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Luke 1-6

THE GOOD NEWS ABOUT THE SON OF MAN

by LARRY CORY

 

A SUMMARY OF THE MESSAGE OF LUKE

Introduction (1:1-4)
Jesus' human birth and childhood (1:15-2:52)
Jesus, a man of about thirty, prepares for ministry (3:1-4:13)
Jesus' ministry in Galilee (4:14-9:50)
Jesus heads to Jerusalem and to His death (9:51-19:27)
Jesus' ministry in Jerusalem (19:28-21:38)
Jesus' last days (22:1-24:53)

 

Introductory Information about the Book of Luke

1. The author: Although the author does not name himself in the book, evidence external to the book also names Luke as the author.  "Early church tradition has consistently named Luke as the author of these volumes [Luke and Acts].  Justin (Dialogues 103, 19), the Muratorian Canon, Irenaeus (Against Heresies 3:1.1; 3:14).1, the so-called Anti-Marcionite canon and Tertullian (Against Marcion, 4:2.2; 4.5.3) name  Luke as the author." "Taken from Luke by Darrell Bock. Copyright 1994 by Intervarsity Press."

We learn in Luke 1:1-4 that Luke was not an eyewitness of what he writes in the Gospel of Luke, but he "carefully investigated" the reports of the "eyewitnesses."  We also learn in Colossians 4 that Luke was a Gentile and not a Jew.  We also learn from these verses in Colossians that he was a "doctor."  "Jesus, who is called Justus, also sends greetings. These are the only Jews among my fellow workers for the kingdom of God, and they have proved a comfort to me. Epaphras, who is one of you and a servant of Christ Jesus, sends greetings. He is always wrestling in prayer for you, that you may stand firm in all the will of God, mature and fully assured. I vouch for him that he is working hard for you and for those at Laodicea and Hierapolis. Our dear friend Luke, the doctor, and Demas send greetings." (Colossians 4:11-14)  This means that Luke was the only Gentile author of a New Testament book.

From the "we" section in Acts, we learn that Luke traveled with Paul on some of the missionary journeys. See Acts 16:10-17, 20:5-21:18, 27:1-28:16

2. The recipient: We are told in 1:3-4 that the recipient is "Theophilus."  "Therefore, since I myself have carefully investigated everything from the beginning, it seemed good also to me to write an orderly account for you, most excellent Theophilus, so that you may know the certainty of the things you have been taught." (Luke 1:3-4)  We are not given any information about this individual.  His Greek name indicates that he was a Gentile.  He may have been a government official—Luke may have referred to him as "most excellent Theophilus" because he was a government official who customarily was addressed in this fashion.

3. The theme:  The "emphasis on the human is the master-key which unlocks Luke's Gospel; it is the 'cipher-key' which interprets the inward meaning behind the outward story." "taken from Explore the Book by J. Sidlow Baxter. Copyright 1960 by Zondervan Publishing House."

Indeed, the humanside of Jesus is emphasized more in Luke than in the other Gospels.  The following are some examples of the Gospel of Luke's emphasis on the manhood of Jesus.  Jesus' genealogy in Luke 3:23-38 goes back to the first man Adam.  Luke mentions many individual men and women: Zechariah, Elizabeth, Simeon, Anna, Zacchaeus, the widow of Nain, Jairus, the widow of Zarephath, Naaman the Syrian, Cleopos, Simon the Cyrenian, the centurion at the cross who believed and others.  Many are not mentioned in the other Gospels (Zechariah, Elizabeth, Simeon, Anna, Zacchaeus, etc.).  Luke is the only Gospel that describes the visit of the shepherds to the baby Jesus.  It is the only Gospel that describes Joseph and Mary taking the baby Jesus to the temple.  And Luke is the only Gospel that records Jesus' visit to the temple as a twelve year old boy.  Luke also is unique among the Gospels in the number of women that are mentioned: Elizabeth, Anna, Mary and Martha (10:38-42), Mary Magdalene, Joanna and Susana (8:3), the widow of Nain (7:11-15), the sinful woman who anointed Jesus with perfume (7:36-50), and others. See also Lk. 23:27-29 There is also a parable of a persistent widow (18:1-8) and a parable about a woman looking for a lost coin (15:8-10).  We see Jesus' human compassion for those who were outcasts in their society—the tax-collector (18:13-14), Zacchaeus (19:1-19), the many widows, the Prodigal Son (15:11-32), and the thief on the cross (22:43).

 

THE MESSAGE OF LUKE

The Gospel of Luke emphasizes the human side of Jesus Christ.  Because  Luke emphasizes Jesus' humanity, be prepared to be drawn closer to Jesus the man.  Also, because Luke emphasizes Jesus' humanity, this Gospel also helps us to believe that Jesus understands our humanness.

Warren Wiersbe's commentary on Luke is titled Be Compassionate.  He believes, as I do, that Luke describes Jesus, the Son of God and the Son of Man, reaching out to our world of people with great compassion.  He believes that the key verse in Luke is 19:10—and I agree with him.  "For the Son of Man came to seek and to save what was lost." (Luke 19:10)  He says the following about pity:  "Jesus has proved conclusively that pity is a sign of strength, not weakness; and that God's power flows through loving hearts." "Taken from Be Compassionate by Warren Wiersbe.  Copyright 1998 by David C. Cook."

The Bible states God is compassionate.  "But you, O Lord, are a compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness." (Psalm 86:15)  "The Lord is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and rich in love. The Lord is good to all; he has compassion on all he has made." (Psalm 145:8-9)  "As you know, we consider blessed those who have persevered. You have heard of Job’s perseverance and have seen what the Lord finally brought about. The Lord is full of compassion and mercy." (James 5:11)

INTRODUCTION (1:1-4)
"Many have undertaken to draw up an account of the things that have been fulfilled among us, just as they were handed down to us by those who from the first were eyewitnesses and servants of the word. Therefore, since I myself have carefully investigated everything from the beginning, it seemed good also to me to write an orderly account for you, most excellent Theophilus, so that you may know the certainty of the things you have been taught."

Thought Question:  What do we learn about how the Bible was written from these verses?

 

 

"Many have undertaken to draw up an account of the things that have been fulfilled among us, just as they were handed down to us by those who from the first were eyewitnesses and servants of the word."  Luke, here, follows the pattern of Greek historians of his time.  "Luke uses the very form of introduction which the great Greek historians all used." "Taken from The Gospel of Luke by William Barclay. Copyright 1975 by the Westminster Press."

As the other Greek historians of his day did, he describes for us the process he used in gathering information for the writing of this Gospel.  First, we learn that he benefitted from the eyewitness accounts that "were handed down" to him.  Luke tells us that he could trace what he writes in this Gospel back to those who were "eyewitnesses" of the accounts that he writes about.

"Many have undertaken to draw up an account"  It appears that Jesus' life was considered to be so important that "many" had attempted to record His life and ministry.  Vincent gives the following observation about the Greek word that is translated "undertaken' in the NIV:  "The word carries the sense of a difficult undertaking (see Acts 19:13), and implies that previous attempts have not been successful." "Taken from Word Studies in the New Testament by M. R. Vincent.  Copyright 1972 by Associated Publishers and Authors."

Luke added to the accounts of others.  "Luke's contribution will add a unique sequel to the portrait . . . and will bring in much new detail about Jesus, since virtually half of the material in Luke's Gospel does not appear in the other Gospels we possess." "Taken from Luke by Darrell Bock. Copyright 1994 by Intervarsity Press."

"things that have been fulfilled among us,"  Jesus' life "fulfilled" promises made by God in the Old Testament.  "He said to them, 'How foolish you are, and how slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! Did not the Christ have to suffer these things and then enter his glory?' And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself." (Luke 24:25-27)  "He said to them, 'This is what I told you while I was still with you: Everything must be fulfilled that is written about me in the Law of Moses, the Prophets and the Psalms.'" (Luke 24:44)

"just as they were handed down to us"  These eyewitness accounts were probably "handed down" by both oral traditions and written accounts.

Here, we are given insight into the process God used in the writing of the Bible.  God did not dictate His message to Luke.  Instead, God guided and directed as Luke did scholarly research on the eyewitness accounts that were available to him.  Yet, Luke was guided by the Holy Spirit as he did his research and as he wrote down what he learned.  He was guided even in the words that he used.  "Above all, you must understand that no prophecy of Scripture came about by the prophet’s own interpretation. For prophecy never had its origin in the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit." (2 Peter 1:20-21) See also II Tim. 3:16-17; II Pet. 3:15; I Cor. 2:12-13

"servants of the word."  The "eyewitnesses" passed on what they heard and saw by preaching and teaching them to others.  That was the pattern among the early Christians.  "Those who had been scattered preached the word wherever they went." (Acts 8:4)

"from the beginning"  Luke started with the birth of John the Baptist—that occurred even before Jesus' birth. See Lk. 1:5-25, 57-66

"Therefore, since I myself have carefully investigated everything from the beginning, it seemed good also to me to write an orderly account for you, most excellent Theophilus,"  Luke makes it clear here that he was very careful that what he wrote in this Gospel was accurate and well organized.

"Theophilus"  He probably was a Gentile believer.  "Most excellent" may have been a title for a government official. We see a governor addressed this way in the book of Acts.  "Claudius Lysias, To His Excellency, Governor Felix: Greetings." (Acts 23:26)

"so that you may know the certainty of the things you have been taught."  "Certainty" translates the Greek word for "fail" with an "a" in front of it—so, it equals "not fail."  "Hence steadfastness, stability, security against error." "Taken from Word Studies in the New Testament by M. R. Vincent.  Copyright 1972 by Associated Publishers and Authors."  Luke wants his Gospel to give "Theophilus" greater confidence about what is accurate and trustworthy about Jesus' life and ministry.

"things you have been taught."  "Theophilus" already had received instruction about Jesus.  I am reminded of the following words of Paul to the Roman Christians.  "I long to see you so that I may impart to you some spiritual gift to make you strong—" (Romans 1:11)  It appears that Luke had a similar goal with "Theophilus"—that his Gospel account would strengthen his faith.

JESUS' HUMAN BIRTH AND CHILDHOOD (1:5-2:52)

1. Jesus' human forerunner—John the Baptist's birth (1:5-25)

a. The announcement of John's birth to Zechariah his father by the angel Gabriel (1:5-17)
"In the time of Herod king of Judea there was a priest named Zechariah, who belonged to the priestly division of Abijah; his wife Elizabeth was also a descendant of Aaron. Both of them were upright in the sight of God, observing all the Lord’s commandments and regulations blamelessly. But they had no children, because Elizabeth was barren; and they were both well along in years. Once when Zechariah’s division was on duty and he was serving as priest before God, he was chosen by lot, according to the custom of the priesthood, to go into the temple of the Lord and burn incense. And when the time for the burning of incense came, all the assembled worshipers were praying outside. Then an angel of the Lord appeared to him, standing at the right side of the altar of incense. When Zechariah saw him, he was startled and was gripped with fear. But the angel said to him: 'Do not be afraid, Zechariah; your prayer has been heard. Your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you are to give him the name John. He will be a joy and delight to you, and many will rejoice because of his birth, for he will be great in the sight of the Lord. He is never to take wine or other fermented drink, and he will be filled with the Holy Spirit even from birth. Many of the people of Israel will he bring back to the Lord their God. And he will go on before the Lord, in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the fathers to their children and the disobedient to the wisdom of the righteous—to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.'"

Thought Question: How do you believe that you would respond if an angel appeared to you?

 

 

"In the time of Herod king of Judea there was a priest named Zechariah, who belonged to the priestly division of Abijah; his wife Elizabeth was also a descendant of Aaron."  God had been silent for about 400 years.  This announcement by the angel Gabriel to Zechariah, who would become the father of John the Baptist, breaks that silence.  God's plan for man is about to resume with the birth of John the Baptist, followed by the birth of Jesus Christ.

"In the time of Herod king of Judea"  "Herod the great reigned from 37-4 B.C. . . . and his kingdom also included Samaria, Galilee, much of Perea and Coela-Syria." "NIV Study Bible note."

"there was a priest named Zechariah, who belonged to the priestly division of Abijah;"  David divided the priests into twenty-four divisions. See II Chron. 24:1-6  One of those divisions were the descendents of "Abijah"—the eighth "division." See I Chron. 24:7-19  See also II Chron. 8:14

"his wife Elizabeth was also a descendant of Aaron."  Priests were to marry only virgin Jewish women.  "'“The woman he marries must be a virgin. He must not marry a widow, a divorced woman, or a woman defiled by prostitution, but only a virgin from his own people, so he will not defile his offspring among his people. I am the Lord, who makes him holy.”'" (Leviticus 21:13-15)  "Zechariah" was faithful to God in not only marrying a virgin woman from Israel, but he also married a fellow descendent of "Aaron."

"Both of them were upright in the sight of God, observing all the Lord’s commandments and regulations blamelessly. But they had no children, because Elizabeth was barren; and they were both well along in years."  When Luke describes them as "upright in the sight of God," we know that he was not saying that they were sinless, for no one but Jesus Christ has ever been sinless.  "As it is written: 'There is no one righteous, not even one; . . . '" (Romans 3:10) "for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God." (Romans 3:23)  But, they were a God-fearing couple who honored God in their lives. See Job 1:1; Lk. 2:25

In spite of their faithful walk with God, they had not experienced one of the greatest blessings of life—having their own children.  That was about to change, and in a very important way. See also Gen. 30:1; I Sam. 3:3-20

"Once when Zechariah’s division was on duty and he was serving as priest before God, he was chosen by lot, according to the custom of the priesthood, to go into the temple of the Lord and burn incense."  "The offering of incense was regarded as a great privilege.  A priest could not offer incense more than once in his entire lifetime (Mishna, Tamid 5:2), and some priests never did receive the privilege.  Thus the time when Zechariah offered the incense was the most important moment in his whole life." "Taken from Luke by Leon Morris.  Copyright 1946 by Intervarsity Press."

"Four lots were drawn to determine the order of the ministry of the day: the first, before daybreak, to designate the priests who were to cleanse the altar and prepare its fires; the second for the priest who was to offer the sacrifice and cleanse the candlestick and the altar of incense; the third for the priest who should burn incense; and the fourth appointing those who were to lay the sacrifice and meat-offering on the altar, and pour out the drink offering.  There are said to have been twenty thousand priests in Christ's time so that no priest would ever offer incense more than once." "Taken from Word Studies in the New Testament by M. R. Vincent.  Copyright 1972 by Associated Publishers and Authors." 

So, the fact that "Zechariah" was chosen to be the only priest to go into the Holy Place to "burn incense" and to be alone behind the curtain on that day was certainly a work of God's providential working.  When God chooses for something to happen, it will happen!

"And when the time for the burning of incense came, all the assembled worshipers were praying outside."  This crowd in the court of Israel outside the Holy Place was to become an important part of this account, as we will see.

"Then an angel of the Lord appeared to him, standing at the right side of the altar of incense. When Zechariah saw him, he was startled and was gripped with fear. But the angel said to him: 'Do not be afraid, Zechariah; your prayer has been heard. Your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you are to give him the name John.'" 

How would we respond if an "angel" suddenly appeared to us?  The Bible is clear; we would be terrified.  "Zechariah" was "gripped with fear."  Gideon's response was similar.  "When Gideon realized that it was the angel of the Lord, he exclaimed, 'Ah, Sovereign Lord! I have seen the angel of the Lord face to face!' But the Lord said to him, 'Peace! Do not be afraid. You are not going to die.'" (Judges 6:22-23)  In Gideon's case, it was actually God who appeared to him.

Daniel responded in the same way.  "On the twenty-fourth day of the first month, as I was standing on the bank of the great river, the Tigris, I looked up and there before me was a man dressed in linen, with a belt of the finest gold around his waist. His body was like chrysolite, his face like lightning, his eyes like flaming torches, his arms and legs like the gleam of burnished bronze, and his voice like the sound of a multitude. I, Daniel, was the only one who saw the vision; the men with me did not see it, but such terror overwhelmed them that they fled and hid themselves. So I was left alone, gazing at this great vision; I had no strength left, my face turned deathly pale and I was helpless. Then I heard him speaking, and as I listened to him, I fell into a deep sleep, my face to the ground. A hand touched me and set me trembling on my hands and knees. He said, 'Daniel, you who are highly esteemed, consider carefully the words I am about to speak to you, and stand up, for I have now been sent to you.' And when he said this to me, I stood up trembling. Then he continued, 'Do not be afraid, Daniel. Since the first day that you set your mind to gain understanding and to humble yourself before your God, your words were heard, and I have come in response to them. But the prince of the Persian kingdom resisted me twenty-one days. Then Michael, one of the chief princes, came to help me, because I was detained there with the king of Persia.'" (Daniel 10:4-13)

The apostle John also responded in fear when he saw the glorified Jesus.  "When I saw him, I fell at his feet as though dead. Then he placed his right hand on me and said: 'Do not be afraid. I am the First and the Last.'" (Revelation 1:17)  When heavenly beings make their appearance on earth, we humans respond in terror.

"'Do not be afraid, Zechariah'" As the "angel" told "Zechariah," we who have put our faith in Jesus, have nothing to fear in God's presence.  Jesus' blood has given us free access into God's holy presence.  "Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the Most Holy Place by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way opened for us through the curtain, that is, his body, and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near to God with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water. Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful."      (Hebrews 10:19-23)  "There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love." (1 John 4:18)

Nevertheless, when the heavenly and holy appears to men and women, we become immediately aware of our weakness and fallenness.  So, the words, "Do not be afraid" are very appropriate. See Isa. 6:5  See also Lk. 1:30, 2:10, 5:10, 8:50, 12:7, 32

"your prayer has been heard."  Daniel also was told by an "angel" that his prayers had "been heard."  "Then he continued, 'Do not be afraid, Daniel. Since the first day that you set your mind to gain understanding and to humble yourself before your God, your words were heard, and I have come in response to them.'" (Daniel 10:12)

When we pray and there is no immediate response to our prayers, we can think that our prayers are not being heard.  Certainly, "Zechariah" thought, that the fact that "Elizabeth" had not given birth to a child meant that they would continue to be childless.

"Your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you are to give him the name John. He will be a joy and delight to you, and many will rejoice because of his birth,"  The "angel" promises that the childless "Zechariah" and "Elizabeth" were soon to have a child.  And, not only that, their child would be a very special "son" who would not only bring "joy" to them, but he would bring "joy" to many others as well.

This good news that brought "joy" to "Zechariah" is what brings "joy" to most fathers.  It is when our wife says to us, "We are going to have a baby."  But, it brings even greater "joy" to the parents who thought that they would never have a baby.  I can remember a time when my wife Shirley and I had both returned from two doctors.  We both had just learned that we would not be able to have children.  Then, some time later, there was great joy when we learned that we were going to have a child.  And, later, we had still another child.  We have some idea about the joy that "Zechariah" began to experience that day.

"and you are to give him the name John."  "The name (derived from Hebrew) means 'The Lord is gracious.'" "NIV Study Bible note."

"for he will be great in the sight of the Lord. He is never to take wine or other fermented drink, and he will be filled with the Holy Spirit even from birth."  We see some similarities between Samuel, Samson, and "John" the Baptist in that they each were set apart to God in a unique way.  "In bitterness of soul Hannah wept much and prayed to the Lord. And she made a vow, saying, 'O Lord Almighty, if you will only look upon your servant’s misery and remember me, and not forget your servant but give her a son, then I will give him to the Lord for all the days of his life, and no razor will ever be used on his head.'" (I Samuel 1:10-11)  "A certain man of Zorah, named Manoah, from the clan of the Danites, had a wife who was sterile and remained childless. The angel of the Lord appeared to her and said, 'You are sterile and childless, but you are going to conceive and have a son. Now see to it that you drink no wine or other fermented drink and that you do not eat anything unclean, because you will conceive and give birth to a son. No razor may be used on his head, because the boy is to be a Nazirite, set apart to God from birth, and he will begin the deliverance of Israel from the hands of the Philistines.' Then the woman went to her husband and told him, 'A man of God came to me. He looked like an angel of God, very awesome. I didn’t ask him where he came from, and he didn’t tell me his name. But he said to me, “You will conceive and give birth to a son. Now then, drink no wine or other fermented drink and do not eat anything unclean, because the boy will be a Nazirite of God from birth until the day of his death.”'" (Judges 13:2-7) See also Judges 16:7

It does not appear, though, that "John" was to live according to the Nazirite vow as Samson was, for there is nothing said about him not cutting his hair. See Numb. 6:1-21  Also, with Samuel, nothing is said about him refraining from alcohol.

"John is the only person said in the New Testament to be filled with the Spirit from his mother's womb, this emphasizes the fact that God chose him and equipped him from the very beginning." "Taken from Luke by Leon Morris.  Copyright 1946 by Intervarsity Press."

"Many of the people of Israel will he bring back to the Lord their God."  What greater human greatness can there be than that one turns "many back to the Lord"?

"'And he will go on before the Lord, in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the fathers to their children and the disobedient to the wisdom of the righteous—to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.'"

In the book of Malachi, we find these words.  "See, I will send you the prophet Elijah before that great and dreadful day of the Lord comes. He will turn the hearts of the fathers to their children, and the hearts of the children to their fathers; or else I will come and strike the land with a curse." (Malachi 4:5-6)  "John" the Baptist, in his ministry of preparing the way for Jesus, fulfilled this Elijah-type of ministry.

What is meant by "turn the hearts of the fathers to their children"?  It appears to me that the best interpretation of these words is that it describes fathers and children being restored to a mutually good relationship with each other and with God.

The next words in this verse confirm this interpretation.  "'and the disobedient to the wisdom of the righteous—to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.'"  "Wisdom phonesei Wyc., prudence.  This is a lower word than sophia, wisdom . . . It is an attribute or result of wisdom, and not necessarily in a good sense, though mostly so in the New Testament. . . . It is practical intelligence." "Taken from Word Studies in the New Testament by M. R. Vincent.  Copyright 1972 by Associated Publishers and Authors."

"John" will turn the people of Israel from foolish rebellion to a wise and prudent life.  This will prepare them for Jesus' ministry that would begin right after John's ministry.  "A voice of one calling: 'In the desert prepare the way for the Lord; make straight in the wilderness a highway for our God.'" (Isaiah 40:3)

b. Zechariah's doubts (1:18)
"Zechariah asked the angel, 'How can I be sure of this? I am an old man and my wife is well along in years.'"  "Zechariah," at this point is living by sight.  His sight tells him that he is very old and his wife is very old.  God, through the "angel," told him that they would have a child; but the reality that he saw told him the opposite—it told him that old people do not have children.

Faith is believing that the reality that is described in the Bible is as real as the reality we see.  In the reality described in the Bible, old people can be miraculously enabled to have babies.  The God who put the stars in place is able to do it.  "But Abram said, 'O Sovereign Lord, what can you give me since I remain childless and the one who will inherit my estate is Eliezer of Damascus?' And Abram said, 'You have given me no children; so a servant in my household will be my heir.' Then the word of the Lord came to him: 'This man will not be your heir, but a son coming from your own body will be your heir.' He took him outside and said, 'Look up at the heavens and count the stars—if indeed you can count them.' Then he said to him, 'So shall your offspring be.' Abram believed the Lord, and he credited it to him as righteousness." (Genesis 15:2-6)  " Now the Lord was gracious to Sarah as he had said, and the Lord did for Sarah what he had promised." (Genesis 21:1)  "Against all hope, Abraham in hope believed and so became the father of many nations, just as it had been said to him, 'So shall your offspring be.' Without weakening in his faith, he faced the fact that his body was as good as dead—since he was about a hundred years old—and that Sarah’s womb was also dead. Yet he did not waver through unbelief regarding the promise of God, but was strengthened in his faith and gave glory to God, being fully persuaded that God had power to do what he had promised. This is why 'it was credited to him as righteousness.'" (Romans 4:18-22)

We each face the same situation that "Zechariah" faced every day.  The world that is opposed to God makes it look like we who believe in God are on the losing side.  Yet, the Bible says that we are on the winning side.  Which will we believe, what we see or what God's word says is true?  "for everyone born of God overcomes the world. This is the victory that has overcome the world, even our faith." (1 John 5:4)  "We live by faith, not by sight." (2 Corinthians 5:7)

c. God's judgment on Zechariah for his unbelief (1:19-25)
"The angel answered, 'I am Gabriel. I stand in the presence of God, and I have been sent to speak to you and to tell you this good news. And now you will be silent and not able to speak until the day this happens, because you did not believe my words, which will come true at their proper time.' Meanwhile, the people were waiting for Zechariah and wondering why he stayed so long in the temple. When he came out, he could not speak to them. They realized he had seen a vision in the temple, for he kept making signs to them but remained unable to speak. When his time of service was completed, he returned home. After this his wife Elizabeth became pregnant and for five months remained in seclusion. 'The Lord has done this for me,' she said. 'In these days he has shown his favor and taken away my disgrace among the people.'"

Thought Question:  Name a time when you looked at a problem rather than at God who was bigger than your problem?

 

 

"The angel answered, 'I am Gabriel. I stand in the presence of God, and I have been sent to speak to you and to tell you this good news."  "Gabriel" contrasts "Zechariah" the old man of this earth with himself—an eternal "angel" who stands "in the presence of God."  Who is more trustworthy about what is going to happen and what God is able to make happen?

As was mentioned earlier, "Gabriel" is also mentioned in Daniel.  "While I, Daniel, was watching the vision and trying to understand it, there before me stood one who looked like a man. And I heard a man’s voice from the Ulai calling, 'Gabriel, tell this man the meaning of the vision.' As he came near the place where I was standing, I was terrified and fell prostrate. 'Son of man,' he said to me, 'understand that the vision concerns the time of the end.'" (Daniel 8:15-17) See also Dan. 9:21-27  "The only other angel mentioned by name in Scripture is Michael (Dan. 10:13, 21; Jude 9; Rev. 12:7)." "Taken from Luke by William Hendriksen. Copyright 1978 by Baker Book House."

"in the presence of God."  These words may tell us that "Gabriel" has a high and unique role among God's angels.  For example, he may be one of the seven angels mentioned in Revelation 8:2 "who stand before God."  "And I saw the seven angels who stand before God, and to them were given seven trumpets." (Revelation 8:2)  But in Matt. 18:10, Jesus tells us that all the angels "always see the face" of Jesus' "Father in heaven." 

"And now you will be silent and not able to speak until the day this happens, because you did not believe my words, which will come true at their proper time.'"  God's "angel" was sent from God's "presence" to speak to "Zechariah," yet he would not believe the angel's message from God.  "Zechariah" needed to learn in a dramatic way that this was not acceptable.  So, "Zechariah" was struck dumb until the prediction of the "angel" came true.  The last words "Zechariah" spoke were his words of unbelief.  "The tongue that was not ready to speak the language of believing praise was struck speechless." "Taken from Expository Thoughts of the Gospels by J. C. Ryle."  We see in Luke 1:67-80, that when "Zechariah" did speak, it was in words of great praise toward God.

Verse 62 of this chapter says the following:  "Then they made signs to his father, to find out what he would like to name the child." (Luke 1:62)  The "father" is "Zechariah."  Since they needed to make "signs" to him, it appears that he was not only unable to speak, but he was also unable to hear.

"Meanwhile, the people were waiting for Zechariah and wondering why he stayed so long in the temple. When he came out, he could not speak to them. They realized he had seen a vision in the temple, for he kept making signs to them but remained unable to speak."

They were surprised that it was taking so long for "Zechariah" to return.  "The Talmud says that the priest remained only a brief time in the sanctuary." "Taken from Word Pictures in the New Testament by A. T. Robertson. Volume II.  Copyright 1930 by Broadman Press." 

"for he kept making signs to them but remained unable to speak."  Try to put yourself in Zechariah's shoes.  You had just seen an angel and now you are "unable" to tell people what has just happened to you.  All you can do is make "signs" to communicate the amazing experience that you just had.

"When his time of service was completed, he returned home. After this his wife Elizabeth became pregnant and for five months remained in seclusion. 'The Lord has done this for me,' she said. 'In these days he has shown his favor and taken away my disgrace among the people.'"  Why did "Elizabeth" remain "in seclusion" "for five months"?  It may be that she did not want to be in public and experience being a social outcast for being childless while it was not yet evident that she was pregnant.  After "five months," it would have been obvious that she was no longer childless.  She gives glory to God for taking away her "disgrace among the people."  Not only was she about to bear a baby, but the baby would play a significant role in God's plans.  Somehow, "Zechariah" had communicated to "Elizabeth" his amazing experience with the "angel" "Gabriel" in the Holy Place in the temple."

2. The human birth of Jesus Christ foretold by Gabriel (1:26-38)

a. The angel Gabriel appears to Mary (1:26-38)
"In the sixth month, God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a town in Galilee, to a virgin pledged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendant of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. The angel went to her and said, 'Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you.'"

Thought Question:  How would you have responded if an angel appeared to you and said what he said to Mary?

 

 

"In the sixth month, God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a town in Galilee, to a virgin pledged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendant of David. The virgin’s name was Mary."

It appears that "the sixth month" was the "sixth month" of Elizabeth's pregnancy.  Listen to Gabriel's words to Mary in verse 36: "Even Elizabeth your relative is going to have a child in her old age, and she who was said to be barren is in her sixth month."

"God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a town in Galilee,"  God chose a young lady who was from a very small village called "Nazareth."  The Jews in Jerusalem despised the northern region of "Galilee" which was called "Galilee of the Gentiles." (Matt. 4:15)  They also despised "Nazareth."  "“Nazareth! Can anything good come from there?”. . . " (John 1:46)  Evidently, there was nothing that was great about "Galilee" or "Nazareth."  God chooses that which is humble and makes it great.  "God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth," and it went from being a humble unknown town to being one of the most famous towns in the history of the world.

"to a virgin pledged to be married to a man named Joseph,"  She was in the betrothal period which comes before the actual marriage—like our engagement period, but it was more binding.  "Betrothal usually lasted a year and unfaithfulness on the part of the bride was punished by death (Dert. 23:24f.)." "Taken from Word Pictures in the New Testament by A. T. Robertson. Volume II.  Copyright 1930 by Broadman Press." 

"a virgin"  Isaiah predicted that the Messiah would be born to a "virgin."  "Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel." (Isaiah 7:14) Matthew says that Jesus' birth by a "virgin" fulfilled this prophecy.  "This is how the birth of Jesus Christ came about: His mother Mary was pledged to be married to Joseph, but before they came together, she was found to be with child through the Holy Spirit. Because Joseph her husband was a righteous man and did not want to expose her to public disgrace, he had in mind to divorce her quietly. But after he had considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, 'Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.' All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet: 'The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel'—which means, 'God with us.'" (Matthew 1:18-23)

"a descendant of David."  The Bible predicts that the Messiah would be a "descendant of David."  "Your house and your kingdom will endure forever before me; your throne will be established forever." [addressed to David] (2 Samuel 7:16)  "Of the increase of his government and peace there will be no end. He will reign on David’s throne and over his kingdom, establishing and upholding it with justice and righteousness from that time on and forever. The zeal of the Lord Almighty will accomplish this." (Isaiah 9:7)  "A shoot will come up from the stump of Jesse; from his roots a Branch will bear fruit." (Isaiah 11:1)  "You said, 'I have made a covenant with my chosen one, I have sworn to David my servant, “I will establish your line forever and make your throne firm through all generations.”' Selah" (Psalm 89:3-4) See also Lk. 1:32-33

"'Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you.'"  "Highly favored" could also be translated "endowed with grace (charis), or enriched with grace," for  the Greek word has as its root the Greek word for grace—you have been highly graced. "Taken from Word Pictures in the New Testament by A. T. Robertson. Volume II.  Copyright 1930 by Broadman Press." 

At Christmas, our family has the tradition of reading the birth accounts of Jesus before we open our presents.  On a recent Christmas, I asked what they believed it was like for Mary at the moment that she heard these words of "Gabriel."  Our granddaughter Rebekah said, "It would be different than anything that has ever happened before!"  And, she was completely right.  No other woman had ever heard or will ever hear again that she will be the mother of the Messiah.  She was, indeed, "highly favored."

b. The frightened Mary is comforted by Gabriel (1:29-33)
"Mary was greatly troubled at his words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be. But the angel said to her, 'Do not be afraid, Mary, you have found favor with God. You will be with child and give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever; his kingdom will never end.'"

Thought Question: Why do you think that Mary was "troubled at his words"?

 

 

"Mary was greatly troubled at his words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be."  What was happening to "Mary" so suddenly was not at all what she expected would happen to her that day.  She did not feel that she deserved any special treatment—she undoubtedly felt like she was a very ordinary woman.  "Why would God and this "angel" pick me out?"  Her humble statement shows that she was exactly the type of person that God picks out to be used by Him: "For this is what the high and lofty One says— he who lives forever, whose name is holy: 'I live in a high and holy place, but also with him who is contrite and lowly in spirit, to revive the spirit of the lowly and to revive the heart of the contrite.'" (Isaiah 57:15)

This humility of Mary's is quite different from how the Roman Catholic Church views Mary.  "It is a well-known fact the Roman Catholic Church pays an honor the Virgin Mary, hardly inferior to that which it pays to her blessed Son.  She is formally declared by the Roman Church to have been 'conceived without sin.'  She is held up to Roman Catholics as an object of worship, and prayed to as a mediator between God man, no less powerful than Christ Himself.  For all this, be it remembered, there is not the slightest warrant in Scripture." "Taken from Expository Thoughts of the Gospels by J. C. Ryle."

"But the angel said to her, 'Do not be afraid, Mary, you have found favor with God. You will be with child and give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High.'"

"The name Jesus" means the same as the name Joshua—which means "Savior."  Matthew gives some additional explanation of the meaning of the name.  "She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins." (Matthew 1:21)  "Jesus is the Greek form of Joshua which means the Lord saves." "NIV Study Bible note on Matthew 1:21."

"He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High."  Isaiah 9:6-7 predicts the birth of a "great" One: "For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the increase of his government and peace there will be no end. He will reign on David’s throne and over his kingdom, establishing and upholding it with justice and righteousness from that time on and forever. The zeal of the Lord Almighty will accomplish this." See also Jn. 1:1-3, 14, 17:5, 20:28, Phil. 2:6-11; Col. 1:15-20; Heb. 1:1-14 where Jesus is described as "the Son of the Most High." 

"'The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever; his kingdom will never end.'"  Here, "Gabriel" describes One with both complete authority and eternal existence—He will rule on David's "throne" "forever."  And "his kingdom will never end."  This King and "kingdom" are predicted in the Old Testament.  "'The days are coming,' declares the Lord, 'when I will raise up to David a righteous Branch, a King who will reign wisely and do what is just and right in the land. In his days Judah will be saved and Israel will live in safety. This is the name by which he will be called: The Lord Our Righteousness.'" (Jeremiah 23:5-6) See also Isa. 9:6-7, 16:5; Ps. 89:4, 28-29, 35-37, 132:11; Jer. 33:14-18

"forever"  When Jesus returns, He will finally conquer the forces who have been opposed to His rule.  At that time, He will establish "his kingdom" that will last "forever."  "The seventh angel sounded his trumpet, and there were loud voices in heaven, which said: 'The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Christ, and he will reign for ever and ever.'" (Revelation 11:15) See Ps. 45:6; Heb. 1:8-9

c. Gabriel explains how the virgin birth will take place. (1:34-38)
"'How will this be,' Mary asked the angel, 'since I am a virgin?' The angel answered, 'The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God. Even Elizabeth your relative is going to have a child in her old age, and she who was said to be barren is in her sixth month. For nothing is impossible with God.' 'I am the Lord’s servant,' Mary answered. 'May it be to me as you have said.' Then the angel left her."

Thought Question:  How can the angel's words help us when it is hard for us to trust God for something?

 

 

"'How will this be,' Mary asked the angel, 'since I am a virgin?'"  Since "Gabriel" does not rebuke "Mary" for unbelief as he did "Zechariah," it appears that what "Mary" said was not in unbelief, but was a plea for clarification.  She wanted to know how a "virgin" could bear a child.  Somehow, she understood "Gabriel" to mean that she would bear a child before her marriage to Joseph was consummated.

"The angel answered, 'The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God."  The way the "Holy Spirit" brought forth the conception of Jesus Christ reminds us of other times when God came down and overshadowed in some way.  Here are some examples:  "On the morning of the third day there was thunder and lightning, with a thick cloud over the mountain, and a very loud trumpet blast. Everyone in the camp trembled. Then Moses led the people out of the camp to meet with God, and they stood at the foot of the mountain. Mount Sinai was covered with smoke, because the Lord descended on it in fire. The smoke billowed up from it like smoke from a furnace, the whole mountain trembled violently, and the sound of the trumpet grew louder and louder. Then Moses spoke and the voice of God answered him. The Lord descended to the top of Mount Sinai and called Moses to the top of the mountain. So Moses went up and the Lord said to him, 'Go down and warn the people so they do not force their way through to see the Lord and many of them perish.'" (Exodus 19:16-21)  "Then the Lord came down in a pillar of cloud; he stood at the entrance to the Tent and summoned Aaron and Miriam. When both of them stepped forward," (Numbers 12:5)  "While he was still speaking, a bright cloud enveloped them, and a voice from the cloud said, 'This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased. Listen to him!'" (Matthew 17:5)

"Gabriel was careful to point out that the baby would be a 'holy thing' and would not share the sinful nature of man.  Jesus knew no sin (2 Cor. 5:21), He did no sin (1 Peter 2:22), and He had no sin (1 John 3:5)." "Taken from Be Compassionate by Warren Wiersbe.  Copyright 1988 by Warren Wiersbe."  "God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God." (2 Corinthians 5:21)

So, God's "Holy Spirit" was about to "come upon" "Mary" and "overshadow" her.  "Shall overshadow thee (episkiasei).  A figure of a cloud coming upon her." "Taken from Word Pictures in the New Testament by A. T. Robertson. Volume II.  Copyright 1930 by Broadman Press."

"So the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God."  The Father called Him "the Son of God."  "And a voice from heaven said, 'This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.'" (Matthew 3:17)  "While he was still speaking, a bright cloud enveloped them, and a voice from the cloud said, 'This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased. Listen to him!'" (Matthew 17:5)  Jesus referred to Himself as "the Son of God."  "He trusts in God. Let God rescue him now if he wants him, for he said, 'I am the Son of God.'" (Matthew 27:43)

The Holy Spirit gave birth within Mary to the "holy" "Son of God."  "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made." (John 1:1-3)  "The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth." (John 1:14)

"'Even Elizabeth your relative is going to have a child in her old age, and she who was said to be barren is in her sixth month. For nothing is impossible with God.'"  "Faith never rests so calmly and peacefully as when it lays its head on the pillow of God's omnipotence." "Taken from Expository Thoughts of the Gospels by J. C. Ryle."

God said something similar to Abraham before the birth of Isaac as "Gabriel" said to "Mary."  "'Is anything too hard for the Lord? I will return to you at the appointed time next year and Sarah will have a son.'" (Genesis 18:14) See also Jer. 32:17; Matt. 19:26

The God to whom "nothing is impossible" was able to give a child to the "virgin" "Mary" and the barren "Elizabeth."  He is also just as able to guide our lives to accomplish the purposes He has for us.  Someone in our family owed an amount to a lawyer.  We decided to pay the bill.  I called the lawyer today.  He took $1,000 off the bill.  "For nothing is impossible with God."

A more literal translation of Luke 1:37 is found in Disciples Literal New Testament: "because no word from God will be impossible."

"'I am the Lord’s servant,' Mary answered. 'May it be to me as you have said.' Then the angel left her."  Here, we see the heart of "Mary."  She was a humble "servant" of God.  The Greek word translated "servant" is doulei.  It is the way Paul often referred to himself.  "Paul, a servant of Christ Jesus, . . . " (Romans 1:1a)  "In view of the story recorded in Matt. 1:18, 19 this was not easy.  Mary knew that becoming pregnant at this time particular time, before her marriage to Joseph had been consummated would expose her to painful criticism and ridicule; perhaps to something even worse (see Deut. 22:23 f.).  But she made a complete surrender.  She placed herself, body and soul, at the disposal of God who loved her and who, by means of this promised pregnancy and childbirth, was bestowing upon her an inestimable blessing." "Taken from Luke by William Hendriksen. Copyright 1978 by Baker Book House."  May we also choose to be a "servant" of God, trusting Him no matter what trials it may produce for us.

3. John's mother visits Jesus' mother (1:39-45)
"At that time Mary got ready and hurried to a town in the hill country of Judea, where she entered Zechariah’s home and greeted Elizabeth. When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the baby leaped in her womb, and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit. In a loud voice she exclaimed: 'Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the child you will bear! But why am I so favored, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? As soon as the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the baby in my womb leaped for joy. Blessed is she who has believed that what the Lord has said to her will be accomplished!'"

Thought Question:  When have you shared in the joy of someone who has just been blessed by God? (when he or she had just become a Christian, just been healed, just found out she was going to have a baby, etc.)

 

 

"At that time Mary got ready and hurried to a town in the hill country of Judea, where she entered Zechariah’s home and greeted Elizabeth."  The "angel" "Gabriel" told "Mary" that "Elizabeth" was also going to have a miraculous baby. See 1:36  It is very natural for "Mary" to hurry off to visit "Elizabeth."  We learn here that "Elizabeth," even though she was a relative of Mary's, did not live near "Mary" in Galilee, but in southern part of Israel—in "Judea."

"When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the baby leaped in her womb, and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit."  Although babies move in their mother's womb at this age, "Elizabeth" was "filled with the Holy Spirit" so that she could recognize that her baby was somehow recognizing that the Messiah had just "entered" the house.  John "leaped," ready for the time when his purpose on earth would begin, and he would prepare the world for the ministry of Jesus the Messiah.

"In a loud voice she exclaimed: 'Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the child you will bear!'" In "a moment of ecstatic excitement," "Elizabeth" cried out! "Taken from Word Pictures in the New Testament by A. T. Robertson. Volume II.  Copyright 1930 by Broadman Press."

"'Blessed are you among women,'"  In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus begins His sermon with a list of the heart dispositions of those who will experience God's blessing.  This word "blessed" describes those who experience a deep-hearted happiness as a result of God blessing them with His life, love, and joy.  "Mary" was experiencing this type of blessing as she began her new life as God's chosen mother for His Son.
"'Blessed are you among women' is the Aramaic and Hebrew manner of expressing the superlative.  The meaning, therefore, is, 'Mary, among all women on earth, you are the most blessed one!'" "Taken from Luke by William Hendriksen. Copyright 1978 by Baker Book House." 

"But why am I so favored, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? As soon as the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the baby in my womb leaped for joy."  How did "Elizabeth" know that "Mary" was the mother of her "Lord"?  The "angel" "Gabriel" did not tell "Zechariah" her husband.  "Mary" had not told her.  We can only conclude that God's Spirit revealed to her why her baby had "leaped for joy" in her "womb." 

"'My Lord' is a term describing the Messiah.  " Of David. A psalm. The Lord says to my Lord: 'Sit at my right hand until I make your enemies a footstool for your feet.' The Lord will extend your mighty scepter from Zion; you will rule in the midst of your enemies." (Psalm 110:1-2) See also Matt. 22:42-45  "We should not miss the absence of all jealousy in Elizabeth's attitude to Mary." "Taken from Luke by Leon Morris.  Copyright 1946 by Intervarsity Press."

"Blessed is she who has believed that what the Lord has said to her will be accomplished!'"  Mary's eagerness to see Elizabeth shows her complete faith that what "Gabriel" had promised her would come to pass.  Christian joy comes from our belief that what God says is true—we are forgiven, we are indwelt by God's Spirit, and we will resurrect to be part of God's family forever.  Our joy or lack of joy is determined by our faith or lack of faith.  "Mary" was "blessed" because she "believed that what the Lord had said to her" would "be accomplished"!

4. Mary's song (1:46-56)
"And Mary said: 'My soul glorifies the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for he has been mindful of the humble state of his servant. From now on all generations will call me blessed, for the Mighty One has done great things for me— holy is his name. His mercy extends to those who fear him, from generation to generation. He has performed mighty deeds with his arm; he has scattered those who are proud in their inmost thoughts. He has brought down rulers from their thrones but has lifted up the humble. He has filled the hungry with good things but has sent the rich away empty. He has helped his servant Israel, remembering to be merciful to Abraham and his descendants forever, even as he said to our fathers.' Mary stayed with Elizabeth for about three months and then returned home."

Thought Question #1:  What do we learn from Mary's song about the type of person that God blesses?

 

 

Thought Question #2:  What do you learn about God and how He decides to do things from Mary's song?

 

 

"And Mary said: 'My soul glorifies the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for he has been mindful of the humble state of his servant. From now on all generations will call me blessed, for the Mighty One has done great things for me— holy is his name.'"  "This is Mary's famous 'hymn of praise.' . . . Its popular title, The Magnificat,is derived from the first word of the hymn in the Latin version: Magnificat anima mea Dominum, meaning 'My soul magnifies the Lord.'" "Taken from Luke by William Hendriksen. Copyright 1978 by Baker Book House."

"my soul . . . my spirit"  "Mary" used different words, but she probably used them in a poetic couplet to describe the same part of her—her inner person.

"Mary" may have been influenced by Hannah's song in I Samuel 2:1-10.  Hannah also praised God when she was blessed with an unusual child—in Hannah's case her son's name was Samuel.  It is obvious that "Mary" was familiar with the Old Testament from the parallels between her words and parts of the Old Testament.

Consider the similarity between these words of "Mary" and the words of Psalm 71:19 and Psalm 103:17.  "Your righteousness reaches to the skies, O God, you who have done great things. Who, O God, is like you?" (Psalm 71:19)  "But from everlasting to everlasting the Lord’s love is with those who fear him, and his righteousness with their children’s children—" (Psalm 103:17)

"Mary" provides us with a model of the type of person that God blesses.  He could bless her because the great privilege He gave to her did not lead to arrogance, but to praise to Him that such an unworthy person could be so "blessed."  She also realized that "all generations" of people after her would recognize how "blessed" by God she was.  She was certainly correct in this, for the mother of our Savior has a precious place in the heart of every Christian who has ever lived.

"My Savior"  Her baby would also be her "Savior."  It appears that she understood, at least somewhat, that Jesus her child would also save her from her sin.  Consider the words of the angel that appeared to Joseph.  "This is how the birth of Jesus Christ came about: His mother Mary was pledged to be married to Joseph, but before they came together, she was found to be with child through the Holy Spirit. Because Joseph her husband was a righteous man and did not want to expose her to public disgrace, he had in mind to divorce her quietly. But after he had considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, 'Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.'" (Matthew 1:18-21)

"for he has been mindful of the humble state of his servant."  Here, "Mary," expresses what has been in the thoughts of many a "humble" "servant" of God.  "Is God even aware that I exist?"  Or, to put it another way, "Does God not have much more important things to attend to than being aware of my "humble" love for Him and my "humble" "service" for Him?  His most important awareness and concern is directed toward those who humbly love and serve Him.  The following verses make that clear.  "For the eyes of the Lord range throughout the earth to strengthen those whose hearts are fully committed to him. . . .
(II Chronicles 16:9a)  "But the eyes of the Lord are on those who fear him, on those whose hope is in his unfailing love," (Psalm 33:18)  "For this is what the high and lofty One says— he who lives forever, whose name is holy: 'I live in a high and holy place, but also with him who is contrite and lowly in spirit, to revive the spirit of the lowly and to revive the heart of the contrite.'" (Isaiah 57:15) See also Ps. 33:13-15; Isa. 66:2

It is very true that "His mercy extends to those who fear him, from generation to generation."  The "fear" of the Lord can be seen more clearly when we contrast it with the absence of the "fear" of the Lord.  They are those who live as if there is no God and no consequences for anything that they do.  They can lie, be selfish, and seek what they want for themselves without any concern for the effect that it has on others.  "Fear" of the Lord is the very opposite of all of this.  It is living each day realizing that a holy, yet merciful God is ever present and always aware of even the motives of our hearts.  It is living continuously in the presence of a God who "is light." (1 John 1:5)  God's "mercy extends to those who fear him" in this way.

Psalm 103:9-13 provides us with a description of God's "mercy" "to those who fear him" in this way (and may have even been in Mary's thoughts as she uttered these words of praise and thanksgiving):  "He will not always accuse, nor will he harbor his anger forever; he does not treat us as our sins deserve or repay us according to our iniquities. For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his love for those who fear him; as far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us. As a father has compassion on his children, so the Lord has compassion on those who fear him;" (Psalm 103:9-13)

"He has performed mighty deeds with his arm; he has scattered those who are proud in their inmost thoughts. He has brought down rulers from their thrones"  Sometimes we can envy the proud who seem to be defying God and winning.  But, even in my lifetime, I have seen many once proud men come tumbling down, going from being the envy of men to being the envy of no man.  "Pride comes before a fall" was a well-known phrase when I was a child.  I have not heard it for some time, and it may not be as familiar to everyone as it once was.  But, it is found in the Bible.  "Pride goes before destruction, a haughty spirit before a fall." (Proverbs 16:18) See also Prov. 11:2, 15:33, 18:12

"with his arm"  God's "arm" personifies His strength and power!  "Has any god ever tried to take for himself one nation out of another nation, by testings, by miraculous signs and wonders, by war, by a mighty hand and an outstretched arm, or by great and awesome deeds, like all the things the Lord your God did for you in Egypt before your very eyes?" (Deuteronomy 4:34) See also Ps. 44:3, 89:13  As was said before, "Mary" appears to have been very familiar with the Old Testament.

"proud in their inmost thoughts."  God know what our real motives are.  Is our real desire to exalt ourselves?  God knows our deepest intentions.  This should humble us, for we do not want to be one of those that God brings "down."

"but has lifted up the humble. He has filled the hungry with good things"  We are reminded of His promises in the Bible.  "Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up." (James 4:10)  "Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled." (Matthew 5:6)  "Then Jesus declared, 'I am the bread of life. He who comes to me will never go hungry, and he who believes in me will never be thirsty.'" (John 6:35)

Hannah said something similar in her prayer of thanksgiving, after God gave her a child.  "Those who were full hire themselves out for food, but those who were hungry hunger no more. She who was barren has borne seven children, but she who has had many sons pines away." (1 Samuel 2:5) See also Ps. 107:9

"but has sent the rich away empty."  The "rich" tend to be arrogant and to be those who do not fear God.  As a result, they are not those who experience God's mercy.  "Then Jesus said to his disciples, 'I tell you the truth, it is hard for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven. Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.'" (Matthew 19:23-24)

Verses like these verses formed the basis for what is called, "Liberation Theology"—a mixing of Marxism with Christianity which is used to justify communist revolutions in countries where the poor are oppressed by the rich.  "Some see them solely as a reference to God's defense of all the poor, all the hungry.  A whole theology of liberation is built around such a reading of these verses and others like them.  This ignores the spiritual dimension present throughout the hymn, not to mention the national character of the hope expressed in verses 54-55.  On the other hand, some want to dilute the references to the poor and hungry altogether and speak only of the poor and hungry in spirit.  This also undercuts the passage's force." "Taken from Luke by Darrell Bock. Copyright 1994 by Intervarsity Press."

"'He has helped his servant Israel, remembering to be merciful to Abraham and his descendants forever, even as he said to our fathers.'"  In Genesis 12, God made the following covenant with "Abraham."  "The Lord had said to Abram, 'Leave your country, your people and your father’s household and go to the land I will show you. I will make you into a great nation and I will bless you; I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse; and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you.'" (Genesis 12:1-3)

How would all of the people be blessed through "Abraham"?  It would be through the baby in Mary's womb.  Through Jesus, the primary descendent of Abraham's child Isaac, the whole world is blessed as people put their faith in Jesus and are saved from eternal damnation and given eternal life.

"his servant Israel,"  "Israel" is referred to in this way in the Old Testament.  "“But you, O Israel, my servant, Jacob, whom I have chosen, you descendants of Abraham my friend, I took you from the ends of the earth, from its farthest corners I called you. I said, ‘You are my servant’; I have chosen you and have not rejected you. So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand." (Isaiah 41:8-10)  Again, we see Mary's depth of understanding of the Bible. See also Isa. 44:1-2, 21-22, 45:4, 48:20

"servant"  The Greek word translated "servant" is paiodos, a word that is often translated "child."  But it is also translated as "servant" in Acts 3:13.  "The God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, the God of our fathers, has glorified his servant Jesus. You handed him over to be killed, and you disowned him before Pilate, though he had decided to let him go." (Acts 3:13) See also Acts 3:26, 4:27, 30

"Mary stayed with Elizabeth for about three months and then returned home."  If we add the six months that "Elizabeth" had been pregnant (see 1:26, 36) to these "three months," "Mary" either left just before the birth of John the Baptist or immediately after his birth.  If "Mary," now three months pregnant, had stayed with "Elizabeth" as people began to visit her to see the new born baby, she would have been ridiculed for having a child out of wed-lock—for at three months it would become more evident that she was pregnant.  What is described in Matthew 1:18-25 probably happened next, as Joseph is informed about how "Mary" came to be with child.

5. John's birth (1:57-66)
"When it was time for Elizabeth to have her baby, she gave birth to a son. Her neighbors and relatives heard that the Lord had shown her great mercy, and they shared her joy. On the eighth day they came to circumcise the child, and they were going to name him after his father Zechariah, but his mother spoke up and said, 'No! He is to be called John.' They said to her, 'There is no one among your relatives who has that name.' Then they made signs to his father, to find out what he would like to name the child. He asked for a writing tablet, and to everyone’s astonishment he wrote, 'His name is John.' Immediately his mouth was opened and his tongue was loosed, and he began to speak, praising God. The neighbors were all filled with awe, and throughout the hill country of Judea people were talking about all these things. Everyone who heard this wondered about it, asking, 'What then is this child going to be?' For the Lord’s hand was with him."

Thought Question: What does the naming of this child tell us about what we need to be careful not to do when seeking God's guidance?

 

 

"When it was time for Elizabeth to have her baby, she gave birth to a son. Her neighbors and relatives heard that the Lord had shown her great mercy, and they shared her joy."  The "birth" of a healthy "baby" is a joyful time and it often brings family and friends together to ooh and aah about the newborn "baby."  Although the "birth" of a "baby" is quite common, there is always the wonder at this new little individual with all the parts in right spot and the wonder at new life itself.  The gathering around "Elizabeth" and the new "baby" had even more to be marveled at, as they heard of God's miraculous intervention on her behalf—so that she could even have this "baby." 

"On the eighth day they came to circumcise the child, and they were going to name him after his father Zechariah, but his mother spoke up and said, 'No! He is to be called John.' They said to her, 'There is no one among your relatives who has that name.' Then they made signs to his father, to find out what he would like to name the child. He asked for a writing tablet, and to everyone’s astonishment he wrote, 'His name is John.'"

We learn, first of all, of two practices with the newborn babies of that time.  First of all, they were circumcised "on the eighth day."  This was done according to God's instructions in the Old Testament.  "For the generations to come every male among you who is eight days old must be circumcised, including those born in your household or bought with money from a foreigner—those who are not your offspring." (Genesis 17:12) See also Lev. 12:3  Secondly, it appears to have been their practice at this time to name the "baby" boy when he was circumcised.  "On the eighth day, when it was time to circumcise him, he was named Jesus, the name the angel had given him before he had been conceived." (Luke 2:21)

"In the old dispensation the naming of the child occurred in connection with its birth (Gen. 21:1-3; 25:24-26; etc.)  The present passage (and cf. Luke 2:21) appears to be the earliest witness for the practice of connecting the naming of a child with circumcision." "Taken from Luke by William Hendriksen. Copyright 1978 by Baker Book House."

The friends of "Zechariah" and "Elizabeth" attempted to name the newborn son "after his father Zechariah," but "Elizabeth" quite strongly said "'No! He is to be called John.'"  The neighbors were not in agreement with her.  But "Elizabeth" had heard from God, the neighbors had not.  This scenario has repeated itself many times through the centuries.  There are those who walk closely with God and are aware of His ways and His purposes.  Others, lean on their "own understanding."  "Elizabeth" trusted in what God had instructed them to do.  "Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight." (Proverbs 3:5-6)

"Then they made signs to his father,"  Why did they make "signs" to "Zechariah"?  It appears that the angel struck him so he both could not hear and could not speak.  Hendriksen points out that the word kophos in Luke 1:22 can also refer to being unable to speak and to being unable to hear, even though, there is no other place where it used in this way. See Mk. 9:25 where two words are used to refer to deaf and dumb.  Another possibility is that they made "signs" to him so as not to verbally interrupt "Elizabeth."  Still another possibility is given by Hendriksen.  "In the popular mind there was a close connection between dumbness and deafness.  It was for this reason that these people made signs to the father of the child." "Taken from Luke by William Hendriksen. Copyright 1978 by Baker Book House."

"and to everyone’s astonishment he wrote, 'His name is John.'"  Both "Zechariah" and "Elizabeth" were of one mind—they would name the baby with the name given to him by God's angel.  I am grateful on almost a daily basis that my lovely wife and I are united in a mutual desire to seek and serve God.  We are now retired.  Each day, I study in the morning.  Then, some time later, we go for a walk together.  She often starts the walk with these words: "What did you learn today?"  As we walk, I share with her what God has taught me.  "Zechariah" and "Elizabeth" were united in their obedience to God.

"Immediately his mouth was opened and his tongue was loosed, and he began to speak, praising God. The neighbors were all filled with awe, and throughout the hill country of Judea people were talking about all these things." 

What had been bottled up within "Zechariah" since his unbelief had led to him being struck speechless, suddenly came bursting forth like a dam breaking and freeing tons of water.  He had seen an angel of God.  The angel had spoken to him and had promised that his barren wife would have a baby.  Also, he was told that the child would be filled with the Holy Spirit from birth. See Lk. 1:15  Furthermore, he learned that this child would used to bring back to God "many of the people of Israel." (Lk. 1:16)

That is what "Zechariah" surely was "praising God" about during the nine months he could not speak.  Then, suddenly he could speak.  Out came the praise that had been in his heart for months.  His song of praise is found the following section of verses.

"The neighbors were all filled with awe, and throughout the hill country of Judea people were talking about all these things."  The people certainly knew that "Zechariah" came out of his service in the temple unable to speak.  They certainly knew that he had some type of holy and divine encounter in the Holy Place that suddenly and completely stilled his tongue.  And, now, suddenly he speaks—and it is all praise to God.  Certainly, they recognized that they were witnessing God's hand in the lives of "Zechariah," "Elizabeth," and the new baby.

"Everyone who heard this wondered about it, asking, 'What then is this child going to be?' For the Lord’s hand was with him."  We, of course, can answer this question.  "What then is this child going to be?"  We now know about the powerful ministry of John the Baptist, who boldly proclaimed Israel's sins, even fearlessly confronting the unbelief and wickedness of the Jewish religious leaders.  "But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees coming to where he was baptizing, he said to them: 'You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the coming wrath? Produce fruit in keeping with repentance. And do not think you can say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father.’ I tell you that out of these stones God can raise up children for Abraham. The ax is already at the root of the trees, and every tree that does not produce good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire.'" (Matthew 3:7-10)

We also know the words Jesus used to describe John the Baptist.  "I tell you the truth: Among those born of women there has not risen anyone greater than John the Baptist; . . ." (Matthew 11:11a)

Why would John be able to have such a powerful and dynamic ministry?  We find the answer in these verses: "For the Lord’s hand was with him."  May this be said of us as well.

The following verses describes what occurs when God's hand is with a people or with someone:  "The Lord was with Joseph and he prospered, and he lived in the house of his Egyptian master." (Genesis 39:2)  "Then Moses said to the people, “Commemorate this day, the day you came out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery, because the Lord brought you out of it with a mighty hand. Eat nothing containing yeast." (Exodus 13:3)  "'Your right hand, O Lord, was majestic in power. Your right hand, O Lord, shattered the enemy. In the greatness of your majesty you threw down those who opposed you. You unleashed your burning anger; it consumed them like stubble.'" (Exodus 15:6-7)  "The power of the Lord came upon Elijah and, tucking his cloak into his belt, he ran ahead of Ahab all the way to Jezreel." (1 Kings 18:46)  "When you see this, your heart will rejoice and you will flourish like grass; the hand of the Lord will be made known to his servants, but his fury will be shown to his foes." (Isaiah 66:14)  "the word of the Lord came to Ezekiel the priest, the son of Buzi, by the Kebar River in the land of the Babylonians. There the hand of the Lord was upon him." (Ezekiel 1:3)  "The Spirit then lifted me up and took me away, and I went in bitterness and in the anger of my spirit, with the strong hand of the Lord upon me." (Ezekiel 3:14)  "The hand of the Lord was upon me there, and he said to me, 'Get up and go out to the plain, and there I will speak to you.'" (Ezekiel 3:22)  '"To this end I labor, struggling with all his energy, which so powerfully works in me." (Colossians 1:29)  "and his incomparably great power for us who believe. That power is like the working of his mighty strength," (Ephesians 1:19)  "I became a servant of this gospel by the gift of God’s grace given me through the working of his power." (Ephesians 3:7)

6. Zechariah's song (1:67-80)

a. God's salvation (1:67-75)
"His father Zechariah was filled with the Holy Spirit and prophesied: 'Praise be to the Lord, the God of Israel, because he has come and has redeemed his people. He has raised up a horn of salvation for us in the house of his servant David (as he said through his holy prophets of long ago), salvation from our enemies and from the hand of all who hate us— to show mercy to our fathers and to remember his holy covenant, the oath he swore to our father Abraham: to rescue us from the hand of our enemies, and to enable us to serve him without fear in holiness and righteousness before him all our days.'"

Thought Question: What is there in Zechariah's song of praise that you also can praise God about?

 

 

"His father Zechariah was filled with the Holy Spirit and prophesied: 'Praise be to the Lord, the God of Israel, because he has come and has redeemed his people. He has raised up a horn of salvation for us in the house of his servant David (as he said through his holy prophets of long ago),"

The main theme of the Bible can be said in two words: "Jesus saves!"  These two words can be seen as empty religious jargon or they can be seen as the most wonderful words every uttered.  It all depends on one's perspective.  A man who is sinking in quick sand and knows it, views the one who is holding out a limb to him to rescue him quite differently than one who is in the same quicksand but is drunk with alcohol and does not recognize that he is sinking to his death.  To him, the man who is holding out a broken tree limb is completely unnecessary—until it is too late.

"Zechariah" praises God, because He has resumed His plan to send a Savior to Israel.  He realizes that God had resumed His plan by actually visiting us.  "He has come" is translated "visited" in the NASB, ESV, the Disciples' Literal Translation, and the KJV.  It is "an important Lukan concept, God's visitation (1:78, 7:16, 19:44; Acts 5:14)." "Taken from Luke by Darrell Bock. Copyright 1994 by Intervarsity Press."

"and has redeemed his people."  Was "Zechariah" thinking of a Savior coming to rescue Israel from Roman tyranny or from the evil king Herod?  He does speak of being rescued from enemies in 1:71: "salvation from our enemies and from the hand of all who hate us" (Luke 1:71).  But he also, as he is "filled with the Spirit," speaks of and predicts "salvation" from sin to restore his people from being alienated from God.  "to give his people the knowledge of salvation through the forgiveness of their sins, because of the tender mercy of our God, by which the rising sun will come to us from heaven" (Luke 1:77-78).   It is true, as it says many times in the Old Testament, that Israel's sin resulted in God allowing their enemies to conquer them. See Jer. 5:11-17 

"He has raised up a horn of salvation"  A "horn" "represents strength like the horns of a bull." "Taken from Word Pictures in the New Testament by A. T. Robertson. Volume II.  Copyright 1930 by Broadman Press."  "those who oppose the Lord will be shattered. He will thunder against them from heaven; the Lord will judge the ends of the earth. 'He will give strength to his king and exalt the horn of his anointed.'" (1 Samuel 2:10)  "I will cut off the horns of all the wicked, but the horns of the righteous will be lifted up." (Psalm 75:10)  "He has raised up for his people a horn, the praise of all his saints, of Israel, the people close to his heart. Praise the Lord." (Psalm 148:14)

"a horn of salvation means 'a mighty salvation' or 'a strong Savior (Moffat)." "Taken from Luke by Leon Morris.  Copyright 1946 by Intervarsity Press."

"(as he said through his holy prophets of long ago),"  "That the ancient prophets actually predicted the coming of the Offspring of David, the One who would destroy all his enemies and bring salvation to his people, is an undeniable fact." "Taken from Luke by William Hendriksen. Copyright 1978 by Baker Book House."  Jesus said Himself that He was predicted in the Bible. See Luke 24:27, 44-47.  The Old Testament is filled with predictions of Jesus and the salvation from sin that He would provide. See Deut. 18:15; Ps. 16:10; Ps. 22; Isa. 7:14, 9:6; Isa. 53; Mic. 5:2; and more.

As we look back on the birth, life, death, and resurrection of our Savior, it is hard for us to understand what it was like for those who lived in Israel before the birth of Jesus.  All they had were the promises of God.  That is why "Zechariah" was so excited and filled with praise as he learned that their promised Messiah was about to be born. 

"salvation from our enemies and from the hand of all who hate us— to show mercy to our fathers and to remember his holy covenant, the oath he swore to our father Abraham: to rescue us from the hand of our enemies, and to enable us to serve him without fear in holiness and righteousness before him all our days.'"

Here, "Zechariah" describes the "salvation" that the promised Savior would bring.  It would be both a deliverance from and a deliverance to something.  It would be a deliverance from Israel's "enemies."  What does "Zechariah" mean by "enemies"?  He defines it for us: "from the hand of all who hate us."  We God-fearing people will always have those "who hate us."  Then, in verse 74, "Zechariah" defines "our enemies" even further.  "to rescue us from the hand of our enemies, and to enable us to serve him without fear" (Luke 1:74).  "Our enemies" are those who cause us to be fearful when we are serving God.  "Our enemies" are those who "hate" God.  "'If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first. If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you. Remember the words I spoke to you: “No servant is greater than his master.” If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also. If they obeyed my teaching, they will obey yours also.'" (John 15:18-20)

At the end of his life, Paul speaks of God rescuing him from his "enemies."  "At my first defense, no one came to my support, but everyone deserted me. May it not be held against them. But the Lord stood at my side and gave me strength, so that through me the message might be fully proclaimed and all the Gentiles might hear it. And I was delivered from the lion’s mouth. The Lord will rescue me from every evil attack and will bring me safely to his heavenly kingdom. To him be glory for ever and ever. Amen." (II Timothy 4:16-18)

We have experienced part of God's "salvation."  We look forward to the final "salvation" when all of God's "enemies" and "our enemies" will be totally defeated.

"Zechariah" also says here that God will "show mercy to" Israel's "fathers and remember his holy covenant, the oath he swore to" Israel's "father Abraham."  What does "Zechariah" mean by "show mercy to our fathers"?  God made promises to the patriarchs of Israel "Abraham," Isaac, Jacob, Moses, and David.  God made promises to them that could only be fulfilled by God being merciful.  These men did not earn their "salvation" or the future "salvation" of their nation Israel.  The promises could only be fulfilled by God's grace and "mercy" toward them.

"to remember his holy covenant, the oath he swore to our father Abraham:"  We, of course, can trust that when God makes an "oath" He will keep it.  "Zechariah" realized that what the angel told him about his son and what the angel told Mary about her Son were because God was fulfilling "the oath" He had made to 'Abraham."  "The angel of the Lord called to Abraham from heaven a second time and said, 'I swear by myself, declares the Lord, that because you have done this and have not withheld your son, your only son, I will surely bless you and make your descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and as the sand on the seashore. Your descendants will take possession of the cities of their enemies, and through your offspring all nations on earth will be blessed, because you have obeyed me.'" (Genesis 22:15-18) See also Gen. 12:1-3, 15:4-6; Heb. 6:13-18

The deliverance to is "to enable us to serve him without fear in holiness and righteousness before him all our days."  We can be fearful about our health, our finances, our enemies, our reputation, our future, our sin, our relationships, and more.  We are fearful because we are so small and so weak; and as a result, there is so much that seems to be out of control.  It is faith in an all-powerful, completely sovereign, and fully loving God that can deliver us from fear.  "There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love." (1 John 4:18)  "for everyone born of God overcomes the world. This is the victory that has overcome the world, even our faith." (1 John 5:4)  "You will keep in perfect peace him whose mind is steadfast, because he trusts in you." (Isaiah 26:30)  " . . . The Lord is my light and my salvation— whom shall I fear? The Lord is the stronghold of my life— of whom shall I be afraid?" (Psalm 27:1)  "in God I trust; I will not be afraid. What can man do to me?" (Psalm 56:11)

"in holiness and righteousness"  These words describe what God ultimately desires for us—He wants us to share His holiness.  "And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers." (Romans 8:28-29)  "Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled." (Matthew 5:6)  "and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness." (Ephesians 4:24)  True happiness comes only as we grow in "holiness and righteousness," and as we are freed from sin's enslavement.

b. John's ministry (1:76-80)
"'And you, my child, will be called a prophet of the Most High; for you will go on before the Lord to prepare the way for him, to give his people the knowledge of salvation through the forgiveness of their sins, because of the tender mercy of our God, by which the rising sun will come to us from heaven to shine on those living in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the path of peace.' And the child grew and became strong in spirit; and he lived in the desert until he appeared publicly to Israel."

Thought Question: According to these verses, what would John's purpose be?

 

 

"And you, my child, will be called a prophet of the Most High; for you will go on before the Lord to prepare the way for him,"  "Zechariah" began by praising God for the coming of the Savior, but now he shifts his focus by praising God for the role his son John will have in God's plan.  In praise, he prophesies of the future that was in store for his son John: "you, my child, will be called a prophet of the Most High."  There had been no prophet in Israel since Malachi, about 400 years before this time.  So, "Zechariah" realizes that because of his son, God's silence will come to end; and it will be through his son that God will resume His prophetic ministry to Israel. See Matt. 11:9-18, 21:26

Next, we see that "Zechariah" was given insight by God as to the nature of his son's ministry: "for you will go on before the Lord to prepare the way for him, to give his people the knowledge of salvation through the forgiveness of their sins, because of the tender mercy of our God."  Isaiah predicted that One would come who would "go on before the Lord to prepare the way for him."  "A voice of one calling: 'In the desert prepare the way for the Lord; make straight in the wilderness a highway for our God. Every valley shall be raised up, every mountain and hill made low; the rough ground shall become level, the rugged places a plain. And the glory of the Lord will be revealed, and all mankind together will see it. For the mouth of the Lord has spoken.'" (Isaiah 40:3-5)

John claimed to be the fulfillment of that prophecy.  "'This is he who was spoken of through the prophet Isaiah: A voice of one calling in the desert, “Prepare the way for the Lord, make straight paths for him.”'" (Matthew 3:3)

John's purpose was "to give his people the knowledge of salvation through the forgiveness of their sins."  John was to lead the people of Israel so that they could know how their many "sins" could be forgiven.  "Zechariah" understood what few understood in Israel—their greatest need was not to be rescued from the Romans, but to be rescued from sin and from the terror of facing a holy God in their sinful state.  Jesus came to save Israel from "their sins."  And he came to save us from our "sins."  John knew this.  When he saw Jesus coming toward him when he was baptizing at the Jordan river, he said: " . . .  'Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!'" (John 1:29b)

The reason that this "salvation" would be made available to Israel is "because of the tender mercy of our God."   James and Jeremiah have this to say about God's "mercy":  "The Lord is full of compassion and mercy." (James 5:11b)   "I remember my affliction and my wandering, the bitterness and the gall. I well remember them, and my soul is downcast within me. Yet this I call to mind and therefore I have hope: Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. I say to myself, 'The Lord is my portion; therefore I will wait for him.' The Lord is good to those whose hope is in him, to the one who seeks him; it is good to wait quietly for the salvation of the Lord." (Lamentations 3:19-26)  Jesus was full of compassion: "When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd." (Matthew 9:36)  It is because of God's "mercy" that we are able to be saved.

"'by which the rising sun will come to us from heaven to shine on those living in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the path of peace.'"  "Zechariah" poetically describes what Jesus' coming will be like. He would be like the "sun" rising in the morning and turning the darkness to light.  Malachi describes the Messiah's coming in a similar way: "But for you who revere my name, the sun of righteousness will rise with healing in its wings. And you will go out and leap like calves released from the stall." (Malachi 4:2)  Zechariah's words are also similar to Isaiah's description of the Messiah's coming:  "Nevertheless, there will be no more gloom for those who were in distress. In the past he humbled the land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali, but in the future he will honor Galilee of the Gentiles, by the way of the sea, along the Jordan— The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of the shadow of death a light has dawned." (Isaiah 9:1-2) See also Matt. 4:13-16

"'to guide our feet into the path of peace.'"  When the light goes on, we can see easily where we can safely walk.  When Jesus turns on the lights for us, we are able to see "the path" that leads to "peace" with God.  "But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere. Peacemakers who sow in peace raise a harvest of righteousness." (James 3:17-18)  "Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called sons of God." (Matthew 5:9)

Ray Stedman said that the following words ought to be put on a sign on the United Nations building: "The way of peace they do not know." (Isa. 59:8; Rom. 3:17)  God's light enables us to see how we can have peace with God and with each other, as well as how we can experience "the peace of God which transcends all understanding." (Phil. 4:7)

"And the child grew and became strong in spirit; and he lived in the desert until he appeared publicly to Israel."  "So these two boys of destiny [John and Jesus] grew on with the years, the one in the desert hills near Hebron after Zacharias and Elizabeth died, the other, the young Carpenter up in Nazareth, each waiting for 'his shewing unto Israel.'" "Taken from Word Pictures in the New Testament by A. T. Robertson. Volume II.  Copyright 1930 by Broadman Press." 

7. Jesus' birth described (2:1-20)

a. Jesus' birth described (2:1-7)
"In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world. (This was the first census that took place while Quirinius was governor of Syria.) And everyone went to his own town to register. So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David. He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child. While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn."

Thought Question:  Where in the Bible is it predicted that Jesus would be born in Bethlehem?

 

 

"In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world. (This was the first census that took place while Quirinius was governor of Syria.) And everyone went to his own town to register." 

The once skeptical Sir William Ramsey tested Luke's historical accuracy.  He concluded that Luke was an accurate historian.  Here, that Luke gives us some historical information about how the birth of Christ was affected by what was occurring at that time in the Roman Empire.  "Caesar Augustus" was the emperor; and it was because of a "census" that he ordered, that Joseph and Mary traveled to Bethlehem where Jesus would be born.  This was predicted by the prophet Micah.  "'But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, though you are small among the clans of Judah, out of you will come for me one who will be ruler over Israel, whose origins are from of old, from ancient times.'" (Micah 5:2)

Because we do not have access to the historical data that was available to Luke, it has been difficult to piece together, from our present historical knowledge, what Luke states here.  "There is no record of any law of Augustus that a universal census be held.  But he did reorganize Roman administration, and there are records of censuses held in a number of places.  In Egypt, where the custom is unlikely to have differed significantly from neighboring Syria (of which province Judea was a part), a census was held every fourteen years.  Actual documents survive for every census from AD 20 to 270 (Barclay) . . . The evidence seems best satisfied if we understand the decree of which Luke writes, not as a formal law, but as an administrative directive which set the whole process in motion and had its effect in distant Judea." "Taken from Luke by Leon Morris.  Copyright 1946 by Intervarsity Press."

"(This was the first census that took place while Quirinius was governor of Syria.)"  "This official was possibly in office for two terms, first 6-4 B.C. and the A.D. 6-9.  A census is associated with each term.  This is the first, Ac 5:37 refers to the second." "NIV Study Bible note."  This quote summarizes well the final results of Bible scholars' attempts to harmonize what Luke says about the time of this "census" with our historical record of Quirinius' time as "governor of Syria." 

At first, it appeared that he only was in office from A.D. 6-9.  Hendriksen gives evidence, though, to indicate that he was also in office in the B.C. years.  "Inscriptions discovered by William Ramsey show that Quirinius was 'governor' in Syria both before and after the birth of Jesus, though not necessarily in the same sense each time." "Taken from Luke by William Hendriksen. Copyright 1978 by Baker Book House."

"And everyone went to his own town to register."  There is historical records of this practice.

"So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David."  According to I Samuel 20:6, "Bethlehem" was David's "hometown."  So, "Joseph" and "Mary" traveled the about 80 miles from "Nazareth" to "Bethlehem," to the south of and near Jerusalem.  And they went there because they were required to register in the home "town" of their ancestor "David."

"He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child."  Matthew 1:24 says that "Joseph" married "Mary" after the angel spoke to him.  "When Joseph woke up, he did what the angel of the Lord had commanded him and took Mary home as his wife." (Matthew 1:24) See also Matt. 1:20  Why, then, does Luke say that they were still "pledged to be married" or betrothed "to be married"?  Hendriksen believes that the explanation is found in Matthew 1:25: "But he had no union with her until she gave birth to a son. And he gave him the name Jesus." (Matthew 1:25)  "Joseph" did not have "union" with "Mary" yet, so in one sense they were still "pledged to be married."

"While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn."

"Many of the details supplied in the Christmas tellings of this story do not come from Luke.  There is no indication of a long search for a place to stay or of an insensitive innkeeper who made Mary and Joseph stay outdoors." "Taken from Luke by Darrell Bock. Copyright 1994 by Intervarsity Press."

" firstborn,"  "Mary" gave birth to more sons and to daughters. See Matt. 12:46-47, 13:55-56; Jn. 2:12 ,7:3, 5, 10; Acts 1:14  The authors of the books of James and Jude were Jesus' brothers.

"manger" "inn"  We are uncertain exactly what the "inn" was like, that is referred to here.  Also, a "manger" may be referring to a stone feeding trough for animals.  So, Jesus may have been born in a cave for animals rather than a shed for animals.  Whatever the case, Jesus was born in the humblest of circumstances.  "For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, so that you through his poverty might become rich." (II Corinthians 8:9)

b. Angels appear to a group of shepherds. (2:8-14)
"And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, 'Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.' Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, 'Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests.'"

Thought Question: What is there in the angel's appearance to the shepherds that is an encouragement to you?

 

 

"And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night."  How did the world learn about the birth of the King of Kings?  If men had devised the best way that the birth of God's Son could be announced, it would have been done at daytime in some central place like Jerusalem; it would have been made to the religious leaders of Israel or in Rome to the emperor; and angels would have spectacularly told these dignitaries of the birth of the Son of God.  Then, God's Son would have been spectacularly paraded through one of these cities as thousands of angels and people bowed down before Him.  Could God have done it that way?  Of course he could have.  But, instead, God chose that an "angel" appear to lowly "shepherds" at night.  The humble "birth" of Jesus in a "manger" was followed by God's "angel" appearing to humble "shepherds."

"Shepherds" were low class people in Israel.  Also, because their occupation required that they be in the field, they were not able to maintain ceremonial purity.  They were a very unlikely group for "angels" to appear to.

"It is not unlikely that the shepherds were pasturing flocks destined for the temple sacrifices." "Taken from Luke by Leon Morris.  Copyright 1946 by Intervarsity Press."  "There was near Bethlehem, on the road to Jerusalem, a tower known as Migdal Eder, or the watch-tower of the flock.  Here was the station where shepherds watched the flocks destined for sacrifice in the temple." "Taken from Word Studies in the New Testament by M. R. Vincent.  Copyright 1972 by Associated Publishers and Authors."

"keeping watch"  "(phulassontes phulakas) . .  . The plural here probably means that they watched by turns." "Taken from Word Pictures in the New Testament by A. T. Robertson. Volume II.  Copyright 1930 by Broadman Press." 

Is the date of December 25th an accurate date for Jesus' birth?  Leon Morris has the following to say on this subject.  "Since flocks might thus be in the field in winter the traditional date for the birth of Jesus is not ruled out.  Luke says nothing about the actual date and it remains quite unknown." "Leon Morris."  An argument against December 25th being the date of Jesus' birth is that it was not until  Constantine declared the birth of Jesus be celebrated in December to provide a Christian celebration "to coincide with Saturnalia, the orgiastic pagan festival celebrating the return of the sun after days of constantly increasing darkness." "Taken from Luke by William Hendriksen. Copyright 1978 by Baker Book House."

"An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, 'Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.'" 

As is the case throughout the Bible accounts, when an "angel" suddenly appears to men, those they appear to are "terrified."  Sinful men feel overwhelmed in the presence of holiness. See 1:12; Dn. 8:15-18  The "angel" comforts these "terrified" "shepherds," so he can tell them the "good news" of the Savior's birth.

On two occasions during this last Christmas season—in our home with our family which included grandchildren and in the local jail—I read the birth accounts of Jesus.  In both cases, I asked, "What would it have been like if we had been there?"  It certainly was not what these "shepherds" expected that night.  For it appeared that it would be just another weary night of doing their work and completing their night shift.  Suddenly, it was no longer an ordinary night.  When I reflect on one of these sudden angelic appearances, I reflect on what I would do if it happened to me.  It definitely makes heaven more real to me.

"good news of great joy"  Many experience "great joy" when they become Christians.  Also, we have that "great joy" when someone else becomes a Christian.  "that will be for all the people."  All over the world the "good news" has spread, bringing salvation to "all the people" of our planet, just as predicted by the "angel."

"I bring you good news" is actually "I evangelize to you"—euaggelizomai.

Jesus is given a number of titles here: "Savior," "Christ," "Lord," and "a baby wrapped in cloths."  "Savior" describes His mission to mankind—to save us from the penalty, power, and presence of sin.  Our sin was dragging us ultimately to hell.  God has provided us an unlikely "Savior""a baby wrapped in cloths."  "Christ" describes God's anointing on Him to enable Him to successfully complete His mission.  "Lord" describes the place that He must have in our lives, so that we will be saved.  We need to be saved from a self-ruled life to be ruled by the King—to be part of His kingdom and rule.  A "baby wrapped in cloths" describes what He was willing to do to identify with us. "The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth." (John 1:14)

"This will be a sign to you:"  It appears that the "angel" is predicting something that will stand out from what they would normally see.  Babies were not normally seen in mangers.  When they see a "baby" "lying in a manger," they will know that this is the child that will become the "Savior" of the world.

"Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, 'Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests.'" 

One "angel" "terrified" the "shepherds."  Now, "suddenly," there is a "great company of the heavenly host."  What a great privilege these humble "shepherds" had.  They witnessed heaven's response to the "birth" of the "Savior." 

We see here how we should respond to God because of that "baby" "lying in a manger."  He is worthy of what the "great company of the heavenly host" declared: "Glory to God in the highest"!

Then, we see what is made possible "on earth": "peace to men on whom his favor rests."  "Peace" is the exact opposite of what we deserve.  We deserve the unrest and turmoil in us caused by our selfishness.  "What causes fights and quarrels among you? Don’t they come from your desires that battle within you? You want something but don’t get it. You kill and covet, but you cannot have what you want. You quarrel and fight. You do not have, because you do not ask God." (James 4:1-2)  We deserve condemnation from God.  "What shall we conclude then? Are we any better? Not at all! We have already made the charge that Jews and Gentiles alike are all under sin." (Romans 3:9)  "All who rely on observing the law are under a curse, for it is written: 'Cursed is everyone who does not continue to do everything written in the Book of the Law.'" (Galatians 3:10)  But, through Jesus, there is "peace"!  "For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross." (Colossians 1:19-20)  Isaiah predicts that Jesus would be the "prince of peace." (Isa. 9:6)

"on whom his favor rests.'"  The ESV and NASB has "with whom He is pleased."  The "peace" Jesus offers is available to all, but it is only received by those who put their faith in Jesus.  "And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him." (Hebrews 11:6)  "For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because he has not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son." (John 3:16-18)  "Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life, but whoever rejects the Son will not see life, for God’s wrath remains on him." (John 3:36)  "Jesus answered, 'The work of God is this: to believe in the one he has sent.'" (John 6:29) "I told you that you would die in your sins; if you do not believe that I am the one I claim to be, you will indeed die in your sins." (John 8:24)

c. The shepherds visit the baby Jesus (2:15-16)
"When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, 'Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.' So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger."

Thought Question:  How does what the shepherds did here, reveal to us how the truth about Jesus should affect our priorities?

 

 

"When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, 'Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.'"  Like those who left everything and immediately followed Jesus; so these "shepherds" immediately responded to the message of the "angel" and left everything and went to "Bethlehem."  See Matt. 9:9; Lk. 5:9-11   "Halford Luccock called this 'the first Christmas rush.'" "Taken from Be Compassionate Luke 1-13 by Warren Wiersbe. Copyright by David C. Cook." 

"So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger."  They "found" Jesus after searching for Him.  We are told in Romans 3 that there is "no one who seeks God." (Rom. 3:11)  Yet, these "shepherds" searched for Jesus.  Why did they search for Him?  Certainly, the main reason is that God had created the need for them to search for Jesus by directing an "angel" to announce the "birth" of His Son to them.  This is a picture of how God creates in us the desire to seek Him, even when we are not inclined to seek Him.  In Jeremiah 29:12-13, we find this promise: "Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart." (Jeremiah 29:12-13)  Israel would call on God and "seek" God after their seventy years of discipline in Babylonian exile.  God's action comes first and the seeking of God comes second.  These "shepherds" eagerly searched for the "baby" Jesus because God ordained that an "angel" should come to them.

d. The shepherds spread the news of the new-born baby. (2:17-18)
"When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them."  These "shepherds" became the unlikely heralds of Jesus' birth.  Also, we see that they were so convincing in what they shared that the people who heard them were astonished.

"and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them."  These eager and enthusiastic witnesses to Jesus Christ were bold and effective.  We have much more to share than these "shepherds" shared.  We know now of the miraculous ministry and the powerful life-changing words of Jesus, His death for our sins, His resurrection from the grave, and His life in us.  May, we also be bold and effective as these "shepherds" were in sharing about Jesus.

e. Mary treasures all of this in her heart (2:19)
"But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart."  "Mary" provides a good example for us of what to do with spiritual truth.  She thought deeply about it and "treasured" it.  If we treat God's truth as being of great value to us, we will be richly rewarded.  "My son, if you accept my words and store up my commands within you, turning your ear to wisdom and applying your heart to understanding, and if you call out for insight and cry aloud for understanding, and if you look for it as for silver and search for it as for hidden treasure, then you will understand the fear of the Lord and find the knowledge of God. For the Lord gives wisdom, and from his mouth come knowledge and understanding." (Proverbs 2:1-6)  "Oh, how I love your law! I meditate on it all day long. Your commands make me wiser than my enemies, for they are ever with me. I have more insight than all my teachers, for I meditate on your statutes. I have more understanding than the elders, for I obey your precepts. I have kept my feet from every evil path so that I might obey your word. I have not departed from your laws, for you yourself have taught me. How sweet are your words to my taste, sweeter than honey to my mouth! I gain understanding from your precepts; therefore I hate every wrong path. Nun" (Psalm 119:97-104)  God's truth came to "Mary" through a group of "shepherds" who were visited by an "angel" heaven.

f. The shepherds praise God (2:20)
"The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told."  The "shepherds" realized how privileged they were that God had singled them out, sent His "angels" to them, and led them to see the unique child that would become the "Savior" of the world.  So, they glorified God with praise for all that He had done for them.  So, are we privileged that the same Jesus lives in our hearts, died for our sins, and made us to be eternal members of His family.  So, our hearts are also filled with praise for the one who has so amazingly blessed us.

8. Jesus' childhood (2:21-52)

a. A trip to Jerusalem for the purification ceremony (2:21-24)

(1) Jesus' circumcision (2:21)
"On the eighth day, when it was time to circumcise him, he was named Jesus, the name the angel had given him before he had been conceived."  If circumcision symbolizes the cutting away of the sinful nature, why was the sinless Jesus circumcised?  "In him you were also circumcised, in the putting off of the sinful nature, not with a circumcision done by the hands of men but with the circumcision done by Christ," (Colossians 2:11)  Galatians appears to give the answer.  "But when the time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under law," (Galatians 4:4)  He identified with us by fulfilling the requirements of the law.  And circumcision was a requirement of the law.  "For the generations to come every male among you who is eight days old must be circumcised, including those born in your household or bought with money from a foreigner—those who are not your offspring." (Genesis 17:12)  "On the eighth day the boy is to be circumcised." (Leviticus 12:3)

"he was named Jesus,"  As was mentioned earlier, it appears that it had become a tradition to name boys at the time when they were circumcised. See 1:59-62  Both Joseph and Mary were instructed by the angel Gabriel to name the child Jesus.  "She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins." (Matthew 1:21)  "You will be with child and give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus." (Luke 1:31)

(2) Jesus' purification (2:22-24)
"When the time of their purification according to the Law of Moses had been completed, Joseph and Mary took him to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord (as it is written in the Law of the Lord, 'Every firstborn male is to be consecrated to the Lord'), and to offer a sacrifice in keeping with what is said in the Law of the Lord: 'a pair of doves or two young pigeons.'"

Thought Question:  Why do you think that the sinless Jesus, born of the Holy Spirit, needed to go through a purification process?

 

 

"When the time of their purification according to the Law of Moses had been completed, Joseph and Mary took him to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord (as it is written in the Law of the Lord, 'Every firstborn male is to be consecrated to the Lord'), and to offer a sacrifice in keeping with what is said in the Law of the Lord: 'a pair of doves or two young pigeons.'"

The "Law of Moses" required the mother who gives birth to wait through a forty-day period and then to make an animal sacrifice for purification.  "The Lord said to Moses, 'Say to the Israelites: “A woman who becomes pregnant and gives birth to a son will be ceremonially unclean for seven days, just as she is unclean during her monthly period. On the eighth day the boy is to be circumcised. Then the woman must wait thirty-three days to be purified from her bleeding. She must not touch anything sacred or go to the sanctuary until the days of her purification are over. If she gives birth to a daughter, for two weeks the woman will be unclean, as during her period. Then she must wait sixty-six days to be purified from her bleeding. When the days of her purification for a son or daughter are over, she is to bring to the priest at the entrance to the Tent of Meeting a year-old lamb for a burnt offering and a young pigeon or a dove for a sin offering. He shall offer them before the Lord to make atonement for her, and then she will be ceremonially clean from her flow of blood. These are the regulations for the woman who gives birth to a boy or a girl. If she cannot afford a lamb, she is to bring two doves or two young pigeons, one for a burnt offering and the other for a sin offering. In this way the priest will make atonement for her, and she will be clean.”'" (Leviticus 12:1-8)

"Joseph and Mary" fulfilled this requirement.  They appear to have been unable to offer a lamb sacrifice, so they offered a sacrificial "pair of doves or two young pigeons."
There also was a payment that they made because Jesus was a "first-born male."  "The Lord said to Moses, 'Consecrate to me every firstborn male. The first offspring of every womb among the Israelites belongs to me, whether man or animal." (Exodus 13:1-2)  "When Pharaoh stubbornly refused to let us go, the Lord killed every firstborn in Egypt, both man and animal. This is why I sacrifice to the Lord the first male offspring of every womb and redeem each of my firstborn sons." (Exodus 13:15)  "The Lord also said to Moses, 'I have taken the Levites from among the Israelites in place of the first male offspring of every Israelite woman. The Levites are mine, for all the firstborn are mine. When I struck down all the firstborn in Egypt, I set apart for myself every firstborn in Israel, whether man or animal. They are to be mine. I am the Lord.'" (Numbers 3:11-13)  "The first offspring of every womb, both man and animal, that is offered to the Lord is yours. But you must redeem every firstborn son and every firstborn male of unclean animals. When they are a month old, you must redeem them at the redemption price set at five shekels of silver, according to the sanctuary shekel, which weighs twenty gerahs." (Numbers 18:15-16)

The money given for the first-born was an acknowledgement by Israel that their first-born children were spared at the first Passover when first-born of the Egyptians were slain by God.  "At midnight the Lord struck down all the firstborn in Egypt, from the firstborn of Pharaoh, who sat on the throne, to the firstborn of the prisoner, who was in the dungeon, and the firstborn of all the livestock as well." (Exodus 12:29)

b. Simeon sees the baby Jesus (2:25-35)
"Now there was a man in Jerusalem called Simeon, who was righteous and devout. He was waiting for the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was upon him. It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not die before he had seen the Lord’s Christ. Moved by the Spirit, he went into the temple courts. When the parents brought in the child Jesus to do for him what the custom of the Law required, Simeon took him in his arms and praised God, saying: 'Sovereign Lord, as you have promised, you now dismiss your servant in peace. For my eyes have seen your salvation, which you have prepared in the sight of all people, a light for revelation to the Gentiles and for glory to your people Israel.' The child’s father and mother marveled at what was said about him. Then Simeon blessed them and said to Mary, his mother: 'This child is destined to cause the falling and rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be spoken against, so that the thoughts of many hearts will be revealed. And a sword will pierce your own soul too.'"

Thought Question: Has the Holy Spirit ever revealed to you anything about God's personal plan for you?  If the answer is yes, what was it?

 

 

"Now there was a man in Jerusalem called Simeon, who was righteous and devout. He was waiting for the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was upon him."  Vincent gives the following description of the meaning of "devout":  "Hence of a circumspect [careful] or cautious person who takes hold of things carefully.  As applied to morals and religion, it emphasizes the element of circumspection, a cautious, careful observance of divine law; and is thus peculiarly expressive of Old Testament piety, with its minute attention to precept and ceremony." "Taken from Word Studies in the New Testament by M. R. Vincent.  Copyright 1972 by Associated Publishers and Authors." See also Acts 2:5, 8:2, 22:12 for the only other places where the same Greek word is used.

"He was waiting for the consolation of Israel,"  It was a dark time for Israel.  They lived under the total domination of the Romans and the evil king Herod.  Their religious leaders were corrupt and legalistic.  But, in the midst of all of this darkness there were "devout" men and women like "Simeon," "Mary," "Joseph," and the woman we are about to meet by the name of Anna.  Their only hope was the One promised in prophecy would come and lead their nation back to God. See 2:38

"Consolation" is paraklesin, similar to the Greek word translated comforter in John 14:16.  "And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Counselor to be with you forever."

"and the Holy Spirit was upon him."  God had blessed "Simeon" by putting His "Spirit" on him.  Now, since the Pentecost described in Acts 2, "the Holy Spirit" indwells every believer.  But in Simeon's time, "the Holy Spirit" came on only a few.

"It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not die before he had seen the Lord’s Christ."  We are not told how "the Holy Spirit" revealed to him "that he would not die before he had seen the Lord's Christ."  Because of these words, it has been believed that he was an old man.  That may or may not have been true.

"Moved by the Spirit, he went into the temple courts. When the parents brought in the child Jesus to do for him what the custom of the Law required, "Simeon took him in his arms and praised God,"  God's "Spirit" guided "Simeon" to go "into the temple courts" at the precise time when "Joseph and Mary" brought the baby Jesus there.  Does that type of thing happen today?  I can mention a number of times when I believe God led me to go somewhere or do something.  One time, it was particularly unusual.  I believe that God led me to go to a park at a specific time to share the gospel with someone.  One of the two people in the park was a student from a class that I had student taught.  He prayed with me to receive Christ.  He came with me to a number of Christian events, until I left that city.

"Simeon took him in his arms and praised God,"  Somehow, "Simeon" knew that this tiny baby was the promised Messiah.  He "praised God" that he had the privilege of seeing and even holding "him in his arms." 

"'Sovereign Lord, as you have promised, you now dismiss your servant in peace.'"  These words of "Simeon" argue that he was an old man whose life had been extended so that he could see the Promised One.  Now, that he has seen the "child," he could come to the end of his life "in peace," knowing that the primary purpose of his life had been accomplished.

"'For my eyes have seen your salvation, which you have prepared in the sight of all people,'"  God had intervened one more time into the world by bringing about the birth of the One who would bring "salvation" to the world.  Now, "Simeon" describes this "salvation."

"a light for revelation to the Gentiles and for glory to your people Israel.'"  Jesus would become and has now become "light for revelation to the Gentiles."  In Romans 1:18-32, Paul describes how darkness comes to people.  We humans are born separated from God and in our fallen nature we choose sin over holiness.  As we choose sin, we also choose darkness—for we suppress the truth about God as we choose sin.  "The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of men who suppress the truth by their wickedness." (Romans 1:18) See also Eph. 4:17-19  Jesus and His holiness, selflessness, and love is a "light" in the midst of that darkness.  "The light shines in the darkness, but the darkness has not understood it." (John 1:5)  "When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said, 'I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.'" (John 8:12) See also Isa. 49:6, 60:1-3

"and for glory to your people Israel.'"  God's "glory" has been revealed to Israel through the years of their existence.  "Then the cloud covered the Tent of Meeting, and the glory of the Lord filled the tabernacle. Moses could not enter the Tent of Meeting because the cloud had settled upon it, and the glory of the Lord filled the tabernacle." (Exodus 40:34-35)  " On the day the tabernacle, the Tent of the Testimony, was set up, the cloud covered it. From evening till morning the cloud above the tabernacle looked like fire. That is how it continued to be; the cloud covered it, and at night it looked like fire. Whenever the cloud lifted from above the Tent, the Israelites set out; wherever the cloud settled, the Israelites encamped." (Numbers 9:15-17)  " . . . theirs the divine glory, . . . " (Romans 9:4)  Now, the "glory" of God would be expressed through the "child" Jesus that "Simeon" held "in his arms." 

" The child’s father and mother marveled at what was said about him."  "Joseph and Mary" were still amazed at their privilege of bearing such a son.  I do not know about you, but I continue to be amazed about God's grace to me in so many ways.  For example, I thank God often for the wonderful wife God has brought into my life.  It should not surprise us that "Joseph and Mary" "marveled at what" "Simeon" "said about" their child.

"Then Simeon blessed them and said to Mary, his mother: 'This child is destined to cause the falling and rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be spoken against, so that the thoughts of many hearts will be revealed.'"  "Simeon" predicts to "Mary" what has already been predicted in the Old Testament—Jesus, Mary's son, will be a cause of division in Israel.  "'and he will be a sanctuary; but for both houses of Israel he will be a stone that causes men to stumble and a rock that makes them fall. And for the people of Jerusalem he will be a trap and a snare. Many of them will stumble; they will fall and be broken, they will be snared and captured.' Bind up the testimony and seal up the law among my disciples." (Isaiah 8:14-16)  Some will receive Jesus and others will reject Him.  "He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him. Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God—" (John 1:11-12)

Just as some received Jesus and some rejected Him, so some receive us who are His followers and some reject us.  "But thanks be to God, who always leads us in triumphal procession in Christ and through us spreads everywhere the fragrance of the knowledge of him. For we are to God the aroma of Christ among those who are being saved and those who are perishing. To the one we are the smell of death; to the other, the fragrance of life. And who is equal to such a task?"
(II Corinthians 2:14-16)

"'This child is destined to cause the falling and rising of many in Israel,'"  Jesus' life in ministry resulted in the proud being humbled and the humble being lifted up. See James 4:10; Matt. 23:12

"'so that the thoughts of many hearts will be revealed.'"  Jesus' life and the light that came from it, exposed the ugliness in the hearts of men.  We learn of the wickedness of men when the nation of Israel rejected Him and murdered Him.

"'And a sword will pierce your own soul too.'"  "Mary" was filled with joy as she learned of how her "child" would bring "salvation" to mankind.  But, what she did not know was the pain that was also in her future; as she watched her son Jesus being rejected, arrested, and murdered in the most public way.  "Near the cross of Jesus stood his mother, his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene." (John 19:25)

c. Anna the prophetess sees the Baby Jesus. (2:36-38)
"There was also a prophetess, Anna, the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was very old; she had lived with her husband seven years after her marriage, and then was a widow until she was eighty-four. She never left the temple but worshiped night and day, fasting and praying. Coming up to them at that very moment, she gave thanks to God and spoke about the child to all who were looking forward to the redemption of Jerusalem."

Thought Question:  Describe a widow that you know that is like Anna.

 

 

"There was also a prophetess, Anna, the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was very old; she had lived with her husband seven years after her marriage, and then was a widow until she was eighty-four." 

In these few words, we learn much about "Anna."  She was a prophetess."  She, was, then, a spokesperson for God. See Act 21:8-9 for other women who were prophetesses. See also Exod. 15;20; Judges 4;4; II Kings 22;14; Nehem. 6:14; and Isa. 8:3 for Old Testament prophetesses.

She was "of the tribe of Asher."  "Asher" was one of the tribes in the northern kingdom—the northern kingdom was conquered by Assyria in 722 B.C.  So, these tribes of the northern kingdom were not lost (some call them the "lost tribes of Israel").  They were not lost, for she was from one of those tribes.

We learn that "she was very old."  And, we also learn that "her husband" had died after he and "Anna" had only been married "seven years."

The next part is not as clear.  It is not clear if she had been a widow for "eighty-four years," or if she was "eighty-four" when she met with Jesus and His parents in the "temple."  There are arguments on both sides.  That she was "eighty-four" years of age at this time seems more likely.  As Hendriksen says, "not only is Anna described as being very old, she is also pictured as still being very active (verses 37, 38), which is more likely to have been the case at 84 than at 105." "Taken from Luke by William Hendriksen. Copyright 1978 by Baker Book House."

"She never left the temple but worshiped night and day, fasting and praying."  "Unless Anna actually occupied quarters in the temple, so that she lived there, which is not impossible, this expression must be regarded as hyperbole [a figure of speech—a purposeful exaggeration].  The meaning then would simply be: she attended very regularly, being present at both the public and more private services." "Hendriksen."

In modern times, it would be like saying that she is always at the church; meaning she is there at every service, at Sunday school, at the prayer meeting, at a Bible study, and it is not unusual for her to be there at other times also.  She was like the widows that Paul describes in I Timothy.  "The widow who is really in need and left all alone puts her hope in God and continues night and day to pray and to ask God for help."

Why did "Anna" spend so much time in the "temple"?  It most certainly was because she, above all, wanted to be close to God.  I have noticed, over the years, that when godly women become widows, they often grow closer to God after their husbands are gone.  That was definitely true of "Anna."

"Coming up to them at that very moment, she gave thanks to God and spoke about the child to all who were looking forward to the redemption of Jerusalem."  God rewarded Anna's dedication to Him by allowing her to see "the child" given to the world by God to set us free from sin and its penalty—the One who is the "redemption of Jerusalem." 

"at that very moment,"  It appears that "Anna" saw "Simeon" holding the baby and stating to His parents that He would become the "Savior" of the world.  So, as a "prophetess," she recognized that Simeon's words were true and she knew that this baby was the Promised One.

We who live at the time when Jesus' Second Coming is near, can identify with "Anna."  We also are to pray "night and day" for God's will to be done on earth.  And, we are also to be looking for Jesus' return as "Anna" was looking for His first appearance. See II Tim. 4:8; Rom. 8:22-25

"and spoke about the child to all who were looking forward to the redemption of Jerusalem."  "Anna," because of her constant time in the "temple," knew others who were yearning for the coming of the "Savior" God promised.  She immediately told them that this "child" arrived!

d. Jesus and His parents return to Galilee. (2:39-40)
"When Joseph and Mary had done everything required by the Law of the Lord, they returned to Galilee to their own town of Nazareth.  And the child grew and became strong; he was filled with wisdom, and the grace of God was upon him."  So, "Joseph and Mary" stayed at Bethlehem until "everything required by the Law of the Lord" was completed.  Luke omits much of what took place while they were still in Bethlehem.  "Room is left for Matthew's account of the coming of the wise men, the flight to Egypt, the slaughter of 'the innocents,' and the return of Joseph, Mary, and their child from Egypt; in other words, for the events reported in Matt. 2:1-22.  At 2:22, 23 Matthew and Luke (2:39) are together again, with the difference, that Matthew states the reason why the family did not settle in Judea but returned to Nazareth." "Hendriksen."  "He makes no reference to the flight into Egypt (Mt. 2:13 ff.) and there is no way of knowing whether he knew of it or not, and whether it preceded or followed the visit to Jerusalem." "Taken from Luke by Leon Morris.  Copyright 1946 by Intervarsity Press."

"And the child grew and became strong; he was filled with wisdom, and the grace of God was upon him."  John the Baptist's growth as a child is described in similar terms.  "And the child grew and became strong in spirit." (Luke 1:80a)  They both "grew and became strong" as normal children grow bigger and stronger. See also I Sam. 2:26

"he was filled with wisdom," "Here in addition to the bodily development Luke has 'filled with wisdom' (pleroumenon sophiai).  Present passive participle, showing that the process of filling with wisdom kept pace with bodily growth." "Taken from Word Pictures in the New Testament by A. T. Robertson. Volume II.  Copyright 1930 by Broadman Press."

Jesus "grew" physically and He grew in His understanding of life.  We cannot be sure of exactly what ways the God-man's growth was the same as our growth as a child, and exactly in what ways His growth was different than our growth as a child.  But, we can be sure that He understands better what we go through, because He has shared in so many what our lives are like.  "For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet was without sin." (Hebrews 4:15)  He understands what it is like to have been a helpless child who needed to depend on His parents.  He understands what it is like to not know things. See Matt. 24:36; Mk. 5:32; Lk. 8:44-48

"and the grace of God was upon him."  Jesus was favored by God and helped by God.

e. Jesus, the twelve-year old boy (2:41-50)

(1) Jesus is taken to the temple (2:41-42)
" Every year his parents went to Jerusalem for the Feast of the Passover. When he was twelve years old, they went up to the Feast, according to the custom."  A yearly visit "to Jerusalem for the Feast of the Passover" was required by the Old Testament Law.  Actually, the men of Israel were required to go to three Feasts a year—"Passover," Pentecost, and Tabernacles. See Exod. 23:14-17, 34:22-23; Deut. 16:16-17  Due to the dispersion of Jews throughout the world, the pattern was for the Jewish man to come to Jerusalem once a year.  When Jesus was twelve years old, "at which age he was known as a son of the law, and came under obligation to observe ordinances personally." "Taken from Word Studies in the New Testament by M. R. Vincent.  Copyright 1972 by Associated Publishers and Authors." Some believe that it was at age thirteen that this took place.

The pattern of Jesus' family provides us an example for all Christian families.  They were devout in participating together in the practices that God had ordained them to do.  So, Christian families are today to be devout in attending worship services and Christian activities together.

(2) Jesus gets separated from His parents. (2:43-45)
"After the Feast was over, while his parents were returning home, the boy Jesus stayed behind in Jerusalem, but they were unaware of it. Thinking he was in their company, they traveled on for a day. Then they began looking for him among their relatives and friends. When they did not find him, they went back to Jerusalem to look for him."

Thought Question:  Why do you think that Jesus staying in the temple when His parents had left was not sinful?

 

 

"After the Feast was over, while his parents were returning home, the boy Jesus stayed behind in Jerusalem, but they were unaware of it."  The pattern of those returning from the Feast was to travel in a large caravan of people where the women and children went ahead and the men and the older boys followed.  Both Joseph and Mary probably thought Jesus was in the other group.  Hendriksen states that this pattern of traveling "can be verified for a later day" and may have "prevailed even at this time." "Taken from Luke by William Hendriksen. Copyright 1978 by Baker Book House."

"Thinking he was in their company, they traveled on for a day. Then they began looking for him among their relatives and friends. When they did not find him, they went back to Jerusalem to look for him."  They probably planned to sleep together as a family, but then Joseph realized that Jesus was not with Mary and Mary realized that Jesus was not with Joseph.  They could only conclude that He was still in "Jerusalem."  So, they went back there to look for Him.

(3) His parents find Him back at the temple in Jerusalem. (2:46-48)
"After three days they found him in the temple courts, sitting among the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions. Everyone who heard him was amazed at his understanding and his answers. When his parents saw him, they were astonished. His mother said to him, 'Son, why have you treated us like this? Your father and I have been anxiously searching for you.'"

Thought Question:  Mary was Jesus' mom, and yet He was her Lord.  How do these two realities help us to understand what took place at the temple on that day?

 

 

"After three days they found him in the temple courts, sitting among the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions."  Jesus, the young God-man, had found an environment where He felt very at home.  They were actually discussing what He had, in Old Testament times, revealed to the Jewish people.  Yet, as a child, He was growing in His understanding.  He was totally enthralled with what He was hearing, and He had many questions.  Edersheim gives us some understanding of what was taking place:  "For we read in the Talmud, that the members of the Temple-Sanhedrin, who on ordinary days sat as a Court of Appeal, from the close of the morning - to the time of the Evening Sacrifice, were wont on Sabbaths and feast days to come out upon 'the Terrace' of the Temple, and there to teach.  In such popular instruction the utmost latitude of questioning would be given.  It is in this audience, which sat on the ground, surrounding and mingling with the Doctors —hence during not after the Feast—that we must seek the Child Jesus." " "Taken from The Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah by Alfred Edersheim 1:247.  Copyright 1971 by Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co."

"After three days"  This probably includes the first day of traveling, a day's traveling back to "Jerusalem," and, then, finding Jesus on the third day.

"Everyone who heard him was amazed at his understanding and his answers."  Sometimes, a young child stands out for some unusual ability that he or she has.  It may be some musical skill, an athletic ability, or an intellectual aptitude that astounds us.  Those at the "temple" witnessed a very unique child share a knowledge of God that was way beyond what a child of twelve should understand.  His knowledge of God was possible because He was God in the body of a twelve-year old boy.

"When his parents saw him, they were astonished. His mother said to him, 'Son, why have you treated us like this? Your father and I have been anxiously searching for you.'"  From Jesus' parents' perspective, Jesus had been insensitive to how His staying in "Jerusalem" had caused them so much worry.  Were they right?  Was Jesus selfishly insensitive to them?  Let's look at Jesus' answer to get our answer to this question.

(4) Jesus explains why He had to remain in Jerusalem (2:49-50)
"'Why were you searching for me?' he asked. 'Didn’t you know I had to be in my Father’s house?' But they did not understand what he was saying to them."

Thought Question:  Why do you think that Jesus "had to be in" His "Father's house"?

 

 

"'Why were you searching for me?' he asked. 'Didn’t you know I had to be in my Father’s house?'"  Somewhere and at some time, Jesus became aware that His true Father was God.  So, above all, He needed to obey God the "Father's" directions for His life.  Joseph and Mary should have known that this virgin-born Son of theirs, who had been announced to them by an angel, was God's Son and not wholly their Son.  Because of that, He needed to be looked upon as eager to understand His role in this world.  The temple teachers gave Him an opportunity to grow up in this way.  He was not being insensitive to them, but sensitive to the Father's guidance of Him.

We, like Joseph and Mary, can feel that God is, at times, insensitive to us.  The fact that God's ways are above our ways does not mean that He is insensitive to us.  The truth is that it is we who are often insensitive to Him and to His good goals and His infinitely wise ways.

"I had to be"  The first of a number of times that Jesus says what He must do. see Lk. 4:43, 9:22, 13:33, 17:25, 22:37

"I had to be"  For Jesus to fulfill His purpose, He "had to be" in the temple, which was His "Father's house."  It was not an option for Jesus.  He was in the temple that day, for that is where He "had to be."

"But they did not understand what he was saying to them."  All of us have had times when we explained something to someone that was plain to us, but we picked up that he or she did not at all understand what we had just said.  That is what happened that day in Jerusalem.  Jesus explained that because of His unique relationship to the Father, He needed to be in His "Father's house." 
 His parents did not at all "understand what he was saying to them."

f. His family returns to Nazareth. (2:51a)
"Then he went down to Nazareth with them and was obedient to them."  Even though "Nazareth" is north of Jerusalem, because Jerusalem is an elevated city, to leave Jerusalem was to go "down."

"was obedient to them."  The Son of God "was obedient to them."  Here, we see Jesus' humility.  "Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death— even death on a cross!"
(Philippians 2:5-8)  The fact that He must obey His Father did not normally conflict with His obedience to His parents.  So, He lived out His childhood in humble obedience to His parents.

g. Mary treasured all of this in her heart. (2:51b)
"But his mother treasured all these things in her heart."  Although she did not understand Jesus and His ways, like a loving mother does, she treasured her memories of Jesus' childhood.  One of those treasures was how He amazed the teachers at the temple in Jerusalem.

h. The boy Jesus grows into a man. (2:52)
"And Jesus grew in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and men."  We are told in Galatians that there is "no law" against doing what comes from God's Spirit. (Gal. 5:23)  There was also nothing wrong with what Jesus did.  As a result He "grew" in "favor with God and man."  The early church had this same effect on those that knew them.  "Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved." (Acts 2:46-47)

JESUS, A MAN OF ABOUT THIRTY YEARS OF AGE, ALONG WITH JOHN THE BAPTIST, PREPARE THE WAY FOR HIS MINISTRY (3:1-4:13)

1. John the Baptist preaches repentance. (3:1-3)
"In the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar—when Pontius Pilate was governor of Judea, Herod tetrarch of Galilee, his brother Philip tetrarch of Iturea and Traconitis, and Lysanias tetrarch of Abilene— during the high priesthood of Annas and Caiaphas, the word of God came to John son of Zechariah in the desert. He went into all the country around the Jordan, preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins."

Thought Question:  How do you believe John's ministry prepared the way for Jesus?

 

 

"In the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar—when Pontius Pilate was governor of Judea, Herod tetrarch of Galilee, his brother Philip tetrarch of Iturea and Traconitis, and Lysanias tetrarch of Abilene— during the high priesthood of Annas and Caiaphas, the word of God came to John son of Zechariah in the desert."

Luke gives us the political rulers who were present at the time that "John" the Baptist began his ministry.  "Tiberius" was the Roman emperor after Augustus, and was the second emperor of Rome.  He became emperor in A.D. 14, so "the fifteenth year of" his "reign" would have been about A.D. 28 or 29.  If Tiberius' reign was dated from the time when he ruled with Augustus, the date would have been earlier.  Some scholars hold this view.  That would make the date to be about A.D. 26.

"Pontius Pilate" became "governor of Judea," because the Jewish people "petitioned Rome for" the removal of Archelaus, "a thoroughly bad king,"  "Rome impatient of the continual troubles in Judea, installed a procurator or governor." "Taken from The Gospel of Luke by William Barclay. Copyright 1975 by the Westminster Press."

"Herod the tetrarch"  "Tetrarch" was a ruler over a fourth part of a region.  Herod the Great, the king at Jesus' birth (see Matt. 3:3-16) divided his kingdom among his sons.  "Herod the tetrarch" was "Herod" Antipas, a son of Herod the Great who ruled over "Galilee," the region where Jesus lived as a child.

"Philip the tetrarch of Iturea and Traconitis,"  Caesarea Philippi is named after him.  "Iturea and Traconitis" were to the east of the sea of Galilee.

"Lysanias tetrarch of Abilene"  "Luke's statement no longer stands alone, as it did for many years.  It has been confirmed in an inscription on a rock west of Damascus.  This inscription states that Lysanias was indeed governor of this region." "Taken from Luke by William Hendriksen. Copyright 1978 by Baker Book House."  "Abilene" is believed to be north of Philip's region.

"during the high priesthood of Annas and Caiaphas,"  The practice of the Jews was for the high priest to hold his office for life, but the practice of the Romans was to appoint a high priest according to their political goals.  Although the Romans appointed "Caiaphas" to be high priest, his father-in-law "Annas" was still high priest according to Jewish tradition.  In John 18, Jesus is first brought to "Annas" after He is arrested. See Jn. 18:12-14 and Acts 4:6

"the word of God came to John"  These few words are more significant than what we might at first notice.  They are saying that God gave John His message and words of prophecy to give to the nation of Israel—just as God gave His "word" to Jeremiah.  "The word of the Lord came to him in the thirteenth year of the reign of Josiah son of Amon king of Judah," (Jeremiah 1:2). See also Jer. 1:4, 11-13  With "John," the prophetic ministry to God's resumes.

"He went into all the country around the Jordan, preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins."  Though there is a washing described in the Old Testament, as part of the ritual given to the people of Israel, baptism as "John" the Baptist practiced it is not found in the Old Testament.  But it was not something new in John's time.  "Historically, proselyte baptism, the administration of this rite to those who from the Gentile world had been converted to the Jewish religion, preceded baptism as administered by John.  The Jews regarded all Gentiles as being unclean, and therefore subjected them to baptism when they were won over to Judaism.  What was new and startling for the Baptist' audience was that a basic transformation and its sign and seal were required even of the children of Abraham!  They too were filthy!  They too must acknowledge this openly!" "Taken from Luke by William Hendriksen. Copyright 1978 by Baker Book House."

"repentance"  "The concept of repentance is central to Luke.  Not only is its concrete character elaborated in 3:10-14, but Jesus, in his Great Commission in 24:43-47, makes it clear that the roots of the concept come from the Old Testament.  Though the Greek term for repentance means 'a change of mind,' the Semitic concept involves a 'turning,' an attitude that brings a change of direction  (1 Kings 8:47; 13:33; Ps 78:34; Isa 6:10; Ezek 3:19; Amos 4:6).  Other texts in Luke emphasize this term (5:32; 10:13; 11:32; 13:3, 5; 15:7, 10)." "Taken from Luke by Darrell Bock. Copyright 1994 by Intervarsity Press."

"forgiveness of sins."  Baptism symbolized the washing away of the filth and condemnation that contaminates us as a result of our sins.  "as far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us." (Psalm 103:12)  "You will again have compassion on us; you will tread our sins underfoot and hurl all our iniquities into the depths of the sea." (Micah 7:19)

John's baptism symbolized the blood of Christ washing away our sins.  "How much more, then, will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself unblemished to God, cleanse our consciences from acts that lead to death, so that we may serve the living God!" (Hebrews 9:14)  John's baptism pointed forward to what Jesus' blood would do; Christian baptism points backward to what Jesus' blood has done.

"He went into all the country around the Jordan,"  John's ministry took place near the "Jordan" River—on its western shore.

2. John's ministry fulfilled prophecy. (3:4-6)
"As is written in the book of the words of Isaiah the prophet: 'A voice of one calling in the desert, “Prepare the way for the Lord, make straight paths for him. Every valley shall be filled in, every mountain and hill made low. The crooked roads shall become straight, the rough ways smooth. And all mankind will see God’s salvation.”'"

Thought Question:  How did John's ministry raise the valleys and lower the mountains in preparing Israel for Jesus?

 

 

"As is written in the book of the words of Isaiah the prophet: 'A voice of one calling in the desert, “Prepare the way for the Lord, make straight paths for him. Every valley shall be filled in, every mountain and hill made low. The crooked roads shall become straight, the rough ways smooth. And all mankind will see God’s salvation.”'"

Luke quotes the prophecy in Isaiah 40:3-5. and he tells us that it was a prophecy about "John" the Baptist.  A "voice" from the "desert" would "prepare the way for" the promised Messiah. See Jn. 1:23 where John declares that he is that "voice."  See also Matt. 1:23, 11:9-10

It is interesting that there are 66 chapters in Isaiah, and there are 66 books in the Bible.  Since there are 39 books in the Old Testament, chapter 40 begins the New Testament portion of Isaiah.  And Isaiah 40 starts with this quote, preceded only by these words.  "Comfort, comfort my people, says your God. Speak tenderly to Jerusalem, and proclaim to her that her hard service has been completed, that her sin has been paid for, that she has received from the Lord’s hand double for all her sins." (Isaiah 40:1-2)

"Prepare the way for the Lord," as it is described in the verses following these words, sounds like what we do today to "prepare the way for" a modern freeway.  This evening, I will be traveling to a city 30 miles from us with a friend as we go to lead the service at a Union Gospel Mission there.  We will travel there on a freeway over rough terrain.  The highway department of our state made that freeway by doing exactly what Isaiah describes here.  An older road was crooked—they straightened it out.  Some valleys were filled in and hills were lowered in parts.  It is a very "smooth" highway, so "rough ways" were made "smooth."  The purpose of John's ministry was to make it easier for people to both come to Jesus and to follow Him.

All of this preparation was preparing the way for the King.  In ancient times, people would "prepare" the roads for the coming of the king.  "John" performed his ministry to "prepare the way" for the King!

Speaking once more of the Gospel Mission.  In the past, they often had a sign on these missions that read, "Jesus saves."  This message is only appealing to those who see their need for a Savior.  John's role was to lead Israel to see their sins and then turn from them.  Then, when the Savior came, they who saw their need for a Savior would be likely to respond to Him.  Although the nation as a whole did not turn from their sins, there were those that did.  Among them were John's disciples, who then became Jesus' disciples. See Jn. 1:35-42

Why did Israel need "John" to "prepare the way" for Jesus?  It was because though they thought that they were close to God; they were actually far from Him.  "The Lord says: 'These people come near to me with their mouth and honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. Their worship of me is made up only of rules taught by men.'" (Isaiah 29:13)  The very strong words of Israel's prophet "John" the Baptist were needed for them to see their sin and their need of a Savior.

"'“And all mankind will see God’s salvation.”'"  "John" prepared "the way" for Jesus; and through Jesus, "salvation" has been offered to "all mankind."

3. John strongly condemns Israel's sin. (3:7-9)
"John said to the crowds coming out to be baptized by him, 'You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the coming wrath? Produce fruit in keeping with repentance. And do not begin to say to yourselves, “We have Abraham as our father.” For I tell you that out of these stones God can raise up children for Abraham. The ax is already at the root of the trees, and every tree that does not produce good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire.'"

Thought Question: Why was it appropriate for "John" to use such strong language in describing the people of Israel?

 

 

"John said to the crowds coming out to be baptized by him, 'You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the coming wrath?"  In the parallel account in Matthew 3:7-10, Matthew describes "John" as speaking to the "Pharisees and Sadducees" when he says, "you brood of vipers!" (Matt. 3:7)  Here, Luke describes him as speaking "to the crowds."  In the desert where "John" was preaching, if there were fires, the snakes would come of the hiding to slither away from the fire.  Israel was a hardened and self-righteous nation just like their religious leaders.  Paul, who had been a Pharisee, described them in this way.  "Now you, if you call yourself a Jew; if you rely on the law and brag about your relationship to God; if you know his will and approve of what is superior because you are instructed by the law; if you are convinced that you are a guide for the blind, a light for those who are in the dark, an instructor of the foolish, a teacher of infants, because you have in the law the embodiment of knowledge and truth— you, then, who teach others, do you not teach yourself? You who preach against stealing, do you steal? You who say that people should not commit adultery, do you commit adultery? You who abhor idols, do you rob temples? You who brag about the law, do you dishonor God by breaking the law? As it is written: 'God’s name is blasphemed among the Gentiles because of you.'" (Romans 2:17-24)

God had just given "John" the ability to see clearly the state of heart of those coming to him.  It must have been very uncomfortable to come to him and to hear the words of this one who knew them so well.  But they were fearful that God's wrath would fall on them if they did not come to him and repent.  So, they came to him so that they would be saved from God's wrath—which they felt could happen to them soon. See Isa. 13:9-13; Joel 3:14-16; Zephaniah 1:14-18, 2:2-3, 3:8; Mal. 3:2, 4:1,5 for predictions of the coming wrath.

We are immediately amazed at his boldness and fearlessness.  It was this fearlessness that led to his death. See Lk 3:19-20; Matt. 14:1-4; Mk. 6:17-29  What gave him his boldness and fearlessness?  Here is some of what emboldened him to be so fearless; and it can give it to us also:  1) He had complete confidence in the truth that he was proclaiming.  2) He had complete confidence that he was on God's side.  3) He had complete confidence that it was God's time for him to say it.  David took on Goliath because he believed that God was on his side.  "'The Lord who delivered me from the paw of the lion and the paw of the bear will deliver me from the hand of this Philistine.' Saul said to David, 'Go, and the Lord be with you.'" (1 Samuel 17:37) 

Ryle has this to say about John's boldness:  "His head was not turned by popularity.  He cared not who was offended by his words.  The spiritual disease of those before him was desperate and long standing, and he knew that desperate diseases need strong remedies." "Taken from Expository Thoughts of the Gospels by J. C. Ryle."  See 6:26, Galatians 1:10

"Who warned you"  "The verb ["warned"] [hepedeixen]is like our 'suggest' by proof to eye, ear, or brain (Luke 6:47, 12:5; Acts 9:16, 20:35; Matthew 3:7).  Nowhere else in the N.T. though a common ancient word (hupodeiknumi, show under, point out, give a tip or private hint)." "Taken from Word Pictures in the New Testament by A. T. Robertson. Volume II.  Copyright 1930 by Broadman Press."

"Produce fruit in keeping with repentance."  James says that "faith without deeds is useless." (James 2:20)  For faith with no action has no impact on one's life.  Also, "repentance" is not "repentance" at all, if there is no change in the way one lives his or her life.  The Corinthian Christians received a strong letter of correction from Paul.  Paul knew they had truly repented when he learned that they had visibly changed their behavior and attitudes.  "Even if I caused you sorrow by my letter, I do not regret it. Though I did regret it—I see that my letter hurt you, but only for a little while— yet now I am happy, not because you were made sorry, but because your sorrow led you to repentance. For you became sorrowful as God intended and so were not harmed in any way by us. Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret, but worldly sorrow brings death. See what this godly sorrow has produced in you: what earnestness, what eagerness to clear yourselves, what indignation, what alarm, what longing, what concern, what readiness to see justice done. At every point you have proved yourselves to be innocent in this matter." (2 Corinthians 7:8-11)

"John" knew that there was no true "repentance" in Israel if they said that they had repented, but there was no change in their behavior—changes in the way they treated the poor, in the way they did business, in the way they treated their family members, in their devotion to God, in their humility, and in other parts of their lives.  The application to us is obvious.

"And do not begin to say to yourselves, “We have Abraham as our father.” For I tell you that out of these stones God can raise up children for Abraham."  And do not begin to say to yourselves, “We have Abraham as our father.” For I tell you that out of these stones God can raise up children for Abraham."  He heads them off before they start what in Alcoholics Anonymous is called "stinking thinking."  What he knew they were going to do was to come up with a defense—"we are "children of Abraham," how dare you speak to us in such a disrespectful way."  But "John" quickly counters with "God does not need you, He can turn the "stones" into "children for Abraham."  God, in the beginning, made men out of dust.  If necessary, He could make men from "stones" to replace these false "children" of "Abraham."  They were false, because they were not anything like "Abraham."

True "children" of "Abraham" are men of faith who seek God as "Abraham" did.  True "children" of "Abraham" are not his physical descendents, but his spiritual descendents.  "Against all hope, Abraham in hope believed and so became the father of many nations, just as it had been said to him, 'So shall your offspring be.” Without weakening in his faith, he faced the fact that his body was as good as dead—since he was about a hundred years old—and that Sarah’s womb was also dead. Yet he did not waver through unbelief regarding the promise of God, but was strengthened in his faith and gave glory to God, being fully persuaded that God had power to do what he had promised. This is why “it was credited to him as righteousness.'" (Romans 4:18-22)

"The ax is already at the root of the trees, and every tree that does not produce good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire.'"  "John" is predicting that those who live fruitless lives will be burned like a barren "tree" is burned. He is predicting God's wrath in hell.  Like someone who warns somebody to stop immediately, for there is a gasoline truck that is on fire ahead and it is about to explode, so we are to warn people as "John" does here of the wrath to come.  I discussed this with a group of men in jail this week.  I saw them soften as we discussed Romans six.  Then, I warned them, with compassion, of the eternal consequences of rejecting what Jesus did for them on the cross.  We have been intimidated out of warning people about the just eternal consequences of our sin and of the wrath that is ahead for those who do not repent.  Today, we need to be unashamed and bold in telling people the truth about the wrath of God they will face if they do not truly repent.

"The ax is already at the root of the trees,"  "John" stresses here the urgency for them to repent immediately.  The Messiah was about to come to them.  They needed to repent and be ready for Him.  His coming would be followed by His crucifixion, which they should not want to be ugly participants in.  Then, shortly after that, there would be the destruction of the temple by the Romans in A.D. 70.  The time for them to repent was upon them.  They needed to choose to repent immediately. 

4. Crowds of people repent. (3:10-14)
"'What should we do then?' the crowd asked. John answered, 'The man with two tunics should share with him who has none, and the one who has food should do the same.' Tax collectors also came to be baptized. 'Teacher,' they asked, 'what should we do?' 'Don’t collect any more than you are required to, he told them. Then some soldiers asked him, 'And what should we do?' He replied, 'Don’t extort money and don’t accuse people falsely—be content with your pay.'"

Thought Question: What would true repentance of those inside the church and outside the church look like today?

 

 

"'What should we do then?' the crowd asked. John answered, 'The man with two tunics should share with him who has none, and the one who has food should do the same.'"  When we read these words of "John," we may think of the lazy person who wants to get by without working or the beggar who has found that he can make a good living by begging for money.  If "John" was saying that, it would contradict what is taught in another part of the Bible.  "For even when we were with you, we gave you this rule: 'If a man will not work, he shall not eat.'" (II Thessalonians 3:10)  But, "John" is talking here about going from selfishness to selfless giving.  Also, he is not authorizing the government or the church forcing or pressuring us to give to the poor.  He is, rather, talking about a person going from the selfish pursuit of abundance to sacrificially giving to help the truly needy.

Apparently, John's preaching had impacted the crowd, and they were feeling convicted of their phony religion.  We Christians can be lulled into a superficial form of Christianity because it is what everyone is doing.  Then, we can become convicted as a speaker exposes to us that our Christianity is a lukewarm and empty duty.  We can also become, like those who listened to "John," and be ready to turn from our selfishness to a life of selfless service.  "And he died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again." (II Corinthians 5:15)

"Tax collectors also came to be baptized. 'Teacher,' they asked, 'what should we do?' 'Don’t collect any more than you are required to, he told them.'"  The "tax collectors" were hated by the Jews, especially if they were Jewish "tax collectors."  They typically over-charged their fellow Jews to line their own pockets.  True "repentance" would result in them collecting only what they were "required to" "collect."  Matthew the tax collector, who became one of Jesus' disciples, may have been one of these "tax collectors."

"Then some soldiers asked him, 'And what should we do?' He replied, 'Don’t extort money and don’t accuse people falsely—be content with your pay.'"  On a missionary trip, the missionary we were with drove a group of pastors in the back of his truck.  He pulled over to the side of the road so they could get out.  He was told by a policeman that he was parking illegally, but that he would ignore the violation if he was given some money.  The missionary explained that he was a Christian missionary and that he could not pay the bribe, for that would be illegal.  The policeman let us go on.  He was doing what policemen in most of the world do—he was using his position of power to extort money from people.

In each of these cases, those asking what they should do are told to do what they knew they should have been doing all along.  As Christians, it is also plain what we are to do.  True "repentance" occurs when we stop doing what we know is wrong and start doing what we know is right.

5. John explains that he is not the Messiah. (3:15-18)
"The people were waiting expectantly and were all wondering in their hearts if John might possibly be the Christ. John answered them all, 'I baptize you with water. But one more powerful than I will come, the thongs of whose sandals I am not worthy to untie. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire. His winnowing fork is in his hand to clear his threshing floor and to gather the wheat into his barn, but he will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire.' And with many other words John exhorted the people and preached the good news to them."

Thought Question:  In what ways is John's attitude like what our attitude should be?

 

 

"The people were waiting expectantly and were all wondering in their hearts if John might possibly be the Christ. John answered them all, 'I baptize you with water. But one more powerful than I will come, the thongs of whose sandals I am not worthy to untie. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire."

Hendriksen describes well what the people were feeling about "John."  "They were wondering whether John, a man who spoke with such conviction and so forcefully, whose words found such a response in their own conscience, and especially, a man who started something new, namely, baptizing Jews, as if they tooo were unclean, might not himself be the Christ." "Taken from Luke by William Hendriksen. Copyright 1978 by Baker Book House."

John's response to their thoughts demonstrates amazing humility.  I once heard that George Washington was a great man because he resisted the temptation to be a dictator for the good of the country.  "John" the Baptist could have kept himself in the spotlight, but instead, he put Jesus in the spotlight.  He pointed out that Jesus was completely superior to him in three very significant ways.

First, Jesus was superior to "John" in status.  "Among the many tasks that a first-century slave performed for his master, one of the most demanding and least liked was removing sandals from the master's feet . . . " "Taken from Luke by Darrell Bock. Copyright 1994 by Intervarsity Press."  "John" says that he was "not worthy" to remove Jesus' "sandals."  "John" was a man; Jesus was God!  His illustration was true.  Compared to Jesus, no human should receive praise.  I heard recently the following illustration of this.  When the donkey carried Jesus into Jerusalem on his back on Palm Sunday, it was not the donkey the people were cheering for.  Human pride lures us to want to take people's praise.  But, like the donkey, it is the One above us that deserves all the praise.

Secondly, Jesus' blessing on the people would far exceed what "John" could do for them.  He baptized "with water," Jesus would "baptize" men and women "with the Holy Spirit and with fire."

Baptism "with the Holy Spirit" began at Pentecost and is received now by every true Christian.  "You, however, are controlled not by the sinful nature but by the Spirit, if the Spirit of God lives in you. And if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Christ." (Romans 8:9)  "Don’t you know that you yourselves are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit lives in you?" (I Corinthians 3:16)  "For we were all baptized by one Spirit into one body—whether Jews or Greeks, slave or free—and we were all given the one Spirit to drink."  (I Corinthians 12:13) See also Acts 2:1-21 for a description of how the first Christians received "the Holy Spirit."

What, then, is meant by the baptism "with fire"?  Bock makes an important point on the meaning of this.  "We know only one baptism [i.e., baptism "with the Holy Spirit" and the baptism "with fire" are one baptism] is described (contrary to the NIV), because the terms Holy Spirit and fire are tied together by one preposition en ('with')." "Taken from Luke by Darrell Bock. Copyright 1994 by Intervarsity Press."  As people are baptized by God's "Spirit," they are separated from those who are headed toward God's judgment of "fire."  "But who can endure the day of his coming? Who can stand when he appears? For he will be like a refiner’s fire or a launderer’s soap." (Malachi 3:2)  "as you look forward to the day of God and speed its coming. That day will bring about the destruction of the heavens by fire, and the elements will melt in the heat." (II Peter 3:12)  Also, the "fire" describes the cleansing of those who believe.  "This third I will bring into the fire; I will refine them like silver and test them like gold. They will call on my name and I will answer them; I will say, 'They are my people,' and they will say, 'The Lord is our God.'" (Zechariah 13:9)  "In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed." (1 Peter 1:6-7)

Both the "Holy Spirit" and "fire" speak of Jesus bringing about purification.  The water of John's baptism symbolizes the washing that the "Holy Spirit" would bring into a person's life and the cleansing that will come through Jesus' judgment. See Rev. 6:16-17   That the "fire" represents God's judgment can be seen in the verses that follow. 

"'His winnowing fork is in his hand to clear his threshing floor and to gather the wheat into his barn, but he will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire.'"  "The winnowing fan was a great flat wooden shovel; with it the grain was tossed into the air; the heavy grain fell to the ground and chaff was blown away." "Taken from The Gospel of Luke by William Barclay. Copyright 1975 by the Westminster Press."

"threshing floor"  "The underlying figure is that of a threshing floor where winnowing is taking place.  Such a floor is either natural or artificial.  If the former, it the surface of a flat rock on top of a hill, exposed to the wind.  If the latter, it is a similarly exposed area, about thirty to fifty feet in diameter, which has been prepared by clearing the soil of stones, wetting it down, and then packing it hard and smooth, causing it to slope slightly upward along the rim, and surrounding it with a border of stones to keep the grain inside." "Taken from Luke by William Hendriksen. Copyright 1978 by Baker Book House."  On this flat surface, winnowing takes place.

The "chaff," then, is burned; for it is worthless.  So, those who choose evil instead of God are worthless and will be burned "with unquenchable fire."  Hell is a very unpopular subject in our society.  Those who are arrogant toward God, though, have not faced up to the consequences of their arrogance toward God.  God is not One to be arrogant toward.  One day, these rejecters of God will face their just judgment and they will experience God's holy "fire" of judgment.  But, that need not be true for anyone.  For every person now has the opportunity to repent. 

"and to gather the wheat into his barn,"  Paul described our eternal destiny in    I Thessalonians.  "For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever." (1 Thessalonians 4:16-17)

And, so, the choice is ours.  Jesus has come and He will come again.  We can either be those whom He baptizes in the "Spirit" or those who will experience His eternal "fire."  One day, that decision will no longer be ours to make.  So, decide today, your eternity depends on it.  If you have already chosen Jesus, rejoice in it and tell others what God has done for you.  Warn them also of the sure consequences of rejecting Jesus. See Dan. 12:2; Matt. 13:30, 48-50, 25:41-46; Matt 13:30, 48-50, 25:41-46; Rev. 20:10-15

"And with many other words John exhorted the people and preached the good news to them."  So, we can see here that we have but a small sampling of John's teaching—"and with many other words John exhorted the people."  We also learn here that the purpose of his preaching and teaching was to exhort "the people"; and we learn that he "preached the good news to them." 

From what we have learned from the content of his preaching, we might think that he was preaching the bad news.  But, the bad news is what we should all know: we all have done bad by continually disobeying God's commandments, and we deserve to receive God's just punishment for that bad.  The "good news" is that Jesus came to save us from our sin and from the penalty for our sins.  That was John's ultimate message.

6. John is locked up by Herod. (3:19-20)
"But when John rebuked Herod the tetrarch because of Herodias, his brother’s wife, and all the other evil things he had done, Herod added this to them all: He locked John up in prison."

Thought Question: Do you believe that "John" did what God wanted him to do when he "rebuked Herod"?  Please explain your answer.

 

 

"But when John rebuked Herod the tetrarch because of Herodias, his brother’s wife, and all the other evil things he had done, Herod added this to them all: He locked John up in prison."  What happened to "John," "Herod," and "Herodias" is found in three of the Gospels. See Matt. 14:1-12; Mk. 1:14, 6:17-29; Lk. 7:18-35, 9:7-9

"But when John rebuked Herod the tetrarch because of Herodias, his brother’s wife,"  Here is a quote from my Digging for Gold on Matthew 14: "Herod's marriage to "Herodias" was wrong for at least three reasons:  (1) He seduced her away from his "brother."  (2) He left his former wife to marry "Herodias."  (3) She was his niece—the daughter of his brother Aristobolus. See Lev. 18:16, 20:2  In "Herod," "Herodias," and Salome the "daughter of Herodias," we see unbelief, self-indulgence, and weakness at their worst."

"and all the other evil things he had done, Herod added this to them all: He locked John up in prison."  "Herod added" to "all the other evil things he had done," when He put "John in prison."  Still, another "evil" that "Herod" did is that he had "John" beheaded. See Matt. 14:6-12

Luke is fast-forwarding to the end of John's life, so he can focus on Jesus' ministry.  But John's ministry did continue alongside Jesus' ministry for a time.  His death occurred during Jesus' ministry. See 7:18-35; Jn. 3:27-30

An obvious application to us is the following: are we to follow John's pattern and rebuke those who do evil?  For, if we do, our fate may be similar to what happened to "John."  There is much we need to consider before we rebuke those in power as "John" did:  1) Are we living the righteous type of life that "John" did?  If we correct others, yet do the same type of things, we will be seen as a hypocrite.  2) Are we being arrogantly judgmental as the Pharisees were?  "Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you. Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, 'Let me take the speck out of your eye,' when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye." (Matthew 7:1-5)  3) Are we criticizing others for some selfish reason?  There may be others who are looked on more highly than us, so we point out their faults to make us look better than them.  "But if you harbor bitter envy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast about it or deny the truth." (James 3:14)

But, if our motives are pure, we should rebuke evil as "John" did.  "Have nothing to do with the fruitless deeds of darkness, but rather expose them." (Ephesians 5:11)  Paul gave these instruction to Timothy: "Preach the Word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage—with great patience and careful instruction. For the time will come when men will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths. But you, keep your head in all situations, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, discharge all the duties of your ministry." (II Timothy 4:2-5)

7. Jesus' baptism—He identifies Himself with mankind (3:21-22)
"When all the people were being baptized, Jesus was baptized too. And as he was praying, heaven was opened and the Holy Spirit descended on him in bodily form like a dove. And a voice came from heaven: 'You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased.'"

Thought Question:  Why do you believe Jesus was baptized, when it did not symbolize the death of the old self and the beginning of a new life? See Rom. 6:1-14

 

 

"When all the people were being baptized, Jesus was baptized too. And as he was praying, heaven was opened and the Holy Spirit descended on him in bodily form like a dove."  Here is another quote from my comments in Digging for Gold on the parallel account in Matthew (3:13-17): "When John baptized men, it symbolized what men must do—die to their old sin-controlled life and rise to a new life; when John baptized Jesus, it symbolized what Jesus must do—take our sin-controlled life on Himself, die in our place, and rise from the dead so we can also have a new life." 

Still another quote from my commentary on Matthew 3: "When Jesus came up out of the water, the Holy Spirit came down on Him like a dove; symbolizing that He would win His Kingdom with gentleness and would also give Himself as a sacrificial dove."  We also are to be empowered by the Holy Spirit so that we can be gentle. See Matt. 11:28-30, 12:19-20

"And as he was praying,"  Luke is the only Gospel that tells us that Jesus "was praying."  Luke records many times when Jesus was in prayer:  "But Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed." (Luke 5:16) See also 6:12, 9:18, 28, 10:21, 11:1, 22:32, 42, 23:34, 24:34

"in bodily form like a dove."  Only Luke tells us that God's Spirit took on a physical shape with substance.

"And a voice came from heaven: 'You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased.'"  The Father endorses Jesus as His "Son" and as the promised Servant of Isaiah 42:  "'Here is my servant, whom I uphold, my chosen one in whom I delight; I will put my Spirit on him and he will bring justice to the nations. He will not shout or cry out, or raise his voice in the streets. A bruised reed he will not break, and a smoldering wick he will not snuff out. In faithfulness he will bring forth justice; he will not falter or be discouraged till he establishes justice on earth. In his law the islands will put their hope.' This is what God the Lord says— he who created the heavens and stretched them out, who spread out the earth and all that comes out of it, who gives breath to its people, and life to those who walk on it." (Isaiah 42:1-5) See also Jn. 1:32-34; Acts 10:37-38

Once more I will quote from my comments on Matthew 3:  "Notice that all three members of the Trinity were present together as Jesus comes up out of the water.  There was a heresy in the early church that taught that God expressed Himself in three different modes.  It is referred to as Modalism or Sabellianism.  They said that God is like water that sometimes is liquid, sometimes ice, and sometimes water vapor.  They taught that God was not three Persons, but merely appeared in three different forms.  But, here we see all three Persons of the Trinity at the same time.  What has become the orthodox position won out over Modalism.  The orthodox belief, that was true before that time of that controversy in church history, and was established at that time, is that God is one, but within that oneness are three Persons.  These verses are proof for this view of God that is now referred to as the Trinity; for here we see the three Persons of God all present and expressing themselves at the same time."

8. Jesus' human genealogy traced back to Adam (3:23-38)

a. Jesus' ministry began at about thirty years old. (3:23a)
"Now Jesus himself was about thirty years old when he began his ministry."  Only Luke records Jesus' age at the beginning of His "ministry."  Jesus had lived as a man for "thirty years."  He experienced life in much the same way as we know it before His miraculous and intense "ministry" began.

b. Jesus' human genealogy (3:23b-38)
"He was the son, so it was thought, of Joseph, the son of Heli, the son of Matthat, the son of Levi, the son of Melki, the son of Jannai, the son of Joseph, the son of Mattathias, the son of Amos, the son of Nahum, the son of Esli, the son of Naggai, the son of Maath, the son of Mattathias, the son of Semein, the son of Josech, the son of Joda, the son of Joanan, the son of Rhesa, the son of Zerubbabel, the son of Shealtiel, the son of Neri, the son of Melki, the son of Addi, the son of Cosam, the son of Elmadam, the son of Er, the son of Joshua, the son of Eliezer, the son of Jorim, the son of Matthat, the son of Levi, the son of Simeon, the son of Judah, the son of Joseph, the son of Jonam, the son of Eliakim, the son of Melea, the son of Menna, the son of Mattatha, the son of Nathan, the son of David, the son of Jesse, the son of Obed, the son of Boaz, the son of Salmon, the son of Nahshon, the son of Amminadab, the son of Ram, the son of Hezron, the son of Perez, the son of Judah, the son of Jacob, the son of Isaac, the son of Abraham, the son of Terah, the son of Nahor, the son of Serug, the son of Reu, the son of Peleg, the son of Eber, the son of Shelah, the son of Cainan, the son of Arphaxad, the son of Shem, the son of Noah, the son of Lamech, the son of Methuselah, the son of Enoch, the son of Jared, the son of Mahalalel, the son of Kenan, the son of Enosh, the son of Seth, the son of Adam, the son of God."

Thought Question: How does this genealogy of Jesus differ from the genealogy of Jesus in Matthew 1:1-17? (What differences immediately stand out to you?) 

 

 

There are a number of differences between Matthew's genealogy and Luke's genealogy:  1) Luke begins with Jesus and goes backward from him to Adam;  whereas, Matthew begins with Abraham and goes forward to Jesus.  2) Although Mary is not mentioned in Luke's genealogy, it appears that Luke traces Mary's genealogy; whereas, Matthew traces Joseph's family tree.  Some Bible scholars, however, believe Luke's genealogy was also Joseph's family tree. An argument for this is that the Jews did not trace a mother's family tree.  The fact that Luke was writing to Gentiles may explain how it could be a genealogy of Mary.  A further argument that Luke was tracing Joseph's family tree is that Luke describes Jesus as "a descendent of David" in Luke 1:31.  3) Luke's genealogy traces the family line of Jesus through Abraham back to Adam; whereas, Matthew's genealogy does not include anyone before Abraham.  4) Matthew's genealogy is much shorter than Luke's genealogy.  Matthew's genealogy skips descendents so as to arrange Jesus' descendents neatly into three groups with fourteen in each group.  Luke's genealogy was written out for Gentiles so it was not written out to be memorized.  Whereas, the Jews memorized their genealogies.  Matthews' genealogy could more easily be memorized.

There is also a similarity between the two genealogies.  Both are identical between Abraham and David.

Bock gives this description of other differences between the two genealogies.  "There are also key content differences between the two genealogies, including a significant divergence in the names between Abraham and Jesus, where the genealogies overlap.  Matthew has forty-one names in this section while Luke as fifty-seven.  In the period between David and Jesus only two names are common in the lists: Shealtiel and Zerubabbel.  Some sixty names in Luke's list are not in Matthew's.  The most significant differences are that David's descendent in Matthew's list is Solomon, while Luke mentions Nathan, and Jesus' grandfather in Matthew's list is Jacob, while in Luke it is Heli (Stein 192:141)." "Taken from Luke by Darrell Bock. Copyright 1994 by Intervarsity Press."

If a major theme of Luke is the manhood of Jesus, then tracing Jesus back to Adam through His human mother fits that theme.  He was the Son of Man—God in human flesh—who is here traced back to the first Adam.  Into the stream of humanity comes the second and last Adam to represent all of mankind as the first Adam did.  "For if, by the trespass of the one man, death reigned through that one man, how much more will those who receive God’s abundant provision of grace and of the gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man, Jesus Christ. Consequently, just as the result of one trespass was condemnation for all men, so also the result of one act of righteousness was justification that brings life for all men. For just as through the disobedience of the one man the many were made sinners, so also through the obedience of the one man the many will be made righteous." (Romans 5:17-19)

9. The temptation of Jesus (4:1-13)

a. The first temptation (4:1-4)
"Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan and was led by the Spirit in the desert, where for forty days he was tempted by the devil. He ate nothing during those days, and at the end of them he was hungry. The devil said to him, 'If you are the Son of God, tell this stone to become bread.' Jesus answered, 'It is written: “Man does not live on bread alone.”'"

Thought Question #1: Why do you believe that this battle between Jesus and Satan needed to take place?

 

 

Thought Question #2:  When have you used a verse of God's truth to respond to a temptation from Satan?

 

 

"Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan and was led by the Spirit in the desert, where for forty days he was tempted by the devil."  Jesus' ministry begins with, as Bock puts it, "a cosmic heavyweight championship fight." "Taken from Luke by Darrell Bock. Copyright 1994 by Intervarsity Press."  Jesus came to rescue mankind from the devil's enslavement.  And, so, the battle begins immediately at the beginning of Jesus' ministry.  "Since the children have flesh and blood, he too shared in their humanity so that by his death he might destroy him who holds the power of death—that is, the devil— and free those who all their lives were held in slavery by their fear of death." (Hebrews 2:14-15)  "'Or again, how can anyone enter a strong man’s house and carry off his possessions unless he first ties up the strong man? Then he can rob his house.'" (Matthew 12:29)

"Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit,"  Jesus' ministry began when God's Spirit came on Him.  Why did the Son of God need the Holy Spirit.  It appears that God the Father would guide, empower, and enable Jesus through the Holy Spirit.  We are left with what we are told, and with the mystery of both the Trinity and the God-man.  But, we are told here plainly that Jesus' ministry came through Him being "full of the Holy Spirit" and through Him "being led by the Spirit."

"was led by the Spirit in the desert,"  Mark puts it this way: "At once the Spirit sent him out into the desert," (Mark 1:12)  The original man Adam was placed in a garden.  His sin turned the perfect and weedless garden into a wilderness—a desert.  In "the desert," Jesus would be tempted as Adam was tempted in the garden.  The first Adam gave into the temptation; the last Adam resisted the temptation.

"where for forty days he was tempted by the devil."  "Matthew 4:2 seems to imply that the three recorded temptations came at the close of the fasting for forty days. That can be true and yet what Luke states be true also.  These three may be merely specimens and so 'representative of the struggle which continued throughout the whole period' (Plummer)." "Taken from Word Pictures in the New Testament by A. T. Robertson. Volume II.  Copyright 1930 by Broadman Press."

"he was tempted by the devil."  This portion of Jesus' life brings up an important question.  How could the Son of Man be tempted?  James say, "God cannot be tempted by evil."  Yet, we read these words in Hebrews 4:15: "For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet was without sin." (Hebrews 4:15)

Theologians have held various viewpoints on this issue.  My conclusion is as follows: The human side of Him was tempted, but because He was God, He could not sin.  Therefore, He experienced the temptations coming to Him, but there was nothing in Him to make Him at all receptive to the temptations.  He actually experienced the temptations stronger than we face them because He never gave into them and because Satan made Him his number one enemy.  He experienced the full force of Satan's temptations.

"He ate nothing during those days, and at the end of them he was hungry. The devil said to him, 'If you are the Son of God, tell this stone to become bread.' Jesus answered, 'It is written: “Man does not live on bread alone.”'"

The first Adam's temptation to eat the forbidden fruit came not when he was hungry, for he could eat all he wanted of the fruits of the garden of Eden.  Jesus, though, had not eaten anything for "forty days."  He could easily have turned any these stones into wonderful piping hot loafs of bread.  He was human and His body grew hungry just like our bodies do.  The temptation to perform this miracle was very real to Him.  Fasting for "forty days" certainly created extreme hunger in Him.

Was it a "stone" or "stones"?  Luke says, "'tell this stone to become bread'" and Matthew tells us that Satan said, "tell these stones to become bread."  It is likely that in both Luke and Matthew, we have an abbreviated summary of this temptation.  Satan likely pointed out a "stone" to Jesus as well as pointed out the "stones" that were around Jesus.

Why would it have been wrong for Jesus to turn the stones into "bread"?  It was not part of the Father's plan for Jesus to use His power to miraculously meet His own needs.  He did not come to earth to selfishly indulge Himself, but to accomplish the Father's will.  Turning the rocks into "bread" would have been an act of selfish and sinful disobedience to the Father's will.

Our fleshly hunger can also tempt us.  Esau disobeyed God and gave up his birthright for a bowl of stew. See Gen. 25:29-34; Heb. 12:16  Fleshly hunger can also tempt us to disobey God.

"Jesus answered, 'It is written: “Man does not live on bread alone.”'"  My mom used to say, as was I wolfing food down, "We eat to live, not live to eat."  Jesus' point is similar: life came from His relationship with the Father.  If He broke off His relationship with His Father for "bread," He would have chosen to reject that which brought Him life for a loaf of "bread."  Life comes when Jesus is Lord, not when one's stomach is Lord.

Jesus' quote is found in Deuteronomy 8:3: "He humbled you, causing you to hunger and then feeding you with manna, which neither you nor your fathers had known, to teach you that man does not live on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord."  In this section of Deuteronomy, Moses explains that God used Israel's wilderness experience to teach them "that man does not live on bread alone."  The people of Israel, like all of us, focused on their stomachs.  God caused them "to hunger" and then fed them "with manna," to teach them that true life comes from heaven and from God.  "Jesus said to them, 'I tell you the truth, it is not Moses who has given you the bread from heaven, but it is my Father who gives you the true bread from heaven. For the bread of God is he who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.'" (John 6:32-33)

Jesus knew that true life does not come from giving in to our stomach's desires, but from obeying the Father's words from heaven.  He resisted the first temptation by using a single verse of God's truth.  He used a verse of God's truth as we are also to use a verse of God's truth to deal with Satan's attacks.  "Take the . . . sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God." (Ephesians 6:17)  It is the rhema of God.  It is a single truth in God's word which can be used like a sword to ward off a specific attack from the devil—as Jesus used a single verse to ward off Satan's temptation here in these verses.

b. The second temptation (4:5-8)
"The devil led him up to a high place and showed him in an instant all the kingdoms of the world. And he said to him, 'I will give you all their authority and splendor, for it has been given to me, and I can give it to anyone I want to. So if you worship me, it will all be yours. 'Jesus answered, 'It is written: “Worship the Lord your God and serve him only.”'"

Thought Question: Why do you believe this was a true temptation to Jesus?

 

 

"The devil led him up to a high place and showed him in an instant all the kingdoms of the world. And he said to him, 'I will give you all their authority and splendor, for it has been given to me, and I can give it to anyone I want to. So if you worship me, it will all be yours.'"

We cannot be sure exactly how this temptation took place.  Was it a vision or did Jesus go with Satan to a high place?

What is the temptation?  Jesus was already the Son of God.  How could He be tempted by offering Him something He already had?  Jesus, though, still needed to die for our sins to regain His Lordship in our lives.  Satan offered it all to Him without the cross.

Satan can seek to entice us in the same way he sought to entice Jesus.  He can seek to entice us by offering to us some worldly treasure, some worldly success, some worldly power, or some worldly prestige.

Did Satan really have the right to offer the world to Jesus?  We learn in the Bible that he is the present ruler of the world.  "Now is the time for judgment on this world; now the prince of this world will be driven out." (John 12:31)  "in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient." (Ephesians 2:2)  "We know that we are children of God, and that the whole world is under the control of the evil one." (I John 5:19) See also Jn. 14:30, 16:11  But, Satan received his present position in the world when men, through Adam, sinned and chose disobedience to God over obedience to God.  Satan is now the ruler of the disobedient ones.  "The god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God." (II Corinthians 4:4)  He is a squatter on earth.  He is living and ruling a land that is not his own and that he has no right to.  It is similar to a drug cartel ruling a country.  Their rule is not legal control over that country, but an illegal control of that country.  So, Satan rules our world.  Satan says that Jesus can have all this world to rule, if He will "worship" him.  Then, "it will all be yours."

As Wiersbe points out, if Satan could have enticed Jesus to worship him, he would have accomplished his evil goal.  "You said in your heart, 'I will ascend to heaven; I will raise my throne above the stars of God; I will sit enthroned on the mount of assembly, on the utmost heights of the sacred mountain. I will ascend above the tops of the clouds; I will make myself like the Most High.'" (Isaiah 14:13-14)

"Jesus answered, 'It is written: “Worship the Lord your God and serve him only.”'"  Again, Jesus quotes a verse to Satan.  He pulls out the sword of the Spirit to parry away Satan's second temptation.  It sounds like Jesus used Deuteronomy 6:13 in response to Satan's second temptation: "Fear the Lord your God, serve him only . . . ." (Deuteronomy 6:13) See also Jn. 6:38

Luke gives the three temptations in a different order than Matthew does.  The second temptation of Luke was the third temptation of Matthew.  "We do not know why Luke reversed the second and third temptations, but since he did not claim to record the events in order, he is not contradicting Matthew 4:1-11.  The word then in Matthew 4:5 indicates that Matthew's order is the correct one.  We do seem to have in Luke's order a parallel to I John 2:16: the lust of the flesh (stones into bread), the lust of the eyes (the world's kingdoms and glory), and the pride of life (jump from the pinnacle of the temple, but its doubtful that Luke had this in mind." "Taken from Be Compassionate by Warren Wiersbe.  Copyright 1988 by Warren Wiersbe."

c. The third temptation (4:9-13)
"The devil led him to Jerusalem and had him stand on the highest point of the temple. 'If you are the Son of God,' he said, 'throw yourself down from here. For it is written: “He will command his angels concerning you to guard you carefully; they will lift you up in their hands, so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.”' Jesus answered, 'It says: “Do not put the Lord your God to the test.”' When the devil had finished all this tempting, he left him until an opportune time."

Thought Question#1:  Why do you believe this was truly a temptation to Jesus?

 

 

Thought Question: #2:  Give an example of how we could be tempted in a way similar to the way Jesus was tempted here?

 

 

"The devil led him to Jerusalem and had him stand on the highest point of the temple. 'If you are the Son of God,' he said, 'throw yourself down from here. For it is written: “He will command his angels concerning you to guard you carefully; they will lift you up in their hands, so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.”'"

Satan, here, tempts Jesus by quoting Scripture.  Cults and others, like Satan, twist Scripture to get it to say what they want it to say.

It is true that the "angels" watched over Jesus to protect Him.  But it was an improper application of these verses to use their desire to protect Jesus to mean that Jesus could do any type of dangerous thing He chose to do, and they would rescue Him.   Then,  the "angels" would need to rescue Him, even if He did something like what Satan suggests here and jumped off "the highest point of the temple."  I heard on the radio that someone told J. Vernon McGee, that even if he walked out in traffic, he would not die unless his time to die had come.  McGee said, "If you do that, your time to die has come."

What Satan was inviting Jesus to do, was to do something that would force the Father to rescue Him.  That is called presuming on God.  We are not to do something that we believe obligates God to do something to rescue us.  A church can enter a building project that is way beyond its ability to pay, and then require God or God's people to pay the bill.  If they have genuinely sought God's will and believe that they are in God's will, that is another matter,  Stepping out in faith to do what is God's will and presuming on God are quite different.  The key is, are we putting God's purposes above all, or are our motives mixed?  It is obviously not something that should be taken lightly.

"the highest point of the temple."  Barclay offers what he believed was being referred to here:  ". . . the pinnacle of the temple where Solomon's porch and the Royal Porch met.  There was a sheer drop of 450 feet down into the Kedron Valley below." "Taken from The Gospel of Luke by William Barclay. Copyright 1975 by the Westminster Press."

So, what Satan was proposing was that Jesus jump off this pinnacle of the temple in the sight of all the people that would gather there.  Then, as every eye was watching, they would see Him be miraculously rescued by angels.  It was a temptation to pride—to impress the people of Israel.  The temptation is to put impressing men above obeying God and serving mankind.  Hendriksen, however, believed that there was no mention of people watching, so Satan was not talking about a temptation to pride.  Tradition tells us, though, that James the brother of Jesus was thrown off this very  pinnacle, so that his death would be seen by all.

"Jesus answered, 'It says: “Do not put the Lord your God to the test.”'"  Here, Jesus quotes Deuteronomy 6:16: "Do not test the Lord your God as you did at Massah." (Deuteronomy 6:16)  What happened "at Massah"?  We read about it in Exodus 17:1-4,7. "The whole Israelite community set out from the Desert of Sin, traveling from place to place as the Lord commanded. They camped at Rephidim, but there was no water for the people to drink. So they quarreled with Moses and said, 'Give us water to drink.' Moses replied, 'Why do you quarrel with me? Why do you put the Lord to the test?' But the people were thirsty for water there, and they grumbled against Moses. They said, 'Why did you bring us up out of Egypt to make us and our children and livestock die of thirst? Then Moses cried out to the Lord, 'What am I to do with these people? They are almost ready to stone me.'" (Exodus 17:1-4)  "And he called the place Massah and Meribah because the Israelites quarreled and because they tested the Lord saying, 'Is the Lord among us or not?'" (Exodus 17:7)  Testing God is when we start making demands that God must do what we believe He should do, when and how we believe that He should do it.  Here, Jesus jumping off the temple's pinnacle would create a dilemma from which God must rescue Him.

When can we "test" God?  We "test" God when we, in some way, obligate God to do something.  It takes place especially when we create a situation where we require Him to do something.  For example, we do something without seeking counsel and then expect God to work everything out for us.  As a young Christian, the summer before I attended seminary, I wanted to work in a Christian camp rather than work at a cannery.  I believe that God wanted me to do it also, even though I would make less money.  I did seek counsel and I was encouraged to take the ministry position.  My finances did work out.  I believe I handled that situation well.  I sought guidance rather than rushing into a decision, and then obligating God to get me out of the mess I had created.  We should not make decisions hastily and then require God to undo our bad decisions.  God will bless His decisions; but He is not obligated to bless our decisions.

"When the devil had finished all this tempting, he left him until an opportune time."  Satan had used all he had in his arsenal at that time, and Jesus still stood solidly in His Father's plan—Jesus remained unharmed.  Satan would attack again—through the religious leaders, through Judas, through Roman soldiers, and in other ways that we do not know about.  But for now, the temptations in the wilderness are over.

May we learn from Jesus' temptations how we can respond to temptation.  We also need to have important Scriptures memorized, so we can say, "It is written."  The following verses are helpful to us in our battle with the evil one.  "Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For everything in the world—the cravings of sinful man, the lust of his eyes and the boasting of what he has and does—comes not from the Father but from the world. The world and its desires pass away, but the man who does the will of God lives forever." (1 John 2:15-17)  "When tempted, no one should say, 'God is tempting me.' For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does he tempt anyone; but each one is tempted when, by his own evil desire, he is dragged away and enticed. Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death." (James 1:13-15)  "The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ." (2 Corinthians 10:4-5) See also Eph. 6:10-18

JESUS' MINISTRY IN GALILEE (4:14-9:50)

1. Jesus' ministry before the Twelve (4:14-6:11)

a. Jesus is rejected in His hometown (4:14-30)
"Jesus returned to Galilee in the power of the Spirit, and news about him spread through the whole countryside. He taught in their synagogues, and everyone praised him. He went to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, and on the Sabbath day he went into the synagogue, as was his custom. And he stood up to read. The scroll of the prophet Isaiah was handed to him. Unrolling it, he found the place where it is written: 'The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to release the oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.' Then he rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant and sat down. The eyes of everyone in the synagogue were fastened on him, and he began by saying to them, 'Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.' All spoke well of him and were amazed at the gracious words that came from his lips. 'Isn’t this Joseph’s son?' they asked. Jesus said to them, 'Surely you will quote this proverb to me: “Physician, heal yourself! Do here in your hometown what we have heard that you did in Capernaum.”  I tell you the truth,' he continued, 'no prophet is accepted in his hometown. I assure you that there were many widows in Israel in Elijah’s time, when the sky was shut for three and a half years and there was a severe famine throughout the land. Yet Elijah was not sent to any of them, but to a widow in Zarephath in the region of Sidon. And there were many in Israel with leprosy in the time of Elisha the prophet, yet not one of them was cleansed—only Naaman the Syrian.' All the people in the synagogue were furious when they heard this. They got up, drove him out of the town, and took him to the brow of the hill on which the town was built, in order to throw him down the cliff. But he walked right through the crowd and went on his way."  This is similar to Jesus' later visit to Nazareth recorded in Matt. 13:54-58 and Mark 6:1-6

Thought Question:  Why do you think that the people in His hometown ended up hating Jesus so much that they wanted to throw Him off a cliff?

 

 

"Jesus returned to Galilee in the power of the Spirit, and news about him spread through the whole countryside. He taught in their synagogues, and everyone praised him. He went to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, and on the Sabbath day he went into the synagogue, as was his custom. And he stood up to read. The scroll of the prophet Isaiah was handed to him. Unrolling it, he found the place where it is written: 'The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to release the oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.' Then he rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant and sat down. The eyes of everyone in the synagogue were fastened on him, and he began by saying to them, 'Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.'"

At first glance, it would appear that Jesus went immediately from the testing in the wilderness to "Galilee"; and, then, shortly after that He went to "Nazareth," which was within "Galilee."  We know, though, from the other Gospels that this account of Jesus in "Nazareth" took place some time later.  "Between Luke 4:13 and 4:14, 15 there may well have been an interval of about a year, during which the events related in John 1:19-4:42 occurred." "Taken from Luke by William Hendriksen. Copyright 1978 by Baker Book House."

"in the power of the Spirit,"  Luke emphasizes Jesus' ministry was done "in the power of the Spirit."  "Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan and was led by the Spirit in the desert," (Luke 4:1)  "The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to release the oppressed," (Luke 4:18)  "At that time Jesus, full of joy through the Holy Spirit, said, 'I praise you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and learned, and revealed them to little children. Yes, Father, for this was your good pleasure." (Luke 10:21) 

"He went to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, and on the Sabbath day he went into the synagogue,"  "That synagogues originated during or in consequence of the Babylonish captivity is admitted by all." "Taken from The Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah by Alfred Edersheim 1:431.  Copyright 1971 by Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co."  Edersheim states, though, in later years a "synagogue" was required where there were ten heads of families, "there is no evidence that it obtained [was required] in Palestine, or in early times." "Edersheim, 1:432-3."

"In the synagogue service there three parts. (a) The worship part in which prayer was offered.  (b) The reading of the Scriptures . . . (c) The teaching part." "Taken from The Gospel of Luke by William Barclay. Copyright 1975 by the Westminster Press."

Morris points out, though, that our information about "synagogue" services comes from a later time.  This account in Luke is the earliest description of a Synagogue service that we have.

On that day, Jesus was selected to read the Scriptures and to teach.  His fame must have created a great interest in what He would read and in what He would teach.

"as was his custom."  Jesus had gone to that very "synagogue" throughout his childhood and young adult life. But, now, He had become a famous figure in Galilee. See Matt. 4:23, 9:35; Mk. 1:21, 39, 6:2; Lk. 4:44, 13:10; Jn. 6:59, 18:20 to see that Jesus continued this "custom" of going to the synagogues.

"And he stood up to read. The scroll of the prophet Isaiah was handed to him. Unrolling it, he found the place where it is written: 'The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to release the oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.'"

Jesus chose to read Isaiah 61:1-2, a section in Isaiah that is a clear prediction of the coming Messiah.  He stopped before the words: "and the day of vengeance of our God."  That part of the prediction is for a time that is still in our future.

Isaiah 61:1-2 predicts that the Messiah was coming and His kingdom was coming to undo the oppression, diseases, and blindness of body and spirit that prevails in the world.  At this time, God's favor will replace God's judgment.  The Year of Jubilee is a prediction of what will occur when the Messiah sets up His future kingdom.  "Count off seven sabbaths of years—seven times seven years—so that the seven sabbaths of years amount to a period of forty-nine years. Then have the trumpet sounded everywhere on the tenth day of the seventh month; on the Day of Atonement sound the trumpet throughout your land. Consecrate the fiftieth year and proclaim liberty throughout the land to all its inhabitants. It shall be a jubilee for you; each one of you is to return to his family property and each to his own clan. The fiftieth year shall be a jubilee for you; do not sow and do not reap what grows of itself or harvest the untended vines. For it is a jubilee and is to be holy for you; eat only what is taken directly from the fields." (Leviticus 25:8-12)

Isaiah 61 describes the time of Jubilee that the ceremonial Year of Jubilee predicted.  It will occur when the Messiah reverses Adam's curse.

Jesus' first coming pointed to the future Messianic age, as it already was taking place in part, as God's Spirit was on Jesus—He preached the "good news"; slaves to sin were set free (see Lk 13:16; Jn. 8:32), the "blind" received sight (see Lk. 7:21; Jn. 9), and the "oppressed" were set free (see Matt. 11:28-30).

"to release the oppressed,"  These words are not found in Isaiah 61:1-2; and may be from Isaiah 58:6: "Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen: to loose the chains of injustice and untie the cords of the yoke, to set the oppressed free and break every yoke?" (Isaiah 58:6)

"Then he rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant and sat down. The eyes of everyone in the synagogue were fastened on him, and he began by saying to them, 'Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.'" 

"and sat down."  The person teaching at the "synagogue" would sit down before he began teaching.

"The eyes of everyone in the synagogue were fastened on him,"  There are times when someone has our complete attention.  President Bush had our complete attention after 9/11.  Jesus had their complete attention at that "synagogue" on that "Sabbath."  They might have thought, "Why did He choose Isaiah 61 to read?"  "What is He going to say about it?"  "What is this miracle-working man that everyone is praising (see 4:15) going to say?"  

"'Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.'"  "Jesus could only mean that the real year of Jubilee had come, that the Messianic prophecy of Isaiah had come true today, and that in him they saw the Messiah of prophecy." "Taken from Word Pictures in the New Testament by A. T. Robertson. Volume II.  Copyright 1930 by Broadman Press."

We may not see how Jesus brought in the Messianic age as was predicted in Isaiah 61.  So, how could Jesus say, "Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing"?  Certainly, the hope of those in that "synagogue" was also not fulfilled on that "Sabbath."  But, if we understand what the greatest need of man is, we will realize that what Jesus said was completely true.  For, the Messiah primarily came to deliver us from sin—from sin's penalty, and from the rule of Satan in our lives.  His Messianic ministry in Israel, when it was completed, accomplished that.  "Since the children have flesh and blood, he too shared in their humanity so that by his death he might destroy him who holds the power of death—that is, the devil—" (Hebrews 2:14)

The miracles He performed all pointed to their spiritual counterparts.  "Jesus did many other miraculous signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not recorded in this book. But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name." (John 20:30-31)  Physical blindness healed, pointed to spiritual eyes being healed.  The resurrection of physical life, pointed to the resurrection of spiritual life.  "It was a spiritual 'Year of Jubilee', for the nation of Israel." "Taken from Be Compassionate Volume I by Warren Wiersbe.  Copyright 1998 by David C. Cook."

"All spoke well of him and were amazed at the gracious words that came from his lips. 'Isn’t this Joseph’s son?' they asked."  We see here that the people of His hometown had a mixed reaction to Him.  They recognized that His tone, manner, wisdom, and dynamic were superior in every way to what they were used to; but they also knew Him as an ordinary "son" of the carpenter "Joseph." 

"Jesus said to them, 'Surely you will quote this proverb to me: “Physician, heal yourself! Do here in your hometown what we have heard that you did in Capernaum.”  I tell you the truth,' he continued, 'no prophet is accepted in his hometown.'"

"This proverb in various forms appears not only among the Jews, but in Euripedes and Aeschylus among the Greeks and in Cicero's Letters.  Hobart quotes the same idea from Galen, and the Chinese used to demand it of their physicians.  The point of the parable seems to be that people were expecting him to make good his claim to the Messiahship by doing here in Nazareth what they had heard of his doing in Capernaum and elsewhere. . . . This same appeal (Vincent) was addressed to Christ at the cross (Matt. 27:40, 42).  There is a tone of sarcasm toward Jesus in both cases." "Taken from Word Pictures in the New Testament by A. T. Robertson. Volume II.  Copyright 1930 by Broadman Press."

"'no prophet is accepted in his hometown.'" See also 11:49-53, 13:32-35; 
Mk. 6:4; Jn. 4:44; Acts 7:51-53  Why is this true?  It is similar to saying: "familiarity breeds contempt."  At high school reunions, we learn that some of our former high school class members have been successful and some have been what our society would consider as failures.  It is human for us who have not been as successful as some others have been, to envy and resent those who have been successful.  Jesus had left Nazareth and had become an eloquent and miracle-working man who claimed to be the Messiah.  His "hometown" people were not receptive to Him outshining them in this way.

Hendriksen cites how a brother of David showed contempt for him when he volunteered to take on Goliath.  "When Eliab, David’s oldest brother, heard him speaking with the men, he burned with anger at him and asked, 'Why have you come down here? And with whom did you leave those few sheep in the desert? I know how conceited you are and how wicked your heart is; you came down only to watch the battle.'" (1 Samuel 17:28)

In Matthew 13:58, we learn the following about Jesus and "Nazareth" from a later visit of His to "Nazareth."  "And he did not do many miracles there because of their lack of faith." (Matthew 13:58)  If He had performed "miracles" there it would not have led to them believing that He was the Messiah.  They had already shown their resistance to believing in Him.  They did not want to believe that He was the Son of God, so miracles would not have changed their unbelief into belief.  "I do not believe that their lack of faith made Him incapable of doing "miracles" there.  Rather, their unbelief meant that "miracles" would not change their perception of Him.  So, for this reason, He chose "not to do many miracles there." "Digging for Gold, Matt. 13:58."

"I assure you that there were many widows in Israel in Elijah’s time, when the sky was shut for three and a half years and there was a severe famine throughout the land. Yet Elijah was not sent to any of them, but to a widow in Zarephath in the region of Sidon. And there were many in Israel with leprosy in the time of Elisha the prophet, yet not one of them was cleansed—only Naaman the Syrian.'"

Jesus shows that there is no privileged group with God, when it comes to dispensing His grace.  The people of "Nazareth" likely felt that since Jesus was performing "miracles," why was He avoiding them—they were His own hometowners?   They should receive His special treatment.

Jesus responds that God, in the two examples that He gives, did not give special treatment to the Jews, but He gave special treatment to the Gentiles.

Israel rejected God and turned to idolatry.  "So God moved his works of mercy outside the nation into Gentile regions, as only a widow in Sidon and Naaman the Syrian experienced God's healing." "Taken from Luke by Darrell Bock. Copyright 1994 by Intervarsity Press."

"a widow in Zarephath in the region of Sidon."  God told Elijah to go to this "widow" in Phoenicia to the north of Israel—modern-day Lebanon. See I Kings 17:7-24  God enabled her and him to have an unending supply of food during a drought.  "For this is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says: 'The jar of flour will not be used up and the jug of oil will not run dry until the day the Lord gives rain on the land.'" (1 Kings 17:14)  Also, God used Elijah to resurrect her son from the dead. See I Kings 17:17-24

"only Naaman the Syrian.'"  Syria is also to the north of Israel. See II Kings 5

Soon, Israel would reject Jesus their Messiah and God through the apostle Paul and others, and would send out the gospel message of salvation and grace to the Gentiles.  God shows no partiality, but gives grace to the humble. See James 4:6

"when the sky was shut for three and a half years"  "The same period is given in James 5:17, the popular Jewish way of speaking.  In I Kings 18:1 the rain is said to have come in the third year.  But the famine probably lasted still longer." "Taken from Word Pictures in the New Testament by A. T. Robertson. Volume II.  Copyright 1930 by Broadman Press."

"All the people in the synagogue were furious when they heard this. They got up, drove him out of the town, and took him to the brow of the hill on which the town was built, in order to throw him down the cliff. But he walked right through the crowd and went on his way."

When they realized He was not going to give them any special treatment and not going to do any miracles for them in response to their demands, they were "furious" with Him.  They were also "furious" that He had implied that God would do miracles for the Gentiles and not for them.  They were so insulted that they were going "to throw him down the cliff" outside of town.  In other words, they became a lynch mob.

"and took him to the brow of the hill on which the town was built, in order to throw him down the cliff."  "At the southwest corner of the town of Nazareth such a cliff exists overhanging the Maronite convent." "Robertson."  Vincent quotes Stanley who says that this cliff "is not beneath, but over the town, "and such a cliff as is here implied is found in the abrupt face of limestone rock about thirty of forty feet high, overhanging the Maronite convent at the southwest corner of the town." "Taken from Word Studies in the New Testament by M. R. Vincent.  Copyright 1972 by Associated Publishers and Authors."

How does this apply to us?  Years ago, a new college student at our church attended a small group meeting.  Everyone at the meeting had attended our church for some time.  All but she was in complete agreement on just about everything.  She pointed out that she did not agree with the group on everything, but felt like her different viewpoints were not welcome.  To our credit, we accepted her criticism, and told her that we would take a second look at ourselves.  As we talked about it later, we realized that she was right.  Psychologists call this "Groupthink."  "Groupthink" was present in that "synagogue" in "Nazareth."  Those with pride, self-will, and stubbornness took offense when they heard a different perspective on life than theirs.

But, on this occasion, the One who had the different perspective was God.  To disagree with Jesus is to disagree with the truth.  How does this apply to us?  Are we willing to receive the truth, even if it different from how we have come to look at things for years and years?

"But he walked right through the crowd and went on his way."  This may have been a miracle.  If it was, the people of "Nazareth" got their miracle.  Throughout the Bible, people have tried to murder God's people.  Some were rescued and some were not.  God's plan for Jesus was not going to end with Jesus' dead body at the bottom of a cliff in "Nazareth."  And, so, He "went on his way."

b. Jesus casts out a demon and teaches with great authority in Galilee
(4:31-37)

"Then he went down to Capernaum, a town in Galilee, and on the Sabbath began to teach the people. They were amazed at his teaching, because his message had authority. In the synagogue there was a man possessed by a demon, an evil spirit. He cried out at the top of his voice, 'Ha! What do you want with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are—the Holy One of God!' 'Be quiet!' Jesus said sternly. 'Come out of him!' Then the demon threw the man down before them all and came out without injuring him. All the people were amazed and said to each other, 'What is this teaching? With authority and power he gives orders to evil spirits and they come out!' And the news about him spread throughout the surrounding area."

Thought Question:  Do you believe that people are still indwelt by demons?  Please explain your answer.

 

 

"Then he went down to Capernaum, a town in Galilee, and on the Sabbath began to teach the people. They were amazed at his teaching, because his message had authority."  "Capernaum" had become Jesus' new hometown, and it was the center of His ministry in "Galilee." See Mk. 2:1 

It was also the home of Peter and Andrew. See Mk 1:29  Their childhood home had been Bethsaida. See Jn. 1:44

"down to Capernaum"  "Capernaum" was at a lower elevation than Nazareth.

"They were amazed at his teaching, because his message had authority."   We find a similar response when He gave His Sermon on the Mount.  "When Jesus had finished saying these things, the crowds were amazed at his teaching, because he taught as one who had authority, and not as their teachers of the law."  (Matthew 7:28-29) 

The pattern of the Jewish religious leaders was to quote from some human authority.  Jesus taught as One who was the final authority.  He got His truth directly from God.  The Sermon on the Mount (Matt. 5-7) gives us an example of His preaching that "had authority." 

"In the synagogue there was a man possessed by a demon, an evil spirit. He cried out at the top of his voice, 'Ha! What do you want with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are—the Holy One of God!'  Demonization of a person is described in the Bible, but it is not something that is a modern-day topic in the United States.  That does not mean, though, that it does not happen today.  We have prisons and mental hospitals that contain people who have many types of problems.  If these people were off all behavior-controlling drugs, we may think differently about demonization occurring today.

What do we learn about demonization from the Bible?  Demon-possession and disease are not described as being the same.  "News about him spread all over Syria, and people brought to him all who were ill with various diseases, those suffering severe pain, the demon-possessed, those having seizures, and the paralyzed, and he healed them." (Matthew 4:24)  "When Jesus had called the Twelve together, he gave them power and authority to drive out all demons and to cure diseases," (Luke 9:1)

But we also learn that demons can cause symptoms that are like the symptoms of physical sicknesses.  "Jesus was driving out a demon that was mute. When the demon left, the man who had been mute spoke, and the crowd was amazed." (Luke 11:14)  "On a Sabbath Jesus was teaching in one of the synagogues, and a woman was there who had been crippled by a spirit for eighteen years. She was bent over and could not straighten up at all." (Luke 13:10-11)

The Bible teaches that demons are angels that joined Satan in his rebellion against God, and are now wicked, unclean, and evil spirits. See Matt. 12:24, 25:41; Rev. 12:4,7,9  They are able to gain access into a person, and occupy and dominate a person's personality. See I Kings 22:20-23; Lk. 8:26-29

Here, Jesus was "in the synagogue" in "Capernaum."  "There was a man possessed by a demon, an evil spirit. He cried out at the top of his voice, 'Ha! What do you want with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are—the Holy One of God!'  It is apparent that this "evil spirit" was an individual who could think and speak.  He also wanted to be left alone.  Things were going his way, and then Jesus had to show up and disturb things for him.  The demon wanted Jesus to leave him and the person he was indwelling alone.

This "evil spirit" was completely disturbed in the presence of "the Holy One of God."  He saw Jesus as coming with no good purpose—He had come "to destroy us." 

The "demon" was aware of who Jesus is.  "You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that—and shudder." (James 2:19)  But, this demon's awareness of who Jesus is did not lead to him loving Jesus, but to him hating Jesus.  So, a key question for us is, does our knowledge of Jesus lead us to love Him and to want to obey Him?

"us."  This can mean that more than one "demon" possessed this man, though only one spoke.  Or, it can refer to the "demon" and the man he "possessed."  Also, "us" may refer to demons other than the "demon" who possessed this man.  Since Luke states that the "man was possessed by a demon," the "us" meant either the "demon" and the man or "us" is for demons in general.

The "demon" was not comfortable in the presence of Jesus, "the Holy One of God."  Nor are non-Christians comfortable in the presence of Christians.  The bold non-Christians will tell us so, as the "demon" told Jesus.

"'Be quiet!' Jesus said sternly. 'Come out of him!' Then the demon threw the man down before them all and came out without injuring him."  In Mark 1:26, we learn a little more about how the "evil spirit" came out of the man.  "The evil spirit shook the man violently and came out of him with a shriek." (Mark 1:26)

"Be quiet!"  Paul the apostle cast a "demon" out of a woman.  "This girl followed Paul and the rest of us, shouting, 'These men are servants of the Most High God, who are telling you the way to be saved.'" (Acts 16:17)  Neither Jesus nor Paul wanted an unclean spirit interrupting their Holy Spirit-led teaching.

"and came out without injuring him."  Though the demon's goal was to injure him by throwing the man down, the man was delivered from the "demon" "without" being harmed.

"All the people were amazed and said to each other, 'What is this teaching? With authority and power he gives orders to evil spirits and they come out!' And the news about him spread throughout the surrounding area."

What the "amazed" "people" saw was Jesus' "authority."  He spoke and talked with "authority."  He cast out demons "with authority."  It is exactly what we would expect if God became a man and lived with us.  He would have the "authority" of Almighty God!

c. Jesus heals Simon Peter's mother-in-law. (4:38-39)
"Jesus left the synagogue and went to the home of Simon. Now Simon’s mother-in-law was suffering from a high fever, and they asked Jesus to help her. So he bent over her and rebuked the fever, and it left her. She got up at once and began to wait on them."

Thought Question:  Why do you believe that this was a miraculous healing?

 

 

"Jesus left the synagogue and went to the home of Simon. Now Simon’s mother-in-law was suffering from a high fever, and they asked Jesus to help her. So he bent over her and rebuked the fever, and it left her. She got up at once and began to wait on them."  We learn in Mark 1:29 that this house was also "the house of Simon and Andrew."

"high fever,"  In Matthew 8:14-17 and Mark 1:29-34, the sickness is merely called a "fever."  Luke the physician calls it a "high fever." The tense "accenting the continuous fever, perhaps chronic and certainly severe." "Taken from Word Pictures in the New Testament by A. T. Robertson. Volume II.  Copyright 1930 by Broadman Press."  The Greek word translated "high" is megalo.  She was mega-sick.  "The ancient physicians distinguished fevers into great and small." "Taken from Word Studies in the New Testament by M. R. Vincent.  Copyright 1972 by Associated Publishers and Authors."

"rebuked the fever,"  It was as if the disease was a person; it was similar to how He rebuked the demons.  Although "the fever" was not a person, it nevertheless, ceased to control Peter's mother-in-law's body as soon as Jesus "rebuked" it.

"and it left her. She got up at once and began to wait on them."  This type of "fever" normally leaves one weak, even after "the fever" goes away.  Here, there was no remaining symptoms of the disease immediately after Jesus healed her.  There was no period of recuperation.  This is the difference between Jesus' miraculous healings that caused people to be amazed and a healing where prayer has led to healing over a period of time.

d. Jesus heals sicknesses and casts out demons. (4:40-41)
"When the sun was setting, the people brought to Jesus all who had various kinds of sickness, and laying his hands on each one, he healed them. Moreover, demons came out of many people, shouting, 'You are the Son of God!' But he rebuked them and would not allow them to speak, because they knew he was the Christ."

Thought Question:  Why do you believe Jesus did not allow the demons to say that "he was the Christ"?

 

 

"When the sun was setting, the people brought to Jesus all who had various kinds of sickness, and laying his hands on each one, he healed them."  What distinguishes Jesus from those who claim to be healers today is that Jesus healed "all" those who came to Him.  Here, the Sabbath day was over (see 4:31), so the people were able to carry and help the sick to come to Him.  It also meant that it was a very long day for Jesus.  Yet, He continued to serve the needy people that came to Him.  Mark tells us that "the whole town gathered at the door." (Mk. 1:34)

The same Jesus is always available to us when we come to Him today for help.
" . . . Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you." (Hebrews 13:5b)

"Moreover, demons came out of many people, shouting, 'You are the Son of God!' But he rebuked them and would not allow them to speak, because they knew he was the Christ."  Why was Jesus opposed to these "demons" declaring that "he was the Christ"?  Jesus chose to be discrete about who He was, so that those in opposition to Him would not arrest Him and kill Him before the time when it was it was intended by God for this to occur.  "After the people saw the miraculous sign that Jesus did, they began to say, 'Surely this is the Prophet who is to come into the world.' Jesus, knowing that they intended to come and make him king by force, withdrew again to a mountain by himself." (John 6:14-15)  Also, if the "demons" were trusted like He was, these false and lying spirits would gain credibility with the people.

e. Jesus kept on preaching in the synagogues. (4:42-44)
"At daybreak Jesus went out to a solitary place. The people were looking for him and when they came to where he was, they tried to keep him from leaving them. But he said, 'I must preach the good news of the kingdom of God to the other towns also, because that is why I was sent.' And he kept on preaching in the synagogues of Judea."

Thought Question:  What do we learn from Jesus' pattern in these verses, that applies to our own lives today?

 

 

"At daybreak Jesus went out to a solitary place."  Mark tells us that Jesus got up "very early in the morning, while it was still dark." (Mark 1:35)  Even Jesus, after a very busy previous day where He had no time to be alone with the Father, found a time early the next day to be alone with the Father.  Certainly, these times when He was alone with the Father were precious to Him.  So, times when we are alone with God are essential to our relationship with Him.

"The people were looking for him and when they came to where he was, they tried to keep him from leaving them."  Jesus understood the pressures of ministry.  The previous day, He ministered from morning to night.  Then, He awakes while it is still dark, for a time of closeness to the Father, only to have it interrupted by His closest followers (see Mk. 1:36-37) and then by the crowds who wanted Him to stay in their town.

"But he said, 'I must preach the good news of the kingdom of God to the other towns also, because that is why I was sent.'"  The crowds from Capernaum were only thinking of themselves and what Jesus could do for them.  Jesus was also thinking of people in other cities, who were yet to hear His message about "the kingdom of God."

What does Jesus mean by "the kingdom of God"?  Matthew 6:10 defines and describes "the kingdom of God."  "your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven." (Matthew 6:10)

"Now the Hebrews, as any verse of the psalms will show, had a way of saying things twice; and always the second way explained, or developed, or amplified the first way.  Put these two phrases together—Thy kingdom come; Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.  The second explains the first; therefore, the kingdom of God is a society upon earth where God's will is as perfectly done as it is in heaven." "Taken from The Gospel of Luke by William Barclay. Copyright 1975 by the Westminster Press."

We experience the kingdom of God to the degree that we are obedient to God's will.  "Once, having been asked by the Pharisees when the kingdom of God would come, Jesus replied, 'The kingdom of God does not come with your careful observation, nor will people say, “Here it is,” or “There it is,” because the kingdom of God is within you.'" (Luke 17:20-21)  "For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking, but of righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit, because anyone who serves Christ in this way is pleasing to God and approved by men." (Romans 14:17-18)

"This is the first time the term The kingdom of God appears in Luke's Gospel . . . This evangelist uses that term at least thirty times . . . far more frequently, therefore, than Mark or John.  Essentially the same concept occurs also with great frequency in the Gospel according to Matthew, but in slightly different form (generally 'kingdom of heaven' instead of 'kingdom of God')." "Taken from Luke by William Hendriksen. Copyright 1978 by Baker Book House."

"And he kept on preaching in the synagogues of Judea."  It is likely that "Judea" here refers to all Israel, including Galilee.  For, there is no mention in the Gospels of Jesus leaving Galilee at this time, and going south to "Judea."  For example, Luke 23:5 includes Galilee within "Judea."  "But they insisted, 'He stirs up the people all over Judea by his teaching. He started in Galilee and has come all the way here.'" (Luke 23:5)  Mark describes this ministry as taking place in Galilee.  "So he traveled throughout Galilee, preaching in their synagogues and driving out demons." (Mark 1:39)

f. Jesus calls the first five disciples in a miraculous way. (5:1-11)
"One day as Jesus was standing by the Lake of Gennesaret, with the people crowding around him and listening to the word of God, he saw at the water’s edge two boats, left there by the fishermen, who were washing their nets. He got into one of the boats, the one belonging to Simon, and asked him to put out a little from shore. Then he sat down and taught the people from the boat. When he had finished speaking, he said to Simon, 'Put out into deep water, and let down the nets for a catch.' Simon answered, 'Master, we’ve worked hard all night and haven’t caught anything. But because you say so, I will let down the nets.' When they had done so, they caught such a large number of fish that their nets began to break. So they signaled their partners in the other boat to come and help them, and they came and filled both boats so full that they began to sink. When Simon Peter saw this, he fell at Jesus’ knees and said, 'Go away from me, Lord; I am a sinful man!' For he and all his companions were astonished at the catch of fish they had taken, and so were James and John, the sons of Zebedee, Simon’s partners. Then Jesus said to Simon, 'Don’t be afraid; from now on you will catch men.' So they pulled their boats up on shore, left everything and followed him."

Thought Question #1:  What does Jesus' catch of fish teach us about our mission in the world?

 

 

Thought Question #2:  Why did this miracle result in Peter seeing himself as "a sinful man"?

 

 

"One day as Jesus was standing by the Lake of Gennesaret, with the people crowding around him and listening to the word of God, he saw at the water’s edge two boats, left there by the fishermen, who were washing their nets. He got into one of the boats, the one belonging to Simon, and asked him to put out a little from shore. Then he sat down and taught the people from the boat."

We see here that Jesus was drawing large crowds.  So, Jesus chose to separate Himself from the crowds by getting "into one of the boats," close to the shore, so that it would be easier for them all to see and hear Him.  Something similar happened at another time.  "Because of the crowd he told his disciples to have a small boat ready for him, to keep the people from crowding him." (Mark 3:9)  "Again Jesus began to teach by the lake. The crowd that gathered around him was so large that he got into a boat and sat in it out on the lake, while all the people were along the shore at the water’s edge." (Mark 4:1)

Today, we have created permanent situations that are conducive to someone speaking on the Bible and others listening to what is being taught.  We call them church sanctuaries and pulpits.  Jesus created this type of situation spontaneously with what happened to be handy. See also Matt. 5:1

"Lake of Gennesaret" is another name for the Sea of Galilee.  It was also called the Sea of Tiberius. See Jn. 6:1, 23, 21:1  "Gennesaret is really the name of the lovely plain on the west side of the lake, a most fertile piece of land." "Taken from The Gospel of Luke by William Barclay. Copyright 1975 by the Westminster Press."

"When he had finished speaking, he said to Simon, 'Put out into deep water, and let down the nets for a catch.' Simon answered, 'Master, we’ve worked hard all night and haven’t caught anything. But because you say so, I will let down the nets.' When they had done so, they caught such a large number of fish that their nets began to break. So they signaled their partners in the other boat to come and help them, and they came and filled both boats so full that they began to sink."

Jesus, the carpenter, gives orders to "Peter" the fisherman to resume fishing.  "Peter" responds by saying that they had already tried that—they tried it all night with no results.  Nevertheless, Peter goes along with Jesus' command. "Simon answered, 'Master, we’ve worked hard all night and haven’t caught anything. But because you say so, I will let down the nets.' When they had done so, they caught such a large number of fish that their nets began to break."

How did Jesus know where to fish?  Some believe that at times, Jesus was given supernatural knowledge. See Matt. 17:26; Mk. 14:13;  and Jn. 1:47-49, 2:25  But, at other times, He did not have this supernatural knowledge. See Matt. 24:36;   Mk. 5:25-34, 11:12-13  Others, believe that He had this supernatural knowledge at all times.  It appears that the first view best fits what is taught in the Gospels.

Another possibility is that Jesus miraculously commanded the fish to all come to one spot.  Whatever the case, there was so many fish caught that it filled up two fishing boats. 

"Simon answered, 'Master, we’ve worked hard all night and haven’t caught anything. But because you say so, I will let down the nets.'"  There are times when we see little results, and it seems senseless to us to continue laboring in God's work.  And, yet, we labor on.  Then, God rewards our labor in some way.  The bottom line is that we do the work, but God brings in His results.  "What, after all, is Apollos? And what is Paul? Only servants, through whom you came to believe—as the Lord has assigned to each his task. I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God made it grow." (1 Corinthians 3:5-6)  The following promises have meant a great deal to me through the years.  "Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up." (Galatians 6:9)  "Therefore, my dear brothers, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain." (1 Corinthians 15:58)  "And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him." (Hebrews 11:6)

We can become discouraged when we look at our meager human resources.  We feel, then, that our task is daunting—much too much for us to carry.  But this miracle of Jesus teaches us that God's work is not what we do for Him, but it is what He powerfully works through us.  "We proclaim him, admonishing and teaching everyone with all wisdom, so that we may present everyone perfect in Christ. To this end I labor, struggling with all his energy, which so powerfully works in me." (Colossians 1:28-29)  "I can do everything through him who gives me strength." (Philippians 4:13)

"When Simon Peter saw this, he fell at Jesus’ knees and said, 'Go away from me, Lord; I am a sinful man!' For he and all his companions were astonished at the catch of fish they had taken, and so were James and John, the sons of Zebedee, Simon’s partners."

Suddenly, "Peter" realized that Jesus was holy and he was not.  He realized God was present and that what had just happened could only have been done by God.  Did "Peter" also realize that Jesus was the Son of God?  Darrell Bock says, "no," and William Hendriksen says, "Yes."  Bock says that "it will take events in the next few chapters to lead Simon to confess Jesus as the Christ (8:22-26, 9:18-20)." "Taken from Luke by Darrell Bock. Copyright 1994 by Intervarsity Press."  Hendriksen believed that the title Peter gives Jesus is "an equivalent of God." "Taken from Luke by William Hendriksen. Copyright 1978 by Baker Book House."  Whichever is correct, it is obvious that after this miracle, "Peter" was further along on the path to believing in Jesus as the Son of God.

Another question Peter's response evokes is, "Why did not the healing of his mother-in-law lead to him feeling like "a sinful man"?  My own answer to this question is that when our own carnal labors are compared to the miraculous and holy work of God, we can see more clearly what we do not always see.  "All of us have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags; we all shrivel up like a leaf, and like the wind our sins sweep us away." (Isaiah 64:6)

"In the presence of the holy God sinful men trembles.  Other examples: Abraham (Gen. 18;27, 30, 32); Manoah and his wife (Judg. 13:20); Job (Job 42:5, 6); Isaiah (Isa. 6:5); the apostle John (Rev. 1:17)." "Hendriksen."

"Then Jesus said to Simon, 'Don’t be afraid; from now on you will catch men.' So they pulled their boats up on shore, left everything and followed him."

"'Don’t be afraid;'"  The miraculous "catch of fish" caused "Peter" to realize that he was in the presence of something way beyond his control.  So, he was immediately fearful of what might happen to him.  Jesus immediately calms his fears.

"Simon Peter" and the others got an unforgettable message from the miraculous "catch of fish" and from Jesus' words here: they would "catch men" as they had just caught "fish."  And, it would be God who would enable them to do it.  So, they "left everything and followed him."

Jesus' calling of His disciples took place over a period of time.  The beginning of Jesus' calling of His disciples appears to be in John 1:35-51.  The next step in this calling process appears to be found in Matthew 4:18-22 and Mark 1:16-20—it appears that this part of the call was for them to leave their work for a day without leaving their homes and profession.  Here in Luke, though, it appears that Jesus calls them to leave their professions and homes.  He is yet to call other disciples such as Matthew. See Lk. 5:27-31  He will, still later, select the Twelve disciples. See Lk. 6:12-16

"'catch men.'"  "Catching is, of course, used in a different sense, catching for life not for death (zogreo means 'catch alive', 'catch for life')." "Taken from Luke by Leon Morris.  Copyright 1946 by Intervarsity Press."

Luke 5:1-11 is similar to another event that occurred at the end of Jesus' ministry that is described in John 21:1-11.  Here are some similarities between the two events.  In both cases, the disciples had first fished unsuccessfully.  2) In both cases, Jesus enabled them to catch a very large number of fish.  Here, though, are ways in which these two events differ:  1) In Luke there was a great crowd; in John there were only a few disciples.  2) In Luke, it occurred at the beginning of Jesus' ministry; in John it occurred after Jesus' resurrection.  In Luke, Jesus gets into the boat; in John He stays on the shore.  4) In John, Jesus is not recognized until after the miracle; in Luke He is known before the miracle.  5) In Luke, the miracle is preceded by Jesus teaching from a boat; in John, Jesus appears while they are fishing.  It is clear that Jesus performed two miracles that were similar to each other, but were two totally different events which occurred at two totally different times—at the beginning of His ministry and at the very end of His ministry.  They were similar, but they were two totally different events.

g. Jesus heals a leper (5:12-16)
"While Jesus was in one of the towns, a man came along who was covered with leprosy. When he saw Jesus, he fell with his face to the ground and begged him, 'Lord, if you are willing, you can make me clean.' Jesus reached out his hand and touched the man. 'I am willing,' he said. 'Be clean!' And immediately the leprosy left him. Then Jesus ordered him, 'Don’t tell anyone, but go, show yourself to the priest and offer the sacrifices that Moses commanded for your cleansing, as a testimony to them. 'Yet the news about him spread all the more, so that crowds of people came to hear him and to be healed of their sicknesses. But Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed."

Thought Question #1:  What can we learn about prayer from this event?

 

 

Thought Question #2:  Why do you believe that Jesus told this man after he was healed, not to tell anyone?

 

 

"While Jesus was in one of the towns, a man came along who was covered with leprosy. When he saw Jesus, he fell with his face to the ground and begged him, 'Lord, if you are willing, you can make me clean.'"  What that "man" experienced "in one of the towns" is what every man feels in approaching God.  This "man" "was covered with leprosy" or full of "leprosy."  We come to God full of sin.  Isaiah used "leprosy" to describe our sin.  "Ah, sinful nation, a people loaded with guilt, a brood of evildoers, children given to corruption! They have forsaken the Lord; they have spurned the Holy One of Israel and turned their backs on him. Why should you be beaten anymore? Why do you persist in rebellion? Your whole head is injured, your whole heart afflicted. From the sole of your foot to the top of your head there is no soundness— only wounds and welts and open sores, not cleansed or bandaged or soothed with oil." (Isaiah 1:4-6)

Like the leper, we can come to God in shame also, feeling unworthy to come into His presence.  He came to Jesus wondering whether Jesus would be compassionate to him.  We can come to God wondering whether He will be compassionate toward us.

Barclay gives this description of leprosy in his commentary on Matthew.  "In the ancient world leprosy was the most terrible of all diseases.  E. W. G. Masterman writes: 'No other disease reduces a human being for so many years to so hideous a wreck.'  It might begin with little nodules which go on to ulcerate.  The ulcers develop a foul discharge; the eyebrows fall out; the eyes become staring; the vocal chords become ulcerated, and the voice becomes hoarse, and the breath wheezes.  The hands and feet always ulcerate.  Slowly the sufferer becomes a mass of ulcerated growths.  The average course of that kind of leprosy is nine years, and it ends in mental decay, and ultimately death. . . . The physical condition of the leper was terrible, but there was something that made it worse.  Josephus tells us that lepers were treated 'as if they were, in effect, dead men.'  Immediately leprosy was diagnosed, the leper was absolutely and completely banished from human society." "Taken from The Gospel of Matthew Volume I on Matthew 8:1-4 by William Barclay. Copyright 1975 by Westminster Press."

Leviticus 13 and 14 give God's instructions to Israel on how to treat a person who has a skin disease such as "leprosy." Here is how the leprous person was to indentify himself as having "leprosy" within the Jewish community.  "The person with such an infectious disease must wear torn clothes, let his hair be unkempt, cover the lower part of his face and cry out, 'Unclean! Unclean!' As long as he has the infection he remains unclean. He must live alone; he must live outside the camp." (Leviticus 13:45-46)

"Leprosy" is meant to physically describe the effect that sin has on us morally and spiritually.  We are sinfully unclean before God's holiness.  "What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death?" (Romans 7:24)  Paul was not speaking as a physical leper but as a moral leper.

"Jesus reached out his hand and touched the man. 'I am willing,' he said. 'Be clean!' And immediately the leprosy left him."  The parallel verse in Mark says the following: "Filled with compassion, Jesus reached out his hand and touched the man. 'I am willing,' he said. 'Be clean!'" (Mark 1:41)  The second Jesus touched the leprous man, He did not become unclean, but the man immediately became completely free of every trace of "leprosy." 

We, at this moment, may feel a sense of shame and isolation from God and His holiness.  Jesus demonstrates here His compassion for us.  We can confess our sense of need just as the leper did; but we also can feel shame just as the leper did.  Then, Jesus "touched" him and he was cleansed of the putrid disease.  What joy he felt!  Jesus does the same for us, as we come to Him in our putrid state—caused by our selfishness, pride, and fleshliness.  We come to Him as it is described in James and Luke 18.  "Come near to God and he will come near to you. Wash your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. Grieve, mourn and wail. Change your laughter to mourning and your joy to gloom. Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up." (James 4:8-10)  "But the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, 'God, have mercy on me, a sinner.' I tell you that this man, rather than the other, went home justified before God. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted." (Luke 18:13-14)

"touched the man."  Touching a man with "leprosy" made that person unclean.  Jesus became unclean for us.  "God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God." (II Corinthians 5:21)  The NIV text note says the following: "The Greek word ("leprosy") was used for various diseases affecting the skin—not necessarily leprosy."

"Then Jesus ordered him, 'Don’t tell anyone, but go, show yourself to the priest and offer the sacrifices that Moses commanded for your cleansing, as a testimony to them.'"

We are not told specifically why Jesus "ordered him" not to "tell anyone."  Here is a likely reason why: Jesus healed the leper out of compassion, but announcing the miracle would have started a clamoring for miracles, such as did occur later.  "Then some of the Pharisees and teachers of the law said to him, 'Teacher, we want to see a miraculous sign from you.' He answered, 'A wicked and adulterous generation asks for a miraculous sign! But none will be given it except the sign of the prophet Jonah.'" (Matthew 12:38-39)

He may also have not wanted to increase His popularity prematurely, leading to His arrest and death before the time ordained for it to take place.  "Jesus, knowing that they intended to come and make him king by force, withdrew again to a mountain by himself." (John 6:15) See also Matt. 9:30, 12:16, 16:20, 17:9; Mk. 1:34, 3:12, 5:43, 7:36, 8:30, 9:9; Lk 8:56, 9:21

Jesus sent the man, first of all, to carry out the ceremonial cleansing that is prescribed in the Old Testament for those who have been cured of an infectious disease. See Lev. 14:1-32  The cleansing required the shedding of blood.  Then, after the ceremonial cleansing, the healed man could return to society as a clean man who could be completely accepted in the Jewish community.

Can you see the parallel between the leper's cleansing and our cleansing from sin?  We go to Jesus and trust that His blood cleanses us of sin.  Now, in our new cleansed state, we are once more part of Jesus' community and are accepted in His society.  "If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness." (1 John 1:9)

"Yet the news about him spread all the more, so that crowds of people came to hear him and to be healed of their sicknesses. But Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed."  We learn in Mark 1:45 that the healed man disobeyed Jesus' command not to "tell anyone."  "Instead he went out and began to talk freely, spreading the news. As a result, Jesus could no longer enter a town openly but stayed outside in lonely places. Yet the people still came to him from everywhere." (Mark 1:45)

The crowds became so large and demanding that Jesus purposely sought times when He could get away and spend time in prayer.  "The wild enthusiasm of the crowds was running ahead of their comprehension of Christ and his mission and message." "Taken from Word Pictures in the New Testament by A. T. Robertson. Volume II.  Copyright 1930 by Broadman Press."

There is a message for us in Jesus' response to the crowds.  He was not captivated by His popularity.  Certainly, His times of prayer included His desire that there would be those from the crowds who would truly follow Him.  Later in Luke, we see Jesus describing the cost required for those who would truly become His disciples.  We need to pray that we are or will become His true disciples and that God will lead us to find those who are His true disciples as well.  There will mostly be those who seek first what is of benefit to them.  But, there are also those who have chosen to seek first Jesus' kingdom. See Matt. 6:33

h. Jesus heals a paralytic (5:17-26)
"One day as he was teaching, Pharisees and teachers of the law, who had come from every village of Galilee and from Judea and Jerusalem, were sitting there. And the power of the Lord was present for him to heal the sick. Some men came carrying a paralytic on a mat and tried to take him into the house to lay him before Jesus. When they could not find a way to do this because of the crowd, they went up on the roof and lowered him on his mat through the tiles into the middle of the crowd, right in front of Jesus. When Jesus saw their faith, he said, 'Friend, your sins are forgiven.' The Pharisees and the teachers of the law began thinking to themselves, 'Who is this fellow who speaks blasphemy? Who can forgive sins but God alone?' Jesus knew what they were thinking and asked, 'Why are you thinking these things in your hearts? Which is easier: to say, “Your sins are forgiven,” or to say, “Get up and walk”? But that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins....' He said to the paralyzed man, 'I tell you, get up, take your mat and go home.' Immediately he stood up in front of them, took what he had been lying on and went home praising God. Everyone was amazed and gave praise to God. They were filled with awe and said, 'We have seen remarkable things today.'"

Thought Question:  Why do you believe Jesus didn't heal the man first and then forgive him of his sins?

 

 

"One day as he was teaching, Pharisees and teachers of the law, who had come from every village of Galilee and from Judea and Jerusalem, were sitting there. And the power of the Lord was present for him to heal the sick." 

Mark tells us where this event took place and how crowded it was.  "A few days later, when Jesus again entered Capernaum, the people heard that he had come home. So many gathered that there was no room left, not even outside the door, and he preached the word to them." (Mark 2:1-2)

"Pharisees and teachers of the law" from "every village of Galilee and from Judea and Jerusalem" had come and "were sitting there."  These religious leaders looked upon God's Law as being based mostly on the rules that had been added to it by men.  God's Law said that the Jewish people were not to work on the Sabbath.  What, though, is work?  The religious leaders in Israel had specified in minute detail what was work and what was not work.  The religious leaders were there primarily to see if Jesus would adhere to the Law as they had interpreted it.  The room was full of religious policemen and religious judges that day.  They had come from all over "Galilee" and "Judea."  "Judea" and "Jerusalem" were seen as separate districts.  It would be like dividing Southern California and Los Angeles into two districts.

"Pharisees" "Mentioned here for the first time in Luke.  Their name meaning 'separated ones,' they numbered about 6,000 . . . They were teachers in the synagogues, religious examples in the eyes of the people and self-appointed guardians of the law and its proper observance.  They considered the interpretations and regulations handed down by traditions to be virtually as authoritative as Scripture (Mk 7:8-13)." "NIV Study Bible note."

"And the power of the Lord was present for him to heal the sick."  Does this mean that Jesus was sometimes given "power" "to heal the sick" and at other times did not have this "power"?  The view of healing that I have come to have is that God heals when it fulfills His purposes.  Whether Jesus sometimes had this power—when an enabling came upon Him from the Holy Spirit—or that He continually had this power because He is the Son of God, we are not told here.  My inclination is to believe that in His servant position before the Father, He submitted to the Father's will and only performed the miraculous when He was empowered to do it. See Matt. 4:1-4; Phil. 2:6-8

Dr. Constable holds a similar view:  "Luke viewed the power of God as extrinsic to Jesus [coming from outside of Him] (cf. John 5:1-19).  Jesus did not perform miracles out of His divine nature.  He laid those powers aside at the Incarnation.  Rather, He did His miracles in the power of God's Spirit—who was on Him—as a prophet." "Dr. Constable's notes."

Robertson held the other view.  "What Luke means is that Jesus had the power of the Lord God to heal with.  He does not mean that this power was intermittent.  He simply calls attention to its presence with Jesus on this occasion." "Taken from Word Pictures in the New Testament by A. T. Robertson. Volume II.  Copyright 1930 by Broadman Press."

"Some men came carrying a paralytic on a mat and tried to take him into the house to lay him before Jesus. When they could not find a way to do this because of the crowd, they went up on the roof and lowered him on his mat through the tiles into the middle of the crowd, right in front of Jesus."

This paralyzed man was helpless to come to Jesus on his own.  But he had what we all hope we will have if we became helpless for any reason—someone to help us.  My wife has reached out to a number of women at needy times in their lives.  This friend also had friends to help him.  May we be this type of help to others.

These "men" could not get him into the crowded house, so they climbed up the stairs to the "roof" top, made a hole in the "roof," and "lowered him on his mat through the tiles into the middle of the crowd, right in front of Jesus."  Mark says, "Since they could not get him to Jesus because of the crowd, they made an opening in the roof above Jesus and, after digging through it, lowered the mat the paralyzed man was lying on." (Mark 2:4)

"The Palestinian house was flat-roofed.  The roof had only the slightest tilt, sufficient to make the rain water run off.  It was composed of beams laid from wall to wall and quite a short distance apart.  The space between the beams was filled with close packed twigs, compacted together with mortar and then marled over [combined together].  It was the easiest thing in the world to take out the packing between two beams.  In fact coffins were very often taken in and out of a house via the roof." "Taken from The Gospel of Luke by William Barclay. Copyright 1975 by the Westminster Press."

"When Jesus saw their faith, he said, 'Friend, your sins are forgiven.' The Pharisees and the teachers of the law began thinking to themselves, 'Who is this fellow who speaks blasphemy? Who can forgive sins but God alone?' Jesus knew what they were thinking and asked, 'Why are you thinking these things in your hearts? Which is easier: to say, “Your sins are forgiven,” or to say, “Get up and walk”? But that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins....' He said to the paralyzed man, 'I tell you, get up, take your mat and go home.' Immediately he stood up in front of them, took what he had been lying on and went home praising God."

"when Jesus saw their faith,"  Their action showed "their faith."  They did not let any obstacle prevent them from coming to Jesus.  "Their faith" reminds me of Hebrews 11:6.  "And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him." (Hebrews 11:6)

"Friend,"  It is the Greek word for "man"—anthrope.

"Jesus knew what they were thinking"  Jesus knows our thoughts today and the motives of our hearts.  "This will take place on the day when God will judge men’s secrets through Jesus Christ, as my gospel declares." (Romans 2:16)  "Therefore judge nothing before the appointed time; wait till the Lord comes. He will bring to light what is hidden in darkness and will expose the motives of men’s hearts. At that time each will receive his praise from God." (1 Corinthians 4:5)  "For the word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart." (Hebrews 4:12)

"'Which is easier: to say, “Your sins are forgiven,” or to say, “Get up and walk”?'"  They were correct when they said that only God can "forgive sins."  And, it is also true that forgiving "sins" is much harder to do than healing someone; for forgiveness of "sins" required God's Son to die to pay the penalty for our "sins."  Nevertheless, Jesus would do what was easier to do to help them toward seeing that He also had the "authority" to "forgive sins"—He would heal the "paralytic."  "He said to the paralyzed man, 'I tell you, get up, take your mat and go home.' Immediately he stood up in front of them, took what he had been lying on and went home praising God."

The forgiveness of sin followed by healing, pictures what happens to us when we become Christians.  We first are "forgiven" of our "sins."  Then, by the power of God's Spirit, we are no longer spiritually paralyzed—we are able to choose to do that which is good and pure. See Rom. 6:4-14, 7:4-6, 8:1-4

"Everyone was amazed and gave praise to God. They were filled with awe and said, 'We have seen remarkable things today.'"  Certainly, "the Pharisees and the teachers of the law" were not "amazed."  But people in general—"everyone"—were "amazed and gave praise to God."

"This 'all,' ["everyone" in the NIV], as often, is very general, and does not mean that the scornful and faultfinding scribes suddenly experienced a genuine change of heart and mind.  That men of this type remained hostile and became more and more hardened is clear from Luke 5:30, 6:7, 11, 11:15, 53, 13:17, 15:1, 2; 19:47; etc." "Taken from Luke by William Hendriksen. Copyright 1978 by Baker Book House."

Jesus' miracle made it clear to them that He did have the power and authority to "forgive sins." 

"Son of Man"  This is the first time in Luke that Jesus describes Himself in this way.  Daniel 7:13-14 describes who the "Son of Man" is.  "In my vision at night I looked, and there before me was one like a son of man, coming with the clouds of heaven. He approached the Ancient of Days and was led into his presence. He was given authority, glory and sovereign power; all peoples, nations and men of every language worshiped him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion that will not pass away, and his kingdom is one that will never be destroyed." (Daniel 7:13-14)

Jesus uses this title for Himself many times. See Matt. 8:20, 12:8,32,40, 16:13,
27, 17:9, 19:28

And, so, Jesus was victorious, for the formerly paralyzed man was carrying the mat he once had continually lain upon.  But, Jesus' enemies were even more resentful.  Sometimes, our spiritual battles end in victories; but they also provoke our enemies to becoming even more strongly opposed to us and to our message.

i. Jesus calls Matthew/Levi to follow Him. (5:27-32)
"After this, Jesus went out and saw a tax collector by the name of Levi sitting at his tax booth. 'Follow me,' Jesus said to him, and Levi got up, left everything and followed him. Then Levi held a great banquet for Jesus at his house, and a large crowd of tax collectors and others were eating with them. But the Pharisees and the teachers of the law who belonged to their sect complained to his disciples, 'Why do you eat and drink with tax collectors and “sinners”?' Jesus answered them, 'It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.'"

Thought Question:  A tax collector was probably the most unlikely person in Israel to become one of Jesus' followers.  What do you believe happened inside of him that led him to be willing to follow Jesus Christ?

 

 

"After this, Jesus went out and saw a tax collector by the name of Levi sitting at his tax booth. 'Follow me,' Jesus said to him, and Levi got up, left everything and followed him."  Mark adds that Jesus was walking near "the lake"—near the Sea of Galilee.  "Once again Jesus went out beside the lake. A large crowd came to him, and he began to teach them. As he walked along, he saw Levi son of Alphaeus sitting at the tax collector’s booth. 'Follow me,' Jesus told him, and Levi got up and followed him." (Mark 2:13-14)

"a tax collector"  I quote from my Digging for Gold on Matthew 9:9-13.  "The tax collector was the Benedict Arnold of his day—he did the dirty work of collecting taxes for the Romans  He also, to line his own pockets, took additional monies from the Jews for himself.  To the Jews, he was the lowest form of humanity and he was a social outcast in their society." See the following verses that describe the low opinion that the people had toward tax collectors. Lk. 7:32,    19:1-10

"Levi"  He is also called "Levi" in Mark.  In the Gospel of Matthew—that was written by this "tax collector"—Matthew refers to himself with the name Matthew.  He is also referred to by the name Matthew in the lists of disciples. See Matt. 10:3; Mk. 3:18; Lk. 6:15; Acts 1:13

"and Levi got up, left everything and followed him."  Matthew may be the "tax collector" of Jesus' parable in Luke 18: "But the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, 'God, have mercy on me, a sinner.' I tell you that this man, rather than the other, went home justified before God. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted." (Luke 18:13-14)

"Levi" gave up, in humility and love for Jesus, a lucrative business which he probably could not have gone back to; whereas, the fishermen disciples could have easily gone back to their fishing trade. See Luke 5:1-11 where Simon Peter and the other fishermen left their vocation.

"Then Levi held a great banquet for Jesus at his house, and a large crowd of tax collectors and others were eating with them."  Matthew responded as many new Christians do; he celebrated his new relationship with Jesus.  And he invited others to  join in the celebration and meet Jesus also.  We have a celebration when someone is married.  It is even more appropriate to have a celebration when someone is eternally saved from hell and is eternally destined for heaven.  "A converted man will not wish to go to heaven alone." "Taken from Expository Thoughts of the Gospels by J. C. Ryle." See Jn. 4:28-30

"But the Pharisees and the teachers of the law who belonged to their sect complained to his disciples, 'Why do you eat and drink with tax collectors and “sinners”?'"  "The Pharisees" were the legalists of the Jewish religious world.  "The teachers of the law" were also part of "their sect."  Mark states it clearly.  "When the teachers of the law who were Pharisees saw him eating with the 'sinners' and tax collectors, they asked his disciples: 'Why does he eat with tax collectors and “sinners”?'" (Mark 2:16)

The legalists believed that any contact that they had with the unholy "tax collectors" and those unholy people they ate with at this "banquet," would make them unholy also.  So, in their minds, they asked the question: "Why were Jesus and His followers eating a meal with these "sinners"?  In their minds, Jesus and His followers had become as sinful as these "sinners" that they were eating with. Of course, this group of religious legalists saw themselves as still righteous—for they had not allowed themselves to be contaminated by the lowly "sinners" as Jesus and His followers had.

Jesus looked at these "sinners" much differently than the way these religious legalists looked at them.  The religious leaders saw these "sinners" as disgusting outcasts who were so far beneath them that they had no use for them but to shun them. See Lk. 18:9-12  Jesus saw them as needy people who needed what He had to offer—forgiveness, love, mercy, grace, and help.

Also, these "sinners" saw themselves as those who needed someone's help.  The self-righteous saw themselves as needing no one's help.  As Jesus' illustration makes clear, some saw themselves as sickly people who needed help from the Great Physician and the others saw no need for a physician.

"Jesus answered them, 'It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.'"  Ryle has the following to say about how Jesus' words apply to us:  "Are we sensible of our own wickedness and sinfulness?  Do we feel that we are unworthy of anything but wrath and condemnation?  Then let us understand that we are the very people for whose sake Jesus came into the world.  If we feel ourselves righteous, Christ has nothing to say to us.  But if we feel ourselves sinners, Christ calls us to repentance.  Let not the call be made in vain." "Taken from Expository Thoughts of the Gospels by J. C. Ryle."

"'I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.'"  "Repentance" is an important emphasis in the Gospel of Luke. See 3:3,8, 10:13, 11:32, 13:1-5, 15:7-10, 16:30, 17:3-4, 24:46-47  "Repentance" describes a change of mind that results in a changed life—a turning from sin to a seeking after righteousness.  It also results in humility, for the changed life comes to us from the grace given to us by Another.

Just one more application to this account of Jesus and the "tax collectors."  Do we see ourselves as better than anyone else?  Do we ever look down at some in our society?  Do we despise those in another political party than ourselves?  More questions can be asked of us like these.  The point is that "Levi" was a despised man in his society.  But, Jesus did not despise him.  "Levi" repented and became a follower of Jesus.  And he wrote the Gospel of Matthew.  So, today, there are Christians who were once in some group that is despised in our society.  We need to be careful that we look at people as Jesus did and does, and that we do not look at people as the "Pharisees" and their followers did.

j. Jesus answers a question about fasting. (5:33-39)
"They said to him, 'John’s disciples often fast and pray, and so do the disciples of the Pharisees, but yours go on eating and drinking.' Jesus answered, 'Can you make the guests of the bridegroom fast while he is with them? But the time will come when the bridegroom will be taken from them; in those days they will fast.' He told them this parable: 'No one tears a patch from a new garment and sews it on an old one. If he does, he will have torn the new garment, and the patch from the new will not match the old. And no one pours new wine into old wineskins. If he does, the new wine will burst the skins, the wine will run out and the wineskins will be ruined. No, new wine must be poured into new wineskins. And no one after drinking old wine wants the new, for he says, “The old is better.”'"

Thought Question: What is the difference between the Old Covenant and the New Covenant that makes church life different from Old Covenant Israel?

 

 

"They said to him, 'John’s disciples often fast and pray, and so do the disciples of the Pharisees, but yours go on eating and drinking.'"  Matthew tells us: "Then John’s disciples came and asked him, 'How is it that we and the Pharisees fast, but your disciples do not fast?'" (Matthew 9:14)  The "they" and the "some people" in Mark 2:18, could be "John's disciples" or it could be a group of people that included both "John's disciples" and others.  Whoever they were, they all did not understand why Jesus' disciples did not "fast and pray" as "John's disciples" did and as the "disciples of the Pharisees" did.

The Old Testament only gave instructions for Israel to fast on one day—the Day of Atonement. See Lev. 16:29-34, 23:26-32; Numb. 29:7-11; Acts 27:9  But, in Jesus' time, the religious leaders of Israel "had systematized their religious observances.  They fasted on Mondays and Thursdays; and often they whitened their faces so that no one could fail to see that they were fasting. . . . Even prayer was systematized.  Prayer was to be offered at 12 midday, 3 p.m. and 6 p.m." "Taken from The Gospel of Luke by William Barclay. Copyright 1975 by the Westminster Press."

Jesus condemned this type of religiosity— a religiosity that was designed to be seen by men.  "When you fast, do not look somber as the hypocrites do, for they disfigure their faces to show men they are fasting. I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full." (Matthew 6:16)

So, that is why the "disciples of the Pharisees" fasted.  But, why did "John's disciples" fast?  Hendriksen gives this possible answer to this question:  "It should be borne in mind that John was in a sense an ascetic (Matt. 11:18; Luke 7:33).  He emphasized sin and the necessity of turning from it.  It is not inconceivable, therefore, that he may have encouraged fasting as an expression of mourning for sin." "Taken from Luke by William Hendriksen. Copyright 1978 by Baker Book House."

"Jesus answered, 'Can you make the guests of the bridegroom fast while he is with them? But the time will come when the bridegroom will be taken from them; in those days they will fast.'"  Jesus describes His present time with His disciples as being like a wedding banquet.  That would be a very inappropriate time to fast.  Rather, it was a time to celebrate—it was especially a time for friends of "the bridegroom" to celebrate. Jesus' disciples were seeing Jesus perform miracles of healing and mercy.  They were listening to His great wisdom.  They were experiencing with Jesus one of the most joyous periods in the history of the world.  Just as it would be inappropriate for there to be fasting at a wedding, so it was inappropriate for His followers to fast while He was in their presence doing such remarkable things.  Instead, it was a time for celebration! See the following verses for other times that Jesus is described as a "bridegroom": Matt.22:2, 25:1-13; Lk. 12:35-36; Eph. 5:22-33; Rev. 19:7-9

"'But the time will come when the bridegroom will be taken from them; in those days they will fast.'"  Jesus is predicting here what was predicted in      Isaiah 53, and what Jesus predicted on a number of occasions.  "By oppression and judgment he was taken away. And who can speak of his descendants? For he was cut off from the land of the living; for the transgression of my people he was stricken." (Isaiah 53:8)  "''In a little while you will see me no more, and then after a little while you will see me.' Some of his disciples said to one another, 'What does he mean by saying, “In a little while you will see me no more, and then after a little while you will see me,” and “Because I am going to the Father”?' They kept asking, 'What does he mean by “little while”? We don’t understand what he is saying.' Jesus saw that they wanted to ask him about this, so he said to them, 'Are you asking one another what I meant when I said, “In a little while you will see me no more, and then after a little while you will see me”? I tell you the truth, you will weep and mourn while the world rejoices. You will grieve, but your grief will turn to joy.'" (John 16:16-20) See also Matt. 16:21; Mk. 10:32-34; Lk. 17:25

"He told them this parable: 'No one tears a patch from a new garment and sews it on an old one. If he does, he will have torn the new garment, and the patch from the new will not match the old. And no one pours new wine into old wineskins. If he does, the new wine will burst the skins, the wine will run out and the wineskins will be ruined. No, new wine must be poured into new wineskins. And no one after drinking old wine wants the new, for he says, “The old is better.”'"

Jesus gives two illustration to make the same point. The first illustration is that it is unwise to put new and un-shrunken cloth as a "patch" on an "old" garment, for when it shrinks it will tear the "new garment."  It will also not "match the old" "garment."  Secondly, it was not wise to put "new wine" that is still fermenting and giving off gas into "old wineskins," for it will "burst the skins."  "New wineskins" will be flexible and will not burst when the "new wine" is poured into them.

What is Jesus' point in both illustrations?  The Christianity that started with Jesus Christ and continued after His death and resurrection, empowered by and guided by the Holy Spirit would not fit into the old and inflexible Judaist system of the "Pharisees." 

How does this apply to us today?  Any religious system can also become rigidly traditional.  The Roman Catholicism of Martin Luther's time was like Judaism of Jesus' time.  Luther and the Reformers of that time burst the "old wineskins" of Roman Catholicism.  Therefore, a new start was needed, which was called the Protestant Reformation.  The same thing has happened again and again throughout the history of the church.  Christianity becomes fossilized in some way and changes into some rigid form that resists the Holy Spirit's guidance in the church.

The response of the old is described in verse thirty-nine: "And no one after drinking old wine wants the new, for he says, “The old is better.”'"  The traditionalist is comfortable in his old and practiced way, and resists the fresh moving of God's Spirit.  I saw that personally during the Jesus' Movement among the young people in the late 60s and early 70s.  Many church people said, "The old is better."

As a new Christian at that time, it was discouraging for me to see older church members resentful at the moving of God's Spirit in a fresh way among young people like myself.  Now, as an older man, I need to be careful that I am not doing the same thing.  God may not do things in a way that is comfortable to us older Christians.  We need to be careful that we are not doing the same thing as was done to those of us who became Christians during the Jesus' Movement.  We need to be careful that our opposition to something that is happening in the church today is not an opposition to some fresh way that God is moving.  We must always contend for the faith, but we must not contend for the traditional. See Matt. 15:1-3; Jude 3

k. Jesus defends His disciple when they gleaned in the fields on the Sabbath. (6:1-5)
"One Sabbath Jesus was going through the grainfields, and his disciples began to pick some heads of grain, rub them in their hands and eat the kernels. Some of the Pharisees asked, 'Why are you doing what is unlawful on the Sabbath?' Jesus answered them, 'Have you never read what David did when he and his companions were hungry? He entered the house of God, and taking the consecrated bread, he ate what is lawful only for priests to eat. And he also gave some to his companions.' Then Jesus said to them, 'The Son of Man is Lord of the Sabbath.'"

Thought Question  #1:  What do you believe these verses tell us about the difference between why men make their religious rules and why God develops His instructions for our relationship with Him?

 

 

Thought Question #2:  Why do you believe that it was okay for "David" and his "companions" to eat the "consecrated bread"?

 

 

"One Sabbath Jesus was going through the grainfields, and his disciples began to pick some heads of grain, rub them in their hands and eat the kernels. Some of the Pharisees asked, 'Why are you doing what is unlawful on the Sabbath?'"

God's Law allowed the poor to eat from another's grain or fruit.  "If you enter your neighbor’s vineyard, you may eat all the grapes you want, but do not put any in your basket. If you enter your neighbor’s grainfield, you may pick kernels with your hands, but you must not put a sickle to his standing grain." (Deuteronomy 23:24-25)

But man's law, that was added to God's Law, prohibited the poor from doing what God's Law permitted.  The religious leaders of Israel had developed specific instructions (in great detail) on what was and was not work on the Sabbath.  And under man's rules, what the hungry disciples were doing was classified as work.

"The Pharisees" used their man-made law to control people.  God's law was meant to lead the people of Israel into a close relationship to Him.  The Sabbath was meant to be a time when people would stop their toil, rest in the Lord, and focus on their relationship with God.  "Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth." (Psalm 46:10) See also Exod. 20:8-10 for God's law of the Sabbath.

But arrogant men had turned it into the very opposite from what God intended.  It became a day when Israel's religious leaders became religious police and went on patrol to see if anyone was breaking their religious rules for the Sabbath.  Instead of it being a day of rest, it became a tense day where everyone was looking over their shoulders in fear that they were breaking some religious rule and might be caught for it.

It's a human tendency to turn God's law, which was meant for our good, into our laws devised in great detail for the purpose of controlling people.  "Then he said to them, 'The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath.'" (Mark 2:27)  "They tie up heavy loads and put them on men’s shoulders, but they themselves are not willing to lift a finger to move them." (Matthew 23:4)  "Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light." (Matthew 11:28-30)

The "heavy loads" are the piles and piles of regulations that are put on men.  The constitution that freed men is quite short—six pages.  Men's regulations designed to control men are very long and very detailed.  At the time I am writing these words, a national health care policy is beginning to be put into effect.  It is so long that it was too long to be read before it was voted on.  The Jewish Talmud's instructions on what is work and what is not work on the Sabbath is also so long that only the experts in the law knew what was in it.

"'Have you never read what David did when he and his companions were hungry? He entered the house of God, and taking the consecrated bread, he ate what is lawful only for priests to eat. And he also gave some to his companions.'" 

The occurrence that Jesus described here is recorded for us in I Samuel 21:1-6:  "David went to Nob, to Ahimelech the priest. Ahimelech trembled when he met him, and asked, 'Why are you alone? Why is no one with you?' David answered Ahimelech the priest, 'The king charged me with a certain matter and said to me, “No one is to know anything about your mission and your instructions.” As for my men, I have told them to meet me at a certain place. Now then, what do you have on hand? Give me five loaves of bread, or whatever you can find.' But the priest answered David, 'I don’t have any ordinary bread on hand; however, there is some consecrated bread here—provided the men have kept themselves from women.' David replied, 'Indeed women have been kept from us, as usual whenever I set out. The men’s things are holy even on missions that are not holy. How much more so today!' So the priest gave him the consecrated bread, since there was no bread there except the bread of the Presence that had been removed from before the Lord and replaced by hot bread on the day it was taken away." (1 Samuel 21:1-6)

The law prohibited anyone from eating this "bread" except the "priests."  It was the twelve loaves of "bread" that the "priests" placed in the first room of the tabernacle—the room in the temple called the Holy Place.  The second room behind the curtain was called the Holy of Holies.  Instructions for this "consecrated bread" is found in Lev. 24:5-9:  "Take fine flour and bake twelve loaves of bread, using two-tenths of an ephah for each loaf. Set them in two rows, six in each row, on the table of pure gold before the Lord. Along each row put some pure incense as a memorial portion to represent the bread and to be an offering made to the Lord by fire. This bread is to be set out before the Lord regularly, Sabbath after Sabbath, on behalf of the Israelites, as a lasting covenant. It belongs to Aaron and his sons, who are to eat it in a holy place, because it is a most holy part of their regular share of the offerings made to the Lord by fire." (Leviticus 24:5-9) See also Exod. 25:30, 40:22-23

Why was it all right for "David" and "his companions" "to eat" this "consecrated bread" that the Scriptures said was only to be eaten by the "priests"?  The answer is that meeting a desperate need and saving a life is more important than rules.  Recently, a court ruled that an exception could be made in a law that prohibited a child from receiving an adult heart transplant.  A child's life was saved!  Good for that court!  God's laws were meant to do good.  "Then Jesus asked them, 'Which is lawful on the Sabbath: to do good or to do evil, to save life or to kill?' But they remained silent." (Mark 3:4)  "'How much more valuable is a man than a sheep! Therefore it is lawful to do good on the Sabbath.'" (Matthew 12:12)  "Then Jesus said to them, 'I ask you, which is lawful on the Sabbath: to do good or to do evil, to save life or to destroy it?'"  (Luke 6:9)

Also, the "bread" was not taken from the Holy Place, but it was the "bread" that had already been taken from the Holy Place and had already been replaced by the newly baked bread.  "So the priest gave him the consecrated bread, since there was no bread there except the bread of the Presence that had been removed from before the Lord and replaced by hot bread on the day it was taken away." (1 Samuel 21:6)

"Then Jesus said to them, 'The Son of Man is Lord of the Sabbath.'"  Jesus was the Designer of the "Sabbath."  If they really wanted to know the purpose of  "the Sabbath," they could have asked Him at any time.  Instead, they condemned Him and His followers.  They could not have been farther from the spirit of "the Sabbath."  They should have been still on this Sabbath, and then they would have known that Jesus is God. See Ps. 46:10  Instead, they were condemning Jesus for breaking the Sabbath that He was the Lord over.

l. Jesus heals a man with a shriveled hand on the Sabbath. (6:6-11)
"On another Sabbath he went into the synagogue and was teaching, and a man was there whose right hand was shriveled. The Pharisees and the teachers of the law were looking for a reason to accuse Jesus, so they watched him closely to see if he would heal on the Sabbath. But Jesus knew what they were thinking and said to the man with the shriveled hand, 'Get up and stand in front of everyone.' So he got up and stood there. Then Jesus said to them, 'I ask you, which is lawful on the Sabbath: to do good or to do evil, to save life or to destroy it?' He looked around at them all, and then said to the man, 'Stretch out your hand.' He did so, and his hand was completely restored. But they were furious and began to discuss with one another what they might do to Jesus."

Thought Question: Give an example of how we can, like these "Pharisees," become religious police today? ("looking for a reason to accuse" someone)

 

 

"On another Sabbath he went into the synagogue and was teaching, and a man was there whose right hand was shriveled. The Pharisees and the teachers of the law were looking for a reason to accuse Jesus, so they watched him closely to see if he would heal on the Sabbath. But Jesus knew what they were thinking and said to the man with the shriveled hand, 'Get up and stand in front of everyone.' So he got up and stood there." 

We are told here of the perverse evil that was in the hearts of "the Pharisees" toward Jesus: they "were looking for a reason to accuse Jesus."

The presence of a "man" "whose right hand was shriveled" gave them the opportunity that they were looking for.  They thought, "Would Jesus "heal" this "man" "on the Sabbath?"  "Jesus knew what they were thinking."  He had the "man" "with the shriveled hand" "stand in front" of them.  Jesus did not cower at all before these evil men, bent on destroying Him.

"Then Jesus said to them, 'I ask you, which is lawful on the Sabbath: to do good or to do evil, to save life or to destroy it?'"  The answer to Jesus' question is obvious—"to do good."  But, if they gave the correct answer, they would have agreed with what Jesus was about to do.  He was about "to do good" "on the Sabbath."  On the other hand, these "Pharisees and teachers of the law" would soon be doing evil on that "Sabbath."  "But they were furious and began to discuss with one another what they might do to Jesus." (Luke 6:11)  "Then the Pharisees went out and began to plot with the Herodians how they might kill Jesus." (Mark 3:6)

True and false religion are contrasted here.  Jesus represents true religion.  True religion is designed and organized toward the goal of helping people.  The religious leaders represent false religion.  False religion is designed and organized with some selfish goal in mind.  Here are some of the goals of true religion: meeting people's need, revealing God's love and grace to people, and building strong and genuine relationships between people.  Here are some of the goals of false religion: gaining power over others, elevating men or a person, impressing people, building an empire, gaining money, eliminating opposition, and the ugly list goes on.

"He looked around at them all, and then said to the man, 'Stretch out your hand.' He did so, and his hand was completely restored. But they were furious and began to discuss with one another what they might do to Jesus."

The religious leaders were completely cold toward this "man" "whose right hand was shriveled."  Shouldn't they have been hoping, for this man's sake, that Jesus would heal him?  This "man" must have seen a tremendous contrast between the compassionate eyes of Jesus and the cold and heartless eyes of the men who were his country's religious leaders.  When we look into the eyes of religious leaders, we should see the compassionate eyes of Jesus.  Too often, though, we see cold and heartless eyes of those who are like these religious leaders who hated Jesus.  Much of the martyrdoms of Christians, over the years, has come at the hands of religious leaders.  Look at the stories of men like Hus and Tyndale; then look at the Spanish Inquisition for some examples of how heartless and wrong religious leaders can be.

"his hand was completely restored."  The healing that took place that day was complete and instantaneous.  "Restored" is in the aorist tense, indicating a healing at a point in time, rather than a process of healing over time.

What was the response of these religious leaders to this "good" that Jesus did in such a miraculous way?  They should have done what Peter did earlier: "When Simon Peter saw this, he fell at Jesus’ knees and said, 'Go away from me, Lord; I am a sinful man!'" (Luke 5:8)  Instead, their hearts were so hardened that "they were furious and began to discuss with one another what they might do to Jesus."  Again, Mark 3:6 says, "Then the Pharisees went out and began to plot with the Herodians how they might kill Jesus." (Mark 3:6)  Matthew says the same.  "But the Pharisees went out and plotted how they might kill Jesus." (Matthew 12:14)  "Already nearly two years before the end we see the set determination to destroy Jesus." "Taken from Word Pictures in the New Testament by A. T. Robertson. Volume II.  Copyright 1930 by Broadman Press."

"Were furious" translates the Greek word anoias.  An "a" is in front of the Greek word for mind—it was a mindless or insane rage (As an "a" in front of theist, equals believing in "no God," an "a" in front of mind equals "no mind.") 

Sometimes, when we have been proven to be wrong, but refuse to accept that we are wrong, all we can do is fly into a mindless rage.  Hopefully, afterward, we will think more calmly about it and admit that we were wrong.  That did not happen to these religious leaders.  In a documentary, I learned that Saddam Hussein was hardened and unrepentant to the end.  These religious leaders were also hardened.  They conspired to kill the One who was right in every way.  His great fault, according to them, was that He had compassion on and healed a "man" on the wrong day. 

2. Jesus' ministry with the Twelve (6:12-56)

a. Jesus chose the Twelve after a night of prayer. (6:12-16)
"One of those days Jesus went out to a mountainside to pray, and spent the night praying to God. When morning came, he called his disciples to him and chose twelve of them, whom he also designated apostles: Simon (whom he named Peter), his brother Andrew, James, John, Philip, Bartholomew, Matthew, Thomas, James son of Alphaeus, Simon who was called the Zealot, Judas son of James, and Judas Iscariot, who became a traitor."

Thought Question #1:  Why did Jesus need to pray all night before choosing the Twelve? (Did He not already know who they would be?)

 

 

Thought Question #2:  What does Jesus' all night in prayer before choosing Twelve tell us about how we should approach leadership development in our churches?

 

 

"One of those days Jesus went out to a mountainside to pray, and spent the night praying to God."  We are not told the exact time this took place or the mountain upon which it took place.  These details are not important, but what is important is what He did that night—He sought direction from the Father in the selection of His Twelve closest followers.  Luke emphasizes the importance of prayer in Jesus' life and ministry. See 3:21, 5:16, 6:28, 9:18, 28, 10:2, 11:1-13, 18:1-8, 9-14, 19:46, 21:36, 22:32, 39-46

Here, Jesus "spent" the whole "night" in prayer before selecting the Twelve.  "No other New Testament passage speaks of all-night prayer." "Taken from Luke by Darrell Bock. Copyright 1994 by Intervarsity Press."

"When morning came, he called his disciples to him and chose twelve of them, whom he also designated apostles: Simon (whom he named Peter), his brother Andrew, James [Thaddeus in Matt. 10:3 and Mk. 3:18] [see also           Jn. 14:22], John, Philip, Bartholomew, Matthew, Thomas, James son of Alphaeus, Simon who was called the Zealot, Judas son of James, and Judas Iscariot, who became a traitor." See Matt. 10:2-4; Mk. 3:16-19; and Acts 1:13 for other lists of the Twelve apostles.

These "twelve" "disciples" were "also designated" as "apostles."  They were those who would learn from Jesus and then be sent out as missionaries.  "Apostles" comes from the Greek word for "sent."  "The word is derived from apostello, to send (Latin, mitto) and apostle is missionary, one sent." "Taken from Word Pictures in the New Testament by A. T. Robertson. Volume II.  Copyright 1930 by Broadman Press."  "He appointed twelve—designating them apostles—that they might be with him and that he might send them out to preach." (Mark 3:14)

Jesus' "disciples" were not just pupils who learned academic knowledge from Him in a classroom setting.  They were followers who learned both from His words and from His actions.  The great commission that Jesus gave to the church is to "make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. . . . " (Matthew 28:19-20)  The instruction comes from the truths that are taught, but it also comes from the teacher modeling in his or her life what is taught.

We are also to pray that God will give us those who have chosen to follow Christ, no matter what the cost.  Then, we are to seek to find ways they can be with us, so that they can see how our lives match what we are teaching.

"chose twelve of them,"  Why did Jesus choose exactly "twelve" "disciples"?  There appears to be some parallel between the "twelve" tribes of Israel and the "twelve" "disciples."  The number "twelve" is found prominently in the New Jerusalem.  "It had a great, high wall with twelve gates, and with twelve angels at the gates. On the gates were written the names of the twelve tribes of Israel. There were three gates on the east, three on the north, three on the south and three on the west. The wall of the city had twelve foundations, and on them were the names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb." (Revelation 21:12-14)

It could be that that the "twelve" tribes of Israel symbolizes the old covenant with Israel and the "twelve" "disciples" represents the New Covenant with the church that is made with all nations.

These "twelve disciples" were an odd mixture of men.  There was "Matthew" the tax collector and "Simon who was called the Zealot."  "Matthew" sided with the Romans, for he collected taxes for them; "Simon" was part of a political group that was completely opposed to the Romans.  But these men on opposite sides of the political spectrum became united in their service of Jesus Christ.

One more observation about the "twelve" Jesus chose as His "disciples."  They were very ordinary men.  What does this say to us today?  It tells us that God can use ordinary people in powerful ways.  "Brothers, think of what you were when you were called. Not many of you were wise by human standards; not many were influential; not many were of noble birth. But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. He chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things—and the things that are not—to nullify the things that are." (1 Corinthians 1:26-28)   "When they saw the courage of Peter and John and realized that they were unschooled, ordinary men, they were astonished and they took note that these men had been with Jesus." (Acts 4:13)  What was important then and what continues to be important today is that we have "been with Jesus."  "So he said to me, 'This is the word of the Lord to Zerubbabel: “Not by might nor by power, but by my Spirit,’ says the Lord Almighty.”'" (Zechariah 4:6)

"Judas Iscariot, who became a traitor."  Why did Jesus choose a man who He knew would betray Him?  I believe that "Judas" was chosen, in part, to show that the church will never be free from Satan's influence.  Listen to Paul's words to the elders of Ephesus:  "I know that after I leave, savage wolves will come in among you and will not spare the flock. Even from your own number men will arise and distort the truth in order to draw away disciples after them. So be on your guard! Remember that for three years I never stopped warning each of you night and day with tears." (Acts 20:29-31) See also Matt. 13:24-30, 36-43

b. The sermon on the plain (6:17-49) (This is like Jesus' Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 5-7)

(1) The beatitudes of Luke (6:17-26)
"He went down with them and stood on a level place. A large crowd of his disciples was there and a great number of people from all over Judea, from Jerusalem, and from the coast of Tyre and Sidon, who had come to hear him and to be healed of their diseases. Those troubled by evil spirits were cured, and the people all tried to touch him, because power was coming from him and healing them all. Looking at his disciples, he said: 'Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God. Blessed are you who hunger now, for you will be satisfied. Blessed are you who weep now, for you will laugh. Blessed are you when men hate you, when they exclude you and insult you and reject your name as evil, because of the Son of Man. Rejoice in that day and leap for joy, because great is your reward in heaven. For that is how their fathers treated the prophets. But woe to you who are rich, for you have already received your comfort. Woe to you who are well fed now, for you will go hungry. Woe to you who laugh now, for you will mourn and weep. Woe to you when all men speak well of you, for that is how their fathers treated the false prophets."

Thought Question: Luke says "Blessed are you who are poor" rather than the "Blessed are the poor in spirit" on Matthew 5:3.  Is Jesus saying that it is more blessed to be in poverty?  Please explain you answer.

 

 

"He went down with them and stood on a level place. A large crowd of his disciples was there and a great number of people from all over Judea, from Jerusalem, and from the coast of Tyre and Sidon, who had come to hear him and to be healed of their diseases. Those troubled by evil spirits were cured, and the people all tried to touch him, because power was coming from him and healing them all."

First of all, we must ask, "Is this sermon the same message as the Sermon on the Mount found in Matthew 5-7?"  It could be that the "level place" was on a mountain plateau or mesa.  Another possibility is that Jesus preached similar sermons at different places.  We cannot be sure.  But, we can be sure that this sermon is similar in some ways to the account in Matthew and different in other ways.  It could be that Luke records the same sermon, but because his audience is different than Matthew's audience, he emphasizes a different part of Jesus' message and deemphasizes other parts. Matthew 5:17-42, 6:1-6, 16-18 are not found in Luke's account.  Luke 6:24-26, 38-40 are not found in Matthew.  It is also possible that Luke's sermon is a different sermon—a similar sermon that was given at a different time and place than the Sermon on the Mount of Matthew 5-7.

"a great number of people"  Jesus' ministry of healing and teaching was attracting people from great distances away.  "Judea" was to the south and "Tyre and Sidon" were to the north of Galilee (our modern-day Lebanon).  Jesus' great popularity certainly irked the religious leaders who now hated Him.  The greater His popularity, the greater a threat He became to them.  It apparently did not occur to them that His popularity was due to the fact that He was their promised Messiah.

"and the people all tried to touch him, because power was coming from him and healing them all."  This is similar to what happened to a lady in Luke 8.  "And a woman was there who had been subject to bleeding for twelve years, but no one could heal her. She came up behind him and touched the edge of his cloak, and immediately her bleeding stopped." (Luke 8:43-44)  "But Jesus said, 'Someone touched me; I know that power has gone out from me.'" (Luke 8:46)

"Looking at his disciples, he said: 'Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God.'"  "Luke's first beatitude corresponds with Matthew's first, but he does not have 'in spirit' after 'poor.'  Does Luke represent Jesus as saying that poverty itself is a blessing?  It can be made so.  Or does Luke represent Jesus as meaning what is in Matthew, poverty of spirit?"  "Taken from Word Pictures in the New Testament by A. T. Robertson. Volume II.  Copyright 1930 by Broadman Press."  One thing is sure, Jesus' kingdom is not the type of Kingdom the world thinks of when they think of a kingdom—a kingdom with great power and great wealth.

Wiersbe puts it this way: "Jesus was not glorifying material poverty, rather, He was calling for the brokenness of heart that confesses spiritual poverty within (Luke 18:9-14; Phil. 3:4-14).  The humble person is the only kind the Lord can save (Isa. 57:15; 66:2; I Pet. 5:6).  If you compare the 'Beatitudes' with Isaiah 61:1-3 and Luke 4:18, you will see that our Lord's emphasis was on the condition of the heart and not the outward circumstances." "Taken from Be Compassionate by Warren Wiersbe.  Copyright 1998 by David C. Cook."

James also makes it clear what Jesus is saying.  "The brother in humble circumstances ought to take pride in his high position. But the one who is rich should take pride in his low position, because he will pass away like a wild flower. For the sun rises with scorching heat and withers the plant; its blossom falls and its beauty is destroyed. In the same way, the rich man will fade away even while he goes about his business." (James 1:9-11)

The poor are more likely to see their need for God; the rich are less likely to see their need for God.  The church at Laodicea was rich.  Jesus pointed out that their wealth prevented them from seeing their need for God.  "You say, 'I am rich; I have acquired wealth and do not need a thing.' But you do not realize that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked." (Revelation 3:17)

"Blessed are you who hunger now, for you will be satisfied."  Those who "hunger now" are those who recognize that their need is so great that nothing in this world will fill it.  Can this world give us the ability to do what we know is right and loving?  Can the world enable us to love people the way they need to be loved?  Those who recognize this type of vacuum in their lives are those who "hunger now." 

Those who go to God to fill this "hunger" "will be satisfied."  What we hunger for is God—His forgiveness, His life, His love for us and His love in us, His strength, His mission in the world, and His wisdom.  If we seek Him with all of our heart, He promises to respond to us and fill us.  "Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled." (Matthew 5:6)  "But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well." (Matthew 6:33)  "'For I know the plans I have for you,' declares the Lord, 'plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.'" (Jeremiah 29:11-13)  "Come near to God and he will come near to you. Wash your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded." (James 4:8)

"Blessed are you who weep now, for you will laugh."  This verse reminded me of a verse in Psalm 126: "He who goes out weeping, carrying seed to sow, will return with songs of joy, carrying sheaves with him." (Psalm 126:6)  It is also similar to Matthew 5:4: "Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted." (Matthew 5:4)  When we care about what God cares about, we will "weep."  We will weep over our sin, as David did.  " . . . When the prophet Nathan came to him after David had committed adultery with Bathsheba. Have mercy on me, O God, according to your unfailing love; according to your great compassion blot out my transgressions. Wash away all my iniquity and cleanse me from my sin. For I know my transgressions, and my sin is always before me. Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight, so that you are proved right when you speak and justified when you judge. Surely I was sinful at birth, sinful from the time my mother conceived me." (Psalm 51:1-5)

We will "weep" over others' sin.  "I prayed to the Lord my God and confessed: 'O Lord, the great and awesome God, who keeps his covenant of love with all who love him and obey his commands, we have sinned and done wrong. We have been wicked and have rebelled; we have turned away from your commands and laws. We have not listened to your servants the prophets, who spoke in your name to our kings, our princes and our fathers, and to all the people of the land.'"  (Daniel 9:4-6)  We will "weep" over the pain others are going through.  "Why do you make me look at injustice? Why do you tolerate wrong? Destruction and violence are before me; there is strife, and conflict abounds. Therefore the law is paralyzed, and justice never prevails. The wicked hem in the righteous, so that justice is perverted." (Habakkuk 1:3-4)  We will "weep" over the lost who are heading toward eternal punishment.

"for you will laugh."   All of us who are Christians have prayed for a beloved family member.  My newly-converted brother prayed for me.  Just a few months later, I also believed in Christ as my Lord and Savior.  What was the result?  It was joy and laughter, as we both rejoiced in God's answer to his prayer.  His sadness in concern for me was turned to joy.  Our greatest joy will be to share in the great harvest in heaven as we see those that we prayed for, and share together in what God did in response to our prayers and our service.  "Those who sow in tears will reap with songs of joy. He who goes out weeping, carrying seed to sow, will return with songs of joy, carrying sheaves with him." (Psalm 126:5-6)

"Blessed are you when men hate you, when they exclude you and insult you and reject your name as evil, because of the Son of Man. Rejoice in that day and leap for joy, because great is your reward in heaven. For that is how their fathers treated the prophets."

In Galatians five, we are told that there is no law against what is "the fruit of the Spirit."  "But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law." (Galatians 5:22-23)  Why is it, then, that we can count on being hated if we do what is right.  "In fact, everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted . . . ." (II Timothy 3:12)  The apostle John explains why it happens in I John 3:12-15: "Do not be like Cain, who belonged to the evil one and murdered his brother. And why did he murder him? Because his own actions were evil and his brother’s were righteous. Do not be surprised, my brothers, if the world hates you. We know that we have passed from death to life, because we love our brothers. Anyone who does not love remains in death. Anyone who hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life in him." (1 John 3:12-15)  The problem is when we do good, it exposes the evil, half-heartedness, laziness, and lack of zeal in others.  Listen to Jesus' words in John three: "Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that his deeds will be exposed." (John 3:20)  Those who do not want to change, hate having their evil exposed—they hate us and want to eliminate us. See also Jn. 15:18-25

"Rejoice in that day and leap for joy, because great is your reward in heaven."  We can't "rejoice" that people hate us—that is very painful and hard to deal with.  But, we can "rejoice" that God will reward us.  For, we are doing the Father's will as Jesus did and God's people have been doing for thousands of years.  In short, one day we will discover that we were on the right side and on the winning side.  If we believe now that this is true, we will "leap for joy," or as Matthew says, we will "rejoice and be glad." 

"when they exclude you and insult you and reject your name as evil,"  What Jesus describes here is what we can count on.  When it happens, we can remember "that is how their fathers treated the prophets." 

"But woe to you who are rich, for you have already received your comfort."  Each of the four woes is the opposite of the four blesseds in 6:20-23.  This "woe" is the opposite of  "Blessed are you who are poor."  This "woe" is the opposite of the world's mantra: "He who dies with the most toys wins.  For some, the American dream is to get it all.  Yet, Jesus says "woe to you who are rich."  Why?  It is because those who live for riches will find that it will lead to barren hearts and to God's judgment.  "Now listen, you rich people, weep and wail because of the misery that is coming upon you. Your wealth has rotted, and moths have eaten your clothes. Your gold and silver are corroded. Their corrosion will testify against you and eat your flesh like fire. You have hoarded wealth in the last days. Look! The wages you failed to pay the workmen who mowed your fields are crying out against you. The cries of the harvesters have reached the ears of the Lord Almighty. You have lived on earth in luxury and self-indulgence. You have fattened yourselves in the day of slaughter." (James 5:1-5)

In None of these Diseases, S. I. McMillen said the following of John D. Rockefeller, at one time "the riches man on earth and the world's only billionaire."  "The mass of wealth he had accumulated gave him neither peace nor happiness.  In fact, as he sought to protect and control it, he discovered that he was being smothered by it.  He could not sleep; he enjoyed nothing.  When John D. was only fifty-three, elder Tarbel wrote of him, 'An amazing age was in his face.  He was the oldest man that I have ever seen.  The crackers and milk he glumly swallowed could no longer hold together his skinny body and restless soul.  It was generally agreed that he would not live another year, and newspaper writers had his obituary written ready in their files." "Taken from None of These Diseases by S. I. McMillen, PhD. pp. 126-127. Copyright 1967 by Fleming H. Revell Company."  All that changed when John. D. started using his money to help the needy.  He died "at nine-eight years old."  We can see why Jesus said, "It is more blessed to give than to receive." (Acts 20:35) See also Lk. 12:13-21, 16:19-31

"for you have already received your comfort."  Money is what cheers and comforts the rich.  How can these "rich" seek God as their "comfort," when they already have money as their comforter?  Jesus also spoke on this, as recorded in Matthew 6: "Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also." (Matthew 6:19-21)  "No one can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and Money." (Matthew 6:24)  "But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well." (Matthew 6:33) See also Heb. 11:16, 24-28; I Tim. 6:3-10

"Woe to you who are well fed now, for you will go hungry."  This "woe" is the opposite of "Blessed are you who hunger now, for you will be satisfied."  If we live for "king stomach," we will experience spiritual emptiness.  Jesus' disciples once were amazed that Jesus was not focused on feeding His physical hunger, but was focused on ministering to a woman he had met at a well.  "Meanwhile his disciples urged him, 'Rabbi, eat something.' But he said to them, 'I have food to eat that you know nothing about.' Then his disciples said to each other, 'Could someone have brought him food?' 'My food,' said Jesus, 'is to do the will of him who sent me and to finish his work.'" (John 4:31-34)  Jesus was not ruled by His stomach, but by His Father's will. See also Rev. 3:12-18

"Woe to you who laugh now, for you will mourn and weep."  This "woe" is the opposite of "Blessed are you who weep now, for you will laugh."  We live across the street from duplexes that are the home of college students at the local university.  We are blessed in that it was only during one year that these duplexes have housed a group of wild partiers.  This type of wild laughter often ends up in such things as broken relationships, jail, alcohol and drug addiction, poor grades, and tragic automobile accidents.  This type of laughter does lead to mourning and weeping.  I know that I regret a great deal of what I did in those years before I knew the Savior.

A comment by Leon Morris, at this time, is appropriate.  "Obviously Jesus is not objecting to laughter as such.  His whole ministry was a protest against killjoy attitude.  He enjoyed life and must have laughed often. So with His disciples.  But there is a laughter that is the expression of superficiality . . . It is this shallow merriment that will give way to mourning and weeping." "Taken from Luke by Leon Morris.  Copyright 1946 by Intervarsity Press."  It is John Bunyan's "Vanity Fair."

"Woe to you when all men speak well of you, for that is how their fathers treated the false prophets."  This "woe" is the opposite of "blessed are you when men hate you."  It would seem that having everyone speaking well of us would be our goal as Christians.  But, as Morris says, "This can scarcely happen apart from some sacrifice of principle." "Morris" 

The "false prophets" told people what they wanted to hear.  "This is what the Lord Almighty says: 'Do not listen to what the prophets are prophesying to you; they fill you with false hopes. They speak visions from their own minds, not from the mouth of the Lord. They keep saying to those who despise me, “The Lord says: You will have peace.” And to all who follow the stubbornness of their hearts they say, “No harm will come to you.”'" (Jeremiah 23:16-17) See also 
I Kings 18:1-28

When we faithfully tell people what they need to hear rather than what they want to hear, we will gain enemies.  Prophets like Isaiah and Jeremiah did gain enemies, for they strongly told Israel of their sin and of God's judgment that was to come on them because of their sins.  False prophets told them that they were doing well.  "They dress the wound of my people as though it were not serious. 'Peace, peace,' they say, when there is no peace." (Jeremiah 6:14)

(2) A godly attitude toward enemies (6:27-36)
"'But I tell you who hear me: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. If someone strikes you on one cheek, turn to him the other also. If someone takes your cloak, do not stop him from taking your tunic. Give to everyone who asks you, and if anyone takes what belongs to you, do not demand it back. Do to others as you would have them do to you. If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? Even “sinners” love those who love them. And if you do good to those who are good to you, what credit is that to you? Even “sinners” do that. And if you lend to those from whom you expect repayment, what credit is that to you? Even “sinners” lend to “sinners,” expecting to be repaid in full. But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back. Then your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked. Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.'"

Thought Question: What situation in your life right now does Jesus' words apply to?

 

 

"'But I tell you who hear me: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. If someone strikes you on one cheek, turn to him the other also.'"  What Jesus says here was different from what the Jewish religious leaders were teaching.  It was also different from what people normally do.  But, it was not different from what is taught in the Old Testament.  "Do not seek revenge or bear a grudge against one of your people, but love your neighbor as yourself. I am the Lord." (Leviticus 19:18)  "If you come across your enemy’s ox or donkey wandering off, be sure to take it back to him. If you see the donkey of someone who hates you fallen down under its load, do not leave it there; be sure you help him with it." (Exodus 23:4-5)

The normal human response is to want bad to happen to those who have done bad to us.  But Jesus teaches us that His followers are to want "good" to happen to those who do bad to us.  And not only are we to want "good" to happen to them, but we are to "do good" to them.  We are also to "pray"  that "good" will happen to them.

How can we do this?  This is not in our human nature to do, but we have Jesus' nature in us if we are Christians.  "To them God has chosen to make known among the Gentiles the glorious riches of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory." (Colossians 1:27)  "I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me." (Galatians 2:20)

We cannot do it; but He can do it through us.  He died for us when we were rebels against Him and His ways.  "But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us." (Romans 5:8)  We should want God's best for everyone; we should not want the worst for them.  Listen to Jesus' words on the cross, and men were enjoying His misery and mocking Him.  "Jesus said, 'Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.' And they divided up his clothes by casting lots. The people stood watching, and the rulers even sneered at him. They said, 'He saved others; let him save himself if he is the Christ of God, the Chosen One.' The soldiers also came up and mocked him. They offered him wine vinegar and said, 'If you are the king of the Jews, save yourself.”" (Luke 23:34-37)

Jesus enabled Stephen to forgive those who were stoning him to death.  "While they were stoning him, Stephen prayed, 'Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.' Then he fell on his knees and cried out, 'Lord, do not hold this sin against them.' When he had said this, he fell asleep." (Acts 7:59-60)

When we don't forgive, it is because we want bad to happen to our enemies.  We can though, with the enabling of God's Spirit, choose to want good to happen to them.  Jesus came to earth because He wanted good for us, even though we were hostile to Him.  We are to want good for those who have done evil to us.  "We know that we have passed from death to life, because we love our brothers. Anyone who does not love remains in death. Anyone who hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life in him." (1 John 3:14-15)  "Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us." (1 John 4:7-12)

Jesus gives us a practical example of this type of love.  "If someone strikes you on one cheek, turn to him the other also."  This "strikes you on one cheek" takes many forms.  It can be someone purposely insulting and belittling us, as they insulted and belittled Jesus on the cross.  It can be a lie that is told about us.  It can be losing a position in a business or even in a church due to the actions of others.  We are struck, justice causes us to want to immediately strike back even harder.  But God did not give us justice, He gave us grace.  So, we should not want justice for others, we should also want them to experience both God's grace and our grace—we should forgive and want the best for those who have struck us.

Why do we so quickly strike back, when struck in some way or another?  It is the presence of selfishness in us.  We demand that others respect us and treat us fairly.  We have our own agendas and pursuits, and others are ruining our selfish dreams and images of ourselves.  So, when attacked, we attack back.  Jesus, here, though, teaches us that there is no place for selfish agendas and seeking after prideful accomplishments in Jesus' kingdom.  There is only room for selfless and sacrificial accomplishments in Jesus' kingdom.  Selfless accomplishments come from the continual pursuit after the best for others.

"Cheek (siagona).  Lit. the jaw.  The cheek is pareia.  The blow intended is not, therefore, a mere slap, but a heavy blow; an act of violence rather than of contempt." "Taken from Word Studies in the New Testament by M. R. Vincent.  Copyright 1972 by Associated Publishers and Authors."  Jesus is describing here, then, not turning the "other" "cheek" to receive another stinging blow, but to receive another crushing blow.

Even when Jesus was quite strong in Matthew 23 in His words describing the Pharisees—calling them "hypocrites," "blind guides," whitewashed tombs," and "brood of vipers," we can see by how He ends His words to them, that He hoped that in the end they would change direction and good would come to them.  "O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing." (Matthew 23:37) See also Rom. 12:14, 17-21; Eph. 4:31-5:2; Matt. 5:39-42

"'If someone takes your cloak, do not stop him from taking your tunic. Give to everyone who asks you, and if anyone takes what belongs to you, do not demand it back.'"  We can immediately wonder how we can obey Jesus' words without shortly having nothing of our own.  "Once again it is the spirit of the saying that is important.  If Christians took this one absolutely literally there would soon be a class of saintly paupers, owning nothing, and another of prosperous idlers and thieves.  It is not this that Jesus is seeking, but a readiness among his followers to give and give and give.  The Christians should never refrain from giving out of a love for his possessions.  Love must be ready to be deprived of everything if need be.  Of course, in a given case it may not be the way of love to give.  But it is love that must decide whether we give or withhold, not a regard for possessions." "Taken from Luke by Leon Morris.  Copyright 1946 by Intervarsity Press."

The following is my comments on the parallel verses in Matthew (5:40-42).  "Does what Jesus teaches here mean that we are to continually give to those who are quick to take advantage of someone who is a soft touch?  Paul seems to teach the very opposite of this in II Thessalonians 3:10 where he says:  'If a man will not work, he shall not eat.'  What, then, does Jesus mean here?  Jesus was not saying that we are to allow people to take advantage of us to their own hurt, but He taught that the selfishness in us needs to be fully removed.  Selfishness needs to be removed so that it does not prevent us from giving to others; but, instead, we should be willing to give to people even more than they ask of us.  God's people should give beyond what is convenient and even to the point of being sacrificial.  Our willingness to give beyond even what is asked of us shows whether or not we have truly died to selfishness.  But, that does not mean that we should give to someone when it will actually hurt them.  For example, we should not give money to someone when we know that that person will use it to buy drugs or alcohol to feed a destructive addiction." "Digging for Gold on Matthew 5:40-42."

"Do to others as you would have them do to you."  We learn in Romans 13:9-10 that this "golden rule" fulfills the law.  I heard a pastor say many years go that a parent does not need a sign over the bathroom that says, "Do not drown your child when bathing him or her."  The reason we do not need this sign there is that when we love our children, we do not need this sign.
A loving parent will not drown his or her child.

Also, love gets into the other person's shoes.  We are to only do to others what we would want done to us.  So, we are to be careful that we treat others in the way that we want others to treat us.

We like it that God has been merciful to us and has not given us what we deserve, so we should be merciful to others.  We like it that God continually gives to us, even though we do not deserve it; so we are to continually give to those who do not deserve it.

I heard a few years ago that a common factor in marriages that are happy and lasting is that there is a mutual empathy between the husband and wife.  That is an application of the golden rule—there is a continual attempt to understand each other.  There is no communication between those who make no attempt to understand what it is like to be in the other's shoes.  What is the other person feeling?  What are the other person’s needs?  What is the other person's background?  An absence of this type of concern for another or for others comes from an all-absorbing selfishness.

The Pharisees lacked that which summed up the whole Bible.  If we lack what is described in 6:31, we also lack what sums up the whole Bible.  God the Father does not lack this type of love.  He knew what we needed and made the greatest sacrifice to meet that need.  "For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life." (John 3:16)

"'If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? Even “sinners” love those who love them. And if you do good to those who are good to you, what credit is that to you? Even “sinners” do that. And if you lend to those from whom you expect repayment, what credit is that to you? Even “sinners” lend to “sinners,” expecting to be repaid in full.'" 

Hendriksen points out that though this golden rule is found in religions and philosophies outside of Christianity, there are some ways that Jesus' teaching differs.  "The non-Christian religious prophet views his rule as a requirement which man is able to fulfill in his own strength, or at least in the strength of someone or something other than the true God, who revealed himself in Jesus Christ." "Taken from Luke by William Hendriksen. Copyright 1978 by Baker Book House."

The Bible teaches, though, that we need God's Spirit in us to love like this.  "Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love." (1 John 4:7-8)  "But the fruit of the Spirit is love . . . ." (Galatians 5:22)

Our human tendency is to divide people into "sinners" and "non-sinners."  As a small child, I thought that "sinners" were those who went to the bars on Saturday nights, and the good people were those who went to church on Sunday mornings.  Today, who are the "sinners" can be determined by one's political or religious group.  The "sinners" could be those who are politically incorrect.  It could be those who smoke.  It could be those who go to movies.  The "sinners" are those who are looked down upon as being unacceptable company.  Jesus said that we are just like them if we do what they do—if we only love those who love us, and if we only "do good to those who are good to" us.

The truth is that there are not two categories of people—"sinners" and
"non-sinners."  We are all "sinners."  "for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God," (Romans 3:23)  "There is not a righteous man on earth who does what is right and never sins." (Ecclesiastes 7:20) See also Jer. 17:9; Rom. 3:19-20; Gal. 2:16

"what credit is that to you?"  People who believe that they are not sinners, mistakenly believe that God is going to reward them for their good behavior.  Jesus points out that if we are really not different from those we look down on, can we expect Jesus to reward us?  "If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? And if you greet only your brothers, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that?" (Matthew 5:46-47)

"The clear implication is that the disciples are not to live and love like sinners.  The love of believers is to be different from the love displayed by the culture.  As children of God, believers have been transformed to live in contrast to the way of sinners, modeling the sacrifice of radical love." "Taken from Luke by Darrell Bock. Copyright 1994 by Intervarsity Press." 

In short, we are not to put selfishness in a garb of religiosity and call it good. This does not meet God's requirements.  Rather, God calls us to be like Him.  Jesus' words humble us as we see that even our best righteousness falls short of God's righteousness.  "All of us have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags; we all shrivel up like a leaf, and like the wind our sins sweep us away." (Isaiah 64:6)  God's type of love comes only from Him.  We can only do this if we rely on Him to give us His love for others.  "Remain in me, and I will remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing." (John 15:4-5)

"'But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back. Then your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked. Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.'"

True love is to give without expecting anything in return.  This goes against our human nature.  When we give, we want something back.  We may expect to get back what we gave or even more.  If we do not get back what we give, we expect the praise of men or, at the very least, we expect appreciation for what we give.  God has given men life, a world to live on, bodies with amazing abilities, families, and so much more.  What has He received in return?  In most cases, He has only gotten back His name used as a swear word.  "For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened." (Romans 1:21)

Yet, God continues to give to and love mankind.  He sent His Son to die a horrible death for our sins.  How does our loving and giving measure up to that?  For to be like God, we must also seek the good of others, even if they do not appreciate what we do.  Then, we are "merciful, just as" our "Father is merciful."  At least part of "reward" will be that people will see what God is like through us.  And God will appreciate that we are representing Him well.  "God does notice when we reflect who he is to the world." "Bock."

"without expecting to get anything back."  Vincent gives the following explanation of the Greek word used here that is translated by the NIV using a number of words.  There are only two Greek words and one of them can be translated "nothing."  It is the other Greek word that Vincent is referring to.  "A later Greek word, only here in the New Testament, and meaning originally to give up in despair . . . " "Taken from Word Studies in the New Testament by M. R. Vincent.  Copyright 1972 by Associated Publishers and Authors."

Jesus was saying that even though we do not get anything in return for our giving, it still good to keep on giving.  "Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up." (Galatians 6:9)  In some cases, we give to those who have no means to repay us—and they may never have the means to repay us.  Yet, we are to keep on giving as God keeps on giving. 

"By 'never despairing' or 'giving up nothing in despair' Jesus means that we are not to despair about getting money back.  We are to help the apparently hopeless cases." "Taken from Word Pictures in the New Testament by A. T. Robertson. Volume II.  Copyright 1930 by Broadman Press."

Union Gospel Missions follow this pattern.  Rarely do the hundreds and even thousands who are helped by them ever give anything back.  Yet, they keep on giving.  Their reward is those who are helped and those who come to know God through their love. See Lk. 17:11-19 for an example of what tends to take place when people are helped.  See also Acts 14:17

(3) The proper way to look at others (6:37-42)
"'Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven. Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.' He also told them this parable: 'Can a blind man lead a blind man? Will they not both fall into a pit? A student is not above his teacher, but everyone who is fully trained will be like his teacher. Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, “Brother, let me take the speck out of your eye,” when you yourself fail to see the plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.'"

Thought Question:  What do you learn about what the Christian life is to be like from Jesus' words here?

 

 

"'Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven.'"  Does Jesus mean here that we are not to make any judgments about others?  At this point, I will quote from my comments on the parallel verses in Matthew (Matthew 7:1-2):  "Does this mean that we are to never have an opinion or express an opinion about anyone?  There are many verses in the Bible that teach that we are to seek to fairly and rightly evaluate another person, but we are not to do it in a self-righteous or condemning way. See the following verses for examples where the Bible teaches we are to make judgments of others: Titus 1:10-16; III John 9-10; James 4:8; and I Corinthians 5:1-5; I Timothy 1:19-20; II Timothy 2:17-18  Jesus Himself teaches just a few verses farther on in chapter 7 that we are to make judgments of others: "Do not give dogs what is sacred; do not throw your pearls to pigs. If you do, they may trample them under their feet, and then turn and tear you to pieces." (Matthew 7:6)  "Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves. By their fruit you will recognize them. Do people pick grapes from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? Likewise every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Thus, by their fruit you will recognize them." (Matthew 7:15-20)  We are to make judgments about who is and who is not a false prophet, so we are to judge.  We are not to make our judgments, though, in a judgmental and self-righteous way." "Digging for Gold on Matthew 7:1-2."

Jesus put it in this way, as recorded in the Gospel of John:  "Stop judging by mere appearances, and make a right judgment." (John 7:24)

What Jesus is opposed to is the arrogant judgmental spirit of those that judge others so they can look down on them.  It is being quick to find fault in others, while forgetting our own faults.  It is finding fault in others with the purpose of bringing harm to them, rather than making judgments that are necessary for their good and the good of others.

Again, I quote from my comments on Matthew 7:1-2:  "It is quite human to judge others as if we were sitting on God's throne ourselves; as if we know everything about the person that we are judging—their circumstances, background, pressures, and what is in their hearts; and as if we have no faults ourselves." "Digging for Gold" on Matthew 7:1-2." 

"Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned."  If we "condemn," others, we will also invite a condemning spirit toward us.  God will also condemn our self-righteous judging of others.  Later, Jesus calls this judgmental and self-righteous attitude toward others a "plank" in the "eye." (6:42)

When we realize fully that God does not condemn us, even though we deserve it, it should, and usually does, change our attitude toward others.  "Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus." (Romans 8:1)  We are not "condemned" "in Christ Jesus," so we should not be arrogantly condemning others.  Instead, our judgments of others should be done in a humble and loving way.

"Forgive, and you will be forgiven."  "Forgive" can also be translated "release" or "pardon."  Instead of condemning, we are to release others from condemnation.  If we do not 'forgive," we will not "be forgiven."  Jesus states this in a number of places, as recorded in the Gospels.  "Forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors." (Matthew 6:12)  "For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins." (Matthew 6:14-15)  We choose either to have a bitter and unforgiving spirit or to completely release from any indebtedness those who have sinned against us.  That is easier for the smaller offenses, such as an insult, but when someone's sin against us has had a major effect on our life, it is not easy at all.  Every day can be a reminder of what this person or persons did to us.  Nevertheless, bitterness is not an option for us.  God forgave us a huge amount, so we should forgive others the comparatively small amount they have sinned against us. See Matt. 18:21-35

What happens to us as Christians when we hold on to bitterness and resentment?  These words of Jesus say "Forgive, and you will be forgiven."  What if we do not "forgive"?  There are three possibilities that we can easily see.  1) When we do not forgive, it shows that we are not a Christian.  For, how can we have experienced God's forgiveness, and then not forgive others?  2) Some believe that unforgiveness can lead to us losing our salvation.  If they are correct, we can lose and regain our salvation each time we hold on to a grudge and gain it back each time we repent.  This would be terrifying, if it were true.  The Bible does not leave us in this fearful condition. See Rom. 8:28-30; Jn 10:27-29  3) We will remain a Christian, but face God's strong discipline, until we are willing to forgive.

My conclusion from the Bible is that Jesus is speaking of the third possibility—Christians who defiantly do not forgive will experience God's strong disciplinary judgment.  I Corinthians 5 was describing a man that was being judged like this.  "When you are assembled in the name of our Lord Jesus and I am with you in spirit, and the power of our Lord Jesus is present, hand this man over to Satan, so that the sinful nature may be destroyed and his spirit saved on the day of the Lord." (1 Corinthians 5:4-5) See also I Cor. 1:27-32; I Tim. 1:19-20

Whatever the case, we do not want to be one who does not "forgive."  For whatever Jesus mean here, we do want to anger the One who has forgiven us by not forgiving others.  "Forgive, and you will be forgiven." 

"'Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.'"  A person selling grain in their market could fill a basket loosely or he could fill it tightly "pressed down."  And,  he could even fill it to overflowing, so that it "poured into" one's "lap."  This pictures what our giving is to be like.  We are not to just give the bare minimum to others, but we are to give and give so that our giving is tightly packed and overflowing.

"'For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.'"  As we "give," so it will be "given to" us.  Either God will reward our giving so that we can give more, or the results of our giving will be a reward to us.  "Remember this: Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously." (II Corinthians 9:6)

"The Jew wore a long loose robe down to the feet, and round the waist a girdle.  The robe could be pulled up so that the bosom of the robe above the girdle formed a kind of outsized pocket in which things could be carried." "Taken from The Gospel of Luke by William Barclay. Copyright 1975 by the Westminster Press." See Exod. 4:6  Jesus' words were a figurative way of describing how abundant giving overflows, so that the giver ends up benefitting from his or her giving.

"He also told them this parable: 'Can a blind man lead a blind man? Will they not both fall into a pit?'"  Jesus' point is obvious.  The teachers of Israel were blind to God's truth; so, how could they teach God's truth to Israel?  There were, instead, blindly leading Israel out into the wilderness where they would eventually "fall into a pit."

The teachers of Israel did not know the way to a relationship with God.  As Jesus says later, He Himself is the only way to a relationship with God.  "Jesus answered, 'I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.'" (John 14:6)

The teachers of Israel were blind to this fact.  Instead of leading Israel toward Jesus, they were leading Israel away from Jesus!  The same can be true today.  Teachers can be leading people toward all kinds of wrong ways to Jesus and to God.  If we follow them, they will lead us into some type of dark "pit."  Later, Jesus will describe how we can recognize those who are false teachers.

Jesus, later, clearly describes the Pharisees as blind teachers.  "Leave them; they are blind guides. If a blind man leads a blind man, both will fall into a pit." (Matthew 15:14)  "Woe to you, blind guides! You say, 'If anyone swears by the temple, it means nothing; but if anyone swears by the gold of the temple, he is bound by his oath.'" (Matthew 23:16)

"A student is not above his teacher, but everyone who is fully trained will be like his teacher."  Jesus describes the importance of correctly and carefully choosing who will be our "teacher."  The "fully trained" student "will be like his teacher."  If our "teacher" is in error, when we are "fully trained," we will also be in error.  If our "teacher" is solidly Biblical both in his or her beliefs and actions, then, when we are "fully" taught and "trained," we will also be solidly Biblical in our life and teaching.  This a warning to both teachers and students. See also Matt. 10:24

There will always be false teachers.  In fact, false teachers will increase in number in the last days.  "At that time many will turn away from the faith and will betray and hate each other, and many false prophets will appear and deceive many people." (Matthew 24:10-11)  We are to carefully test teachers to discern whether they are true or false. See I Jn. 4:1; I Tim. 4:1-3  See also Jude;
II Pet. 2; Acts 20:29-31

"Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, “Brother, let me take the speck out of your eye,” when you yourself fail to see the plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.'"

Again, I will quote from my comments on the parallel verses in Matthew (Matthew 7:3-5):  "In God's eyes, the judgmental spirit is the size of a 'beam or a 'plank,' and the fault of the person being judged is like a mere 'speck.'  When we have a judgmental spirit [the self-righteous spirit], we can only see the faults of others; God, though, also sees our faults very clearly.  Jesus uses this exaggerated and ridiculous picture to dramatize for us how absurd it is for us to criticize others so freely when we ourselves are guilty of a self-righteous spirit.  In short, we have a judgmental spirit when we are more concerned about judging others than judging ourselves. . . It is only when we remove the 'plank' from our eye that we are able to judge another in a godly way and perform the delicate eye surgery that Jesus describes here.  When we focus on the faults of others, we need to be very careful that we first remove the "plank" of sin from our own eye.  Otherwise, we will be the one that is most harshly judged by God.  There is a place for judgment in God's kingdom, but it must be a humble and delicate process (like taking the 'speck' out of someone's eye)!  We are not to leave specks in another's eye, but when we undertake this delicate operation, we must be certain that nothing is clouding our vision—especially such plank-size obstructions as pride and self-righteousness. See Galatians 6:1-2

"You hypocrite,"  The picture Jesus paints here reveals the hypocrisy of the one doing the judging.  Here is one who has a much greater fault, getting all self-righteous with the person whose fault is less than his.  Instead of this person humbly acknowledging his own self-righteousness and then helping the other with his smaller fault, the judge here pretends that he is faultless, though he is filled with self-righteousness.

Jesus' illustration is a humorous rebuke.  Comedians often point out faults in our society using humor to illustrate something that is ridiculous.  It was ridiculous for those with greater faults in God's eyes to come down hard on a person with a smaller fault.  There is a song that I heard that handles this type of thing in a similar way.  The title of the song is "Log-eye" by Paul Aldrich.

(4) you can recognize the good man and bad man by his fruit. (6:43-45)
"'No good tree bears bad fruit, nor does a bad tree bear good fruit. Each tree is recognized by its own fruit. People do not pick figs from thornbushes, or grapes from briers. The good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart, and the evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in his heart. For out of the overflow of his heart his mouth speaks."

Thought Question:  What is the difference between the judgment that Jesus exhorts us to do and the type of judgment that Jesus just condemned?

 

 

"'No good tree bears bad fruit, nor does a bad tree bear good fruit. Each tree is recognized by its own fruit. People do not pick figs from thornbushes, or grapes from briers."  Jesus begins with what is obviously true in nature.  If you have an apple tree in your backyard, you would be shocked to find oranges on it.  In short, you can discover what kind of plant or tree it is by the "fruit" it produces.  So, you can tell what kind man or woman someone is by the "fruit" he or she produces.

"'No good tree bears bad fruit, nor does a bad tree bear good fruit."  There are certain types of plants that we consider to be "bad."  We like to have nice green grass in our yards, but if there are thistles and dandelions there, we consider that to be "bad."  Someone who professes to be "good," but produces thorns and dandelions, is not "good."

"The good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart, and the evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in his heart. For out of the overflow of his heart his mouth speaks."  What  comes out of our "mouth," and how we live is determined by what we delight in on the inside of us.  We can delight in what is "good," or we can delight in or treasure in our heart what is "bad."  Those who delight in what is impure, will have that impurity flowing forth from their mouths. Those who delight in God and His ways, will have that "good" coming from their mouths.
What is Jesus pointing out here and how does it apply to our experience today?  Jesus was describing how the false teachers of Jesus' time could be recognized.  Again, I will quote from my comments the parallel passage in Matthew (7:16-20).  "How can we recognize the false prophet?  As a thorn bush eventually will show its thorns, so the false prophet will eventually show his or her thorns.  Jesus Himself exposes the thorns of the false prophets of His day in Matthew 23.  The Pharisees taught the people what to do, but they did not do it themselves. See Matthew 23:1-4  They did what they did for men to see. See Matthew 23:5-7  They loved to be honored. See Matthew 23:8-9  They emphasized the minor and not the major. See Matthew 23:23-24  They emphasized the external and not the internal. See Matthew23:25-28" "Digging for Gold on Matthew 7:16-20."

The obvious application is that we should seek to purify our hearts.  "Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life. Put away perversity from your mouth; keep corrupt talk far from your lips. Let your eyes look straight ahead, fix your gaze directly before you." (Proverbs 4:23-25)  "Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Come near to God and he will come near to you. Wash your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. Grieve, mourn and wail. Change your laughter to mourning and your joy to gloom. Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up." (James 4:7-10)

(6) Be like the wise builders and not the foolish builders (6:46-49)
"'Why do you call me, “Lord, Lord,” and do not do what I say? I will show you what he is like who comes to me and hears my words and puts them into practice. He is like a man building a house, who dug down deep and laid the foundation on rock. When a flood came, the torrent struck that house but could not shake it, because it was well built. But the one who hears my words and does not put them into practice is like a man who built a house on the ground without a foundation. The moment the torrent struck that house, it collapsed and its destruction was complete.'"

Thought Question:  How does this apply to us when we hear a message in a church service?

 

 

"'Why do you call me, “Lord, Lord,” and do not do what I say?'"  Jesus had given them His teaching and they had heard what He said.  In our churches, we can hear a message also.  The next step, though, is the key one.  Are we, then, diligent to make it a part of our lives.  As James says, "Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says." (James 1:22) God spoke to Israel many years before Jesus' time in a similar way.  "My people come to you, as they usually do, and sit before you to listen to your words, but they do not put them into practice. With their mouths they express devotion, but their hearts are greedy for unjust gain." (Ezekiel 33:31)

In the parallel passage in Matthew, Jesus says these words:  "'Not everyone who says to me, “Lord, Lord,” will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. Many will say to me on that day, “Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and in your name drive out demons and perform many miracles?” Then I will tell them plainly, “I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!”'" (Matthew 7:21-23)

True faith in Jesus, as our Lord says here, will result in us doing what our Lord commands us to do.  Disobedience to God's words is never an option for the Christian.  If we say that we believe in Jesus as our Lord and Savior, but do not do what Jesus commands us to do, it shows that our faith is not real.  As James says, it is "useless." (James 2:20)

"'Why do you call me, “Lord, Lord,” and do not do what I say?'"  They said the right words about Jesus—they recognized that Jesus is "Lord."  But, if they recognized that He is the "Lord," they also should have obeyed Him as their "Lord."  So, they gave the right lip service to Him, but they did not do what they knew was right—they did not obey Him.  Jesus asks them, why don't you stop calling me "Lord," if you are not going to act like it is true.  The application to us is obvious.  It is one of the main criticisms of the church—that Christians are hypocrites.  They say one thing, but do another.

"I will show you what he is like who comes to me and hears my words and puts them into practice. He is like a man building a house, who dug down deep and laid the foundation on rock. When a flood came, the torrent struck that house but could not shake it, because it was well built. But the one who hears my words and does not put them into practice is like a man who built a house on the ground without a foundation. The moment the torrent struck that house, it collapsed and its destruction was complete.'"

The first builder of a "house" was concerned about the future.  He wanted to have a "house" that would withstand storms.  Over the years, I have noticed that our country has been able to endure earthquakes better than some other countries.  It is because we have built buildings designed to withstand earthquakes.  They are more costly and take more work to build them, but when the earthquakes come and the buildings survive, the extra cost is seen as worth it.  In this parable, the first builder "dug down deep" until he reached a "rock" "foundation."  This pictures those who work at learning God's Word and then work hard at applying it to their lives.  This takes an effort.  It is much easier to just hear God's Word and make no effort whatsoever to do what it says.  In contrast, the second builder did what was easier—he did not "dig down deep" to a rock foundation.  He just built his "house" on the "ground." (Matthew says, "sand") 

As we "dig" into God's Word and seek to obey Him, we begin to see that there is only one "foundation" upon which we can build our lives.  It is upon the One who is the Rock.  "So this is what the Sovereign Lord says: 'See, I lay a stone in Zion, a tested stone, a precious cornerstone for a sure foundation; the one who trusts will never be dismayed.'" (Isaiah 28:16)  "For no one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ." (1 Corinthians 3:11)  May we make the effort to build our lives on the solid rock of Christ's teaching.

 

Scripture taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION  ® .   NIV  ®   Copyright ©    1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society.  Used by permission.  All rights reserved.

Studies in Luke