Archive for the ‘Luke’ Category

April 26th, 2009 – Luke 24:36‐49

Monday, April 20th, 2009

The Story’s Not Over – Continuing to Tell the Story

Luke 24:36‐49

Introduction

The close of Luke’s Gospel brings reassurance of the things that had been taught (see 1:4) by confirming the reality of Jesus’ resurrection and by commissioning the disciples for their universal mission.

The major theological note in the section is that crucifixion and resurrection are part of the fulfillment of God’s plan. What happened to Jesus was neither perplexing nor unexpected. The table fellowship that the disciples now have with the resurrected Jesus reveals His presence in their midst. The Scripture taught that He would suffer and be raised and that a message of forgiveness of sins would go out to all nations as a result. It is time for that mission to begin!1

Our Study of the Text

  1. JESUS APPEARS TO HIS DISCIPLES AT A MEAL (24:36‐43)

    Jesus proved to His followers that He had really been resurrected. Not only did He stand in their presence so they could see Him and His wounds (vv. 39‐40), but He also ate food (a piece of broiled fish) before them to show that He was not a spirit (vv.42‐43).

  2. JESUS’ COMMISSION, PLAN, AND PROMISE OF THE SPIRIT (24:44‐49)
    Jesus points His disciples to the facts which He previously had communicated to them and which were written in the Old Testament about the death, burial and resurrection of the Messiah (see Deut. 18:15; Psalm 2:7; 16:10; 22:14‐18; Isa. 53; 61:1). Because of His death and resurrection, the message of repentance and forgiveness of sins could be preached in His name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem, for they were witnesses of His death and His rising from the dead.

    Luke wrote that when Jesus had explained this earlier to the disciples (see 18:31‐33), they “understood none of these things” (18:34a). The reason why they didn’t understand was that “this saying was hidden from them, and they did not grasp what Jesus meant” (18:34b). The term hidden (Gr. kruptō) when used figuratively means to prevent something from being known – to keep secret, conceal, hide. But in this encounter the situation is reversed: “Then he opened their minds so they could understand the scriptures” (Luke 24:45). The term opened (Gr. dianoigō) figuratively means to enable someone to perceive or understand what had previously been hidden. In the first instance, it was God’s purpose that they not understand; in the second, it was His purpose that they now understand. God is in control and all things work according to His purposes!

    Jesus commanded His disciples to remain in the city of Jerusalem until they had received power from on high, a clear reference to the Holy Spirit (see Acts 1:8), who was promised by the Father. Not until then would they be fully quipped to carry out their mission.

  3. POINTS TO PONDER.
    • The death of Jesus Christ is God’s only provision for man’s sin. To receive the forgiveness of sin and eternal life a person must put their confident trust in Him.
    • The resurrection of Jesus Christ is God’s authentication of the acceptability of His Son’s death as payment for man’s sin.
    • Believers are to take this good news – in the power of the Holy Spirit, to the ends of the earth!

1Baker Exegetical Commentary of the New Testament, Luke 9:51‐24:53, Darrell L. Bock, Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 1996, p.1925.

March 22nd, 2009 – Luke 15:1-10

Sunday, March 15th, 2009

The Lost Sheep and the Lost Coin

Luke 15:1‐10

Introduction

These two parables represent Jesus’ explanation of why He relates to tax collectors and sinners. As pointed out in a previous study, we need to be careful not to read too much into a parable – they are intended only to emphasize a key point. In this case, the point is that God will go to great effort and rejoice with great joy to find and restore a sinner to Himself. Though there are three parables in this section, we will only consider two of them in this study.

In a culture where tax collectors were hated and sinners were mocked, Jesus gives a word that encourages the rejected to come to Him. The way to God is through repentance. God’s arms are open to the person who will seek Him on His terms. God’s arms are close around the child ready to run to Him and receive what He offers. It is not mere humanitarianism that Jesus offers, but a chance to acknowledge who one is before God and to respond to the opportunity for the transformation that God offers.1

Our Study of the Text

  1. THE PARABLE OF THE LOST SHEEP (15:1‐7).
    1. The setting (15:1‐3).Given Jesus’ call to “hear” in 14:35: “He who has ears to hear, let him hear”, it is ironic that those who come to Him in such large numbers are the “reprobates” of society, the tax collectors and sinners! And as usual, those who criticize Jesus are the religious leaders, “the Pharisees and the teachers of the law.”
    2. The parable (15:4‐6).The parallel to this parable is found in Matthew 18:12‐14: “What do you think? If a man owns a hundred sheep, and one of them wanders away, will he not leave the ninety‐nine on the hills and go to look for the one that wandered off? And if he finds it, I tell you the truth, he is happier about that one sheep than about the ninety‐nine that did not wander off. In the same way your Father in heaven is not willing that any of these little ones should be lost.”

      Much discussion has taken place as to whether the parable is speaking to the issue of salvation or restoration to fellowship with God (here, those who belong to the covenant community of Israel)? Our Lord’s words in John 10:27‐29 are helpful: “My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one can snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all; no one can snatch them out of my Father’s hand.” In the same context, He told the Pharisees: “you do not believe because you are not my sheep” (John 10:26).

      To make a distinction, therefore, between salvation and fellowship is unnecessary. The sheep in question is a sheep. If it is in need of salvation, the appeal is to come – and according to Jesus he will! If the need is restoration to fellowship, the appeal is the same: come. God relentlessly pursues those who are His. And those who have strayed take priority!

    3. The application (15:7).
      Those who recognize where they stand before God and respond accordingly are the cause of great joy in heaven – and among the shepherd’s “neighbors”!
  2. THE PARABLE OF THE LOST COIN (15:8‐10).
    1. The parable (15:8‐9)This parable has the same intent as the first: to show that God will go to great effort and rejoice with great joy to find and restore a sinner to Himself. The intensity of the search is illustrated by the woman’s search for the coin. And in the end, not only does the woman rejoice in the found coin, but her neighbors join the celebration as well.
    2. The application (15:10).The point of this parable is the same as in 15:7: there is much joy in heaven over a single repentant sinner.

      Jesus is the model for us and His activity reflects the very heart of God. We are not to withdraw into a cocoon, inoculated from people of the world. Rather, our mission is to love people and draw them to God. God searches for sinners who need to find their way to Him. Among the tools He uses is the caring concern of a disciple. Disciples are to look for lost sheep and missing coins and to celebrate finding what was lost. Evangelism is grounded in the joy of discovery.2

  3. POINTS TO PONDER.
    • As believers in the Lord Jesus Christ, we need to share His passion for the condition of His sheep.
    • Evangelism is the natural overflow of a holy life. Our spiritual growth can be seen in our involvement in ministry: sharing the gospel with the lost and ministering to other believers.
    • If we are to be effective in seeing sinners come to God – for salvation or restoration to fellowship, we must be willing to spend time with them.

1 Baker Exegetical Commentary of the New Testament, Luke 9:51‐24:53, Darrell L. Bock, Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 1996, p.1295.
2 Ibid, p.1305.

March 15th, 2009 – Luke 13:22-30

Wednesday, March 11th, 2009

The Narrow and Soon‐Shut Door

Luke 13:22‐30

Introduction

The kingdom’s coming has implications for the Jewish nation. The time to join God’s eschatological program has come, so one had better respond quickly before the door closes. Jesus stresses the nation’s situation in the picture of the narrow and soon‐shut door. After this passage, Jesus will issue a lament, because the nation does not respond (13:31‐35). What Luke has been showing since 11:37 is that the Pharisees and many others in the nation have not responded. Though they see themselves joined to the patriarchs and prophets, they are rapidly placing themselves in a position where they will be isolated from them. Jesus warns that the time is short and, once the door closes, it will be too late. In addition, He notes that many others from around the world will be at the table with these great OT saints, while those racially related to them will be missing. The passage has a strong note of warning and pity. It is no accident that it begins by noting that Jesus is heading to Jerusalem. The nation’s very resistance to accept Jesus will drive Him to His fate in the nation’s religious center.1

Our Study of the Text

  1. THE SETTING (13:22).
    The text marks a travel note: Jesus is on the move through the nation – heading steadily and unalterably toward Jerusalem. His mission involves teaching in all the nation’s regions.
  2. PICTURE OF THE NARROW BUT SOON‐SHUT DOOR (13:23‐30).
    1. Question about the number to be saved (13:23).In Judaism, views varied about the fate of the saved in terms of experiencing blessing, though all agreed that the nation of Israel would share in the blessing after the resurrection. Rabbis would site Isaiah 60:21 to argue for Israel’s salvation – a view that allowed for a few exceptions: those who denied the resurrection; those who denied that the law came from heaven; Epicureans (who were devoted to sensual pleasures and luxury, especially good food); and those who read heretical books, uttered charms, or pronounced the holy name (YHWH). Jesus’ teaching makes it clear that there will be distinctions within Israel and that heritage and genetic origin are not enough for election.2
    2. The picture proper (13:24‐27).Jesus doesn’t answer the question of number directly; but He does show that that the people who will be blessed will come from many places (13:29). There will be many who thought they were inside who will find themselves outside. Many such people, He suggests, reside in Israel (13:28).

      His exhortation for them to “strive or make every effort to enter through the narrow door” does not refer to a person working his way to God. Rather, it refers to listening carefully and responding to His message. It would be very much like the exhortation in Proverbs 2:1‐5 – ” My son, if you accept my words and store up my commands within you, turning your ear to wisdom and applying your heart to understanding,. . . then you will understand the fear of the LORD and find the knowledge of God” (NIV).

      The reason for the Lord’s exhortation is because many will try to enter and will not be able. They did not respond to His call in time – and when they are excluded and protest, He will say that He does not recognize them. Access after a certain point becomes impossible. The owner will close the door once and for all. They must listen and respond now to sit at the table.

    3. Three sayings on the significance of the image (13:28‐30)
      1. Some will be cast out (13:28).Those who have evidenced nothing more than a curiosity toward Jesus and His ministry will be excluded from the kingdom. Their rejection of Him and His word evidence the fact that they lack the righteousness necessary to enter His kingdom. The phrase “weeping and gnashing of teeth” depicts the emotional and physical reaction to traumatic news, in this case exclusion from God’s promise.3
      2. Many will sit at the table (13:29).In contrast to the many Israelites who will be excluded from the kingdom will be those who come from everywhere: ” People will come from east and west and north and south, and will take their places at the feast in the kingdom of God.”

        People from east and west is a reference to the Gentiles – in contrast to the crowd before Him, who will sit down at the blessed banquet table with Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and the prophets.

      3. Reversal of the first and the last (13:30).The reversal (first last and last first) indicates that those who are first or close may in fact end up far off or last (e.g. those in the crowd); while Gentiles who are far off or last may end up near or first. The remark applies to the end‐time when the fullness of the kingdom comes.
  3. POINTS TO PONDER.
    • Faith in Jesus Christ brings results in the righteousness necessary to enter His kingdom.
    • Hearing the truth is not sufficient; one must act upon the truth to find approval from God.

1 Baker Exegetical Commentary of the New Testament, Luke 9:51‐24:53, Darrell L. Bock, Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 1996, p.1230.
2 Ibid, p.1234.
3 Ibid, p.1238.

March 8th, 2009 – Luke 11:37‐54

Wednesday, March 4th, 2009

Pharisaic Opposition

Luke 11:37‐54

Introduction

The Pharisees are mentioned twenty‐seven times in Luke. Luke also records three occasions in which the Pharisees ate a meal with the Lord Jesus (7:36‐39; 11:37‐54; 14:1‐24). Because of their prominence in all of the Gospels, some expanded background information will be helpful.

One distinctive feature of the Pharisees was their strong commitment to observing the law of God as it was interpreted and applied by the scribes. Although the priests had been responsible for teaching and interpreting the Law (Lev. 10:8–11; Deut. 33:8–10) in Old Testament times, many people had lost all respect for the priests because of the corruption in the Jerusalem priesthood. They looked to the scribes instead to interpret the Law for them. Some scribes were priests; many were not. Still, they lived pious, disciplined lives; and they had been trained to become experts in the Law. It was natural, then, for people to follow their leading rather than that of the priests.

The way in which the Pharisees spelled out the meaning of the Mosaic Law, the ways in which they adapted that Law to suit the needs of their day, the time‐honored customs they endorsed—all these became a part of the “tradition of the elders” (Mark 7:3). Although these traditions were not put into writing, they were passed on from one scribe to another and from the scribes to the people. From this tradition, they claimed, the Jewish people could know the way God’s law should be observed. The Pharisees agreed, and they were known for supporting and keeping the “tradition of the elders.”

The Pharisees also believed it was important to observe all the laws of God, which they taught were 613 in all. But they were especially known for their commitment to keep the laws of tithing and ritual purity.

Since Pharisees found that other Jews were not careful enough about keeping those laws, they felt it was necessary to place limits on their contacts with other Jews as well as with Gentiles. For example, they could not eat in the home of a non‐Pharisee, since they could not be sure that the food had been properly tithed and kept ritually pure.

Unlike the Sadducees, the Pharisees did believe in the resurrection of the dead. On this point, they were on common ground with the early Christians (Acts 23:6–9). The scribe in Mark 12:28 who thought that Jesus had answered the Sadducees well concerning the Resurrection was probably a Pharisee.

The Pharisees and their scribes enjoyed a good deal of popular support. In one way this is surprising, since the Pharisees kept apart from other Jews. They always seemed to be ready to criticize others for not keeping the laws, and they often looked down on “sinners” who showed no interest in God’s law (Mark 2:16; Luke 7:39; 15:2; 18:11).

Still, unlike the Sadducees, who were mostly rich landowners and powerful priests, many Pharisees were ordinary people. And even though other Jews could not be bothered with observing all the details of the Law, they respected the Pharisees for making the effort. Even Paul credited unbelieving Jews with having a “zeal for God” (Rom. 10:2)—even though it was misguided. He probably was thinking primarily of the Pharisees when he wrote these words.

In the New Testament, the Pharisees appear frequently in the accounts of Jesus’ ministry and the history of the early church. In these passages a number of the typical failings of the Pharisees are evident. Of course, not all Pharisees failed in all these points—and the same failings can be found among religious people of any age.

Pharisees observed the Law carefully as far as appearances went, but their hearts were far from God. Their motives were wrong because they wanted human praise (Matt. 6:2, 5, 16; 23:5–7). They also had evil desires that were hidden by their pious show (Matt. 23:25–28). That is why Pharisees are often called hypocrites: their hearts did not match their outward appearance.

The Pharisees thought they could match God’s standards by keeping all the outward rules. Luke 18:9 says they “trusted in themselves that they were righteous.” This can easily happen when people think God’s will is the same thing as their list of what they can and cannot do. Their desire to keep all of God’s laws was commendable, but sometimes they put the emphasis on the wrong places. Minor details became a major preoccupation, and they forgot the more important things (Matt. 23:23).

Finally, because Pharisees thought they were doing their best to keep God’s laws while others were not, they often looked down on such “sinners”—especially people like tax collectors and prostitutes. Religious people need to remember that they, too, are sinners in God’s eyes, and that Christ died for everyone.1

Because the Pharisees were characterized by self‐righteousness – placing primary concern on outward conformity to the law while neglecting the motives of the heart, they often found themselves at cross purposes with our Lord – whose primary concern was the human heart. Our study today centers around one of those times of conflict.

The term “woe” that appears in the text means deep sorrow, grief, or affliction. The word is often used by the Old Testament prophets, as an exclamation expressing dismay or misfortune (Is. 3:9, 11; 5:8‐23; Jer. 10:19; Amos 5:18). In the New Testament Jesus pronounced woes on the cities of Chorazin and Bethsaida (Matt. 11:21), on the scribes, Pharisees, and lawyers (Luke 11:42–44), and on the one who betrayed Him (Mark 14:21).2

Our Study of the Text

  1. THE PHARISEES (11:37‐44).When Jesus joined the Pharisee for lunch, the Pharisee’s concern was whether or not Jesus would conform to the external ritual of washing His hands before eating. Jesus, on the other hand, was more interested in the internal greed of the Pharisee. Our Lord seizes the opportunity to address the issue of pharisaical externalism. “Woe to you,” He would announce!
    1. First Woe.
      “But woe to you Pharisees! You give a tenth of your mint, rue, and every herb, yet you neglect justice and love for God! But you should have done these things without neglecting the others.” (11:42 NET)
    2. Second Woe.
      Woe to you Pharisees! You love the best seats in the synagogues and elaborate greetings in the marketplaces!” (11:43 NET)
    3. Third Woe.
      Woe to you! You are like unmarked graves, and people walk over them without realizing it!” (11:44 NET)
  2. THE SCRIBES (11:45‐52)
    In later times, after the Captivity, when the nation lost its independence, the scribes turned their attention to the law, gaining for themselves distinction by their intimate acquaintance with its contents. On them fell the duty of multiplying copies of the law and of teaching it to others (Ezra 7:6, 10–12; Neh. 8:1, 4, 9, and 13). It is evident that in New Testament times the scribes belonged to the sect of the Pharisees, who supplemented the ancient written law by their traditions (Matt. 23), thereby obscuring it and rendering it of none effect. The titles “scribes” and “lawyers” are used in the Gospels interchangeably (Matt. 22:35; Mark 12:28; Luke 20:39, etc.). They were in the time of our Lord the public teachers of the people, and frequently came into collision with him. Many of them afterwards showed themselves greatly hostile to the apostles (Acts 4:5; 6:12). Some of the scribes, however, were men of a different spirit, and showed themselves friendly to the gospel and its preachers. Thus Gamaliel advised the Sanhedrin, when the apostles were before them charged with “teaching in this name,” to “refrain from these men and let them alone” (Acts 5:34–39; comp. 23:9).3

    Because the scribes were a sub‐set of the sect of the Pharisees – and the ones charged primarily with the task of teaching the Law, Jesus pronounced woes upon them as well.

    1. First Woe.
      “Woe to you experts in religious law as well! You load people down with burdens difficult to bear, yet you yourselves refuse to touch the burdens with even one of your fingers! (11:46 NET)
    2. Second Woe.
      Woe to you! You build the tombs of the prophets whom your ancestors killed. (11:47 NET)
    3. Third Woe.
      Woe to you experts in religious law! You have taken away the key to knowledge! You did not go in yourselves, and you hindered those who were going in.” (11:52 NET)
  3. THE AFTERMATH – THEY NEVER GIVE UP! (11:53‐54).
    It is obvious from the text that the scribes and Pharisees maintained a fierce opposition to our Lord, trying desperately to catch Him in something He might say, so they could bring charges against Him – even more, to do away with Him!
  4. POINTS TO PONDER.
    • Take a close look at your own heart: do you trust in your own external conformity to “rules of conduct” in order to gain a sense of right standing before God?
    • Remember, people and circumstances do not create your spirit, they only reveal it!

1Youngblood, R. F. (1997, c1995). Nelson’s new illustrated Bible dictionary: An authoritative one‐volume reference work on the Bible with full color illustrations (F. Bruce, Ed.) (electronic ed. of the revised ed. of Nelson’s illustrated Bible dictionary). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.
2Ibid.
3Easton, M. (1996, c1897). Easton’s Bible dictionary. Oak Harbor, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc.

February 15th, 2009 – Luke 6:20-49

Thursday, February 12th, 2009

Sermon on the Mount

Luke 6:20‐49

Introduction

Luke 6:17‐49 contains one of the most famous portions of Jesus’ teaching. Its influence has spanned generations and cultures. In Matthew’s account, he devotes eighty verses to the sermon. Luke chose to give the sermon in a much briefer form.

Bock sums up Luke’s approach very well:

The stress in Luke’s version falls on how to treat others. It contains a call to gracious, loving, and forgiving approach. None of the explicitly Jewish examples of Matthew’s sermon appears in Luke’s sermon, but the same strong ethical focus is present, as well as a few additions that divide humanity into two groups (esp. prominent here are the woes to the rich in 6:24‐26). The accepted or blessed group is compared to the persecuted OT prophets, while the rejected group is compared to false prophets. The spiritual focus in this comparison is sometimes missed in discussions of Luke’s sermon. Misguided approaches discuss the poor and meek without reference to these spiritual concerns and as a result produce a message that does not nuance the sermon properly in a spiritual setting, though it cannot be ignored that these categories do have sociological force.1

The appeal of the sermon is for one to be diligent about one’s own righteousness, perhaps because all too often we tend to be preoccupied with the spiritual condition of others.

Our Study of the Text

  1. A PROPHETIC CALL OF BLESSING AND WOE (6:20‐26).The first section of the sermon splits nicely into two parts: blessings (6:20‐23) and woes (6:24‐26). Those that are blessed are compared to the prophets of old, while those who are denounced are compared to the false prophets. Humankind is divided into two groups: poor and rich, humble and proud, responsive and unresponsive. Every listener belongs in one of the two camps. The question is, which one?2In Matthew’s account, the phrase in spirit is added to poor. But this should not lead us to exclude an emphasis on the materially poor because our Lord certainly maintains a merciful attitude toward both.

    The disciples who would hunger and weep because they followed Jesus would eventually be vindicated for their faith in Him. They would be hated, excluded, insulted, and rejected. Yet they would be happy (“blessed”) because of their reward in heaven and because they were following in the train of those who spoke for God.

    In contrast with the disciples who had given up everything to follow Jesus were the people who would refuse to give up anything to follow Him (cf. 18:18‐30). These were the rich, the well‐fed, the ones who laugh, who were popular. They did not understand the gravity of the situation which confronted them. They refused to follow the One who could bring them into the kingdom, and therefore Jesus pronounced woes on them. These woes were the exact reversal of their temporal benefits. And they are the exact opposites of the blessings and rewards of Jesus’ followers, cited in 6:20‐23.

  2. A CALL TO LOVE (6:27‐38).The sort of love that our Lord commands (Gr. agapē) has a volitional emphasis. We can define it this way: it is a steadfast commitment of the will toward the wellbeing of another. Such love can be exercised toward one’s enemies because a close, personal relationship is not assumed in its exercise e.g., “If your enemy is hungry, give him food to eat; if he is thirsty, give him water to drink” (Prov. 25:21 NIV).How such love is exercised depends upon the character of the one loving – whether God or man. When God loves His actions always reflect His perfect nature. But when man loves his actions may be conditional – thus Jesus’ appeal to His disciples to love unconditionally. Notice verse thirty‐two: “If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? Even ’sinners’ love those who love them.” It is worth noting, too, that the verse also illustrates that unbelievers also love with agape„ love – but conditionally!
  3. A CALL TO RIGHTEOUS RESPONSE (6:39‐49).Jesus explained that a person is not able to hide his attitude toward righteousness. It is obvious that if a person is blind he will lead another into a pit (6:39). He will not be able to hide the fact that he is not righteous for he will lead others astray. Jesus also noted that a person becomes like the one whom he emulates (6:40). Therefore His disciples should emulate Him. One must rid himself of a sin before he can help his brother with that sin (6:41‐42). And often one’s own sin is greater than the one he criticizes in someone else—a plank compared with a speck of sawdust. The point is that one cannot help someone else become righteous if he is not righteous himself. To seek to do so is to be a hypocrite.Jesus also pointed out that a man’s words will eventually tell what kind of man he is (6:43‐45). Just as people know the kind of tree by the fruit it bears, so people know from what a person says whether he is righteous or not. In this case fruit stands for what is said, not what is done: “For out of the overflow of his heart his mouth speaks” (6:45).3

    It is expected that a disciple of Jesus – one who confesses that he is such, will live out the reality that confession in his daily life. A believer must do what He says. Those who hear His words and act on them are secure – like a man who builds his house on a rock foundation (6:47‐48). But those who hear His words and do not act on them are destroyed – like a man who builds his house without a foundation (6:49).

  4. POINTS TO PONDER.
    • Jesus Christ is God’s promised Messiah‐Savior and we are obligated to obey and serve Him.
    • Reality of one’s relationship with Jesus Christ should be reflected in the way they live: their character, their treatment of those around them, and in the way they talk.

1 Darrell L. Bock, Luke 1:1‐9:50(Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 1994), p. 567.
2 Ibid. p.568
3 Walvoord, J. F., Zuck, R. B., & Dallas Theological Seminary. (1983‐c1985). The Bible knowledge commentary : An exposition of the scriptures (2:220). Wheaton, IL: Victor Books.

February 8th, 2009 – Luke 5:27-32

Thursday, February 5th, 2009

Sinners and Tax Collectors

Luke 5:27-32

Introduction

The differing texts of the synoptic gospels provide us with only brief information about Levi. Mark mentions that he was the son of Alphaeus (Mark 2:14), while Matthew indicates that his name was Matthew (Matt. 9:9). There is near universal agreement among commentators that Levi and Matthew are one in the same. Hagner’s comments are typical and provide a most natural explanation: “Levi and Matthew were in fact the same person. It is very improbable that the evangelist could have gotten away with the substitution of Matthew for Levi were they not in reality the same person. It is, of course, not unusual for individuals in the New Testament to have more than one name. Matthew (abbreviated form of ‘gift of Yahweh’) may have been the Christian name taken by Levi after his conversion to indicate his new life (e.g., Saul-Paul)”.1

Was this the first encounter between Matthew and Jesus? Probably not. Because he lived and worked in the area where Jesus had been ministering, it is quite possible that out of a sense of curiosity he had at some point heard the Lord teach – perhaps even having witnessed an authenticating miracle. The encounter before us follows two previous miracles (see 5:12-26) which had shown that Jesus had the authority to make a person ceremonially clean and to forgive sins. Now those two authorities were brought to bear on one who was to become His disciple.2

It might be that Levi became convinced and believed in Jesus as the Messiah – but like Nicodemus, who later believed in Jesus but kept his faith secret because he feared the rejection of his fellow Pharisees (implied by John in 7:50), he, too, until now, had not openly acknowledged his belief in Jesus. If this is so, it makes perfect sense that he is already a convinced disciple – albeit secret, and is now being summoned by our Lord into a relationship of committed discipleship.

Our Study of the Text

  1. THE SUMMONS OF LEVI (5:27-28).
    A tax collector was a very unlikely person to become a disciple of the Messiah. A tax collector collected taxes from his fellow Jews on behalf of the Roman authorities. It is also quite clear that many of them collected more than they should have – to enrich themselves (see Luke 3:12-13). The Jews looked at such people as dishonest “sinners.”

    Jesus simply said to him, “Follow Me.” And having been convinced of who He was, the text says that Levi “got up, left everything and followed him.”

  2. LEVI THROWS A PARTY (5:29-32).

    Levi was apparently a wealthy man, having the resources to hold “a great banquet for Jesus at his house,” including “a large crowd of tax collectors” (5:29). The fact that he invited other tax collectors may be an indication that he had already developed a burden for them – that they, too, might come to believe in Jesus as their Messiah-Savior.

    The same group of Pharisees who had earlier questioned His authority to forgive sins (see 5:21), now question the propriety of His association with “tax collectors and sinners” (5:30). Because He ate and drank with them, the Pharisees thought it denoted a level of fellowship and camaraderie inappropriate for one claiming to be the Messiah.

    Though their complaint was directed to His disciples (see 5:30), Jesus answered them directly: “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance” (5:31-32). His point was simply that His mission was to those in need of “repentance”—a change of heart and a change of life. The Pharisees apparently saw no need for such change in their own lives.

  3. POINTS TO PONDER.
    • Jesus Christ is God’s promised Messiah-Savior and we are obligated to obey and serve Him.
    • As we advance in our understanding of our life in Christ, it should result in a regular exercise in “repentance” – changing our thinking about ourselves and the world around us to conform to His thinking.
    • If we are going to share the Gospel with the lost, it is important that we maintain some level of relationship with them – outside the church!

1Hagner, D. A. (1998). Vol. 33A: Word Biblical Commentary: Matthew 1-13 (electronic ed.). Logos Library System; Word Biblical Commentary (237). Dallas: Word, Incorporated.
2Walvoord, J. F., Zuck, R. B., & Dallas Theological Seminary. (1983-c1985). The Bible knowledge commentary : An exposition of the scriptures (2:217). Wheaton, IL: Victor Books.

February 1st, 2009 – Luke 5:1-11

Sunday, January 25th, 2009

The Call of the First Disciples

Luke 5:1‐11

Introduction

At the baptism of Jesus, John the baptizer had announced about Him, “Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!” (Jn. 1:29). Two of John’s disciples immediately began to follow Jesus – Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, the other not identified by name – though many believe it was John, the gospel writer. After their initial encounter with the Lord, Andrew sought out his brother, Simon. When Simon came into the presence of the Lord he was informed that he would no longer be called by his Aramaic name, Simon, but rather by the Greek, Peter. The next day Jesus went into Galilee and found Philip who in turn found his brother, Nathanael. These men – and perhaps some of the others who had been disciples of John, initially followed more out of curiosity than anything else – though they soon believed in Him as the Christ of God.

Some of these disciples – particularly James and John, Peter and Andrew continued with their family businesses as fishermen. They had attended the wedding at Cana with Jesus (John 2:1‐11), but had not yet left the family business as committed disciples – for that would be what a committed disciple would later do (see Matt. 19:27; Luke 5:11, 28; 14:25‐34).1 It was during His early Galilean ministry that Jesus went to the seashore – both to proclaim the word of God and to encounter these hardworking disciples!

Our Study of the Text

  1. SETTING THE SCENE (5:1‐3).

    It is interesting how often the Lord seems to choose those areas of our life in which we feel the most competent and comfortable to test our faith. And if there was any place where these men should have felt expert and confident in their abilities, it was certainly on the lake of Gennesaret – they had spent their entire lives there as fishermen!

    Later our Lord would utilize this same venue to continue to test their faith (see Luke 8:22‐25; John 6:15‐21).

  2. TESTING THEIR FAITH (5:4‐7).

    Peter is representative of the group and their spokesman. Our Lord directs His directive to him. Would Peter obey? Why, or why not?

    Having listened to Jesus teach and having witnessed His authenticating miracles at Cana and the surrounding areas, and in spite of his current experience – Peter had fished all night and caught nothing, he had nonetheless developed enough confidence in who Jesus was to trust and obey Him – as did his colleagues (see 5:11).

  3. GAINING THEIR COMMITMENT (5:8‐11).

    This is a unique appeal – one to committed discipleship. As described in the footnote, such commitment meant leaving everything to follow Him. This example should not be construed as a so‐called “call to full‐time Christian service.” Because of a person’s giftedness, they may have a strong desire to serve the Church in a vocational role – giftedness and desire to utilize that gift seem to go hand‐in‐hand, but that is not the same as the example before us.

    Also, the example of fishing should not be pushed too far. In those days fishing was not done by hook, line and sinker. It was done by net. The textual reference to the men’s vocation as fishermen was not to provide a paradigm for evangelism; rather, it was an indication to them that they are about to make a career change – one which they would later learn was to result in preparation for the task of laying the foundation for the Church Age (see Eph. 2:20‐22).

  4. POINTS TO PONDER.
    • Jesus Christ is God’s promised Messiah‐Savior and we are obligated to obey and serve Him.
    • Though all believers are to faithfully obey and serve our Lord Jesus Christ – there is no such thing as “part‐time” obedience or service; some, because of giftedness and opportunity, may choose to serve the Church in a vocational role. But that in itself is not an indicator of greater spirituality or commitment to our Lord!
    • As with these men, our Lord may very well chose an area of our lives in which we feel the most competent and comfortable to test our faith.

References

1Discipleship as it is presented in the Gospels is different from that which his seen in the Church Age. There are three groups identified as disciples of Jesus in the Gospels: 1. those we might call the curious – they were attracted to Him in a more utilitarian way (to be healed, fed, etc. cf. John 6:1‐71), but did not believe in Him; 2. those we might call the convinced – they were those who believed in Him (e.g., John 1:12; 19:38); 3. those we will call the committed – they left everything to follow and serve Him (e.g. Matt. 19:27). It is from this third group that Jesus chose the twelve whom He called apostles (see Luke 6:12‐16). In the Church Age, the term disciple became synonymous with Christian (e.g. Acts 11:26). In fact, the term disciple does not appear in any of the epistles of the New Testament.

January 25th, 2009 – Luke 4:14-30

Sunday, January 18th, 2009

Jesus’ First Sermon

Luke 4:14‐30

Introduction

Following His baptism and time of testing, our Lord embarked on a mission of ministry that included both teaching and healing. His mission first took Him to the region of Galilee. On the way, He taught in various synagogues and was being well received by all. Soon He arrived in His own home town, the city in which He had grown up, Nazareth. On the Sabbath He entered the synagogue where He was welcomed and afforded the opportunity to read the Scriptures publicly. His presentation and the people’s response demand our attention!

Our Study of the Text

  1. THE FIRST RECORDED SERMON OF OUR LORD (4:16‐27).

    John Martin explains the context:

    “Jesus initially was a popular Teacher, so when He went back to His hometown, it was natural for Him to teach in synagogues. It was the custom in the synagogue for a man to stand while he was reading the Scriptures but then to sit while explaining the portion he had read. The portion of Scripture Jesus read was Isaiah 61:1‐2, a messianic passage. He concluded His reading with the words, ‘to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor‘ – stopping in the middle of the verse without reading the next line in Isaiah 61:2 about God’s vengeance. When Jesus added, ‘Today this Scripture is fulfilled in your hearing,‘ the implication was clear. Jesus was claiming to be the Messiah who could bring the kingdom of God which had been promised for so long – but His First Advent was not His time for judgment. The crowd was fascinated at His teaching – ‘The eyes of everyone . . . were fastened on Him‘ (Luke 4:20). Jesus’ words plainly stated that the offer of the favorable year of the Lord (i.e., the kingdom time) was being made to them through Him (v. 21).”1

    It is no wonder that those who heard Him were immediately struck with the same question: By what authority does this young man say such things? Isn’t this Joseph’s son?

    Jesus’ response was straight forward and to the point: Israel was not the only object of God’s plan of redemption, so were the Gentiles! His mention of Gentiles having God’s blessings rather than Jews was totally unsuspected – even though the covenant God had made with Abraham had clearly stated that that would be the case: “all peoples on earth will be blessed through you” (Gen. 12:3b). He illustrated His point by referring to two Old Testament events: when God sent Elijah the prophet to Zarephath to minister to a widow and her son (1 Kings 17:8‐24); and when Elisha the prophet healed Naaman, captain of the army of the king of Aram, of leprosy (2 Kings 5:1‐14). Both the widow and the captain were Gentiles – and the objects of divine favor!

  2. THE RESPONSE OF THE HOME CROWD (4:28)

    There is a saying that might be worth considering here: People and circumstances do not create your spirit, they only reveal it.

    Such is clearly the case with the folks in Nazareth. They no doubt considered themselves to be people of faith and in good standing with God. After all, were they not in synagogue to worship? Were they not the descendants of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob? Were they not to be the recipients of God’s favor? But their response to the suggestion that the Gentiles would also be the recipients of divine favor clearly indicated where their hearts were!

    The term filled (Gr. pimplēmi), when used as a metaphor, has this sense: to be controlled and dominated by something or someone. Here, the people of Nazareth were controlled by the emotion of rage – so much so that they were willing to commit murder (4:29)!

  3. POINTS TO PONDER.
    • Jesus Christ is God’s promised Messiah‐Savior.
    • The ministry of the Word often meets with mixed responses – don’t be discouraged by opposition to it!
    • As servants of Christ, we serve people of every stripe (”Love your neighbor as yourself”; “Love your enemies”) – even those with whom we do not agree, and those who may have unusual personalities.
    • God is sovereign over all and is not under obligation to any: “What then shall we say? Is God unjust? Not at all! 15 For he says to Moses, ‘I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.’ 16 It does not, therefore, depend on man’s desire or effort, but on God’s mercy” (Romans 9:14‐16).

References

1Walvoord, J. F., Zuck, R. B., & Dallas Theological Seminary. (1983‐c1985). The Bible knowledge commentary : An exposition of the scriptures (2:25). Wheaton, IL: Victor Books.

January 18th, 2009 – Luke 3:21-22, 4:1-13

Sunday, January 11th, 2009

The Baptism and Testing of the Christ

Luke 3:21‐22; 4:1‐13

Introduction

The inauguration of the public ministry of Christ was marked by two significant events: His baptism – a public event; and a time of testing – a private event. To properly understand them, some background information will be essential. It will also be important not to read back into these events our own developed traditions. We must take the language of the Scriptures in its normal and plain sense.

Our Study of the Text

  1. THE BAPTISM OF THE CHRIST (3:21‐22).It is a surprise for many to learn that the act of baptism does not appear in the Old Testament. The word baptism (Gr. baptizō) does appear twice in the Septuagint – the Greek translation of the Hebrew Old Testament (2 Kings 5:14; Isa. 21:4), but in neither case does it refer to the act of baptism. It is an interesting observation, too, that John the baptizer (that is the way he is addressed in the Gospels) was never instructed by God to baptize – at least such instruction is not recorded in Scripture. So the best we can surmise is that baptism was a cultural symbol of identification that was utilized to identify a person with a particular religion or commitment to a religious belief. That cultural symbol was utilized by John to publically identify those who made a commitment to his message. It was later utilized by the disciples of Jesus (e.g. John 4:1‐2), and later was incorporated into the Great Commission (Matt. 28:19‐20) – to publically identify those who had put their confident trust in Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of their sins and eternal life.1

    John the baptizer came proclaiming that the kingdom of God was at hand. The Old Testament clearly taught that only the righteous would enter that kingdom (e.g. Psm. 24; Ezek. 36:22‐36). The Jews of that day needed to change their thinking about their attitude of self‐righteousness (the meaning of repentance) and turn from their sin. Being baptized by John would publicly identify them as having made such a response to John’s message. But what about Jesus? Why was it necessary for Him to be baptized?

    As stated previously, the Law included no requirements about baptism, so Jesus could not have had in view anything pertaining to Levitical righteousness. But John’s message was a message of repentance, and those experiencing it were looking forward to a coming Messiah who would be righteous and who would bring in righteousness. If Messiah were to provide righteousness for sinners, He must be identified with sinners. It was therefore in the will of God for Him to be baptized by John in order to be identified (the real meaning of the word “baptized”) with sinners.2

    The significant thing about the baptism of Jesus was the authentication from heaven. As Jesus came up out of the water . . . the Spirit of God came down on Him in the form of a dove. As One went up, the Other came down. A voice from heaven—the voice of God the Father—said, “This is My Son, whom I love; with Him I am well pleased” (cf. Eph. 1:6; Col. 1:13). God repeated these words about Christ on the Mount of Transfiguration (Matt. 17:5). All three Persons of the Godhead were present at this event: the Father who spoke of His Son, the Son who was being baptized, and the Spirit who descended on the Son as a dove. This verified for John that Jesus is the Son of God (John 1:32‐34). It was also in keeping with Isaiah’s prophecy that the Spirit would rest on the Messiah (Isa. 11:2). The descent of the Holy Spirit empowered the Son, the Messiah, for His ministry among people.3

  2. THE TESTING OF THE CHRIST (4:1‐13).In the title of this point we have used the term testing rather than temptation for a very important reason: “For God cannot be tempted by evil” (James 1:13b).

    The miracle of the incarnation is that God took upon himself humanity without diminishing in any way His divinity. It would be inconsistent with who He is to say that Jesus “could have sinned but chose not to.” The truth is He could not have sinned – He could not even be tempted to sin – because it would be inconsistent with His perfect nature as God.

    James 1:14 informs us that temptation is something that goes on inside of a person in response to life. James puts it this way: “each one is tempted when, by his own evil desire, he is dragged away and enticed.” Our Lord had no such evil desire within Himself – it would have been contrary to His nature.

    Further, in the language of the New Testament the meaning of the term (Gr. noun peirasmos; verb peirazō) can either be test or trial, or temptation – depending upon the context in which it is used. Temptation occurs when our internal lust patterns bait or lure us – in the same way a fisherman puts bait on a hook to entice a fish. Even if we choose not to follow through and “take the bait”, it is what went on inside of us – not what was outside of us – that constituted the temptation!

    In contexts where the term should be understood as a test or trial, Greek lexicons indicate that the purpose is “an attempt to learn the nature or character of something.”4 We can see it used this way in James 1:2 where believers are told to, “Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds.” The testing of the believer’s faith (the trials of life do that) reveals how the character of that believer is developing as he becomes conformed to the image of Christ. It should also be understood that way in the texts where the testing of our Lord is described (Hebrews 2:18; 4:15). In such cases, the purpose of the tests was to reveal His nature and character. The context of both passages is discussing His preparation and qualification as our great high priest – One who must be able to “sympathize with our weaknesses.”

    In the Luke passage before us the purpose is to demonstrate His sinlessness – to demonstrate His value as an acceptable sacrifice for our sin. Further, it was intended to allow Him to experience the full weight of Satan’s appeal (remember, there was no internal desire for personal gratification), in order for Him to learn what help we, as His brothers and sisters, would need when we are attacked by Satan (e.g. 1 Cor. 10:13).

    It is worth noting, too, that the areas of testing for our Lord were the same as those we customarily face – the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the boastful pride of life (see 1 John 2:16).

  3. POINTS TO PONDER.
    • Jesus Christ is God’s promised Messiah‐Savior.
    • Jesus Christ is our great high priest. He knows what we need in times of testing; therefore, we can “approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need” (Heb. 4:16).

References

1Paul also utilized the term baptize to indicate Israel’s identification with Moses through crossing the Red Sea and following the cloud in the wilderness (see 1 Cor. 10:2).
2Walvoord, J. F., Zuck, R. B., & Dallas Theological Seminary. (1983‐c1985). The Bible knowledge commentary : An exposition of the scriptures (2:25). Wheaton, IL: Victor Books.
3Ibid.
4Arndt, W., Danker, F. W., & Bauer, W. (2000). A Greek‐English lexicon of the New Testament and other early Christian literature. “Based on Walter Bauer’s Griechisch‐deutsches Wrterbuch zu den Schriften des Neuen Testaments und der frhchristlichen [sic] Literatur, sixth edition, ed. Kurt Aland and Barbara Aland, with Viktor Reichmann and on previous English editions by W.F. Arndt, F.W. Gingrich, and F.W. Danker.” (3rd ed.) (793). Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

January 11th, 2009 – Luke 2:39-52

Sunday, January 4th, 2009

It’s a Tough Job!

Luke 2:39‐52

Introduction

The Bible provides little information about our Lord’s life from the time of His birth until He began His public ministry. Because Jesus is referred to as a carpenter in Matt. 13:55 and Mark 6:3, much has been speculated about his early life in Nazareth. But, quite frankly, the most we can know for certain is what Matthew and Luke tell us about the events between his birth and the time His family established residency in Nazareth when He was still a young child. Luke also adds a short glimpse of His early life – the text says that he was twelve at the time (2:42), by recording a side event that took place at the time of a Passover celebration in Jerusalem (2:39‐52).

Our Study of the Text

  1. INSIGHT FROM THE “BOOKENDS” (2:39b; 51‐52).
    The main story before us is the occasion when Jesus, being twelve years old at the time, interacts with the religious leaders of the day – “and all who heard him were amazed at his understanding and his answers” (2:47). But on either end of the passage are verses that provide important insight into our Lord’s early life.

    1. He “became strong”; “increased in stature.”
      During the time of the incarnation Jesus suspended the independent exercise of his non‐moral attributes (see Phil. 2:5‐8), e.g. omnipotence and omniscience vs. holiness or love– everything he did was by the enablement of the Holy Spirit (see, for example, Matt. 12:28; Luke 4:1), so he could be prepared as our great high priest (see Heb. 2:10‐18).

      The main point here is to understand that even as a God‐man it was necessary for Jesus to go through the same growth process as any other person.

    2. He was “becoming full of wisdom”; “increasing in wisdom.”

      Growing up certainly involves more than just increasing in physical size and strength. It is also expected that a person will make appropriate advance in intellect and wisdom – not only in cognitive understanding, but also in the skillful application of that knowledge.

    3. He “continued in subjection to them” – Joseph and Mary.

      This characteristic gives us a clear example of the structure of authority established by God for the home (see Deut. 6:1‐25; Eph. 6:1‐4). Jesus was submissive to the authority of his parents – who had the primary responsibility (on the human plane) for his education and training.

    4. He experienced increasing “favor (lit. “grace”) with God and men”; “the grace of God was upon Him.”

      Remember, Jesus was both God and man. Not a half‐god, half‐man out of Greek mythology, but One who was at once both fully God and fully man. Everything He did He did as a God‐man. He did not do something as God and something else as man. Everything He did He did as a God‐man. But as the Son of God, He was also taught and trained by His heavenly Father (see John 8:28; 14:10‐11).

      It is important to note as well that He had a good reputation and the admiration of the community.

  2. INTERACTING WITH THE SCHOLORS (2:41‐50).

    Growing up is serious business. But how are we coming along in the process? Certainly if given the opportunity to interact with those who are “expert” in some discipline of life we could soon gain the sense of our advancement, or the lack thereof – and so could any others who might be there at the time!

    1. The occasion (2:41‐46).

      The Feast of the Passover was prescribed by God in Exodus 12. It was to commemorate the last plague in Egypt when the Israelites were instructed to place the blood of a lamb on the doorposts of their houses so that the death angle would “pass over” their houses and not bring death to the first born of their families.

      The irony here is that the One who was to become our “Passover sacrifice” (see 1 Cor. 5:6‐8) was on that occasion interacting with the religious leaders. But what was the discussion about? We are not told, so we are left to speculate – and it’s not difficult to imagine that the subject may well have been the meaning of the Passover itself.

      Jesus clearly understood that He had come into the world on a mission – a mission that neither Joseph nor Mary fully comprehended.

    2. The response (2:47‐50).

      We need to be clear: this was not a debate, neither was it confrontational. The tone is such that we get the sense that it involved an intense discussion of significant theological issues. Our Lord asked them questions and He answered theirs.

      The teachers were amazed at His understanding. The term for understanding (Gr. sunesis) conveys the sense of insight and comprehension of application.

      Jesus’ statement to Joseph and Mary, “Did you not know that I had to be in My Father’s house?” was not understood by them. The term used of their lack of understanding (Gr. suniēmi) is different from the positive affirmation of Jesus’ understanding. It means they did not comprehend the significance of His words – they simply didn’t get it!

  3. POINTS TO PONDER.
    • Jesus Christ is God’s promised Messiah – both God and man united in one person forever.
    • Jesus Christ provides us with the example of how we are to grow up and develop as God’s children.