March 1st, 2009 – Luke 9:18‐20, 28‐36

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.

January 4th, 2009 – Luke 2:22-24

December 29th, 2008

The Long Awaited One

Luke 2:21‐38

Introduction

All Jewish parents of male children were instructed by the Law to circumcise them on the eighth day following their birth (Lev. 12:3). Therefore, Mary and Joseph, being obedient to God’s instruction, brought the baby Jesus to the temple to fulfill their obligation to the Law.

The requirements of the Law also included a sacrifice for the purification of the mother. The birth conditions, like the days of her normal menstruation, made her ceremonially unclean for seven days. The time of her purification was to last an additional thirty‐three days, after which she was to offer a sacrifice of purification. The sacrifice was to be a lamb and a young pigeon or a turtledove. But if the mother was poor and could not afford a lamb, she could offer two turtledoves or two young pigeons (Lev. 12:1‐8). Such was the case of Mary and Joseph. The text informs us that Mary’s sacrifice was two young turtledoves (or pigeons).

The passage before us gives us the details of this most important event in the beginning days of our Lord’s life.

Our Study of the Text

  1. THE PRESENTATION OF JESUS (2:21‐25).
    1. His name is given – Jesus (2:21).
      Jesus was named by His Father and that name had been communicated to Mary by the angel Gabriel (see Lk. 1:31).
    2. Mary offers her sacrifice before the Lord (2:22‐24).
      See the introduction above.
    3. Jesus is circumcised (2:27b).
      The act of circumcision was given by God as a sign of the covenant He had made with Abraham and his descendants (Gen. 17:1‐14). Quite appropriately, it was included in the legislation of the covenant at Sinai (the Law of Moses) – a parallel covenant between God and the descendants of Abraham (Lev. 12:3; see Gal. 3:15‐29).
  2. THE AFFIRMING WITNESSES (2:25‐38).

    It seems most appropriate in such a circumstance that God the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ would have planned for significant witnesses to be present. Two such people appear on the scene.

    1. The witness of Simeon (2:25‐35).
      1. His character: righteous and devout (2:25a).
      2. His faith: looking for the consolation of Israel (2:25b).
      3. His blessing from God: the Holy Spirit revealed to him that he would not die until he had seen the Lord’s Christ (2:26).
      4. His proclamation – part one (2:29‐32).
        The incarnate God had come into the world to bring salvation through his death – a salvation that would be for all people, Jew and Gentile alike.
      5. The response of Mary and Joseph (2:33).
        They were amazed at what was said about Jesus. The Greek term is thaumazō which has the sense of being extraordinarily impressed or disturbed by something, hence to marvel or to be amazed.
      6. His proclamation – part two (2:34‐35).
        This part of Simeon’s proclamation was prophetic in that it related information about the life of Jesus Christ: some Israelites would embrace Jesus as the promised Messiah, others would not; his life viz. his words and miracles, would be a sign to the nation that he was the promised Messiah; and his death – implied in the text, would pierce the heart of Mary his mother.
    2. The witness of Anna (2:3638).
      1. She was a prophetess (2:36a).
      2. She was from the tribe of Asher – one of the so‐called “lost tribes” of Israel (2:36b).
        The “lost tribes” were the ten northern tribes who had been taken captive by the Assyrians in 722 B.C., and had never returned to the land of Israel in mass.
      3. She was very old and served in the temple 24 hours a day through a dedicated ministry that included prayer and fasting (2:36c‐37).
      4. Her proclamation, while not specifically recorded by Luke, nonetheless was focused on the promised Savior who was to redeem God’s people. It is clear that Anna saw the prophecies about the promised savior as being fulfilled in the baby before her – Jesus, the Christ of God (2:38).
  3. POINTS TO PONDER.
    • Jesus Christ is God’s promised Messiah – the seed of David and the Savior of all people.
    • The details of the birth of Jesus – including his circumcision, fulfill messianic prophecies of the Old Testament.
    • We often need to ponder the significance of biblical revelation because the truth contained therein is often counter to human intuition.

Introduction to the Gospel of Luke

December 29th, 2008
  1. Author: Luke
    1. Eternal Evidence
      1. Early acceptance by the Church Fathers.
      2. Strong manuscript support [The Oldest MS of Luke, Bodmer Papyrus XIV, cited as p75 and dated AD 175-225, ascribes the book to Luke. Tradition attaches no other name to these writings].
    2. Internal Evidence
      1. Written to the same person – Theophilus
      2. Acts follows Luke nicely (cf. Acts 1:1-2)
      3. Vocabulary and style are very similar
  2. Date: written just before the end of Paul’s first Roman imprisonment – AD 61-62.
  3. Historical Background
    1. Place of Writing: Probably Caesarea (while Paul was in prison)
    2. Recipient of Writing: Theophilus (cf. Acts 1:1)
    3. The audience of Writing: Gentiles
  4. General Information
    1. This book was written by Luke who contributed the greatest amount of material (28%) of the New Testament.
    2. He was most likely a Gentile (his name, Loukas, is a common slave name).
    3. He does not appear to be a convert of the Apostle Paul but rather it appears that Luke was converted before meeting the Apostle.
    4. He was trained as a physician (cf. Col. 4:14). It is possible that he was trained at the University of Tarsus and there became acquainted with Paul.
    5. He was not an eyewitness to the things associated with the Lord Jesus Christ (cf. Lk. 1:1).
    6. He was a traveling companion of the Apostle Paul. Luke uses the first person plural in the book of Acts when he was along with Paul (cf. Acts 16:10-16:17;
      20:5-21:18; 27:1-28:16).
    7. He was especially dear to Paul and other believers (cf. Col. 4:14; 2 Cor. 8:18).
    8. He was a man of fearless devotion and loyalty (cf. 2 Tim. 4:9-11).
    9. This book is distinctively Gentile in nature
      1. He was writing primarily for the benefit of a Greek by the name of Theophilus (cf. Lk. 1:3).
      2. He explains well-know Jewish localities for his readers.
      3. He takes Christ’s (actually Mary’s) genealogy back to Adam
      4. He dates the events in the book to Roman emperors and governors.
      5. He uses Greek titles rather than Hebrew or Aramaic ones.
      6. He has little to say about the fulfillment of OT prophecy.
      7. He gives a universal perspective rather than Jewish one in relationship to the Messiah. The Messiah is the One in whom all the families of the earth are blessed.
    10. This book will emphasize the sinless, perfect humanity of the Lord and present Him as the Son of Man.
    11. This book will present the Lord Jesus not only as the Savior but as the example for His people to follow.
    12. This book provides the most comprehensive account of the earthly life of the Lord Jesus Christ out of any of the gospel accounts.
    13. This book was composed under the direction of the Holy Spirit through the investigation conducted by Luke by consulting narratives about Christ, interviewing eyewitnesses, and referring to personal memoirs.
  5. Purpose of Luke: To present Jesus as the Son of Man who provided salvation for sinful people so that Gentiles may enter the Kingdom.
  6. Key Verse: 19:10 “For the Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost.”
  7. The Structure of the Book
    1. The Preparation of the Son of Man (1:1-2:52)
      1. Introduction (1:1-4)
      2. The Announcement of the Birth of John the Baptist (1:5-25)
      3. The Announcement of the Birth of the Son of Man (1:26-56)
      4. The Advent of John the Baptist (1:57-80)
      5. The Advent of the Son of Man (2:1-20)
      6. The Infancy and Boyhood of the Son of Man (2:21-52)
    2. The Presentation of the Son of Man (3:1-4:13)
      1. Recognition: The Ministry of John the Baptist and Jesus’ Baptism (3:1-22)
      2. Identification: The Genealogy of the Son of Man (3:23-38)
      3. Authentication: The Temptation of the Son of Man (4:1-13)
    3. The Ministry of the Son of Man (4:14-9:50)
      1. The Announcement of the Ministry of the Son of Man (4:14-30)
      2. The Authority of His Ministry (4:31-6:11)
      3. The Message and Messengers of the Kingdom (6:12-49)
      4. The Activity and Power of the Ministry of the Son of Man (7:1-:50)
    4. Instruction and Rejection of the Son of Man (9:51-19:27)
      1. The Rejection of the Son of Man (9:51-11:54)
      2. The Instruction of the Son of Man (12:1-19:28)
    5. The Last Week of Ministry in Jerusalem Ending in the Death of the Son of Man (19:29-23:56)
      1. Monday: triumphal entry (19:29-44)
      2. Tuesday: cleansing of the temple (19:45-48)
      3. Wednesday: the question of his authority and future things (20:1-21:38)
      4. Thursday: his betrayal begins (22:1-6); Passover Meal, Gethsemane and arrest (22:7-53)
      5. Friday: denials, trial, crucifixion and burial (22:54-23:55)
      6. Saturday: rest (23:56)
    6. The Resurrection and Post-resurrection Ministry of the Son of Man (24:1-53)
      1. Resurrection (24:1-12)
      2. Men on the road to Emmaus (24:13-35)
      3. Appearances of the Risen Son of Man (24:36-53)