Author Archives: Gary E. Davenport

About Gary E. Davenport

Christian man, husband, father, father-in-law, and granddaddy

Beware the Leaven of the Pharisees series: #3 Were all the Pharisees Wrong?

Among the Pharisees were a few members who sought for true spiritual religion. Nicodemus (John 3; 7:50-53), Joseph of Arimathea (John 19:38ff), and the unnamed man mentioned in Mark 12:32-34, come to mind. Even Gamaliel showed a great deal of tolerance toward the newly formed church (Acts 5:34ff). But for the most part, the Pharisees used their religion to promote themselves and their material gain. No wonder Jesus denounced them.

They are the quintessential bad guys. In looking at the Apostle Paul it is only fair to ask if this classic understanding is accurate, because Paul refers to himself as having been a Pharisee before his conversion:

· Acts 26:5 “I lived as a Pharisee according to the strictest sect of our religion.”
· Acts 22:3 “I am a Jew, born of Tarsus of Cilicia, but brought up in this city, educated under Gamaliel, strictly according to the law of our fathers, being zealous for God, just as you all are today.”
· Acts 23:6 “I am a Pharisee, a son of a Pharisee . . .”
· Phil. 3:5 “circumcised on the eighth day, of the nation of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; as to the law, a Pharisee.”
· Gal. 1:14 “I was advancing in Judaism beyond many of my contemporaries among my countryman, being more extremely zealous for my ancestral traditions.”
    Perhaps we should remind ourselves that not all of the Pharisees were hypocrites. There were about 6,000 Pharisees in that day, with many more who were “followers” but not full members of the group. Most of the Pharisees were middle-class businessmen and were sincere in their quest for truth and holiness.
Among the Pharisees were a few members who sought for true spiritual religion.
(John 7:50-53): “Nicodemus said to them (he who came to Him before, being one of them), {51} “Our Law does not judge a man, unless it first hears from him and knows what he is doing, does it?” {52} They answered and said to him, “You are not also from Galilee, are you? Search, and see that no prophet arises out of Galilee.” {53} And everyone went to his home.”
   Joseph of Arimathea
(Mark 15:43-46): “Joseph of Arimathea came, a prominent member of the Council, who himself was waiting for the kingdom of God; and he gathered up courage and went in before Pilate, and asked for the body of Jesus. {44}And Pilate wondered if He was dead by this time, and summoning the centurion, he questioned him as to whether He was already dead. Mark {45} And ascertaining this from the centurion, he granted the body to Joseph. {46} And Joseph bought a linen cloth, took Him down, wrapped Him in the linen cloth, and laid Him in a tomb which had been hewn out in the rock;
and he rolled a stone against the entrance of the tomb.
    (John 19:38-40:) “And after these things Joseph of Arimathea, being a disciple of Jesus, but a secret one, for fear of the Jews, asked Pilate that he might take away the body of Jesus; and Pilate granted permission. He came therefore, and took away His body. {39} And Nicodemus came also, who had first come to Him by night; bringing a mixture of myrrh and aloes, about a hundred pounds weight. {40} And so they took the body of Jesus, and bound it in linen wrappings with the spices, as is the burial custom of the Jews.”
   The unnamed man mentioned in Mark 12:32-34, come to mind:
“And the scribe said to Him, “Right, Teacher, You have truly stated that HE IS ONE; AND THERE IS NO ONE ELSE BESIDES HIM; {33} AND  TO LOVE HIM WITH ALL THE HEART AND WITH ALL THE  UNDERSTANDING AND WITH ALL THE STRENGTH, AND TO LOVE ONE’S NEIGHBOR AS HIMSELF, is much more than all burnt offerings and sacrifices.” {34} And when Jesus saw that he had answered intelligently, He said to him, “You are not far from the kingdom of God.” And after that, no one would venture to ask Him any more questions.”
   Even Gamaliel showed a great deal of tolerance toward the newly formed church
(Acts 5:34-40): “But a certain Pharisee named Gamaliel, a teacher of the Law, respected by all the people, stood up in the Council and gave orders to put the men outside for a short time. {35} And he said to them, “Men of Israel, take care what you propose to do with these men. {36} “For some time ago Theudas rose up, claiming to be somebody; and a group of about four hundred men joined up with him. And he was slain; and all who followed him were dispersed and came to nothing. {37} “After this man Judas of Galilee rose up in the days of the census, and drew away some people after him, he too perished, and all those who followed him were scattered. {38} “And so in the present case, I say to you, stay away from these men and let them alone, for if this plan or action should be of men, it will be overthrown; {39} but if it is of God, you will not be able to overthrow them; or else you may even be found fighting against God.” {40} And they took his advice; and after calling the apostles in, they flogged them and ordered them to speak no more in the name of Jesus, and then released them.”
   But for the most part, the Pharisees used their religion to promote themselves and their material gain. No wonder Jesus denounced them.

Their major beliefs
· The Pharisees were strongly monotheistic (one God)
· They accepted all the Old Testament as authoritative.
· They affirmed the reality of angels and demons.
· They had a firm belief in life beyond the grave and a resurrection of the body.
· They were missionary, seeking the conversion of Gentiles (Matt. 23:15).
· They saw God as concerned with the life of a person without denying that the individual was responsible for how he or she lived.
· They had little interest in politics.
· The Pharisees opposed Jesus because He refused to accept the teachings of the oral law.

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Posted by on November 30, 2020 in Pharisees


Spending Time With Jesus: Lessons on Gratitude – Luke 17:7-19

In verses 7-19 Luke provides us with two lessons on gratitude. The first lesson is taught by our Lord to the apostles. He compares His relationship to them to the relationship between a master and his slave (verses 7-9). He then applies this to the attitude of His disciples toward their obedience (verses 10-19).

In the first instance, it is the master who is not obligated to have gratitude towards the obedience of his slave; in the second, it is the recipient of God’s grace who is to have gratitude toward God. Let us consider these two lessons on gratitude, and then seek to discover how they relate to faith and forgiveness.

The Hard-Working Slave Luke 17:7-10 (ESV)
7  “Will any one of you who has a servant plowing or keeping sheep say to him when he has come in from the field, ‘Come at once and recline at table’? 8  Will he not rather say to him, ‘Prepare supper for me, and dress properly, and serve me while I eat and drink, and afterward you will eat and drink’? 9  Does he thank the servant because he did what was commanded? 10  So you also, when you have done all that you were commanded, say, ‘We are unworthy servants; we have only done what was our duty.’”

As was often the case, Jesus began to teach with a story. He speaks from the vantage point of a culture which practices, understands, and to some degree accepts slavery. We find this lesson very strange, even distasteful. Remember, however, that the slave belonged to his master. He belonged completely to him. Thus, the master could be very severe in his demands, especially in comparison to our culture.

In our society, our Lord might have told the story of the man who filled out his income tax form. The form was neatly filled out, with all the supporting facts and figures. Along with the form, mailed before April 15th, there was a check for the taxes which were due.

Any of the apostles would understand the relationship between a master and his slave. None of them, if they had a slave who had either been out all day plowing or tending sheep, would be welcomed home that night with a hot meal. Instead, the master would rightly expect his slave to clean up, change his clothes, and then fix him his meal. Only after this would the slave be free to care for his own needs. And when the slave had perfectly carried out all of his duties for the day, no one would expect the master to come to him, put an arm around his shoulder, and tell him how good a job he had done. Masters felt no obligation to pamper their slaves, nor to praise them.

Surely, Jesus might say, this man would not expect a call or a thank you note from the IRS or from the President of the United States, expressing the government’s gratitude for obedience to the laws of the land. Paying taxes is our duty, one for which we expect no gratitude if we obey exactly as required, but one which we expect punishment for failing to perform.

The Pharisees really believed that by their outward compliance with the Law—that is, their interpretation of it—that they could merit God’s favor. They saw, for example, that their prosperity was the logical and necessary outcome of their piety. Thus, they felt little gratitude toward God, for what they got, they deserved (in their minds). Gratitude, to them, was an obligation which fell more on God, than upon them.

God warned the Israelites of this danger, even before they entered the promised land. In the early chapters of the book of Deuteronomy, God reminded His people of His blessings, all of which were a matter of grace, in spite of their disobedience, grumbling, and all around nastiness. He also warned them that when they entered the promised land they would, once again, partake of the fruits of His grace, but that they would be inclined to credit themselves for these blessings. In other words, Israel would look upon God as obligated to bless them, rather than to be grateful for His grace.

Deuteronomy 8:11-20 (ESV)
11  “Take care lest you forget the LORD your God by not keeping his commandments and his rules and his statutes, which I command you today,
12  lest, when you have eaten and are full and have built good houses and live in them,
13  and when your herds and flocks multiply and your silver and gold is multiplied and all that you have is multiplied,
14  then your heart be lifted up, and you forget the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery,
15  who led you through the great and terrifying wilderness, with its fiery serpents and scorpions and thirsty ground where there was no water, who brought you water out of the flinty rock,
16  who fed you in the wilderness with manna that your fathers did not know, that he might humble you and test you, to do you good in the end.
17  Beware lest you say in your heart, ‘My power and the might of my hand have gotten me this wealth.’
18  You shall remember the LORD your God, for it is he who gives you power to get wealth, that he may confirm his covenant that he swore to your fathers, as it is this day.
19  And if you forget the LORD your God and go after other gods and serve them and worship them, I solemnly warn you today that you shall surely perish.
20  Like the nations that the LORD makes to perish before you, so shall you perish, because you would not obey the voice of the LORD your God.

How to Respond to God’s Blessings – Luke 17:11-19

This story, unique to Luke, highlights the faith of a foreigner in Israel. One of the major themes of Luke is the remarkable faith of Gentiles. Although many of the Jewish religious leaders rejected Jesus, a number of foreigners wholeheartedly placed their trust in him (7:1-10). This theme is continued in the book of Acts, where Luke wrote how the gospel message spread to the Gentiles after the initial rejection of it by many of the Jews.

17:11 Now on his way to Jerusalem, Jesus traveled along the border between Samaria and Galilee.NIV

Jesus was still on his way to Jerusalem, knowing that he had an “appointment” there in order for his ministry to be completed (9:51; 13:22). Jesus was traveling along the border between Samaria and Galilee. Galilee was Jewish; Samaria was occupied by Samaritans, who were despised by the Jews.

17:12-13 As he entered a village there, ten lepers stood at a distance, crying out, “Jesus, Master, have mercy on us!”NLT

In the Bible, leprosy is a dreaded disease that is a picture of sin. This is alluded to in our text by the fact that the lepers are cleansed (17:14, 17). Leprosy rendered a man ceremonially defiled, so that if he was healed, he still had to go to the priest and carry out an extensive ritual of cleansing before he could be accepted back into the religious community and worship (Lev. 14).

In the Bible “leprosy” can refer to a number of skin diseases, but in its worst form, it was what we know as Hansen’s disease (R. K. Harrison, The New Testament Dictionary of New Testament Theology, ed. by Colin Brown {Zondervan], 2:463-466). This awful disease takes two forms (according to R. H. Pousma, The Zondervan Pictorial Encyclopedia of the Bible, ed. by Merrill Tenney [Zondervan], 2:138-139). Both start with either a white or pink discoloration of a patch of skin. The more benign form is limited to this skin discoloration in a number of places, and even untreated cases heal in from one to three years.

William Barclay (The Daily Study Bible: Matthew [Westminster Press], 1:295) describes the hideous progression of the worse form of this disease:

It might begin with little nodules which go on to ulcerate. The ulcers develop a foul discharge; the eyebrows fall out; the eyes become staring; the vocal chords become ulcerated, and the voice becomes hoarse, and the breath wheezes. The hands and feet always ulcerate. Slowly the sufferer becomes a mass of ulcerated growths. The average course of that kind of leprosy is nine years, and it ends in mental decay, coma and ultimately death.

Leprosy might begin with the loss of all sensation in some part of the body; the nerve trunks are affected; the muscles waste away; the tendons contract until the hands are like claws. There follows ulceration of the hands and feet. Then comes the progressive loss of fingers and toes, until in the end a whole hand or a whole foot may drop off. The duration of that kind of leprosy is anything from twenty to thirty years. It is a kind of terrible progressive death in which a man dies by inches.

While the physical disease was horrible, the terrible social consequences in ancient Israel only added to the misery. According to Josephus, lepers were treated “as if they were, in effect, dead men” (cited by Barclay). The Mosaic Law prescribed that the person be cut off from society, including his family. He had to wear torn clothing, have his head uncovered, cover his lips and shout “Unclean! Unclean!” wherever he went to warn others to keep their distance (Lev. 13:45).

Jesus encounters ten such wretched men who had banded together. If the nine were Jews, their common tragedy had broken down the traditional separation between the Jews and the half-breed Samaritans, who were considered as Gentiles. They were all outcasts, separated from the common worship and separated from their own people, seemingly under God’s curse.

People who had leprosy were required to try to stay away from other people and to announce their presence if they had to come near. Thus these ten lepers were standing at a distance, outside the city, and they were crying out to Jesus for mercy. They called Jesus Master—they knew who he was and what he could do for them. They did not try to get close, however, perhaps because of the crowd that was probably still following Jesus.

17:14 He looked at them and said, “Go show yourselves to the priests.” And as they went, their leprosy disappeared.NLT

Sometimes leprosy would go into remission. If a leper thought his leprosy had gone away, the leper was supposed to present himself to a priest, who could declare him clean (Leviticus 14). Jesus sent the ten lepers to the priest before they were healed, for as they went, their leprosy disappeared.

Jesus did not touch these men or even speak words of healing as he had done for most of his healings. This time he simply gave them the command to go . . . to the priests.

Jesus was asking the men to respond in faith that, by their obedience, what they desired would happen. All the men responded in faith, and Jesus healed them on the way.

17:15-16 One of them, when he saw that he was healed, came back to Jesus, shouting, “Praise God, I’m healed!” He fell face down on the ground at Jesus’ feet, thanking him for what he had done. This man was a Samaritan.NLT

Jesus healed all ten lepers, but only one of them, when he saw that he was healed, returned to thank him. It is possible to receive God’s great gifts with an ungrateful spirit—nine of the ten men did so. Only the thankful man, however, learned that his faith had played a role in his healing, and only grateful Christians grow in understanding God’s grace.

God does not demand that his people thank him, but he is pleased when they do so. And he uses their responsiveness to teach them more about himself.

The grateful man returned to Jesus, praised God, fell face down, and thanked Jesus. Luke added, almost as a parenthesis, that, by the way, this man was a Samaritan. As noted in the commentary at 9:52-53, the Samaritans were a race despised by the Jews as idolatrous half-breeds. The surprise of this story is that this Samaritan, used to being despised by Jews (except perhaps for his fellow lepers), would dare to go to this Jewish healer and prostrate himself before him. But this man’s faith went deep enough that he saw God’s hand in the healing. Once again Luke was pointing out that God’s grace is for everybody. The Samaritan not only portrayed the same trust that Jesus brought to the story of the Good Samaritan (10:30-37) but also set the stage for Jesus’ mission to all people (see Acts 8:4).

17:17-19 Jesus asked, “Didn’t I heal ten men? Where are the other nine? Does only this foreigner return to give glory to God?” And Jesus said to the man, “Stand up and go. Your faith has made you well.”NLT

Jesus had been distressed many times with his own people’s lack of acceptance and faith:

Luke 7:9 (ESV) When Jesus heard these things, he marveled at him, and turning to the crowd that followed him, said, “I tell you, not even in Israel have I found such faith.”
Luke 8:25 (ESV) He said to them, “Where is your faith?” And they were afraid, and they marveled, saying to one another, “Who then is this, that he commands even winds and water, and they obey him?”
Luke 12:28 (ESV) But if God so clothes the grass, which is alive in the field today, and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, how much more will he clothe you, O you of little faith!

This time was no different. Ten men had been healed, but only one, the foreigner (referring to the man from Samaria), came back to give glory to God. Jesus was not so much concerned about being thanked as he was about the men’s understanding of what had happened. The other nine went off, free from leprosy but not necessarily free from sin through the salvation Jesus could offer. This one man was freed, so Jesus sent him on his way with the knowledge that his faith had made him well. He not only had a restored body, his soul had been restored as well.

Jesus’ miracles of healing provide wonderful encouragement, for they reveal his power and his compassion. The difficulty comes from applying these accounts today. How should believers pray for themselves and loved ones who are sick or terminally ill? How should they believe? This story provides not all the answers but some insights into Jesus’ healing of the sick.
·       These lepers recognized Jesus’ authority. They did not demand that he heal them. They called out for Jesus to have mercy on them (17:13).
·       Jesus emphasized the necessity of faith (17:19). Just as in the parable of the mustard seed (13:18-19), it is not the size of faith but the presence of genuine faith that is important.
·       Jesus stressed public testimony. He directed the lepers to go to the priests (17:14) to demonstrate what God had done. Believers also must be prepared to give God the credit when they are healed.
·       Jesus highlighted the need for gratitude and praise to God (17:18). Will your attitude be grateful to God despite the outcome of your prayer? Can you trust fully in God’s care each day, living or dying?
Christians should always be the ones who return to Jesus and thank him for his mercy and power.

A story is told of a man who was lost in the woods. Later, in describing the experience, he told how frightened he was and how he had even finally knelt and prayed. Someone asked, “Did God answer your prayer?” “Oh, no,” the man replied. “Before God had a chance, a guide came along and showed me the way out.”

Like that man, many people are blind to the many blessings that God daily showers upon them. They awake to see the sun shining, and do not give thanks to God. They hear the birds chirping and see beautiful flowers and trees, but they don’t give it a moment’s thought that God has given those blessings and given them the senses to enjoy them.

They grumble about having to eat the same old cereal, forgetting that many would gladly exchange places with them and eat anything for breakfast.

They complain about their jobs, forgetting that many would be grateful just to have a job or even to have the bodily strength to go to work.

They complain about their lack of money, forgetting that they spend more on entertainment each month than many around the world earn as their total income.

Whether you are a believer in Jesus Christ or a person who does not even believe in God, the fact is, God has blessed you far more than you realize and far more than you deserve. It is important to understand how to respond properly to God’s abundant blessings.

To be oblivious to the fact that God is blessing you or, even worse, to take credit for His blessings as if you earned them by your own efforts, would be to slight God.

The only proper response is to glorify Him from a thankful heart. These two responses, the proper and improper, are illustrated for us in this story of Jesus cleansing the ten lepers. Only one of the ten responded properly. He teaches us that …

We should respond to God’s blessings by glorifying Him at Jesus’ feet from thankful hearts.

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Posted by on November 26, 2020 in Luke


Beware the Leaven of the Pharisees #2 Seven kinds of Pharisees

William Barclay who devoted many years to biblical research in Palestine, reports that the Talmud (Sotah, 22b) speaks of seven kinds of Pharisees:

  1. The first group Barclay calls “shoulder Pharisees,” so named because of their custom of displaying accounts of their good deeds on their shoulders for other people to see and admire. When they prayed, they put ashes on their heads as an act of humility and wore sad expressions on their faces to suggest piousness
  2. The second group he calls “wait a little,” due to their cleaver ability to come up with a fabricated spiritual reason for putting off doing something good. Pious excuses were their stock in trade.
  3. The third group were the “bruised and bleeding.” In order not to commit the sin of looking at a woman lustfully those Pharisees closed their eyes whenever women were around. Understandably they received many bruises and abrasions from bumping into walls, posts, and other objects. They measured their piousness by the number and severity of their injuries.
  4. The fourth group were the “humpback tumbling.” In order to show off their supposed humility they slouched over with bent backs and shuffled their feet instead of taking normal steps, leading to frequent stumbles and tumbles.
  5. The fifth group were the “ever-seeking,” named because of the meticulous record keeping of their good deeds in order to determine how much reward God owed them.
  6. The sixth group were the “fearing” Pharisees, whose terror over the prospect of hell motivated everything they did.
  7. The seventh and last group were the “God-fearing,” those whose lives were motivated out of genuine love for God and a desire to please Him. The Pharisee Nicodemus (see John 3:1; 19:39) would doubtlessly have been classed in this group. But Nicodemus and the few other Pharisees who believed in Jesus were very much the exceptions. For the most part, the Pharisees were the Lord’s most strident critics and implacable enemies.
  8. Like so many things, what started as a good and noble thing became in the end mere vanity. Everything we have looked at so far has been commendable. Here is a group that desires to please God by living in obedience to the statues He had given them. How is that objectionable?  What the Pharisees neglected was not the letter of the law, but the giver of it. In trying to earn God’s favor, they missed the fundamental message of the law: no one is holy except God alone.
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Posted by on November 23, 2020 in Pharisees


Spending Time With Jesus: The Glory of Christ – The Transfiguration Luke 9:27-36

What is the greatest event in your life? What about the greatest religious experience in your life? Hopefully, for most of us it would be the same event. I suspect if you could ask Peter, James, and John that question, they would answer, t was the day we went with Jesus to the mountain to pray, and He was transfigured in our sight.

We know that Peter never forgot that day, for he wrote: 2 Peter 1:17 (ESV) 17  For when he received honor and glory from God the Father, and the voice was borne to him by the Majestic Glory, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.”

This was truly a mountaintop experience for Peter.

The Transfiguration is one of the most sublime scenes of all sacred history. It occurred about a week after Jesus had promised to build His church (Matthew 16:18). This event took place on a mountain that was probably on the road between Caesarea Philippi and Jerusalem.

Lk 9:28 with Mt 17:1, Mk 9:2 28About eight {sixMT, MK} days after Jesus said this, he took Peter, John and James with him and went up onto a {highMT, MK} mountain to pray {where they were all aloneMK}.

They were the select three on other occasions as well. Of all the apostles, maybe these three were best prepared in heart and life for the purpose Jesus had in mind. Paul later referred to them as men “who were reputed to be pillars” (Galatians 2:9).

Lk 9:29-32 with Mt 17:2, Mk 9:2-3 29As he was praying, {he was transfigured before them,MT, MK} the appearance of his face changed {shone like the sunMT}, and his clothes became as bright as a flash of lightning {as white as the light,MT} {dazzling white, whiter than anyone in the world could bleach themMK}.

 30Two men, Moses and Elijah, 31appeared in glorious splendor, talking with Jesus. They spoke about his departure, which he was about to bring to fulfillment at Jerusalem. 32Peter and his companions were very sleepy, but when they became fully awake, they saw his glory and the two me Lord {Rabbi,MK} {MasterLK}, it is good for us to be here. If you wish {let us,MK, LK} I will put up three shelters — one for you, one for Moses and one for Elijah. {6(He did not know what to say, they were so frightened.)MK}

5While he was still speaking, a bright cloud enveloped them, and a voice from the cloud said, This is my Son, whom I love {whom I have chosen;LK} with him I am well pleased. Listen to him!

6When the disciples heard this, they fell facedown to the ground, terrified. 7But Jesus came and touched them. Get up, he said. Don’t be afraid. {8Suddenly,MK} 8When they looked up, they saw no one except Jesus.

What were the reasons behind this event?

  1. For one thing, it was God’s seal of approval to Peter’s confession of faith that Jesus is the Son of God (John 1:14).
  2. It was also the Father’s way of encouraging the Son as He began to make His way to Jerusalem. The Father had spoken at the baptism (Luke 3:22) and would speak again during that final week of the Son’s earthly ministry (John 12:23-28). Beyond the suffering of the cross would be the glory of the throne, a lesson that Peter emphasized in his first epistle (1 Peter. 4:12-5:4).
  3. Our Lord’s own words in Luke 9:27 indicate that the event was a demonstration (or illustration) of the promised kingdom of God. This seems logical, for the disciples were confused about the kingdom because of Jesus’ words about the cross. Jesus was reassuring them that the Old Testament prophecies would be fulfilled, but first He had to suffer before He could enter into His glory (note especially 2 Peter 1:12-21).

   Why, in particular, did Moses and Elijah appear to Jesus? Both of these men had, during their time on earth, met with God on a mountain (Exodus 24; 1 Kings 19). Both men also had departed from this earth in an unusual way—Elijah was taken up into heaven in a whirlwind (2 Kings 2:11); Moses was buried by the Lord (Deuteronomy 34:6), and the location of his body became a matter of great speculation (Jude 9).

These men represented the sweeping vista of God’s plan of salvation across the ages. Moses represented the Law, or the Old Covenant. He had written the Pentateuch and had predicted the coming of a great prophet (Deuteronomy 18:15-19). Elijah represented the prophets who had foretold the coming of the Messiah (Malachi 4:5-6). Together they confirmed Jesus’ mission: “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” (Matthew 5:17 niv).

These men were talking with Jesus . . . about his departure, which was about to happen in Jerusalem. The “departure” referred to Jesus’ death. The word for “departure” is exodos, an unusual word to use for death, yet a helpful word picture. As Moses delivered Israel from bondage in Egypt through their exodus from there, even more significantly, Jesus would deliver people from bondage through his “exodus” from this life. His death, which would happen on a dusty hill outside the walls of Jerusalem, would accomplish true freedom for all people who believe in him. It would happen according to God’s divine plan (see 1 Peter 1:19-20).

DOWN IN THE VALLEY When they came down from this great experience, they found problems among the ones left behind. What a powerful lesson can be learned!

Mk 9:17-19 with Mt 17:14-17, Lk 9:37 17A man in the crowd {approached Jesus and knelt before himMT} answered {called out,LK} {Lord, have mercy on my son.MT} Teacher, I brought you my son {for he is my only child,LK} {he has seizures and is suffering greatlyMT} who is possessed by a spirit that has robbed him of speech. 18Whenever it seizes him, {he suddenly screams,LK} it throws him to the ground {into convulsions.LK} He foams at the mouth, gnashes his teeth and becomes rigid. {It scarcely ever leaves him and is destroying him.LK} I asked your disciples to drive out the spirit {heal him,MT} but they could not.

19O unbelieving {and perverseMT, LK} generation, Jesus replied, how long shall I stay with you? How long shall I put up with you? Bring the boy to me.

A boy had been brought to them by his father because he had an unclean spirit which seized him, and he would suddenly cry out. His father said, t throws him into a convulsion with foaming at the mouth, and as it mauls him, it scarcely leaves him (9:39).

The apostles who were left behind had tried to heal the boy but were unsuccessful. How frustrating to them! They had been given power over unclean spirits. Why could they not cast them out? Jesus answer, according to Matthew’s Gospel, was that this kind comes out only through prayer.

While Jesus and the three disciples had been up in the mountain praying, the others had not taken the time to pray. Even miraculous powers were left weak when not sustained by prayer. How much more must this be the case with regard to nonmiraculous powers. As we try to help others, we must take time to pray.

Jesus rebuked the apostles, saying, O unbelieving and perverted generation, how long shall I be with you, and put up with you? Bring your son here (9:41). Jesus healed the boy and presented him to his father. Two lessons must stand out.

First, unless you take time away from the crowd for prayer and renewal, you will often come up empty when you so desperately want to help someone. Even in our dedication to serve God, we sometimes overload our bodies and our spirits so that we have nothing left when the hour of crisis comes. Thus, let us learn to take time away from the realities of daily life. Go on the retreats; take time for the lecture programs and workshops; get away with a few who share the same faith and dedication we do.

Second, mountaintop experiences have value only when we bring them down from the mountain to where people are hurting. The cry for help was still ringing out in the valley. People were still agonizing with life. Many today do not view worship services today as a mountaintop experience to help us with life. Instead, our worship is seen as a part of the humdrum activity that we must endure.

Too little of what is learned on Sunday is applied on Monday. Learn from worship and study of His Word and apply what you learn to your everyday life to make it better.

9As they were coming down the mountain, Jesus instructed them {gave them ordersMK}, Don’t tell anyone what you have seen, until the Son of Man has been raised from the dead. {10They kept the matter to themselvesMK} {and told no one at that time what they had seen,LK} {discussing what rising from the dead meant.MK} 10The disciples asked him, Why then do the teachers of the law say that Elijah must come first?

11Jesus replied, To be sure, Elijah comes and will restore all things. 12But I tell you, Elijah has already come, and they did not recognize him, but have done to him everything they wished. {Why then is it written that the Son of Man must suffer much and be rejected?MK} In the same way the Son of Man is going to suffer at their hands. 13Then the disciples understood that he was talking to them about John the Baptist.

Mk 9:20-24 with Lk 9:42 20So they brought him. When the spirit {demonLK} saw Jesus, it immediately threw the boy into a convulsion. He fell to the ground and rolled around, foaming at the mouth.

21Jesus asked the boy’s father, How long has he been like this?

From childhood, he answered. 22It has often thrown him into fire or water to kill him. But if you can do anything, take pity on us and help us.

23If you can? said Jesus. Everything is possible for him who believes.

24Immediately the boy’s father exclaimed, I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!

THE MAJESTY OF GOD And they were all amazed at the greatness of God (9:43). Note that the majesty was not seen clearest on the mountain with Jesus face aglow, but in the valley in helping a lad in trouble.

It is always easiest to see God’s majesty against the background of helping hurting people overcome their hurts. It was with the marvel still in their hearts that Jesus challenged the disciples to allow something to sink into your ears; for the Son of Man is going to be delivered into the hands of men (9:44).

 Mk 9:25-29 with Mt 17:18, 20, Lk 9:42b-43 25When Jesus saw that a crowd was running to the scene, he rebuked the evil spirit. You deaf and mute spirit, he said, I command you, come out of him and never enter him again.

26The spirit shrieked, convulsed him violently and came out. The boy looked so much like a corpse that many said, He’s dead. 27But Jesus took him by the hand and lifted him to his feet, and he stood up. {[H]e was healed from that momentMT} {and [Jesus] gave him back to his father. 43And they were all amazed at the greatness of God.LK} 28After Jesus had gone indoors, his disciples asked him privately, Why couldn’t we drive it out?

29He 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.MT} This kind can come out only by prayer.

30They left that place and passed through Galilee. Jesus did not want anyone to know where they were, 31because he was teaching his disciples. He said to them, The Son of Man is going to be betrayed into the hands of men. They will kill him, and after {onMT} three days he will rise. 32But they did not understand what he meant {it was hidden from them, so that they did not grasp it,LK} and were afraid to ask him about it. {And the disciples were filled with grief.MT}


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Posted by on November 19, 2020 in Luke


Beware the Leaven of the Pharisees #1 Who Were These People?

Who were the Pharisees? Most scholars seem to locate their beginnings between the return from the Babylonian exile and the uprising (c. 165 B. C.). There seems to be a link between them and the Hasidim or “pious men” of the intertestamental period:
· the Hasidim regarded themselves as being the orthodox Jew
· they held strict religious views based on the Mosaical covenant
· they maintained a zealous commitment to ancient Judaism and its ways
· political and national aspirations were of little interest.
· they were devoted to preserving the old paths against cultural changes and a changing world

By the time of Israel’s political independence under Maccabee (140 B. C.) the Pharisees appear to be a recognizable group already entrenched in their infamous conflict with the Sadducees. During the next one hundred years they would go in and out of the favor of the rulers, but grew more and more in their popular standing.

Two of the most famous and influential of the Pharisees before the time of Christ were Hillel and Shammai. Hillel’s House more popular…his followers led in the formation of the academy at  Jamnia after the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 A. D. Paul was a student of Gamaliel who in turn was of Hillel’s teaching.

The name “Pharisee” means “the separated ones.” It may mean that they separated themselves from the masses of the people or that they separated themselves to the study and interpretation of the law. The Pharisee’s desire was to obey that which their forefathers had neglected.

Indeed it was out of this intense concern to follow the law scrupulously that the Pharisees developed their unique characteristics:

  • In order to keep from any deviation or transgression from the Torah they developed specific regulations and guidelines in the application of the sacred law.
  • These stipulations in turn became the oral tradition which in time the Pharisees held in equality with the written commands of God.

True religion in God’s kingdom is not a question of ritual, of philosophy, of location, or of military might—but of right attitude toward God and toward other people. The Lord summed it up in the words “I say to you, that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the scribes and Pharisees, you shall not enter the kingdom of heaven” (5:20).

When the Pharisees with whom Jesus was having lunch were bothered that He did not ceremonially wash His hands before eating, Jesus said, “Now you Pharisees have the habit of cleaning the outside of your cups and dishes, but inside you yourselves are full of greed and wickedness. You fools! Did not the One who made the outside make the inside too? But dedicate once for all your inner self, and at once you will have everything clean” (Luke 11:39-41, Williams). That was His message for every sect of Judaism.

Although the precise origin of the Pharisees is unknown, they appeared sometime before the middle of the second century b.c. Numbering perhaps as many as six thousand, many of them were also scribes, authorities in Jewish law both scriptural and traditional. As has been noted many times in this study of Matthew the Pharisees were by far the dominant religious group in Israel in Jesus’ day and the most popular with the masses.

The other major party the Sadducees, were largely in charge of the Temple, but their driving concern was not for religion but for money and power.  As their name suggests, the Herodians were a political party loyal to the Herod family.

The Essenes, which are not mentioned in Scripture, were a reclusive sect who devoted much of their efforts to copying the Scriptures, and the Zealots were radical nationalists who sought to overthrow Rome militarily.

Like the Sadducees, the Herodians’ and Zealots’ interest in religion was motivated primarily by desire for personal and political gain. Consequently it was to the scribes and the Pharisees that the people looked for religious guidance and authority, a role those leaders greatly cherished.

The common Christian stereotype of the Pharisee is “the hypocritical enemy of Jesus.” The basis for that stereotype is the fact that the gospels frequently present the Pharisees in the role of Jesus’ antagonists.

Early in Jesus ministry, they became His opponents. They grew increasingly hostile as His popularity and influence grew among the Jewish populace.

Matthew’s first reference to the Pharisees records John the Baptizer castigating the Pharisees and Sadducees who visited him in the desert as “offspring of vipers.”‘ (Matt. 3:7).

Matthew records numerous encounters between Jesus and the Pharisees:

  • The Pharisees criticized Jesus for eating with tax collectors and sinners.
  • They claimed His power to heal came from the prince of demons.
    They accused His disciples of violating the Sabbath when they stripped ripened grain from stalks along the path.
  • They conferred among themselves seeking a way to destroy Him.
  • They asked Him for a sign which would prove His relationship with God.
  • They asked why His disciples did not keep the authoritative traditional
    By using a controversial divorce question, they tried to trap Him in His teachings.
  • They wanted to arrest Him
  • They sent people to “respectfully” ask Him a trick question concerning taxes in a de-liberate plan to “ensnare” Him in His teachings.”

Luke adds considerable additional information about their antagonistic feelings:

  • When Jesus forgave the palsied man of his sins, the Pharisees began reasoning that Jesus had blasphemed
  • Once they tried to frighten Him away from Jerusalem by warning Him that Herod Antipas wished to kill Him
  • Simon, a Pharisee, invited Jesus to eat with him, and Jesus accepted Jesus accepted another Pharisee’s invitation to breakfast. On this occasion Jesus shocked him by not ceremonially washing His hands before eating.

The gospels clearly portray other segments of Jewish society as being equally hostile toward Jesus and His teachings. Among the other antagonists were the chief priests, the scribes, the Jewish elders, the Sadducees, the Herodians, and the lawyers. (we’ll look at each of these groups during this study).

The Basic Concern. There is broad agreement concerning the basic concern of Pharisaism.
· A dire threat to the survival of Judaism began with the Babylonian captivity (597 BC).
· From its beginnings, Judaism was designed to be a national religion of a settled, localized people.
· They would have one center of sacrificial Worship.
· Attendance to national religious festivals would be within ability of all and compulsory for all the men
· A priesthood would be accessible to the populace and capable of meeting their religious needs
The Babylonian captivity created a dilemma with which Judaism was not designed to cope. That dilemma threatened to destroy the Jewish people as a distinctive society and Judaism as a religion:
· the temple was in ruins and its site far away
· sacrificial worship as originally instituted was impossible
· with no temple in which to serve, the priests could not function in their ancient role
· religious festivals and pilgrimages as they had been observed in Palestine were impossible
The end result was new serial circumstances, new religious questions about life and existence, new ways of living, new moral dilemmas, new ethical questions, new aspects of human needs, and differing religious demands.
At some point in this period, Pharisaism evolved. It derived its impetus from two basic concerns:
   1. The desire to preserve and to maintain Judaism’ old paths and ancient ways.

If the ancient ways were to survive, Judaism had to answer effectively these new moral and ethical questions and meet the real needs of the daily life situation.
2. The desire to answer the questions and issues of the day by making the spirit and the intent of the Torah relevant to the problems and needs of daily life.

Ineffective, irrelevant “pat answers” from a world and society which no longer existed would have doomed Judaism to becoming a dead religion. Teachings of the Torah had to harmonize with the realities of the existing world The true spirit of the Torah and God’s intent in the Torah had to be applicable to all life’s realities in that present age.

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Posted by on November 16, 2020 in Pharisees


Spending Time With Jesus: Why Crucify Self? Luke 9:24-26 (ESV)

24  For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it.
25  For what does it profit a man if he gains the whole world and loses or forfeits himself?
26  For whoever is ashamed of me and of my words, of him will the Son of Man be ashamed when he comes in his glory and the glory of the Father and of the holy angels.

Motivation is the key to doing some things that you’d rather not do. Sometimes the motivation is negative: Read the assignment or you’ll flunk the course. At other times, it may be more positive.

Jesus has just said some difficult things about His going to the cross and the fact that if anyone wants to follow Him, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily. As we saw in our last study, Jesus was talking about denying our selfishness and daily putting to death our sinful desires. Jesus’ words raise the question, “Why would anyone want to crucify himself every day?” Frankly, it doesn’t sound like a lot of fun! So Jesus goes on to give the explanation and motivation for why a person would want to do this. Verses 24, 25, and 26 all begin with the word “for.” Jesus is explaining why it is essential to live in the difficult manner He has just outlined in verse 23. To put it in the first person:

I should deny myself and take up my cross daily because I live in view of eternity.

Each of these three verses focuses on the eternal perspective. In verse 24, Jesus shows that there is a paradox: the person who seeks to save his life by not denying self in the short run will lose his life in the end. In verse 25 He shows that the profit of living for this world will be nothing compared with eternal loss of one’s soul. In verse 26 He shows that the temporary shame of being identified with Jesus and His teaching is a small thing compared with having Jesus ashamed of us at His glorious second coming.

In these three verses, Jesus shows us that to live wisely in the here and now, we must keep our focus on eternity:

1. The disciple daily crucifies self because he wants ultimately to be saved (9:24).

Jesus here presents a paradox that applies both to our ultimate salvation and to temporal matters of discipleship. If we pursue our own agenda, we will lose in the end. But, if we let go of our selfish aims and entrust ourselves to the Lord Jesus, living for His purposes, seeking His will, we will gain eternal life when we die and multiplied blessings while we live. Verse 24 is really just a restatement of Matthew 6:33 in its context. If we eagerly seek all the things the world seeks, we will come up empty. But if we abandon that pursuit and seek first God’s kingdom and righteousness, all these necessary things will be added unto us.

The principle applies first and foremost to the eternal salvation of our souls. The way of the world is that we seek eternal salvation by our good works in this life: Go to church, give money, do deeds of kindness and mercy, try to live a moral life, and you will earn salvation. But that approach does not deal the death blow to our pride. Rather, it feeds pride. If our approach to eternal life is that we merit it by our good deeds, we can look down on those who are not as good as we are. We mistakenly think that we can commend ourselves to God. But the fatal fallacy in this approach is that it does not deal with our sin before the holy God.

The cross, coupled with the doctrine of God’s sovereign grace, deals the death blow to our pride, as Paul clearly shows in 1 Corinthians 1:18-31. As Paul there sums it up (1:28, 29), “And the base things of the world and the despised, God has chosen, the things that are not, that He might nullify the things that are, that no flesh should boast before God.”

Salvation is of the Lord, not of us. So the disciple abandons any self-approach to salvation (self-righteousness or good deeds) and casts himself completely on Jesus Christ to save. By losing his life, he gains it.

But the principle of Luke 9:24 also applies to all of the Christian life. It applies to our money, which is not ours, but the Lord’s. We mistakenly think that we gain financial security by hoarding our money and giving away very little. While the Scripture teaches that it is prudent to put aside enough to provide for future anticipated needs (Prov. 6:6-11; 2 Cor. 12:14; 1 Tim. 5:8), it also teaches that if we are generous in giving, God will generously supply all our needs (Luke 6:38; 2 Cor. 9:8-11).

The principle of losing our life to gain it applies to our service to others. If we live for ourselves, never thinking of the needs of others, we will be lonely, miserly people. But if we give generously of our time in serving others for Jesus’ sake, it comes back to us many times over. I often find that if I give time that I don’t have to spare, the Lord makes up the time to me in other ways.

The principle also applies to your family life. Husbands are commanded to love their wives sacrificially, as Christ does the church (Eph. 5:25-33). Such sacrificial love requires thinking often of your wife and her needs, and seeking to meet those needs. It means praying for your wife. It means serving her, even if you don’t get to pursue your favorite pastimes.

But many husbands think only of themselves. They want the family to serve them. They selfishly think, “I work hard all day. If I come home and serve my family, when will I get time for my needs to be met?” But if you serve your mate and your children, it comes back to you in the form of love, kindness, and close, caring relationships. But if you selfishly dig in your heels and say, “I’m not going to serve them any more than they serve me,” you’ll lose by not having your needs met at all.

The principle also applies to your relationship with the Lord. Many Christians think, “If I spend time in Bible reading, meditation on the things of God, and prayer, I won’t get everything done that I have to do.” They live at a frantic pace, seldom taking the time to spend in God’s presence, thinking about the things above and the life to come. They end up burning out, having stress-induced physical problems, and all sorts of other crises that make life careen out of control. But if we die to self by putting time with God as a priority, He puts the rest of life into perspective.

So the first motivating reason to die daily to self for Jesus’ sake is that when we do, He brings the blessings of salvation back upon us in the long run. When we live for self, we may gain in the short term, but we’ll come up empty in view of eternity.

2. The disciple daily crucifies self because he recognizes that this world is insignificant and fleeting in light of eternity (9:25).

If we could only keep it in mind: This life is a fleeting millisecond in light of eternity. And yet we devote all of our time and energy as if we will be on this earth forever and as if there were no eternity! Richard Baxter, in his profound book, The Saints’ Everlasting Rest ([Sovereign Grace Book Club], p. 151), writes,

Lord, what a strange madness is this, that men, who know they must presently enter upon unchangeable joy or pain, should yet live as uncertain what shall be their doom, as if they never heard of any such state; yea, and live as quietly and merrily in this uncertainty, as if all were made sure, and there were no danger! Are they awake or asleep? What do they think on? Where are their hearts? If they have but a weighty suit at law, how careful are they to know whether it will go for or against them! If they were to be tried for their lives at an earthly bar, how careful would they be to know whether they should be saved or condemned, especially, if their care might surely save them! If they be dangerously sick, they will inquire of the physician, What think you, sir, shall I escape, or not? But in the business of their salvation, they are content to be uncertain.

Someone recently told me of a young man whose family used to attend this church. He had become very successful in worldly terms. He picked up a friend to show him his new Ferrari, but never returned. They found the crashed car with the two young men’s bodies several days later. He gained the world, but may well have lost his soul.

The irony of Jesus’ perceptive statement is magnified by the fact that few of us ever come close to gaining the whole world. But even if we could do it, Jesus says, what good is it if we forfeit our own soul? Alexander the Great conquered vast territories and even ordered that he be worshiped as god, but he caught a fever and died at age 33. What good did his conquests do him in light of eternity? Just over 50 years ago, Adolf Hitler tried to conquer the world, but he ended up committing suicide when his plans failed. Some business tycoons, like Ted Turner, reject God and commit themselves to amassing a fortune. He owns more land than almost any other human being. But he soon will die and face God’s judgment with nothing to cover his sin.

The Christian life must be lived daily by keeping in view the shortness of this life and the insignificance of the things of this world in light of eternity. When he was just 19, Jonathan Edwards wrote down 34 resolutions that he committed himself to practice for God’s glory. Number 9 was, “To think much, on all occasions, of my dying, and of the common circumstances which attend death” (The Works of Jonathan Edwards [Banner of Truth], 1:xx). That may strike you as a bit morbid for a young man, but Edwards was seeking to live in the light of eternity. A few months later he wrote, “I frequently hear persons in old age say how they would live, if they were to live their lives over again: Resolved, That I will live just so as I can think I shall wish I had done, supposing I live to old age” (ibid., 1:xxii).

To apply this, think about being at the end of your life. None of us knows how long we’ll live, but assume that the Lord gives you 80 years. In light of eternity, what would you want to accomplish as you look back on your life from that point? In light of this, write out a purpose statement that sums up what you want God to do through you in the years He gives you. Then write out some specific goals for the coming year in light of that overall purpose. Then, whether you live to be 80 or 40, you won’t spend your time trying to gain the world while losing your soul.

3. The disciple daily crucifies self because he lives in the light of the second coming of Jesus to judge the world (9:26).

Although Jesus had just predicted His own rejection and death (9:22), He makes it clear that that will not be the final chapter. He will come again in His own glory and the glory of the Father and of the holy angels. The apostle Paul describes that awesome event as a time “when the Lord Jesus shall be revealed from heaven with His mighty angels in flaming fire, dealing out retribution to those who do not know God and to those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus” (2 Thess. 1:7, 8). The Lord Jesus described His own “coming on the clouds of the sky with power and great glory. And He will send forth His angels with a great trumpet and they will gather together His elect from the four winds, from one end of the sky to the other” (Matt. 24:30, 31).

A main reason I should deny myself and take up my cross daily to follow Jesus is that He is coming again in power and glory to judge everyone. Either He will be ashamed of me on that day or He will confess me favorably before the Father and say to me, “Well done, good and faithful slave… Enter into the joy of your master” (Matt. 25:21, 23). I don’t know whether Jesus will speak to me in English or whether He will give me the ability to understand Hebrew or whatever language is spoken in heaven. But in English, you can tell by a person’s lips whether he is going to say, “Depart from Me” or “Well done.” I try to live each day so that when I stand before the Lord Jesus in all His glory, I see His lips form the words, “Well done.”

Note that Jesus says that there is the danger that we will be ashamed of Him and His words. He spoke often, more than anyone else in the Bible, about hell. Are you embarrassed to warn people about hell? It’s not a popular doctrine in our day of tolerance and relativism. It would be much easier to drop Jesus’ many references to hell out of our conversations with unbelievers: “Let’s take a more positive approach, telling them about God’s love, not about His judgment. It sells better.” I’m not advocating that we go to the other extreme and become insensitive, judgmental hell fire and damnation witnesses. But I am saying that if we do not lovingly warn people of the danger of hell and judgment, we are probably being ashamed of Jesus’ words.

Another hard thing Jesus spoke about is the inability of sinners to come to Him apart from the sovereign grace of God. Jesus spoke very plainly about this in John 6:26-65, where He repeats in verse 65 what He had already stated in verse 44: “No one can come to Me, unless it has been granted him from the Father.” This is a hard doctrine! Thus verse 66 states, “As a result of this many of His disciples withdrew, and were not walking with Him anymore.” They didn’t like Jesus’ teaching because the doctrines of God’s sovereign grace humble the pride of the human heart. But we must bow before the hard sayings of Jesus, as well as the words that we like, if we confess Him as Savior and Lord.

To obey Luke 9:26, we have to elevate the fear of God above the fear of people. Later, in the context of repeating a similar warning about confessing Him before men (12:8, 9), Jesus says, “My friends, do not be afraid of those who kill the body, and after that have no more that they can do. But I will warn you whom to fear: fear the One who after He has killed has authority to cast into hell; yes, I tell you, fear Him!” (9:4, 5). If we live each day in light of Jesus’ glorious return to judge the earth, we can daily deny self in order to confess Him before others.

If we would keep in mind that life is very short and that eternity is just ahead, it would concentrate our minds wonderfully! Even though it is difficult and painful, we would daily put self on the cross and follow Jesus because we will soon stand before Him on judgment day. Instead of getting caught up with the things of this world, we would live in view of the world to come. The reality of eternity is the motivation for living obediently now, even though it means a slow, painful death to self.

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Posted by on November 15, 2020 in Luke


Spending Time With Jesus: Our Inadequacy, Christ’s Adequacy – Luke 9:10-17

Do you ever feel overwhelmed with all that needs to be done in serving the Lord? We are needy people serving Christ in a needy world. It’s not unusual at this time of year to hear of thousands who have lost everything due to a hurricane, and that doesn’t take into consideration those in the world who live every day from meal to meal.

I often think of the millions who have yet to hear about the Savior who came to earth ‘just for them.’ We likely feel overwhelmed with the immensity of the task and with our own inadequacy. How can I possibly meet the needs of this church, let alone the massive needs of this hurting world?

No passage of Scripture has had a more profound impact on our service for Christ than the gospel accounts of the feeding of the 5,000. It could be argued that it is the most significant miracle Jesus performed, since it’s the only one God saw fit to record in all four gospels….with the obvious exception to the resurrection.  I find myself coming back to its lessons again and again.

The Lord used this incident for the training of the twelve. We see this in His pointed challenge, “You give them something to eat!” John’s account (6:6) tells us that Jesus was testing them (especially Philip), knowing what He was about to do.

The miracle itself is almost passed over. We are never told exactly how Jesus did it. The focus is not on the spectacular nature of the miracle, but on what it teaches those who serve Jesus about how He meets the needs of others through them.

Christ will give us His adequacy to meet the needs of people if we yield our inadequacy to Him.

Three things stand out in this story: the needy multitudes; the inadequate disciples; and the adequate Savior.

1. People are needy.

The apostles returned from their first preaching tour and gave an account to Jesus of all that they had done (9:10). Jesus withdrew with them to the vicinity of Bethsaida, on the northeast side of the Sea of Galilee. Mark’s account (6:31) tells us that the purpose of the getaway was rest.

The fact that this many people would go to this effort to be with Jesus shows how needy they were. If you had taken a survey of the crowd, many would have said that their greatest need was for physical healing. There were blind, deaf, lame, diseased and dying people there.

By the end of the day, others would have said that their greatest need was for food. There was nothing to eat in that desolate place. But whether anyone recognized it or not, each person’s greatest need was spiritual.

Jesus could heal their bodies and fill their stomachs, but that was only a stopgap measure if they perished in their sins. So Jesus taught them about the kingdom of God, how they could rightly be related to Him: Luke 9:11 (ESV) When the crowds learned it, they followed him, and he welcomed them and spoke to them of the kingdom of God and cured those who had need of healing.

2. We are inadequate to meet the overwhelming needs of people.

Did you notice the contrast between Jesus’ attitude toward the multitude and that of the disciples? Jesus welcomed them (9:11), but the disciples said to Jesus, “Send the multitude away” (9:12).

Jesus said something utterly ridiculous: “You give them something to eat” (9:13). There were 5,000 men, plus women and children. If there were 2.5 children for each man and woman, we’re talking about providing dinner for a crowd half the population of many cities in Alabama!

All the food the disciples could come up with was five loaves and two fish, which came from a little boy (John 6:9). The entire incident underscores the utter inadequacy of the disciples to meet this overwhelming need.

The manner in which Jesus performed this miracle is significant. He could have called down manna from heaven. Calling down manna would have fit the situation. It would have been easier on the twelve. It would have been more efficient.

The Lord could have spoken the word and a loaf of bread would have miraculously appeared in each person’s hand. Everyone would have been more awed at Jesus’ power than they were with the quiet way this miracle was done.

Jesus could have called angels who could have taken the bread from His hand and flown directly to each group and given them the food. People would have been amazed. They would have talked about it for the rest of their lives.

But how did Jesus do it? He used the disciples to distribute the bread and fish to the people. I’m convinced that the Lord did the miracle that way to teach the disciples that His method for meeting the needs of a lost world is through people. Christ meets the needs of people through people. But note carefully the kind of people He uses: Inadequate people!

Jesus uses tired, emotionally drained people. The disciples had just returned from their first preaching tour. Jesus knew they were tired and needed a rest. But their only rest had been the short trip across the lake. True, Jesus let them rest all day as He taught and healed the multitude. But, still, their tiredness and emotional condition comes through in their request, “Send them away.”

Jesus uses busy people. They didn’t even have time to eat because of all the people coming and going. I thought that our hectic schedules were unique to our culture, but apparently not! I have worked as a banquet waiter, so I know that once they started handing out the food to this huge crowd, they were busy men! But invariably the Lord doesn’t use people with extra time on their hands. He uses those who are busy and He keeps them busy. I’m sure that they didn’t have time to eat until that entire crowd had been served.

Jesus uses people who lack resources. The disciples’ comment about buying enough food for all these people was no doubt said with some sarcasm. They didn’t have nearly enough money to do that. The other gospels report that they did a quick calculation and told Jesus that 200 denarii (seven to eight months’ wages) would not be enough to give each person just a little bread. Obviously, the disciples didn’t have anywhere near that much cash in hand. Besides, they were in a desolate place. Even if they went to Bethsaida to buy bread, there wouldn’t be that much bread available. They were ridiculously lacking in the resources to meet Jesus’ demand to feed the multitude.

Jesus works through people who choose to serve. He works through His servants. Servants serve when they’re tired, emotionally drained, busy, and lacking in adequate resources. Servants serve because they’re under obligation to their master.

How do we do it? By yielding our inadequacy to the Master to use as He pleases. Five small loaves and two fish, a boy’s lunch—not much to feed such a crowd.

3. Christ will give us His adequacy when we yield our inadequacy to Him to use as He pleases.

A. We must yield what we have, not what we don’t have.

That sounds obvious, doesn’t it? But so often we make up excuses about what we don’t have and we fail to offer to Jesus what we do have. “If I just had more money, I’d give regularly to the church!” “If I just had the gift of evangelism, I’d witness more!” “If I just had the ability that others have, I’d serve the Lord.” “If I just …”! But Jesus didn’t use all the bread in Bethsaida, which the disciples didn’t have. He used the five loaves and two fish that they did have. Jesus doesn’t ask you to give Him what you don’t have. He asks you to give Him what you do have.

B. We must yield our inadequacy to Him to use as He pleases.

The disciples weren’t giving the orders here. They were following Jesus’ orders: “Have them recline to eat in groups of about fifty each.” “Eat what, Lord?” “It won’t work, Lord!” “I’ve got a better idea, Lord.” No, they did what Jesus commanded. We need to yield ourselves to Him and let Him do as He sees fit. What Jesus did with this boy’s lunch is what He does with us when we give Him our inadequate abilities and resources:

  • Jesus blesses.

Without His blessing, we’re wasting our time. “Unless the Lord builds the house, they labor in vain who build it” (Ps. 127:1). Do you covet God’s blessing in your life and labors for Him? Everything in God’s work depends upon His blessing. If it is there, even an insufficient amount is sufficient; if it is lacking, the greatest resources and efforts in the world will not be enough.

  • Jesus breaks.

Blessing and brokenness go together. You won’t find God’s blessing apart from God’s breaking. You can see it in the lives of every person God has used. Abraham and Sarah had to be past their ability to produce a child before God gave them Isaac. Jacob had to be crippled in his hip before he prevailed with God. Moses had to fail in his own strength and spend 40 years tending sheep in the wilderness before God used him to deliver Israel.

Vance Havner observed, “God uses broken things. It takes broken soil to produce a crop, broken clouds to give rain, broken grain to give bread, broken bread to give strength. It is the broken alabaster box that gives forth perfume. It is Peter, weeping bitterly, who returns to greater power than ever.”

  • Jesus satisfies.

Jesus “kept giving them to the disciples to set before the multitude. And they all ate and were satisfied” (9:16b-17a).

We hear a lot about “burnout” in our day. While we need adequate rest and time off, we can test our labors for the Lord by this: If we’re burned out, there’s a good chance we’ve been trying to meet human needs with our inadequate abilities and resources. But if we come away tired, yes, but with the satisfaction of the fulness of Christ left over in our souls, then the Lord’s blessing was on us.


God may not call us to preach to thousands. But if you’ve tasted His mercy, He does call you to serve Him in some way. He wants to use you to give the Bread of Life to those who are hungry.

The requirement is that you see how inadequate you are to do anything for Him. Then, yield your inadequacy to Him to use as He pleases. He will use you to help meet the needs of a hurting world. And He will give you a basket full of leftovers for yourself besides!

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Posted by on November 8, 2020 in Luke


Spending Time With Jesus: From Fear to Faith – Luke 8:41-56

8:41-42 And now a man named Jairus, a leader of the local synagogue, came and fell down at Jesus’ feet, begging him to come home with him. His only child was dying, a little girl twelve years old. As Jesus went with him, he was surrounded by the crowds.NLT

A synagogue leader was highly visible and respected. The synagogue was the local center of worship…responsible for supervising worship services, caring for the scrolls, running the daily school, keeping the congregation faithful to the law, distributing alms, administering the care of the building, and finding rabbis to teach on the Sabbath.

Jairus was desperate because his only child was dying…as a loving father overshadowed his position as a leader. He put aside any concern for himself.

8:43-44 And a woman was there who had been subject to bleeding for twelve years, but no one could heal her. She came up behind him and touched the edge of his cloak, and immediately her bleeding stopped.NIV

Luke wrote that the woman had been subject to bleeding for twelve years, but no one could heal her. Many doctors had tried, but with no success (Mark 5:26). This was a type of painful hemorrhage. The bleeding caused the woman to be in a constant condition of ceremonial uncleanness (see Leviticus 15:25-33). She could not worship in the synagogue, and she could not have normal social relationships, for under Jewish law, anyone who touched her also would become unclean.

That she was in the crowd at all was a courageous move on her part. If all those people bumping against her in the crowd had known her condition, she would have been in for some rough treatment.

She also desperately needed Jesus….she believed even the clothes of a holy man imparted spiritual and healing power.

She may also have feared that Jesus would not touch her if he knew her condition because she would make him unclean. So she hoped to touch Jesus and then get away as unobtrusively as possible.

The moment that she touched Jesus, her bleeding stopped. The text in Luke says that she was healed immediately—her pain was gone and she knew that she was healed. After twelve years of suffering, the bleeding vanished completely in an instant.

8:45 “Who touched me?” Jesus asked. Everyone denied it, and Peter said, “Master, this whole crowd is pressing up against you.NLT The woman had touched Jesus and probably had turned to go, hoping to disappear into the crowd. But Jesus knew about the healing the moment it happened. Peter pointed out the obvious, basically telling Jesus it was a strange question to ask in the middle of a crowd.

Why did it matter? Couldn’t Jesus have let this woman go on her way? It wasn’t that Jesus didn’t know who had touched him. He wanted her to step forward and identify herself.  Jesus wanted to teach her that his cloak did not contain magical properties but that her faith in him had healed her. He may also have wanted to teach the crowds a lesson.

In Jesus’ mind, this suffering woman was not to be overlooked. As God’s creation, she deserved attention and respect.

8:46 But Jesus said, “Someone touched me; I know that power has gone out from me.”NIV Jesus persisted. He stopped the entire crowd…Jesus was talking about a purposeful touch of someone who wanted to be healed. Jesus knew it because power had gone out from him. Jesus also knew that for this woman to be able to return to normal social relations and worship, her cure would need to be known publicly.

8:47 When the woman saw that she could not remain hidden, she came trembling; and falling down before him, she declared in the presence of all the people why she had touched him, and how she had been immediately healed.NRSV

She would have to explain how she—unclean and filled with a dreadful disease—had come in among the crowd, had reached out and touched a man (a rabbi) in her unclean state, and had hoped to slip away.

8:48 Then he said to her, “Daughter, your faith has healed you. Go in peace.”NIV She came for healing and received it, but she also received a relationship and peace with God himself because of her faith. Jesus explained that it was not his clothing that had healed her; rather, her faith in reaching out to the one Person who could heal her had allowed that healing to take place.

The words “go in peace” are more literally “go into peace.” With this healing, Jesus gave this woman her life. Her cure was permanent. Jesus wished her peace of both body and soul—renewed health for her body and eternal salvation for her soul.

8:49 While he was still speaking to her, a messenger arrived from Jairus’s home with the message, “Your little girl is dead. There’s no use troubling the Teacher now.NLT What Jairus feared most had happened. His dear little girl had died. It was too late for the Teacher to heal her, so there was no longer any reason to bring Jesus to his home.

8:50 Hearing this, Jesus said to Jairus, “Don’t be afraid; just believe, and she will be healed.”NIV Jairus had tried, but he had failed. Jesus, however, would not be put off. In the presence of Jairus, the woman had been commended for her faith. Here in the presence of the woman, Jairus was told to have faith. The woman became a model of faith for Jairus.

In many ways, the woman and Jairus are similar. Both came to Jesus in desperate need, kneeling at his feet (8:41, 47); both had public problems (8:47, 51); both needed faith, which was the crucial step in their solution (8:48, 50).

Faith had healed the desperate woman; faith could also heal Jairus’s child.

 8:51 When they arrived at the house, Jesus wouldn’t let anyone go in with him except Peter, James, John, and the little girl’s father and mother.NLT  Raising a dead child would be obvious enough, so in this miracle, Jesus wanted privacy for the child and her parents. He did not need the miracle-hungry throng filling the room.

8:52-53 The house was filled with people weeping and wailing, but he said, “Stop the weeping! She isn’t dead; she is only asleep.” But the crowd laughed at him because they all knew she had died.NLT The house full of people probably included relatives and neighbors, as well as professional mourners who may have already arrived. Lack of weeping and wailing was the ultimate disgrace and disrespect. Jairus, the leader of the synagogue, was an important person in the town. Thus, at the death of his only daughter, the townspeople demonstrated their great love and respect for Jairus and his family by their intense grief.

Jesus used the image of sleep to indicate that the girl’s condition was temporary and that she would be restored. For Jesus, death is nothing more than sleep, for he has power and authority over death.

8:54-55 But he took her by the hand and said, “My child, get up!” Her spirit returned, and at once she stood up. Then Jesus told them to give her something to eat.NIV Jesus went against all ceremonial law and took the dead girl by the hand. Touching a dead body would make a person unclean, but Jesus often would go past such laws in order to show compassion on those in need.

8:56 And her parents were astonished, but He charged them to tell no one what had happened.NKJV Reversal of death is never expected—and only a few have ever received a dead loved one back to life.

Jesus told the parents not to talk about their daughter’s healing because he knew that the facts would speak for themselves. Jesus was not attempting to keep this a secret, for the crowd outside was waiting and would see what had happened. Jesus charged them to tell no one because he was concerned for his ministry.

He wanted people to listen to his words that would heal their broken spiritual lives. Jesus’ mission was to preach the good news of the kingdom of God. If crowds descended on him to see dead people raised, they would not be coming with the attitude needed to hear and respond to the gospel.

In fearful situations we must overcome hindrances to faith and put our trust in Jesus.

Sooner or later, we all face these fearful situations where we don’t know what to do. The bottom suddenly drops out from under us and we are overwhelmed. Such situations are never fun, but Jairus’ story shows us that …

There are benefits for us in fearful situations.
A. Fearful situations help us clarify our priorities.
It’s easy to drift off course in life and to spend our time in things that aren’t in line with our priorities, if we were to stop and think about it. But we don’t stop and think about it until a crisis like this brings us up short.

Worldly success doesn’t insulate anyone from tragedy and death. It may afford a person access to the best medical treatment available. But doctors can only do so much. Every person must be ready to face death for himself and his loved ones. When it stares us in the face, we’re reminded that love for God and for others is the only thing worth living for.

B. Fearful situations strip away our pride and let the Lord prove Himself mighty on our behalf.
If we protect our pride and come to Jesus and say, “Lord, I’ve almost got the situation under control, but I could use a little advice from You,” He is robbed of His glory. But when we come and cast ourselves at Jesus’ feet and say, “Lord, You must do it or there is no hope,” He is glorified and others are drawn to put their trust in Him.

C. Fearful situations remind us of our mortality and drive us to trust in Christ.
Necessity is not only the mother of invention; it’s also the mother of faith. We don’t trust God as we should until we are forced to trust Him. But our fear can be God’s opportunity if we trust in Him.

Someone has said that we hang the heaviest weights by the thinnest wires. We put our hopes on this life, which is so tentative. We live and plan our lives as if death is a far-distant thing, something we need not think about until we’re in our 70s and 80s.

But that which matters most to us can be taken quickly and without warning. When we stare death in the face, be it our own or the death of a loved one, we are suddenly reminded that life is a vapor and that we must be right with God.

Some of you face fearful situations today—a difficult marriage, a rebellious child, a personal health problem, the loss of a job or a financial setback. Whatever your fearful situation, it can be of great benefit if you let it clarify your priorities, strip away your pride, and drive you to trust in Jesus so that He can be glorified through it. But trusting Him isn’t easy:

2. In fearful situations we must overcome hindrances to faith.
When we face fearful situations, believing in Jesus is not easy. We will face hindrances and setbacks which can shake our confidence in Him. The world will often laugh at us and say, “What a fool to trust in Jesus! We have the facts on our side.” But we must overcome these hindrances and cling to our Savior. Just as He called Jairus to faith in the face of fear, so He calls us.

In fearful situations we must put our trust in Jesus.

A. Jesus’ willingness to accept us where we are encourages us to trust Him.
Jairus believed in Jesus, but it wasn’t an especially strong faith. Jairus didn’t go and plead, “Speak the word and my daughter will get well.” He asked Jesus to come and lay His hands on her. It was a weak faith in comparison to the others, but Jesus accepted it and worked with Jairus from that point.

B. Jesus’ power in working with others encourages us to trust Him.
Jesus started to go with Jairus, but then got interrupted by this woman with the hemorrhage. This was a hindrance to Jairus’ faith, in that while Jesus was dealing with her, word came that Jairus’ daughter had died. But it also served to strengthen his faith, as he saw Jesus’ power heal this needy woman.  She had been 12 years in her affliction, the same number of years that Jairus’ daughter had lived.

C. Jesus’ tenderness encourages us to trust Him. Like a father helping his youngster learn to ride a bike, Jesus comes alongside and cheers, “Attaway! Keep going! You’re doing great!” If we fall and skin our knee, He tenderly cleans and bandages it and helps us get up and start over again.

D. Jesus’ mighty power over death encourages us to trust Him. For Jesus, raising the dead was as easy as raising a sleeping child would be for us.  Because Jesus is powerful over death, we can trust Him! No matter how fearful the situation, Jesus wants us to trust Him. He may or may not deliver our loved ones or us from death. But even if He does not, we can trust His mighty power and know that one day He will speak the word and all we who have trusted in Him will be gathered with Him, triumphant over sin and death.

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Posted by on November 1, 2020 in Luke


Spending Time With Jesus: How to Love Jesus Fervently—Luke 7:36-50

Begin by discussing the life of someone who was steeped in drugs and everything but Christianity, who was converted and grew excited “for the Lord” and those like me who grew up in a family that was “in worship/classes every time the doors were open.”

So I wondered, “How can I develop the same fervent love for the Lord that he seems to have?”

I realized that the answer was not to go out and rack up some big sins, so that grace might abound. While I still have a long ways to go, this story has helped me to deepen my own love for the Savior. I believe it will do the same for you if you will take it to heart. We need to meet the three main characters in this drama.

The Pharisee: His name was Simon. This story is not a variation of the incident that took place in the home of a Simon the leper, where Mary of Bethany anointed Jesus just prior to His arrest. Simon was a common name.

This Simon was a Pharisee, which means that outwardly he was a good, upright, religious man. He attempted to keep the Law of Moses. He tithed his income. He fasted regularly. He prayed at least three times every day. He never missed in his attendance at the synagogue. He was a decent man who was respected as a religious leader in the community.

His relationship to Jesus could be described as formal, distant and cool. He invited Jesus to his home for dinner, probably thinking that the theological discussion would be interesting.

This young Teacher was creating quite a stir, and it would be intriguing to interact with Him. But Simon had no sense of personal need. He projected an air of having it together. After all, he was a Pharisee.

For him, Jesus didn’t offer anything eternally vital. Scholars debate whether Simon’s withholding of water to wash Jesus’ feet, of the greeting kiss, and of the oil to anoint His head was rude or not. But certainly Simon’s reception of Jesus was much more reserved than he would have shown to the Chief Priest if he had come to dinner.

Simon wanted to reflect a certain coolness and distance. He didn’t want his friends to think that he had gone overboard for Jesus or anything like that.

The Prostitute: The second character of the drama, deliberately left unnamed by Luke to guard her privacy, was probably a prostitute. She is not Mary Magdalene or Mary of Bethany. At the least, she was notorious in town for her openly sinful way of life. When she entered the room, eyebrows were raised and voices were lowered to whispers.

Jesus’ question to Simon (7:44) is rather amusing: “Do you see this woman?” You can rest assured that Simon was aware of nothing but that woman from the moment she had entered the room!

Although it was a common custom for uninvited guests to be able to drop in at such a gathering to listen to the dialog, Simon hardly expected to see the likes of her!

By His question, Jesus was about to showcase a prostitute as an example for a Pharisee to follow! The fact was, Simon had not really seen that woman. He had not seen that she had something he needed, namely, a loving, thankful heart toward the Savior.

It took a lot of courage for this woman to seek out Jesus in this gathering that probably included many Pharisees. She knew that she would have to endure stares, whispers, and muffled laughter as the men nudged one another. But she wanted openly to express her love for Jesus, and she was willing to endure public humiliation to do it.

Luke does not tell us, but we must assume that this woman had come under Jesus’ teaching prior to this occasion. Jesus’ words to her (7:48, 50) are words of assurance, not first-time declarations.

As this sinful woman had heard Jesus speak of the things of God, she sensed that here was a Man who did not condemn her. She had heard the Pharisees teach that the way to God was to keep the law, to observe countless Sabbath regulations, and to be diligent to avoid ceremonial defilement. But their teaching offered her no hope. It only added to her condemnation. She didn’t even know where to begin!

But then she heard Jesus say, “I have not come to call the righteous but sinners to repentance” (Luke 5:32). She heard of greedy tax collectors who had been transformed by coming to Jesus.

Perhaps she heard of another sinful woman to whom Jesus had said, “Neither do I condemn you; go your way; from now on, sin no more” (John 8:11). She thought, “This Man offers hope even to a sinner like me!” And so she repented of her sins and put her trust in this one who came to seek and to save the lost. All of this had happened before that day in Simon’s house.

When she learned that He was nearby, she determined to go to Him and express her deep gratitude for all that He had done for her. At such a dinner, the guests reclined on couches with their heads toward the table, leaning on their left elbows, with their feet away from the table. She planned to slip in and anoint His feet with this expensive perfume as He reclined at the table.

But when she got there, she was overcome with emotion. She could not contain her tears. As she clung to His feet and they became wet with her tears, she ignored the custom of a woman not letting her hair down in public. That hair that before she had let down for sinful purposes, she now undid to dry the Savior’s feet.

She was so thankful that she kept kissing His feet. Kissing the feet was a common mark of deep reverence, especially to leading rabbis (Alfred Plummer, A Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the Gospel According to St. Luke [Charles Scribners Sons], p. 211).

Finally, she took her bottle of costly perfume and poured it on His feet. She didn’t care what anyone else thought. She wanted to show her love for Jesus. In contrast to the cool detachment of the Pharisee, this prostitute had a fervent, demonstrative love for the Lord Jesus who had done so much for her.

Before we look at the third character of the drama, let me ask: Which of these two characters most describes your relationship with Jesus? Are you more like the cool, calm, and collected Pharisee? You’ve got it pretty much together spiritually, so you don’t really need what Jesus offers, namely, forgiveness of sins.

Are you like Simon? Or, like this woman, do you see that without Jesus, you’d be hopelessly, helplessly lost in your sins? Like her, are you at liberty to express your deep feelings of love and gratitude for the Savior, in spite of what people might think?

Luke wants us to take an honest look at ourselves and identify with either the Pharisee or the prostitute. Clearly, the prostitute is the preferable character here!

The Prophet: Jesus is the third main character of the drama. One of Luke’s main reasons for relating this story is to get us to reflect on the question, “Who is this man, Jesus?” The question came to Simon’s mind as he squirmed while watching this notorious woman kiss Jesus’ feet.

He thought, “If this man were a prophet He would know who and what sort of person this woman is who is touching Him, that she is a sinner” (7:39).

Luke uses splendid irony by showing that Jesus could read Simon’s secret thoughts, even though Simon doubted that He was a prophet!

The dinner guests also raise the question of Jesus’ identity: “Who is this man who even forgives sins?” (7:49). It’s not the first time in Luke that this question has been asked. Jesus demonstrated His authority to forgive sins by raising the paralytic from his stretcher (5:21, 24).

Here, He ignores the murmuring of the religious crowd, assures this sinful woman of her forgiveness and sends her away in peace. You can only rightly forgive sins if they were committed against you. Luke wants us to consider that this man is not only a prophet, He is the one whose Law this sinful woman had broken. As God in human flesh, He could rightly forgive sins.

Having met the main characters, let’s come back to the central question: How do I develop the fervent love for Jesus that this sinful woman had, especially if my background is more like that of the Pharisee? Jesus answers that question in the story about the two debtors that He addresses to Simon (7:41-43). He brings out three simple truths:

1. To love Jesus fervently, you must realize your great debt.

Both parties are in debt. The greater debtor refers to the sinful woman, the lesser debtor to the Pharisee. But in God’s sight the woman was not necessarily the greater sinner. Outwardly, as men see things, yes, she was the greater sinner.

It is true that sins of the body are worse than sins of the mind (1 Cor. 6:18-19). But God looks on the heart, not just on the outward sins. In his heart, the Pharisee was guilty of pride and self-righteousness, which are serious sins.

Also, God judges according to the light that a person has received. To sin against clear knowledge and an informed conscience is more serious than to sin in ignorance, although both are sins. God takes into account the various circumstances that surround a person, such as the person’s upbringing, environment, and the factors that led the person into the sin.

God would judge much more severely a young person from a godly upbringing who fell into a lifestyle of immorality than someone from a pagan country who had no knowledge of the gospel. So we do not know which of the two was the worse sinner in God’s sight.

But Jesus couches the story in this way to draw the Pharisee’s neck into the noose. Simon would have been thinking, “Jesus is right; this woman is at least ten times worse than I am.” But in so agreeing, Simon has just acknowledged that he, too, is a debtor! He may not be in quite as deep as the woman, but he is in debt as a violator of God’s holy law. Before you can love the Lord Jesus as the one who paid your debt, you have to come to see that you are, in fact, in debt. “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Rom. 6:23). “There is none righteous, not even one” (Rom. 3:10). You must acknowledge, “I have sinned and am guilty before the holy God.” Jesus’ second point pulls the noose tight:

2. To love Jesus fervently, you must realize your utter inability to repay your debt.

Both debtors were unable to repay. Both were in over their heads. If you can’t repay, you can’t repay! You’re bankrupt! The creditor can take everything you own to recover at least part of his losses. Which person is in bigger trouble: the guy drowning in 50 feet of water or the guy drowning in 500 feet of water? It would be ridiculous for the guy in 50 feet of water to look at the guy in 500 feet and think, “Well, at least I’m better off than that poor wretch!” And, it wouldn’t do any good for the guy in 500 feet of water to think, “If I can just swim over to where that guy is in 50 feet of water, I’ll be okay!”

And yet sinners often think like this! The self-righteous sinner thinks, “I’m better off than that degraded sinner who is drowning in 500 feet of water!” But all the while, he’s going to drown in his 50 feet! Or, the really bad sinner mistakenly thinks, “If I can just clean up my life by swimming over next to that guy in 50 feet of water, I’ll be just fine.” But in God’s sight, both are guilty as lawbreakers. Both are debtors and neither has the ability to repay.

To love Jesus much, you must come to the realization that you are in debt to God because of your sin and because of the many deeds of sin that you have committed. You must also realize that there is nothing you can do to repay the debt. All the good deeds in the world added to your sins is like putting frosting over a moldy cake. You’ve got to come to the place where you recognize that your entire cake is moldy and you can’t do anything to fix it.

The more the Holy Spirit opens my eyes to the holiness of God as revealed in His Word, the more I see my horrible sinfulness. I argue that this process does not stop at conversion, but that the more a person grows in the Lord, the more he sees the terrible blackness of his heart.

Yes, by God’s grace every Christian is a saint; but also, we should with Paul see ourselves as the chief of sinners. This growing awareness of the great debt we owe to God and of our utter inability to pay will lead us into a deeper love for Jesus who paid the debt Himself.

3. To love Jesus fervently, you must trust totally in His grace to forgive your unpayable debt of sin.

“When they were unable to repay, he graciously forgave them both” (7:42). What wonderful words! Why did he forgive them both? Did he look at their character and say, “I think you’re worthy for me to do this?” No! Did he extract a promise to work off the debt in the years to come? No! He forgave them graciously or freely. It stemmed totally from him and not at all from them.

Jesus states plainly (7:50) that it was her faith that had saved her, not her love. Also, at the end of verse 47, Jesus does not say, “he who loves little is forgiven little,” but the reverse.

The point of Jesus’ story in verses 41-43 is obviously that forgiveness precedes and results in love, not vice versa. In verse 47 Jesus is saying that this woman’s fervent love was an evidence of her great forgiveness which preceded it. For example, we may say, “It is raining, for the window is wet.” The wet window is not the cause of the rain, but the evidence of it. The woman’s fervent love was the evidence of her forgiveness, not the cause of it. When a person sees his debt of sin before God and his inability to meet the debt, it drives him to trust completely in the Savior who graciously forgives the debt. That is the key to developing a fervent love for Christ:

To love Jesus fervently, realize your great debt and your utter inability to repay it and trust totally in God’s grace to forgive it.

The more you see your debt and your own inability to repay it, the more you will see how much the Savior did for you when He took the penalty for your sin on Himself on the cross. When you see the depths of His great love, you will love Him more and more.


There are two groups that I hope will take this message to heart. First, there are those, like myself, who were reared in the church or who have been in the church for many years. You are familiar with the things of God; perhaps too familiar.

Does the gospel stir your heart as it used to do? You need to think about how much God has forgiven you so that you will shake your apathy and love Him fervently.

The other group consists of any, like this woman, who are overwhelmed with sin and guilt. I hope that you can see that there is hope for the very worst of sinners who will come to Jesus for forgiveness. He freely forgives both the small and large debtors who cast themselves on His mercy.

Would you like to hear the Savior say directly to you, as He said to this sinful woman, “Your sins have been forgiven?” Then you must join her at Jesus’ feet, deeply aware of your many sins, but even more deeply aware of His abundant grace.

Trust totally in Him to save you and not at all in yourself. You will then hear Him say, “Your faith has saved you. Go in peace.”

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Posted by on October 29, 2020 in Luke


Spending Time With Jesus: Avoiding Gospel Killjoys—Luke 5:33-6:5

Someone incorrectly defined a Christian as “a person who suffers from an overwhelming dread that somewhere, sometime, somehow, someone may be enjoying himself.”

Since God is absolutely good, truly enjoying Him and our life dedicated to His glory is the greatest joy possible.

But we all have met someone who fits that incorrect definition—a religious person who only seems to be content when everyone else is miserable. “They put starch in their underwear and they want to make sure that everyone else lives the same way!”

I had a university football coach tell me that “you Christians don’t have much fun” when we compared ourselves going to a party. My response: the difference between you and me is that I can go a party and know where I who I was with, and what I did the next day!” We both laughed and he did not disagree with my assessment.

Two of the biggest spiritual killjoys have been ascetics and legalists. Ascetics deliberately make life tough on themselves and think that pleasure is evil or, at least, tends toward evil. They wouldn’t feel quite right to enjoy life.

Legalists delight in keeping their lists of rules and judging those who don’t have or keep the same rules. Invariably, their rules are not the weighty matters of God’s Law, such as love, justice, mercy, and matters of the heart.

Rather, they congratulate themselves for keeping man-made standards dealing with external things and they judge those who ignore these things. Ascetics and legalists are gospel killjoys.

In our text, Jesus encounters some who tended toward asceticism and some who were legalistic, especially with regard to Sabbath observance. These events probably did not occur chronologically next to each other, but Luke places them in this context to show the supremacy and authority of Jesus over the old system and to show the growing hostility toward Jesus from the Jewish religious leaders.

They grumbled when He forgave the sins of the paralytic (5:21). They grumbled some more when Jesus and the disciples ate and drank with tax-gatherers and sinners at Levi’s house (5:30). And they were unhappy about Jesus’ disciples plucking, rubbing, and eating the heads of grain on the Sabbath.

Jesus’ defense shows us how to avoid these two gospel killjoys:

To avoid the gospel killjoys of asceticism and legalism, focus on the joy of a personal relationship with Christ.

Satan wants to promote the mistaken idea that Christianity is a joyless, grit-your-teeth-and-endure-it sort of religion. If people think that, they will turn to something or someone other than God as the source of their joy. God’s purpose is for His creatures to glorify Him.

A joyless Christian or someone who finds his greatest joy in something other than God, does not glorify God. We only glorify God when we find true joy in Him. Thus asceticism and legalism are both enemies of the good news Jesus came to bring.

1. Asceticism kills the joy of the gospel.

Everyone who seeks after God recognizes the problem of controlling the flesh. Due to the sin that indwells us all, we all are drawn after many of the sinful pleasures that God forbids in the Bible.

Asceticism is the attempt to conquer these sinful passions through self-denial of some form. This can include fasting (abstaining from food), celibacy (abstaining from marriage or marital relations), poverty (renouncing any accumulation of worldly goods), and other similar practices. But asceticism differs from the self-denial Jesus advocated in the realm of motive.

Outwardly, it would seem as if John the Baptist lived an ascetic lifestyle. He remained single, he lived on a meager diet, he dressed simply, and he lived a Spartan life for the sake of God’s kingdom.

Although the Pharisees were generally opposed to John the Baptist’s ministry because he confronted their hypocrisy, they found common ground with John’s disciples on the practice of fasting. So they sought to use this against Jesus and His disciples, who seemed to be more into feasting than fasting.

The Law of Moses only prescribed one fast per year, on the Day of Atonement, although Jewish custom had added four yearly fasts. But the stricter Pharisees fasted every Monday and Thursday.

You could tell they were fasting because they whitened their faces, put ashes on their heads, wore old clothes, and looked as somber as possible. They had the idea that you couldn’t be spiritual unless you looked and felt miserable.

And, they wanted to impress everyone else with how spiritual they really were. So fasting, if it stems from our heart as a means of devoting time to be alone with God to seek Him in prayer, can be rewarding. The motive is crucial. John the Baptist and his disciples no doubt fasted out of the proper motives, whereas the Pharisees and their disciples did not.

But in our text, Jesus doesn’t draw lines between John’s disciples and the Pharisees. Instead, He defends His disciples by asking rhetorically whether you can make the attendants of the bridegroom fast while the bridegroom is present.

The answer is, “Obviously, not. A wedding is a time of feasting, not fasting.”

Thus while Jesus the Bridegroom was with them, His disciples were not called to fasting. Then Jesus (for the first time in Luke) alludes to His own impending death. In that day His followers would fast.

Jesus follows this with three short explanatory illustrations that make the point that He is ushering in a new day spiritually. No one cuts a patch from a new garment to patch up an old one. This would ruin the new garment and it would not match the old one. Nor does anyone put new wine into old wineskins. The old, brittle skin would burst, losing both the old skin and the new wine.

With these two illustrations Jesus claims that He is offering something new and distinct from the old dispensation of the Law. As Messiah, He is ushering in the new day. While there is obvious continuity, in that Jesus fulfills the Old Testament promises regarding Messiah, there is also a definite transition.

Judaism had become encumbered with many manmade traditions. Jesus had to cut these away in order to offer the new wine of gospel joy.

The third illustration (5:39) is probably both a warning and an explanation. The person who is used to the old wine will not desire the new, but will be content with the old.

The Pharisees would resist Jesus’ ministry because they were so entrenched in their traditions. The point of this illustration is not that the old ways are better than the new, but rather that a person who is used to the old ways will be prone to resist the new.

But the Pharisees would have to break with their old, ascetic and legalistic ways if they wanted to follow the new way of joy that Jesus was offering.

Should Christians practice fasting? There are no direct commands to fast in the epistles, but there are examples of Paul and others fasting in times of personal crisis, in special times of seeking the Lord, or when they needed God’s guidance (Acts 9:9; 13:2, 3; 14:23).

Fasting can be helpful if you need to repent of sin or if you sense that you’ve drifted from the Lord and need to draw near again.

Fasting can be appropriate during a time of grief; to seek deliverance or protection; to express concern for God’s work; to minister to the needs of others; to overcome temptation; and to express love and devotion to God.

So, fasting is not commanded, but it is commended as a means of seeking God.

It’s interesting that both self-discipline and joy are listed as the fruit of the Spirit (Gal. 5:22, 23). Again, motive is crucial. If the Lord prompts us to fast for one of the reasons just mentioned, then we should obey.

But we always need to be on guard against pride and the flesh. God is not impressed with outward ritual or anything that feeds our pride. If we’re not careful, fasting can turn into asceticism, which kills the joy of the gospel. If we fast, we must do it as unto the Lord, not to impress others.

2. Legalism kills the joy of the gospel.

Luke presents the Pharisees’ confrontation with Jesus’ disciples over their picking grain on the Sabbath to show the growing tension between the Jewish leaders and Jesus and to show that He is Lord of the Sabbath.

The Law of Moses allowed for picking the grain as you walked through a neighbor’s field (Deut. 23:25). The problem, in the Pharisees’ minds, was that picking grain was reaping, rubbing the grain was threshing, blowing away the husks was winnowing, and the whole process was preparing food. All this was work according to their man-made rules, and thus forbidden on the Sabbath.

So the disciples were not breaking God’s Sabbath commandment, but rather the rabbinic refinement of that commandment. Jesus and the disciples were challenging pharisaic custom.

But surprisingly, Jesus did not point out that His critics were following the commands of men rather than the commands of God. Instead, He took an incident from the life of David (1 Sam. 21:1-7) in which he violated the letter of the law in order to meet human needs.

David and his men were fleeing from Saul. They came to the Tabernacle, where David asked the priest for the consecrated bread, which was put on the table of shewbread and replaced each Sabbath. The priests could then eat the old bread (Lev. 24:9).

But in this case, David and his men, who were not priests, ate the bread. Jesus’ point is that legitimate human need (hunger) superseded the letter of the ceremonial law. People take precedence over ritual, even if that ritual is ordained by God.

His critics were probably thinking and about ready to ask, “What makes you think that you can compare yourself with David?” But then Jesus makes the stunning claim that He, the Son of Man, is the Lord of the Sabbath!

Since God had instituted the Sabbath at creation (Gen.2:1-3), as well as stipulated it in the Ten Commandments through Moses, Jesus was saying that He was above Moses and was in fact on the same level as God who originated the Sabbath command!

As the Lord of the Sabbath, Jesus had the authority to interpret the force, intent, and limits of the Sabbath law. As the next incident and many others in the Gospels show, Jesus challenged the legalistic approach of the Pharisees, which was not God’s intent in giving the Sabbath law.

Legalism always kills the joy of the good news that Jesus came to bring. It is a common problem in our day, but there is a lot of confusion about it. So we need to be careful to understand what it is and what it is not.

In the first place, obedience to God’s commandments is not legalism. Jesus often emphasized the importance of obedience to God’s Word. The Bible is full of various rules, some negative, some positive, which God has commanded for our good.

Keeping them is not legalism. Being under grace does not mean that we are free to disobey God or hang loose with regard to His moral commandments.

Secondly, keeping man-made rules is not necessarily legalism. There are many areas not specified in the Bible where we need some rules to function as a Christian family or church. While these human rules are not as important as the commands of Scripture, there is a proper place for them and keeping them is not tantamount to legalism.

For example, if your parents set a curfew for you, they are not being legalistic and you are not free to disregard their curfew because you’re “under grace”!

So what is legalism? Essentially, it is an attitude of pride in which I congratulate myself for keeping certain standards and condemn those who do not keep them. It also seems to suggest that one is ‘earning their grace’ or ‘putting God in their debt.’

Usually the legalist thinks that his conformity to these rules makes him acceptable to God, either for salvation or sanctification. Invariably, these standards are not the great commandments of the Bible, such as loving God with all your heart and your neighbor as yourself. Most often they are external things which the legalist is able to keep.

The legalist judges spirituality by external conformity to certain rules. “Do you keep the Sabbath as we have defined it? Very well.” It doesn’t matter whether your heart is full of pride or lust or greed. What matters is that you keep the Sabbath rules.

Legalists ignore motives and inner righteousness. What matters to them is outward conformity. God hates that sort of thing, because it stems from the flesh (Isa. 1:11-14). God is concerned that we please Him from our hearts.

What about this matter of the Sabbath? Is Sunday the Christian Sabbath? Are we required to observe it as the Jews observed Saturday? If not, does it apply in any way to us? After all, it is one of the Ten Commandments, and all of the others apply to us!

I think that in reacting against legalism concerning the Lord’s Day, we’ve thrown the baby out with the bath water. The principle of setting one day in seven apart for worship and rest is a gift that God has given to the human race for our benefit. “The Sabbath was made for man.”

If we treat every day the same, except that on Sunday we attend a church service, we’re missing the blessing God intended by giving us the Sabbath commandment. We should set apart the Lord’s Day as a special day for worship and for rest from our normal duties.

Clearly, we are not under the rigorous regulations which applied to the Jewish nation, where God demanded that a man caught gathering sticks on the Sabbath should be stoned (Num. 15:32-36). But neither are we free to shrug off the Sabbath principle completely.

Even though we are not under the letter of the Jewish Law, there is an abiding principle of setting apart unto the Lord one day each week. We don’t do it to earn points with God or to check it off our list to prove that we’re spiritual.

We don’t take pride in our observance of the Lord’s Day and condemn those who are not up to our level of spiritual insight. But we should set aside the Lord’s Day out of love for Him, in order to honor Him.

So, asceticism and legalism kill the joy of the gospel Jesus came to bring. But how do we get and maintain that joy?

3. A personal relationship with Christ is the basis for true gospel joy.

Jesus refers to Himself here as the bridegroom. Remember, He was talking, at least in part, to some disciples of John the Baptist. So Jesus picked up on something John had said just prior to his imprisonment and used it to frame His answer.

John had referred to himself as the friend of the bridegroom and to Jesus as the bridegroom. John said that his joy was made full by hearing the voice of the bridegroom (John 3:29).

So here Jesus uses this analogy and points out what was obvious to anybody in that culture, that the soberness of fasting was incongruent with a wedding feast.

Jewish weddings lasted for seven days and were to be a time of joy and festivity. Even if the wedding week occurred during the most strict of Jewish fasts, the Day of Atonement, the bride could relax one of the ordinances. All mourning was to be suspended. Even the obligation of daily prayers ceased. To make the bride and groom happy was seen as a religious duty. So Jesus says, “You cannot make [them] fast while the bridegroom is with them.”

As we’ve seen, there are times when fasting is appropriate. There are times when the most spiritually mature Christians will be sad, when they will grieve, when they won’t be marked by joy.

But Jesus is the bridegroom and when He is with His people, they normally will not be marked by the gloom of fasting, but rather by the joy of the wedding feast. The joy of the Christian life is being personally related to our loving Bridegroom!

You can’t patch Jesus unto a joyless system of asceticism or legalism. You can’t pour the new wine He brings into the old wineskins of keeping manmade rules as the basis of your relationship with God.

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Posted by on October 22, 2020 in Luke

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