Download This  Study For Free!


Please feel free to Download this study.


Luke 13-18

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)

CONTINUED: JESUS HEADS TOWARD JERUSALEM (9:51-19:27)

19. The need for all to repent from sin before it is too late (13:1-9)

a. Does God use calamities to judge those whose sins are greater than others' sins? (13:1-5)
"Now there were some present at that time who told Jesus about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mixed with their sacrifices. Jesus answered, 'Do you think that these Galileans were worse sinners than all the other Galileans because they suffered this way? I tell you, no! But unless you repent, you too will all perish. Or those eighteen who died when the tower in Siloam fell on them—do you think they were more guilty than all the others living in Jerusalem? I tell you, no! But unless you repent, you too will all perish.'"

Thought Question #1:  What insights does Jesus give us here about why some suffer and others do not?

 

 

Thought Question #2:  What do we learn here, from Jesus, about how to handle those who try to sidetrack us when we are talking to someone about their need for a Savior?

 

 

"Now there were some present at that time who told Jesus about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mixed with their sacrifices. Jesus answered, 'Do you think that these Galileans were worse sinners than all the other Galileans because they suffered this way?'"

This is the only description of this event in the Bible.  Also, Bible scholars have been unable to find another description of this event in ancient literature.  From what we have here in these verses, we learn that some "Galileans" were killed by "Pilate." It appears that they were killed by Pilate's soldiers while they were offering sacrifices.  Those who recounted this event to Jesus are not telling Jesus about it to expose Pilate's evil and cruelty.  Rather, they wondered if these "Galileans" had died as they did because they "were worse sinners than all the other Galileans."  They concluded that because these "Galileans" had died such a cruel death, their "sins" were greater than "other Galileans."

It is a human tendency to see all of life explained by a simple formula: do good and good will come to you; do bad and bad will come to you.  Job's counselors determined, based on this formula, that Job's  great troubles were the result of his great sins. See Job 22:4-10  We know from the book of Job, though, that his great trials were not caused by his great sins.  On the contrary, his walk with God was so exemplary that God pointed out to Satan what a righteous man he was. See Job 1:8  See also Job 1:1-22

Jesus does not respond to their question.  It is very human for unbelievers to seek after ways to avoid dealing with their personal need to repent of their sins.  Years ago, while I was going door to door taking a survey and looking for opportunities to share the gospel, a man told me that the reason that the world is in such bad shape is that "you Christians are not doing your job."  Certainly, he made that statement to take the spotlight off his responsibility and to put all responsibility on us who are Christians.  So, also, those who were talking to Jesus here  did not want their need to repent to be the focus of attention; so, they switched the subject onto a theological issue.

Jesus did not allow the question to sidetrack Him.  " I tell you, no! But unless you repent, you too will all perish.'"   Jesus quickly answers their question: "no!"  "No," they were not "worse sinners."  Then, He immediately gets back to the real issue, which was their need to "repent."  Rather than getting sidetracked onto an issue that had little relevance to them, they needed to be concerned about their own salvation.  If they did not, they would face God's judgment on their sin.  They should not have been worrying about others' sins and God's judgment on them.  They needed to "repent" before they faced God's judgment for their sins. See 12:57-59

"Or those eighteen who died when the tower in Siloam fell on them—do you think they were more guilty than all the others living in Jerusalem? I tell you, no! But unless you repent, you too will all perish.'"  Jesus recounts to them another disaster where a "tower" fell on and killed "eighteen" people.  Again, this is the only record of that inside the Bible and outside the Bible.  "Siloam was the location of a water reservoir for Jerusalem on the south and east walls of the city." "Taken from Luke by Darrell Bock. Copyright 1994 by Intervarsity Press."

Jesus cites the event, then states that these "eighteen" were no more guilty than those that did not die.  This answers a lot of questions that we may have about tragedies that happen to people.  For example, why is one child born with a paralyzing disease and another child born healthy?  Jesus tells us here, that there is no simple answers to these questions.  There are times when sickness is caused by sin. See I Cor. 11:29-30  But we cannot make judgments like this on everyone who is sick.  Only God has all the facts.  Only God knows what occurs because of His judgments on people.  We cannot make judgments based on what happens to people.  Job's friends judged him based on what happened to him, and they were totally wrong. See Job 42:7 See also Jn. 9:1-3

Again, Jesus points them back their need to "repent."  It may be that Jesus is highlighting the need for them to "repent" immediately, for no one knows how long they have to live.  For just as these "eighteen" people died, so their lives could also quickly come to an end.

b. The Parable of the Fig Tree (13:6-9)
"Then he told this parable: 'A man had a fig tree, planted in his vineyard, and he went to look for fruit on it, but did not find any. So he said to the man who took care of the vineyard, “For three years now I’ve been coming to look for fruit on this fig tree and haven’t found any. Cut it down! Why should it use up the soil?” “Sir,” the man replied, “leave it alone for one more year, and I’ll dig around it and fertilize it. If it bears fruit next year, fine! If not, then cut it down.”'"

Thought Question:  What, do you believe, is the meaning of the parable? 

 

 

"Then he told this parable: 'A man had a fig tree, planted in his vineyard, and he went to look for fruit on it, but did not find any. So he said to the man who took care of the vineyard, “For three years now I’ve been coming to look for fruit on this fig tree and haven’t found any. Cut it down! Why should it use up the soil?” “Sir,” the man replied, “leave it alone for one more year, and I’ll dig around it and fertilize it. If it bears fruit next year, fine! If not, then cut it down.”'"

Figs are mentioned a number of times in the Bible.  Adam and Eve covered themselves with "fig" leaves.  "Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they realized they were naked; so they sewed fig leaves together and made coverings for themselves." (Genesis 3:7)  Figs are used to symbolize Israel's prosperity. See I Kings 4:25; Mic. 4:4  Figs are also used to symbolize Israel's judgment by God. See Isa. 34:4; Jer. 5:17, 8:13; Hos. 2:12; Joel 1:7  Jesus uses a barren "fig tree" to symbolize Israel's barren state. See Matt. 21:18-20  Here, Jesus describes a fig tree that is old enough to produce figs, but had not produced figs for three years. See also Lev. 19:23-25

The owner of the "fig tree" instructs the gardener to "cut" the barren tree down, but the gardener begs the owner to give it "one more year."  He will give the "tree" special care and, perhaps, the "tree" will bear "fruit" the "next year."  But, if it is still fruitless, he will "cut it down." 

What is the meaning of the parable?  It can apply to individuals or to the nation of Israel.  When the people of the nation of Israel have been given ample time and opportunity to respond to God, His truth, His love, and His forgiveness and His grace; there comes a time when their opportunity comes to an end.  God reached out to Israel through Moses and the prophets.  Now, He is reaching out to them through Jesus Christ, God's Son.  Yet, for the most part, Israel remains a nation of unbelievers.  They were barren of God's love, justice, and mercy.  But, God was gracious and did not judge them until 70 AD, nearly 40 years after Jesus' presence and ministry among them.  In 70 AD, they were conquered by the Romans and ceased to be a nation until 1947. See Isa. 5:1-7

20. A conflict between Jesus and a synagogue ruler over the healing of a woman on the Sabbath (13:10-17)

a. The healing (13:10-13)
"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. When Jesus saw her, he called her forward and said to her, 'Woman, you are set free from your infirmity.' Then he put his hands on her, and immediately she straightened up and praised God."

Thought Question: What do we learn here about what demons are able to do?

 

 

"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."  This is the last time we hear of Jesus teaching in a synagogue.  This time of teaching is recorded only in the Gospel of Luke.  We learn here that demons can cripple people, for she was "crippled by a spirit for eighteen years."  So, for this "woman" to be healed, it will not only require a healing miracle, but Jesus would also need to conquer this demonic "spirit."

"crippled by a spirit"  "A spirit that caused weakness (asthenias, lack of strength) like a spirit of bondage (Romans 8:15)." "Taken from Word Pictures in the New Testament by A. T. Robertson.  Copyright 1930 Broadman Press."

There are a number of destructive effects that are attributed to demons. See
I Cor. 10:20; II Cor. 12:7; I Tim. 4:1; II Tim. 1:7; James 3:14-16; I Jn. 4:1-3; Rev. 18:2
  And one of the effects that they can cause is physical problems. See Matt. 9:33; 12:22, 17:15-18

"When Jesus saw her, he called her forward and said to her, 'Woman, you are set free from your infirmity.' Then he put his hands on her, and immediately she straightened up and praised God."

She had been bound by the demon for "eighteen years."  Jesus says, "you are set free" or loosed from the bondage of the demon, and she "immediately" "straightened up and praised God."  She realized immediately that it was not a man that had healed her, but God who had healed her.  And she gave God the credit as she "praised" Him.  We do not know if she knew that Jesus was God in the flesh.

b. The conflict (13:14)
"Indignant because Jesus had healed on the Sabbath, the synagogue ruler said to the people, 'There are six days for work. So come and be healed on those days, not on the Sabbath.'"

Thought Question:  Why did a woman being healed after eighteen years of being crippled bring this synagogue ruler so much pain?

 

 

"Indignant because Jesus had healed on the Sabbath, the synagogue ruler said to the people, 'There are six days for work. So come and be healed on those days, not on the Sabbath.'"  Jesus healing this "woman" on the "Sabbath" caused "the synagogue ruler" much pain.

He "was indignant. (aganakton, from agan and achomai, to feel much pain).  His words have a ludicrous sound as if all the people had to do to get their crooked backs straightened out was to come to his synagogue during the week.  He forgot that the poor old woman had been coming for eighteen years with no result." "Taken from Word Pictures in the New Testament by A. T. Robertson.  Copyright 1930 Broadman Press."

Why did a woman being healed from "eighteen years" of suffering cause him so much pain?  Rather than understanding the spirit of the Old Testament, the religious leaders of Israel turned a relationship with God into endless rules and regulations.  These rules and regulations gave them power and prestige in Israel.  Jesus flaunted them and broke their rules every time He healed someone on the "Sabbath."  He was breaking their rules right in front of them.  Every time He broke their rules, it brought them great pain.  Why couldn't He just heal on every day of the week except the "Sabbath"?

These religious leaders saw themselves as rulers over Israel—it was their  country!  Jesus was ignoring them and treating Israel like it was His nation.  Since, He was the Creator of the universe and the founder of Israel, it was and is His nation.  Every time, though, He did not obey their rules, they experienced great pain.

One perspective that this "synagogue ruler" did not consider is that only God could heal this lady.  It was God who chose to heal her on the "Sabbath."  Certainly, God would not break His own law to heal this lady.  So, healing her on the "Sabbath" did not break the "Sabbath."  Today, doctors and hospitals do their healing work on every day of the week.  Jesus also did His healing on every day of the week.

c. Jesus' response (13:15-16)
"The Lord answered him, 'You hypocrites! Doesn’t each of you on the Sabbath untie his ox or donkey from the stall and lead it out to give it water? Then should not this woman, a daughter of Abraham, whom Satan has kept bound for eighteen long years, be set free on the Sabbath day from what bound her?'"

Thought Question: From Jesus' words here, why was it okay for Him to heal on the Sabbath?

 

 

"The Lord answered him, 'You hypocrites! Doesn’t each of you on the Sabbath untie his ox or donkey from the stall and lead it out to give it water? Then should not this woman, a daughter of Abraham, whom Satan has kept bound for eighteen long years, be set free on the Sabbath day from what bound her?'"

They took great care that their animals had their need for water met on the "Sabbath."  If that was okay for them to do, what was wrong with meeting this woman's great need?  If they loosed their animals from being tied up, so that they could drink on the "Sabbath," what is wrong with Him loosing this "woman" from Satan's hold on her on the "Sabbath""

Actually, this healing pictured what the "Sabbath" pictures.  We put our trust in Christ by resting in Him, and He frees us from Satan's condemnation and his power. See Heb. 2:14-18, 4:1, 9-11; Matt. 11:28-30  This "woman" put her trust in Jesus and He freed her from Satan's hold on her.

The religious leaders took the Sabbath that God meant for man's good and changed it into a mass of regulations.  It is a human tendency to make a system—our system—more important than the good of the individual person.  "Over and over again in life some good and kindly scheme is held up until this or that regulation is satisfied, or this or that technical detail worked out." "Taken from The Gospel of Luke by William Barclay. Copyright 1975 by the Westminster Press."

Doctors and nurses who choose the field of medicine because they want to help people, end up spending more time doing paperwork than helping people.  It was this type of spirit that Jesus was dealing with here.  He summed it up in this way: "Then he said to them, 'The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath.'" (Mark 2:27)

d. The people's response (13:17)
"When he said this, all his opponents were humiliated, but the people were delighted with all the wonderful things he was doing."

Thought Question:  Why do you think that the people were so "delighted"? (rather than being upset like the religious leaders were)

 

 

"When he said this, all his opponents were humiliated, but the people were delighted with all the wonderful things he was doing."  Jesus' words were so obviously true that He quieted His critics—at least for a while.  It appears that the people were tired of the religious hoops that they had to jump through and were probably pleased to hear from Jesus what made such good common sense.  So, they were able to focus on the works of healing that Jesus was doing, rather than be concerned about the endless rules of their religious leaders.  But, the religious leaders were put to shame.  Their shame turned into even more hate for Jesus.

21. Parables of the kingdom (13:18-30)

a. The Parable of the Mustard Seed (13:18-19)
"Then Jesus asked, 'What is the kingdom of God like? What shall I compare it to? It is like a mustard seed, which a man took and planted in his garden. It grew and became a tree, and the birds of the air perched in its branches.'"

Thought Question:  What, do you believe, is the meaning of the parable? 

 

 

"Then Jesus asked, 'What is the kingdom of God like? What shall I compare it to? It is like a mustard seed, which a man took and planted in his garden. It grew and became a tree, and the birds of the air perched in its branches.'" See also Matt. 13:31-32  It appears that Jesus is describing the growth of God's kingdom, the church, from a small beginning into the worldwide movement that it is today.

"'and the birds of the air perched in its branches.'"  These "birds" could simply be a way of showing the tree's large size—it was large enough for "birds" to "perch in its branches."  Or, the "birds" could symbolize Satan's people finding a place in the church.  In Matthew 13, where this parable is also found, this parable is preceded by the Parable of the Sower, where "birds" symbolize Satan. Complare Matt. 13:4 and 13:9  Also, In Matthew 13, this parable is preceded by the Parable of the Weeds, where "the weeds are the sons of the evil one."           (Matt. 13:38)  Nevertheless, I choose the simplest interpretation that the "birds" show that the tree became big enough for "birds" to perch "in its branches."

So, Jesus predicted that His kingdom would start small, but would grow to an amazing size.  The church started in Jerusalem in the hearts of a few of Jesus' followers, but it immediately added 3,000 at Pentecost, and then it continued to grow; becoming the worldwide movement it is today.

c. The Parable of the Yeast (13:20-21)
"Again he asked, 'What shall I compare the kingdom of God to? It is like yeast that a woman took and mixed into a large amount of flour until it worked all through the dough.'"

Thought Question:  What, do you believe, is the meaning of the parable? 

 

 

"Again he asked, 'What shall I compare the kingdom of God to? It is like yeast that a woman took and mixed into a large amount of flour until it worked all through the dough.'"

Normally, in the Bible, "yeast" symbolizes evil.  At the Feast of Unleavened Bread, Jewish families were to remove all "yeast" from their homes.  This removal of "yeast" symbolized the removal of all sin and evil from their lives. See Exod. 12:15-20  In other places in the Bible, "yeast" also symbolizes evil. See Mk. 8:15; I Cor. 5:6-8; Gal. 5:7-10

But, because Jesus says the "kingdom of God" is like "yeast," rather than saying that "yeast" is an evil influence in the "kingdom of God," I believe that Jesus was saying that "kingdom of God" will spread in the world like yeast spreads in dough.  I believe that Jesus was encouraging His disciples by using "yeast" to describe how His "kingdom" would spread until it influenced the entire world—as it has through the years.  Jesus was saying that we may seem like a small movement, but eventually we will permeate the whole world.  The other interpretation is that evil will spread like "yeast" in His kingdom.

c. The Parable of the Narrow Door into God's kingdom (13:22-30)
"Then Jesus went through the towns and villages, teaching as he made his way to Jerusalem. Someone asked him, 'Lord, are only a few people going to be saved?' He said to them, 'Make every effort to enter through the narrow door, because many, I tell you, will try to enter and will not be able to. Once the owner of the house gets up and closes the door, you will stand outside knocking and pleading, “Sir, open the door for us.” But he will answer, “I don’t know you or where you come from.” Then you will say, “We ate and drank with you, and you taught in our streets.” But he will reply, “I don’t know you or where you come from. Away from me, all you evildoers!” There will be weeping there, and gnashing of teeth, when you see Abraham, Isaac and Jacob and all the prophets in the kingdom of God, but you yourselves thrown out. People will come from east and west and north and south, and will take their places at the feast in the kingdom of God. Indeed there are those who are last who will be first, and first who will be last.'"

Thought Question #1:  Some say that there are many ways to God.  How do these verses help us to answer those that make that statement?

 

 

Thought Question #2:   Why must people "make every effort to enter through the narrow door"? (Are we not saved by faith and not by works?)

 

 

"Then Jesus went through the towns and villages, teaching as he made his way to Jerusalem. Someone asked him, 'Lord, are only a few people going to be saved?' He said to them, 'Make every effort to enter through the narrow door, because many, I tell you, will try to enter and will not be able to'"  Jesus is asked if "only a few people" were "going to be saved."  It sounds like they wanted to discuss theology, but Jesus tells them what he and others needed to do to be saved.

Jesus pictures that those who are saved are like those who choose to go through a "narrow" doorway into a house before the owner closes the door.  This is the opposite of the view that there are many ways to God.  Jesus makes it clear here
and in other places that the way into His "kingdom" is a "narrow" one.  "Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it." (Matthew 7:13-14)  "Therefore Jesus said again, 'I tell you the truth, I am the gate for the sheep. All who ever came before me were thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not listen to them. I am the gate; whoever enters through me will be saved. He will come in and go out, and find pasture.'" (John 10:7-9)  "Jesus answered, 'I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.'" (John 14:6) See also Acts 4:12

Jesus says, "'Make every effort to enter through the narrow door . . . .'"  Are we not saved by faith and not by works? See Eph. 2:8-10  But, to be saved, we need to recognize how desperately we need to be saved and we need to humbly recognize that we cannot save ourselves.  "Make every effort" is a translation of the present tense verb agonizomai, from which we get our word "agonize."  Present tense means that it is something that one continues to do.  It implies a continuing desire to be saved that results in someone wholeheartedly and continually seeking to be saved.

The author of the book of Hebrews puts it this way:  "Let us, therefore, make every effort to enter that rest, so that no one will fall by following their example of disobedience."  Jesus said that we need to seek His "kingdom" with all of our heart.  "Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened." (Matthew 7:7-8)  "But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well." (Matthew 6:33)  Salvation does not come for those who seek it in a half-hearted and lukewarm way. See Rev. 3:14-22

"'Once the owner of the house gets up and closes the door, you will stand outside knocking and pleading, “Sir, open the door for us.” But he will answer, “I don’t know you or where you come from.”'" See Matt. 25:1-13

Many delay coming to God and seeking His forgiveness.  But, that delay can become a permanent rejection, for that delay can lead to a hardened heart.  "Therefore God again set a certain day, calling it Today, when a long time later he spoke through David, as was said before: 'Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts.'" (Hebrews 4:7)  Some die quickly and unexpectedly.  Then, it is also too late.  The time of salvation is now!  " . . . I tell you, now is the time of God’s favor, now is the day of salvation." (II Corinthians 6:2)

Jesus' words are a warning for those who put off seeking wholeheartedly the salvation He offers to us.  The decision to put off seeking salvation through Jesus Christ may be put off until it is too late to seek it.  Then, no amount of begging will open the door that has been closed.  See also Matt. 22:1-14

"'Then you will say, “We ate and drank with you, and you taught in our streets.” But he will reply, “I don’t know you or where you come from. Away from me, all you evildoers!”'"  Because they had been with Jesus and listened to Him, they thought that they should be saved.  But, they had never done what was necessary to be saved.  There are those who are attending churches right now who have not done what is necessary to be saved.  They have not chosen to humble themselves, admit their sinfulness, and cry out to God to save them.  They will be shocked when they find themselves on the outside with the "evildoers," and not on the inside with the saved. See Ps. 6:8; Matt. 7:23

Jesus pictures those who do not seek His salvation as on the outside of a banquet.  "According to the Jewish idea, one of the main elements of the happiness of the Messianic kingdom was the privilege of participating in splendid festive entertainment along with the patriarchs of the nation." "Taken from Word Studies in the New Testament by M. R. Vincent.  Copyright 1972 by Associated Publishers and Authors."

Those who miss out on the salvation offered by Jesus Christ will not be there to enjoy the Wedding Supper of the Lamb.  "Then the angel said to me, 'Write: “Blessed are those who are invited to the wedding supper of the Lamb!”' And he added, 'These are the true words of God.'" (Revelation 19:9) See also Rev. 22:14-15

"'There will be weeping there, and gnashing of teeth, when you see Abraham, Isaac and Jacob and all the prophets in the kingdom of God, but you yourselves thrown out. People will come from east and west and north and south, and will take their places at the feast in the kingdom of God.'"

The "weeping" "and gnashing of teeth" will come when they realize that they are on the outside looking in.  They will, then, have lost their opportunity to be on the inside.  And it is now too late! See Matt. 8:12, 13:42, 50, 22:13, 24:51, 25:30

And they will learn at that time, that not only will the patriarchs of the Jewish nation—"Abraham, Isaac and Jacob"—and the prophets be there, but there will be people from every part of the world who will be there—those "from" the "east and west and north and south."  And they, the Jewish people, will be on the outside looking in.  Their Jewish nationality will not help them, for they did not seek God humbly, but put their faith in themselves and in their nationality rather than putting their faith in their Messiah. See Rom. 9:30-10:4

"'There will be weeping there, and gnashing of teeth,'"  "What does the expressing 'weeping and gnashing of teeth' mean?  'Weeping' is a very strong word, indicating much more than tears (which can sometimes be associated with laughter).  The meaning of this particular word is 'wailing, not merely with tears, but with every outward expression of grief'.  The weeping of the wicked in hell will be triggered by all the factors which make hell so terrible—the environment, the company, the remorse, the torment and agony, the shame and contempt and the never-ending sense of God's anger." "Taken from Whatever Happened to Hell by John Blanchard p. 156.  Copyright 1993 by Evangelical Press.  Quote is from Bullinger's Critical Lexicon."

"'Indeed there are those who are last who will be first, and first who will be last.'" See also Matt. 19:30, 20:16  Who are the "last" that "will be first"?  They are those who know they are "last" and see themselves as lost unless God saves them.  They are those who are going to be first. See Heb. 11:6; Rom. 3:27  They are those who serve because they see themselves as great sinners. See Lk. 17:7-10; Rom. 1:14  They are those who realize that human success is worthless. See Phil 3:2-8; Isa. 64:6  See also Matt. 20:1-16

22. Opposition to the King (13:31-35)

a. Herod's opposition to the King (13:31-33)
"At that time some Pharisees came to Jesus and said to him, 'Leave this place and go somewhere else. Herod wants to kill you.' He replied, 'Go tell that fox, “I will drive out demons and heal people today and tomorrow, and on the third day I will reach my goal.” In any case, I must keep going today and tomorrow and the next day—for surely no prophet can die outside Jerusalem!'"

Thought Question:  Do you think these Pharisees were concerned about Jesus' safety?  Please explain your answer.

 

 

"At that time some Pharisees came to Jesus and said to him, 'Leave this place and go somewhere else. Herod wants to kill you.' He replied, 'Go tell that fox, “I will drive out demons and heal people today and tomorrow, and on the third day I will reach my goal.” In any case, I must keep going today and tomorrow and the next day—for surely no prophet can die outside Jerusalem!'"
 
The "Pharisees" warn Jesus that Herod was determined to kill Him.  "There are two distinct verbs; to will or determine and to kill." "Taken from Word Studies in the New Testament by M. R. Vincent.  Copyright 1972 by Associated Publishers and Authors."

Were these "Pharisees" concerned about Jesus?  It is much more likely that they had their fill of Jesus and wanted Him to hurry on to Jerusalem where they planned to have Him legally prosecuted and killed.

The "Pharisees" and "Herod" had consulted with each other on how to rid Palestine of this man who was a threat to their positions of power in Israel.  "Then the Pharisees went out and began to plot with the Herodians how they might kill Jesus." (Mark 3:6) See also Mk. 12:13; Lk. 9:7-9; Matt 14:1-12

"'Go tell that fox,'"  This obviously was  a term of contempt.  Foxes are still known today for their crafty and destructive ways.  They kill the chickens; yet, it is hard to catch them doing it.

"'“I will drive out demons and heal people today and tomorrow, and on the third day I will reach my goal.” In any case, I must keep going today and tomorrow and the next day.'"  Jesus was not on any man's timetable with regard to when He did things; rather, He was on God's timetable. See Jn. 2:4, 7:30, 8:20, 13:1  Those that were healed by Him on the following day were blessed that Jesus did not, out of fear, run to Jerusalem before healing them.

By speaking of the healing work He was doing, Jesus also may have been pointing to the fact that His healing of people should not have been a threat to "Herod."  Jesus was doing good and not bad.  But, doing good does not always mean that those who do the good are going to be highly thought of.  The early church was held in high favor by the people, yet two of its leaders were murdered. See Acts 2:42-47, 12:2

"for surely no prophet can die outside Jerusalem!'"  "Jerusalem" is where the official decisions of Israel were made.  For the U.S., the official decisions are made in Washington, D.C..  Shortly after this time, Jerusalem would decide that He needed to die.

b. The Jew's opposition to the King (13:34-35)
"'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! Look, your house is left to you desolate. I tell you, you will not see me again until you say, “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.”'" See also Matt. 23:37-39

Thought Question:  What do these words by Jesus reveal to us about God's heart toward us?

 

 

"'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!'"

"Jerusalem" and Israel had many opportunities to receive God's messengers; yet, they "were not willing."  Instead, they rejected and even killed God's messengers. See II Chron. 24:20-21; Jer. 26:20-23

"how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings," See P. 91:4  Jesus uses the tenderness of a "hen" with her "chicks" to describe His tender concern for His rebellious nation.  "There is a tenderness in the imagery of the hen and it chicks." "Taken from Luke by Leon Morris.  Copyright 1946 by Intervarsity Press."  Jesus is heart-broken over Israel's rejection of Him as a co-equal member of the Trinity, like a parent who is dismayed because his or her child is foolishly rejecting him or her and making poor and destructive choices.

" but you were not willing!'"  The inference is that they could have been "willing."  It is not that they could not have received God's "prophets" and could not receive Him, but that they would not receive Him. See Zech. 7:12; Jn. 12:37; Rom. 1:28; II Thess. 2:10  God offered His love to Israel, and they coldly rejected it!

"'Look, your house is left to you desolate.'" See Jer. 12:7, 22:5; Hos. 3:4  At this point in Israel's history, they rejected Jesus.  And by rejecting Jesus, they were both rejecting God's Son and rejecting God.  What was the result?  Their rejection resulted in an empty temple and an empty nation—a nation without God.  God's chosen nation chooses to reject God.

"'I tell you, you will not see me again until you say, “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.”'"  Though Israel rejected their Messiah, the Bible predicts that there will be a time when they will receive Him.  "And I will pour out on the house of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem a spirit of grace and supplication. They will look on me, the one they have pierced, and they will mourn for him as one mourns for an only child, and grieve bitterly for him as one grieves for a firstborn son. On that day the weeping in Jerusalem will be great, like the weeping of Hadad Rimmon in the plain of Megiddo." (Zechariah 12:10-11) See Ps. 118:26;

There is a temporary fulfillment of this promise when Jesus enters Jerusalem on Palm Sunday. See Lk 19:37-38  Jesus' prediction, though, could not have been referring to Palm Sunday for at least two reasons.  First, He was rejected and crucified right after Palm Sunday; and, secondly, He made the same prediction as the one given here after Palm Sunday. See Matt.21:1-11 and 23:37-40

We are now in the period when Israel is experiencing desolation.  But, this time of desolation is temporary.  Both Jesus and Paul predict the future restoration of Israel after they are "trampled on by the Gentiles until the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled." (Luke 21:24)  "I do not want you to be ignorant of this mystery, brothers, so that you may not be conceited: Israel has experienced a hardening in part until the full number of the Gentiles has come in. And so all Israel will be saved, as it is written: 'The deliverer will come from Zion; he will turn godlessness away from Jacob. And this is my covenant with them when I take away their sins.' As far as the gospel is concerned, they are enemies on your account; but as far as election is concerned, they are loved on account of the patriarchs, for God’s gifts and his call are irrevocable. Just as you who were at one time disobedient to God have now received mercy as a result of their disobedience, so they too have now become disobedient in order that they too may now receive mercy as a result of God’s mercy to you. For God has bound all men over to disobedience so that he may have mercy on them all." (Romans 11:25-32)

23. Jesus at a Pharisee's home (14:1-15)

a. Jesus explains why He heals on the Sabbath (14:1-6)
"One Sabbath, when Jesus went to eat in the house of a prominent Pharisee, he was being carefully watched. There in front of him was a man suffering from dropsy. Jesus asked the Pharisees and experts in the law, 'Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath or not?' But they remained silent. So taking hold of the man, he healed him and sent him away. Then he asked them, 'If one of you has a son or an ox that falls into a well on the Sabbath day, will you not immediately pull him out?' And they had nothing to say."

Thought Question: Are there times today when the religious establishment has got it wrong, and there is a need to do something that is right even when those who are the religious leaders say it is wrong?  Please explain your answer.

 

 

"One Sabbath, when Jesus went to eat in the house of a prominent Pharisee, he was being carefully watched. There in front of him was a man suffering from dropsy. Jesus asked the Pharisees and experts in the law, 'Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath or not?' But they remained silent. So taking hold of the man, he healed him and sent him away."

Jesus' healings on the "Sabbath" was a continual point of contention between Jesus and the "Pharisees." See 6:6-11, 13:10-17 See also 4:31, 38-39, 6:1-11; Jn. 5:1-15,  9:13-16

"dropsy."  "This abnormal accumulation of fluid is not only serious in itself, but is also sign of illness affecting the kidneys, liver, blood and or heart." "Taken from Luke by William Hendriksen. Copyright 1978 by Baker Book House."

"he was being carefully watched."  Mark 3:2 explains why "he was being carefully watched."  "Some of them were looking for a reason to accuse Jesus, so they watched him closely to see if he would heal him on the Sabbath."  The religious leaders were seeking to build a case against Jesus.  They were hoping He would "heal" someone on the "Sabbath."  They might even have invited the man with "dropsy" to come, in hopes that Jesus would heal Him.  The fact that this man was right "in front of him" adds to the likelihood that the reason this man was at that dinner was part of a plot to build a case against Jesus.

Jesus knew what their motivation was for inviting Him to eat at the Pharisee's house.  They were trying to put Him on the spot.  Instead, He put them on the spot by asking immediately, "'Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath or not?' But they remained silent." They had no answer for His question and "remained silent." 

Wiersbe gives us the dilemma Jesus' question created for the "Pharisees":  "If the Pharisees said that nobody should be healed on the Sabbath, the people would consider them heartless; if they gave permission for healing, their associates would consider them lawless." "Taken from Be Compassionate by Warren Wiersbe.  Copyright 1998 by David C. Cook."

"Then he asked them, 'If one of you has a son or an ox that falls into a well on the Sabbath day, will you not immediately pull him out?' And they had nothing to say."  Apparently, they did allow "a son or an ox" to be rescued when it fell "into a well on the Sabbath day."  "Even in all the massive Jewish Sabbath regulations I have not been able to discover any that forbids a sabbath day rescue of a son or an ox that had fallen into a well." "Taken from Luke by William Hendriksen. Copyright 1978 by Baker Book House." 

That, at least, is a partial answer to why "they had nothing to say."  They had no basis for a "no" answer.  And if they gave a "yes" answer, they would have been saying that it was also okay for Him to "heal" on the "Sabbath."  Not all manuscripts have "son" in verse five.

b. Jesus explains how one comes into His kingdom (14:7-11)
"When he noticed how the guests picked the places of honor at the table, he told them this parable: 'When someone invites you to a wedding feast, do not take the place of honor, for a person more distinguished than you may have been invited. If so, the host who invited both of you will come and say to you, “Give this man your seat.” Then, humiliated, you will have to take the least important place. But when you are invited, take the lowest place, so that when your host comes, he will say to you, “Friend, move up to a better place.” Then you will be honored in the presence of all your fellow guests. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.'"

Thought Question: Give an example of when something like this could happen today.

 

 

"When he noticed how the guests picked the places of honor at the table, he told them this parable: 'When someone invites you to a wedding feast, do not take the place of honor, for a person more distinguished than you may have been invited. If so, the host who invited both of you will come and say to you, “Give this man your seat.” Then, humiliated, you will have to take the least important place."

"If Rabbinic sources written somewhat later furnish a true description of dinner habits that prevailed during Christ's sojourn on earth, as they probably do, then in the room where the festive dinner was to be held the 'couches for three' were arranged each in the shaped of a U around a low table.  The central position (think of the U's curved base) of table No. 1 was considered the place of highest honor.  To the left of the most highly honored person the one second in honor would be reclining; the right of the most highly honored person the third in honor would take his place." "Hendriksen."  Hendriksen continues to list where the next people of honor would sit. 

Jesus warns those listening to Him not to sit themselves in the "places of honor"; for, then, the "host" will need to unseat you to put the person he wanted to have the "place of honor."  Then, also, the only seat that will be left will be the "least important place."  The final result is that you will be seated in humiliation and shame.

"'But when you are invited, take the lowest place, so that when your host comes, he will say to you, “Friend, move up to a better place.” Then you will be honored in the presence of all your fellow guests. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.'" See Prov. 25:6-7, 29:23; Matt. 23:12; Lk. 1:52-53, 18:14; James 4:6; I Pet. 5:5  See also James 2:1-9 and Acts 12:21-23

It is very human to have a higher opinion of ourselves than is warranted.  Someone has said that we are not to think too highly or too lowly of ourselves, but we are not to think of ourselves at all.  Maybe a better approach is to think of ourselves in comparison to Jesus.  In God's presence, Isaiah said these words:  "'Woe to me!' I cried. 'I am ruined! For I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips, and my eyes have seen the King, the Lord Almighty.'" (Isaiah 6:5)  Later in his book, he gave these words of the godly man.  "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)

If we have a higher opinion of ourselves than Isaiah had, we are heading for a fall. See Prov. 11:2, 15:33  "Pride goes before destruction, a haughty spirit before a fall." (Proverbs 16:18)  As one godly man of the past said, "Pride is the last to go."

c. Jesus explains selfless service in His kingdom (14:12-14)
"Then Jesus said to his host, 'When you give a luncheon or dinner, do not invite your friends, your brothers or relatives, or your rich neighbors; if you do, they may invite you back and so you will be repaid. But when you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, and you will be blessed. Although they cannot repay you, you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous.'"

Thought Question:  What do Jesus' words warn us not to do?

 

 

"Then Jesus said to his host, 'When you give a luncheon or dinner, do not invite your friends, your brothers or relatives, or your rich neighbors; if you do, they may invite you back and so you will be repaid. But when you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, and you will be blessed. Although they cannot repay you, you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous.'"

"What's in it for me?" is a very human question.  We can give with the ulterior motive of wanting to get something back.  Jesus points out that true giving is giving to those who do not have the resources to give to us.  James puts it this way: "Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress . . . . " (James 1:27a) See also Lk. 14:21

What Jesus teaches here will transform a society.  We have a capitalist society where nearly anyone can, through hard work, skills, and talents, good timing, and knowing the right people gain wealth.  Then what typically happens is that the wealthy socialize only with others who have also gained a high social level.  What if these wealthy and elite people reached out to and helped the needy?  And, in some cases, that is what has happened.  Some of the wealthy have reached out to the needy.  Certainly, this should be the pattern for wealthy Christians. See Rom. 12:13; Gal. 6:9-10

d. The Parable of the Great Banquet (14:15-24)
"When one of those at the table with him heard this, he said to Jesus, 'Blessed is the man who will eat at the feast in the kingdom of God.' Jesus replied: 'A certain man was preparing a great banquet and invited many guests. At the time of the banquet he sent his servant to tell those who had been invited, “Come, for everything is now ready.” But they all alike began to make excuses. The first said, “I have just bought a field, and I must go and see it. Please excuse me.” Another said, “I have just bought five yoke of oxen, and I’m on my way to try them out. Please excuse me.” Still another said, “I just got married, so I can’t come.” The servant came back and reported this to his master. Then the owner of the house became angry and ordered his servant, “Go out quickly into the streets and alleys of the town and bring in the poor, the crippled, the blind and the lame.” “Sir,” the servant said, “what you ordered has been done, but there is still room.” Then the master told his servant, “Go out to the roads and country lanes and make them come in, so that my house will be full. I tell you, not one of those men who were invited will get a taste of my banquet.”'" See also Matt. 22:2-14

Thought Question:  What, do you believe, is the meaning of the parable to us?

 

 

"When one of those at the table with him heard this, he said to Jesus, 'Blessed is the man who will eat at the feast in the kingdom of God.'"  Again, the Jews pictured "the kingdom of God" as being like a wonderful banquet "feast."  This picture of "kingdom of God" as being like a banquet is found in the Bible. See Ps. 23:5; Isa. 25:6; Matt. 8:11

"Jesus replied: 'A certain man was preparing a great banquet and invited many guests. At the time of the banquet he sent his servant to tell those who had been invited, “Come, for everything is now ready.” But they all alike began to make excuses. The first said, “I have just bought a field, and I must go and see it. Please excuse me.” Another said, “I have just bought five yoke of oxen, and I’m on my way to try them out. Please excuse me.” Still another said, “I just got married, so I can’t come.”'"

In Jesus' story, a rich man prepares guests to have "a great banquet."  The "guests" have already been "invited"; and they have accepted the invitations, indicating that they will come.  But, when the time of the "banquet" arrives, they make up all kinds of "excuses" and do not come.

What did this part of the parable mean to those who were listening to Jesus?  The excuses tell us that the Jews' worldly goals were more important than being part of God's "kingdom."  The "field," the "oxen," and the "marriage" took priority over God's "kingdom." 

Jesus was predicting what was about to take place.  Jesus was their promised Messiah, but their worldly goals were more important to them than His "kingdom."  In other words, they said, "Yes, we will come to your "banquet," but their hearts had not been in it.  After all that had been put into preparing the 'banquet," the "no" answers were very offensive to the one putting on the "banquet."

How does this apply to us?  The answer is obvious: we also can put our worldly goals above our wanting to be in God's "kingdom."

"'The servant came back and reported this to his master. Then the owner of the house became angry and ordered his servant, “Go out quickly into the streets and alleys of the town and bring in the poor, the crippled, the blind and the lame.”'"  These very needy people would eagerly come to such a wonderful feast.  Whereas, those who saw themselves as having plenty, refused to come. See Rev. 3:17-21

"'“Sir,” the servant said, “what you ordered has been done, but there is still room.” Then the master told his servant, “Go out to the roads and country lanes and make them come in, so that my house will be full.”'"

Today, "there is still room" for more in God's "kingdom."  We are to "go out to the roads and country lanes and make them come in," "so that" God's "house will be full." 

"I tell you, not one of those men who were invited will get a taste of my banquet.”'"  Some believe that there will be another opportunity to come to Christ after we die.  The Bible is clear, though, that we need to choose Him now.  For, we do not know that this day may be our last opportunity to come to Him on this earth.  And after our life on this earth, there will not be an opportunity to come to Him.  "Just as man is destined to die once, and after that to face judgment," (Hebrews 9:27)

"make them come in,"  "not physically but by the force of powerful and loving persuasion." "Taken from Luke by William Hendriksen. Copyright 1978 by Baker Book House."  "There is one sentence in this parable which has been sadly misused.  'Go out,' said the master. 'and compel them to come in.'  Long ago Augustine used that text as a justification for a religious persecution.  It was taken as a command to coerce people into the Christian faith.  It was used as a defence of the inquisition, the thumb-screw, the rack, the threat of death and imprisonment, the campaigns against the heretics, all those things which are the shame of Christianity." "Taken from The Gospel of Luke by William Barclay. Copyright 1975 by the Westminster Press."

Barclay also points out that Jesus saw His "kingdom" as a "feast."  We can see Jesus as being very serious and not one whom you would enjoy being with at a party.  But, He is the One who invites us to a "feast."  "Then the angel said to me, 'Write: “Blessed are those who are invited to the wedding supper of the Lamb!” And he added, 'These are the true words of God.'" (Revelation 19:9) See also Isa. 35:1-10

Certainly, Jesus' parable had a sobering effect on those at that dinner.  Since, He "was being carefully watched." (14:1)  We can also be quite certain that He once again offended the religious leaders who were opposed to Him.

24. The cost of discipleship (14:25-35)
"Large crowds were traveling with Jesus, and turning to them he said: 'If anyone comes to me and does not hate his father and mother, his wife and children, his brothers and sisters—yes, even his own life—he cannot be my disciple. And anyone who does not carry his cross and follow me cannot be my disciple. Suppose one of you wants to build a tower. Will he not first sit down and estimate the cost to see if he has enough money to complete it? For if he lays the foundation and is not able to finish it, everyone who sees it will ridicule him, saying, “This fellow began to build and was not able to finish.” Or suppose a king is about to go to war against another king. Will he not first sit down and consider whether he is able with ten thousand men to oppose the one coming against him with twenty thousand? If he is not able, he will send a delegation while the other is still a long way off and will ask for terms of peace. In the same way, any of you who does not give up everything he has cannot be my disciple. Salt is good, but if it loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is fit neither for the soil nor for the manure pile; it is thrown out. He who has ears to hear, let him hear.'"

Thought Question:  What do you learn from Jesus' words about the cost that discipleship will require of you?

 

 

"Large crowds were traveling with Jesus, and turning to them he said: 'If anyone comes to me and does not hate his father and mother, his wife and children, his brothers and sisters—yes, even his own life—he cannot be my disciple.'"

"Hate" obviously does not mean we are to detest our family members.  But it dramatizes that when it comes to a choice between Jesus as Lord of our lives and others being rulers in our lives, we who are Jesus' followers will choose Jesus over even our family members.  This is what Jesus said at another time. "“Anyone who loves his father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; anyone who loves his son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me;" (Matthew 10:37) See also Mal. 1:2-3; Gen. 29:30-31

How does this apply to us in real life situations?  Here are some examples.  A  non-believing parent may be opposed to their child being involved in a Christian ministry or that parent may be opposed to him or her going on the mission field.  What should he or she choose?  He or she should choose to obey the Lord.  Here is another example.  A family business may be practicing some sinful practices.  A follower of Christ cannot continue to be part of that business if the family refuses to stop the sinful practices.  Here is another example.  A Christian is being pressured by a family member to stop taking a stand on a moral issue.  The Christian should continue to obey Jesus.   Here is one more example:  A new Christian is being pressured not to go to church on Sundays.  The new Christian should choose to go.  Decisions are not always as clear as these examples.  For example, it is not a good idea for a husband to choose to go on the mission field if his wife is strongly opposed to going.  But, when it comes to who should be first in our lives, Christ's followers will choose to obey Him.

"'And anyone who does not carry his cross and follow me cannot be my disciple.'"  The crowds that were following Jesus did not know where He would end up.  They did not know that Jesus would end up on a cross.  Would they remain as His followers then?

Jesus informed those who followed Him then, and He informs us who follow Him now of the cost of following Him.  Many of those that were following Him then would not be willing to pay that cost.  What is the cost?  We learn in other passages that it requires the end to the self-focused life.  He was willing to choose a self-less and self-sacrificing life, motivated by love for us that led to Him dying on the cross for us.  Are we willing to die to our own selfish goals of fame, fortune, pleasure, and power to follow Christ?  Are we willing to choose His will for us even though it will lead us to be patient with others when others are not being patient with us, forgiving when others are not willing to forgive us, speaking the truth in love even when others resent us for saying it, and other costly decisions that are made because they are made for the eternal good of others and because they are made in obedience to God?  That is carrying His cross.  It is choosing to live the kind of life He chose to live for us.  Paul chose to live that type of life.  "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)

"'For if he lays the foundation and is not able to finish it, everyone who sees it will ridicule him, saying, “This fellow began to build and was not able to finish.”'"  In city near us, there was a half-built church building that spoke to all who passed by that those in that church had not planned well; for it remained half-built for some time.  Jesus is teaching here that those in the crowds following Him needed to stop and think about whether or not they were willing to pay the cost of following Him, before they continued to follow Him.

"'Suppose one of you wants to build a tower. Will he not first sit down and estimate the cost to see if he has enough money to complete it.'"  Jesus could have been referring to a watchtower in a vineyard.  He may also have been referring to building something like a farm silo.  How does this parable apply to us?  We need to stop and think whether or not we are willing to pay whatever cost following Christ will require of us.  He did consider the cost and chose to pay it for us.  Now, we must decide if we are also willing to pay the price.  Paul was willing to pay the price and did pay the price.  This is what he said just before He died as a martyr.  "For I am already being poured out like a drink offering, and the time has come for my departure. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day—and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing." (II Timothy 4:6-8)  He also urged Timothy to follow him.  "In the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who will judge the living and the dead, and in view of his appearing and his kingdom, I give you this charge: 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 4:1-5)

"'Or suppose a king is about to go to war against another king. Will he not first sit down and consider whether he is able with ten thousand men to oppose the one coming against him with twenty thousand? If he is not able, he will send a delegation while the other is still a long way off and will ask for terms of peace. In the same way, any of you who does not give up everything he has cannot be my disciple.'" 

It is not as easy to see Jesus' point in the second parable.  In the first parable, Jesus' point is clear.  If we are not willing to pay the cost, don't start building the tower.  So, we need to consider the cost of following Jesus before we choose to follow Him.  In the second parable, the weaker "king" should not go to battle, but should seek after a peace treaty with the "king" with the larger army.  The message may be the same in both parables—count the cost before following Christ.  But, it also may mean that we do not have the resources to go into battle apart from God, so we need to seek to be at peace with God.  I prefer the view that both parables urge us to consider the cost of following Jesus before we go any further in seeking to follow Christ.

The next words of Jesus fits this interpretation.  "In the same way, any of you who does not give up everything he has cannot be my disciple.'"  This, in a few words, is the cost of following Jesus Christ.  Everything we own now belongs to Him to be used for His purposes.  In fact, all that we are and own has one purpose: to serve Him.  But, we find that in the end, we do not lose, but we gain.  "For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will save it. What good is it for a man to gain the whole world, and yet lose or forfeit his very self?" (Luke 9:24-25)

"'Salt is good, but if it loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is fit neither for the soil nor for the manure pile; it is thrown out. He who has ears to hear, let him hear.'"

Thought Question:  How do you believe this parable applies to us?

 

 

"'Salt is good, but if it loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is fit neither for the soil nor for the manure pile; it is thrown out.'"  How can "salt" lose "its saltiness"?  "It is, of course, impossible for salt (sodium chloride) to lose its taste, but the salt in use in first century Palestine was far from pure.  It was quite possible for the sodium chloride to be leached out of the impure salt in common use so that what was left lacked the taste of salt.  It was literally useless." "Taken from Luke by Leon Morris.  Copyright 1946 by Intervarsity Press." 

The illustration can easily be applied to us.  If salt contains no sodium chloride, what can it be used for?  Would you sprinkle it on the lawn?  No, it would not do the lawn any good; rather, it would do it harm.  So, all you can do with it is to throw it into the garbage.  So, if you take Christ-likeness out of Christianity, what is it good for?  Selfish Christianity is not Christianity. See Matt. 5:13  Christ-less Christianity is worthless.

"He who has ears to hear, let him hear.'" See 8:8,18, 14:35; Matt. 11:5, 13:43; Mk. 4:23; Rev. 2:7,11,29, 3:6,13,22  Not everyone is receptive to Jesus' message about the cost of following Him.  The night before writing these words, two of us spoke at a Union Gospel Mission thirty miles away.  We have been going there for many years.  The message we gave was clear and easily understood.  But, not all heard the message.  They all heard the sound and the words, but not all of their hearts were receptive to what their "ears" heard.  We were encouraged by one man who passed us as we were talking to the chaplain.  He volunteered as he passed by, "You did a good job tonight."  And, as he said these words, he nodded in the affirmative.  How many heard Jesus' words and really understood them?  We do not know.  How many heard our words at the Mission and really understood them?  We really do not know.  But, "He who has ears to hear, let him hear."

25. The Parable of the Lost sheep (15:1-7)
"Now the tax collectors and 'sinners' were all gathering around to hear him. But the Pharisees and the teachers of the law muttered, 'This man welcomes sinners and eats with them.' Then Jesus told them this parable: 'Suppose one of you has a hundred sheep and loses one of them. Does he not leave the ninety-nine in the open country and go after the lost sheep until he finds it? And when he finds it, he joyfully puts it on his shoulders and goes home. Then he calls his friends and neighbors together and says, “Rejoice with me; I have found my lost sheep.” I tell you that in the same way there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who do not need to repent.'"

Thought Question: What does Jesus' parable tell us about the difference between the Pharisees and the sinners?

 

 

"Now the tax collectors and 'sinners' were all gathering around to hear him. But the Pharisees and the teachers of the law muttered, 'This man welcomes sinners and eats with them.'"  These religious leaders express an attitude that can be present also in modern-day churches.  We can be disgusted at these "sinners" that surround us.  Ray Stedman put it this way in a message on this parable in the late 1960s.  He was not expressing his own feelings, but a tendency that we can all have:  "All these immoral, rebellious, shallow, superficial moderns who are all around us everywhere today—how disgusted God must be with these people.  Well, if that is how we feel we are very, very wrong!  We very much need correction by the message of the parable now before us." "Taken from a message given by Ray Stedman on May 25, 1969."

It was repugnant to the religious people of Jesus' time that He was enthusiastically welcoming those that they considered to be social outcasts.  "Welcomes" is in the present tense, indicating that He was continually welcoming those that they believed He should be continually shunning.  Jesus' holiness included love for the needy; the religious leaders' form of holiness caused them to separate themselves from the needy.  They were joyous over these sinners that were going to hell, rather than being joyous over sinners who were repenting and were going to heaven.  It can easily be seen why these "sinners" enjoyed being around Jesus who loved them and did not enjoy being around the religious leaders who despised them. See also 5:29-32, 14:21

"Then Jesus told them this parable: 'Suppose one of you has a hundred sheep and loses one of them. Does he not leave the ninety-nine in the open country and go after the lost sheep until he finds it?'" 

There are two perspectives from which to view the lostness of the "sheep,"  First, the sheep is lost and feels lost.  "We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way . . . ." (Isaiah 53:6a)  We are "sheep" who have wandered away and have gotten "lost."

Second, the shepherd has lost a "sheep"—he has lost a "sheep" that he greatly values.  "I myself will tend my sheep and have them lie down, declares the Sovereign Lord. I will search for the lost and bring back the strays. I will bind up the injured and strengthen the weak . . . I will shepherd the flock with justice." (Ezekiel 34:15-16) See Ps. 23; Jer. 31:10-14; Matt. 18:12-14; Jn. 10:1-18

"The shepherd in Judea had a hard and dangerous task.  Pasture was scarce.  The narrow central plateau was only a few miles wide, and then it plunged down to the wild cliffs and terrible devastation of the desert.  There were no restraining walls and the sheep would wander.  George Adam Smith wrote of the shepherd.  'On some high moor across which at night the hyenas howl, when you meet him, sleepless, far-sighted, weather-beaten, armed, leaning on his staff and looking over his scattered sheep, everyone of them on his heart, you understand why the shepherd of Judea sprang to the front in the people's history; why they gave his name to the king and made him the symbol of providence; why Christ took him as the type of self-sacrifice.'" "Taken from The Gospel of Luke by William Barclay. Copyright 1975 by the Westminster Press."

Also, the shepherd's "sheep" were often the "sheep" of the village or the "sheep" of another person.  He was personally responsible for every "sheep."  If one "sheep" got lost, he needed to explain what happened to it. See
Gen. 31:36-39; Exod. 22:10-12
  You can imagine their joy when a "lost sheep" was found.

I just realized an amazing parallel in my own life to what Jesus teaches in this chapter.  And it just occurred!  I was busy typing away, and realized that I was missing a page.  I searched everywhere for this missing page.  I went through every section in this part of Luke.  I looked at the next section and final section of Luke, hoping that after the next page I turned, it would be there.  I went through my papers on Matthew.  I then went over my office and other rooms looking for the lost page.  I, of course, prayed for God's help.  I had pretty much given up—I realized that I had probably accidently threw it away.  My one last hope was that it would be in hand-written papers on Mark.  At this point, I had no hope that I would find this lost page.  But, there it was, about 130 pages into Mark.  The page numbers on the lost page were 31-32, so it got placed by me in the 130s of Mark.  I was delighted to find the lost page!  I would not need to rewrite it.  Was it a coincidence that the lost page was the beginning of my notes on Luke 15?  I will let you answer that question.

"'And when he finds it, he joyfully puts it on his shoulders and goes home. Then he calls his friends and neighbors together and says, “Rejoice with me; I have found my lost sheep.”'"  I can recall a painting of Jesus with a lamb over His shoulders that hung in the small church building that our family attended when I was a small child. It is a picture of Jesus that has stuck with me all the years since.  Some time later, I was that "lost sheep" that Jesus brought home.  "For the Son of Man came to seek and to save what was lost." (Luke 19:10)  And, I was one of the "lost" that Jesus saved.

"I tell you that in the same way there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who do not need to repent.'"  A sign that a society is corrupt is that the needy individual becomes isolated from society and few if any care.  A sign that a church is corrupt is that a needy person comes into that church and leaves that church and no one cares.  If a church is focused on building success through increasing attendance and hardly even notices that needy people come and go, that church is not shepherding people as Jesus describes here, but is a consumer-driven business.

Who are the "ninety-nine righteous persons who do not need to repent"?  Hendriksen believed that they were self-righteous people who do not think that they needed to "repent."  He said that they are like students who do not study for a test "because they think that they know it all." "Taken from Luke by William Hendriksen. Copyright 1978 by Baker Book House."  Matthew 18 supports Hendriksen's view.  "See that you do not look down on one of these little ones. For I tell you that their angels in heaven always see the face of my Father in heaven. What do you think? If a man owns a hundred sheep, and one of them wanders away, will he not leave the ninety-nine on the hills and go to look for the one that wandered off?" (Matthew 18:10-12)  The "ninety-nine," then, are those who "look down on" others—they are the self-righteous religious people who do not really believe that they need God's help.

Why, then, would Jesus describe them as "righteous" if they are self-righteous? See Rom. 9:30-10:4  Hendriksen gives this support for his view:  "The context shows that he was thinking of those who thought they were healthy and righteous." "Hendriksen."  Jesus' words in John 3:39 support Hendriksen's view:  "Jesus said, 'For judgment I have come into this world, so that the blind will see and those who see will become blind.'" (John 9:39)  Those who thought they saw the truth about God were shown to be blind, for they did not see the truth about who Jesus is when He personally came to them.  Jesus did not have a ministry to those who did not see themselves as sinners.  " . . . For I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners." (Matthew 9:13b) See also Mk. 2:17 and Lk. 18:9-14

Ray Stedman, however, had a different view of who the "ninety-nine" were.  "For years I accepted the usual interpretation [of who the "ninety-nine" were] . . . It is that the our Lord was referring to these Pharisees as the ninety and nine—these righteous persons who thought that they did not need any repentance---who actually did but did not know it.  But the more I have studied this parable the less I feel that it is correct.  Jesus deliberately says that these ninety-nine are people who do not need any repentance.  He did not say that they merely thought they didn't; they actually don't.  It must be because they have already repented.  There is only one way to be righteous and that is to already have repented, to have turned to the one who alone can give us righteousness . . . So here are ninety-nine who have done that.  Now, does God not have joy over them?  Of course, he does.  He rejoices greatly.  He takes great delight in those who are his . . . he is simply saying that if God rejoices over those who are already his that still doesn't compare to how he feels when one of these lost people repents and turns to him." "Taken from a message by Ray Stedman on May 25, 1969."

Because Jesus says plainly here that the "ninety-nine" "do not need to repent," it appears to me that Stedman's view is the correct one.  There will be rejoicing in heaven for those who have repented, but "there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who do not need to repent.'"

That is also true in a church.  We rejoice over those who are faithful servants in the church, but don't we get most excited about the new believer or over someone who has wandered from the church and returns?  Jesus hung around with sinners, for they were the lost ones who most needed His message.  Those who were found, already had heard His message and received it.  We also cannot reach the lost if we are never with them.  The Pharisees saw the lost as those that they should stay away from, so that they would not be soiled by the unholiness.  Jesus saw the lost as those He came to save. 

b. The Parable of the Lost Coin (15:8-10)
"'Or suppose a woman has ten silver coins and loses one. Does she not light a lamp, sweep the house and search carefully until she finds it? And when she finds it, she calls her friends and neighbors together and says, “Rejoice with me; I have found my lost coin.” In the same way, I tell you, there is rejoicing in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents.'"

Thought Question: Who rejoiced when you were first saved?

 

 

"'Or suppose a woman has ten silver coins and loses one. Does she not light a lamp, sweep the house and search carefully until she finds it?'"  "The home of a person of the poorer classes, such as this woman, was generally small.  It had a dirt floor and either no windows or very small ones.  Therefore, once the coin had slipped out and fallen to the floor it was not easy to find." "Taken from Luke by William Hendriksen. Copyright 1978 by Baker Book House."  Barclay adds that the dirt floor was often "covered with dried reeds and rushes." "Taken from The Gospel of Luke by William Barclay. Copyright 1975 by the Westminster Press."
She needed to "light a lamp" and "sweep the house," because the lighting was poor and the coin would sink into the dirt.

"And when she finds it, she calls her friends and neighbors together and says, “Rejoice with me; I have found my lost coin.”'"  Why would this woman have been so eager to find this "coin"?  The "coin" equaled a day's wages or more.  Another possibility is that the "coin" was something like our wedding ring.  "The mark of a married woman was a head-dress made of ten silver coins linked together by a silver chain . . .[It] was almost the equivalent of her wedding ring." "Barclay."  It would be like a modern-day woman losing the diamond from her ring in the dryer.  This did happen to my wife.  We searched for it, but never found it.  If we had found it, there would also have been rejoicing that we would have shared with our "friends." 

"'In the same way, I tell you, there is rejoicing in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents.'"  Here, it is not the angels rejoicing, but "rejoicing in the presence of the angels of God."  It may be referring to believers who have died and are now in heaven who rejoice.  It may also refer to God "rejoicing over one sinner who repents."  And, it may refer to God and His people "rejoicing" together.

In the first two parables of Luke 15, there is an emphasis on searching for that which is "lost."  This would have been a revolutionary thought to the Jewish religious leaders—that holy God would pursue "lost" sinners to save them, and that He would  "rejoice" when one is "found."  But, it is not the first time in the Bible where God searches for the "lost" and then "rejoices" when a "lost" one is found. See Isa. 62:1-6; Jer. 32:38-41; Ezek. 18:21-23; Hos. 3:17-23

c. The Parable of the Lost (Prodigal) Son (15:11-32)

(1) From riches to rags (15:11-16)
"Jesus continued: 'There was a man who had two sons. The younger one said to his father, “Father, give me my share of the estate.” So he divided his property between them. Not long after that, the younger son got together all he had, set off for a distant country and there squandered his wealth in wild living. After he had spent everything, there was a severe famine in that whole country, and he began to be in need. So he went and hired himself out to a citizen of that country, who sent him to his fields to feed pigs. He longed to fill his stomach with the pods that the pigs were eating, but no one gave him anything.'"

Thought Question:  In what ways does this parallel your life?

 

 

"Jesus continued: 'There was a man who had two sons. The younger one said to his father, “Father, give me my share of the estate.” So he divided his property between them.'"  Like many young people, this "son" thought that happiness would come when he was freed from his father's authority and when he had lots of money to spend.  Many young people have felt that happiness will come when they are freed from God's moral restraints—when they are free to do whatever they want to do.  They feel that this is the way to fun and life.  Young people can see older people as stiff and serious people who are preventing them from being free to have a good time.  And so, the young son asked for his inheritance right away, so he could go out and have all the fun that he believed he deserved to have. 

He did not care about what his father needed to give up to give him his inheritance early.  But, in spite of this son's selfishness and insensitivity to him, the father gives his son his inheritance ahead of time.  At that time, the eldest son would have gotten 2/3 of the father's inheritance and the younger son would have gotten 1/3 of the inheritance. See Deut. 21:15-17

Selfishness, like this, leads us away from God.  We feel we know more about what will make us happy than God does.  So, we want to be free to do it our way.  As a line in a songs say, "It's my life and I'll do what I want." 

"'Not long after that, the younger son got together all he had, set off for a distant country and there squandered his wealth in wild living.'"

Many a young man has taken the path described here.  Free from his parents' observation and supervision, the young man can live just for himself.  He can make fun and pleasure the most important goal of his life.  Many new college students have left their parents' home to go to a far away college and then have had a blast in partying and "wild living."  The young man in the parable quickly spent all he had on this "wild" lifestyle; and then reality set in.

"'After he had spent everything, there was a severe famine in that whole country, and he began to be in need.'"  So, in his desperate condition, he needed to get some type of work or he would starve.  His "wild" lifestyle had not given him fullness of life, but had led him to an empty life.  He needed to do whatever it would take to survive.

"'So he went and hired himself out to a citizen of that country, who sent him to his fields to feed pigs. He longed to fill his stomach with the pods that the pigs were eating, but no one gave him anything.'"  This was a job that, normally, a Jew would not do.  For, according to Levitical law, "pigs" were unclean.  "And the pig, though it has a split hoof completely divided, does not chew the cud; it is unclean for you. You must not eat their meat or touch their carcasses; they are unclean for you." (Leviticus 11:7-8) See also Deut. 14:8;
Isa. 65:4, 66:17

So, now, he was both unclean and starving.  He hungered for the food that was tossed to the "pigs."  The "pods" were the "hornlike pods of the carob tree." "Taken from Luke by William Hendriksen. Copyright 1978 by Baker Book House."  Apparently, the pigs' food was not available for him to eat.  The "pigs" were fed and not him.  He became lower in value than the "pigs."

(2) A humble return to the father (15:17-24)
"'When he came to his senses, he said, “How many of my father’s hired men have food to spare, and here I am starving to death! I will set out and go back to my father and say to him: Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son; make me like one of your hired men.” So he got up and went to his father. But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him. The son said to him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.” But the father said to his servants, “Quick! Bring the best robe and put it on him. Put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. Bring the fattened calf and kill it. Let’s have a feast and celebrate. For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.” So they began to celebrate.'"

Thought Question #1:  What brought you to your senses and led you to turning to God?

 

 

Thought Question #2:  How does this parable help you when you have sinned and are asking God for His forgiveness?

 

 

"'When he came to his senses, he said, “How many of my father’s hired men have food to spare, and here I am starving to death! I will set out and go back to my father and say to him: Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son; make me like one of your hired men.” So he got up and went to his father.'"

The son's conclusion can be summed up in a few words: "This is not working out as I thought it would."  A supervisor of a youth work here in my home town died recently.  My wife and I attended the memorial service for him.  One of those positively impacted by him said that when a young person tried to justify some foolish choice, he would ask: "How's that working for you?"  The young man in the parable had the lights go on in his head, and he realized that his choice to take his father's inheritance and leave his father had not worked for him.

So, he plans out what he will need to do to go back to his father.  He will need to humble himself, confess his sin, admit that he does not deserve to be his father's son and then ask if he can be one of his father's servants.  Is that not what we need to do any time we drift away from God.  We need to say with the tax-collector of Luke 18:13: "God, have mercy on me, a sinner."

Notice that the "son" recognized that all he had done during his time of "wild living" were sins against God and his "father."  Since, the "father" in the story pictures God the Father, all our sins are sins against Him.  "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." (Psalm 51:4)

Many a person can identify with the prodigal "son" at this point.  There was a point in the lives of most who have become a Christian, where we saw that going away from God morally was not leading to life and fullness, but to death and emptiness.  At this point, we thought, "This is not working, I need to go in the very opposite direction—I need to stop going away from God and start going toward Him.  This is repentance—a change of mind that leads to a change of direction.  Repentance is not just a recognition that we have been foolish, but it is also a recognition that we have chosen sin over God.  So, confession of sin is needed; as the prodigal "son" confesses his sin here.

What is described in verses 17-20 is what we want for our non-believing friends and family.  We want them to fully realize that their God-ignoring pattern of life is not working for them.  We also want them to realize that their rebellion against God and His ways is sin and deserving of God's judgment—a judgment that they will experience unless they turn from it and seek God's mercy through Jesus' death on the cross for them.

The young man's clearer perspective on his life not only revealed to him his sin and foolishness, but it also helped him to see his father's goodness and abundance more clearly.  So, when we come to our "senses," we not only see our sin and foolishness, but we also see God and His goodness more clearly.

"So he got up and went to his father.'"  He not only realized His sin and God's goodness, but he also did something about it.  He returned to the "father."  So, true repentance will result in action.  We will stop disobeying God and start obeying God.  We will seek out Christian fellowship and Christian instruction.

"'But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him.'"  Some believe that a better title for this parable than the Prodigal Son would be the Parable of the Loving Father or Waiting Father.  For, there would be no hope for the "son" returning if it wasn't for the father's forgiveness and love for the "lost" "son."

We learn much here about God's attitude toward us from the "father" in the parable.  First of all, the "father" saw Him "while he was still a long way off."  While his wayward "son" was gone, there were many times he looked down that road hoping to see his "son" coming.  Then, one day, off in the distance, it looked like his "son"; it was his "son"!  So, God eagerly awaits that time when a "lost" person will return.

Second, when the "father" in the parable sees his "son," he is "filled with compassion for him."  So, God is not angry when someone turns back to Him.  He is "filled with compassion for him."  Jesus was also compassionate toward the "lost." See Mk. 1:40-41, 6:34

Thirdly, the "father" "ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him."  He did not wait, stomping his foot, as he glared at his son who came to him in great shame.  No! He "ran to his son" in great joy.  So, God welcomes us when we humbly return to Him.  When we sin and come to God in humble confession, we can feel that we do not deserve anything from God.  But, on His side He is like the father in this parable.  He is overjoyed that we have returned to Him.  "Come near to God and he will come near to you. . . . " (James 4:8a) See Rom. 5:8

The son's repentant spirit is expressed in the words that he had intended to say.  He was cut off by the loving "father" before he could say, "'Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son; make me like one of your hired men.'"  The son pictures us when we feel guilty over some sin.  On our side, we feel unworthy to be a Christian.  But our compassionate Father is joyous to have His wandering child back.  Next, we learn that the "son" is not welcomed back as a lowly servant or even like a "son" who has tarnished his sonship by his time of sin, but he is welcomed back as a fully restored son.

"'But the father said to his servants, “Quick! Bring the best robe and put it on him. Put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. Bring the fattened calf and kill it. Let’s have a feast and celebrate. For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.” So they began to celebrate.'"

Although the son did not feel like he deserved even to be a servant in his father's house, his "father" had him dressed in "the best robe" and "put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet."  Then, he had "a feast" to "celebrate" his return.  So, we do not deserve to be God's children, yet we are dressed in Jesus' righteousness; we are indwelt by God's Spirit, and we are heading toward eternity as a member of God's family!

"'For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.”'"  The "lost" has been "found"!  The "shepherd" was joyous when the "lost sheep" was "found."  The "woman" was joyous when the "lost coin" was "found."  So, the "father" rejoiced when the "lost son" was "found."  So, it was time "to celebrate"!

The Pharisees despised sinners.  In their mind, it was repugnant for them to even think about seeking to reach out to sinners and bring them to God.  Sinners were to be despised.  But God seeks the "lost" and rejoices greatly when they are "found."  He rejoiced greatly when you and I were "found."  And if you are still lost, He will rejoice when you are "found"!

(3) Meanwhile, the older son . . . (15:25-32)
"'Meanwhile, the older son was in the field. When he came near the house, he heard music and dancing. So he called one of the servants and asked him what was going on. “Your brother has come,” he replied, “and your father has killed the fattened calf because he has him back safe and sound.” The older brother became angry and refused to go in. So his father went out and pleaded with him. But he answered his father, “Look! All these years I’ve been slaving for you and never disobeyed your orders. Yet you never gave me even a young goat so I could celebrate with my friends. But when this son of yours who has squandered your property with prostitutes comes home, you kill the fattened calf for him!” “My son,” the father said, “you are always with me, and everything I have is yours. But we had to celebrate and be glad, because this brother of yours was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.”'"

Thought Question:  Why do you believe that the older brother did not rejoice as the father rejoiced?

 

 

"'Meanwhile, the older son was in the field. When he came near the house, he heard music and dancing. So he called one of the servants and asked him what was going on. “Your brother has come,” he replied, “and your father has killed the fattened calf because he has him back safe and sound.”'"

So, here, we have a contrast.  The "younger son" has left the home to live a "wild" life.  The "older son" stayed home and worked hard in the fields.  So, the "older son" hears that there is a party going on.  Is it for him?  Is the "father" having a party in appreciation for his faithfulness and for all the hard work that he has done?  No, the party is for his slacker "brother" who left home and left him with all the work.

"The older brother became angry and refused to go in. So his father went out and pleaded with him. But he answered his father, “Look! All these years I’ve been slaving for you and never disobeyed your orders. Yet you never gave me even a young goat so I could celebrate with my friends. But when this son of yours who has squandered your property with prostitutes comes home, you kill the fattened calf for him!”'"  The "older brother" was focused on his righteousness.  Notice the emphasis on "I," "my," and "me" in his words.

We each may be able to identify with the "older brother."  He sees the party for the "younger son" as a sign that the "father" did not appreciate him and all the years of hard work he had done.  Have we not at some time had those feelings?  Although his feelings are very human, his type of service is not the type of commendable service that Jesus seeks.  His work was a drudgery—it was not a work of love.  He felt that his work had made him superior to those who did not work hard—those like his useless "brother."  His work had led to a prideful outlook on others.  We can easily see that the "older brother" represented the prideful religious leaders of Israel.  There is parable in Luke 18 that describes this prideful attitude.  "To some who were confident of their own righteousness and looked down on everybody else, Jesus told this parable: 'Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee stood up and prayed about himself: “God, I thank you that I am not like other men—robbers, evildoers, adulterers—or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.”'" (Luke 18:9-12)

Also, we see this older brother's lack of love for others in his lack of love for his "younger" "brother."   He does not rejoice when he learns that his "younger" "brother" has returned.  Instead, he resents it that his "father" rejoices at his return and even gives him a party to "celebrate" his return.

As far as the "older brother" is concerned, the "father" had it all wrong.  He should have been shaming the "younger son" for his sinful choice and extolling him.  Instead, the "lost son" is being celebrated and the "older brother" is being marginalized.  The elder "son" despairs that his "father" had not ever given him a party.  As far as the elder "son" is concerned, the "father" had it all wrong.

What can we learn from the "older brother" about what not to be like?  Mainly, that our relationship with God is never based on our righteousness.  Our righteousness is not righteousness.  Our relationship with God will always be based on His righteousness, given to us as a gift—it is grace.  There is nothing in Christianity that should ever lead to our feeling superior to others.  On the contrary, it is all about grace.  It is all about our receiving what we do not deserve. 

We see here the "father" in the parable as being gracious to his self-righteous son.  Just as he went down the road to welcome his prodigal "son," so he comes out to reach out to his offended and self-righteous "son."  So, God still reaches out to us when we are prideful rather than humble.  The book of James is directed to the proud.  He exhorts them to humble themselves. See James 4:1-12

Jesus' strongest words, though, were directed at the hypocritical religious leaders of Israel.   Matthew 23 records His strong words of rebuke to them.  Yet, He ends this strong repudiation of them with these words.  "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)  Jesus also said these words on the cross to those who had conspired together to have Him murdered.  "Jesus said, 'Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.' . . . " (Luke 23:34a)  That is God reaching out to the self-righteous.

How can we recognize self-righteousness in us so that we can avoid it, or so we can confess it so that we can seek a relationship with God based on His grace?  First of all, we need to realize that everything about the Christian life is impossible for us to do without God's grace.  Although our tendency is to focus more on what we do, than on what God has done and is doing, every part of the Christian life is totally dependent on him.  "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 15:5)

God's Spirit enables us to live like a Christian.  Without the filling of the Spirit, we walk in the flesh. See Gal. 5:16-25  If we share the gospel message, we are sharing what He did for those we speak to; we are not sharing anything we can do for them.  If they respond, it is because God opened their hearts to believe.  If we grow in our Christian life, it is because of God's Spirit in us and because of the book that He wrote and guides us to understand.  So, what is there in all of this to make us proud?  Nothing!  "For who makes you different from anyone else? What do you have that you did not receive? And if you did receive it, why do you boast as though you did not?" (I Corinthians 4:7)

Secondly, if we truly love others, it is God's love that enables us to do it.  "For Christ’s love compels us, because we are convinced that one died for all, and therefore all died." (II Corinthians 5:14)  "Yet when I preach the gospel, I cannot boast, for I am compelled to preach. Woe to me if I do not preach the gospel!"
(I Corinthians 9:16)  God's true ministry comes from Him and is empowered by Him.

But, it still is possible for us to understand intellectually that Christianity is totally grace-based, and then look down our noses at those we believe are legalistic.  We, then, do not realize that we are doing the very thing that we condemn.  We also are becoming self-righteous.  For, we are taking credit for our higher understanding of the Christian life.

When I have taught on this parable in the local jail, I liked to show those who come to the church service a painting by Rembrandt of the "father" welcoming his repentant "son" who is on his knees before him.  Standing over this "son" is the older son looking down on him with displeasure.  All Christians are pictured by the repentant son on his knees, for that is how we have come to God the Father.

"'“My son,” the father said, “you are always with me, and everything I have is yours. But we had to celebrate and be glad, because this brother of yours was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.”'"  Here is the theme of all three parables in Luke 15:  When something of value to us is "lost," it brings us great joy when it is "found."  The "sheep," the "coin," and the "son" all had great value to the "shepherd," the "woman," and the 'father."  The problem was, for some reason, the "younger son," was not of great value to the "older son."  His attitude was, "He chose foolishly to leave us, now let him suffer the consequences for his foolish choice."  The religious leaders had that attitude toward the sinners that Jesus associated with.  "He chose to sin, let them go to hell."  We can be infinitely grateful that God is not like that.  He seeks after the lost and rejoices greatly when one of the lost repents and is found.  May we be like the "father" in the parable and not like the "older son."

At a Bible study last night, the subject of this parable came up.  One of the members of the Bible study asked this question: "What if the lost son came back and the first person he saw was not the father, but the older brother?"  The results would have much different.  He probably would not have forgiven his brother, and there would have been no rejoicing.  The religious leaders rejected the repentant sinners; Jesus received them.  We need to be very careful that we treat the lost like Jesus did and not like the religious leaders treated them.

26. Riches and God's kingdom (16)

a. The Parable of the Shrewd Manager (16:1-15)

(1) The Parable (16:1-8a)
"Jesus told his disciples: 'There was a rich man whose manager was accused of wasting his possessions. So he called him in and asked him, “What is this I hear about you? Give an account of your management, because you cannot be manager any longer.” The manager said to himself, “What shall I do now? My master is taking away my job. I’m not strong enough to dig, and I’m ashamed to beg— I know what I’ll do so that, when I lose my job here, people will welcome me into their houses.” So he called in each one of his master’s debtors. He asked the first, “How much do you owe my master?” “Eight hundred gallons of olive oil,” he replied. The manager told him, “Take your bill, sit down quickly, and make it four hundred.” Then he asked the second, “And how much do you owe?” “A thousand bushels of wheat,” he replied. He told him, “Take your bill and make it eight hundred.” The master commended the dishonest manager because he had acted shrewdly.'"

Thought Question:  How does what this shrewd manager did help us to know what we should do as Christians?

 

 

"Jesus told his disciples: 'There was a rich man whose manager was accused of wasting his possessions. So he called him in and asked him, “What is this I hear about you? Give an account of your management, because you cannot be manager any longer.” The manager said to himself, “What shall I do now? My master is taking away my job. I’m not strong enough to dig, and I’m ashamed to beg— I know what I’ll do so that, when I lose my job here, people will welcome me into their houses.”'"

A property "manager" loses his job because he mismanaged his master's possessions.  Now, he is in a dilemma, for he has no other way to make a living.  But, he comes up with a plan that will put him in good standing with people after he loses his job.

"So he called in each one of his master’s debtors. He asked the first, “How much do you owe my master?” “Eight hundred gallons of olive oil,” he replied. The manager told him, “Take your bill, sit down quickly, and make it four hundred.” Then he asked the second, “And how much do you owe?” “A thousand bushels of wheat,” he replied. He told him, “Take your bill and make it eight hundred.” The master commended the dishonest manager because he had acted shrewdly."

What did this "manager" do?  He had devised a way to put those indebted to his master in debt to him.  He gave them an opportunity to get out of debt by having only to pay part of their debt.

What happens when the master hears about what his manager had done?  Surprisingly, he admires him for his clever strategy.  It appears that the master had gained his wealth using similar strategies.  Another possibility is that the master realizes the result of the manager's actions is that both the "manager" and he are held in higher esteem—lowering their debt resulted in them both being held in higher esteem.

Bock proposes another possibility—that the "manager" was able to lower the debt because he lowered his commission.  He finds it hard to believe that a master would commend his "manager" for being dishonest.  Yet, that is what Jesus plainly said.  "The master commended the dishonest manager because he had acted shrewdly." 

Still another possibility is that the owner was adding interest to the original debt.  The "manager," then, removes that interest.  The "rich man" would have then gotten back what was truly owed to him.  But, since Jesus does not tell us anything about interest or a commission being added to the debt, we cannot know if either were added to the debt.  But, we do not need to know these kind of details to understand Jesus' message.

It appears to me that the manager's shrewdness to use his last days as "manager" to best help his future livelihood is what Jesus commends.  The "rich man" who was also shrewd in this way, admired the manager's resourcefulness.  "The owner did not commend the manager for his dishonest or his selfishness but for his shrewdness." "Taken from The Parables of Jesus by Dwight Pentecost.  Copyright 1982 by The Zondervan Corporation."

"The master appreciated the fact that he had been outwitted by a smart rogue and paid his tribute to the wisdom, though not the morality of the act." "Taken from Luke by Leon Morris.  Copyright 1946 by Intervarsity Press." 

(2) How to apply the Parable to our lives (16:8b-13)
"'For the people of this world are more shrewd in dealing with their own kind than are the people of the light. I tell you, use worldly wealth to gain friends for yourselves, so that when it is gone, you will be welcomed into eternal dwellings. Whoever can be trusted with very little can also be trusted with much, and whoever is dishonest with very little will also be dishonest with much. So if you have not been trustworthy in handling worldly wealth, who will trust you with true riches? And if you have not been trustworthy with someone else’s property, who will give you property of your own? “No servant 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.”'"

Thought Question:  What did Jesus want us to learn from His parable and His words?

 

 

"'For the people of this world are more shrewd in dealing with their own kind than are the people of the light. I tell you, use worldly wealth to gain friends for yourselves, so that when it is gone, you will be welcomed into eternal dwellings.'" 
The subject in this parable is our view of money and how we should use it.  The worldly "shrewd" person uses it to better his future life previous to the grave.  The Christian who is "shrewd," uses his or her money to better his or her future eternal life.  Those who plan only for this life, attend universities and work hard to gain worldly wealth.  Those who plan for eternal life, devote themselves to understanding God's book.  Ray Stedman gives this example.  "A lady said to me this week, 'I came to a place where I decided that I would study my Bible as thoroughly and with as much effort as I studied real estate a few years ago to learn how to be a real estate agent.  When I began to put that much effort into it the book came alive, and I've grown so much and understood so much since." "Taken from a message by Ray Stedman on June 22, 1969."

"'to gain friends for yourselves, so that when it is gone, you will be welcomed into eternal dwellings.'"  Those who use their earthly money to help the needy  and for eternal purposes will gain eternal rewards.  Some of the rewards will be the friendships that will be gained for eternity. See also Matt. 6:19-21; 25:31-46

The "manager" in the story had his opportunity to change his future for only a short time.  We also have our money and possessions for only a short time.  We should seek to use our money to change our eternal future and to change others' eternal future.  That would be a "shrewd" choice for us.

"'So if you have not been trustworthy in handling worldly wealth, who will trust you with true riches? And if you have not been trustworthy with someone else’s property, who will give you property of your own?'"  It is, of course, true that if someone works for us, and we discover that they are being dishonest with small amounts of money, we are not going to trust them with a lot of money.  Our faithfulness with a small amount of money, with another person's possessions, and with a position of responsibility will tend to be rewarded by our being trusted with more money, possessions, and responsibility.  Using our money, possessions, and positions of responsibility wisely for eternal purposes will also tend to lead to our being given more of each so that we can more fully serve God. See II Cor. 9:6-8

"'“No servant 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.”'"  We must decide, shall I live for myself and for gaining money for myself, or should I live for God and for furthering His kingdom?  We cannot pursue both at the same time.  Either Jesus is our Lord or money is our lord.  We must choose which will rule in our lives. See Matt. 6:24

(3) The response by the Pharisees (16:14-15)
"The Pharisees, who loved money, heard all this and were sneering at Jesus. He said to them, 'You are the ones who justify yourselves in the eyes of men, but God knows your hearts. What is highly valued among men is detestable in God’s sight.'"

Thought Question: Why do you think that these religious leaders sneered at what Jesus said?

 

 

"The Pharisees, who loved money, heard all this and were sneering at Jesus."  The Son of God used a parable to explain how "money" can be best used for eternal purposes, and the religious leaders sneered.  Why?  They were not thinking of eternal things, but they were worldly in their outlook on "money."  They loved what "money" could do for them on this side of heaven. See I Tim. 6:9-10

There are two quite opposite responses that we can make when sin is exposed in us.  We can humbly admit the truth or we can sneer.  "Sneering" communicates, "How dare you impugn my motives."  "Who are you to say that I have sinned?"  It is looking down on the messenger, rather than dealing with the message.

"He said to them, 'You are the ones who justify yourselves in the eyes of men, but God knows your hearts.'"  These "Pharisees" were very human.  When our hearts are wrong, we do not want people to see it.  So, we put on a mask of righteousness.  We choose to do wrong and then come up with a clever way to justify ourselves.  This is pride's way to handle sin.  Humility's way of handling sin is to come to God like the prodigal son and the tax-collector in Lk 18:13: "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.'"

"What is highly valued among men is detestable in God’s sight.'"  Human achievement and pride can be valued among men, but they are an abomination to God.  "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)

b. Assorted teachings (16:16-18)
"'The Law and the Prophets were proclaimed until John. Since that time, the good news of the kingdom of God is being preached, and everyone is forcing his way into it. It is easier for heaven and earth to disappear than for the least stroke of a pen to drop out of the Law. Anyone who divorces his wife and marries another woman commits adultery, and the man who marries a divorced woman commits adultery.'"

Thought Question:  What do you believe is meant by "everyone is forcing his way into it"?

 

 

"'The Law and the Prophets were proclaimed until John. Since that time, the good news of the kingdom of God is being preached, and everyone is forcing his way into it.'"  The period of time previous to "John" the Baptist was the Old Testament era—the era of "the Law and the Prophets."  But, since "John," the world has begun a new era—the era of "the kingdom of God."  "The kingdom of God" began because Jesus Christ the King had arrived.  "John" the Baptist introduced the King to the Jewish world.  How does this, then, apply to the previous verses?  Israel and the Jewish religious leaders needed to realize that they no longer were to think merely in terms of "the Law and the Prophets"; they now needed to learn the ways of the King and His "kingdom." 

"'everyone is forcing his way into it.'"  "The meaning is disputed, but it probably speaks of the fierce earnestness with which people were responding to the gospel of the kingdom." "NIV Study Bible note."  People do not truly come to Christ and His "kingdom" in a half-hearted and passive way.  We come to Christ when we desperately recognize our need.  "Make every effort to enter through the narrow door, because many, I tell you, will try to enter and will not be able to." (Luke 13:24)

"'It is easier for heaven and earth to disappear than for the least stroke of a pen to drop out of the Law.'"  The fact that we are in the new era of Jesus' "kingdom," does not mean that the Old Testament has been nullified or is no longer important.  The standards in Jesus' "kingdom" do not replace the Old Testament standards; but, rather, they fulfill them.  "Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. I tell you the truth, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished." (Matthew 5:17-18)

The "Law and the Prophets" predicted that Jesus would be our High Priest who would give His life as a sacrifice for our sins.  When Jesus was saying these words, not all that was predicted in the Old Testament had taken place.  His life, death, and resurrection fulfilled much that was symbolized and predicted in the Old Testament. See Ps. 22; Isa. 53; Ps. 16:9 and many more.

"'the least stroke of a pen to drop out of the Law.'"  One way to attack the Bible is to say that there are parts of the Bible that are in error.  The argument then becomes, "If part of it is in error, how can the rest of it be trusted?"  But here, Jesus the Son of God, states clearly that every letter and every part of a letter is true and dependable.  He, of course, is not speaking of our translations of the Bible, but He is speaking of the Bible in its original wording.

"'Anyone who divorces his wife and marries another woman commits adultery, and the man who marries a divorced woman commits adultery.'"  Why does Jesus bring up this teaching on divorce and "adultery" at this time?  He may be giving them an example where what was taught in the Old Testament still needed to be obeyed in New Testament times.

There is a very human tendency to try to find some loophole in the law.  Jesus makes it very clear here that the change that His "kingdom" brought in, did not allow divorce.  The New Testament does not a bring in a license to sin. See
Rom. 6:1-2
  In fact, his "kingdom" rule is stronger on divorce than the Old Testament.  In the Old Testament, God hated divorce, but man's sin was so great, that He allowed divorce on a limited basis to restrain the number of divorces.  "Jesus replied, 'Moses permitted you to divorce your wives because your hearts were hard. But it was not this way from the beginning.'" (Matthew 19:8) See Deut. 24:1-4; Matt. 5:31-32, 19:1-12  In Matthew 19:9, we learn that Jesus' standard was stricter than it was in the Old Testament—divorce was only allowed in cases of "sexual immorality." (NIV 2011)

c. The Parable of the Rich Man and Lazarus (16:19-31)

(1) The Parable—two different destinations for a poor man and a rich man (16:19-24)
"'There was a rich man who was dressed in purple and fine linen and lived in luxury every day. At his gate was laid a beggar named Lazarus, covered with sores and longing to eat what fell from the rich man’s table. Even the dogs came and licked his sores. The time came when the beggar died and the angels carried him to Abraham’s side. The rich man also died and was buried. In hell, where he was in torment, he looked up and saw Abraham far away, with Lazarus by his side. So he called to him, “Father Abraham, have pity on me and send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue, because I am in agony in this fire.”'"

Thought Question:  Do you believe this is a parable or do you believe that Jesus is describing an actual event?  Please explain your answer.

 

 

"'There was a rich man who was dressed in purple and fine linen and lived in luxury every day. At his gate was laid a beggar named Lazarus, covered with sores and longing to eat what fell from the rich man’s table. Even the dogs came and licked his sores. The time came when the beggar died and the angels carried him to Abraham’s side. The rich man also died and was buried. In hell, where he was in torment, he looked up and saw Abraham far away, with Lazarus by his side. So he called to him, “Father Abraham, have pity on me and send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue, because I am in agony in this fire.”'"

The beginning of this parable gives us a black and white contrast between a "rich man" and a very poor man named "Lazarus."  The "rich man" had dressed in the most expensive clothes and "lived in luxury every day."  But, "at his gate" there was "Lazarus," a "beggar" who would have been happy just to have some of the rich man's garbage.  The "rich man" feasted within his house; outside was "Lazarus," "covered with sores," surrounded by "dogs" who licked at his "sores."

Jesus had been emphasizing the wise use of money in 16:1-15.  He continues this theme in this parable.  There will always be the "rich" and the poor.  What is the proper solution to this sad reality?  Some believe that the solution is to heavily tax the rich and give the money to the poor.  The problem with this strategy is that it does not work.  What often makes the rich wealthy is hard work and creativity.  Giving money to the poor encourages dependency and laziness—"The world owes me a living" type of thinking.  The Bible teaches against giving money to those who are unwilling to work for it.  "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)

Also, a good portion of the money that comes from taxing the "rich" goes to pay for the government bureaucracy that needs to be set up to give away the money.  The more money that is given, the more government bureaucrats that are enriched. 

God worked into the laws of Israel a solution to the wide divide that grows between the "rich" and the poor.  Here is a list of them: (1) The year of Jubilee.  A poor person who, out of financial need, was forced to sell his property received it back on the year of Jubilee (once every 50 years).  This prevented some people from getting richer and richer and the poor from becoming poorer and poorer. See Lev. 25:23-28  (2) Part of the crops were to be allotted to the poor to help them not to go hungry. See Deut. 23:24-25; Matt. 12:1  (3) The people of Israel were to be compassionate and kind to the needy. See Deut. 24:14-15; Prov. 14:21, 19:17, 21:13, 28:22, 27 See also Matt. 25:35-46

The "rich man" in the parable was oblivious to plight of the poor as he feasted.  For, "Lazarus" starved right outside of his "gate."  Today, much of the solution to the needs of the poor is met by the generous giving of Christians.  Most outreaches to the poor and needy come from the hearts of compassionate Christians—Gospel missions, food and clothing banks, medical missions, disaster relief, and other missions of mercy.  The "rich man" in Jesus' story had the means and the opportunity to help "Lazarus, but he was focused only on himself and on living a life of luxury and self-indulgence.

"'The time came when the beggar died and the angels carried him to Abraham’s side.'"  Though "Lazarus" did not experience a place of favor in this world, he was favored in heaven.  He must have also cried out to God in his great need.  When he died, "angels carried him to Abraham’s side."  "'Abraham's side' was a Jewish idiom for the presence of God." "Taken from The Parables of Jesus by Dwight Pentecost.  Copyright 1982 by The Zondervan Corporation."  "To be in Abraham's bosom is to the Jew to be in Paradise.  In John 1:18 the  Logos [Jesus] is in the bosom of the Father." "Taken from Word Pictures in the New Testament by A. T. Robertson.  Copyright 1930 Broadman Press." See also Matt. 8:11

"'The rich man also died and was buried. In hell ["in hades" in NIV 2011], where he was in torment, he looked up and saw Abraham far away, with Lazarus by his side.'" 

The intermediate state for believers and unbelievers between now and the final state of heaven is not as clear to us as are other areas of the Bible's teachings.  Seventh Day Adventists teach what is called "soul sleep"—the belief that after we die, we cease to exist and all that is left of us is a dead body until the resurrection of the body in the last days.  Others believe that only our souls remain until we receive our eternal bodies at Jesus' second coming.  Still others believe that we will have temporary spiritual bodies until we receive our permanent heavenly bodies at the Second Coming.  My first pastor, Ray Stedman, believed that in eternity there is no time, so all who die in Christ will immediately be at the time of Jesus' Second Coming where we will also immediately receive our new bodies.  So, in his view, Moses, Abraham, Paul, and us will immediately after our deaths be at the Second Coming at the same time and receive our new bodies.  Dr. Earl Radmacher, former president of Western Seminary, said at an ordination process I was part of years ago that theologians have not come to a satisfactory conclusion of this subject of the intermediate state. See also Matt. 17:1-4; Lk. 23:43; I Cor. 15:50-57; II Cor. 5:1-5, 12:4; I Thess. 4:13-17; Rev. 2:7; 6:9-11

My own conclusion about the intermediate state is that each time I have come up with a view, there has been a verse or verses that has contradicted my new view.  For example, Ray Stedman's view that when we leave this temporal world, we and everyone who has died in the Lord will all be together immediately in heaven at the time of the Second Coming is contradicted by Revelation 6:9-11.  "When he opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of those who had been slain because of the word of God and the testimony they had maintained. They called out in a loud voice, 'How long, Sovereign Lord, holy and true, until you judge the inhabitants of the earth and avenge our blood?' Then each of them was given a white robe, and they were told to wait a little longer, until the number of their fellow servants and brothers who were to be killed as they had been was completed." (Revelation 6:9-11)  They have died and are still aware of time, and are waiting for the Second Coming.  It may be an area where we will only get our final answer when we, like "Lazarus," are in God's presence.

Another issue regarding this intermediate state is where the dead in Christ and those outside of Christ were located before Christ and where they are located today.  Wiersbe summarizes the view that I have heard and read from Bible teachers.  Hades "is the temporary realm of the dead as they await the judgment.  The permanent place of punishment for the lost is 'hell,' the lake of fire.  One day, death will give up the bodies and hades will give up the souls (Rev. 20:13) . . .  and the lost will stand before Christ in judgment (Rev. 20:15).  From our Lord's description, we learn that hades had two sections: a paradise portion called 'Abraham's bosom,' and a punishment portion.  It is believed by many theologians that our Lord emptied the paradise part of hades when He arose from the dead and returned to the Father (John 20:17; Eph. 4:8-10).  We know that today 'paradise' is in heaven, where Jesus reigns in glory (Lk 23:43; II Cor. 12:1-4)." "Taken from Be Compassionate by Warren Wiersbe.  Copyright 1998 by David C. Cook." 

Hendriksen has another view: "In the present parable Hades is clearly the place of torments and of the flame.  It is hell." "Taken from Luke by William Hendriksen. Copyright 1978 by Baker Book House." 

"'In hell, where he was in torment, he looked up and saw Abraham far away, with Lazarus by his side. So he called to him, “Father Abraham, have pity on me and send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue, because I am in agony in this fire.”'"

So, now, the one who showed no mercy is the one who is crying out for mercy.  But, he sill appears to see "Lazarus" as someone of a lower status than him who should come to him in his need as "Abraham" orders him to come.

"'In hell [hades], where he was in torment, he looked up and saw Abraham far away, with Lazarus by his side. So he called to him,"  This part of Jesus' story raises a number of questions about what it has been like for those like the "rich man" and "Lazarus" after they have died.  Can those in hades see those in paradise?  Can those in hades talk to someone in paradise?  What, then, will it be like in heaven and hell?  Do we get answers to these questions from Jesus' story here?  Three ways of looking at Jesus' story affect the answers to these questions.  Some think that because the poor man in the story is given a name, that this is not a parable; but it describes an actual event.  Another possibility is that it is a story, but it is a story that describes accurately what heaven is like.  A third possibility is that it is a story designed to get a point across, but it does not describe what it is like after death.

Robertson held the last outlook of the three.  He believed that this parable does not describe what it is actually like in heaven.  "The Jews believed that Gehenna and Paradise were close together.  This detail in the parable does not demand that we believe it." "Taken from Word Pictures in the New Testament by A. T. Robertson.  Copyright 1930 Broadman Press."  Hendriksen had the same view.  "The condition of the dead and the communication between them represented here in very literal, earthly terms, so that a vivid impression is created.  It should be clear, nevertheless, that much of what is here conveyed cannot be interpreted literally.  For example, we read about the lifting up of the eyes, of seeing people afar off, of a finger and a tongue, even though we have been told that the rich man had been buried." "Taken from Luke by William Hendriksen. Copyright 1978 by Baker Book House." 

Boice felt that it does not matter.  "I do not know whether our Lord means to teach here that those in hell can literally see those who are in heaven and that those in heaven can see those who are in hell.  He may mean that.  But, again, it may be only figurative language.  But what does it matter?  It is not a literal seeing with the eyes.  It is at least a seeing with the understanding." "Taken from The Parables of Jesus by James Boice.  Copyright 1983 by The Moody Bible Institute." 

Inrig has a similar conclusion: "We are not intended to use this parable to develop a geography of heaven and hell or to develop ideas about our form of existence prior to the rapture.  The Savior is using earthly language (tongue, thirst, water, etc.) to teach eternal truths about what awaits on the other side of death." "Taken from The Parables by Gary Inrig.  Copyright 1991 by Gary Inrig."

Inrig may have the correct way of looking at this story of Jesus, in regard to what it tells us about the after life in heaven or hell.  "First, Hades is real.  The language may be symbolic (fire, tongue, water), but the experience is real . . . Second, Hades is terrible.  The rich man is not annihilated or unconscious.  He is in 'torment' (16:23, 28) and 'in agony' (16:24-25). . . Third, Hades is final . . . We may raise questions about the meaning of some of the story's details.  For example, I do not think we are to conclude that people in heaven continually witness the torments of hell or that conversations are held back and forth.  But our questions must not blur the clear and awful message coming from the lips of the Incarnation of eternal love.  Hell is an awful, awesome, eternal reality, indescribably fearful to consider." "Inrig."

(2) The rich man's request is denied. (16:25-31)
"'But Abraham replied, “Son, remember that in your lifetime you received your good things, while Lazarus received bad things, but now he is comforted here and you are in agony. And besides all this, between us and you a great chasm has been fixed, so that those who want to go from here to you cannot, nor can anyone cross over from there to us.” He answered, “Then I beg you, father, send Lazarus to my father’s house, for I have five brothers. Let him warn them, so that they will not also come to this place of torment.” Abraham replied, “They have Moses and the Prophets; let them listen to them.” “No, father Abraham,” he said, “but if someone from the dead goes to them, they will repent.” He said to him, “If they do not listen to Moses and the Prophets, they will not be convinced even if someone rises from the dead.”'"

Thought Question:  Why do you believe someone rising from the dead is not sufficient to convince an unbeliever to repent and save himself or herself from eternal judgment?

 

 

"'But Abraham replied, “Son, remember that in your lifetime you received your good things, while Lazarus received bad things, but now he is comforted here and you are in agony. And besides all this, between us and you a great chasm has been fixed, so that those who want to go from here to you cannot, nor can anyone cross over from there to us.”'"

Abraham's message to the "rich man" was, "It's too late for you!"  The two reasons given are the following:  First, He chose self-indulgence over obeying God and giving to the needy.  In other words, he made the wrong choice when he had an opportunity to make a choice.  Secondly, it is not possible for anyone to travel from where "Lazarus" is and where the "rich man" is.

"Abraham tells the doomed man that there is a vast chasm, a yawning gorge—a typically Palestinian figure, for the country where this parable was spoken has many of these ravines . . . separating the lost from the redeemed.  Crossing over from one side to the other is, therefore, forever and absolutely impossible.  This a graphic and unforgettable symbolic representation of the irreversibility of a person's lot after death.  The chasm was intended for rendering crossing over impossible." "Hendriksen."

"He answered, “Then I beg you, father, send Lazarus to my father’s house, for I have five brothers. Let him warn them, so that they will not also come to this place of torment.”'"  The "rich man" appears to accept that his state is permanent.  Only after he can do nothing to change his status does he ask "Abraham" to send "Lazarus" to warn his "brothers."  He believes that if his "brothers" got a visitor from the dead, they would listen to him.  He also may be implying that if he had received a visitor from the dead that he would have listened.

"'Abraham replied, “They have Moses and the Prophets; let them listen to them.” “No, father Abraham,” he said, “but if someone from the dead goes to them, they will repent.” He said to him, “If they do not listen to Moses and the Prophets, they will not be convinced even if someone rises from the dead.”'"

The argument of the "rich man" is that people would believe if God would do some astounding thing to get their attention.  Abraham's argument is that God has done many astounding things to get their attention.  One of the astounding things is the Bible.  God has given us His book with many instructions and warnings about what will happen if we do not follow His instructions.  We can either not read His book or we can read it and ignore His warnings.  If someone does not read His book or ignores the warnings that are in it after reading it, it reveals that he or she has a hardened heart—it reveals a hardened heart that does not want to hear what God has to say.  That type of person will not change even if a resurrected person appears to them.

Just before Jesus resurrected from the cross, there was a man named Lazarus (not this "Lazarus") whom Jesus raised "from the dead."  Nevertheless, people did not believe in Jesus.  Jesus, Himself, rose "from the dead"; yet, there are untold number of people who have not believed in Him. See Jn. 11:38-53, 12:9-11, 37-41 See also Numb. 14:11; Matt. 11:20-24, 28:11-15; Acts 4:16

The "rich man" and his "brothers" had access to the Scriptures.  Today, we have access to the Bible.  We still have opportunity to follow God's instructions so that we will avoid the regrets that ignoring Him and His way of life will produce for us on the other side of the grave.  His way, though, is the rich life; even for life on this side of the grave.  "The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full." (John 10:10)  "What good is it for a man to gain the whole world, yet forfeit his soul?" (Mark 8:36)

27. Jesus teaches His disciples His ways. (17:1-18:34)

a. Do not cause people to sin (17:1-2)
"Jesus said to his disciples: 'Things that cause people to sin are bound to come, but woe to that person through whom they come. It would be better for him to be thrown into the sea with a millstone tied around his neck than for him to cause one of these little ones to sin.'"

Thought Question:  Who, do you believe, are the "little ones" that Jesus refers to here?

 

 

"Jesus said to his disciples: 'Things that cause people to sin are bound to come, but woe to that person through whom they come. It would be better for him to be thrown into the sea with a millstone tied around his neck than for him to cause one of these little ones to sin.'" See also Rom. 14:13; I Cor. 10:32; I Jn. 2:10  See also Matt. 18:1-9

In light of the truth that our decisions have eternal consequences, the decisions made here are vast in their significance.  With that in mind, Jesus gives us instructions on how we can be a good influence in our world and not be a bad influence.  Jesus states the reality that temptations to do wrong are certain to come along, but we are not to be part of that tempting influence on others.

Riches can be a temptation to sin.  But, if we become like the "rich man" in the parable, we will also experience his type of consequences.  The Pharisees were "rich" and probably were like the "rich man" in the parable.  Their self-indulgent lifestyle became a temptation to seek after riches, rather than to seek after Jesus.  Jesus warns his listeners that if they are the cause of people being led into sin, the consequences will be severe for them.

"little ones"  In Luke 10:21, "little ones" refers to those who were like "little children" in their receptivity to Jesus' words.  "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) See also Mk. 10:24

"It would be better for him to be thrown into the sea with a millstone tied around his neck than for him to cause one of these little ones to sin."  Jesus appears to want to shock them into paying attention to what He is saying by describing a horrible way to die.  He wanted to get their attention about the serious consequences of leading away from the faith those who have a childlike receptivity to His ways.

A "millstone" was a large and heavy stone used to grind grain.  To have one of these heavy stones tied to one's neck and "thrown into the sea" meant a certain, helpless, and horrible death.

It is obvious that Jesus meant to warn them and warn us about the severe consequences of leading someone astray.  How does this apply to us?  In Romans 14, Paul warns his readers not to do that which would cause someone to sin against their conscience.  We are not to do that which our conscience tells us is wrong, even if it is not a sin.  When we do that which we feel is wrong to do, we are choosing to sin even if it is not sinful for us to do; for, we are willfully disobeying what we believe God wants to do.  "Therefore let us stop passing judgment on one another. Instead, make up your mind not to put any stumbling block or obstacle in your brother’s way. As one who is in the Lord Jesus, I am fully convinced that no food is unclean in itself. But if anyone regards something as unclean, then for him it is unclean." (Romans 14:13-14)

There are many ways we can tempt people to sin.  For example, if we sin and justify it, it can become a temptation to others to also sin and justify it—just like we have done.  For example, if we are justifying being bitter toward someone, we can embolden others to also be bitter toward others.  If we slander someone, others can more easily think it is also okay for them to slander others.  Any sin that we practice and justify becomes more of a temptation for others to do.

Also, if we believe that something is not sinful, but we know that someone else believes it is sinful, we need to be careful that we do not influence them to do what they believe to be sinful.  This is another example of how we can tempt someone to sin.

b. Forgiveness is required (17:3-4)
"So watch yourselves. 'If your brother sins, rebuke him, and if he repents, forgive him. If he sins against you seven times in a day, and seven times comes back to you and says, “I repent,” forgive him.'"

Thought Question:  What command in these verses that  Jesus commands us to do is hard for you to do?  Why is it hard?

 

 

"So watch yourselves. 'If your brother sins, rebuke him, and if he repents, forgive him. If he sins against you seven times in a day, and seven times comes back to you and says, “I repent,” forgive him.'"

What if we sin?  Rather than justifying it, we must choose instead to confess it as sin and seek forgiveness from those that we have sinned against.  Here, Jesus commands us to forgive those who sin against us and ask our forgiveness.

If a Christian "sins" "against" us, we are to "rebuke him, and if he repents," we are to "forgive him."  There are a number of places in the New Testament where we are given instructions like this. See Matt. 18:15-35; II Cor. 2:5-11; Gal. 6:1; I Thess. 5:14-15; Titus 1:10-14; James 5:15-16; I Jn. 1:5-10

"'If he sins against you seven times in a day, and seven times comes back to you and says, “I repent,” forgive him.'"  Listen to Jesus' words in Matthew 18:22:  "Jesus answered, 'I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times.'"  Our forgiveness should be without limit, just as God's forgiveness of us is without limit.  Love "keeps no record of wrongs." (I Cor. 13:5b)

c. The importance of faith (17:5-6)
"The apostles said to the Lord, 'Increase our faith!' He replied, 'If you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mulberry tree, “Be uprooted and planted in the sea,” and it will obey you.'"

Thought Question:  When has your faith, though small, resulted in something quite large happening (moved` a tree or a mountain)?

 

 

"The apostles said to the Lord, 'Increase our faith!'"  "The apostles" probably felt that forgiving "seven times" required more "faith" than they had.  So, they asked Jesus to "increase" their "faith."

"He replied, 'If you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mulberry tree, “Be uprooted and planted in the sea,” and it will obey you.'"  At another time, Jesus said something similar to this.  "He replied, 'Because you have so little faith. I tell you the truth, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, “Move from here to there” and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you.'" (Matthew 17:20)

Why then do we see no mountains being moved and no trees being "uprooted"?  The issue is not what we would like to see happen, but what would God like to see happen.  Moses' faith opened up the Red Sea because God wanted it to happen. See Exod. 14:15-31  The walls of Jericho fell down because God wanted it to happen. See Josh. 6:1-21  If God desires to do something, it takes very little faith on our part.  God wanted to conquer the Promised Land through the Jewish people.  Ten of the twelve spies sent into the land to scout the size and strength of the opposition concluded that the enemy was too strong.  Two of the spies—Joshua and Caleb—concluded that if God wanted them to defeat the formidable foes in the land, God was able to defeat them. See Numb. 13-14

The issue for us today is that we need to grow in our understanding of God's ways.  Pray to have our eyes open—see Eph. 1:15-23—and our hearts filled with Christ—see Eph. 3:14-22.  Then, as we come to believe what God wants us to do, we are to pray with the prayer of faith.  Then, we will see mountains moved and trees "uprooted"—lives changed, family's restored, obstacles removed, and evil influences defeated.  "If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be given you." (John 15:7) "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." (II Corinthians 10:4-5)  "This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us. And if we know that he hears us—whatever we ask—we know that we have what we asked of him." (I John 5:14-15)  "Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen." (Ephesians 3:20-21)

Mountains have been moved and trees have been "uprooted" through the centuries.  Children who are born sinners have come to faith.  People who had no interest in God have become ardent followers of Jesus.  Evil empires have come tumbling down.  The church continues to survive and grow all over the world.  You and I became Christians.  Still, we say with these early "apostles," "Increase our faith!" 

d. Servanthood described (17:7-10)
"'Suppose one of you had a servant plowing or looking after the sheep. Would he say to the servant when he comes in from the field, “Come along now and sit down to eat”? Would he not rather say, “Prepare my supper, get yourself ready and wait on me while I eat and drink; after that you may eat and drink”? Would he thank the servant because he did what he was told to do? So you also, when you have done everything you were told to do, should say, “We are unworthy servants; we have only done our duty.”'"

Thought Question: What do these words of Jesus tell us about how we should look upon our service to Him?

 

 

"'Suppose one of you had a servant plowing or looking after the sheep. Would he say to the servant when he comes in from the field, “Come along now and sit down to eat”? Would he not rather say, “Prepare my supper, get yourself ready and wait on me while I eat and drink; after that you may eat and drink”? Would he thank the servant because he did what he was told to do? So you also, when you have done everything you were told to do, should say, “We are unworthy servants; we have only done our duty.”'"

This parable does not teach us that we are God's involuntary slaves, for Jesus later calls His disciples His friends.  "You are my friends if you do what I command. I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you." (John 15:14-15)  Jesus did not mean that we are to serve God as a slavish duty.

So, what did Jesus mean?  Jesus, here, teaches us that serving the God who created us and sent His Son to die for us will never put Him in our debt.  Rather, no matter how much we do in serving Him, we will still be in debt to Him.  When we serve Him, we are doing what we should do in response to His love, grace and generosity to us.  No matter how faithfully we serve Him; no matter long we serve Him; and no matter strenuously we serve Him—"we have only done our duty."

"Christians should acknowledge that God owes them nothing and that they owe him everything, even their very lives." "ESV Study Bible note." See I Cor. 4:7

e. Thankfulness described (17:11-19)
"Now on his way to Jerusalem, Jesus traveled along the border between Samaria and Galilee. As he was going into a village, ten men who had leprosy met him. They stood at a distance and called out in a loud voice, 'Jesus, Master, have pity on us!' When he saw them, he said, 'Go, show yourselves to the priests.' And as they went, they were cleansed. One of them, when he saw he was healed, came back, praising God in a loud voice. He threw himself at Jesus’ feet and thanked him—and he was a Samaritan. Jesus asked, 'Were not all ten cleansed? Where are the other nine? Was no one found to return and give praise to God except this foreigner?' Then he said to him, 'Rise and go; your faith has made you well.'"

Thought Question:  Name five persons who have helped you through the years that you are thankful for.

 

 

"Now on his way to Jerusalem, Jesus traveled along the border between Samaria and Galilee. As he was going into a village, ten men who had leprosy met him."

This is Jesus' last trip to "Jerusalem."  Luke traces this trip. See 9:50-52, 13:22, 14:25, 17:11, 18:35, 19:1,11,28,41,45

Luke tells us of Jesus, at that time, meeting "ten men who had leprosy."  This "leprosy" was highly contagious and the Old Testament required that lepers isolate themselves so they would not to spread the disease to others.  "The Lord said to Moses, 'Command the Israelites to send away from the camp anyone who has an infectious skin disease or a discharge of any kind, or who is ceremonially unclean because of a dead body. Send away male and female alike; send them outside the camp so they will not defile their camp, where I dwell among them.'" (Numbers 5:1-3)  They were also to cry out to the people to warn them to stay away from them.  "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) See also 5:12-16

"They stood at a distance and called out in a loud voice, 'Jesus, Master, have pity on us!'"  For the most part, the people of Israel did not have "pity on" them.  But, they hoped that Jesus would have "pity on" them. See also Matt. 9:27, 15:22; Mk. 10:47-48; Lk. 18:38-39

"When he saw them, he said, 'Go, show yourselves to the priests.' And as they went, they were cleansed."  Jesus did show compassion on them, but He told them while they were still leprous to go "to the priests."  The "priests" needed to certify that they were clean of the disease, before they could freely move about with other people. See Lev. 14:1-32  They needed to have faith for them to leave Jesus while there was still no sign, except Jesus' words, that they were going to be healed.  We are like them, for we as Christians have not risen from the dead; yet, we believe that we will rise from the dead.  We are trusting in Jesus' promise that we will rise from the dead.  "Jesus said to her, 'I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies.'" (John 11:25)

Naaman, in the Old Testament, was to go to the Jordan River and wash himself there, before he would be healed. See II Kings 5:10-15  Here, we are told that "as they went, they were cleansed." 

"One of them, when he saw he was healed, came back, praising God in a loud voice. He threw himself at Jesus’ feet and thanked him—and he was a Samaritan."  Years ago, a young man in the Awana children's program
, said to me, "Do you do this for free?"  I said, "yes."  He said, "Thank you."  His words caught me completely by surprise.  Here, one of the "ten" lepers "thanked" Jesus.

Ingratitude is very common among us humans.  We are ungrateful to God.  Most do not thank God before we eat our meals.  Few realize the great sacrifice of love that that God the Father and God the Son made for all of us on that cross in Jerusalem.  Most are like the soldiers who gambled for Jesus' clothing while He hung on the cross.  He was just above them in agony, dying for their sins and for the sins of all peoples of all time; but they were oblivious to what was taking place right above them.  So, most are oblivious to what the Son of God has done for us.

We humans tend toward ingratitude in so many ways.  We tend to be ungrateful toward our parents.  At my mom's funeral, I remembered how many letters she sent to me and how few I sent to her.  We tend to be ungrateful for what our spouses do for us.  After I retired, I took on more of the household chores.  I wondered how my wife did them before I retired,  More often, we are like the nine lepers who did not thank Jesus than we are like the one leper that did thank Him.

"and he was a Samaritan."  Like the Good Samaritan of Luke 10, the good example is a despised "Samaritan." 

The Christian life began with God's healing grace.  It is lived out, motivated by gratitude for God's love and grace toward us.  "Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another." (1 John 4:11)  "We love because he first loved us." (1 John 4:19)

Why was this "Samaritan" part of the "ten"?  We can take an educated guess that these humbled lepers were less likely to be prejudiced in their outlook on others. If we understand that our sinfulness is an even greater plague which not only separates us from people as the "leprosy" of these "ten" separated them from people, but our sin separates us from God, we will be more accepting of other sinners.  We are not the only ones who need God's grace.

"Jesus asked, 'Were not all ten cleansed? Where are the other nine? Was no one found to return and give praise to God except this foreigner?'"  As Wiersbe summarizes, "Too often we are content to enjoy the gift but we forget the Giver." 

The sad reality is that God's gifts are not fully enjoyed until we respond to them with gratitude and a life of joyful service.  The apostle John calls this complete love or completed love—responding to love with love.  "And so we know and rely on the love God has for us. God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in him. In this way, love is made complete among us so that we will have confidence on the day of judgment, because in this world we are like him. 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. We love because he first loved us." (I John 4:16-19) See also I Tim. 4:3-5

"'except this foreigner?'"  The Jews had been blessed above other nations in so many ways.  Yet, it is a "foreigner" that is grateful and not the "nine" Jews.

"Then he said to him, 'Rise and go; your faith has made you well.'"  The other "nine" were healed, but we do not know whether or not they were saved from the penalty of sin.  This "Samaritan" who praised God for his healing showed his "faith" in God.  He was given assurance that his "faith" in God had saved him.

Gratitude is a sign of "faith."  In Colossians 3:15, it simply says, "And be thankful."  It may be impossible to be very unhappy and very grateful at the same time.  Psalm 103 is a Psalm in which David expresses his gratitude to God.  It can also be our expression of gratitude to God.  Here are some of the verses.  "Praise the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits— who forgives all your sins and heals all your diseases," (Psalm 103:2-3)  "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 103:10-13) "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)

f. Jesus' future return (17:20-37)

(1) The kingdom of God is within you. (17:20-21)
"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.'"

Thought Question:  Do you believe that Jesus is telling them that the kingdom of God is inside of them or is with them because He the King is with them?  Please explain your answer.

 

 

"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.'"

These few words of Jesus are variously interpreted.  Two respected Greek scholars translate the words "within you" very differently.  First of all, here is Robertson's translation: "(ento humon).  This is the obvious, and as I think, the necessary meaning of entos ["within you" or "in you"].  The examples cited of the use of entos in Xenophon and Plato where entos means 'among' do not bear out when investigated.  Field (Ot. Norv.) 'contends that there is no clear instance of entos in the sense of among' (Bruce), and rightly so.  What Jesus says to the Pharisees is that they, as others, are to look for the kingdom of God within themselves, not in outward displays of supernatural manifestations." "Taken from Word Pictures in the New Testament by A. T. Robertson.  Copyright 1930 Broadman Press."

Now, here is Vincent's translation, "Within.  Better, in the midst of [the NIV 2011 translates it 'in your midst'] . . . Moreover, Jesus is not speaking of the inwardness  of the kingdom, but of its presence." "Taken from Word Studies in the New Testament by M. R. Vincent.  Copyright 1972 by Associated Publishers and Authors."

Is Jesus speaking of an inward "kingdom of God"?  Is He saying that there is a "kingdom" that is attainable to them, if they will only be receptive to it on the inside of them?  Or, is He saying that He the King is in their midst?

It appears to me that Jesus is speaking of a "kingdom" that is always available to all men if we will only seek after God's rule with all of our hearts.  "You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart." (Jeremiah 29:13)  "God did this so that men would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from each one of us." (Acts 17:27) See also Isa. 55:6; Rom. 10:5-13

The Jewish religious leaders were focused on an earthly King who would conquer all of Israel's enemies.  Jesus came rather as a King that would rule in the hearts of those who yearn for and desire His rule in their hearts.  That King was in their midst and He desired to rule in their hearts—"within them." See also Matt. 23:37 where we learn that these Jewish leaders "were not willing" for Him to be the King of their hearts.

Listen also to Jesus' words to Pilate.  "Jesus said, 'My kingdom is not of this world. If it were, my servants would fight to prevent my arrest by the Jews. But now my kingdom is from another place.' 'You are a king, then!' said Pilate. Jesus answered, 'You are right in saying I am a king. In fact, for this reason I was born, and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone on the side of truth listens to me.'" (John 18:36-37)

Jesus came from heaven to offer a "kingdom" that is like what it will be like in heaven.  It is for all those who desire God's holy and loving life over the selfish life of this world.  "Your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven." (Matthew 6:10)

To enter His "kingdom" we must be "poor in spirit."  "Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven." (Matthew 5:3)  We must be born again.  "In reply Jesus declared, 'I tell you the truth, no one can see the kingdom of God unless he is born again.'" (John 3:3)  Then, God's "kingdom" will be "within us."  "For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking, but of righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit," (Romans 14:17)  And, we will have left Satan's kingdom and entered God's "kingdom."  "For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves," (Colossians 1:13)

So, the meaning of Jesus' words may be summarized in the following way:  "You do not need to focus on signs of the coming of the "kingdom," for I the King am right in front of you and the "kingdom" that I have come to bring to you, you can experience right now if you choose today to obey me as your King."  Of course, the King also desires to rule in the hearts of those who today choose to obey Him as their King.

(2) What Jesus' future coming will be like (17:22-25)
"Then he said to his disciples, 'The time is coming when you will long to see one of the days of the Son of Man, but you will not see it. Men will tell you, “There he is!” or “Here he is!” Do not go running off after them. For the Son of Man in his day will be like the lightning, which flashes and lights up the sky from one end to the other. But first he must suffer many things and be rejected by this generation.'"

Thought Question: What do these words tell us about how Jesus' Second Coming will differ from His first coming?

 

 

"Then he said to his disciples, 'The time is coming when you will long to see one of the days of the Son of Man, but you will not see it. Men will tell you, “There he is!” or “Here he is!” Do not go running off after them.'"

It is obvious that we who are Christians can become so obsessed with Jesus' return that we neglect the work that God has for us to do today.  Jesus warns us here in these verses not to do this.  We are not to become so obsessed with every rumor about His return that it takes our focus away from being fully engaged in serving Him each day.

Just before Jesus' ascension into heaven (see Acts 1:6-11), Jesus gave His disciples the mission that they were to busy themselves with until His return.  "Then Jesus came to them and said, 'All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and 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. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.'" (Matthew 28:18-20)  We are to continue on with this mission until the very end of the age.

Today, we do long to see His return.  But, we are not to allow this longing to so obsess us that we are not focused on doing what Jesus describes here.  "'Men will tell you, “There he is!” or “Here he is!” Do not go running off after them.'"  Jesus predicts that there will be false announcements of His return.  Jesus predicted the same in Matthew 24:23-25:  "At that time if anyone says to you, 'Look, here is the Christ!' or, 'There he is!' do not believe it. For false Christs and false prophets will appear and perform great signs and miracles to deceive even the elect—if that were possible. See, I have told you ahead of time."

"For the Son of Man in his day will be like the lightning, which flashes and lights up the sky from one end to the other." See also Matt. 24:27-31  Jesus' Second Coming will not be a quiet coming—He will not come again as a tiny baby born in a small village—but His Second Coming will be spectacular and very public.  No one will miss it.  "At that time the sign of the Son of Man will appear in the sky, and all the nations of the earth will mourn. They will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of the sky, with power and great glory." (Matthew 24:30)  "Look, he is coming with the clouds, and every eye will see him, even those who pierced him; and all the peoples of the earth will mourn because of him. So shall it be! Amen." (Revelation 1:7) See also Lk. 21:25-27; Acts 1:10

"'But first he must suffer many things and be rejected by this generation.'"  Jesus predicts here that before he wears the crown as King over the earth and the universe, He must endure the cross—He first must be rejected as King.

(3) The world will not be expecting Jesus' return. (17:26-29)
"'Just as it was in the days of Noah, so also will it be in the days of the Son of Man. People were eating, drinking, marrying and being given in marriage up to the day Noah entered the ark. Then the flood came and destroyed them all. It was the same in the days of Lot. People were eating and drinking, buying and selling, planting and building. But the day Lot left Sodom, fire and sulfur rained down from heaven and destroyed them all.'"

Thought Question:  Why do you believe that just before Jesus' Second Coming, few will be expecting it?

 

 

"'Just as it was in the days of Noah, so also will it be in the days of the Son of Man. People were eating, drinking, marrying and being given in marriage up to the day Noah entered the ark. Then the flood came and destroyed them all.'" See also Gen. 6-8; Matt. 24:37-39

It was business as usual for those who lived right before God's judgment came through a universal flood.  It will be the same right before Jesus' return to rescue His people and to judge an unbelieving world.  Denial is a human trait.  We believe and see what we want to believe and see.  The world before God's judgment will want to believe that they can defy God and His ways without any consequences.  But, they will be wrong!  Just as God judged the evil in the world before the flood, so He will judge the world in the last days. See Gen. 6:1-7,
7:1-10;  II Pet. 3:3-13; Rev. 14:14-20

"'It was the same in the days of Lot. People were eating and drinking, buying and selling, planting and building. But the day Lot left Sodom, fire and sulfur rained down from heaven and destroyed them all.'" See Gen. 19:1-28

Peter summed up what "Sodom" like before it was judged as follows:  "and if he rescued Lot, a righteous man, who was distressed by the filthy lives of lawless men (for that righteous man, living among them day after day, was tormented in his righteous soul by the lawless deeds he saw and heard)—" (II Peter 2:7-8)

"Lot" was troubled by the moral depravity that was taking place in "Sodom," but the rest of the people of that city were not troubled by it.  When "Lot" left the city, God's judgment came.  I believe that is what will happen in the last days: when believers are raptured (taken up by Jesus), God's judgment will come.  I believe that the Rapture is described in the following verses.

(4) The Coming of Jesus! (17:30-37)
"'It will be just like this on the day the Son of Man is revealed. On that day no one who is on the roof of his house, with his goods inside, should go down to get them. Likewise, no one in the field should go back for anything. Remember Lot’s wife! Whoever tries to keep his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life will preserve it. I tell you, on that night two people will be in one bed; one will be taken and the other left. Two women will be grinding grain together; one will be taken and the other left.' 'Where, Lord?' they asked. He replied, 'Where there is a dead body, there the vultures will gather.'"

Thought Question:  Do you believe that Jesus' words describe the Rapture of believers or the taking away of those who are going to be judged?  Please explain your answer. 

 

 

"'It will be just like this on the day the Son of Man is revealed. On that day no one who is on the roof of his house, with his goods inside, should go down to get them. Likewise, no one in the field should go back for anything. Remember Lot’s wife!'"

In Matthew 24:15-21, Jesus uses similar words to warn those in Jerusalem to flee when they see "the abomination that causes desolation" "in the holy place."  "Those in Judea" are to "flee to the mountains." See also Mk. 13:14-27 

"Here the application is 'absolute indifference to all worldly interests as the attitude of readiness for the Son of Man' (Plummer)." "Taken from Word Pictures in the New Testament by A. T. Robertson.  Copyright 1930 Broadman Press."

As those who see the future antichrist desecrate the temple are to flee immediately, so those who see Jesus' return are to immediately leave the earthly life behind.  In preparation for this day, we need to remember the temporal nature of our worldly possessions.  We should not hold on to them with a clenched fist, but with an open hand. See Matt. 6:19-21

"Remember Lot’s wife!'"  Two angels took "Lot" and his family out of "Sodom" before God judged it.  The angels warned "Lot" and his family to flee.  "As soon as they had brought them out, one of them said, 'Flee for your lives! Don’t look back, and don’t stop anywhere in the plain! Flee to the mountains or you will be swept away!'" (Genesis 19:17)  But "Lot's wife" did look back.  She is a picture of one whose love for worldly possessions is greater than her love for God.  "But Lot’s wife looked back, and she became a pillar of salt." (Genesis 19:26)

"Whoever tries to keep his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life will preserve it."  "Lot's wife" illustrates someone who tried "to keep" her worldly "life" and lost her "life."  We must choose between living for ourselves and for this world, and living for Christ and for eternity with Him.  This is a choice we make when we become a Christian.  We see the world as a dead-end road that leads to death, and we see Jesus' road as leading to life.  "But thanks be to God that, though you used to be slaves to sin, you wholeheartedly obeyed the form of teaching to which you were entrusted. You have been set free from sin and have become slaves to righteousness." (Romans 6:17-18)  "When you were slaves to sin, you were free from the control of righteousness. What benefit did you reap at that time from the things you are now ashamed of? Those things result in death! But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves to God, the benefit you reap leads to holiness, and the result is eternal life. For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord." (Romans 6:20-23)

"Two women will be grinding grain together; one will be taken and the other left.'"  Who are those who are "taken"?  The Bible speaks of believers being "taken" in the Rapture.  "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 [the Rapture] 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)  But the Bible also speaks of unbelievers being "taken" up to be judged.  "The Son of Man will send out his angels, and they will weed out of his kingdom everything that causes sin and all who do evil. They will throw them into the fiery furnace, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth." (Matthew 13:41-42)

So, which of these taking-ups is Jesus referring to here?  Jesus describes the same event in Matthew 24:40-41:  "Two men will be in the field; one will be taken and the other left. Two women will be grinding with a hand mill; one will be taken and the other left."  Since this taking up occurs after the abomination of desolation (see Matt. 24:15), those who believe that the Rapture precedes this abomination believe that this taking-up must be a taking-up of those who are judged.  But Matthew 24:40-41 and these verses sound very much like what will occur at the Rapture.  For example, in Matthew 24:31 it is clear that those who are taken up are believers.  "And he will send his angels with a loud trumpet call, and they will gather his elect from the four winds, from one end of the heavens to the other." (Matthew 24:31) 

This is the view that I have come to believe that best fits the order of events in Matthew 24.  In other words, the taking up here is the taking-up of believers right before God's judgment.  See Digging for Gold on Matthew 24; Revelation;
I & II Thessalonians for more details on how I reached my conclusions.

"'Where, Lord?' they asked. He replied, 'Where there is a dead body, there the vultures will gather.'" See also Matt. 24:28  Jesus appears to be saying that like a dead body draws "vultures," so a dead and sinful world draws Jesus' return in judgment.

g. The Parable of the Persistent Widow (18:1-8)
"Then Jesus told his disciples a parable to show them that they should always pray and not give up. He said: 'In a certain town there was a judge who neither feared God nor cared about men. And there was a widow in that town who kept coming to him with the plea, “Grant me justice against my adversary.” For some time he refused. But finally he said to himself, “Even though I don’t fear God or care about men, yet because this widow keeps bothering me, I will see that she gets justice, so that she won’t eventually wear me out with her coming!”' And the Lord said, 'Listen to what the unjust judge says. And will not God bring about justice for his chosen ones, who cry out to him day and night? Will he keep putting them off? I tell you, he will see that they get justice, and quickly. However, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on the earth?'"

Thought Question: In what way (or ways) is Jesus' words and parable an encouragement to you with regard to your prayer life?

 

 

"Then Jesus told his disciples a parable to show them that they should always pray and not give up."  Jesus had been talking about His Second Coming.  What should they do until He returned?  And, what should we do until He returns?  Jesus answers that question: "They should always pray and not give up." 

"How do we make it through times that are a challenge to faith (18:8)?  These are the unasked questions that lie behind the statement that 'they should always pray and not give up.' (18:1)  The word 'give up' describes the temptation to quit in despair when we are tired.  Giving up is motivated by weariness that comes from living in a sinful, hostile world, feeling worn out by injustice, mistreatment, misunderstanding, and personal failure.  How do we keep going when we feel like bailing out? . . . The Lord's formula is clear and simple: 'They should always pray and not give up.' . . . Does that mean our time must be spent on nothing but prayer?  No, but it does mean that we must do nothing without prayer. . . . To stop praying is to start growing weary." "Taken from The Parables by Gary Inrig.  Copyright 1991 by Gary Inrig."

"He said: 'In a certain town there was a judge who neither feared God nor cared about men. And there was a widow in that town who kept coming to him with the plea, “Grant me justice against my adversary.”'"

"A judge who" does not fear God or care "about man" is not a "judge" you want to come to if you're seeking justice.  Also, in their society, "a widow" was the least likely to be heard and given justice by an unfair judge.  She had no political power at all in that Jewish society.  Whether she received justice and did not receive justice would hardly even be noticed by most everyone in that society.  So, in short, an uncaring "judge" need not care at all whether or not she received justice.  So, we have a needy "widow" who has no one to protect her or speak for her in a male-dominated society, coming to a cold-hearted and insensitive "judge."

The "widow" has only one weapon on her side.  Because her need is great and always with her, she is not stopped by the judge's disinterest.  She keeps on "coming" to the "judge" until he cannot stand it any more.

"'For some time he refused. But finally he said to himself, “Even though I don’t fear God or care about men, yet because this widow keeps bothering me, I will see that she gets justice, so that she won’t eventually wear me out with her coming!”'" 

"wear me out" "The verb is a picturesque one meaning literally 'give a black eye'!  Clearly it is used metaphorically here." "Taken from Luke by Leon Morris.  Copyright 1946 by Intervarsity Press."  "Some take it that the judge is actually afraid that the widow may come and assault him, literally beat him under the eye.  That idea would be best described here by the aorist tense [an action in a point of time]." "Taken from Word Pictures in the New Testament by A. T. Robertson.  Copyright 1930 Broadman Press."  The verb here is not in the aorist tense, but in the present tense, indicating continuous perseverance leading to the "judge" being worn out by her never giving up on her cause.

So, the "judge" finally gives in, but he gives in only because he wanted to be free from her constantly pestering him that she receive "justice."  In the next verses, Jesus explains to us how this applies to us.

"And the Lord said, 'Listen to what the unjust judge says. And will not God bring about justice for his chosen ones, who cry out to him day and night? Will he keep putting them off? I tell you, he will see that they get justice, and quickly.'" 

Jesus does not say, of course, that God the Father is like the unjust and uncaring "judge," nor does He say that we are like the impoverished and ignored "widow."  Rather, we are His children and He is our Father.  God is the very opposite of the unjust and uncaring "judge"; He is a caring and fully just Father.  Will He not, then, be concerned when we are unjustly treated? See 11:13  Also, we are not alone in presenting our concern; we have the Son who is our Advocate. See I Tim. 2:5-6; Heb. 2:17-18, 4:14-16; I Jn. 2:1

Pentecost sums up the message of the parable in the following way:  "If an unjust judge can be brought to administer judgment to the persistent plea of one who presents a right cause, will not a just and merciful God respond to those who present a persistent plea to Him for what is right?" "Taken from The Parables of Jesus by Dwight Pentecost.  Copyright 1982 by The Zondervan Corporation."

"And will not God bring about justice for his chosen ones, who cry out to him day and night?"  Jesus started this teaching with these words: "Then Jesus told his disciples a parable to show them that they should always pray and not give up." (Luke 18:1)  We are to continually pray "and not give up," as we pursue after God's kingdom purposes.

What does this teach us about prayer?  Inrig shares this insight.  "The term 'cry out' expresses something of the intensity of prayer. . . . It is the heart's cry to the Father out of the distress of life." "Taken from The Parables by Gary Inrig.  Copyright 1991 by Gary Inrig."

When something is very important to us, we will keep crying out to God about it.  It is a Christian father and mother praying for a child's salvation.  It is Christians crying out to God about their nation that is moving farther away from Him.  It is a wife praying for her husband who has just had a heart attack.  It is the faithful Christian praying for his or her pastor.  It is the cry of those who care deeply that the lost be reached with the gospel message.  It is them praying faithfully for missionaries and campus workers.  It is a Christian who, in the middle of a conflict due to taking a right stand, cries out for the justice of his or her cause.

Why, then, does God not answer our prayers in a short time?  Why do we pray for justice, but see nothing change?  Some of my prayers have been answered very quickly, but other prayers have been answered after years of praying.  Still other prayers have not been answered yet.  Why is this the case, when Jesus says, "I tell you, he will see that they get justice, and quickly."  The answer, I believe, is in the final words of this section: "However, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on the earth?'"  When Jesus "comes, will he find" people persevering in "faith" like the "widow" in the parable?  Even when our prayers are not answered, we are to "always pray and not give up." 

The truth is that God loves us, He hears our prayers, and He is responding to our prayers according to His infinite wisdom.  Do we believe this?  Why the delays?  There are certainly many reasons.  Here are some possibilities:  (1) The perfect timing for our prayer to be answered has not yet come.  Recently, a prayer of mine was answered that I have prayed for regularly for over 40 years.  It all came together rapidly at the perfect time.  Many were blessed by what God did.  (2) What we are praying for may need to be refined.  We may see what we want to happen, but we do not yet see what God wants to happen.  (3) The waiting period may be being used by God to purify our motives and to build character in us.  Parents who give their children everything they want when they want it are increasing their children's selfishness.  God is the perfect parent who knows how and when to respond to our prayers, so that it will accomplish the best good.

"'And will not God bring about justice for his chosen ones, who cry out to him day and night? Will he keep putting them off?'"  Another possible translation of "Will not God bring about justice" is "God will be long-suffering."  Robertson puts it this way.  "God delays taking vengeance on behalf of his people, not through indifference, but through patient forbearance." "Taken from Word Pictures in the New Testament by A. T. Robertson.  Copyright 1930 Broadman Press."  In other words, a cause of God's delay is to give those who have done the wrong time to admit it and to repent. See Rom. 2:4; I Cor. 11:31

The bottom line is, do we trust Him?  If we do, we will "always pray and not give up." See Deut. 8:2-3; Jn 11:1-6 for examples of God delaying answers to pray.  See also II Pet. 3:8-9

h. Pride and humility compared—the Parable of the Pharisee and the Tax collector (18:9-14)
"To some who were confident of their own righteousness and looked down on everybody else, Jesus told this parable: 'Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee stood up and prayed about himself: “God, I thank you that I am not like other men—robbers, evildoers, adulterers—or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.” 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.'"

Thought Question:  What does this parable of Jesus tell us about what pleases Him and what does not please Him?

 

 

"To some who were confident of their own righteousness and looked down on everybody else, Jesus told this parable:"  It appears that Jesus follows the prayer of the widow with the prayer of the self-righteous person to contrast the type of prayer that is answered by God with the type of prayer that God is opposed to.  "He mocks proud mockers but gives grace to the humble." (Proverbs 3:34)  "But he gives us more grace. That is why Scripture says: 'God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.'" (James 4:6)

"looked down on everybody else" means "to consider or treat as nothing." "Taken from Word Pictures in the New Testament by A. T. Robertson.  Copyright 1930 Broadman Press."  "They threw all others besides themselves into one class." "Taken from Word Studies in the New Testament by M. R. Vincent.  Copyright 1972 by Associated Publishers and Authors."

This parable of Jesus describes pride and gives us God's attitude toward it.  There are many things we can become proud about.  We can be proud of our country, our race, our religious denomination, our profession, our wealth, our intellect, our income, our faithfulness as a Christian, and our understanding of God's grace—we can be proud that we are not a legalist.  We can be proud of just about everything.  If we look down at any others and treat them with contempt, we have a pride problem.  If we are human, we have a pride problem.  So, Jesus' parable is not for others, it is for each of us.  I believe it was Charles Spurgeon who said, "Pride is the last to go."

"'Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector.'"  The Pharisees were the most respected people in the Jewish society.  They were like our judges, attorneys, university professors, doctors, and school teachers.  They were at the top of their society.  On the other hand, the tax collectors were at the very bottom of the Jewish social ladder.  They were like our drug dealers.  In fact, they were even worse than our drug dealers, for they were seen as traitors to their own country—they were collecting money from the Jews to give to the hated Romans; plus they were overcharging their fellow Jews for their own personal gain.  So, how would these two, seen as the highest and the lowest in their society, pray?

"'The Pharisee stood up and prayed about himself: “God, I thank you that I am not like other men—robbers, evildoers, adulterers—or even like this tax collector.”'"  "We have a bad mental image of the Pharisees because of some of the things Jesus said, but that was not the case in His day, for the most part.  The Pharisees were the most highly regarded of the various sects of Judaism.  To begin with, there were never very many of them.  At the most there were only about three thousand at any one time.  Besides, they were not political figures essentially, although they had great political power due to their being so highly regarded.  They were a religious body whose chief concern was to observe the minute points of the law.  Nicodemus was a Pharisee.  So was Paul.  Those men were among the most honored of their contemporaries."  "Taken from John Boice.  Copyright 1983 by Moody Bible Institute."

It is obvious that the "Pharisee" in Jesus' parable was quite aware of his high standing in society.  He "prayed about himself."  The Greek words are pros heauton and could be translated "with himself" as it is in the KJV.  Or, it could be translated "to himself," as it is in the NASB.  Or, it could be "standing by himself" as it is in the ESV and NIV 2011.  Whether he was praying about himself, with himself, to himself, or by himself, he was not praying to God.  God is not interested in self-congratulatory prayers.  When Isaiah was truly in the presence of God, this was his prayer.  "'Woe to me!' I cried. 'I am ruined! For I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips, and my eyes have seen the King, the Lord Almighty.'" (Isaiah 6:5)

Robertson has this to say about this Pharisee's prayer:  It is his "soliloquy with his own soul, a complacent recital of his own virtues for his own self-satisfaction, not fellowship with God, though he addresses God." "Taken from Word Pictures in the New Testament by A. T. Robertson.  Copyright 1930 Broadman Press."

Hedriksen says this: "Outwardly he addresses God, for he says, 'O God.'  But inwardly and actually the man is talking about himself to himself." "Taken from Luke by William Hendriksen. Copyright 1978 by Baker Book House."

It is obvious that this Pharisee's attitude was wrong.  Our attitude should be like the attitudes of Isaiah, the prodigal son, and the tax collector of these verses.  But, are we willing to even consider the possibility that our attitude might be like the Pharisee's attitude?  Do we ever have a haughty and superior attitude toward anyone?  Do we ever compare ourselves with another or others and see ourselves as superior?

"'“God, I thank you that I am not like other men—robbers, evildoers, adulterers—or even like this tax collector.”'"  First, the "Pharisee" compares himself with others and is quite proud that he is superior to them—he is not like "other men" who are "robbers, evildoers, adulterers"; and he is not "like this tax collector." 

It is quite human for us to see those who do the big sins as "the sinners," and see ourselves as one of those who do not commit these big sins that "the sinners" do.  The truth is that we have all committed all types of sins and are also "sinners."  Jesus said that if we have even committed them in our heart, we have committed them. See Matt. 5:21-30

Hate in our hearts is equivalent to murder.  "Anyone who hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life in him." (I John 3:15)  It is not appropriate for us to ever see ourselves as superior to others.  "For who makes you different from anyone else? What do you have that you did not receive? And if you did receive it, why do you boast as though you did not?"
(I Corinthians 4:7)  "We do not dare to classify or compare ourselves with some who commend themselves. When they measure themselves by themselves and compare themselves with themselves, they are not wise." (II Corinthians 10:12)

If we compare ourselves with anyone, we should compare ourselves with God or compare ourselves with who we were created to be.  That will lead us to the humble reality that we are far short of what we should be.  "This is what the Lord says: 'Let not the wise man boast of his wisdom or the strong man boast of his strength or the rich man boast of his riches, but let him who boasts boast about this: that he understands and knows me, that I am the Lord, who exercises kindness, justice and righteousness on earth, for in these I delight,' declares the Lord." (Jeremiah 9:23-24)

"'“I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.”'"  The Old Testament only required the Jews to fast once a year on the Day of Atonement.  "'This is to be a lasting ordinance for you: On the tenth day of the seventh month you must deny yourselves and not do any work—whether native-born or an alien living among you—'" (Leviticus 16:29)

"The pious were in the habit of fasting more than the Law required and fasting on Monday and Thursday is attested (e.g. Toanith 10a, 12a)." "Taken from Luke by Leon Morris.  Copyright 1946 by Intervarsity Press."  This fasting was done during some special times of the year—Passover to Pentecost and Feast of Tabernacles to Hanukah (about April to June and October to December).

So, this particular "Pharisee" even went beyond what the pious in Israel did.  And, he was proud of it.  And, he felt that God was also impressed with him.

This "Pharisee" "also went beyond the requirements for tithing, for he gave not only the required tithes, but he gave a tithe of all he got.  Jesus spoke of this type of tithing in Matthew.  "'Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You give a tenth of your spices—mint, dill and cummin. But you have neglected the more important matters of the law—justice, mercy and faithfulness. You should have practiced the latter, without neglecting the former.  You blind guides! You strain out a gnat but swallow a camel. . . . '" (Matthew 23:23-24) See also Lev. 27:30-32; Deut. 14:22 for God's requirements for tithing.

"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.”'"  The "tax collector" was the lowest person in the Jewish society.  To the Jewish people, he was a treasonous Benedict Arnold who collected taxes for the Romans and cheated his own countrymen in the process by overcharging them.

The "tax collector" in Jesus' parable showed in every way that he felt unworthy to be accepted by God.  He "stood at a distance" from "the temple."  He did not feel that he had any right to be close to God's holy "temple."  "He would not even look up to heaven."  He felt completely unworthy to "look up to heaven, so he looked down.  He "beat his breast."  That was a sign of the mourner—it was a sign that he recognized that because of his sin, he deserved God's judgment.  He was mourning because he recognized that he deserved God's judgment.

"'and said, “God, have mercy on me, a sinner.”'"  As the "Pharisee" compared himself with other men and comes out better than them in his own eyes; so, the 'tax collector" compares himself with other men and comes out inferior to them.

 "'and said, “God, have mercy on me, a sinner.”'"  "'O God, be merciful to me—the sinner,' as if he was not merely a sinner, but the sinner par excellence.  'And,' said Jesus, 'it was that heart-broken, self-despising prayer which won him acceptance before God.'" "Taken from The Gospel of Luke by William Barclay. Copyright 1975 by the Westminster Press."  "The sinner, not a sinner.  It is curious how modern scholars ignore this Greek article.  The main point in the contrast lies in this article.  The Pharisee thought of others as sinners.  The publican thinks of himself alone as the sinner, not of others at all." "Taken from Word Pictures in the New Testament by A. T. Robertson.  Copyright 1930 Broadman Press."

This "tax collector" got the message of the Old Testament.  Isaiah and Jeremiah understood and expressed what every Jew should have recognized to be true.  These prophets learned it to be personally true, but Israel's failures and sinful fallen state is found throughout the pages of the Old Testament.  It should have taught all Israel the truth about our fallen state that was discovered to be true by two of their most highly thought of prophets.  "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)  "The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it?"
(Jeremiah 17:9)

The "tax collector" got it.  Paul explained about all of mankind's sinfulness in the first  3 ½ chapters of Romans.  He summed up what is found in those chapters in Romans in the following way:  "Now we know that whatever the law says, it says to those who are under the law, so that every mouth may be silenced and the whole world held accountable to God. Therefore no one will be declared righteous in his sight by observing the law; rather, through the law we become conscious of sin." (Romans 3:19-20)

The "tax collector" knew that he was a sinner that fully deserved God's justice and punishment.  He had but one hope, and that was that God would be merciful.  So, he cries out for God's mercy. See Ps. 51:17

"'Have mercy on me' has behind it the rich theology of the Old Testament.  The term he uses speaks of a place in the temple, the mercy seat in the Holy of Holies where sacrificial blood was sprinkled on the Day of Atonement to make it possible for sinful people to have fellowship with a holy God.  This is not a generalized call for mercy.  He knows he needs God to deal with his sin by making atonement.  This is, of course, primarily what the Lord Jesus came to do." "Taken from The Parables by Gary Inrig.  Copyright 1991 by Gary Inrig."

"have mercy"  The Greek word translated "have mercy" means to be propitious, be appeased, or be satisfied.  The "tax collector" is asking God to somehow in His mercy provide a way for the justice he deserves to be satisfied in some other way than for him to receive the horrible punishment that he deserves.  Jesus was about to die to propitiate, satisfy, and appease the justice of God that should have come upon us.  "for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, being justified as a gift by His grace through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus; whom God displayed publicly as a propitiation in His blood through faith. This was to demonstrate His righteousness, because in the forbearance of God He passed over the sins previously committed; " (Romans 3:23-25, NASB95)  "and He Himself is the propitiation for our sins; and not for ours only, but also for those of the whole world." (1 John 2:2, NASB95)

"I tell you that this man, rather than the other, went home justified before God."  He went home having the condemnation that he deserved erased completely from his legal record before God.  "Justified" is the complete opposite of condemned.  In God's court of law, his sin was no longer on his record before God.  He was now like someone who had just been completely pardoned by a governor.  In the case of a governor's pardon, it is as if he no longer committed the crime and he is free to leave prison.  So, with this "tax collector," legally before God, it is as if he had never sinned.

This is a hard message for us to believe.  Though we may still feel guilty and deserving of justice, we are no longer guilty before God.  Jesus took our guilt on Him.  ". . . 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)

"'For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.'" See also 14:11 for the same words spoken by Jesus.  See also I Pet. 5:5; Isa. 57:15  Humbling ourselves is appropriate because our real status as self-centered, fallen and unholy creatures demands it.  Seeing ourselves as better than others is completely untrue and is opposed to reality.  If we are arrogant, God will humble us. See Isa. 2:11-17; Acts 12:21-23  On the other hand, if we, in God's light, acknowledge our sins, God will forgive us.  "If we claim to have fellowship with him yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live by the truth. But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin. If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. If we claim we have not sinned, we make him out to be a liar and his word has no place in our lives. My dear children, I write this to you so that you will not sin. But if anybody does sin, we have one who speaks to the Father in our defense—Jesus Christ, the Righteous One. He is the atoning sacrifice [propitiation] for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world." (I John 1:6-2:2)

i. The importance of children (18:15-17)
"People were also bringing babies to Jesus to have him touch them. When the disciples saw this, they rebuked them. But Jesus called the children to him and said, 'Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. I tell you the truth, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.'"

Thought Question:  Why do you believe we are to "receive the kingdom of God like a little child"?

 

 

"People were also bringing babies to Jesus to have him touch them. When the disciples saw this, they rebuked them."  "It was customary for the Jews to bring little children to the rabbis to receive their special blessing, so it is strange that the disciples would stand in the way." "Taken from Be Compassionate by Warren Wiersbe.  Copyright 1998 by David C. Cook."

"The 'disciples' appear to be sincerely trying, here, to protect Jesus from the 'little children.' ["babies"]  They either thought that the 'children' would be a nuisance to the tired Jesus and/or they were a nuisance to them.  Besides, they were too young to understand His teaching." "Taken from Digging for Gold on Matthew 19:13-15."

"The disciples saw the attempt to bring children to Jesus as inappropriate.  Surely there was a better use of his time and energy?  Such trivialities should be prevented." "Taken from Luke by Darrell Bock. Copyright 1994 by Intervarsity Press."  Bock clearly was pointing out that it was the disciples who were "inappropriate."

Here, "babies" is the Greek word brephe.  Mark 10:13 and Matthew 19:13 are parallel accounts to this account in Luke; and they have "little children" and the Greek word is paidia, which refers to children that are older than "babies." 

"But Jesus called the children to him and said, 'Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these."  "Contrary to what the 'disciples' thought, these 'children' were coming to Him in a way that He wanted all people to come to Him.  These trusting, uncomplicated, pliable, and responsive 'children' were preferred by Jesus, compared to those who were coming to Him with hardened and unreachable hearts.  When anyone comes to Jesus we are, compared to Him, unknowledgeable 'children.'  We are all like 'children' to Him; the question is whether or not we realize we are 'children.'  When we appear before Him in heaven, we will not act like know-it-alls.  Nor, should we be that way now.  Today, we can delight God's heart by coming to Him like these pliable children—come to Him like these trusting, uncomplicated, and pliable children.  The irony here is that instead of the 'children' needing to become more mature like the 'disciples,' the 'disciples' needed to become more like the 'little children.'  We also need to become more like 'little children.'  We may understand the ways of the world, but we know very little about the ways of our Lord." "Taken from Digging for Gold on
Matthew 19:13-15."

Mark tells us that Jesus was "indignant" with His disciples.  "When Jesus saw this, he was indignant. He said to them, 'Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these.'" (Mark 10:14)

"'I tell you the truth, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.'"  Jesus is not saying that we should be childish, but that we should be childlike.  We are to "receive the kingdom of God like a little child."  What does that look like?  We are to come to Him not like we already know everything, but like we know very little.  We are not to come to Him like we have already seen it all, but in childlike wonder knowing that there is still so much we have not seen.  We are not to come to Him controlled by our doubts and fears, but we are to come to Him in childlike trust.  Jesus does not explain what He means by "like a little child."  He leaves that for us to figure out.

j. Riches effect on seeking after eternal life (8:18-30)

(1) Riches effect on a rich man who comes to Jesus (18:18-23)
"A certain ruler asked him, 'Good teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?' 'Why do you call me good?' Jesus answered. 'No one is good—except God alone. You know the commandments: “Do not commit adultery, do not murder, do not steal, do not give false testimony, honor your father and mother.”' 'All these I have kept since I was a boy,' he said. When Jesus heard this, he said to him, 'You still lack one thing. Sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.' When he heard this, he became very sad, because he was a man of great wealth." See also Matt. 19:16-30; Mk. 10:17-31

Thought Question:  How should Jesus' words to this rich young ruler affect our attitude toward our money and possessions?

 

 

"A certain ruler asked him, 'Good teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?' 'Why do you call me good?' Jesus answered. 'No one is good—except God alone.'" See also 10:25  We learn some more about this "ruler" from the Gospels of Matthew and Mark.  Matthew tells us that he is young. See Matt. 19:22  All three of the Gospels tell us he is rich. See 18:23; Matt. 19:22;
Mk. 10:22
  Because of what we know of him from all three of the Gospels, he is often referred to as the rich, young "ruler." 

What if a young man who was rich and had a high position in government came to our church?  We would probably think that he is just the type of person we are looking for.  Since most of his life still lies before him, he will be a leader in our church for years to come.  And, of course, he is rich!  How, then, did Jesus respond to him?

First of all, Jesus rebukes this rich, young, "ruler" for calling Him "good."  Did this young man believe that Jesus was "good" like God?  Was he flattering Jesus?  Or, did he use the term loosely (referring to a goodness that was less than the goodness of God)?  Whatever the young man meant, it was not a description that should be used lightly without an understanding that you were attributing to a man what only God could be.  Jesus does not say anything here about whether or not He is "good."  He, instead, appears to rebuke the man for calling Him "good," while not realizing that he was addressing Deity.  Jesus does call Himself God on a number of occasions. See Jn. 8:58, 10:30, 14:9, 17:5  See also Jn. 1:1-3, 14, 20:28  Jesus also claimed to be sinless. "Can any of you prove me guilty of sin? If I am telling the truth, why don’t you believe me?" (John 8:46)

The rich, young "ruler" shows he did not realize that he was addressing Deity by the way he answers Jesus' next question.  "'You know the commandments: “Do not commit adultery, do not murder, do not steal, do not give false testimony, honor your father and mother.”' 'All these I have kept since I was a boy,' he said.'" 

The young man appears to believe that he has perfectly obeyed God's Ten Commandments.  He is like many who have a higher opinion of themselves than the opinion God has of them.  My early experience in church was mainly moralistic.  I saw the world as divided into two groups of people: there were the sinners who went to the bars on Saturday evening and the "good" people who went to church on Sunday mornings.  I was one of the "good" people who went to church on Sunday mornings.  Or, at least, so I thought at the time.  I thought that God graded on the curve, and I was one of those on the top of the curve.  I did not see, at all, that I was also one of the sinners.  Nor did this rich, young "ruler" see that he was a sinner who had disobeyed God's laws as we all do.  He had not come to the correct conclusion—that the Law's purpose was to lead him to see his need for God's grace.  For, contrary to his conclusion, he had broken all of the laws of the Ten Commandments.  "Now we know that whatever the law says, it says to those who are under the law, so that every mouth may be silenced and the whole world held accountable to God. Therefore no one will be declared righteous in his sight by observing the law; rather, through the law we become conscious of sin." (Romans 3:19-20)  ". . . for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God," (Romans 3:23)  ". . . know that a man is not justified by observing the law, but by faith in Jesus Christ. So we, too, have put our faith in Christ Jesus that we may be justified by faith in Christ and not by observing the law, because by observing the law no one will be justified." (Galatians 2:16) See also Isa. 64:6; Jer. 17:9;     Eccl. 7:20; Gal. 3:10-11, 24

"When Jesus heard this, he said to him, 'You still lack one thing. Sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.' When he heard this, he became very sad, because he was a man of great wealth."

In Matthew, we are told that the young man asked, after declaring his obedience to the Ten Commandments, "What do I still lack?" (Matthew 19:20)  He appears to have understood that somehow he had not attained to what was necessary for him to be saved.  In Mark, we are also told that "Jesus looked at him and loved him" (Mark 10:21) before He told him what he lacked.

Jesus told two parables that describe what happens when someone truly sees the value of His kingdom.  "The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field. When a man found it, he hid it again, and then in his joy went and sold all he had and bought that field. Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant looking for fine pearls. When he found one of great value, he went away and sold everything he had and bought it." (Matthew 13:44-46)

Those who see the value of Jesus' kingdom are willing to sell everything else so that they can be part of a relationship that surpasses all earthly riches.  This rich, young "ruler" still saw his earthly riches to be of more value to him than a relationship with God through Jesus Christ.  So, this man was not ready to pay any cost so that he could follow Christ.

Must we sell all and give the money to the poor, before we follow Jesus?  The issue is not the riches, but whether we love God more than riches.  Jesus spoke to this question in the Sermon on the Mount.  "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)

This young man did not have much "wealth," the much "wealth" had him.  It was his source of happiness, his security, and his hope.  This young man chose wealth over Jesus.

(2) Jesus explains wealth's effect on gaining the true riches. (18:24-30)
"Jesus looked at him and said, 'How hard it is for the rich to enter the kingdom of God! Indeed, 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.' Those who heard this asked, 'Who then can be saved?' Jesus replied, 'What is impossible with men is possible with God.' Peter said to him, 'We have left all we had to follow you!' 'I tell you the truth,' Jesus said to them, 'no one who has left home or wife or brothers or parents or children for the sake of the kingdom of God will fail to receive many times as much in this age and, in the age to come, eternal life.'"

Thought Question:  According to Jesus' words, what is necessary for a rich man to go to heaven?

 

 

"Jesus looked at him and said, 'How hard it is for the rich to enter the kingdom of God! Indeed, 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.'"  There are at least three interpretations that are offered for Jesus' symbolism here:  (1) The "eye of a needle" is a little gate that at that time was called "the Needle's Eye."  (2) Their word for a large rope or hawser sounds like "camel."  So, it was impossible to put this large rope through the "eye of a needle." (3) But the most obvious meaning of the symbol is certainly what Jesus meant.  As it is impossible for a humpy "camel" to go though an "eye of a needle," so it is impossible "for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God."

We learn here the hold that worldly wealth has on us.  We humanly choose wealth over God.  "No servant 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." (Luke 16:13)  "For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs." (I Timothy 6:10)  

We come to God out of a sense of need.  The very "rich" are unlikely to sense a need for God.  How likely is it that the very richest in our country will come to God.  Their great riches are their security, their happiness, and their hope.  They believe, therefore, that they have no need of God.

"Those who heard this asked, 'Who then can be saved?' Jesus replied, 'What is impossible with men is possible with God.'"  "God can put a 'camel' 'though the eye of a needle,' humps and all; and he can also change the heart of the rich, so that they will choose Him over their riches.  God did it with Abraham, Moses, and Joseph of Arimathea; and He is still doing it today." "Taken from Digging for Gold on Matthew 19:25-26." See Lk. 19:1-10; Matt. 27:57;
Heb. 11:8-16, 24-26

 "Peter said to him, 'We have left all we had to follow you!'"  Peter's response is a very human one.  He realized that he and the other disciples had left everything to follow Him.  So, he asks, "What does this mean for us?"

"'I tell you the truth,' Jesus said to them, 'no one who has left home or wife or brothers or parents or children for the sake of the kingdom of God will fail to receive many times as much in this age and, in the age to come, eternal life.'" 

The Bible gives many promises to those who are willing to forsake worldly wealth and success to follow Jesus Christ.  "But godliness with contentment is great gain." (1 Timothy 6:6)  "Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled." (Matthew 5:6)  "I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do everything through him who gives me strength." (Philippians 4:11-13)  "And my God will meet all your needs according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus." (Philippians 4:19)  "You sympathized with those in prison and joyfully accepted the confiscation of your property, because you knew that you yourselves had better and lasting possessions." (Hebrews 10:34) See also Prov. 15:16; 16:8

All who have chosen to follow Jesus Christ have become an heir of God.  Would we rather be an heir of God or an heir of a multimillionaire?   Multimillionaires have lost their fortunes in a short time, but God's riches, be they spiritual or material, are never lost.  Everything is His, and His resources are endless.  Our circumstances may be difficult at times, but His love for us remains during those difficult times.  Joseph was in a prison for years, but he ended his life in a palace.  God often does reward His children in this life, but even if we are not rewarded in this life, we will receive eternal rewards in heaven.  All who are Christians gain a new and spiritual eternal family. See Matt. 12:46-50; Gal. 6:10  See also Eph. 1:3-14, 18-19

k. Jesus predicts His coming death and resurrection (18:31-34)
"Jesus took the Twelve aside and told them, 'We are going up to Jerusalem, and everything that is written by the prophets about the Son of Man will be fulfilled. He will be handed over to the Gentiles. They will mock him, insult him, spit on him, flog him and kill him. On the third day he will rise again.' The disciples did not understand any of this. Its meaning was hidden from them, and they did not know what he was talking about."

Thought Question:  Why do you think the disciples did not understand Jesus' words?

 

 

"Jesus took the Twelve aside and told them, 'We are going up to Jerusalem, and everything that is written by the prophets about the Son of Man will be fulfilled. He will be handed over to the Gentiles. They will mock him, insult him, spit on him, flog him and kill him.'"

Jesus again predicts His arrest and death. See also Matt. 12:38-42, 16:21, 17:22-23  Matthew 20:17-19 and Mark 10:32-34 appear to be parallel accounts with these verses. See also Lk. 9:21-22, 43-45, 12:50, 13:32-35

"everything that is written by the prophets about the Son of Man will be fulfilled."  Jesus became a man for one primary purpose—to pay the penalty for our sins.  It is prophesied in many ways in the Old Testament.  The many sacrificial offerings pointed to Jesus' sacrificial death for us.  John the Baptist realized that Jesus would be our sacrifice.  "The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him and said, 'Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!'" (John 1:29)  The Passover lamb pointed to Jesus.  " . . . For Christ, our Passover lamb, has been sacrificed." (1 Corinthians 5:7b)  Isaiah 53 describes Jesus' death for our sins.  Psalm 22, written 1000 years before Christ's death, describes what it was like for Jesus while He was on the cross.  Jesus knew that His death was predicted.  The Jews and even the disciples missed seeing that His death was predicted before He was born. 

"He will be handed over to the Gentiles. They will mock him, insult him, spit on him, flog him and kill him.'" The predicted Jewish Messiah comes as predicted.  What do the Jewish people do?  They handed Him over to the hated Romans to be mocked, spat upon, beaten, and killed.  This shows the state of men's hearts.  In our fallen and selfish state, the goodness of God deserves to be mocked, spat on, beaten, and eradicated.  And that is exactly what happened.  "The men who were guarding Jesus began mocking and beating him. They blindfolded him and demanded, 'Prophesy! Who hit you?' And they said many other insulting things to him." (Luke 22:63-65)  "Then Herod and his soldiers ridiculed and mocked him. Dressing him in an elegant robe, they sent him back to Pilate." (Luke 23:11)  "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. . . . " (Luke 23:35-36)

"On the third day he will rise again."'  Jesus' resurrection was also predicted in the Old Testament predictions of the Messiah.  "Therefore my heart is glad and my tongue rejoices; my body also will rest secure, because you will not abandon me to the grave, nor will you let your Holy One see decay." (Psalm 16:9-10) See also Isa. 53:10-12

Jesus knew that His defeat would turn into victory when He conquered the grave.  His victory was a victory for all of us who have believed in Him.  "But Christ has indeed been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. For since death came through a man, the resurrection of the dead comes also through a man. For as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive."
(I Corinthians 15:20-22)

"The disciples did not understand any of this. Its meaning was hidden from them, and they did not know what he was talking about."  "The disciples did not understand" or believe it because they did not want to believe it.  "Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. 'Never, Lord!' he said. 'This shall never happen to you!'" (Matthew 16:22)

And so, they continued on to Jerusalem.  Jesus knowing the horrors that lay ahead for Him there, and the disciples completely self-deluded about what lay ahead.  Jesus would be in agony in the Garden of Gethsemane at what lay ahead for Him; the disciples would fall asleep. See 22:39-46

28. A blind man is healed (18:35-42)

a. The blind man cries out to be healed. (18:35-39)
"As Jesus approached Jericho, a blind man was sitting by the roadside begging. When he heard the crowd going by, he asked what was happening. They told him, 'Jesus of Nazareth is passing by.' He called out, 'Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!' Those who led the way rebuked him and told him to be quiet, but he shouted all the more, 'Son of David, have mercy on me!'"

Thought Question: Try to put yourself in this blind man's shoes.  What was it like for him when he heard that Jesus was coming by?

 

 

"As Jesus approached Jericho, a blind man was sitting by the roadside begging. When he heard the crowd going by, he asked what was happening. They told him, 'Jesus of Nazareth is passing by.'" 

Before we get into this account of the "blind man," I will deal with two problems that this account creates.  There are differences of detail in the parallel accounts in Matthew 20:29-34 and Mark 10:46-50.  Here in Luke, we are told that this event occurred as Jesus "approached Jericho."  But, in Matthew 20:29, we read, "As Jesus and his disciples were leaving Jericho, a large crowd followed him." (Matthew 20:29)  And, then, in Mark 10:46, we read, "Then they came to Jericho. As Jesus and his disciples, together with a large crowd, were leaving the city, a blind man, Bartimaeus (that is, the Son of Timaeus), was sitting by the roadside begging."  Mark's account agrees with Luke's account.  Though not everyone agrees with him, Morris offers this solution:  "It is . . . pointed out that there were two Jerichos, the old one, famous in the Old Testament, and the new one established by Herod the Great.  Some hold that the healing took place as Jesus was leaving one and entering the other." "Taken from Luke by Leon Morris.  Copyright 1946 by Intervarsity Press." 

The second problem is that Matthew talks about two "blind" men, whereas Luke speaks of one blind man.  Mark gives his name as Bartimaeus.  This, though, does not pose a true problem, for if there were two "blind" men, then there was also one "blind man."  Neither Luke nor Mark says that there was only one "blind man."   Now, we can go on to the account.  

What would it have been like to have been a "blind man" in Jesus' time?  It would have been hard at any time and in any country.  Certainly, it was hard for this "blind man."  He appears to be without family support, on his own, and dependent on the mercy of those passing by.  But, at this time, the One passing by was Jesus,  In his darkness, he could tell that a crowd was going by.  This was a common occurrence at that time of the year, for the Jews traveled in crowds as they traveled to Jerusalem to go to the Passover.  And Jesus certainly gathered a crowd as He headed toward Jerusalem.

"At such a time pilgrims traveled in bands together.  One of the commonest ways for a Rabbi to teach was to discourse as he walked . . . As such a pilgrim band passed through a village or town those who themselves could not go to the feast lined the wayside to see the pilgrims pass and bid them godspeed on the way." "Taken from The Gospel of Luke by William Barclay. Copyright 1975 by the Westminster Press."

The "blind man" probably was sitting in the crowd on the side of the road and could hear that the crowd that Jesus was a part of was drawing nearer and nearer to him.  He, then, probably asked what was going on; and was told that Jesus was going to pass right by him.  What anticipation and hope must have risen up inside of him as he learned that Jesus would soon be within calling distance of him.

"He called out, 'Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!' Those who led the way rebuked him and told him to be quiet, but he shouted all the more, 'Son of David, have mercy on me!'"

It appears, by the title he gives to Jesus—"Son of David," that he understood and believed that Jesus was the promised Messiah.  This predicted Messiah was to be able to heal the blind.  "Then will the eyes of the blind be opened and the ears of the deaf unstopped." (Isaiah 35:5) See also Isa. 29:18; Matt. 11:5

"Son of David"  "Though there are those who deny that Bartimaeus was using the term in the messianic sense, the probability is that he did so intend it, for on the basis of Mark 11:9, 10; 12:35-37 . . . . it is clear that during Christ's ministry on earth 'Son of David' and 'Messiah' had become synonyms." "Taken from Luke by William Hendriksen. Copyright 1978 by Baker Book House." See also Matt. 21:15-16 

The crowd, on the other hand, was not sensitive to the blind man's need or were they thinking about the prediction that the Messiah would heal the blind.  Instead, they saw the blind man's screams as an annoyance to them and to Jesus, and they tried to shush him up.  But, that did not quiet the "blind man."  He cried out even stronger. 

"Shouted" in verse 39 is an even stronger word than "called out" in verse 38.  "The word for shout in verse 39 is quite different from that used in verse 38.  In verse 38 it is an ordinary loud shout to attract attention.  In verse 39 it is the instinctive shout of ungovernable emotion, a scream, an almost animal cry.  The word well shows the utter desperation of the man." "Taken from The Gospel of Luke by William Barclay. Copyright 1975 by the Westminster Press."

b. Jesus' response to the blind man's cry (18:40-43)
"Jesus stopped and ordered the man to be brought to him. When he came near, Jesus asked him, 'What do you want me to do for you?' 'Lord, I want to see,' he replied. Jesus said to him, 'Receive your sight; your faith has healed you.' Immediately he received his sight and followed Jesus, praising God. When all the people saw it, they also praised God."

Thought Question #1:  Why do you think that Jesus asked this man what He wanted Him to do?

 

 

Thought Question #2:  How did this man show that he had "faith"?

 

 

"Jesus stopped and ordered the man to be brought to him. When he came near, Jesus asked him, 'What do you want me to do for you?' 'Lord, I want to see,' he replied."

Here, we have a deep mystery of prayer.  Jesus knew what this "blind man" wanted most—a "blind man" most wants to see.  Why did not Jesus just heal him immediately without asking him to voice his need?  God also knows what we want.  Why does He ask us to pray for our needs?

At least part of the answer to this question is that God desires to meet our needs through a relationship with Him.  We are to seek Him as the One who can meet our needs.  "This, then, is how you should pray: 'Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Give us today our daily bread. Forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.'" (Matthew 6:9-13)

"Jesus said to him, 'Receive your sight; your faith has healed you.' Immediately he received his sight and followed Jesus, praising God. When all the people saw it, they also praised God."  Suddenly, for the first time in his life, this man could see.  Whose face was the first face he saw?  It was Jesus' face! 

As a brand new Christian in college, my first roommate was a young man who was blind.  He was a Christian and was a good musician.  According to my best memories, he led singing for both Young Life and Youth for Christ.  He had been born with sight, but a wrong ointment was put in his eyes as an infant and he was immediately blinded.  He could not ever remember seeing.  He shared that the first face he would see would be the face of Jesus.

"'your faith has healed you.'"  This man had demonstrated his "faith" in a number of ways.  First, he believed that Jesus was the Messiah—the "Son of David."  On the other hand, the nation of Israel showed that they did not believe this by their actions—they crucified Him.  This "blind man" also showed his "faith" in Jesus by his actions.  He persisted in crying out to Jesus in spite of the crowd trying to quiet him.  Furthermore, he showed his "faith" by believing that Jesus would have mercy on him and heal him.

We show faith in God when we persist in seeking Him, His truth, His wisdom, and His love in spite of the discouragements that come from people and from negative circumstances.  Although we do not see the loving and compassionate face of Jesus, He is there nonetheless.  The "blind man" did not see the face of Jesus, but he persisted until he did see Him.

"Immediately he received his sight and followed Jesus, praising God."  A wonderful miracle happened that day—a blind man began to see.  Then, he joined Jesus on the pilgrimage to Jerusalem.  He could not have done it a few moments before, but now he was able to go with Jesus to Jerusalem.  Here, we have a picture of everyone who becomes a Christ.  Our spiritual blindness is healed, we see the truth about who Jesus is, and we follow Him.

"When all the people saw it, they also praised God."  Here is what should happen when someone turns to God and becomes a Christian.  The healed blind man praises God and others also "praised God."  God graciously heals this man of blindness, he gives glory to God, and others turn to God as a result.  As God's people glorify Him, others also see what God has done and is doing in our lives, and they are influenced into following Christ also.

 

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