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Bible croppedContinuing a study of the passages from Luke’s Gospel which have been omitted from the three-year Lectionary for public worship, today’s post is part of my ongoing series Forbidden Bible Verses, also essential to understanding Scripture.

The following Bible passages have been excluded from the three-year Lectionary used by many Catholic and Protestant churches around the world.

Do some clergy using the Lectionary want us understand Holy Scripture in its entirety? You decide.

Today’s reading is from the English Standard Version with commentary by Matthew Henry and John MacArthur.

Luke 13:10-17

A Woman with a Disabling Spirit

 10Now he was teaching in one of the synagogues on the Sabbath. 11And there was a woman who had had a disabling spirit for eighteen years. She was bent over and could not fully straighten herself. 12When Jesus saw her, he called her over and said to her, “Woman, you are freed from your disability.” 13And he laid his hands on her, and immediately she was made straight, and she glorified God. 14But the ruler of the synagogue, indignant because Jesus had healed on the Sabbath, said to the people, “There are six days in which work ought to be done. Come on those days and be healed, and not on the Sabbath day.” 15Then the Lord answered him, “You hypocrites! Does not each of you on the Sabbath untie his ox or his donkey from the manger and lead it away to water it? 16And ought not this woman, a daughter of Abraham whom Satan bound for eighteen years, be loosed from this bond on the Sabbath day?” 17As he said these things, all his adversaries were put to shame, and all the people rejoiced at all the glorious things that were done by him.

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Luke 13 is a continuation of Jesus’s calls to repentance in Luke 12.

Last week’s Forbidden Bible Verses post looked at the conclusion to Luke 12, Jesus’s likening the Final Judgement to appearing before a magistrate. He advises ‘settling along the way’ — making amends with God via repentance whilst we are alive, rather than face condemnation in the life to come.

The first story in Luke 13 concerns those who are asking about the spiritual state of the Galilean victims of Pilate’s persecutions and those who perished when the tower of Siloam fell (near the healing pool of Bethesda/Bethsaida in John 5). Jesus tells the people that they had no greater spiritual afflictions than they, therefore, what happened was not a divine punishment. However, Jesus emphasises that those who are wondering about other’s spiritual state should spend that energy examining and improving their own, lest they face condemnation in the next life.

He then relates a parable about a fig tree which has not yet borne fruit. The gardener — vinedresser — advised his boss the landowner to allow him to give it special attention for a year to see if it would bear fruit. If it did not, then he would fell the tree. Jesus’s message here is that God gives us a certain time to repent; if not, we face the consequences of eternal condemnation. We can pray for sinners to be infused with grace and wisdom so to do. However, we cannot pray that God will pardon the unrepentant. Matthew Henry’s commentary says:

Reprieves may be obtained by the prayers of others for us, but not pardons[;] there must be our own faith, and repentance, and prayers, else no pardon.

Now we come to today’s passage, Jesus’s merciful healing of a disabled woman on the Sabbath. This, too, although a healing miracle, symbolises God’s acceptance of the repentant sinner who believes in Christ.

Jesus was teaching in an unnamed synagogue (verse 10). Among the congregation was a woman who was stooped over and could not stand upright; a demon caused her longstanding condition with which she suffered for 18 years (verse 11).

Keep in mind that in synagogues then — as is true in Orthodox synagogues today — women had to sit separately from women. John MacArthur surmises that, in Jesus’s day, the women sat at the back, so she would have been out of sight from the leaders at the front.

Jesus called the lady to come forward and told her she was healed (verse 12). As He laid His hands upon her, she was able to stand up for the first time in nearly 20 years and praised God (verse 13).

The leader of the synagogue then stood up and denounced our Lord’s healing by saying that He had six other days of the week to do it; work was not permitted on the Sabbath (verse 14).

Jesus expressed His righteous indignation at the synagogue leader’s denunciation by saying that hypocritical Sabbath observers were kinder to their livestock than to a human (verse 15). Furthermore, He added, this lady was a Jew — one of their own (verse 16). In other words, who would deny her this merciful healing miracle? Only a hypocritical legalist.

With that Jesus shamed the legalist synagogue leaders and the people rejoiced at His words (verse 17).

MacArthur unpacks this scene for us (emphases mine):

He endeavors to bring on the head of Jesus a violation of the law of God. But of course, there’s nothing in the law of God that says you can’t help somebody on the Sabbath. Any deed of mercy, any necessity was perfectly acceptable on the Sabbath and their Jewish law even said it. The Mishnah even said that you could do anything for a person or an animal that was necessary or merciful. And Jesus, Himself, in the 12th Chapter of Matthew had told them, you know, you’ve got the whole idea of the law of God wrong. Do you remember when David’s soldiers were hungry and they went into the temple and ate the show bread, because they were hungry. And feeding men who were hungry was more important than the symbolism of the show bread.

It really was the hatred they had for Jesus. He was going to make up a rule that you can’t heal on the Sabbath. There could never be such a rule in Judaism, because nobody could heal anyway. So how would that rule develop? So the Lord answers him in verse 15. The Lord answered him and said, “you hypocrites,” He was direct, as always, you spiritual fraud, “does not each of you on Sabbath untie his ox or his donkey from the stall and lead him away to water him?” Well, He got them, because they did that.

In fact, in the Mishnah, the codification of Jewish rabbinic law, it prescribes that you can do that. You can take your animal if you put no burden on his back and lead him to water or to eat. It even gives you a maximum of 200 cubits that you can go. And they even have some prescription about how wide the well is so you can see how they encumbered these things. But it was perfectly fine to do that. You phonies.

Of course, the crowds that lauded Jesus for His mercy and compassion turned against Him by the time it came for His trial and crucifixion.

That said, not only is this account of Luke’s one of merciful physical restoration but a pointer towards the compassion God has for us sinners. As Matthew Henry puts it:

This cure represents the work of Christ’s grace upon the souls of the people. (1.) In the conversion of sinners. Unsanctified hearts are under this spirit of infirmity they are distorted, the faculties of the soul are quite out of place and order they are bowed down towards things below. O curvæ in terram animæ ! They can in no wise lift up themselves to God and heaven the bent of the soul, in its natural state, is the quite contrary way. Such crooked souls seek not to Christ but he calls them to him, lays the hand of his power and grace upon them, speaks a healing word to them, by which he looses them from their infirmity, makes the soul straight, reduces it to order, raises it above worldly regards, and directs its affections and aims heavenward. Though man cannot make that straight which God has made crooked (Ecclesiastes 7:13), yet the grace of God can make that straight which the sin of man has made crooked. (2.) In the consolation of good people. Many of the children of God are long under a spirit of infirmity, a spirit of bondage through prevailing grief and fear, their souls are cast down and disquieted within them, they are troubled, they are bowed down greatly, they go mourning all the day long, Psalm 38:6. But Christ, by his Spirit of adoption, looses them from this infirmity in due time, and raises them up.

4. The present effect of this cure upon the soul of the patient as well as upon her body. She glorified God, gave him the praise of her cure to whom all praise is due. When crooked souls are made straight, they will show it by their glorifying God.

Therefore, as the psalmist said, let us rejoice and be glad.

Next time: Luke 13:18-21

Bible kevinroosecomContinuing a study of the passages from Luke’s Gospel which have been omitted from the three-year Lectionary for public worship, today’s post is part of my ongoing series Forbidden Bible Verses, also essential to understanding Scripture.

The following Bible passages have been excluded from the three-year Lectionary used by many Catholic and Protestant churches around the world.

Do some clergy using the Lectionary want us understand Holy Scripture in its entirety? You decide.

Today’s reading is from the English Standard Version with commentary by Matthew Henry and John MacArthur.

Luke 12:57-59

Settle with Your Accuser

 57“And why do you not judge for yourselves what is right? 58 As you go with your accuser before the magistrate, make an effort to settle with him on the way, lest he drag you to the judge, and the judge hand you over to the officer, and the officer put you in prison. 59I tell you, you will never get out until you have paid the very last penny.”[a]

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As I mentioned a few weeks ago, Luke 12 is a hard-hitting chapter.

Jesus warns against secrets, says that God is to be more feared than man and that we are to acknowledge our Lord openly.

The Parable of the Rich Fool follows, in which Jesus condemns materialism. He says that believers are to put God’s Kingdom first; everything else to satisfy our temporal needs will follow.

Jesus then relates to His disciples the parable of the servants who are unprepared for their master’s return. Similarly, severe punishment awaits those who persist in sin, thinking that they have plenty of time to repent.

The chapter goes on to recount Jesus’s warning that His divine truth will divide families. This continues to be true today:

51 Do you think that I have come to give peace on earth? No, I tell you, but rather division. 52For from now on in one house there will be five divided, three against two and two against three. 53They will be divided, father against son and son against father, mother against daughter and daughter against mother, mother-in-law against her daughter-in-law and daughter-in-law against mother-in-law.”

Jesus then rebuked the hypocrisy of many of the people whom He encountered in His ministry. He said they could interpret the weather but were ignoring the greatest blessing they could ever receive — His presence, as God had predestined from the beginning of time. A similar passage can be found in Matthew 16:1-4, which I wrote about in 2010.

Therefore, His question about discerning what is ‘right’ (verse 57) is a call to repentance — now.

To illustrate this, He uses the analogy of appearing in court. Law-abiding people fear this, and rightly so. However, as off-putting as a temporal court is, Jesus tells us God’s court on Judgment Day will be even more so.

This is why He advocates settling with one’s accuser on the way to court (verse 58) — in other words, embrace repentance. Turn away from sin before it’s too late, because, just as those who are convicted for debt are imprisoned until the last penny — lepton, in His time — is paid, those whom God finds guilty of sin will receive a punishment with no reprieve (verse 59).

Matthew Henry’s commentary gives this advice:

let us give diligence to be delivered out of the hands of God as an adversary, into his hands as a Father, and this as we are in the way, which has the chief stress laid upon it here. While we are alive, we are in the way and now is our time, by repentance and faith through Christ (who is the Mediator as well as the magistrate), to get the quarrel made up, while it may be done, before it be too late. Thus was God in Christ reconciling the world to himself, beseeching us to be reconciled.

John MacArthur says:

2 Corinthians 5 talks about that God is in Christ reconciling the world to Himself. He’s provided reconciliation. God wants you to settle out of court and the way you settle is to make peace with Him through His Son, through faith in Christ, whom God made sin for us that we might be made the righteous of God in Him. God punished Him, the just for the unjust, that we might be brought to God. Grace is available. Forgiveness is available. Freedom from sin is available. Freedom from punishment, the hope of eternal life, escape from judgment. You can settle with God out of court. If you don’t, you’ll get to court and you will pay in full down to the last cent. Don’t even be there. Settle your account. Put your trust in Christ. He says to them, “How…how could you waste such an opportunity? You didn’t discern the time and you didn’t discern the threat”…tragedy. Isaiah 55, “Seek the Lord while He may be found. Call on Him while He is near.” 2Corinthians 6, “Now is the acceptable time. Now is the day of salvation.” Don’t miss it.

In closing, MacArthur also explains how the courts system worked in Jesus’s time. Some of it remains unchanged in certain countries even to this day:

The magistrate is the archonta, the archon, the ruler, the person of power, and this is sort of a preliminary hearing which would occur. You’d go and the guy would lay out his case and the magistrate would then remand the thing to the judge and put him to court …

The judge is just that, kriten, the judge. The constable, proctor is the word, and the constable was the person who had the responsibility to exact the punishment. He is called an exacter of penalties. A proctor, here called a constable, is one who enforced the payment of debt by imprisonment. It’s always been interesting to me. I’ve been in Northern Ireland and I toured with the Northern Ireland Police, who have no small job, and they are called constables and the police are the constabulary. They are the ones who enforce the payment of debts by imprisonment. That’s what they do and that’s exactly what this Greek word means.

Next time: Luke 13:10-17

Bible evangewomanblogspotcomContinuing a study of the passages from Luke’s Gospel which have been omitted from the three-year Lectionary for public worship, today’s post is part of my ongoing series Forbidden Bible Verses, also essential to understanding Scripture.

The following Bible passages have been excluded from the three-year Lectionary used by many Catholic and Protestant churches around the world.

Do some clergy using the Lectionary want us understand Holy Scripture in its entirety? You decide.

Today’s reading is from the English Standard Version with commentary by Matthew Henry.

Luke 12:41-48

41Peter said, “Lord, are you telling this parable for us or for all?” 42And the Lord said, “Who then is the faithful and wise manager, whom his master will set over his household, to give them their portion of food at the proper time? 43 Blessed is that servant whom his master will find so doing when he comes. 44Truly, I say to you, he will set him over all his possessions. 45But if that servant says to himself, ‘My master is delayed in coming,’ and begins to beat the male and female servants, and to eat and drink and get drunk, 46the master of that servant will come on a day when he does not expect him and at an hour he does not know, and will cut him in pieces and put him with the unfaithful. 47 And that servant who knew his master’s will but did not get ready or act according to his will, will receive a severe beating. 48 But the one who did not know, and did what deserved a beating, will receive a light beating. Everyone to whom much was given, of him much will be required, and from him to whom they entrusted much, they will demand the more.

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In verse 41, Peter enquired about the parable which Jesus had just told His disciples:

35 “Stay dressed for action and keep your lamps burning, 36and be like men who are waiting for their master to come home from the wedding feast, so that they may open the door to him at once when he comes and knocks. 37 Blessed are those servants whom the master finds awake when he comes. Truly, I say to you, he will dress himself for service and have them recline at table, and he will come and serve them. 38If he comes in the second watch, or in the third, and finds them awake, blessed are those servants! 39 But know this, that if the master of the house had known at what hour the thief was coming, he would not have left his house to be broken into. 40You also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect.”

Jesus replied that the master of the house will reward the faithful servant who is wise enough to anticipate his return home at any hour (verses 42, 43). The master will give that servant care over all his possessions (verse 44).

However, the servants who do not expect the master to return anytime soon and go about abusing other servants or partying with the master’s food and drink will find themselves at the hands of an irate master who will ‘cut them in pieces and put them with the unfaithful’ (verses 45, 46). Similarly, the servant who ignored his duties to his master in other ways will receive a severe beating (verse 47).

Yet, Jesus says that the servant who was ignorant of his responsibilities and deserved the same treatment will receive a lighter punishment (verse 48). That said, He concludes that those who have been given the most — the gift of His eternal truth and the wisdom of the Holy Spirit — will be expected to use these for His glory or risk condemnation.

Matthew Henry explains (emphases mine):

Here seems to be an allusion to the law, which made a distinction between sins committed through ignorance, and presumptuous sins (Num. xv. 29,30), as also to another law concerning the number of stripes given to a malefactor, to be according to the nature of the crime, Deuteronomy 25:2,3. Now, (1.) Ignorance of our duty is an extenuation of sin. He that knew not his lord’s will, through carelessness and neglect, and his not having such opportunities as some others had of coming to the knowledge of it, and did things worthy of stripes, he shall be beaten, because he might have known his duty better, but with few stripes his ignorance excuses in part, but not wholly. Thus through ignorance the Jews put Christ to death (Acts 3:17,1 Corinthians 2:8), and Christ pleaded that ignorance in their excuse: They know not what they do. (2.) The knowledge of our duty is an aggravation of our sin: That servant that knew his lord’s will, and yet did his own will, shall be beaten with many stripes. God will justly inflict more upon him for abusing the means of knowledge he afforded him, which others would have made a better use of, because it argues a great degree of wilfulness and contempt to sin against knowledge of how much sorer punishment then shall they be thought worthy, besides the many stripes that their own consciences will give them! Son, remember. Here is a good reason for this added: To whomsoever much is given, of him shall be much required, especially when it is committed as a trust he is to account for. Those have greater capacities of mind than others, more knowledge and learning, more acquaintance and converse with the scriptures, to them much is given, and their account will be accordingly.

These readings from Luke 12 are often used when discussing a clergyman’s responsibilities to his flock. The clergyman is the Lord’s foremost servant.

Yet, they apply equally to all believers, with punishments given according to one’s abilities and awareness. The more intellectual and cognitive gifts we have, the more we are to apply them in our understanding and exercise of the Christian faith.

One primary example of this is teaching one’s children Christian beliefs, including prayers and Scripture. Too many leave this to Sunday School or Religious Education teachers. Some parents also think that children are ‘too young’ to understand these things; one often wonders if that is used to excuse their own laxity in this regard. Whatever the case, it might count against the parents one day.

We are obliged to grow in love and faith of God through His divine grace and help from the Holy Spirit. May we not be like the unfaithful servant running the risk of a dreadful punishment.

Next time: Luke 12:57-59

 

Bible kevinroosecomContinuing a study of the passages from Luke’s Gospel which have been omitted from the three-year Lectionary for public worship, today’s post is part of my ongoing series Forbidden Bible Verses, also essential to understanding Scripture.

The following Bible passages have been excluded from the three-year Lectionary used by many Catholic and Protestant churches around the world.

Do some clergy using the Lectionary want us understand Holy Scripture in its entirety? You decide.

Today’s reading is from the English Standard Version with commentary by Matthew Henry and John MacArthur.

Luke 12:8-12

Acknowledge Christ Before Men

 8“And I tell you, everyone who acknowledges me before men, the Son of Man also will acknowledge before the angels of God, 9but the one who denies me before men will be denied before the angels of God. 10And everyone who speaks a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven, but the one who blasphemes against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven. 11And when they bring you before the synagogues and the rulers and the authorities, do not be anxious about how you should defend yourself or what you should say, 12 for the Holy Spirit will teach you in that very hour what you ought to say.”

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Today’s reading is particularly pertinent, given that, as I write, it is the first Sunday after Trinity.

To recap where we are in Luke 12, the chapter began with Jesus criticising hypocritical religious practice, particularly that of the Pharisees. He warned that what was considered secret would be uncovered and revealed.

In the verses which followed, He counselled that we had no reason to fear others as much as we do the living God who can condemn us to eternal death.

In today’s reading, Jesus makes it clear how we are to consider the Holy Trinity, although He does not use this term.

On Judgment Day, anyone who honoured Jesus during his lifetime, our Lord will acknowledge before God’s angels (verse 8). In other words, if we proclaim Jesus to others — through evangelisation in the traditional ways for those who are able or through a consistent Christian example — He will proclaim us as His own.

The word ‘acknowledge’ is used in that verse. Men of the cloth also use the word ‘confess’ when explaining this verse. We might find ‘confess’ has a negative connotation, used in connection with sin or crime, however, even in that sense, the word is used in connection with coming forth with the truth. If someone confesses a sin or a crime, he admits that he is guilty. In a positive sense, those who confess that Jesus is Lord are affirming eternal truth.

In the context of Jesus’s discourse, He meant that the Pharisees and their followers did not love God because they did not accept Him (Jesus) as the Messiah.

John MacArthur explains:

Confessing the Father also requires confessing the Son. Honoring the Father requires honoring the Son and confessing Me means, as I told you last time, the word confess means to say what is true…to say what is true about the Son of Man, to say what is true about Jesus Christ is to say that He is God, He is Savior and He is Lord. It is to confess Jesus as Lord in the words of Romans chapter 10. And we pointed out last time that you cannot honor God unless you honor Christ. Jesus Himself said in John 5, “No one honors the Father who doesn’t honor Me. Whoever honors Me honors the Father.” And so in order to escape the judgment of those in false religion, the judgment of hypocrites, we must confess and honor God, we must confess and honor Christ. There is no way to God except through Christ. “No man comes to the Father but by Me,” said Jesus. So you do not honor the Father unless you honor the Son.

Those who claim to love God yet reject Christ will be denied before the angels (verse 9). Many people today say they believe in God, yet they have no time for His Son. These are lapsed Christians who often speak of a church-oriented upbringing. This is a grave mistake to make with irreversible consequences for the afterlife. We owe it to our friends and family who talk of God yet deny Christ to set them aright by explaining the New Testament teachings to them.

Matthew Henry describes the afterlife for deniers:

a considerable part of the misery of damned sinners will be that the holy angels will abandon them, and will be the pleased witnesses, not only of their disgrace, as here, but of their misery, for they shall be tormented in the presence of the holy angels (Revelation 14:10), who will give them no relief.

Jesus went on to say that those who speak against Him can be forgiven but those who blaspheme the Holy Spirit cannot be pardoned that sin (verse 10). Not enough of us are acquainted with that verse, which, as I wrote two years ago, is also documented in Mark 3:28-29 and Matthew 12:22-32. Recall that in that context — as in Luke 11:14-23 — those who said that Jesus was driven by Beelzebul (Satan) to perform miracles were really denying the power of the Holy Spirit which enabled those dramatic acts of healing.

As for us, MacArthur says:

We must acknowledge the Son as sovereign Savior and Lord. And we must acknowledge, this is very important, the Holy Spirit as sovereign revealer…sovereign revealed. We acknowledge God the Father as the One whose holy Law has been violated. We honor God the Son as the one who has paid the penalty for that violation and satisfied God’s wrath. And we honor the Spirit as the one whose revelation concerning God and Christ has been made known to us. No one comes to God except through Christ. No one comes to Christ except through the Spirit because you can’t come to Christ unless you know the truth about Him and you can’t know the truth about Him unless you believe the revelation of the Holy Spirit. It is the Holy Spirit that tells us about Christ. It is Christ who points us to the Father. To say it another way, God is revealed in Christ and Christ is revealed by the Holy Spirit.

Jesus then moves to the subject of persecution.  Once again, He tells His disciples not to be afraid of suffering at the hands of men (verse 11), because the Holy Spirit will guide them during any trials and give them the right words to say in their defence and in affirmation of Christ the Lord (verse 12).

Some may say, ‘What about all the martyrs, then?’ There is no guarantee against suffering in these last two verses but rather the promise of a continuing affirmation of faith — and eternal life — by the one who is on trial, whatever the earthly outcome.

MacArthur unpacks this for us:

it’s not the Holy Spirit in a vacuum, it’s the Holy Spirit working internally from the hearing of the external Word which the Spirit has authored. This is absolutely foundational, absolutely foundational. A full true confession of Jesus Christ as Lord is only possible by the work of the Holy Spirit through exposure to the written revelation, the external Scripture which He authored and accompanied by the internal hard work by which He regenerates, illuminates and sanctifies.

Despite our Confirmation classes it would seem that many of us still have a rudimentary understanding of the Holy Spirit and His gifts.

It was thanks to the Holy Spirit’s descending on the disciples at Pentecost that the Church was able to expand among both Jew and Gentile. Remember that it was the Holy Spirit that Jesus promised to send once He ascended into Heaven.

Let us pray to the Holy Spirit for wisdom, discernment, fortitude and piety in our Christian walk.

Next time: Luke 12:22-31

Bible treehuggercomContinuing a study of the passages from Luke’s Gospel which have been omitted from the three-year Lectionary for public worship, today’s post is part of my ongoing series Forbidden Bible Verses, also essential to understanding Scripture.

The following Bible passages have been excluded from the three-year Lectionary used by many Catholic and Protestant churches around the world.

Do some clergy using the Lectionary want us understand Holy Scripture in its entirety? You decide.

Today’s reading is from the English Standard Version with commentary by Matthew Henry and John MacArthur.

Luke 12:4-7

Have No Fear

 4“I tell you, my friends, do not fear those who kill the body, and after that have nothing more that they can do. 5But I will warn you whom to fear: fear him who, after he has killed, has authority to cast into hell.[a] Yes, I tell you, fear him! 6Are not five sparrows sold for two pennies?[b] And not one of them is forgotten before God. 7Why, even the hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not; you are of more value than many sparrows.

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The first three verses of Luke 12 record Jesus’s warning against being a hypocrite because everything we do in secret will be revealed.

This week’s passage continues with his discourse.

Jesus counsels his disciples against fearing those who have the power to kill them (verse 4). The most anyone can do to us is to kill our bodies. No one can kill our souls, which are much more important.

On this verse Matthew Henry’s commentary says:

Note, Those [enemies] can do Christ’s disciples no real harm, and therefore ought not to be dreaded, who can but kill the body for they only send that to its rest, and the soul to its joy, the sooner.

Jesus then says that the one to fear is God (verse 5). He doesn’t mention it once, but twice, emphatically:

Yes, I tell you, fear him!

These are Jesus’s words, not the words of a prophet or an apostle.

The first footnote above says that hell refers to Gehenna. John MacArthur puts this into context for us (emphases mine):

Gehenna from ge, valley and hinnom, the valley of hinnom. If you go to Israel today, you can see the Valley of Hinnom, it’s right there. It’s south and west of Jerusalem, down off the plateau where Jerusalem sits. Originally when the Jews got into idolatry, that’s where they set up their high places to worship Baal and Molech. It was a place of perversity and blasphemy and idolatry. It was called Toffit[,] and Toffit, according to many of the lexicons[,] means a place of spitting out, or a place of vomiting, a place of abhorrence. And some indicate it could be connected to words that mean a place of burning. Well in each of those cases it’s representative of what happened there. Because what the Jews did there, going against God, of course, was they built a place to sacrifice to idols and the sacrifices were just staggering. What they did was create a massive pit at this high place of idol worship down in the valley. It had a very deep hole and they just poured wood into that deep hole and wicked kings, Ahaz and Manasseh actually sacrificed their children there, threw them into the fire pit as offerings to the gruesome idol Molech, 2 Chronicles 28 and 33. And others followed, Jeremiah 32:35 talks about others copied it and they had these babies being sacrificed to Molech.

Well Jeremiah came along and predicted that God was going to bring divine judgment on this horrible place and this horrible practice, that God was going to come against this terrible wickedness that occurred in the Valley of Hinnom in Gehenna and He was going to come with mass destruction and the Valley would become known as the Valley of Slaughter. And, of course, that did happen when Israel’s enemies, Judah’s enemies came and destroyed them. God-fearing Josiah came along and for a moment there was a respite, God-fearing Josiah obliterated all the idolatry out of the place. You remember the reforms under Josiah, he stopped all the abominations, he stopped all the idol worship, 2 Kings chapter 23. And he turned it into the Jerusalem rubbish center…city dump. And the fire kept burning but it was burning the refuse of the city. And so the Valley of Hinnom known as Gehenna was a place of constant burning, constant smoke, constant inhaling of brimstone. And it was also associated with blasphemy and cursing. And so the Jews picked up the word Gehenna and made it the word for hell. Hell is an ever-burning fire, smoke, darkness, indicating wickedness, abomination, divine judgment and slaughter. And our Lord had so much to say about it, weeping, wailing, gnashing of teeth, darkness, blackness, aloneness, torment, burning. And our Lord says you want to fear somebody? Fear the one who can send you there. Yes, end of verse 5, I tell you, fear Him.

In summary, fear the One who can condemn your soul.

Henry cites John Hooper, an Anglican bishop who died for the faith in the 16th century:

life is sweet, and death bitter but eternal life is more sweet, and eternal death more bitter.

A true Christian does not fear bodily death.

In verse 6, Jesus talks about sparrows which, in His day, an inexpensive protein source and, yet, God in His omniscience knows about all of them because He created them.

The second footnote above reads:

Greek two assaria; an assarion was a Roman copper coin worth about 1/16 of a denarius (which was a day’s wage for a laborer)

The Gospels often mention sparrows. MacArthur explains:

They were cheap food for the poor. Nobody cared about sparrows, the only reason the poor cared about sparrows was they could eat them. If there was anything, you’d think God wouldn’t bother Himself about it would be sparrows. 

Jesus goes on to say that if God knows about every sparrow, He also knows everything about us, even down to the number of hairs on our heads (verse 7).

He concludes by saying that we are worth more to God than sparrows. This is because He gave us souls. In our era of legalised animal rights (in certain Latin American and European countries) and lack of Christian faith, many people equate fauna with humanity. It is a mistake to do so. When an animal dies, it dies. On the Last Day, God will judge whether we spend eternity with Him or send us to everlasting damnation.

As MacArthur says:

If you are fearing God, don’t fear. He knows everything and He knows you are His. If you are not His, time to fear God who will uncover the truth, who will sentence you to hell and who knows everything.

But how do you come to know God? What is the only way to come to know God? You cannot honor God unless you honor the Son.

Next time: Luke 12:8-12

 

 

Bible read me 1Continuing a study of the passages from Luke’s Gospel which have been omitted from the three-year Lectionary for public worship, today’s post is part of my ongoing series Forbidden Bible Verses, also essential to understanding Scripture.

The following Bible passages have been excluded from the three-year Lectionary used by many Catholic and Protestant churches around the world.

Do some clergy using the Lectionary want us understand Holy Scripture in its entirety? You decide.

Today’s reading is from the English Standard Version with commentary by Matthew Henry and John MacArthur.

Luke 12:1-3

Beware of the Leaven of the Pharisees

 1In the meantime, when so many thousands of the people had gathered together that they were trampling one another, he began to say to his disciples first, “Beware of the leaven of the Pharisees, which is hypocrisy. 2 Nothing is covered up that will not be revealed, or hidden that will not be known. 3Therefore whatever you have said in the dark shall be heard in the light, and what you have whispered in private rooms shall be proclaimed on the housetops.

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Luke 12 is a continuation of the preceding chapter which contains Jesus’s condemnation of the Pharisees and scribes during lunch at a Pharisee’s house.

This chapter recounts Jesus’s talk which followed. He warned against hypocrisy and unbelief. He also told the crowd not to worry; God the Father knows our needs. It is well worth reading in full; some verses are well known, such as:

27 Consider the lilies, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these.

and

34 For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.

Furthermore, today’s short selection of verses has a parallel in Mark 4:21-25.

Luke 12:1 describes a tremendous crowd listening to Jesus. John MacArthur says the Greek words used in Luke’s original manuscript describes tens of thousands of people.

A few in the crowd were His disciples, more were about to become His followers but the majority came out of curiosity to hear what He had to say.

MacArthur sets the scene for us (emphases mine):

This is in Judea in the south. They all know the conflict between the Pharisees, the scribes and Jesus. It is the most riveting, and compelling, and fascinating, and interesting, and dramatic event that takes place anywhere when Jesus and the Pharisees get together. And it happened a lot because they were always coming to question Him, try to catch Him in His words. And so the crowds begin to grow and grow and grow and verse 1 says, “Under these circumstances, after so many thousands of the multitude had gathered together that they were stepping on one another, He began saying to His disciples, ‘First of all…’” Let me stop right there…

You remember He left the lunch at the end of chapter 11 and it says they were very hostile toward Him and looking for ways they could pounce on Him and attack Him and actually kill Him.

Jesus opened His address to the crowd by speaking first to the disciples, warning them not to be hypocrites. He pointedly mentioned the Pharisees.

Jesus spoke of leaven, or yeast. For us, yeast is a wonderful ingredient. Without it, we would have only flatbread. However, Jesus spoke of the way even a small amount of yeast acts as ferment; in this case, a small amount of hypocrisy or false teaching can affect the faith of a whole group of people.

As we saw over the past two entries about the scribes and the Pharisees, Jesus accused them of practising a manmade religion, going considerably beyond Mosaic law. Even worse, neither of these groups followed their own laws. MacArthur says that the Pharisees (practitioners) looked to the scribes (religious lawyers, theologians) for loopholes by which they could avoid observing these complex tenets.

MacArthur reminds us of other verses where Jesus used leaven in the same context:

By the way, in Matthew 16:6 Jesus said this, also there but He added this, “Beware also of the leaven of the Sadducees.” And in Mark 8:15 He added, “And beware of the leaven of Herod.” With the Pharisees it was fundamentalism, it was works, it was legalism, it was materialism. With the Sadducees it was skepticism and rationalism and liberalism. And with Herod it was political ambition and secularism and all of it corrupts…all of it corrupts. So He says this stuff permeates everything.

In the second verse, Jesus warned that secrets are never hidden forever. He was referring to the cover of piety the Pharisees used; yet, inside, their souls were dark and devoid of faith. That darkness would be exposed and condemned.

Matthew Henry’s commentary says:

If men’s religion prevail not to conquer and cure the wickedness of their hearts, it shall not always serve for a cloak. The day is coming when hypocrites will be stripped of their fig-leaves.

In verse 3, Jesus warns that our sins — especially hypocrisy — will come to light one day. The old saying ‘Practise what you preach’ comes to mind. One day, all will be revealed, if not in this world, then in the next.

MacArthur unpacks Jesus’s use of ‘private rooms’ and ‘housetops’. We better understand this verse when we understand how houses in His time were constructed:

Houses in those days were made out of dirt, basically. And you remember when Jesus talked about thieves digging through and stealing? Because you basically dug through the wall made out of mud. And so there was normally built inside the house in the middle of the house, away from the outer wall an inner room. And that’s where all the valuables were kept. That’s what He’s talking about. It was a great place to keep your valuables and it was also the place where you went to whisper when you didn’t want anybody to hear you. So He says, “Whatever you have said in the dark is going to be heard in the light, whatever you were saying when everybody was asleep is going to be heard in the light, and whatever you were whispering in the inner room is going to be proclaimed upon the housetops.” The housetops were flat, they had a little short wall around them and they were patios. But it was the place where announcements were made. Back in Matthew chapter 10 the disciples were to go on the housetops and preach the gospel. That’s where you made public announcements. And Jesus is saying you may have thought you could keep it hidden in the inner room, and I’m telling you it’s going to be broadcast from the housetop. And if not in this life, in the life to come when you stand before the judgment seat and the Lord recompenses you for what you’ve done, everything is going to be made known.

MacArthur makes a good point about avoiding immorality and false teaching:

There’s a verse in 1 Corinthians 15:33 that’s good to know. It says, “Evil company corrupts good morals.” Remember that verse? “Evil company corrupts good morals” … The word for company is homilia and that word in the Greek means, literally in its root, can mean in association or company, but at its root it means a sermon or a lecture or communication or conversation. And isn’t that the whole point? I mean, the reason association with evil people corrupts good morals is because of what they say. Don’t expose yourself to a sermon, to a teaching, to a lecture, to communication through media, to a conversation that’s going to give you evil deceiving lies. It will corrupt you. That’s why the Psalmist said, “Blessed is the man who doesn’t hang around the ungodly, doesn’t sit down in the seat of the scoffer.”

Sadly, today’s Christianity resembles the Judaism of Jesus’s era. On the one hand, we have denominations and congregants with burdensome manmade rules and regulations to follow. On the other, we have clergy who resemble the Sadducees in their obsession with rationality to the point that they deny the supernatural — a lack of belief in miracles recorded in the Bible.

This is why it is so important to read the Bible for ourselves and use good commentaries to explain the text. In many cases, what we discover is quite different to what we hear from the pulpit or fellow believers.

Next time: Luke 12:4-7

Bible oldContinuing a study of the passages from Luke’s Gospel which have been omitted from the three-year Lectionary for public worship, today’s post is part of my ongoing series Forbidden Bible Verses, also essential to understanding Scripture.

The following Bible passages have been excluded from the three-year Lectionary used by many Catholic and Protestant churches around the world.

Do some clergy using the Lectionary want us understand Holy Scripture in its entirety? You decide.

Today’s reading is from the English Standard Version with commentary by Matthew Henry and John MacArthur (‘Kingdom Obstructionists’, ‘What’s Missing in False Religion’ — Parts 1 and 2).

Luke 11:45-54

45One of the lawyers answered him, “Teacher, in saying these things you insult us also.” 46And he said, “Woe to you lawyers also! For you load people with burdens hard to bear, and you yourselves do not touch the burdens with one of your fingers. 47 Woe to you! For you build the tombs of the prophets whom your fathers killed. 48 So you are witnesses and you consent to the deeds of your fathers, for they killed them, and you build their tombs. 49Therefore also the Wisdom of God said, ‘I will send them prophets and apostles, some of whom they will kill and persecute,’ 50so that the blood of all the prophets, shed from the foundation of the world, may be charged against this generation, 51from the blood of Abel to the blood of Zechariah, who perished between the altar and the sanctuary. Yes, I tell you, it will be required of this generation. 52Woe to you lawyers! For you have taken away the key of knowledge. You did not enter yourselves, and you hindered those who were entering.”

 53As he went away from there, the scribes and the Pharisees began to press him hard and to provoke him to speak about many things, 54 lying in wait for him, to catch him in something he might say.

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Today’s reading continues Jesus’s condemnation of the Pharisees, specifically the lawyers who were among their group. The setting was a lunch to which one of the Pharisees invited our Lord.

A parallel passage is the whole of Matthew 23. Reading it will help to clarify the reading from Luke.

Matthew 23 includes a few of the most memorable New Testament verses:

24You blind guides, straining out a gnat and swallowing a camel!

27 “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs, which outwardly appear beautiful, but within are full of dead people’s bones and all uncleanness. 

33You serpents, you brood of vipers, how are you to escape being sentenced to hell?

It ends as follows:

Lament over Jerusalem

 37 “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it! How often would I have gathered your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you would not! 38See, your house is left to you desolate. 39For I tell you, you will not see me again, until you say, ‘Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.’”

Now onto today’s reading from Luke’s Gospel.

John MacArthur explains who the lawyers were and how they fit in with the Pharisees (emphases mine below):

nomikon, law experts…also called scribes down in verse 53 they’re called scribes. But law experts is really the right thing. That’s what they were, they were the experts in the Law. The Pharisees, as a total group, were committed to fastidious observants of the religious system. Within the Pharisees were the lawyers, the experts of the Law. Not all Pharisees were lawyers, but many were. But if you were one of the lawyers, one of the Law experts who were associated with this system, you would be a Pharisee because you couldn’t be a theoretician without being a practitioner. But to make a little bit of a distinction, the Pharisees were the practitioners of the system developed by the Law experts. To put it simply, the Law experts were the theologians, the exegetes, the expositors. They were the academicians. They were the interpreters of the Scripture and they came up with the system which the Pharisees practiced. And so not all Pharisees were Law experts, but within the Pharisees they had the Law experts that developed the system. The Sadducees, different than the Pharisees, had a religious system and they had some of their own experts interpreting the Law their way. But these that Jesus talks with here, or refers to here, were part of the Pharisaic system and they were the dominant force in Israel.

Therefore, not all Pharisees were lawyers (scribes) but all lawyers were Pharisees. The lawyers were a subset of the Pharisees. Consequently, they associated with each other.

With this in mind, it is not surprising that one of the lawyers complained that Jesus was insulting them with his invective against the Pharisees (verse 45).

Jesus responded by condemning them — ‘Woe to you lawyers also’ — for loading untenable burdens on the everyday Jew which they themselves did not practise (verse 46).

MacArthur explains that Jesus was not talking about Mosaic law but a complex subset of manmade rules and regulations which the lawyers and Pharisees said had to be observed if one was to be considered holy and faithful:

They were skilled in the Law and tradition. They were the theorists who put it all together, who crafted the traditions, the routines, the rituals, the system that had nothing to do with the heart because their hearts had never been changed. Nothing to do with true holiness, nothing to do with true righteousness, but they had concocted a complex of behaviors that left no room for choosing anything. It was an endless list of thousands and thousands and thousands of methods and means, a labyrinth of behaviors imposed upon the people as if it was the true will of God, so complex that you had to have a lawyer around to interpret it. It’s like those legal documents you get written by lawyers. Lawyers write them and you need lawyers to read them. Lawyers wrote the system and you needed a lawyer to explain the system to you it was so complex.

Matthew Henry’s commentary says:

They would seem, by the hedges they pretended to make about the law, to be very strict for the observance of the law but, if you could see their practices, you would find that they not only make nothing of those hedges themselves, but make nothing of the law itself neither

In Matthew 23 Jesus gave us an example of these extreme and ostentatious laws, distinguishing themselves above the ordinary Jew through their prayer boxes (phylacteries) and prayer shawls:

5 They do all their deeds to be seen by others. For they make their phylacteries broad and their fringes long

MacArthur explains that all these manmade laws of ostentatious ritual were a case of ‘for thee, but not for me’. The Pharisees didn’t have to observe them, nor did the lawyers, only the ordinary Jews:

The practicing Pharisees were dependent upon the lawyers to interpret the Law for them and to find them the loopholes which they were very adept at doing.

Just as bad, possibly worse, is the show they make of building elaborate tombs for the Old Testament prophets whom their fathers killed because they hated the prophets’ calls to repentance (verses 47 and 48).

Yet, these lawyers are no different to their ancestors. In Matthew 23, Jesus tells them:

29 “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you build the tombs of the prophets and decorate the monuments of the righteous, 30saying, ‘If we had lived in the days of our fathers, we would not have taken part with them in shedding the blood of the prophets.’ 31Thus you witness against yourselves that you are sons of those who murdered the prophets. 32 Fill up, then, the measure of your fathers. 33You serpents, you brood of vipers, how are you to escape being sentenced to hell?

MacArthur unpacks this for us:

your decorating the tombs becomes ironically a way to identify with your fathers. You are the same as they. You think your veneration of their tombs shows you’re better than your fathers who killed the prophets. But the reality is your attention to their graves just links you to what your fathers did

In fact, Henry’s commentary points out that the Old Testament advised leaving a prophet’s remains where they were:

Josiah, who had a real value for prophets, thought it enough not to disturb the grave of the man of God at Bethel: Let no man move his bones, 2 Kings 23:17,18. If these lawyers will carry the matter further, and will build their sepulchres, it is such a piece of over-doing as gives cause to suspect an ill design in it, and that it is meant as a cover for some design against prophecy itself, like the kiss of a traitor, as he that blesseth his friend with a loud voice, rising early in the morning, it shall be counted a curse to him, Proverbs 27:14.

Jesus points out in Luke’s Gospel that God knew this would happen. The Old Testament, via the prophets, foretold their persecution and martyrdom (verse 49). And now, the Messiah — also prophesied — stood right in front of them and they disregarded Him, too. This is why He says that this bloodshed, from Old Testament times to Jesus’s day, would condemn the lawyers (verse 50).

Jesus spells it out in verse 51. These men carry condemnation for this abomination from A — Abel — to Z — Zechariah (‘the son of Barachiah’, Matthew 23:35). This includes manmade laws (Abel) to murdering prophets (Zechariah).

MacArthur explains:

The history of Israel is just horribly sad. Apostates through the Old Testament all the way, apostates in the New, pretending to honor the prophets while not believing their message nor believing on the one they predicted would come. They were so spiritually blind, they were so spiritually lifeless. That’s the word, they didn’t have any spiritual life and that’s why they couldn’t know who was in their midst, they were so dead. It was as if a live person walked into a mortuary amidst a whole group of corpses. They couldn’t connect. There’s no way corpses would know who’s there. They possessed no spiritual life, therefore no spiritual perception. And so they wanted to kill the prophet of all prophets. Later Jesus will tell them a parable about a man who had a vineyard and he sent his servants to collect from the man who was managing it for him, and the man killed all the servants. And finally he thought I’ll send my son, and he sent his son and they killed his son. And Jesus says that’s what you’ve done, you’ve killed all the prophets, and I sent My Son, you killed My Son. That’s God’s view.

Jesus was foretelling the destruction of the temple in Jerusalem in 70 AD, which actually began four years before. This period in history, incidentally, comprises the opening scenes of Nicholas Ray’s 1961 film King of Kings. That was no director’s confection. MacArthur tells us:

So barely a lifetime, a very short lifetime from the murder of Jesus came the days of vengeance. It all started in May of 66. Radical zealots, a party within Judaism who hated the Romans, they were killers and terrorists who went around stabbing Romans. They did deeds of violence and rebellion. They finally broke in open revolt in May of 66. Rome struck back by starting a bloody butchery in Galilee. They swept into Galilee and started massacring the Jews there. This went on for some time and shortly before the full moon in the spring of 70 A.D., the great Roman general Titus marched with an enormous army outside of Jerusalem, something in excess of 80 thousand men. Jerusalem was swarming with people at the time because it was Passover. The Romans moved into their camps outside the city and called for a surrender. They put on a siege. The Jews laughed at the Romans. Siege machines were then brought in. They threw hundred pound stones, massive stones at the city, battering rams smashed at the gates and the walls and eventually the Romans broke through the wall and called again for surrender and the Jews said no. The battle began again and the death toll was absolutely enormous. It’s hard to know exactly how many died, there are some estimates as high as a million from in the hundreds of thousands to a million. Tree after tree was cut down to make crosses, ramps, scaling ladders, campfires. The land was completely raped of trees in this tremendous siege. The Romans sealed off the city with a dirt mount all around it and killed everybody who came out by crucifying them so that they crucified thousands of them. The historians said an unbearable stench from the dead bodies thrown over the wall piled outside and one estimate a hundred thousand dead bodies were pitched over the wall because of their corruption and their stench. Famine resulted. Whole families died daily. Finally in August of 70 A.D. the Temple itself was destroyed. The Roman soldiers erected their banners in the holy place and sacrificed to their idols there. They took about a hundred thousand prisoners. Took out about a hundred thousand corpses. This was divine judgment. One writer said, “That generation that filled up the final measure of iniquity was the one to reap the full consequences of sin.” And so Jesus says it’s coming. Apostate Judaism at this point, at this level is not only no different than the past, it is worse and you’ve demonstrated it by the fact that you’re plotting to kill Me and you will kill Me and all the preachers and apostles of the gospel. You are headed for judgment. More terrible than anything you’ve known historically. And, of course, beyond that they would be cast into eternal hell as well.

Readers might wonder how Jesus came up with a list of martyrs beginning with Abel. MacArthur says:

What you have here is two Old Testament righteous martyrs. Really in a sense, the first and the last martyr of the Old Testament, the A to Z. The first martyr was Abel. Who killed him? Cain. Cain was engaged in what kind of religion? False religion, works righteousness brought the fruit of the ground when he should have brought the sacrifice that God required. He hated his brother. Why did Cain hate Abel? Because Abel had a right relationship with God. And Satan hates those who do. Abel was the first martyr.

Zechariah is the last one, sort of the A to Z. Many commentators say this is the son of Jehoiada who was stoned to death in the temple court at the order of King Joash. And they stoned this man, Zechariah the son of Jehoiada, to death because he had rebuked the government and he had rebuked the people for idolatry and they didn’t like it. That’s in 2 Chronicles, by the way, chapter 24 verses 20 to 22. So this was a man who spoke for God as a prophet who indicted the people and under the authority of the king they stoned him to death. However, this is not who it is and the reason we know that is because in Matthew 23:35 which is a comparative text where Jesus says on another occasion essentially the very same thing, Jesus identifies this man, Zechariah, with this identifying note. “From Abel to the blood of Zechariah, the son of Berachiah whom you murdered between the temple and the altar.” The Zechariah in 2 Chronicles 24 is the son of Jehoiada. But in Matthew 23 and obviously in this passage parallel to it, where Jesus refers to Zechariah, we have one that is the son of Berachiah. Also, the Zechariah who is the son of Jehoiada died in 800 B.C….800 B.C. That is by no means the last Old Testament martyr. So it doesn’t fit the parallel with Abel because he just said in verse 50, “The blood of all the prophets.” And then verse 51, “From Abel…which is the starting point…to Zechariah,” which would be the ending point. So it has a to be a Zechariah at the end. So the solution is simple, there is a Zechariah at the end, Zechariah the prophet who was the son of Berachiah. If you look toward the end of the Old Testament, you see the last two books are Zechariah and Malachi. Zechariah then, son of Berachiah, was martyred some time between 5 A.D. and 570 at the end of the Old Testament era, or near the end. He must have been martyred. We don’t have a record of it except right here in Matthew 23. So he had the same name as one martyred three centuries before, but this is Zechariah the son of Berachiah. So you have one at the beginning of the Old Testament, one at the end of the Old Testament era.

By the way, unless you be sort of put off by the idea that it could be a different Zechariah, there are 27 different individuals in the Old Testament named Zechariah.

Jesus condemned the lawyers’ spiritual blindness (verse 52).  He said they had taken away ‘the key of knowledge’ from the people, forbidding them from understanding the Old Testament. The people understood the observance of the Law but only as legalism. They did not understand — because of the Pharisees and lawyers — that the Law was to prepare their hearts and minds for the Messiah. And here He was in their midst, yet they did not see it. Their hearts and minds were hardened. Because of this spiritual blindness, the people could not receive Jesus into their hearts.

This is why Jesus commented in Matthew 23:37:

How often would I have gathered your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you would not!

Also, earlier in Matthew 23:13, 15 (verse 14, not universally used, is in footnote ‘d’):

13“But woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you shut the kingdom of heaven in people’s faces. For you neither enter yourselves nor allow those who would enter to go in.[d] 15Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you travel across sea and land to make a single proselyte, and when he becomes a proselyte, you make him twice as much a child of hell as yourselves.

And we see the blindness continuing in the last two verses (53 and 54) of today’s reading from Luke. The scribes — the lawyers — and the Pharisees felt the same enmity towards Jesus as their fathers did towards the ancient prophets. They were planning to ensnare Him on a point of religious law, then do away with Him. And so it happened, as Scripture foretold and God already foreordained. The Crucifixion was no accident or plan gone wrong.

In closing, what follows is MacArthur’s explanation about the frequency of murders in the temple:

the temple was a common place to murder people

They tried, you remember, in Acts 21:27 and following to murder Paul in the temple. You remember that? It was sort of a great way for mob rule to take over and be pretty hard to indict any particular person for the crime. But it says he perished between the altar and the house of God. Outside the holy place[;] the house of God is the holy place and the Holy of holies place. So outside in the courtyard he was killed by the religious Jews. The religious Jews of the time of Zechariah murdered him, just like religious Cain when he brought his own self-styled sacrifice killed his brother. And both Abel was killed because he had a right relationship with God, and Zechariah was killed because he had a right relationship to God and that’s always what false religion does if it can.

A final point to mention is the end of the world, as foretold in Revelation. Someone said to me last year, ‘Well, I don’t believe in God, so,  if it happens while I’m alive, either my world will carry on or I’ll sleep through it and awake in front of Him — if He exists.’

I am fascinated by atheists, who think that the Final Judgment affects believers only.

Atheists, like the Jewish Sanhedrin (leadership which included the Pharisees and lawyers), will be among the first to be condemned to eternal death.

MacArthur says:

The same is going to happen in the future when the great holocausts at the time of the Tribulation and you read the book of Revelation and everything begins to disintegrate in the universe and all hell breaks loose on earth and demons run rampant and the Holy Spirit doesn’t restrain evil and Antichrist rises and slaughter and persecution goes on and natural phenomena begins to disintegrate[:] life as we know it in the world and the whole of the world begins to collapse. It will all fall down on the heads of those people living at that time, but it will be the accumulated wrath of God coming at the very end of time to people who have had the opportunity to receive the truth, the accumulated truth and the message throughout all of history.

Next time: Luke 12:1-3

Bible openContinuing a study of the passages from Luke’s Gospel which have been omitted from the three-year Lectionary for public worship, today’s post is part of my ongoing series Forbidden Bible Verses, also essential to understanding Scripture.

The following Bible passages have been excluded from the three-year Lectionary used by many Catholic and Protestant churches around the world.

Do some clergy using the Lectionary want us understand Holy Scripture in its entirety? You decide.

Today’s reading is from the English Standard Version with commentary by Matthew Henry and John MacArthur.

Luke 11:37-44

Woes to the Pharisees and Lawyers

 37While Jesus was speaking, a Pharisee asked him to dine with him, so he went in and reclined at table. 38The Pharisee was astonished to see that he did not first wash before dinner. 39And the Lord said to him, “Now you Pharisees cleanse the outside of the cup and of the dish, but inside you are full of greed and wickedness. 40 You fools! Did not he who made the outside make the inside also? 41But give as alms those things that are within, and behold, everything is clean for you.

 42 “But woe to you Pharisees! For you tithe mint and rue and every herb, and neglect justice and the love of God. These you ought to have done, without neglecting the others. 43Woe to you Pharisees! For you love the best seat in the synagogues and greetings in the marketplaces. 44Woe to you! For you are like unmarked graves, and people walk over them without knowing it.”

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So far in Luke 11, we have read Jesus’s teaching the Lord’s Prayer (Luke 11:1-13), His response to those who accused him of healing in the name of Beelzebul (Satan), His warning against morality devoid of true faith (a clean house open to temptation), His advice to put more emphasis on faith rather than family lineage, His rebuke to those who asked for signs and another warning about the perils of morality without faith.

Today’s reading finds our Lord accepting an invitation to dine at a Pharisee’s house (verse 37). Some may wonder why. First, He would have already known the man’s heart and, second, we must continue to engage with people, even when they might not agree with us (emphases mine):

Note, Christ’s disciples must learn of him to be conversable, and not morose. Though we have need to be cautious what company we keep, yet we need not be rigid, nor must we therefore go out of the world.

The Pharisee was surprised that Jesus did not wash his hands before eating (verse 38). Henry’s commentary explains:

The ceremonial law consisted in divers washings, but this was none of them, and therefore Christ would not practise it, no not in complaisance to the Pharisee who invited him, nor though he knew that offence would be taken at his omitting it.

This washing of hands was not one of the tenets of Mosaic law. John MacArthur says that it was an extra-biblical practice in order for the Pharisees to further set themselves apart — and above — other Jews:

This isn’t about hygiene, folks. This isn’t about dirty hands. This is about ceremony, that He had not first ceremonial[ly] washed. It’s actually the verb in the Greek, baptizo. They had developed a ceremonial washing that they did to demonstrate their cleanliness, to demonstrate their holiness. And in fact, this was an old thing, been around a long time–in case they might have touched a Gentile that day, God forbid, or touched something a Gentile touched, or touched something an unclean person touched, or touched something else unclean. This was to symbolize their holiness and their desire to be clean from all the defilements of the world. And the Mishnah actually describes how this was to be done. It even gets down to the amount of water. You were to use enough water to fill one and a half egg shells, and it was to be poured across the tips of the fingers, running down to the wrist, and then the hands were to be washed, symbolizing this bathing/cleansing.

There’s nothing about that in the Old Testament. That was just a silly little symbol that they had developed publicly to parade their purity.

MacArthur explains the etymology of the word ‘Pharisee’:

Pharisee (from the Hebrew parosh, which means to separate). This is one who was a separated one.

He adds:

They were fundamentalists; they were non-priests; they were laymen. They were devoted extremely to the laws and the traditions. There were about 6,000 of them at the time. They had a long history, all the way back to the Babylonian exile. Their influence had been growing for 400 years since Ezra. They had come to be seen as the spiritual authorities to whom the people looked. They were self-righteous. They were evil. They were degenerate. They were hypocritical. They were filled with pride. They abused people for personal gain, etc. 

This is why Jesus gave the man a sharp reply about exterior cleanliness belying internal wickedness (verse 39). But He went further and called the Pharisee and his similarly-minded guests fools (verse 40).  He knew their hypocrisy. Jesus referred to God — the ‘he’ — in that verse. God made us, inside and out, so why dishonour Him with empty ceremonies coming from dark hearts?

MacArthur interprets Jesus’s words this way:

Who are you kidding? You boast in the Law and you break the Law. The name of God is blasphemed among the Gentiles because of you.

Jesus then referred to Mosaic law when he reminded His host and fellow diners of the importance of giving alms which makes them and their food clean (verse 41). Henry says that Jesus was referring to Deuteronomy 26:12-15:

12“When you have finished paying all the tithe of your produce in the third year, which is the year of tithing, giving it to the Levite, the sojourner, the fatherless, and the widow, so that they may eat within your towns and be filled, 13then you shall say before the LORD your God, ‘I have removed the sacred portion out of my house, and moreover, I have given it to the Levite, the sojourner, the fatherless, and the widow, according to all your commandment that you have commanded me. I have not transgressed any of your commandments, nor have I forgotten them. 14 I have not eaten of the tithe while I was mourning, or removed any of it while I was unclean, or offered any of it to the dead. I have obeyed the voice of the LORD my God. I have done according to all that you have commanded me. 15 Look down from your holy habitation, from heaven, and bless your people Israel and the ground that you have given us, as you swore to our fathers, a land flowing with milk and honey.’

Jesus was pointing to the fact that they lacked sincerity even when giving alms. They did it in an ostentatious way and no manmade handwashing was going to fix that. MacArthur explains:

All your symbolic alms giving, all your symbolic prayers, all your symbolic fasts are hypocritical as long as you keep plundering people, pillaging people, raping people, both body and soul. Give that which is within. Give your heart. Give your life and then all things are clean for you. Very much like Jesus’ conversation with the rich young ruler, isn’t it? It may cost you everything; it’s got to come from the heart. You can pour an ocean of water on your hands, my friend; you can go through all kinds of histrionics and all kinds of symbols and all kinds of motions and all kinds of rituals and ceremonies–all the external facade of devotion and all you’ve done is manifest how simplistically you think. Simplistic is a different word than simple. Sometimes people use them as synonyms; they’re not. Simple may be a good word; simplistic is not. Simplistic means unreasonably oversimplified.

God wants you inside. That’s why the prophet Amos said, “Stop your songs”…speaking for God… “I don’t want any more of your songs. Stop your sacrifices.” Why? “Your hearts aren’t right. When you get your heart right, you can sing again, then everything becomes clean.”

As Daniel 4:27 says:

27Therefore, O king, let my counsel be acceptable to you: break off your sins by practicing righteousness, and your iniquities by showing mercy to the oppressed, that there may perhaps be a lengthening of your prosperity.”

Jesus took the tithing theme further (verse 42), referring to Deuteronomy 14:22:

22 “You shall tithe all the yield of your seed that comes from the field year by year.

When He said, ‘But woe to you Pharisees’, He was condemning them. Although they were tithing regularly, their hearts were not in it. Their hearts were hardened against the poor and disadvantaged. They were not honouring God with an empty tithe. Furthermore, they put such emphasis on their manner of tithing — more exacting than required, again, to show off their supposed holiness. As MacArthur explains:

there was never a command to tithe these tiny, little minutia–never at this extreme level; silly this is, a silly thing to look holy. It really is a mockery of God; it’s a mockery of God’s desire. The Mishnah, which is some kind of codification of Jewish law from ancient times, says the rue is exempt from any tithe. They weren’t even paying attention to their own tradition. They were so careful with their little minutia on the outside and oblivious to justice and love.

Jesus pronounced their condemnation again in verse 43. He pointed out the way they craved adulation and recognition, setting themselves apart from — and above — ordinary Jews. MacArthur says that the Pharisees’ seats faced the congregation. Imagine the personal pride they must have got out of that.

Yet, this goes on today including in Christian denominations. In his sermon MacArthur takes exception to clergy who wear archaic vestments. However, there are postmodern preachers in jeans and tee shirts who also have dark hearts. It doesn’t matter what a clergyman wears; it’s what is in his heart that counts.

The same holds true for laypeople, especially women. This relatively recent Protestant preoccupation with skirt lengths and covered hair is no guarantee of a pure heart. These are mere externals. Sadly, externals win the day with many — throughout history to the present day. Think of how holy most of the public perceive Muslim women because they are entirely covered up: ‘They’re so modest!’ Really? Isn’t setting oneself apart with attire a form of ostentation? ‘See my holiness. I show very little of my body.’  An excess of attire is no different from the Pharisees’ hand washing. It’s nothing more than an external display. It does not indicate what is in the heart of the wearer. Christian women — and the men who encourage it — should reconsider such empty displays of moral modesty.

Before turning His attention to the religious lawyers — the subject of next week’s post — Jesus pronounced His severest condemnation of the Pharisees in verse 44, calling them ‘unmarked graves’ that people walk on without knowing.

Jesus was alluding to the proscription of walking on unmarked graves which required ritual purification afterward. He meant that the Pharisees were leading innocent Jews to hell with their false teaching.

MacArthur explains it as follows:

The Old Testament had laws about touching a dead body. Leviticus 21, you couldn’t touch a dead body. You were considered ceremonially defiled. If you did touch a dead body, the ninth chapter of Numbers says you couldn’t observe the Passover without going through a seven-day purification. That seven-day purification is described in the nineteenth chapter of Numbers.

So God kept people away from corpses, certainly for protection from illnesses. But there was symbolic cleansing to remind people of what they needed to do in their hearts. The Jews, of course, understood that they could not touch a dead body. They extended it even beyond a dead body and decided you couldn’t touch a grave ’cause if you touched a grave you’d be ceremonially defiled, you’d have to be disassociated from the people, you’d have to go through a very elaborate, costly, time-consuming, seven-day purification ceremony. So every grave in Israel was marked so the people didn’t touch them inadvertently or step on them. Jesus just uses this familiar thing and says, “You know, you’re liked unmarked graves. People have no idea that they’re walking all over you and being defiled all the time. People come in contact with you and they don’t know it, but you’re not making them holy–you’re making them unholy. You’re defiling them.” What a terrible description of someone, but that’s how it is with those in false religions–they are unmarked graves. And you touch them and you’re defiled. And your defilement is not just ceremonial, it is spiritual. And it’s not just your body; it’s your soul. And it’s not just a ritual defilement, it’s a real defilement. And they were making twice the sons of hell as they themselves.

We can point at the Pharisees’ poor example, but what about our practice of Christianity? Are we insisting on externals — not just attire but also food and activities — which look holy to others but essentially have no substance? Are we practising external rituals to hide dark hearts? Are we condemning others whilst refusing to look at our own souls? Something to think about.

Next time: Luke 11:45-54

Bible GenevaContinuing a study of the passages from Luke’s Gospel which have been omitted from the three-year Lectionary for public worship, today’s post is part of my ongoing series Forbidden Bible Verses, also essential to understanding Scripture.

The following Bible passages have been excluded from the three-year Lectionary used by many Catholic and Protestant churches around the world.

Do some clergy using the Lectionary want us understand Holy Scripture in its entirety? You decide.

Today’s reading is from the English Standard Version with commentary by Matthew Henry and John MacArthur.

Luke 11:33-36

The Light in You

 33 “No one after lighting a lamp puts it in a cellar or under a basket, but on a stand, so that those who enter may see the light. 34Your eye is the lamp of your body. When your eye is healthy, your whole body is full of light, but when it is bad, your body is full of darkness. 35 Therefore be careful lest the light in you be darkness. 36If then your whole body is full of light, having no part dark, it will be wholly bright, as when a lamp with its rays gives you light.”

————————————————————————————–

Most of Luke 11 concerns warnings about the sins of self-righteousness and spiritual blindness. We read of people accusing Christ of healing in Satan’s name, His warning of faithless conversions and His rebuke of those who continued to ask for signs.

The rest of the chapter continues in this vein, culminating in another confrontation between our Lord and the Jewish hierarchy.

Today’s reading concerns the ability to see and receive His eternal truth.

Jesus said that no one lights a lamp then conceals the illumination it provides (verse 33). He meant that He had not hidden His teachings from anyone. As Matthew Henry explains:

It is a great privilege that the light of the gospel is put on a candlestick, so that all that come in may see it, and may see by it where they are and whither they are going, and what is the true, and sure, and only way to happiness.

Our Lord used the analogy of impaired eyesight to make his point (verse 34). An eye lets in light in the physical world. A bad or impaired eye cannot do so, regardless of the amount of illumination. In spiritual terms, He is the Light and had been revealing Himself to everyone during His ministry. He sent His apostles out to do the same teaching and healing. He invested His disciples with the same divine powers. However, whilst many marvelled, others considered His miracles to be satanic or accused Him of blasphemy.

Jesus warned them once again about spiritual darkness and self-righteousness (verse 35). Those who are open to His truth and are moved to repent of their sins will be made pure and bear the fruits of faith (verse 36).

Henry says (emphases mine):

Now, according as this is, so the light of divine revelation is to us, and our benefit by it it is a savour of life unto life, or of death unto death. (1.) If this eye of the soul be single, if it see clear, see things as they are, and judge impartially concerning them, if it aim at truth only, and seek it for its own sake, and have not any sinister by–looks and intentions, the whole body, that is, the whole soul, is full of light, it receives and entertains the gospel, which will bring along with it into the soul both knowledge and joy. This denotes the same thing with that of the good ground, receiving the word and understanding it. If our understanding admits the gospel in its full light, it fills the soul, and it has enough to fill it. And if the soul be thus filled with the light of the gospel, having no part dark,–if all its powers and faculties be subjected to the government and influence of the gospel, and none left unsanctified,–then the whole soul shall be full of light, full of holiness and comfort. It was darkness itself, but now light in the Lord, as when the bright shining of a candle doth give thee light, Luke 11:36. Note, The gospel will come into those souls whose doors and windows are thrown open to receive it and where it comes it will bring light with it

The problem with Jesus’s audiences and the Sanhedrin was that they were so convinced of their own self-righteousness that they shut out the Light in front of them.

John MacArthur unpacks it this way:

They were wicked because they were laying the responsibility for their unbelief at the feet of Jesus and simply saying, “You didn’t make Your point. We didn’t have enough light. We came to the conclusion we came to because that’s all the information You gave us. You left us in the dark.”

But that wasn’t really the issue. They were blind willfully because they hated His message. They hated the indictment of their sin and hypocrisy and false religion and self-righteousness. They hated the idea that He called on them to acknowledge themselves as poor prisoners blind and oppressed, sinners under the judgment of God headed for eternal punishment who needed to repent and be saved. They hated that message. And so it skewed their ability to see the truth. You remember back in Luke 4 when Jesus went to His own synagogue and preached one sermon and told those self-righteous people in His own town that He had grown up with that they were not who they thought they were. They were not right with God. They were alienated from God. They were poor prisoners, blind and oppressed, who needed to be saved, who needed to repent–and they tried to kill Him after one sermon. They were blind, and they were willfully blind ...

The light of Christ is extended to the ends of the earth. It’s not about the revelation; it’s about the perception. And the lamp of the soul is the mind. The eye of the soul is the heart. And your hearts and minds are blind if you cherish your sin. You stay in a state of blindness. It may be that you cherish immorality and you cherish wickedness and vile kind of conduct, but in the case of these people, they cherish their self-righteous hypocrisy and their religion and their self-styled morality. They denied the basic principle of all that the Bible teaches that men are sinners, can’t do anything about it and are headed for eternal judgment unless they repent and ask God to forgive them. And there is nothing we can do to change that; it all must be done by God, and is done through Christ.

This is why self-righteousness and a false sense of morality are so dangerous. Some notional Christians fall into the same trap. Most secularists do, too. Several years ago the UK’s Metro newspaper carried a survey of Britons responding to the question, ‘Are you a good person?’ Two-thirds of respondents said they were! Imagine if Christ were among us today the way He was for His own people. It’s unlikely we’d listen to what He has to say. We would probably want Him to die, just as His own people did. We’re good; we don’t need a Saviour. We’ve saved ourselves through good works, a nutritious diet, a smoke-free atmosphere, yoga, meditation and so on. We would probably accuse our Lord of not respecting us. And we can see this in the number of people who either announce their atheism straightaway or the Christians who poke their noses into other people’s lives but never examine their own souls.

Henry counsels:

Take heed that the eye of the mind be not blinded by partiality, and prejudice, and sinful aims. Be sincere in your enquiries after truth, and ready to receive it in the light, and love, and power of it and not as the men of this generation to whom Christ preached, who never sincerely desired to know God’s will, nor designed to do it, and therefore no wonder that they walked on in darkness, wandered endlessly, and perished eternally.

Next time: Luke 11:37-44

 

Bible spine dwtx.orgContinuing a study of the passages from Luke’s Gospel which have been omitted from the three-year Lectionary for public worship, today’s post is part of my ongoing series Forbidden Bible Verses, also essential to understanding Scripture.

The following Bible passages have been excluded from the three-year Lectionary used by many Catholic and Protestant churches around the world.

Do some clergy using the Lectionary want us understand Holy Scripture in its entirety? You decide.

Today’s reading is from the English Standard Version with commentary by Matthew Henry and John MacArthur.

Luke 11:29-32

The Sign of Jonah

 29 When the crowds were increasing, he began to say, “This generation is an evil generation. It seeks for a sign, but no sign will be given to it except the sign of Jonah. 30For as Jonah became a sign to the people of Nineveh, so will the Son of Man be to this generation. 31 The queen of the South will rise up at the judgment with the men of this generation and condemn them, for she came from the ends of the earth to hear the wisdom of Solomon, and behold, something greater than Solomon is here. 32 The men of Nineveh will rise up at the judgment with this generation and condemn it, for they repented at the preaching of Jonah, and behold, something greater than Jonah is here.

——————————————————————————-

If parts of this passage sound familiar to regular readers of my Forbidden — Essential — Bible Verses series, it is because they have featured previously:

Matthew 16:1-12:

1And the Pharisees and Sadducees came, and to test him they asked him to show them a sign from heaven.

4 An evil and adulterous generation seeks for a sign, but no sign will be given to it except the sign of Jonah.” So he left them and departed.

‘Adulterous’ as used there implies a betrayal of God, rather than a sexually adulterous relationship. Adulterous in this context appears elsewhere in the Bible. One can love — be faithful to — God or love the world. If one loves the world, one loves Satan and sin. Hence the notion of betrayal of God.

Mark 8:11-13:

11 The Pharisees came and began to argue with him, seeking from him a sign from heaven to test him. 12And he sighed deeply in his spirit and said, “Why does this generation seek a sign? Truly, I say to you, no sign will be given to this generation.” 13And he left them, got into the boat again, and went to the other side.

Luke 9:37-43:

41Jesus answered, “O faithless and twisted generation, how long am I to be with you and bear with you? Bring your son here.”

The last was directed at His Apostles to whom He had given the power to heal. When they later asked Jesus why their healing of the convulsive (probably epileptic) mute boy did not work, Matthew’s version says that Jesus told them their faith was inadequate (Matthew 17:20). Mark’s Gospel records Jesus as saying that certain demons can only be driven out by prayer (Mark 9:29). In both cases, faith in and reliance on God’s sovereignty is required.

In today’s passage, Jesus is addressing the crowd. Earlier in the chapter, Luke tells us that Jesus taught the disciples the Lord’s Prayer, told them that God is more loving than any earthly father, rebuked those who say He heals in Beelzebul’s name, warned about a cleansed soul devoid of faith and exhorted His listeners to obey the word of God.

Today’s passage quotes Jesus rebuking an ‘evil generation’ (verse 29). He was criticising the people and Jewish Sanhedrin not only for accusing Him of working in league with Satan but for requesting yet another ‘sign’ — miracle. By that point in His ministry, Christ had performed many healing miracles and had fed the 5,000.

Although the Gospels do not tell us, the reasons for their request must have been complex. First, perhaps, because they considered themselves observant Jews, they assumed that they were asking as God-fearing believers. Second, as John MacArthur posits, they probably had no idea of what sort of sign they wanted.

Jesus took issue with them and called them evil not because they were criminal or unobservant Jews. He was telling them that, despite all His miracles and teaching, the majority of them –  no matter where He went — did not or could not believe He was the Messiah, the Son of God. Therefore, what more could He do to convince them? If they did not believe by this point, they never would. And we know how His ministry ended — on the Cross.

Some readers might be puzzled by the mention of Jonah, whose story for most of us consists of having lived in a giant fish belly for three days. Yet, Jonah went on to convert the pagan people of Nineveh afterward.

Jonah 1 describes the prophet’s disobedience. God told Jonah to go to Nineveh urging that city’s people to repent. Jonah refused; as pagans, he considered them beneath him.  So, thinking that he could run away from God, he decided to board a ship headed for Tarshish, already part of the lucrative trade route with Asia. Ironically, every man on the ship was a pagan. Somehow, that didn’t seem to bother Jonah.

Once the ship set sail, God sent a violent storm. The sailors tried everything to keep afloat. Jonah was fast asleep when the storm started. As the men knew their lives were in the balance, they began praying to their gods. The ship’s captain woke Jonah up and told him to pray to his god.

As the storm raged, the sailors wanted to find out which of them was responsible for displeasing the gods. Human frailty must have caused the storm and the gods were having their revenge. They cast lots. The finger pointed at Jonah. When they asked what god he worshipped, he told them of the one true God and that he had disobeyed Him. Jonah told them to throw him overboard and God would stop the storm:

14Therefore they called out to the LORD, “O LORD, let us not perish for this man’s life, and lay not on us innocent blood, for you, O LORD, have done as it pleased you.” 15So they picked up Jonah and hurled him into the sea, and the sea ceased from its raging. 16Then the men feared the LORD exceedingly, and they offered a sacrifice to the LORD and made vows.

17 And the LORD appointed a great fish to swallow up Jonah. And Jonah was in the belly of the fish three days and three nights.

So he managed to convert the sailors in his disobedience, the storm stopped and Jonah suffered his punishment in the fish’s belly. Jonah 2 documents his prayer of repentance, after which God made the fish spit him out onto dry land.

In Jonah 3, we find out that Jonah obeys God’s command to go to Nineveh and warn them to repent or risk His divine wrath. The people — pagans up to this point — obeyed Jonah. They fasted and put on sackcloth and ashes. When God saw their repentance, He called off His punishment.

Back now to Luke 11:29-30. Jesus was telling His audience that the Ninevites believed without having personally experienced what Jonah went through. Nonetheless, his story convinced them that there is one true God. Yet, here the Son of God was actually among the unbelievers of His generation and they did not believe He is the Messiah. What more could He have done? Therefore, they are an ‘evil generation’.

Another point about Jonah’s story is that he was captive in the fish’s belly for three days. Jesus would stay in the tomb for three days between His Crucifixion and Resurrection. Matthew Henry explains:

As Jonas being cast into the sea, and lying there three days, and then coming up alive and preaching repentance to the Ninevites, was a sign to them, upon which they turned from their evil way, so shall the death and resurrection of Christ, and the preaching of his gospel immediately after to the Gentile world, be the last warning to the Jewish nation. If they be provoked to a holy jealousy by this, well and good but, if this do not work upon them, let them look for nothing but utter ruin: The Son of Man shall be a sign to this generation (Luke 11:30), a sign speaking to them, though a sign spoken against by them.

Jesus cites another example of repentance for them, that of the ‘queen of the South’ — the Queen of Sheba — whom Solomon converted (verse 31). MacArthur tells us that Sheba is present-day Yemen. She made a long journey to Jerusalem to find out for herself. 1 Kings 10 tells us that Solomon taught her about the one true God. The queen of the South said (1 Kings 10:6-9):

6And she said to the king, “The report was true that I heard in my own land of your words and of your wisdom, 7but I did not believe the reports until I came and my own eyes had seen it. And behold, the half was not told me. Your wisdom and prosperity surpass the report that I heard. 8Happy are your men! Happy are your servants, who continually stand before you and hear your wisdom! 9 Blessed be the LORD your God, who has delighted in you and set you on the throne of Israel! Because the LORD loved Israel forever, he has made you king, that you may execute justice and righteousness.”

The Queen of Sheba heard Solomon’s testimony and was converted. Until then, she had no personal experience of God. This is why Jesus says (verse 31) that her example will come to convict the unbelieving Jews to whom He had been ministering. Similarly, He cites the Ninevites condemning them (verse 32). As Henry observes:

here is preaching which far exceeds that of Jonas, is more powerful and awakening, and threatens a much sorer ruin than that of Nineveh, and yet none are startled by it, to turn from their evil way, as the Ninevites did.

MacArthur says the Jews of Jesus’s day were far too self-righteous in their observance of Mosaic Law to believe in Him. This is the danger which legalism posed then — and poses now to certain Christians.

MacArthur explains:

My, my. He had banished disease from Israel. He had banished demons from souls of men. He had conquered death and raised the dead. He had created food for thousands. He had stilled the waters in a storm. He had calmed the storm. He had controlled the fish. He had walked on the water Himself. All of it together wasn’t enough. They had all the evidence they needed and more, much more. It wasn’t about evidence, it was about the fact that in their self-righteous moralism they hated the diagnosis that Jesus rendered of their hearts. They were so self-righteous. They couldn’t deny that He had supernatural power so there was only one place to assign it. If not God, Satan. This is not lack of evidence, this is lack of penitence. And in the end, they hated the very God they said they loved

It is the most dangerous posture to take to hide under a cloak of morality, a cloak of religion and then to reject the diagnosis of your own wretchedness, your own sinfulness, your own unworthiness, your own inability to save yourself, commend yourself to God and therefore reject the work of Jesus Christ. Christendom, as we have been learning in the book of Jude in our study of apostasy, is just full of these kinds of people who are self-righteous, right in Christendom as such, as well as all other religions of the world. And they are damned by their false righteousness.

Some believers today do err by being self-righteous. They keep their distance from anyone who belongs to a different denomination. They consider themselves holy for having refrained from watching television. They consider themselves pure for not partaking of strong drink. They lord their self-righteous — ‘holiness’, as they call it — over members of their own congregations.

In closing, MacArthur warns us against being pharasaical in our so-called ‘Christian life’:

The worst state you can ever be in is a state or self-righteousness, personally imposed morality, legalism and religion in which you clean up your own life, sweep it superficially, put it in order superficially and become a haven for demons who function most effectively and most deadly in religious people. Very dangerous to be moral and religious

The bottom line is the Pharisees didn’t see themselves as sinners. Self-righteous people don’tTherefore they are unredeemable and they condemn Jesus because He met with this category of people that they called sinners in which they had absolutely no part. Jesus said of them, “It’s not those who are well that need a physician, but those who are sick.” And if you don’t know you’re sick you can’t and you won’t come to the physician. That’s why He said, “I have not come to call the righteous but sinners to repentance.” There’s no point in calling righteous people to repentance. What are they going to repent of? When the rich young ruler said, “What do I do to get eternal life?” what happened? Jesus said, “Well here are the Commandments.” He said, “I’ve kept them all.” There’s a man who is self-righteous, he won’t repent. If he won’t repent, he can’t be saved. 

Next time: Luke 11:33-36

 

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