Archive for February, 2009

March 1st, 2009 – Luke 9:18‐20, 28‐36

Sunday, February 22nd, 2009

Who is He? Can’t afford to be wrong!

Luke 9:18‐20, 28‐36

Introduction

When God entered human history in the person of Jesus Christ, the incarnate God‐Man, He fulfilled promises He had made to Abraham, “I will establish my covenant as an everlasting covenant between me and you and your descendants (lit. seed) after you for the generations to come, to be your God and the God of your descendants (lit. seed) after you” (Gen. 17:7); and to David,” When your days are over and you rest with your fathers, I will raise up your offspring to succeed you, who will come from your own body, and I will establish his kingdom. . . I will be his father, and he will be my son. . . Your house and your kingdom will endure forever before me; your throne will be established forever” (2 Sam. 7:12‐16; see also Gal. 3:15‐29; Luke 1:30‐33).

As the Lord Jesus began to present Himself to the nation of Israel, He referred to Himself as the “son of man.”1 Only privately, to individuals, did He confess that He was the Messiah, the Christ of God (e.g., John 4:25‐26). His preaching was clearly focused on the moral and ethical requirements of the promised kingdom. The miracles that He performed authenticated both His message and His person (cf. Matt. 11:2‐6). Those who heard Him and who witnessed His miracles were left to wonder and contemplate who He might be. Some believed in Him – that He was the promised Messiah (cf. John 1:12), but most did not. Did His disciples believe that He was the promised Messiah? That is where our story today picks up.

Our Study of the Text

  1. THE LORD ASKS A QUESTION (9:18).The question is direct and to the point: “Who do the crowds say I am?” The plural pronoun – in reference to the disciples, indicates that His question was to all of them. He was specifically interested in who the disciples thought He was.Just a short time earlier, the disciples had witnessed – had even participated in, the miracle of the loaves and fishes, or the Feeding of the Five Thousand. Some two years had passed since John the baptizer had announced to them: “Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!” (John 1:29). Miracle after miracle had authenticated who Jesus was. Were they convinced?
  2. THE DISCIPLES ANSWER (9:19).Perhaps the Lord’s eyes scanned the group as He looked to them for an answer. Several identities were suggested: “Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, that one of the prophets of long ago has come back to life.”
  3. THE LORD ASKS A SECOND QUESTION (9:20a).Though Luke never mentions specifically that the disciples believed in Him, John certainly does (see John 2:11). Jesus now draws them to an acknowledgement of their belief: “But what about you?” he asked. “Who do you say I am?”
  4. THE DISCIPLES ANSWER (9:20b).The question had been put to the group, but Peter responds for them all: “The Christ of God.” Jesus did not want others to know of this (2v. 21) because it was not time for Him to be proclaimed publicly as Messiah.
  5. THE CONFIRMATION (9:28‐36).”About eight days after Jesus said this, he took Peter, John and James with him and went up onto a mountain to pray.” Matthew and Mark say that “after six days.” The accounts are not contradictory if one understands Matthew and Mark to be speaking of the intervening days and Luke as including the days of Jesus’ teaching as well as the day on which the transfiguration took place.2During the transfiguration three things happened:
    1. Jesus’ face and clothes became as bright as a flash of lightning. This would have immediately reminded those present of Moses’ face shining with a bright light when he received the tablets of the Law (Ex. 34:29‐35).
    2. Moses and Elijah appeared and spoke with Jesus. The bodies of Moses and Elijah were never found. God buried Moses’ body (Deut. 34:5‐6), and Elijah did not die but was taken up to heaven (2 Kings 2:11‐12, 15‐18). These two men represent the beginning and the end of Israel, for Moses, as the Lawgiver, founded the nation, and Elijah, who represents the prophets, is to come back before the great and terrible day of the Lord (Mal. 4:5‐6).
    3. Moses and Elijah spoke about His departure (Gr. exodus, which literally means “going out or away”, but figuratively refers to departure or death) which He was about to bring to fulfillment at Jerusalem. “Departure” referred to Jesus’ leaving the world through which He would bring salvation—much as Yahweh had brought deliverance to Israel in its Exodus (departure) from Egypt. From this point on, Jesus indicated several times that He was headed toward Jerusalem (Luke 9:51, 53; 13:33; 17:11; 18:31). Jesus did not want His miracles widely publicized at that time, for the fulfillment had to be at Jerusalem. This was confirmed by Elijah’s and Moses’ words.3
  6. POINTS TO PONDER.
    • Jesus Christ is God’s promised Messiah‐Savior.
    • The events of our Lord’s life clearly authenticate that He is the Christ of God!

1 Luke records twenty‐six occasions when the Lord referred to Himself as the Son of Man: 5:24; 6:5, 22; 7:34; 9:22, 26, 44, 56, 58; 11:30; 12:8, 10, 40; 17:22, 24, 26, 30; 18:8, 31; 19:10; 21: 27, 36; 22: 22, 48, 69; 24:7.

2 Walvoord, J. F., Zuck, R. B., & Dallas Theological Seminary. (1983‐c1985). The Bible knowledge commentary : An exposition of the scriptures (2:230). Wheaton, IL: Victor Books.
3 Ibid.

February 22nd, 2009 – Luke 8:4-15

Sunday, February 15th, 2009

Parable of the Sower

Luke 8:4‐15

Introduction

Jesus has been going from one city and village to another proclaiming the kingdom of God. Some who heard His words believed in Him as the promised Messiah of Israel. Others, however, had heard what He said but did not believe. The parable before us is intended to illustrate the various responses people make to the proclamation of the Word of God.

Luke notes that a large crowd was gathering from many towns. The crowd presumably included people who would respond in the four different ways that Jesus was going to set forth in the parable. It is best to understand the parable as a parable proper, that is, as reflecting a particular situation, and not as a similitude, where a typical situation is in view. A unity of development is imposed upon the parable by the single character, the sower, and the single activity, sowing.1

Our Study of the Text

  1. THE PARABLE OF THE SOWER: THE PARABLE (8:4‐9).

    An allegory is a story in which the characters and events are to be understood as representing other things and symbolically expressing a deeper, often spiritual, moral, or political meaning. A parable, on the other hand, is a short simple story intended to illustrate a moral or religious lesson.2 Therefore, as students of the Bible, we need to be careful not to interpret a parable as if it were an allegory, and thus make it say more than is intended.

    Since the soils of this parable are later interpreted by the Lord as representing people – “those who have heard,” we might want to change its title to The Parable of the Soils. As indicated above, the gathered crowd most likely represents the various responses to our Lord’s teaching that he will now illustrate in the parable.

  2. THE PARABLE OF THE SOWER: A QUESTION OF MEANING (8:9‐10).

    When the Lord began to teach in parables, it represented a marked change in His method of communication. His disciples immediately picked up on it: “The disciples came to him and asked, “Why do you speak to the people in parables?” (Matt. 13:10). Our Lord answered by telling them that “The knowledge of the secrets of the kingdom of God has been given to you, but to others I speak in parables, so that, ” ‘though seeing, they may not see; though hearing, they may not understand’ (Luke 8:10).

    Jesus’ quote from Isaiah 6:10 was to explain that the nation as a whole was unable to believe. Because they had constantly rejected God’s revelation, He had punished them with judicial blindness and deadness of heart. The people in Jesus’ day, like those in Isaiah’s day, refused to believe. They “would not believe” (John 12:37); therefore they could not believe (v. 39).3

  3. THE PARABLE OF THE SOWER: IT’S EXPLANANTION (8:11‐15).

    The seed is the word of God (v.11). That being so, it follows that the various soils upon which the seed falls represent people ‐ “those who have heard” (v. 12). Their varied responses are set forth below.

    1. The first group represents unbelievers (v.12).

      Though they hear the word, “the devil comes and takes away the word from their hearts, so that they may not believe and be saved” (v.12b). There are at least two things that need mention here: first, the spiritual condition of all unbelievers is such that they do not receive the things of the Spirit of God, they are foolish to them, and they cannot understand them (1 Cor. 2:14; Rom. 3:11). Unbelievers can only receive God’s Word when they are drawn to do so by the Father (cf. John 6:44). Second, God also allows Satan to hide and/or remove His truth from those who do not believe (see 2 Cor. 4:3‐4).

    2. The second group represents believers (v.13).

      These people are said to have “received the word with joy.” In the original text, the term for “receive” is dechomai, which is a very strong word. It is the word used in 1 Cor. 2:14 to tell us what an unbeliever does not do: “does not accept (Gr. dechomai) the things that come from the Spirit of God.” But they are said to “have no root” and later “fall away” some have concluded that such people must be unbelievers. However, the text not only says that they “received” the word, but also that they “believed” it. The most natural sense, therefore, is to see them as believers who are spiritually weak and immature – lacking the spiritual quality of perseverance, which times of testing are intended to develop (cf. James 1:2‐4). Many in the Corinthian church – and perhaps many churches in our day, would illustrate this sort of believer (cf. 1 Cor. 3:1‐3).

    3. The third group represents believers (v.14).

      Though the text does not say that they received or believed the word they heard, in this context it seems safe to assume that they had done so. But the word did not become productive in their lives – because its productivity had been “choked by life’s worries, riches and pleasures.” Their experience is very similar to the second group and is a clear explanation of why the word of God is so often unproductive in many believers’ lives.

    4. The fourth group represents believers (v.15).

      These are said to be “the ones who, after hearing the word, cling to it with an honest and good heart, and bear fruit with steadfast endurance.” In John 15:2, our Lord taught the disciples that every branch “in Me” that does not bear fruit, the Father “lifts up” (the contextual meaning of airo„, to take away or lift up) – to be exposed to the sun so as to facilitate productivity. He also told them that “As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself unless it abides in the vine, so neither can you unless you abide in Me” (John 15:4). This fourth group clearly illustrates that point.
      In Matthew’s use of this parable, he adds that the crops produced by these people varied: “some a hundred times as much, some sixty and some thirty” (Matt. 13:8). His point is this: even among those who have a meaningful relationship with God’s word, there can be a great variance in their productivity.

  4. POINTS TO PONDER.
    • God calls people to Himself through the proclamation of His word – so that they may be saved.
    • Through the proclamation of His word God also instructs those who have believed in how they are to think and live. He expects His children to embrace His word and to live out its reality in their lives.
    • Because of inability to properly handle conflict with the demands of the world – and their own lust patterns, the productivity of the word in many believers’ lives is often “choked.”
    • If this parable illustrates how people tend to respond to the word of God, then it might be concluded that within the typical local church, only about a third of the people would be expected to have a meaningful, productive relationship with the word.

1 John Nolland, vol. 35A, Word Biblical Commentary: Luke 1:1‐9:20, Word Biblical Commentary (Dallas: Word, Incorporated, 2002), 372.
2 Microsoft® Encarta® Reference Library 2003. © 1993‐2002 Microsoft Corporation. All rights reserved.
3 John F. Walvoord, Roy B. Zuck and Dallas Theological Seminary, The Bible Knowledge Commentary: An Exposition of the Scriptures (Wheaton, IL: Victor Books, 1983‐c1985), 2:318

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.