told people that every hidden action and word would one day be made known & that those who deny Jesus on earth would one day be denied before the angels of God. (12:9)  He told them the parable of the rich fool, who built large barns for a long future, only to find that his soul was required that very night & he would soon face God. (12:20)  Jesus told them the parable of the faithful & evil servants, the faithful ones being those who were ready for their master’s return at any time, saying that the Son of Man would do likewise. (12:39-40)  In light of all of this teaching, Jesus chastised the crowd for their own hypocrisy, being that although they were able to discern weather patterns in the sky, they weren’t able to discern the signs of the time all around them. (12:56)  Their own judgment was at hand, and they had done nothing.  They needed to do whatever was necessary to ensure they were ready to see God, and to be received by Him with joy.
  • So Luke continues the theme with a brief event that took place at some time afterwards.  Among the crowds that followed Jesus, some brought news of some murdered Galileans.  This doesn’t necessarily mean that Jesus was in Galilee – He had already set His face to go to Jerusalem & the journey ahead had been prepared for Him by the disciples. (9:51-53)  The people probably told the news to Jesus for a couple of reasons: (1) It was tragic news of the day, something which always spreads quickly, (2) Jesus was known as a Galilean.  It would have made perfect sense to ask Jesus His opinion about something that happened to people from His home region.  What exactly happened to these Galileans is unknown.  Apparently some Galileans were offering “their sacrifices” (presumably in Jerusalem) when Pontius Pilate had them killed.  The way it’s described doesn’t sound like a court-ordered execution following due process, but rather a brutal killing done while the Galileans were in the process of worshipping God.  The potential that it took place during an act of worship might be part of the reason for the way Jesus actually answered the news – perhaps the setting made it seem more like an act of Divine retribution, rather than an act of evil performed by an evil Roman prefect.
    • There is no extra-biblical historical record of this, but none is needed.  Pilate was known to be a brutal person.  Josephus records when Pilate used Romans soldiers to beat down Jewish crowds (Antiquities 18:60-62), as well as a time when he had a group of Samaritans killed when they went up Mt. Gerizim in an act of their worship (Antiquities 18:84).  Philo wrote of Pilate being inflexible & merciless (Embassy, 301).  Bottom line: this wasn’t a nice guy!  The violent nature of Pontius Pilate cannot be ignored.  Sometimes, people view him as a sympathetic character in regards to Jesus’ cross, as if Pilate was just caught in a no-win situation.  Not so.  He was prone to brutality; he just didn’t like being pressured into his actions by the Jewish leadership.
  • Because it was Pilate who had the Galileans killed, perhaps the accompanying question might be: did they deserve it?  After all, Pilate may have been violent, but he also had the responsibility of punishing lawbreakers.  Perhaps these Galileans got what was coming to them.  Maybe there was some unknown sin that had finally caught up to them.  Even if it came by the hand of Pilate, perhaps it was the will of God that these men be killed…or at least, so was the thought.  That’s what Jesus addresses in His response…

2 And Jesus answered and said to them, “Do you suppose that these Galileans were worse sinners than all other Galileans, because they suffered such things?

  • This is where theodicy comes in.  An awful slaughter took place among the Jews while sacrifices were (potentially) performed.  How does God fit into this?  Atheists would claim that it was proof that God wasn’t there, for He did nothing.  Fatalists would claim that it was destined to be, no matter what – that this was God’s predetermined end for these Galileans. Open theists would claim the other extreme: that God didn’t at all know what was going to happen, and He was just as surprised by it as everyone else.  As for the Jews speaking with Jesus, they would have held none of those views.  They would have been far more like the companions of Job.  Job’s friends would have claimed (as they did with Job) that God personally brought the punishment due to sin among the Galileans.
    • None of those answers are sufficient.  The atheist ignores the evidence of God for his convenience, the fatalist ignores the reality of choice & freewill within the world, the open theists ignore the sovereignty of God, and those like Job’s friends ignore the goodness & justice of God.  What’s needed is an explanation that takes all of these things into account.
    • What is it?  Interestingly, Jesus doesn’t provide one…at least, not at this time.  Ultimately He demonstrates the answer: at the cross.  The existence of evil within the world is Biblically explained by the existence of sin.  When Adam and Eve ate of the forbidden fruit, sin entered the world, which brought the sure result of death. (Gen 2:17, Rom 5:12)  Everything else flows from that point.  All sin, all death, all tragedy – all of it finds its ultimate foundation in the fall of mankind.  But this is precisely the issue that Jesus solves at the cross & resurrection!  This is what Jesus came to do: right everything that went wrong in the universe because of sin.  His death pays the punishment due to all sin, and His resurrected life offers eternal life to all who believe – and His return will usher in the physical change that will occur throughout all the universe, eventually taking away all sin for all time.  For the problem of evil, the answer is Jesus.
  • So in regards to this particular group of Galileans, did they deserve it?  Not in comparison with others.  Jesus will specifically say as much in verse 3.  That said, it’s not as if they were totally innocent, either.  Notice Jesus never once says they are anything but “sinners.”  And not only them, but “all Galileans” can be included in that same label!  The murdered Galileans were sinners, sure – they just weren’t worse sinners than all of the other sinners in Galilee.  Thus, they were all sinners.
    • They are, and we are.  No one person is better than the other.  We have all sinned & fallen short of the glory of God. (Rom 3:23)  The moment we look around, believing ourselves to be “more deserving” than others of the grace of God is the moment we’ve entered into blind hypocrisy.  If God were to give each of us the eternal fate we deserved, we’d all suffer an eternity in hell.  Whether we’ve sinned a lot or a little (relatively speaking) is irrelevant.  We’ve sinned, and that’s all that matters.  We need the forgiveness and grace of Jesus just as badly as anyone else you can imagine.
  • Sinners.”  We use the label, but do we know the definition?  The word used by Jesus has its root definition in the commonly-quoted “to miss the mark,” as if an arrow is shot at a target, but the target is missed.  This is an accurate definition and etymology…but it can possibly give the wrong idea.  A target can be missed one of two ways: by mistake, or on purpose.  It’s one thing for our aim to be off – that’s something we tend to write off & easily excuse, although it still causes problems.  It’s another thing for us to intentionally aim somewhere else.  When it comes to sin (at least, when it comes to our own sin), we tend to put ourselves in the first category & not the second.  That is, we excuse ourselves, saying “I didn’t mean to do it – it was a mistake.”  But surely that’s not always the case.  Although we might feel guilty after engaging in sin, we can’t always say with honesty that it was a mistake that we sinned.  Probably more often than not, it was something we meant to do; we just feel bad about the results after the fact.  Interestingly, the word Luke quotes Jesus as using here is most often used in the LXX to translate “guilty / wicked person,” rather than “to miss a mark / be wrong.”  Even in the NT, the word for “sin” doesn’t normally refer to a mistake, so much as it does sheer opposition to God.  Thus a “sinner” is someone who is acting in opposition to God – a person prone to sinful behavior – someone who could even be described as being at enmity against God.  (Which Paul specifically says to the Romans – Rom 8:7.)
    • Apart from Jesus, this is who we are.  This is why we need saving.  Our lusts, lies, greed, self-centeredness and more have placed us in opposition to God.  Much of this wasn’t committed by accident; it was chosen.  So call it what it is: sin.  And then trust Jesus for what He does: save.

3 I tell you, no; but unless you repent you will all likewise perish.

  • Again, did they deserve it?  Those Galileans didn’t deserve that brutal death any more than anyone else, but they certainly deserved judgment.  The wages of sin is death (Rom 6:23), which is why it comes to everyone.  Even the Jews listening to Jesus faced the same fate. They might not die by the hand of Pilate, but they would indeed die.  They would “perish,” be destroyed.
  • Question: Does this mean death can be escaped?  In a manner of speaking, yes.  In fact, Jesus put it in precisely those terms when comforting Martha & Mary after the death of their brother Lazarus.  John 11:25–26, "(25) Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live. (26) And whoever lives and believes in Me shall never die. Do you believe this?”"  Were these all nice sentiments from Jesus – just a bunch of comforting (but ultimately) meaningless words?  Absolutely not!  After all, Jesus went on to demonstrate the truth of those words by actually, physically raising Lazarus from the dead!  Even so, we know that Lazarus eventually died again, just like everyone else who has believed in Jesus in the years following.  All of us, including the most devout disciples, die.  So how can Jesus say those who believe in Him will never die?  How can Jesus tell the crowd that they can avoid “perishing” upon their repentance?  Because it’s still the truth.  There are two kinds of deaths: physical & spiritual.  All of us face the physical – not all of us will face the spiritual.  Our current physical bodies are inherently corrupted by sin, and need to be raised in new life in order to live an eternal life. (1 Cor 15:50)  Because of the resurrection of Jesus, our bodies will be remade (glorified), and we will be able to physically live forever, never again facing death.  At least, that’s the promise for believers in Christ.  Those who reject Jesus not only face a physical death, but they face a promise of spiritual death when they are judged for their sin & their body & soul gets cast into hell.  This is what the Bible calls the “second death.” (Rev 21:8)  This is the perishing, of which Jesus speaks here in verse 3.  This is the death no one need face.  As it’s been often said: Christians are born twice & die once; non-Christians are born once & die twice.
  • What makes the difference?  Repentance.  There was a condition that needed to be met by the Jews if they were to avoid total & eternal destruction: they needed to “repent.”  This is another word that gets tossed around a lot, but rarely defined.  We tend to equate repentance with sorrow/contrition (which is actually how dictionary.com defines it), yet that’s not the Biblical definition.  Biblically speaking, godly sorrow produces repentance (2 Cor 7:10), but it is not repentance itself.  The Greek word actually speaks of changing one’s mind or way of thinking.  It was used in the LXX to translate both the idea of regret and the idea of turning around.  One dictionary defines it as “to change one’s way of life as the result of a complete change of thought and attitude with regard to sin and righteousness.” (Louw-Nida)  Thus although regret is included in repentance, what makes repentance actual repentance is a change.  If we change the way we think about something, then we change the way we act in regards to it.  Take an example of alcoholism: It’s one thing to be sorry about habitual drunkenness – it’s another to actually throw away the booze and take steps toward recovery.  The same could be said about any habitual sin: pornography, drug use, laziness, gluttony, outbursts of rage, etc.  Anyone can feel sorry in the moment, but still do nothing to change.  That may be regret, but isn’t repentance.  It’s when that sorrow moves us to make change is when it becomes repentance.
    • Remember one of the OT concepts used for repentance was to “turn back.”  When we turn, we always turn away from something while we’re turning to something else.  Biblical repentance is turning away from sin and turning to Jesus.  When we change our way of thinking, we don’t want to change our thoughts from one sin to another sin – we need a different goal / focal point.  That’s Jesus.  Take your mind off the things of the world & put it on the things of God.  Put it upon the Lord Jesus Christ…repent toward Him.
  • Again, what happens if we don’t?  We perish.  That is the certain outcome for unrepentant people.  Those who remain in their sin without turning to Jesus in faith will surely face (deserved) eternal destruction.  But no one has to.  Jesus makes the offer quite clear.  “Unless you repent…”  That “unless” introduces what Greek grammarians call a third-class conditional statement – which basically means that what is said to happen in the future is likely, yet not set in stone.  As sinners, Jesus’ listeners (and everyone else) will perish…but there is one way out of it: through repentance.  A choice lay before them – one upon which their entire eternal future lay.
    • Is this a “turn or burn” sort of statement?  Yes, and without apology.  A cardiologist who sees a patient in need of a triple-bypass ought not to mince words when it comes to his health & diet.  Anything less than the absolute truth means death.  How much more in this case, when eternal death is in view?  Jesus doesn’t mince words, and neither should we.  Life and death is literally on the line: unless we repent & place our faith in Jesus, we will surely perish.
    • Don’t be offended by this statement; respond to it!
  • Just in case the people listening to Jesus didn’t quite understand His point, He made it again – this time, taking it from a different angle.  There were other events happening as national news in Judea, and Jesus used one of the other current headlines to make the same point.  Vs. 4…

4 Or those eighteen on whom the tower in Siloam fell and killed them, do you think that they were worse sinners than all other men who dwelt in Jerusalem? 5 I tell you, no; but unless you repent you will all likewise perish.”

  • It’s a similar idea here, except with a tragic accident, rather than a brutal murder.  If we really want to talk about “bad” things happening to “good” people (relatively speaking), then take out the factor of an evil dictator.  What about people who died in a random accident?  Apparently some well-known construction accident took place in Jerusalem, resulting in the death of 18 people.  Like the other incident, there’s no extra-biblical record of this, but these sorts of things were all too common.  Workplace accidents happen all the time today, and few (if any) are going to be remembered in the history books written about us.  It was no different in 33AD.  A tower fell, killing 18 innocents.  But of course the question becomes: were they really innocent?  Perhaps this was God’s retribution upon them, for some unknown sin they committed.  Maybe these 18 people were debtors against God, and this was God’s way of taking out His ultimate payment.
  • Sadly, this assumption is all-too-common among Christians, particularly in terms of natural disasters & other random accidents.  In response to an August 2009 tornado that hit Minneapolis (including damaging the steeple of a Lutheran church), John Piper claimed it to be a warning from God to a Lutheran conference discussing the issue of homosexuality. (http://blogs.mprnews.org/newscut/2009/08/the_god-weather_controversy/ )  In response to the devastation caused to New Orleans by Hurricane Katrina in 2004, several Christian leaders (Dwight McKissic, Pat Robertson, Hal Linsdey, others) suggested that it was due in part to the wickedness of the city & America as a whole. (http://ejournals.library.vanderbilt.edu/index.php/vurj/article/viewFile/2750/1163 )  Names are not mentioned in order to condemn (all of us have said things we regret!), but to point out that it’s not always the extremists that fall into this sort of theological error.  Any one of us is susceptible to this line of thinking, that those who experience tragedy somehow deserve it.  In our attempt to make some sense of the suffering, we try to justify God by claiming it was His direct action of His righteous judgment.  When we do, we often go wrong.
    • Keep in mind that God doesn’t need us to defend Him.  He is perfectly capable of handling Himself.  In fact, in the book of Job, when Job finally receives an answer from God, God spends four chapters handling Himself, to which Job repented in dust & ashes.  Interestingly, God never defended what happened to Job, nor ever told him how Satan was the one who attacked him.  What He does do is remind Job of His infinite power, wisdom, and sovereignty over the world.  What Job needed was not a defense of God, but a revelation of God…and that’s often what we need as well.  When answering the tragedies of the world, we don’t need to try to justify God to people; we need to show God to people.  We proclaim Jesus to them.  The combination of the gospel of Christ with practical demonstration of the love of Christ is a powerful witness indeed!
  • Question: Does America deserve judgment?  Absolutely!  Is it possible that God could have been sending some of His judgment during these tragedies?  Certainly…but it is not our place to say, for there is no way to know.  It’s far more likely that these were random tragedies due to a fallen creation brought on by Adam’s sin, than they were specific acts of judgment by God.  After all, for all of the unrepentant sinners in New Orleans during Katrina, how many born-again Christians were also there?  Far be it from God to slay the righteous with the wicked – shall not the Judge of all the earth do right? (Gen 18:25)  For all the natural disasters that come upon the unrepentant sinners of the earth, what about the disasters that visit born-again believers?  If a tornado in Minneapolis, MN was the wrath of God, what about the tornado in Canton, TX?  This kind of reasoning takes to some pretty dark places, in which all of a sudden we’re attributing evil to the heart & character of God.  We ought to be very careful in describing God’s wrath!
  • So what do we know about the wrath of God?  We know that all people deserve it – which was Jesus’ point in both examples.  The men killed by Pilate were no worse than any other sinner in Galilee.  The men killed by the tower were no greater debtors to God than anyone else in Jerusalem.  All have sinned – none are righteous, no not one. (Rom 3:10)  Thus, there is still only one hope: repentance and faith in Jesus Christ.  The moral remains the same & Jesus repeated His words from verse 3 in verse 5.  Unless people repented, they too would perish.  Truly, repentance & faith is our only hope!

So now what?  Like the skilled teacher that He is, Jesus took the opportunity to tell a story to further illustrate His point.  He’s addressed the news from a factual perspective – now He engages the imagination to help bring it home.  Why was repentance so necessary?  (1) Because the people were truly lost, and (2) their judgment was at hand.

  • Parable of the barren tree: one last chance (6-9)

6 He also spoke this parable: “A certain man had a fig tree planted in his vineyard, and he came seeking fruit on it and found none. 7 Then he said to the keeper of his vineyard, ‘Look, for three years I have come seeking fruit on this fig tree and find none. Cut it down; why does it use up the ground?’

  • Luke specifically calls this a “parable,” and it is.  But because he does, it is well worth reminding that with a parable, we are to look for the main idea.  We should not try to match up every character or action with a corresponding symbolic interpretation – if we do, we’ll probably end up with poor theology & miss the main point.  That’s not to say there’s no symbolism (there is!) – we just want to be careful to see the right symbols in their proper context.
  • The first thing we see is “a fig tree.”  Granted, our English translations begin with the man, which is necessary for grammatical convention, but the Greek starts with the fig tree.  That by itself would stand out to the Jews, but the fact that it was “planted” in a “vineyard” would stand out even more.  Keep in mind we have to hear the parable through Jewish ears from the perspective of Jesus’ original Jewish audience.  To them, the first thing they would have thought of was their own Jewish nation.  The fig tree was a common picture of Israel throughout OT prophecy (Hab 3:17, Hos 9:10), and Israel was famously described as a vineyard of God, one especially cared for by Him (Isa 5:1-7).  Thus when the people around Jesus heard Him open His parable, the symbolism would have been obvious.  They would have immediately known that He spoke of them & their nation.
  • But there was a problem with the fig tree: it was barren.  The vineyard owner came on his inspection and routinely found the tree without fruit.  For “three years,” the owner expected to find fruit on the tree, but never did.  By this point, he saw it as basically dead and a waste of the ground.  It ought to be uprooted, probably for another tree to take its place.  When the vineyard owner said to “cut it down,” that’s what he meant.  He wanted an axe taken to the tree for it to be destroyed.
    • That’s a pretty sobering wake-up call for the Jews who were listening to Jesus!  Their nation was barren – there was no fruit on it that God desired to see among His people.  There was a lack of righteousness, despite the teaching of legalism among the Pharisees.  There was a lack of faith, evidenced by their rejection of Jesus.  Their nation had been weighed & found wanting, and the time was soon approaching that they would be cut down.
    • What they needed was fruit – and they needed it quick!  Yet how is fruit produced?  A tree needs to draw on a source of life.  To the disciples, Jesus would teach how He is the grapevine & they are the branches – the branches cannot bear fruit apart from the vine. (Jn 15:4-5)  Paul wrote of the fruit of the Spirit, produced in the lives of those who walk in the Spirit. (Gal 5:22-23)  IOW, fruit comes from God. Unless someone has a real relationship with the real God, there isn’t going to be any fruit in his/her life.  Fruit can’t be faked.  You can pick up a plastic table decoration that looks like fruit – and it can look incredibly accurate, even down to how it feels in your hand.  But the minute you try to bite into it, you know the difference.  Real fruit can’t be faked.  Spiritually speaking, it’s no different.  Either God produces the fruit in our lives, or we don’t have it.  Outwardly, the Jews listening to Jesus looked like the people of God, but they lacked fruit & thus faced destruction.  Many church-going people today find themselves in a similar situation.  Outwardly, they look like Christians, even able to quote Bible verses with correct theology.  Newsflash: the devil can quote Bible verses & teach theology with the best of them…but he’s still not saved.  We need fruit, which means we need to be connected to Jesus by faith.  When we’re surrendered to Him, He’s the one who produces fruit in our lives.
  • Just a couple of asides: (1) That a fig tree would be planted in a grape vineyard was not unusual.  Even the ancient Egyptians planted various fruit trees among their grapes, as the grapes apparently took on some of the bouquet of the neighboring plants.  (2) Be careful not to place too much stock in the “three years” of inspection.  Although it’s true that Jesus did minister among the Jews for approximately three years before going to the cross, that’s not really the main point.  Agriculturally, it would not have been unusual for the farmer to expect a tree to bear fruit after a period of a few years – that’s probably all that’s really in view here.
  • So the instruction has been given to the vineyard keeper, but he has a suggestion for his employer: give the tree one more chance.  Vs. 8…

8 But he answered and said to him, ‘Sir, let it alone this year also, until I dig around it and fertilize it. 9 And if it bears fruit, well. But if not, after that you can cut it down.’ ”

  • The keeper suggested one more year for the tree (bringing it to 4 years total, which is another reason not to put too much stock in a 3-year symbolism), and during that year he would give the tree every advantage possible for growth.  He’d break up the hard ground around it, put in manure for fertilizer, and basically take extra-good care of the tree.  If that didn’t do it, nothing would.  The test?  Whether or not it bore fruit.  If so, great – if not, so be it.  The destruction of the tree would be deserved.
  • What was the lesson for the Jews listening to Jesus?  They weren’t bearing fruit, and there wasn’t much time left.  Whether they would face destruction by the hand of Pilate, by a random accident, or simply because their time was up – they would soon be judged by God.  What was their only hope to avoid destruction?  Change.  They needed repent from their sins – they needed to bear fruit.
    • The lesson isn’t just for the ancient Jews of Galilee.  It’s also for us.  What fruit is there from Jesus in your life?  Keep in mind this isn’t a comparison.  We may not be satisfied with the amount of fruit in our lives, but if there’s at least some fruit, that’s a good thing.  The problem comes when there’s no fruit.
    • If there’s no fruit, there’s no Jesus.  If there’s no Jesus, then it doesn’t matter how long you’ve attended church or how many times you raised your hand at an altar call.  What’s necessary for a person to be saved is for Jesus to save them, and that only happens through repentance and faith.  It happens through surrender.  You surrender your sin to the Lord, asking His forgiveness – and you surrender yourself to the Lord, entrusting yourself to Jesus alone.

Conclusion:
What’s the lesson from tragedy?  No one person may deserve it more than another, but we all deserve the same end result.  We all deserve death & judgment.  We have but one hope: the Lord Jesus Christ.  And how do we access that hope?  Repentance.  We must turn away from our sins, turn to Jesus Christ in faith, submitting our lives to Him for Him to produce fruit within us.  Unless we repent, we will surely perish…thankfully, the opportunity for repentance is open to all.

Have you taken it?  If so, are you walking in it?  Again, repentance may start with regret, but it doesn’t end there.  A change takes place, which means there is something that lasts.  Many people feel sorry for the moment, but not sorry enough to truly surrender their lives to Jesus.  Even born-again Christians sometimes hold something back.  We’ll surrender all of our lives to the Lord…all except this one part.  This (whatever it is), we hold back to ourselves, promising that we’ll address it at some point later down the road.  The problem is, later never comes.  Meanwhile our hearts grow calloused & soon we no longer recognize that we have a problem, always making excuses for our actions.

That’s no way for a born-again Christian to act – and if we find ourselves at that point, we probably need to ask ourselves some hard questions.  That sort of realization ought to be a wake-up call to humble ourselves before the Lord, and surrender ourselves anew to Jesus.  We might find that we’re actually surrendering ourselves for the first time.

Division and Discernment

Posted: May 21, 2017 in Luke, Uncategorized

Luke 12:49-59, “Division & Discernment”

For all that people know about Jesus, there are still times He can surprise us.  Some of what Jesus says in this text seems so much the opposite of what we generally think of Him.  Jesus will bring fire and division?!  Jesus calls the multitudes (rather than the Pharisees) hypocrites?!  Whatever happened to the meek & mild Jesus?  Whatever happened to the gracious, forgiving Jesus?

He hasn’t gone anywhere.  This is all still Him.  Remember that Jesus isn’t one-dimensional.  Just because He showed grace to the lost, openly invited people to come to Him in faith, and offered the forgiveness of God to the unlovable (and more!) doesn’t mean that it was out of character for Jesus to proclaim God’s judgment.  This isn’t evidence of a split-personality; it is simply a fuller picture of our Lord.

Besides, who says warnings of judgment are unloving?  If a friend screams at you to get out of the road, it’s not because he hates you; it’s because he loves you & doesn’t want to see you flattened by a Mack truck hurtling down the street.  If God warns us of His judgment, it’s because He doesn’t want us to experience it.  He loves us, and wants us to be ready for that day.

That was the case here.  Some of the things said by Jesus may seem harsh, but they are necessary for us to know.  There were all kinds of people following Him around, but they hadn’t yet come to faith.  They were in the presence of Jesus, witnessed the miracles of Jesus, but had not yet discerned who He was.  It was time for a wake-up call, and that is exactly what Jesus provided.

Contextually, Luke had been writing about Jesus among the multitudes, in the process of His trip to Jerusalem.  He had encountered all kinds of issues with Pharisees along the way, calling them out for their hypocrisy & warning them (along with everyone else) of the need to be ready for the judgment of God.  All people will be called to give an account to our Creator, and we need to be ready for that day.  We trust Him & His provision for us, but we always keep our judgment in mind, in order to be ready.

It’s with all that said that Jesus says what might seem to be surprising things.  Actually, they shouldn’t be surprising at all.  If we need to be ready for judgment, then it’s only right for Jesus to speak of the urgency of it.  We’ll need to prioritize our lives regarding the things that truly matter, which might include some uncomfortable division along the way.  But most of all, we just need to do what it take to be ready.  There’s nothing more important that we will face then when we look Jesus in the eye.  Be wise & be ready!

Luke 12:49–59

  • Division guaranteed (49-53)

49 “I came to send fire on the earth, and how I wish it were already kindled! 50 But I have a baptism to be baptized with, and how distressed I am till it is accomplished!

  • There is a “fire” and a “baptism.”  This isn’t necessarily (or likely) a reference to the baptism of fire, as John the Baptist prophesied of Jesus. (Mt 3:11)  These are two different & distinct events, though linked together by the work of Jesus.
  • First, Jesus “came to send fire on the earth.”  What kind of fire?  Fire can be symbolic of several things: holiness, God’s work of purification, etc. – but it is probably most often refers to judgment.  Fire was essential to the Hebrew offerings made to the Lord – the day of the Lord is described as a day of fire – Hell is described as having a lake of fire – Sodom and Gomorrah were consumed by fire & brimstone, etc.  So Jesus says that He came to bring the fire of judgment upon the earth, and He wished that it had already begun.
    • Question #1: How is this reconciled with John 3:17, where it is said that the Son was not sent to condemn the world?  Simple: this is the difference between the 1st and 2nd Advents.  The first time Jesus came to the world, it was to offer grace, forgiveness, and salvation.  The second time Jesus comes, it will be to bring judgment & wrath, as the fullness of His kingdom is seen upon the earth.  This is a crucial distinction in Jesus’ ministry, and it will be seen again in vs. 51.
    • Question #2: If this is indeed a reference to the judgment of God at Jesus’ 2nd Coming, why was Jesus so eager to see it already kindled & underway?  Didn’t Jesus want to see people get saved?  Of course!  God’s desire is for none to perish, but for all to come to repentance, which is one reason why Jesus had not returned already. (2 Pet 3:9)  Jesus most certainly wants people to be saved!  (All people…even you!)  That said, the Son of God still wants to see the eternal plan of God fulfilled.  The sooner His judgment comes, the sooner we move to the kingdom, and then to the eternal state.  The sooner His judgment comes, the sooner it will be that every creature in heaven & on earth sees Him as God & glorifies Him as such.  We should want to see that day soon!  Marantha!  Come, Lord Jesus!
      • But it means we ought to be ready!  That’s the point that Jesus will drive home.
  • Second, Jesus also had a “baptism to be baptized with,” something else He was determined to see done.  Many English translations use the language of being “distressed,” which can possibly give the wrong impression.  It wasn’t that Jesus was overly stressed out about this, dreading the moment until it happened.  The word speaks of seizing, grabbing hold of, constraining, controlling.  It could be said (especially in context) that Jesus was consumed with this coming baptism.  This was the thought that held His holy attention.  This was His singular focus.
  • What was it?  The cross.  This baptism was not a baptism of water.  That, He had already received through the ministry of John the Baptist at the outset of His ministry.  This was a baptism of suffering.  Jesus spoke of this baptism to James & John, as their mother tried to jockey for their prominent position in Jesus’ future kingdom.  He asked them if they were able to be baptized with the baptism that He was about to receive. (Mt 20:22)  They lied, saying yes, not really having a clue as to what would be involved.  Jesus affirmed that they would indeed suffer, but all of this only served to emphasize the servant role of Jesus.  Yes, He is the King, but He was about to suffer tremendously – for their sakes, and for ours. … But this was His baptism.  It was a cup of suffering at the cross, and He endured it willingly for you & me.
  • Like the fire, He wanted it done.  He was constrained by it until it was accomplished / completed / finished.  It would be!  What was it that Jesus declared from the cross?  “It is finished!” τετελεσται – the same root word used here (τελέω).  Jesus wasn’t going to stop until the work was done, and He did it.  The work of salvation is finished – guaranteed by the suffering & sacrifice of the Lord Jesus Christ.
    • What does this mean for us?  There is no more to do!  After you put your faith & trust in Jesus as the Son of God for the forgiveness of sins, you can’t make yourself any more saved than you already are.  You cannot add to your spiritual birth – you cannot make yourself any more a child of God than what Jesus already did.  It is finished!  Obviously, this doesn’t leave us an excuse to do nothing – we never come to a point in this life of sinless perfection.  We still strive to walk worthy of the calling with which we were called.  But the work of justification is done!  Jesus has made us right in the sight of God, and not a single thing we do can change or add to that.  So…stop trying to save yourself!  If you trust Christ, then trust Him.  Rely upon Him & His work to save you.  He is the one who justifies us, so we can stop trying to justify ourselves.

51 Do you suppose that I came to give peace on earth? I tell you, not at all, but rather division.

  • This sounds strange!  How can Jesus say that He did not come to “give peace on earth”?  Isaiah prophetically called Him the “Prince of Peace,” (Isa 9:6) – the angels announced His birth with a proclamation of peace (Lk 2:14) – Paul writes how Jesus is our peace, reconciling Jew & Gentile into one Church body & also reconciling the Church to God (Eph 2:14-17).  A huge part of Jesus’ ministry is to grant us peace where we had none.  We were at enmity against God (Rom 8:7), but now we have been reconciled, given grace & peace through Jesus Christ our Lord.  So again: how can Jesus claim He did not come to “give peace”?  Answer: it all depends on what type of peace is in mind.  Between God & man, Jesus certainly gives peace.  In fact, apart from faith in Jesus Christ as Lord, we have no other way to be made at peace with God.  He is our only hope.  Also, between Jew & Gentile in the Church, again, Jesus gives peace.  Only in Christ can former enemies be made brothers & sisters.  Rich & poor, slave & free, male & female, we are all one in Christ Jesus (Gal 3:28), because He creates peace and a loving bond between us.
  • What Jesus does not give is earthly peace…at least, not yet.  Earthly peace was not Jesus’ mission at His first coming, though it was what many expected of Him.  At that time, Jesus did not come to set up an earthly kingdom & establish a worldwide peace.  But He will!  When Jesus comes back, that is exactly what He will do!  Jesus will be given all the nations as an inheritance, and they will serve Him as He rules over them. (Ps 2:8)  During that time, the peace of Christ will be so tangible that even wolves and lambs will feed together in quietness. (Isa 65:25)  Satan will be imprisoned for 1000 years (Rev 20:2-3), and for the first time since the Garden of Eden, there will be true peace on earth.  It will be glorious, tangible peace!
    • But that’s all future; it isn’t today.  We need to be careful to remember which of Jesus’ promises are for today, and which are for the future.  Those who come to faith in Christ expecting Him to make their current lives better in the present are likely to be disappointed.  Don’t misunderstand!  Yes, our lives are better when we serve Jesus – after all, we’re finally living life in the way that we were created to live it.  How could it not be better when we have a real relationship with the Living God, and we are filled with the actual presence of God the Holy Spirit?  It is wonderful to be a born-again believer in Christ – there is nothing like it in all the world!  BUT…that doesn’t necessarily equate to health, wealth, and prosperity in the present.  Our earthly problems don’t magically disappear the moment we come to faith.  We still have difficult relationships – we still have money problems – we still get sick, see warfare in this world, etc.  Will Jesus solve these things?  Yes!  But those are promises for the future kingdom; not for today.
    • With that in mind, what do we do for today?  We don’t look for the absence of problems; we look for the presence of Jesus in the midst of them.  One of the crucial differences between a born-again Christian & an unbeliever is that although we all still face the same difficulties, we don’t face them alone.  We don’t face them with only the help and advice of other men, which isn’t really any help at all.  At mankind’s best, it is well-intentioned – usually it’s empty – at its worst, it is downright harmful.  Instead, Christians face the same earthly problems with the God who created the heavens and the earth.  We face them with the power of the Holy Spirit, and the truth of God’s holy word.  So do we have problems?  Without question.  But we also have Jesus…so hold to Him!
  • In the present, Jesus said He wasn’t bringing peace, but “division.”  Interestingly, this is the only time this Greek word is used in the New Testament, and it seems to be a variant of another word that could speak of either division or distribution.  With this word, there’s no question.  It is division/disunity.  IOW, there’s no room here for an alternative interpretation, as if Jesus’ words could somehow be explained away.  He meant exactly what He said, and it was preserved for us by Luke (via the Holy Spirit) that Jesus spoke of outright division.  Considering how often Jesus spoke of the need for unity (particularly among His church, Jn 17), this is striking!  How could Jesus come for the purpose of disunity?  The answer is actually found in the objection.  We object because Jesus prayed for unity in the church; here, Jesus isn’t speaking of the church.  Jesus is speaking of the division of the church from the world.  Remember that the basic meaning of the Greek word translated “church” (εκκλησια) is “called-out ones.”  We have been called out from among the world, called out to be with Christ, because of our faith in Him.  Thus, we are different.  It’s not just that we are to act different (though we should!); we are different.  We are born of the Spirit – we have a new nature, having been made new creations – we are the aroma of Christ – we are the light of the world & the salt of the earth.  We are the sons & daughters of God, and that fundamentally makes us different than others around us.  Thus, Jesus divides us from them.  That was part of His purpose: to set us apart, drawing us to Himself, gathering us together as His body.  If Jesus didn’t divide us from the world, we would still be part of the world…we’d still be lost & unsaved!  So should be grateful that Jesus came to divide?  Absolutely, yes!
    • The problem for the Christian doesn’t arise because Jesus divides us from the world; the problem arises when the Christian still lives as if he/she is part of this world.  We need to be divided – we need to be separate!  That’s not to say that we become snobs & push other people aside. (Heaven forbid!)  But there certainly ought to be a visible difference between us & the rest of the world.  What does it say about our salvation, if someone could look at us beyond just a glance & not be able to tell whether or not we’re a Christian?  Think about it: How long does it take you to distinguish a cadaver from a living person?  That’s the difference between the lost & the saved!  Apart from Christ, people are dead in transgressions, and they live as if they’re dead to God, not knowing Him…because they don’t.  But someone who has been made alive by Christ, born of the Holy Spirit – there ought to be a difference!  There ought to be a visible distinction!
    • Ask yourself: is there?  Take time this morning to do a bit of self-assessment.  If someone got a glimpse of your regular day throughout the week, would they be able to know you’re a believer, even without you saying a word?  What in your life would reflect back upon the work of Jesus within you?  May God help us reflect more of Him & less of us!
  • This division even takes place within the family.  Vs. 52…

52 For from now on five in one house will be divided: three against two, and two against three. 53 Father will be divided against son and son against father, mother against daughter and daughter against mother, mother-in-law against her daughter-in-law and daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law.”

  • Name the family relationship, and people will be divided over Jesus.  This is just the way it is.  As close as fathers & sons may be, when they are split in their faith, they will be divided against one another.  Likewise with mothers & daughters, in-laws with in-laws, and every other family relationship imaginable.  Testimony after testimony could be given of children who come to faith that are later ostracized or even disowned by their unbelieving parents.  In some cultures, some parents have gone so far as to attempt to murder their children for leaving the previous faith of the family.
  • But again – that’s just the way it is.  As much as the gospel of Jesus Christ is the power of God unto salvation, it also clearly divides those who believe from those who do not.  Family relationships can be forever changed by the gospel.  As drastic as that is, Jesus is worth it.  Jesus explicitly makes that point later on in the gospel of Luke: Luke 14:26, "If anyone comes to Me and does not hate his father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, yes, and his own life also, he cannot be My disciple."  Does this negate the 5th Commandment to honor your father & mother?  Of course not – but it does put things into perspective.  Our standing with Jesus is more important than our standing with our parents…far more important!  Our relationship with Jesus is of infinite value, because our entire eternity rests upon it.  So in a way, we “hate” our parents, at least in comparison with our love for Christ.  A similar point is made here.  Should the case arise where a choice needs to be made between Jesus & our families, we should choose Jesus every time.  Adherence to the gospel brings division – there’s no two ways around it.  The Bible says that Jesus is a stone of stumbling & rock of offense (1 Pet 2:8) – when homes are divided in their faith, we have to expect loved ones to be divided from us.
  • Question: Does this mean we are to cut ourselves off from them?  Absolutely not!  To be sure, there are some cases that are more extreme than others.  Where there is abuse and/or other physical danger (which is a very real issue in some parts of the world), Christians should seek safety.  Neither should we as Christians condone sin, even though it may be done by the people we love the most.  But as much as possible, where we can reach across the divide with the gospel, we should.  Who better to share the truth of Jesus with, than your own family members?  They may not want to hear it, and they may divide themselves from us, but we can still reach out with love and grace and the gospel.
  • So Jesus spoke of the judgment He would bring upon the earth, as well as the division that would come as people made the decision whether or not to follow Him in faith.  In light of the judgment, that decision needed to be made sooner, rather than later.  People needed to discern the times – something they currently weren’t doing.  Vs. 54…
  • Discernment lacking (54-59)

54 Then He also said to the multitudes, “Whenever you see a cloud rising out of the west, immediately you say, ‘A shower is coming’; and so it is. 55 And when you see the south wind blow, you say, ‘There will be hot weather’; and there is.

  • In 33AD, people didn’t have the luxury of instantaneous weather radars available on cell phones.  (For that matter, we didn’t have immediate access to those sorts of apps and smartphones until 10 years ago!  The 1st iPhone was released in June 2007.)  When most of us were younger, we at least had meteorologists on TV & radio to give us a weather report – earlier generations didn’t have that much.  They had to look at the sky, be aware of trends and patterns, and make their forecasts based on their best guesses.  That’s what Jesus points out here.  These were weather patterns specific to the topography of ancient Judea, and fairly reliable indicators of what forecasts could be expected.  For economies primarily based on agriculture, weather plays an important role, so it’s no surprise people got pretty good at the guessing game.  They could read the weather.
  • That’s all well & good, but there were more important signs to read.  Vs. 56…

56 Hypocrites! You can discern the face of the sky and of the earth, but how is it you do not discern this time?

  • What could be more important than a downpour or a heatwave?  Judgment Day.  Jesus calls the multitudes “hypocrites,” in much the same way that He called the scribes & the Pharisees hypocrites regarding their religious practices. The scribes & Pharisees majored on the minors and missed out on the majors.  They got stuck on enforcing legalistic traditions, rather than pointing people to the true heart of God.  They made their outsides look good & pious, but they were inwardly dead. (Mt 23)  It wasn’t much different with the crowds.  They were able to discern little things, but they couldn’t see the bigger picture.  They could forecast the weather & prepare their crops for what was about to come, but they couldn’t see the times around them & prepare themselves for Judgment Day.  They couldn’t discern the signs of the time, nor understand the urgency of the moment, and prepare themselves to see their Creator God.
  • That’s a big problem!  After all, of the few things in life that are absolutely guaranteed, one of them is the certainty of facing Almighty God.  People often say that there are two things guaranteed in life: death & taxes (not necessarily in that order), but the third is divine judgment.  The Bible makes this perfectly clear.  Hebrews 9:27, "And as it is appointed for men to die once, but after this the judgment."  There is an appointment already made for every single man & woman on earth, though we don’t know when it will be.  And if you’re not ready, it is a big problem indeed!
    • How do you know if you’re ready?  There’s only one way to be certain: place your faith & trust in Jesus Christ for salvation.  He is the way, the truth, and the life – no one comes to the Father except through Him. (Jn 14:6)  God sent Jesus to the world so that whoever believes upon Him might have eternal life. (Jn 3:16)  Should we confess Jesus as Lord, and sincerely believe upon Him in our hearts, we can be sure we will be saved. (Rom 10:9)  You will never be ready based on how often you show up at church, how much money you put in the box, what kind of good person you believe that you are, etc. – the only way is to turn to Jesus in faith & trust Him as your Lord.
    • If you’ve done that, praise God!  But even Christians still need to be ready.  Luke 12 has been full of Jesus’ teaching about the judgment that even born-again believers will face.  We will give an account to our Lord for the things done in the body, and we want to live in such a way that we are ready.  Thankfully, we do not fear losing our salvation – but we certainly don’t want to lose out on any reward.
  • Question: Why did Jesus chastise the multitudes for not discerning the time, if He wasn’t going to be coming back for 2000+ years?  The Bible is full of all kinds of teaching that Jesus’ return is imminent, but it hasn’t happened yet.  Is it all a bunch of false alarms?  No. (1) Jesus had every right to chastise the multitudes standing in front of them for their lack of discernment.  After all, they couldn’t even discern their Messiah right there among them.  They had all kinds of reasons to put their faith in Jesus right then & there, and most of them hadn’t done it.  Their lack of discernment was evident!  (2)  Jesus still was right to warn them of the coming judgment, because they truly weren’t ready.  That much is clear from their lack of faith.  If Jesus had shown Himself in His power & glory for judgment at the time, they would have all been destroyed.  (3) The judgment of God is not something that is reserved merely for the day of Jesus’ arrival at Armageddon.  However far off in the future that may be (whether it is this afternoon, in 20 years, or longer), the very moment we die we will face God for judgment.  The second your heart stops beating & your brain stops functioning is the second you’re looking Jesus in the eye.  If we cannot discern the need to be ready, we are lacking in wisdom indeed!
  • With that in mind, was it still possible for people to look around at the world and see the signs of judgment?  Is it possible for people to “discern this time”?  Yes.  While it’s true that some prophecy teaching can be rather far-fetched (playing the “pin the tail on the Antichrist” game), much prophecy is quite clear in the pages of Scripture.  There are certain things in the world that we can see as definite indicators that Jesus’ return is very soon.
    • The existence of a modern state of Israel.  Simply that Israel exists is a reason to get ourselves ready for Jesus!  The nation of Israel is prominently featured in all end-times prophecy, yet for nearly 1880 years it did not exist.  That all changed in 1948, and much of the focus of the entire world has been upon Israel ever since.
    • Closer ties between Iran (Persia) and Russia.  Many Bible teachers have seen Ezekiel’s prophecy concerning the war of Gog & Magog against Israel (Ezekiel 38-39) as having the primary players being Russia & Iran.  For years, this was seen as impossible, (1) due to the crumbling of the Soviet Union, and (2) the historic mistrust between Russia & Iran in general.  All that has changed.  Russia has become a global power once again, and relations between the two nations have rarely been better.  From the May 20, 2017 edition of the Times of Israel paper, “Russian President Vladimir Putin congratulated his Iranian counterpart Hassan Rouhani on his re-election Saturday, calling for deeper ties between Moscow and Tehran.”  While it’s true that political alliances rise & fall, this is an alliance that calls attention to itself.
    • The pervasiveness of false doctrine within the church.  Paul wrote specifically about this issue, tying it precisely with the end-times: 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."  He went on in his 2nd letter to Timothy, warning of people who seemed to be Christians heaping up teachers for themselves to satisfy their itching ears. (2 Tim 4:3)  So much of this false doctrine & other teaching like it runs rampant through both formal & informal churches.
    • Is this a comprehensive list?  No…but it ought to be enough to get us thinking!  We have reason to look around & start analyzing the times in which we live.  We have much reason to be ready to see Jesus!

57 “Yes, and why, even of yourselves, do you not judge what is right?

  • The people didn’t just lack discernment; they lacked wisdom.  Because they didn’t understand the imminent nature of God’s judgment, they didn’t understand the need to prepare themselves to face His judgment.  That’s why Jesus said they didn’t “judge what is right.”  Not only did they not judge what was righteous & just, but they didn’t judge the right thing to do.  Jesus goes on to give a practical example…

58 When you go with your adversary to the magistrate, make every effort along the way to settle with him, lest he drag you to the judge, the judge deliver you to the officer, and the officer throw you into prison. 59 I tell you, you shall not depart from there till you have paid the very last mite.”

  • On the face of it, this seems pretty simple & straightforward.  If you’ve got someone with a legal case against you, it’s best to settle out of court than to risk the harsher punishment doled out by the judge.  We want to be reconciled with our brothers, even doing what it takes to be reconciled with our enemies, rather than face a stricter judgment from which there is no escape.
  • It’d be easy to leave it at that, and some commentators do so.  But that misses the broader context and the more important point that Jesus makes.  This isn’t simply free legal advice – it’s not even a mere proverbial teaching on how to act according to wisdom as we live among men.  What has been the whole context leading up to this point?  The judgment of God.  So what’s the idea here?  It’s also the judgment of God.  Perhaps it’s better to think of this as a parable, rather than a proverb.  There is a specific point made by Jesus: be reconciled!  Understand the dire need that you face, and do what it takes to be reconciled prior to judgment.  That has far less to do with interpersonal relationships than it does with eternal salvation!  We need to understand our dire need to be reconciled with God, and we need to get it done before we face Him for judgment – because when we do, it’ll be too late to do anything about it.
  • Does God drag us to judgment?  No.  Be careful not to make this an allegory, looking for a parallel on every point.  It’s not necessarily a straightforward parable, though it is certainly to one.  The main idea is clear: we have terribly offended God through our sin, and we are deserving of judgment.  Thus we need to take the opportunity we have now to settle with Him, because there will come a point when that opportunity is lost.  If it’s important to settle out of court with an earthly adversary, how much more with Almighty God?  There ought to be a sense of urgency here.  We need to be forgiven, and now is the only chance we have to receive forgiveness.  Why would anyone push it off & procrastinate?
    • Yet that’s what so many people do!  They push it off & push it off, saying, “Next year, I’ll get right with God…  As soon as I get through this mess, I’ll go to God… I’ll just enjoy this period of time, and then I’ll go back to Him…”  They find all kinds of excuses as to why they can’t do it right here & right now, and sooner or later they find they’re out of time.  Car accidents don’t schedule appointments with us.  Heart attacks don’t check our calendars before hitting.  Jesus certainly will not clear it with us before He returns.  If you’re putting off getting reconciled with God, the only person you’re fooling is yourself.  Hospital ICU units are filled with people who thought they had more time, only to learn differently.
    • Don’t put it off!  And don’t think that you can make yourself “right with God.”  There is only one who can: the Lord Jesus.  The only thing you can “do” is to turn away from your sins & trust Him as Lord, and that’s not an action so much as it is a response to Jesus.  But that’s not something you can afford to put off.  Do it today.
  • BTW – in the lesson/parable, Jesus told of an adversary who would accuse the person before the judge.  As Christians, we do have someone who accuses us (Satan), but we also have Someone who stands in our defense!  Jesus Christ the righteous is our Advocate (1 Jn 2:1), and there is none better!  He truly did pay every last penny of our debt, when He shed His blood for us at the cross.  Praise God for our Advocate!

Conclusion:
Put it all together, and what does Jesus say?  He speaks of His work to be done, both at the cross & the future judgment.  People would need to choose sides, having enough common sense to understand what was going on around them & the wisdom to start making preparations.  From that perspective, what Jesus says isn’t unusual for Him at all.  It’s basically the same message He preached from the very beginning of His ministry: “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand!” (Mt 4:17)

Are you ready?  Have you made your preparations?  It might mean some separation from the world – it might entail being divided from friends and family.  Jesus is worth it!  Once we know the truth of Jesus, how can we possibly give it up just to maintain the “status quo” with others?  Sometimes we say, “I just don’t want the relationship to change – I don’t want to rock the boat.  They’re offended by God & religion, so why bring it up?”  Because there’s nothing more important!  The status quo for an unbeliever is an eternity of hell.  By all means, rock that boat!  They need to know the difference that comes with a born-again believer in Jesus…and if that brings division, so be it.

As for us, we want to ensure that our own accounts with the Lord are clean.  We can look around at world & our culture & understand the times in which we’re living.  It ought to be clear that our world doesn’t have much time left before Jesus calls the church home in the rapture & the Great Tribulation begins.  At the very least, we need to be mindful of our own mortality, knowing that any one of us could be looking at Jesus by lunchtime.  So be ready! 

Be Wise; Be Ready

Posted: May 7, 2017 in Luke, Uncategorized

Luke 12:35-48, “Be Wise; Be Ready”

An amazing feat happened in the world of running yesterday: someone came within 25 seconds of breaking the 2-hour barrier on the marathon.  Currently, the official world-record for the men’s marathon is 2:02:57, set by Dennis Kimetto of Kenya at the 2014 Berlin Marathon.  Early yesterday morning, Eliud Kipchoge (also of Kenya) ran 2:00:25 at Nike’s Breaking2 event, where they set up a “moon-shot” attempt to see what might be possible with the right athletes, the right technology, and the right conditions.  Although the barrier wasn’t broken, history was made, and no doubt someone will soon succeed in the future (perhaps at Adidas’ own sub2 event, date TBA).

Not everyone thought it was possible, some predicting flat-out failure with all the athletes “bonking” and producing sub-par performances, even under “normal” conditions.  Others obviously had hope.  Eliud Kipchoge was one of them, and took concrete actions to prove it.  It’s one thing to talk about possibilities; it’s another to take the steps necessary to bring them to fruition.  People can talk all they want, but at some point, the rubber has to meet the road.

A similar thing is true in regards to our faith.  Do we really believe what we say we believe?  If we did, our actions ought to reflect the things we say.  Take Jesus’ return, for example.  People say all the time that they believe Jesus is coming back, but do they really believe it?  They do, if they ensure that the rubber meets the road.  They do, if they actually prepare themselves for Jesus’ return, and live every day as if that day might be THE day.  That’s true faith, and it’s also true wisdom.  After all, if we really can see Jesus at any time, then it would be prudent for us to get ready.

Wise Christians are Christians ready to see Christ.

This was the point Jesus drove home with the disciples as He continued speaking with them through the events of Luke 12.  Jesus had mentioned the idea of a personal judgment from God already, originally in the context of the hypocrisy of the Pharisees, but also in the process of telling the Parable of the Rich Fool.  That parable was primarily designed to point out the sin of selfishness and greed, particularly to a man who had brought Jesus into a family dispute regarding his inheritance.  To him, Jesus told the story of a rich landowner who made many preparations for his future years on earth, but none for eternity.  This man was going to see God for judgment, and he wasn’t ready.  He had laid up treasure for himself, but none towards God.

Jesus followed that up with an exhortation to the disciples to have the right perspective: an eternal one.  The material things of this world didn’t need to consume them or stress them out – they could trust that they belonged to God & that God would care for them.  Their ultimate home is the kingdom of heaven, and that is where their (and our) treasure needed to be.

Jesus apparently continued speaking at this point (Luke does not indicate a break of any sort), and it would seem that the subject changed – but it hadn’t.  All that really happened is that Jesus went back to the idea of judgment, and being ready to see God.  By believing in Jesus, the disciples had already taken the first steps towards building treasure in heaven – now they needed to be encouraged to keep at it.  Their eternity was certain, but work still needed to be done.  They needed to be ready to see God at any time, for they could be called before Him at any time.

It’s no different with us.  Whether by death or by rapture, any one of us could look into the eyes of our Lord Jesus at any moment.  Not a one of us is guaranteed another heartbeat.  Would we be ready to see Him today?  If we truly believe we can see Him at any time, are we living as if we might?  Does the rubber of our faith meet the road of reality?

Luke 12:35–48

  • Parable #1: The Ready Servant (35-40)

35 “Let your waist be girded and your lamps burning; 36 and you yourselves be like men who wait for their master, when he will return from the wedding, that when he comes and knocks they may open to him immediately.

  • What does it look like to wait for Jesus?  It looks like servants who are ready to respond at a moment’s notice.  We don’t often use words like “girded” anymore, so it’s no wonder many other English translations say something like “be dressed in readiness” (NASB) or “stay dressed for action” (ESV).  Yet the literal wording is as the KJV/NKJV, and it paints a very specific picture of a man hiking up his robes/tunic through the middle of his legs & tucking in the excess cloth through his belt.  It’s as if he fashions some make-shift pants, clothing uncommon in the ancient near-east.  The benefit is that it makes it easier to run.  There’s a reason marathoners aren’t clothed in full-length tunics: they’d trip up pretty quick!  Instead, they wear clothing that allows for maximum amount of movement.  For ancient near-eastern cultures, the way to do it was to gird up their loins – to hike up their robes to be ready to run.
  • Not only were their waists to be girded, but their lamps were to be lit.  Remember that these weren’t flashlights that could be turned on with the click of a button – these were oil-filled lamps, lit much like candles.  Thus, these needed to be oiled-up and lit, already in use.  Lighting it might not take long (especially in a culture that used them daily), but during a time when every second counts, it was better to have them already lit.
  • Why all the preparation?  They were waiting for their master.  Their master (literally “lord,” but in a non-divine sense) was away at a wedding, and they didn’t know the precise moment of his return.  When he came knocking at the door, he wouldn’t want to wait in the dark streets waiting for his servants to finally come shuffling to the door half-asleep.  They wouldn’t want to open the door to their master in a manner that caused him to wait while they got their stuff together.  These house-servants wanted to be ready at a moment’s notice to open the door to their master.  The moment he knocked, they wanted to immediately respond.
  • “Great illustration!  So what’s the parallel to us?”  Remember that with parables, we’re not looking for point-by-point parallels; we’re looking for the main point.  Obviously Jesus doesn’t use the word “parable” here to describe this scenario, but from vs. 41 it’s clear that Peter thought of it in this way.  So we don’t really need to look for a line-by-line type/antitype with the girding, the lamps, the opening, etc.; we just need to look for the main point.  What’s the main point?  Readiness.  These servants actively waited for their master, expecting him to come at any time, and they were ready to respond at any time.
    • Have you ever been in a situation when you needed to be prepared to drop everything and leave at a moment’s notice?  Parents sometimes do this towards the end of pregnancies.  They don’t know the precise moment of their baby’s arrival, so bags are packed & ready to go at any time.  The point?  If you want to be ready to move, then you need to prepare yourself.  There’s always something you do to ensure you’re ready to respond.
    • What have you done to ensure you’re ready to respond to Jesus?  What steps have you taken to prepare yourself to see Him, should He call you today?
  • Those were the servants, but what about the master?  Vs. 37…

37 Blessed are those servants whom the master, when he comes, will find watching. Assuredly, I say to you that he will gird himself and have them sit down to eat, and will come and serve them. 38 And if he should come in the second watch, or come in the third watch, and find them so, blessed are those servants.

  • The master found them “watching.”  He knew their readiness.  They were awake & alert, ready to respond, and the master knew it because that’s how he found them.  How pleased do you think he was with his servants at that time?  They were exactly as he would have desired…he would have been overjoyed!
  • Thus he treated them appropriately – even going over-the-top in his appreciation of them.  Arriving home after a long day (even after a wedding feast), it would have been expected for the master to be hungry & the servants would have had food waiting for him.  Yet here, the master not only invites the servants to recline (sit) at the dinner table with him, but he actually gets up to serve them the meal!
  • It’s no wonder he was so pleased: he did not tell the servants exactly when to expect him; he only told them to expect him.  Be it the “second or third watch” of the night (i.e. the middle of the night), the master might arrive at any time.  He wanted them to be ready at any moment.  And they were ready, so the servants were “blessed”!
    • Isn’t this what we desire: to be blessed of the Lord?  Not necessarily “blessed” as in riches, health, and prestige – but “blessed” as in happiness and joy.  As Christians, we want our Master to be happy with us!  We want to live in His joy, knowing that He is pleased with us.  Most children just want their parents to be proud of them & it is so good to hear those words from their mom & dad.  How much more with our heavenly Father?  When God is happy with us, we are happy ourselves – it couldn’t be any better!  To have God happy with us – that is true blessedness!
  • So the servants were watching – and for good reason.  They needed to be ready for anything.  Vs. 39…

39 But know this, that if the master of the house had known what hour the thief would come, he would have watched and not allowed his house to be broken into.

  • The scene changes a bit, and it’s no longer the servants who are watching, but the master.  And the master is not waiting for an honored guest to arrive, but he’s waiting for a thief. Again, be careful of trying to match the parable point-by-point.  The main point is still the main point: watchfulness & readiness.  Whether the disciples Jesus was speaking to saw themselves more as masters or as servants, everyone had a reason to maintain a sense of readiness & expectation.
    • Jesus is actually going to tie into the idea of a thief in just a moment, but consider the fact that we do have an enemy who is actively looking for ways to take us down.  We don’t necessarily know when the next spiritual attack will come, or in what exact way it will present itself – but we know it will come.  Just as we need to be ready for Jesus, we also need to be ready and prepared for attacks from our enemy.  It’s when we get spiritually lazy that we most often fall to temptation.  We may not always be watching our enemy, but it’s almost certain that he (and his minions) hardly ever stop watching us.  The devil roams about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour.  He’s actively looking for Christians to destroy.  Be active in your vigilance against him!
  • But again, the thief in vs. 39 is just an illustration.  Jesus actually uses the idea for Himself.  Vs. 40…

40 Therefore you also be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect.”

  • Who else is coming at a moment’s notice?  Jesus!  “The Son of Man is coming,” so be “ready.”  Be always ready!  The word in Greek means exactly what it’s translated as in English & most English Bible versions render it the same way.  Something/someone is prepared – is fully ready to do or endure the task ahead.  In this case, the disciples were to be ready for the coming of the Son of Man.
  • Notice Jesus’ use of His favorite title: “Son of Man.”  The last time Jesus used it was earlier in Ch. 12 regarding blasphemy against Him and blasphemy of the Holy Spirit. (12:10)  The arrival of the Son of Man in power & glory (in judgment & to inherit the earth) is actually the term is originally introduced in regards to the Messiah. Daniel 7:13–14, "(13) “I was watching in the night visions, And behold, One like the Son of Man, Coming with the clouds of heaven! He came to the Ancient of Days, And they brought Him near before Him. (14) Then to Him was given dominion and glory and a kingdom, That all peoples, nations, and languages should serve Him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion, Which shall not pass away, And His kingdom the one Which shall not be destroyed."  The point?  This is how the disciples expected to see Jesus.  Every time Jesus used the title “Son of Man” (which was often!), this was the picture brought to mind.  This was the moment for which they waited.  Now Jesus references it in context, telling them what to expect when it happens.  And what He tells them is that it’s unexpected.  We might say that Jesus’ coming is anticipated, but unexpected.  We know for a fact that He is coming; what we don’t know is when He will arrive.  This is the doctrine of imminency.  I.e., the events surrounding Jesus’ 2nd Coming are imminent – they can happen at any time.  There is not a single thing that absolutely needs to take place before Jesus can call the church home in the rapture, which kicks off all the events following.  Thus we know He’s coming back – we just don’t know the exact timing of it all.
    • And we won’t know!  This is something that people get wrong quite often.  People often think that if they just piece together enough Bible prophecy, they can somehow guess the actual date of Jesus’ coming – and it’s impossible.  Most recently, Harold Camping famously predicted the date of the rapture to be May 21, 2011, and was obviously proven wrong.  (Camping later repented, publicly saying that his prediction was sinful and that no one can know.  He died in 2013.)  In a similar teaching in the gospel of Matthew, Jesus went so far to say that not even the angels know the day or the hour of the 2nd Coming of Christ – this is something that only the Father knew. (Mt 24:36)  Thus date-setting is an exercise in futility – it will always be wrong.
  • That’s not to say we know nothing about the timing.  Jesus will actually go on in Ch. 12 to discuss the need to discern the times around us, looking for His return – so there are some things we can know. We can know the general state of apathy towards God – we can know how much prophecy has been fulfilled.  What we can’t know is the specific moment.  We don’t know the day or the hour that His trumpet will sound, signaling the resurrection of the saints and the rapture of the church.  Even with a timeline of a 7 year tribulation, we don’t know the exact day or hour that King Jesus will return to planet earth in power & glory, conquering the armies of Antichrist at the battle of Armageddon.  Beyond those things, we certainly don’t know the timing of our own death.  No matter what your personal eschatology might be (i.e. your own personal view of the end-times), there is no getting around the imminency of seeing the Son of God.  It could literally happen at any moment.  Thus you need to be ready for any moment – for every moment.
    • Are you?  Are you sure?  There’s much we can say about Christians being ready to see Christ (which Jesus will soon address), but the first step is being a Christian in the first place.  Without being born of the Spirit, no one will even see the kingdom of God. (Jn 3:5)  The first step for anyone is repentance and faith in Jesus Christ – it’s to receive the new birth He offers, and to be saved.  Only then is someone ready to see God at a moment’s notice.
  • Clarifying Question (41)

41 Then Peter said to Him, “Lord, do You speak this parable only to us, or to all people?”

  • Poor Peter.  You can almost hear the concern in his voice.  Although we’re not told specifically why he asked Jesus this question, it’s not difficult to imagine.  Perhaps he’s afraid that Jesus thinks he’s not ready.  After all, Jesus had been speaking to the disciples.  Although the original Parable of the Rich Fool was told to all the crowd who surrounded Jesus, it was to the disciples that Jesus went on to speak of God’s love & care for them, more than ravens & flowers.  It was the disciples that Jesus instructed to have an eternal perspective & build up treasure in heaven.  And seemingly, it was still the disciples who Jesus addressed.  So Peter probably had a natural & reasonable concern.  Was he & the other disciples ready?  Did Jesus believe they were unprepared?  Or was this something that now needed to be said about the crowd in general?
  • It begs a good question for us today: Can born-again Christians be unprepared to see Jesus?  Yes!  Just because you’re eternally saved doesn’t mean you’re fully ready to see Jesus face-to-face.  Sure, you have forgiveness – but what about a clear conscience?  We still engage in sin, though hopefully rarely & occasionally.  But what if Jesus came at that moment?  Maybe you have unfinished business because you’ve put off stuff you know that God has told you to do.  Maybe you’ve become complacent about the things of God in general.  Maybe you’ve become aware of a lack of compassion towards others & you haven’t changed.  Are you sure you’re ready to see Jesus today?
    • None of this undermines your salvation.  We aren’t saved by the grace of God, but then fully reliant upon our own works to keep us saved.  We are saved by grace, and kept by grace – all to the glory of God.  But our works do matter.  Our attitudes matter.  How we live as born-again saved Christians matters to our Lord & God.  We will be judged for those things at what is called the Bema Seat / the Judgment Seat of Christ.  Paul described it to the Corinthians, contextually writing of the gospel that had been given to them, how they were built up in Christ: 1 Corinthians 3:12–15, "(12) Now if anyone builds on this foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw, (13) each one’s work will become clear; for the Day will declare it, because it will be revealed by fire; and the fire will test each one’s work, of what sort it is. (14) If anyone’s work which he has built on it endures, he will receive a reward. (15) If anyone’s work is burned, he will suffer loss; but he himself will be saved, yet so as through fire."  The foundation is the same for all born-again believers: faith in the Lord Jesus Christ & the gift of His grace.  What gets built upon that foundation is what varies from individual to individual. Those are the works we do in this life after we’ve been saved.  And at the Bema Seat, a lot of those works are going to be burned away.  (And it’s a good thing, too!)  What isn’t burned?  Our foundation.  Born-again Christians remain born-again Christians, to the glory of God.  It’s just that some Christians will find that they’ve wasted much of their lives.  That’s exactly what we want to minimize – that’s what we’re trying to refine in order that we’re ready to see Jesus.
  • So Peter asked the question.  Did he receive an answer?  Yes & no, depending how you look at it.  He certainly didn’t receive a straightforward answer from Jesus (at least, none that was recorded by Luke).  But Jesus did answer in a roundabout way.  Was Jesus speaking this parable to them?  It all depended on whether or not they were prepared for His return.  If they were ready, then Jesus was speaking to everyone else in earshot.  If they weren’t, then yes – it applied directly to them.  So…how would they know if they were ready?  That’s where the second parable comes in…
  • Parable #2: The Wise Servant vs. the Evil Servant (42-48)

42 And the Lord said, “Who then is that faithful and wise steward, whom his master will make ruler over his household, to give them their portion of food in due season? 43 Blessed is that servant whom his master will find so doing when he comes. 44 Truly, I say to you that he will make him ruler over all that he has.

  • What Peter (and all of us) wanted to be was the “faithful and wise steward.”  Before we get too far, break down that description.
    • He was a “steward.”  ESV & NIV both render this as “manager,” which helps clarify the idea a bit.  The Greek word is οἰκονόμος, where we get our word “economy,” meaning “the management of resources.”  In the case of this Greek word, it referred to a special servant who would be the manager of the household, or someone entrusted as an able administrator.  The term is actually a compound word of house + law, thus someone who has authority over the house.  There are two key ideas here: (1) The steward was not the owner of the house; just the manager of it, and (2) The steward was entrusted with responsibility.  There was a task expected of him.
    • He was “faithful.”  Although the translation is accurate, it could just as easily be translated “believing.”  It not only could refer to someone who is trustworthy, but someone who is trusting.  In this case, it happens to be both.  The faithful steward is a faith-filled steward.  He believes his master/lord.
    • He was “wise.”  Think “sensible, prudent, thoughtful.”  This steward didn’t just merely react to things as they happened – he didn’t just let life roll past him.  He thought things through, knew what he was doing, and acted according to plan.
  • The faithful & wise steward is made a ruler.  He is appointed with more responsibility.  He was already entrusted with the household, but due to the pleasure of his master, he will be entrusted with more.
  • The faithful & wise steward is active.  He didn’t simply sit around, waiting to be told what to do; he took the initiative in giving out food.  When the master found him, the steward was “doing” (pres act ptc) – he was actively serving in the role assigned to him.
  • The faithful & wise steward is blessed.  Like the servants in the earlier parable, this steward experienced the happiness & good pleasure of his lord.  His master would have been overjoyed to bless him as the master honored him with even more responsibility than what he had before.
  • We want to be faithful & wise stewards!  Although the context is different, this is the same general idea from the famous Parable of the Talents.  Matthew 25:20–21, "(20) “So he who had received five talents came and brought five other talents, saying, ‘Lord, you delivered to me five talents; look, I have gained five more talents besides them.’ (21) His lord said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant; you were faithful over a few things, I will make you ruler over many things. Enter into the joy of your lord.’"  Whatever it is that God has entrusted to us, we want to be faithful to use it for His glory.  Contextually to Luke’s gospel, we have been entrusted with a ministry until the coming of Christ.  We want to be found faithful, and thus find the blessing and joy of our Lord Jesus.
    • So put it together: the faithful & wise steward was a ruler, was active, and was blessed.  If you know you’re a born-again Christian, then you know you’re a “ruler” in the sense that you also have been entrusted with certain gifts and resources.  Every Christian is a steward of something, God the Holy Spirit having given to each one according to His will.  As far as blessedness is concerned, that is also in the hands of God – something we can experience both today, but mostly in the future when we receive the confirmation of blessing.  The only real question is whether or not we’re active.  Are you using what the Lord has given you?  Are you a faithful steward of the gospel – the gifts – the resources – the opportunities which God has placed in your hands?  May we be active, and thus assured of hearing the words “Well done, good & faithful servant!”
  • The faithful & wise steward is contrasted with an evil servant.  Vs. 45…

45 But if that servant says in his heart, ‘My master is delaying his coming,’ and begins to beat the male and female servants, and to eat and drink and be drunk, 46 the master of that servant will come on a day when he is not looking for him, and at an hour when he is not aware, and will cut him in two and appoint him his portion with the unbelievers.

  • The thoughts of the evil servant.  This servant knew just as well as the faithful servant that his master was due to arrive – he just chose to ignore the imminent nature of it.  He did not truly believe the reality of his master’s arrival, which affected everything else he did.
  • The actions of the evil servant.  Thinking himself to be totally unsupervised, he acted out his evil desires.  He beat his fellow servants, men & women who were beloved by the master. (The Greek terms imply almost a child-like relationship between the servants and the master.)  In addition to his violence towards others was his laziness & selfish living.  He used the resources of his master for himself, considering it his own personal party-time. 
  • The outcome of the evil servant.  When the master came, the servant was punished…and severely!  The servant wasn’t expecting the arrival of his master, having talked himself out of the possibility, and when the master came, he acted in force.  The servant was actually dismembered, slain as an enemy of his lord…which he was.
  • Notice how this evil servant is treated: he is given a “portion with the unbelievers.”  The word used for “unbelievers” in vs. 46 is basically the negated version of the word translated “faithful” in vs. 42.  None of these people are faithful to the desires of their master.  They don’t believe him in the first place, and neither did the evil servant.  He was counted among their number because he acted the same way.  Actually, he acted worse.  He knew the goodness of his master, having lived in his home.  But he despised the goodness of his master, and acted as if he was his own master.  It’s no wonder he was punished so severely.
  • Question: Is the evil servant a Christian or non-Christian?  Good question.  He certainly would have the appearance of a Christian, being that he is seen as a servant of the same Master, and be around the other “male & female servants” of the Master, but he is treated as an unbeliever in the end.  The most likely scenario is that he represents a false convert.  He is someone with the initial appearance of a believer, but in reality, has no faith.
    • Sadly, this is a common occurrence today – especially in American churches.  We are blessed in our culture to be surrounded with so many Christian influences & other God-honoring things.  The downside to it all is that it becomes very easy for someone to hide among the church, claiming he/she is a Christian when they’re not.  Not that it’s always intentional…some people don’t know!  Maybe he/she was baptized as a baby & was told that made them a Christian.  Maybe he/she signed a decision card somewhere & was told that was what made them a Christian.  Maybe he/she has always gone to church, and figured that made them a Christian.  Whatever it is, his/her confidence is in the wrong thing.  The only way someone becomes a Christian is through active faith in Christ.  We must intentionally trust Him as Savior & Lord, and that’s the only way we are saved.  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."  Do you believe?  Have you told God you believe?  Do you actively trust Jesus today?  If your hope for eternity is not actively based in Him, you have no hope of eternity at all.  Trust Christ!

47 And that servant who knew his master’s will, and did not prepare himself or do according to his will, shall be beaten with many stripes. 48 But he who did not know, yet committed things deserving of stripes, shall be beaten with few. For everyone to whom much is given, from him much will be required; and to whom much has been committed, of him they will ask the more.

  • There is another comparison here, still including the evil servant, but the faithful & wise steward is not in view.  Instead, there are other evil servants, though perhaps less evil than the one initially described.  Everyone mentioned here deserves punishment of some sort, but not everyone receives the same punishment.  What determines the difference?  Knowledge.  Ignorance of the law is no excuse, but flagrant rebellion against the law that is known only makes things worse.
  • People are responsible for what they know.  Anyone without faith in Christ will be punished in eternity, and rightfully so.  The Bible makes it clear that God has revealed Himself and His righteousness to all the world. (Rom 1:20)  It tells us that the law of God is written upon our hearts, so that all cultures everywhere inherently have a sense of right & wrong. (Rom 2:15)  It tells us that one of the jobs for the Holy Spirit in the world today is to convict people of sin, righteousness, and judgment. (Jn 16:8)  Even the resurrection of Jesus is proof to all who hear that Jesus is the Son of God & the one through whom God will judge the world. (Rom 1:4, Acts 17:31)  Put it all together, and it answers the commonly asked question of “What happens to people who never hear the gospel?”  The answer is that they still have enough evidence of the perfect & holy God for them to seek out the perfect & holy God in repentance, and those who don’t face God’s righteous judgment.  — That said, as bad as that is, what’s worse is for people to fully know and understand the gospel of Christ, and still choose to reject it. Those who know more will be responsible for more.  Those who knowingly reject the grace of Jesus will be judged for what they rejected.  They were given much, and much will be required of them.
    • That includes everyone in this room – everyone within the sound of my voice.  You have heard the gospel of Jesus Christ.  No doubt you heard it long ago in many other places, but there is no doubt that you have heard it today.  To reject it is to place yourself in a terrible position.  Think of Pharaoh and Moses: Pharaoh repeatedly saw the works of God with his own eyes, and continually hardened himself against the Lord.  As a result, he experienced terrible judgment.  How much more for those who knowingly reject the Son of God?  Don’t make that mistake!
  • This applies to more than just basic salvation.  It applies to all kinds of Christian stewardship.  What has God entrusted to your care?  What knowledge has He given you?  Skills?  Finances?  Family?  How are you using those things for God’s glory?  How are you applying those things to being ready for Jesus’ soon appearance?  And it can get even more basic than that.  Each one of you have a Bible in your hands (or one in the chair in front of you).  How many Bibles do you own?  Have you ever read even one of them all the way through?  Why not?  It’s not as if you haven’t had enough time.  Several Bible reading plans can be accomplished in a year, and some intense plans can be completed in just a few months.  How long have you been a Christian?  Surely you’ve had enough time to read God’s word by now.  None of this is said in order to weigh anyone down with guilt – but sometimes we need a bit of kick in the pants. (I know I do!)  We have been entrusted with much…especially as American Evangelicals!  We have zero excuses for not using our resources in faithful stewardship.  Comic book fans know the classic charge to Peter Parker as Spiderman: “With great power comes great responsibility.”  With all due respect to Stan Lee, Jesus said it first (and better): “To whom much is given, much is required.”

Conclusion:
Are you ready?  Are you wise in how you use the time & resources you’ve been given?  Are you a faithful & wise steward?  If you truly take Jesus at His word that He’s returning, then you’ll be living as if He actually is.  If you believe you might see Jesus today, then you’ll make preparations to see Him today.  That’s where the rubber meets the road.  Two people can be told about an approaching airplane jump.  Which one actually believes it?  The one who puts on his parachute.  If you believe it, then you’ll act upon it.  That’s true wisdom.  Wise Christians are Christians who are actually ready to see Christ.

Some of you aren’t ready.  Sure, you’re saved – you know you put your faith in Christ believing Him to be God crucified for your sins & risen from the grave.  You know you trust Him for your eternal salvation & have no hope without Him.  But if you’re being honest, you know you’re not ready to see Him.  There’s more to do, and you know what God has been telling you.  What are you waiting for?

Still others of you aren’t ready for a more fundamental reason: you’re not saved.  Maybe you know you’re not saved & you’ve never pretended otherwise.  Today, you can put your faith in Christ Jesus and have your life forever changed.  Or, maybe you’re more like the 2nd servant in the 2nd parable being a false convert.  You might have looked like other Christians on the outside & even associated with Christians at church & other places.  But inside, you know your heart is evil, untouched by the grace of God.  Today, everything can change.  You can be transformed from the inside out, move from unbelieving to believing, and have the assurance that one day you will enter into the joy of the Lord.