Posts Tagged ‘jesus’

March 22nd, 2009 – Luke 15:1-10

Sunday, March 15th, 2009

The Lost Sheep and the Lost Coin

Luke 15:1‐10


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 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”!
    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

    • 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


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.
    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.
    • 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


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)
    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!
    • 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.
3Easton, M. (1996, c1897). Easton’s Bible dictionary. Oak Harbor, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc.