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Bible read me 2The three-year Lectionary that many Catholics and Protestants hear in public worship gives us a great variety of Holy Scripture.

Yet, it doesn’t tell the whole story.

My series Forbidden Bible Verses — ones the Lectionary editors and other clergy omit — examines the passages we do not hear in church. These missing verses are also Essential Bible Verses, ones we should study with care and attention. Often, we find that they carry difficult messages and warnings.

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

Matthew 1:1-17

The Genealogy of Jesus Christ

1 The book of the genealogy of Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham.

2 Abraham was the father of Isaac, and Isaac the father of Jacob, and Jacob the father of Judah and his brothers, and Judah the father of Perez and Zerah by Tamar, and Perez the father of Hezron, and Hezron the father of Ram,[a] and Ram the father of Amminadab, and Amminadab the father of Nahshon, and Nahshon the father of Salmon, and Salmon the father of Boaz by Rahab, and Boaz the father of Obed by Ruth, and Obed the father of Jesse, and Jesse the father of David the king.

And David was the father of Solomon by the wife of Uriah, and Solomon the father of Rehoboam, and Rehoboam the father of Abijah, and Abijah the father of Asaph,[b] and Asaph the father of Jehoshaphat, and Jehoshaphat the father of Joram, and Joram the father of Uzziah, and Uzziah the father of Jotham, and Jotham the father of Ahaz, and Ahaz the father of Hezekiah, 10 and Hezekiah the father of Manasseh, and Manasseh the father of Amos,[c] and Amos the father of Josiah, 11 and Josiah the father of Jechoniah and his brothers, at the time of the deportation to Babylon.

12 And after the deportation to Babylon: Jechoniah was the father of Shealtiel,[d] and Shealtiel the father of Zerubbabel, 13 and Zerubbabel the father of Abiud, and Abiud the father of Eliakim, and Eliakim the father of Azor, 14 and Azor the father of Zadok, and Zadok the father of Achim, and Achim the father of Eliud, 15 and Eliud the father of Eleazar, and Eleazar the father of Matthan, and Matthan the father of Jacob, 16 and Jacob the father of Joseph the husband of Mary, of whom Jesus was born, who is called Christ.

17 So all the generations from Abraham to David were fourteen generations, and from David to the deportation to Babylon fourteen generations, and from the deportation to Babylon to the Christ fourteen generations.

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Today’s post begins a weekly study of passages from St Matthew’s Gospel which, as mentioned above, do not appear in prescribed readings for churches using the three-year Lectionary.

Not surprisingly, this Lectionary, developed in the late 1960s and early 1970s, avoids any verses deemed to be too complex or unpleasant.

For those who are unfamiliar with the Bible, including children, seeing a genealogy as the first entry of the New Testament is bewildering. Children will find the names amusing and the content boring. Adults will wonder why this was included.

Matthew, formerly Levi the tax collector, wrote for a Jewish audience in the decades following Christ’s ministry on earth. During his ministry Matthew sought to prove to the Jews that our Lord was indeed the long-promised Messiah. The best way to do this was by proving his lineage.

Every Jew knew his family line and tribe. Those who are familiar with the Old Testament know this well. John MacArthur explains (emphases mine):

After the conquering of the land of Canaan, it was essential to determine what your tribe was and what your heritage was so that you knew where you were to live because the line of all the land was divided into tribes. 

And according to Numbers chapter 26 and chapter 35, you had to know your tribe, you had to know your family, and you had to know your father’s house so that you could identify yourself in the right location in the land.  So a pedigree was very important, tribal identification essential.  Under certain circumstances, according to the Book of Ruth, chapters 3 and 4 … transfer of property required accurate knowledge of the family tree.  God wanted to keep tribal land within the tribe, and so there had to be pedigree in order to make some business transactions with land.

Another interesting thing is indicated to us in Ezra 2  … it tells us at the end of Ezra … verse 62, “These sought their registration among those who were reckoned by genealogy.”  And what it means is that when after the Babylonian captivity, the people started coming back to Israel – you remember at the end of the 70 years, they started flowing back – many of them were claiming to be priests and they were claiming to be the tribe of Levi. 

Genealogy was part of Jewish history and personal identity. Matthew used it to prove that our Lord Jesus Christ is descended from David and from Abraham, our father in faith. Mention of these ancestors combined with the extensive records the Jewish authorities kept prove that God had fulfilled His promise to His people.

Matthew is careful to use ‘genealogy’ in the first verse. In Greek the word was genesis.

As this family tree unfolds, we see a variety of people. Some were ordinary people, some were royalty. We also see a mix of saints and sinners. Matthew Henry reminds us:

He took upon him the likeness of sinful flesh (Romans 8:3), and takes even great sinners, upon their repentance, into the nearest relation to himself.

Verse 17 explains how verses 2 – 16 were deliberately organised: verses 2 through 6 cover the 14 generations from Abraham to David; the second half of verse 6 through verse 11 recounts the ancestors from David through to exile in Babylon; the next four verses describe family from the end of Babylonian exile to the birth of Christ.

Henry calls our attention to the following in the first tranche of verses:

– No mention of Ishmael (Abraham’s son by Hagar) nor of Esau, Isaac’s son who forfeited his birthright to Jacob.

– Not all of those mentioned had a traceable bloodline with our Lord, nonetheless, Matthew included these patriarchs from the different tribes here to indicate that all Jews should have an interest in this genealogy and Christ as the Messiah;

– Judah’s twin sons Perez (Phares) and Zara are both named, although our Lord was related only to Perez. Zara’s inclusion could have been allegorical. At birth, he put his hand out of the womb first but then withdrew it, leaving Perez as Judah’s heir. Similarly, the Jews claimed a Messiah from their own but, once He appeared, rejected Him. The second, lesser group — the Gentiles — embraced Him as Lord and Saviour.

– We see three women mentioned. Tamar, Perez and Zara’s mother, was an adulteress. Rahab was Boaz’s mother, and Ruth, his wife. Rahab was a Canaanite — Gentile — woman of bad reputation who, yet, had her role to play in helping to bring down the walls of Jericho. She obeyed when God’s servants gave her instructions. Ruth was also a Gentile — a Moabite — but very different in character. She was an example of holiness and faith and one of King David’s grandmothers.

In the next set of verses, Henry’s commentary points out:

– One more woman is mentioned, although not by name: Bathsheba, an adulteress, was ‘the wife of Uriah’.

– Rehoboam and Abijah were both ‘wicked’, yet from that family came the obedient Asaph whose son Jesoshaphat was also faithful. The latter’s son Joram, however, was completely different:

Grace does not run in the blood, neither does reigning sin. God’s grace is his own, and he gives or withholds it as he pleases.

The final period of history through to the birth of Jesus Christ recalls the following:

– The captivity in Babylon was a significant time in Jewish history. Henry explains that the Jews survived it only because they believed in a Messiah and wished for His deliverance. Although that did not occur in their lifetimes, their faith saved them.

– Although Joseph and Mary were both descended from King David, Joseph’s lineage is mentioned as the Jews considered the paternal family as being more important. That said, Joseph was Jesus’s earthly father only. Still, under Jewish law, MacArthur explains that Jesus was considered his son:

He was Joseph’s child legally because if you were adopted into a family, you were the legal child with all the rights and privileges.  He was Joseph’s child legally.  He was Mary’s child lineally and by blood.  And so every way possible Jesus Christ had the right to rule.  The father was the one who granted the royal line.  The mother was the one who granted the royal blood to Jesus.

The remainder of Matthew 1 recounts the angel’s visitation to Joseph with a brief mention of Jesus’s birth. It concludes with these verses:

21 She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” 22 All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet:

23“Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son,
    and they shall call his name Immanuel”

(which means, God with us). 24 When Joseph woke from sleep, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded him: he took his wife, 25 but knew her not until she had given birth to a son. And he called his name Jesus.

Next time: Matthew 4:24-25

Bible evangewomanblogspotcomThis is the final instalment of verses from Luke’s Gospel which have been excluded from the three-year Lectionary used in public worship.

Many churchgoers do not notice the truncation of the Scripture readings for Sundays and weekdays. Anytime we see an ellipsis in our church bulletins listing the readings for the day — … — we would do well to go back to the Bible and note carefully what has been omitted. Often, these are difficult verses, pointing to our own weaknesses in character and faith.

Today’s post is part of my ongoing series Forbidden Bible Verses, also essential to understanding Scripture.

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

Luke 24:11-12

11 but these words seemed to them an idle tale, and they did not believe them. 12 But Peter rose and ran to the tomb; stooping and looking in, he saw the linen cloths by themselves; and he went home marveling at what had happened.

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It was nearly two years ago to the day — March 16, 2013 — that I began going through the passages from Luke which do not appear in the three-year Lectionary. As with my similar studies of Mark’s and John’s Gospels, they are a revelation. You can read them all on my Essential Bible Verses page in canonical order.

These last two verses pertain to our Lord’s resurrection. The empty tomb is confusing and puzzling. His female disciples among the 72 went to the tomb to find it empty. They told the Apostles, likely to have been in their own homes and not together. Luke 24:10:

10 Now it was Mary Magdalene and Joanna and Mary the mother of James and the other women with them who told these things to the apostles,

The Apostles immediately dismissed their testimony. Why? Were they associating it with the notional female hysteria, emotion and fantasy? No doubt.

Yet, who was at the Crucifixion? Only one Apostle — John. The others were women.

Who denied Him, as our Lord had foreseen only hours earlier? Peter.

Who stayed away a week after the Resurrection before daring to show himself and, even then, in doubt? Thomas.

Yet, these eleven promised they would always be with Jesus. Matthew Henry wrote:

One cannot but be amazed at the stupidity of these disciples …

This is one reason why egalitarians in terms of marriage have a difficult time accepting male supremacy in all things where women and children are concerned. Men do not have all the answers. They need women — and not just for cooking, cleaning and childbearing.

Jesus’s female followers were there throughout in dangerous circumstances. The men were afraid, fearing imprisonment, torture or death. The women powered on regardless.

Verse 12 tells us that Peter had visited the tomb — but only after Mary Magdalene told him it was empty. The coast was clear. Henry chides the Apostle’s cowardice (emphases mine):

Peter hastened to the sepulchre upon the report, perhaps ashamed of himself, to think that Mary Magdalene should have been there before him and yet, perhaps, he had not been so ready to go thither now if the women had not told him, among other things, that the watch was fled. Many that are swift-footed enough when there is no danger are but cow-hearted when there is. Peter now ran to the sepulchre, who but the other day ran from his Master. 

Not only that, but Peter was every bit as sceptical as Thomas was eight days later. He entered the tomb to verify that it was empty and to see the linen cloths for himself. Henry:

He was very particular in making his observations, as if he would rather credit his own eyes than the testimony of the angels.

Students of the Bible must wonder why, with all of Jesus’s many words regarding death and resurrection, the Apostles did not grasp what had happened. Even when they encountered Him on the road to Emmaus later in Luke 24, they still didn’t understand fully. We see that temporal glory was still at the forefront of their minds:

21 But we had hoped that he was the one to redeem Israel. Yes, and besides all this, it is now the third day since these things happened. 22 Moreover, some women of our company amazed us. They were at the tomb early in the morning, 23 and when they did not find his body, they came back saying that they had even seen a vision of angels, who said that he was alive. 24 Some of those who were with us went to the tomb and found it just as the women had said, but him they did not see.” 25 And he said to them, “O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! 26 Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter into his glory?” 27 And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself.

One cannot say any of us would be better. We focus on incidental or non-essentials instead of the essentials, then wonder why our churches are empty and why young people find Christianity irrelevant. Henry reminds us:

Note, A seasonable remembrance of the words of Christ will help us to a right understanding of his providence.

And:

There is many a thing puzzling and perplexing to us which would be both plain and profitable if we did but rightly understand the words of Christ, and had them ready to us.

Something to ponder in the approach to Easter.

Next time: Matthew 1:1-17

Bible and crossContinuing 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 Bible passages in this series have been excluded from the three-year Lectionary used by many Catholic and Protestant churches around the world.

Do some clergy using the Lectionary really want us understand Holy Scripture in its entirety? I wonder.

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

Luke 22:35-38

Scripture Must Be Fulfilled in Jesus

35 And he said to them, “When I sent you out with no moneybag or knapsack or sandals, did you lack anything?” They said, “Nothing.” 36 He said to them, “But now let the one who has a moneybag take it, and likewise a knapsack. And let the one who has no sword sell his cloak and buy one. 37 For I tell you that this Scripture must be fulfilled in me: ‘And he was numbered with the transgressors.’ For what is written about me has its fulfillment.” 38 And they said, “Look, Lord, here are two swords.” And he said to them, “It is enough.”

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This is the last of St Luke’s account of the inner room where Jesus instituted the Last Supper.

The preceding verses has the account of His foretelling Peter’s denial of Him hours later.

It is difficult for the remaining eleven Apostles — Judas has gone to the authorities — to understand what is happening and what will happen within the next 24 hours.

Now Jesus is telling His closest followers that they must take certain precautions for the future. He will no longer be amongst them physically to protect them. They do not grasp the import of His message, although it will make sense to them within the coming weeks.

Jesus begins by asking them if they had ever needed anything temporal when they went out briefly on their own ministry (verse 35). They respond by saying they had what they needed, as He had said at the time.

My readers who have been following these readings from Luke’s Gospel, which I started analysing in March 2013, will recall that in Luke 9:1-6, our Lord did indeed send the Apostles out for a short time, investing them with the divine grace to preach and heal. My post on the passage, with John MacArthur’s exposition, is useful to those who would like to better understand this ministry.

Luke 9:1-6

Jesus Sends Out the Twelve Apostles

 1 And he called the twelve together and gave them power and authority over all demons and to cure diseases, 2 and he sent them out to proclaim the kingdom of God and to heal. 3 And he said to them, “Take nothing for your journey, no staff, nor bag, nor bread, nor money; and do not have two tunics. 4And whatever house you enter, stay there, and from there depart. 5And wherever they do not receive you, when you leave that town shake off the dust from your feet as a testimony against them.” 6 And they departed and went through the villages, preaching the gospel and healing everywhere.

Luke 10 begins with Jesus sending out the 72 disciples in the same manner:

Jesus Sends Out the Seventy-Two

10 After this the Lord appointed seventy-two[a] others and sent them on ahead of him, two by two, into every town and place where he himself was about to go. And he said to them, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few. Therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest. Go your way; behold, I am sending you out as lambs in the midst of wolves. 4 Carry no moneybag, no knapsack, no sandals, and greet no one on the road. Whatever house you enter, first say, ‘Peace be to this house!’ And if a son of peace is there, your peace will rest upon him. But if not, it will return to you. And remain in the same house, eating and drinking what they provide, for the laborer deserves his wages. Do not go from house to house. Whenever you enter a town and they receive you, eat what is set before you. Heal the sick in it and say to them, ‘The kingdom of God has come near to you.’ 10 But whenever you enter a town and they do not receive you, go into its streets and say, 11 ‘Even the dust of your town that clings to our feet we wipe off against you. Nevertheless know this, that the kingdom of God has come near.’ 12 I tell you, it will be more bearable on that day for Sodom than for that town.

Jesus sent both groups out with few material comforts because He protected them from a distance. His blessing ensured that all would go well in their efforts. He also intended to show them that they, too, would be able to preach and heal in His name.

Back to today’s passage from Luke. Jesus now gives them different instructions: have a moneybag, take a knapsack and … buy a sword (verse 36).

That this passage does not find its way into the three-year Lectionary is deplorable. We need to know how Jesus’s presence and absence changed the conditions of His disciples’ ministry.

That said, even in churches where Scripture is studied in detail, John MacArthur says that he has never heard a sermon preached on these verses:

Perhaps you’ve never even read that passage. I don’t think in my life I’ve ever heard a message on that passage. And yet it is one of the most important ones in the New Testament for reasons that will become apparent to you.

But, people say, Jesus is — and was — non-violent, bar the cleansing of the temple. True. But then Jesus — by His all-human, all-divine nature — did not have to be violent.

He intended for the Apostles to arm themselves for self-defence, not for attacks.

Another Gospel passage which helps clarify what He is preparing them for is John 16:1-4, also spoken at the Last Supper (KJV below, emphases mine):

1These things have I spoken unto you, that ye should not be offended.

 2They shall put you out of the synagogues: yea, the time cometh, that whosoever killeth you will think that he doeth God service.

 3And these things will they do unto you, because they have not known the Father, nor me.

 4But these things have I told you, that when the time shall come, ye may remember that I told you of them. And these things I said not unto you at the beginning, because I was with you.

Incidentally, John 13-16 offers the fullest Gospel account of Jesus’s final words to His Apostles before the Crucifixion. In reading them, one really feels as if one were there at the Last Supper. These chapters are another reason why John’s Gospel is my favourite.

Returning to Luke, Matthew Henry’s commentary offers this analysis of Jesus’s instructions:

[1.] They must not now expect that their friends would be so kind and generous to them as they had been and therefore, He that has a purse, let him take it, for he may have occasion for it, and for all the good husbandry he can use. [2.] They must now expect that their enemies would be more fierce upon them than they had been, and they would need magazines as well as stores: He that has no sword wherewith to defend himself against robbers and assassins (2 Corinthians 11:26) will find a great want of it, and will be ready to wish, some time or other, that he had sold his garment and bought one. This is intended only to show that the times would be very perilous, so that no man would think himself safe if he had not a sword by his side.

In verse 37, Jesus tells the Apostles that He must fulfil Scripture. Here He cites Isaiah 53:12:

Therefore I will divide him a portion with the many,[j]
    and he shall divide the spoil with the strong,[k]
because he poured out his soul to death
    and was numbered with the transgressors;
yet he bore the sin of many,
    and makes intercession for the transgressors.

This is even more evidence that our Lord was meant to be crucified for our sins. Contrary to what revisionists or unbelieving ‘Bible scholars’ say, this was God’s plan for His Son from the beginning of the world. Nothing went wrong. Everything unfolded as He predestined.

MacArthur explains:

Our Lord Himself explicitly claims that He is the fulfillment of Isaiah 53, that is crucial…crucial to an understanding of the fact that Jesus knew who He was and why He had come. It is also the single most powerful New Testament interpreter of the meaning of Isaiah 53 because just the one quote, “He was numbered with the transgressors,” means that the whole chapter applies to Him because that phrase, “He was numbered with the transgressors,” which means that God treated Him as a sinner is repeated in different forms twenty times in Isaiah 53…twenty times in Isaiah 53 in one way or another, it says that Jesus was punished as a sinner…twenty times. This is just one of the twenty.

Luke 22:38 tells us that the Apostles found two swords. Jesus told them that they would suffice. This shows us that Jesus did not instruct them to spread the Gospel by violent means. However, He did expect them to be able to do His work, defending themselves when necessary.

A sword would also allow them to cut wood for fires and defend themselves against wild animals.

We might ask how the two swords just happened to be there. MacArthur surmises:

Probably one belonged to Simon the Zealot and the other one to the tax collector, Matthew. Don’t know. They would be the most likely people to have carried those things. But in the whole time they were with Jesus, they didn’t need any weapons. They would use them for purposes other than aggression.

However, just a few verses later in Luke 22, we read of Jesus’s betrayal and arrest on the Mount of Olives. Peter — the ‘one’ here — grabs a sword:

50 And one of them struck the servant[h] of the high priest and cut off his right ear.

Jesus rebukes the action and performs a final miracle before the Crucifixion:

51 But Jesus said, “No more of this!” And he touched his ear and healed him.

He acquiesced to His arrest because:

53  this is your hour, and the power of darkness.”

Next time: Luke 24:11-12

Bible and crossContinuing 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 really want us understand Holy Scripture in its entirety? I wonder.

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

Luke 22:31-34

Jesus Foretells Peter’s Denial

31 “Simon, Simon, behold, Satan demanded to have you,[a] that he might sift you like wheat, 32 but I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned again, strengthen your brothers.” 33 Peter[b] said to him, “Lord, I am ready to go with you both to prison and to death.” 34 Jesus[c] said, “I tell you, Peter, the rooster will not crow this day, until you deny three times that you know me.”

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The setting for today’s reading is the private room where Jesus instituted the Last Supper.

Immediately following, in their carnal weakness, the Apostles debated who among them was the greatest. They still had no idea of the significance of what had happened and what would happen the following day.

Jesus interrupted their foolishness with this answer (Luke 22:25-27):

25 And he said to them, “The kings of the Gentiles exercise lordship over them, and those in authority over them are called benefactors. 26 But not so with you. Rather, let the greatest among you become as the youngest, and the leader as one who serves. 27 For who is the greater, one who reclines at table or one who serves? Is it not the one who reclines at table? But I am among you as the one who serves.

Today’s passage — our Lord’s warning to Peter — follows. Satan entered Judas to enact the betrayal. Now Jesus says that Satan is entering — sifting — Peter and the other ten.

It is important to note that ‘you’ in verse 31 is plural. So is the first ‘you’ in verse 32.

However, the second ‘you’ in verse 32 is singular. The use of the word ‘turn’ means ‘repent’, ‘convert’, ‘turn away from temptation': in other words, once Peter broke Satan’s grip, he could help the other Apostles strengthen their faith. Jesus has prayed for this to occur.

Why did Jesus use the words ‘sift you like wheat’? Matthew Henry offers this analysis:

Peter, who used to be the mouth of the rest in speaking to Christ, is here made the ear of the rest and what is designed for warning to them all (all you shall be offended, because of me) is directed to Peter, because he was principally concerned, being in particular manner struck at by the tempter: Satan has desired to have you.

Henry says this conversation could have occurred between God and Satan with regard to the latter’s ‘demand’ (verse 31):

Probably Satan had accused the disciples to God as mercenary in following Christ, and aiming at nothing else therein but enriching and advancing themselves in this world, as he accused Job. “No,” saith God, “they are honest men, and men of integrity.” “Give me leave to try them,” saith Satan, “and Peter particularly.”

Satan can act only in the parameters God allows. God and His Son will not allow a permanent falling away of the Apostles’ faith, no matter how much Satan desires it.

As for ‘sifting’, Henry explains (emphasis in bold in the original, purple mine):

He desired to have them, that he might sift them, that he might show them to be chaff, and not wheat. The troubles that were now coming upon them were sifting, would try what there was in them: but this was not all[;] Satan desired to sift them by his temptations, and endeavoured by those troubles to draw them into sin, to put them into a loss and hurry, as corn when it is sifted to bring the chaff uppermost, or rather to shake out the wheat and leave nothing but the chaff. Observe, Satan could not sift them unless God gave him leave: He desired to have them, as he begged of God a permission to try and tempt Job. Exetesato–“He has challenged you, has undertaken to prove you a company of hypocrites, and Peter especially, the forwardest of you.”

Henry also offers this explanation, which comes from other Bible scholars:

Some suggest that Satan demanded leave to sift them as their punishment for striving who should be greatest, in which contest Peter perhaps was very warm: “Leave them to me, to sift them for it.”

In any event, Satan wanted the Apostles to disperse, desert and permanently deny Christ.

Peter, upon hearing Jesus’s words, pledged his loyalty unto death (verse 32). But Jesus told him that by the time the rooster crowed at dawn, he would deny him three times (verse 33).

Peter felt comfortable as long as our Lord was in his midst. However, once separated, it was a different story.

John MacArthur posits that Jesus referred to his leading Apostle by his former name of Simon to indicate that he would soon fall into his old ways. After Peter claimed he would go with Him unto death, Jesus addressed him as Peter — the Rock, a future leader — albeit with the foretelling of his denial.

Once Peter began ministering to others, he understood the importance of resisting temptation and sin. He wrote his letters — epistles — from personal experience. (See Essential Bible Verses page, near the bottom, for 1 Peter and 2 Peter.)

When he approached the end of his life, MacArthur says:

He ended up being imprisoned for his faith in Christ and ultimately crucified upside down because he wasn’t worthy, he said, to be crucified the way his Lord was crucified.  So he did go to prison and to death. 

MacArthur says that Jesus warned about Peter’s denial twice that evening: once immediately after the Last Supper and again at the Mount of Olives in the Garden of Gethsemane.

John’s Gospel aligns with Luke’s in the indoor setting (John 13:36-38):

36 Simon Peter said to him, “Lord, where are you going?” Jesus answered him, “Where I am going you cannot follow me now, but you will follow afterward.” 37 Peter said to him, “Lord, why can I not follow you now? I will lay down my life for you.” 38 Jesus answered, “Will you lay down your life for me? Truly, truly, I say to you, the rooster will not crow till you have denied me three times.

Mark’s and Matthew’s accounts take place at the Mount of Olives. Here is Mark 14:26-31:

26 And when they had sung a hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives. 27And Jesus said to them, “You will all fall away, for it is written, ‘I will strike the shepherd, and the sheep will be scattered.’ 28But after I am raised up, I will go before you to Galilee.” 29 Peter said to him, “Even though they all fall away, I will not.” 30And Jesus said to him, “Truly, I tell you, this very night, before the rooster crows twice, you will deny me three times.” 31But he said emphatically, “If I must die with you, I will not deny you.” And they all said the same.

And Matthew 26:30-35:

30 And when they had sung a hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives. 31 Then Jesus said to them, “You will all fall away because of me this night. For it is written, ‘I will strike the shepherd, and the sheep of the flock will be scattered.’ 32 But after I am raised up, I will go before you to Galilee.” 33 Peter answered him, “Though they all fall away because of you, I will never fall away.” 34 Jesus said to him, “Truly, I tell you, this very night, before the rooster crows, you will deny me three times.” 35 Peter said to him, “Even if I must die with you, I will not deny you!” And all the disciples said the same.

It is important for us to be able to tell detractors of Scripture that, with minor variations, the Gospel accounts are consistent.

Next time: Luke 22:35-38

Bible ourhomewithgodcomContinuing 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 really want us understand Holy Scripture in its entirety? I wonder.

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

Luke 22:1-6

The Plot to Kill Jesus

1 Now the Feast of Unleavened Bread drew near, which is called the Passover. And the chief priests and the scribes were seeking how to put him to death, for they feared the people.

Judas to Betray Jesus

Then Satan entered into Judas called Iscariot, who was of the number of the twelve. He went away and conferred with the chief priests and officers how he might betray him to them. And they were glad, and agreed to give him money. So he consented and sought an opportunity to betray him to them in the absence of a crowd.

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The end of Luke 21 tells us that Jesus spent the night before Passover — Wednesday night — on Mount Olivet, the Mount of Olives.

Meanwhile, the Jewish hierarchy plotted His death in a way that would not excite the crowds coming to Jerusalem for this feast (verses 1, 2).

They were aware how popular our Lord was. Only days before, a huge crowd lined the road on his triumphal entry into the city. If He were killed, there might be a mass revolt. It is also worth remembering that more and more Jews were in the city by now, possibly 2 million. The more people, the greater the Roman presence.

John MacArthur explains:

… they’re all very, very aware that this is exactly the kind of time that if anything starts that looks anywhere near like a riot, the Romans are going to come down hard with military force and change the relationship we currently have with them, which gives us a certain measure of freedom.  We’ve got to arrest Him, we’ve got to arrest Him now.

John 11:45-57 explains more about the mindset of the Jewish elite, including their fear of losing their power and prestige. Verses 47-53 are particularly pertinent:

47 So the chief priests and the Pharisees gathered the council and said, “What are we to do? For this man performs many signs. 48 If we let him go on like this, everyone will believe in him, and the Romans will come and take away both our place and our nation.” 49 But one of them, Caiaphas, who was high priest that year, said to them, “You know nothing at all. 50 Nor do you understand that it is better for you that one man should die for the people, not that the whole nation should perish.” 51 He did not say this of his own accord, but being high priest that year he prophesied that Jesus would die for the nation, 52 and not for the nation only, but also to gather into one the children of God who are scattered abroad. 53 So from that day on they made plans to put him to death.

Returning to Luke 22 now, verse 3 tells us: ‘Satan entered into Judas called Iscariot’. Matthew Henry says:

Whoever betrays Christ, or his truths or ways, it is Satan that puts them upon it.

Satan was already in Judas. Jesus stated this in John 6:70-71:

70 Jesus answered them, “Did I not choose you, the Twelve? And yet one of you is a devil.” 71 He spoke of Judas the son of Simon Iscariot, for he, one of the Twelve, was going to betray him.

Our Lord made the same observation of the Jewish elite in John 8:38-47, specifically verses 43 through 47 (emphases mine):

43 Why do you not understand what I say? It is because you cannot bear to hear my word. 44 You are of your father the devil, and your will is to do your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks out of his own character, for he is a liar and the father of lies. 45 But because I tell the truth, you do not believe me. 46 Which one of you convicts me of sin? If I tell the truth, why do you not believe me? 47 Whoever is of God hears the words of God. The reason why you do not hear them is that you are not of God.”

Judas was obsessed by materialism; in fact, he was the one who kept the money bag for Jesus and the Apostles. This should serve as a warning to us not to place money and possessions above the Holy Trinity. This also extends temporally to our family and friends. Are some people too obsessed with earning money to attend to their loved ones? We have read many cautionary tales about parents who hardly ever see their children then wonder why they end up in rehab. They realise, too late, that they should have been better parents. The same holds true when people lose friends because they haven’t kept in touch often enough; they’ve been too busy with work. But I digress.

Verse 4 of today’s reading tells us that Judas went off to discuss with the Jewish leaders how he could betray Jesus. It is for this reason that traditionalist Catholics refer to Wednesday of Holy Week, or Passion Week, as Spy Wednesday.

Henry has this observation about treachery by insiders, more insidious than that from external enemies:

Note, It is hard to say whether more mischief is done to Christ’s kingdom by the power and policy of its open enemies, or by the treachery and self-seeking of its pretended friends: nay, without the latter its enemies could not gain their point as they do.

The Jewish leaders welcomed Judas’s proposition and agreed to pay him (verse 5). The 30 coins amounted to a few months’ wages. Judas went off to contemplate how he could execute his betrayal quietly, without attracting the attention of the crowd (verse 6).

MacArthur explains:

The devil moved them to do what they did and now the devil had another of his own children, Judas, and he moved him to do what he did.  In fact, he not only moved him, he not only made treacherous suggestions to Judas, he moved in.  There’s a progression there. 

And whilst Satan is powerful, God keeps Him in check. In short, it was now ‘the time’ and ‘the hour’ — words used throughout the Gospels — for our Lord’s crucifixion. Hence God allows him to enter into Judas’s soul.

Scripture was soon fulfilled in Christ’s dying for the sins of the world, past, present and future. God meant it to happen. Jesus knew it was coming. A reading the Gospels tells us this. Jesus escaped angry people — His fellow Nazarenes and the hierarchy — who wanted to kill Him. He knew those moments were not the appointed time.

MacArthur tells us not to blame the Jewish people for the crucifixion. Nor should this make Christians opposed to Israel. In fact, those who rank with the Jews of Jesus’s time are the unbelievers and mockers throughout history, including those in the future:

it was the Jews of that generation, living in that place, at that time, in that nation, in that crowd that wanted Jesus dead, and basically blackmailed Pilate into executing Him. This is no warrant for unscrupulous people to brand all Jews as a race as Christ-killers. The truth of the matter is, Jew or Gentile, anyone who rejects Jesus Christ takes a position against Jesus Christ and eliminates any hope of eternal salvation. That’s true of anybody. But to use what the people did to Jesus, the people of that generation did to Jesus, as some kind of justification for hate crimes, and holocausts against Jewish people is anything but Christian, anything but Christian. It is satanic. That kind of bigotry doesn’t come from God. It doesn’t come from true Christians. It comes from Satan. It is anti-Christian. It is true that Israel’s leaders bore culpability. The people bore culpability. Every person, Jew or Gentile who rejects Jesus Christ bears guilt. It is true. That is no reason to hate Israel. Even God loves Israel. And one day will save that nation. And even now is building His church of Jew and Gentile. Be reminded that way back in the Abrahamic covenant we are told whoever blesses Israel, God will what? Will bless. Whoever curses Israel, God will curse.

Next time: Luke 22:7-13

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 really want us understand Holy Scripture in its entirety? I wonder.

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

Luke 21:32-38

32 [“]Truly, I say to you, this generation will not pass away until all has taken place. 33 Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away.

Watch Yourselves

34 “But watch yourselves lest your hearts be weighed down with dissipation and drunkenness and cares of this life, and that day come upon you suddenly like a trap. 35 For it will come upon all who dwell on the face of the whole earth. 36 But stay awake at all times, praying that you may have strength to escape all these things that are going to take place, and to stand before the Son of Man.”

37 And every day he was teaching in the temple, but at night he went out and lodged on the mount called Olivet. 38 And early in the morning all the people came to him in the temple to hear him.

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Most of Luke 21 is about our Lord’s warnings for the near future — the destruction of Jerusalem and the temple — and the distant future which includes wars and persecution, all leading to His Second Coming.

Today’s tendency for clergy and lay ministers is to read this chapter as one concerning the fall of Jerusalem to the Romans in 70 AD. Yet, most recently, we have had unimaginable wars in the 20th century and protracted conflicts are still occurring today.

Perhaps a more realistic way of reading this chapter is to view the destruction of Jerusalem as a foretaste for what the Second Coming will be like. It might or might not occur in our lifetime. Note Luke 21:24-28, particularly the fulfilment of the times of the Gentiles, which certainly was not in 70 AD:

24 They will fall by the edge of the sword and be led captive among all nations, and Jerusalem will be trampled underfoot by the Gentiles, until the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled.

The Coming of the Son of Man

25 “And there will be signs in sun and moon and stars, and on the earth distress of nations in perplexity because of the roaring of the sea and the waves, 26 people fainting with fear and with foreboding of what is coming on the world. For the powers of the heavens will be shaken. 27 And then they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory. 28 Now when these things begin to take place, straighten up and raise your heads, because your redemption is drawing near.”

Hence, Jesus’s counsel in today’s verses. Many horrible and devastating events must occur before He comes again in glory (verse 32). Furthermore, even though heaven and earth disappear, His words will remain everlasting (verse 33).

He advises us not to become downcast by the cares of this life, which are many: financial, social and political insecurity. We are to avoid excesses in drink and food as self-medication in case that final day arrives when we are unprepared (verse 34). Matthew Henry explains:

the immoderate use of meat and drink, which burden the heart, not only with the guilt thereby contracted, but by the ill influence which such disorders of the body have upon the mind they make men dull and lifeless to their duty, dead and listless in their duty they stupify the conscience, and cause the mind to be unaffected with those things that are most affecting.

We can include drugs in that warning. They, too, alter our ability to function at our best.

Henry also includes materialism as another sin to be avoided (emphases mine):

The inordinate pursuit of the good things of this world. The heart is overcharged with the cares of this life. The former is the snare of those that are given to their pleasures: this is the snare of the men of business, that will be rich. We have need to guard on both hands, not only lest at the time when death comes, but lest at any time our hearts should be thus overcharged. Our caution against sin, and our care of our own souls, must be constant.

Contrary to what unbelievers think — ‘That’s your God, nothing to do with me’ — everyone alive on that day will experience this finality (verse 35).

Therefore, Jesus tells us to be in a sober frame of mind so that we can handle the awesome (‘terrifying’, not ‘cool’) events that will take place and to be able to face Him in person (verse 36).

Jesus spoke these words in Wednesday of His Passover — and our Passion, or Holy, Week. Luke tells us that He was now no longer returning out of town to Mary, Martha and Lazarus’s house but to Mount Olivet to spend the night (verse 37). Henry surmises a close friend might have lodged Him there. He then returned to the temple to preach the next day (verse 38).

John MacArthur tells us:

it would have been very dangerous…very dangerous for Him to be anywhere easily found at night. The Jews wanted Him dead. They had been planning that for a long, long time…since His ministry began, since even before the Galilean ministry was completed they wanted Him dead. But the timing wasn’t right and they couldn’t ever pull it off until the timing was right. And then as it turned out, they wind up executing Jesus at the time they most wanted not to do it. And this is because, before you ever talk about the role of the devout or the devil or the defector, or the role of the disciples, you have to talk about the role of the deity which is really the design of the whole plan.

It is vital that we remember that our Lord was meant to die on the Cross for our sins. Hence His death on the Cross is paramount in our thoughts:

If you don’t know that and believe that, you’re not a Christian. That’s what it means to be a Christian, to know this and believe this…that’s being a Christian. We understand that. Christ’s death then is the highpoint in redemptive history, it is God’s highpoint, it is God’s moment. It is the center of God’s story. The cross is our only hope, our only refuge from divine judgment. And listen to me, the cross must be the sanctuary for every Christian’s private worship. The cross must be the sanctuary for every Christian’s private worship, that’s why it’s here behind me for all of you to see, to sit at the foot of the cross and be reminded that this is our Holy of Holies. You cannot take it for granted. You cannot become familiar with it so that it loses its wonder.

This is why St Paul wrote (1 Corinthians 1:23-30):

23 but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles, 24 but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. 25 For the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men.

26 For consider your calling, brothers: not many of you were wise according to worldly standards,[a] not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth. 27 But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; 28 God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, 29 so that no human being[b] might boast in the presence of God. 30 And because of him[c] you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption …

Next time: Luke 22:1-6

bible-wornContinuing 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 really want us understand Holy Scripture in its entirety? I wonder.

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

Luke 21:20-24

Jesus Foretells Destruction of Jerusalem

20 “But when you see Jerusalem surrounded by armies, then know that its desolation has come near. 21 Then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains, and let those who are inside the city depart, and let not those who are out in the country enter it, 22 for these are days of vengeance, to fulfill all that is written. 23 Alas for women who are pregnant and for those who are nursing infants in those days! For there will be great distress upon the earth and wrath against this people. 24 They will fall by the edge of the sword and be led captive among all nations, and Jerusalem will be trampled underfoot by the Gentiles, until the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled.

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Last week’s post discussed Jesus’s foretelling of wars and persecution.

These verses which follow concern the Roman destruction of Jerusalem, which took place in 70 AD. Our Lord foretold the destruction of the temple earlier (Luke 21:5-6):

5 And while some were speaking of the temple, how it was adorned with noble stones and offerings, he said, “As for these things that you see, the days will come when there will not be left here one stone upon another that will not be thrown down.”

And so it remains today.

In 66 AD the Jews rebelled against the Romans. This conflict culminated in 70 AD. Our Lord foresaw the city being surrounded by armies and its ultimate destruction (verse 20). The Jews fled to the mountains, and those in Jerusalem left (verse 21).

Jesus said that these events fulfilled Old Testament prophecy (verse 22). Matthew Henry tells us that this was a judgement on the Jewish people for their unbelief and that it also gives us an idea of what His Second Coming will be like for unbelievers: terrible and chaotic.

Jesus went on to say that pregnant women and nursing mothers would be particularly disadvantaged (verse 23). Henry explains:

Woe to them, not only because they are most subject to frights, and least able to shift for their own safety, but because it will be a very great torment to them to think of having borne and nursed children for the murderers.

Our Lord said that the wrath of the Romans would cause the Jews much distress. Henry says:

By the general confusion that should be all the nation over. There shall be great distress in the land, for men will not know what course to take, nor how to help themselves.

Verse 24 expresses a devastating attack on Jerusalem and the Jewish people. Of the deaths, Henry tells us:

It is computed that in those wars of the Jews there fell by the sword above eleven hundred thousand. And the siege of Jerusalem was, in effect, a military execution.

The Jews would be exiled, not just to one nation, as in the Old Testament, but to many:

which made it impossible for them to correspond with each other, much less to incorporate.

The Romans destroyed Jerusalem:

laid it quite waste, as a rebellious and bad city, hurtful to kings and provinces, and therefore hateful to them.

The Wikipedia entry on this siege cites the historian Josephus. The Emperor Titus asked Josephus to negotiate with the Zealots fighting the Romans. Those negotiations failed; after the first, the Zealots had even wounded Josephus with an arrow. After the destruction, the historian wrote:

… truly, the very view itself was a melancholy thing; for those places which were adorned with trees and pleasant gardens, were now become desolate country every way, and its trees were all cut down. Nor could any foreigner that had formerly seen Judaea and the most beautiful suburbs of the city, and now saw it as a desert, but lament and mourn sadly at so great a change. For the war had laid all signs of beauty quite waste. Nor had anyone who had known the place before, had come on a sudden to it now, would he have known it again. But though he [a foreigner] were at the city itself, yet would he have inquired for it.[3]

As for the 1.1 million people were killed:

The slaughter within was even more dreadful than the spectacle from without. Men and women, old and young, insurgents and priests, those who fought and those who entreated mercy, were hewn down in indiscriminate carnage. The number of the slain exceeded that of the slayers. The legionaries had to clamber over heaps of dead to carry on the work of extermination.[5]

Of the survivors, 97,000 were taken as slaves. The rest fled to countries around the Mediterranean.

Next time: Luke 21:32-38

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 really want us understand Holy Scripture in its entirety? I wonder.

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

Luke 21:10-19

Jesus Foretells Wars and Persecution

10 Then he said to them, “Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. 11 There will be great earthquakes, and in various places famines and pestilences. And there will be terrors and great signs from heaven. 12 But before all this they will lay their hands on you and persecute you, delivering you up to the synagogues and prisons, and you will be brought before kings and governors for my name’s sake. 13 This will be your opportunity to bear witness. 14 Settle it therefore in your minds not to meditate beforehand how to answer, 15 for I will give you a mouth and wisdom, which none of your adversaries will be able to withstand or contradict. 16 You will be delivered up even by parents and brothers[a] and relatives and friends, and some of you they will put to death. 17 You will be hated by all for my name’s sake. 18 But not a hair of your head will perish. 19 By your endurance you will gain your lives.

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Luke 21:5-9 recounts Jesus’s foretelling the destruction of the temple in Jerusalem, which took place in 70 AD by the Romans.

In Luke 21:7, one of the disciples asked Him when that would happen and how they would know beforehand. The answer came as follows:

And he said, “See that you are not led astray. For many will come in my name, saying, ‘I am he!’ and, ‘The time is at hand!’ Do not go after them. And when you hear of wars and tumults, do not be terrified, for these things must first take place, but the end will not be at once.”

This brings us to today’s verses.

Many agnostics and unbelievers say, ‘If there were a God, my father would not have died, wars would not take place, nor would natural disasters. If there is a God, why does He allow these things to happen?’

Too few Christians know the answer to that question, which is in all the Synoptic Gospels:

Matthew 24

Mark 3:3-13

Luke 21:8 – 18

Everyone who calls himself a Christian should know where to point people in the right direction for the answer.

It astounds me that none of these passages is in the three-year Lectionary.

Too many of us think that nothing bad should ever happen to us or to others. However, we have lived in a fallen world since Adam and Eve’s Original Sin. Events will continue to wax and wane until the Second Coming. Does that mean we should sit back passively? No, let us do what we can to help each other by providing practical help as well as prayers. But none of us should be under any misconceptions; these things are meant to happen — and they will.

Let’s imagine what the disciples thought as they heard Jesus’s words. Remember that the Messiah was to bring the Jewish people into a temporal golden age which would last forever. They would have been confused by His foretelling of wars around the world (verse 10), natural disasters, famine, plagues (verse 11) must have shocked them.

Most shocking must have been His telling them in no uncertain terms that they would be persecuted — for His sake (verse 12). John MacArthur describes the justice system of that era:

Synagogues…contained the Jewish local courts. In every village, in every town there were synagogues. In those synagogues was the dispensing of local justice both criminal and civil. Twenty-three judges usually were required to sit and adjudicate on the cases that were brought to the synagogue court.

To be brought, by the way, before that court was considered a severe discrediting and indignity. The court would listen to the case, the court would make a decision, that is the judge would render his verdict, and punishment was executed immediately on the spot. Generally speaking, since the Romans had not allowed the Jews to have the right of capital punishment, the Jews would have to do something to punish people short of stoning them to death, and so they would scourge them with whips, the way Jesus was scourged, in fact, by the Romans was the typical way the Jews scourged the guilty. One judge would recite an appropriate Psalm, or Old Testament text, that had something to do with the crime committed. The second would count the blows. And a third would command the blows and a servant of the synagogue, he was called, would deliver the blows and they would come immediately upon the adjudication and in full public view.

In the case of these believers, they would not only be scourged, but they would be put in prison.

Jesus tells His disciples that persecution will be their chance to bear Christian witness (verse 13). As to the abject fear felt in these situations, He advised not to be afraid of finding words of self-defence (verse 14), because He will enable them — and us — to speak in such a way that no one can contradict what is being said (verse 15).

Matthew Henry tells us that this wisdom came to the disciples at the first Pentecost:

This was remarkably fulfilled presently after the pouring out of the Spirit, by whom Christ gave his disciples this mouth and wisdom, when the apostles were brought before the priests and rulers, and answered them so as to make them ashamed, Acts 4:1-6:15.

Jesus goes on to say that those close to the disciples will turn them in to the authorities for preaching in His name. Death would be a real possibility (verse 16).

All of this pertains to us, too.

After the Romans destroyed temple, Jewish persecution of Christians ceased. Gentile persecution continued and, as we know, exists today all over the world. In some countries it is more random. In others, it is an everyday preoccupation.

Jesus tells the disciples that people will hate them because those same people hate Him (verse 17). Those who persecute sometimes do it in the name of God, to help Him rid the world of heretics and infidels. Think of the attacks in Paris in January 2015 as the most recent example (as I write).

Jesus ends His discourse by reassuring them that they will perish (verse 18) and that, thanks to their endurance, they will gain their lives (verse 19). He means that they will share eternal life with Him.

The second half of John MacArthur’s sermon tells us what happened to the Apostles and disciples. Jesus’s words were fulfilled. Some of the evidence is in the book of Acts (emphases mine):

The church starts in chapter 2. Peter preaches his first sermon in chapter 3. They’re put in jail in chapter 4. Before anything else could happen as exactly as Jesus had stated. Shortly after that, however, stung by the phenomenal growth of the church, three thousand on the Day of Pentecost and thousands more soon after, you come in to chapter 5, the next chapter in Acts, and what do you read? “The high priest rose up along with all of his associates, that is the sect of the Sadducees, filled with jealousy they laid hands on the Apostles and put them in a public jail.” Just exactly what Jesus said would happen at the hands of the Jews. That’s chapter 5.

You come to chapter 6, you meet Stephen, a servant in the church. Stephen is falsely accused. He is arrested by the Jews. He is put on trial before the Sanhedrin, the Jewish council. And then he is, in chapter 7, stoned to death. After his death, you come to chapter 8. How does chapter 8 begin? With a general persecution breaking out against all Christians, spear-headed by none other than a man named Saul of Tarsus. The persecution begins and it spreads.

It finally reaches the Apostles in the twelfth chapter. The first of the Apostles to be martyred is James, the brother of John, and he is executed by the will of the Jews at the hands of Herod, chapter 12.

Soon after that, Peter, Andrew, Philip, James the son of Alphaeus, all crucified. Bartholomew whipped to death and then crucified. Thomas stabbed with spears. And these are the very men to whom Jesus said you will be hated, persecuted and killed. And they were.

Even outside that original circle of disciples, Mark was dragged to death through the streets of Alexandria. James, the half-brother of Jesus and the leader of the Jerusalem church, was stoned by order of the Sanhedrin. Matthew, Simon the Zealot, Thaddaeus and even Timothy were killed for their unwavering commitment to Jesus Christ. It was Clement of Rome, a contemporary of the Apostles, who died around 100 A.D. who observed this, quote: “Through envy and jealousy, the greatest and most righteous pillars of the church have been persecuted and executed.”

Jesus said it would happen and it happened. Jesus wasn’t limiting this persecution just to them. He said it would start with them and it would continue. The Apostle Paul says, “All that live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution.”

As for Saul of Tarsus who underwent dramatic conversion as Paul, the second half of Acts has his story, which MacArthur details for us. At the end:

Eventually he has a harrowing sea voyage and shipwreck. In Roman custody he arrives in Rome. There, Acts 28, local Jewish opposition comes against him. They tracked him even to the end of the book of Acts because they hated Christ. The Romans released him after two years of imprisonment. Acts 28:30, eventually rearrested him and cut off his head under Nero’s persecution.

The world will make our lives a misery to lesser or greater degrees. Regardless of what happens, our Lord will keep us close to Him not only in this world but in the next:

18 But not a hair of your head will perish. 19 By your endurance you will gain your lives.

Next time: Luke 21:20-24

Bible readingContinuing 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 really want us understand Holy Scripture in its entirety? I wonder.

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

Luke 21:1-4

The Widow’s Offering

1 Jesus[a] looked up and saw the rich putting their gifts into the offering box, and he saw a poor widow put in two small copper coins.[b] And he said, “Truly, I tell you, this poor widow has put in more than all of them. For they all contributed out of their abundance, but she out of her poverty put in all she had to live on.”

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As Luke 21 begins, the events of Wednesday of Passover week continue, just days before the Crucifixion. As we saw last week in the final verses of Luke 20, Jesus severely condemned the scribes — the religious lawyers who were also Pharisees.

Therefore, as Luke 21 begins, the reader might experience some cognitive dissonance with the story of the widow’s offering. For centuries this has been one of the passages churches often use when asking for money. Matthew Henry, who died early in the 18th century, typifies this interpretation (emphases in bold mine):

here was one that was herself poor and yet gave what little she had to the treasury. It was but two mites, which make a farthing but Christ magnified it as a piece of charity exceeding all the rest: She has cast in more than they all. Christ does not blame her for indiscretion, in giving what she wanted herself, nor for vanity in giving among the rich to the treasury but commended her liberality, and her willingness to part with what little she had for the glory of God, which proceeded from a belief of and dependence upon God’s providence to take care of her. Jehovah-jireh–the Lord will provide.

Yet, in the context of Luke 20 and Luke 21, she gave to a corrupt religious system which Jesus loathed. At the end of Luke 20, Jesus criticised the scribes (Luke 20:47):

[“] who devour widows’ houses and for a pretense make long prayers. They will receive the greater condemnation.”

Our Lord is watching the rich giving their monetary offerings to the temple treasury (verse 1). John MacArthur describes the setting for us:

What is the treasury? Well, the court in which Jesus was sitting is a very, very large open court in the temple area. It was called the Court of the Women. There was an inner court where only the men could go but this is the court where everyone could go, men and women. Jesus taught here as indicated in John chapter 8, in fact, He taught on the light of the world on that occasion. And He taught in the Court of the Women, the great open court because it was where everyone could come. He calls it the treasury because there was a section of it that the leaders had designed as the place you give your money. They had set up 13 shofar-trumpet shape[s]. You know what a shofar is, it’s a horn. They had set up 13 of those in which people dropped their money. And each of them had a sign on the bottom of it indicating exactly what that money was to be used for. Old shekel dues, new shekel dues, bird offerings, wood, incense, gold, free will, they all were labeled and people would go by and they would in very open courtyard, publicly put their giving on display. The treasury is actually the word gazophulakion from two Greek words, gaza meaning treasury, phulake meaning prison. Once you dropped them in, they were held in there.

Jesus saw the poor widow put two lepta in the offering box (verse 2). The Bible Gateway footnote explains:

a lepton was a Jewish bronze or copper coin worth about 1/128 of a denarius (which was a day’s wage for a laborer).

He says that, although her offering might be small in monetary terms, it was more than that of all the others were contributing because it was all she had (verses 3, 4).

MacArthur explains that Jesus was pointing out the venality of the Jewish hierarchy:

They build their success monetarily on the backs of widows … Our Lord indicts them for their severe abuse of widows, along with the Sadducees, the Pharisees and the scribes had a system that abused the poor and the defenseless for whom they had only disdain. They viewed any poor widow as being under the judgment of God, that’s why she was a poor widow. And they would aid God in making life tough for them to punish them for whatever sins God was punishing them for. Furthermore, widows were women and women were second-class, and Pharisees every day prayed, “Lord, make me not a Gentile or a woman.” And because they were widows, they were defenseless and easy prey.

Bearing this in mind, the common interpretation — ‘God loves a cheerful giver’ — would seem to be incorrect.

MacArthur says that we have been reading too much into these verses over the centuries because:

nothing is said about her attitude, nothing is said about her spirit, nothing said about whether she did it in desperation or devotion, whether she did it in legalism or love, it doesn’t say anything about that. The Lord doesn’t commend her, doesn’t make her an example, doesn’t validate what she did, doesn’t say it was a worthy spiritual act that greatly pleased Him.

He adds:

She gave up all her life…this religious system cost that widow her life. She’s going to go home and die. Do you get the picture? Jesus isn’t commending her, she’s a victim. He’s not proud of her. He’s not making her an example of sacrificial giving. This is an absurdity. He is observing the corruption of the system that is going to be destroyed under the leadership of these corrupt condemned leaders.

The next thing Jesus did was to state that the temple — and this corrupt religious system — would be destroyed, which happened in 70 AD. (Luke 21:5-6):

5 And while some were speaking of the temple, how it was adorned with noble stones and offerings, he said, “As for these things that you see, the days will come when there will not be left here one stone upon another that will not be thrown down.”

He also foretold the destruction of Jerusalem (Luke 21:20):

But when you see Jerusalem surrounded by armies, then know that its desolation has come near.

Therefore, the story of the widow’s offering is not one churches should use when asking for money.

That said, so many denominations are imitating the Jewish establishment of our Lord’s day that, perhaps, it is not so misplaced.

MacArthur emphasises:

This is not an illustration of heartfelt, sacrificial giving that pleases the Lord, this is not a model for all of us to follow. Jesus never expects that, in fact He told a servant who had very little, “You should have put your money in the bank and earned interest because you need that to meet your own physical needs.”

The message for us is to give what we can to a godly church without depriving ourselves of living within our means. A corrupt, unbiblical church, however, is no different to the ancient Jewish system and does not deserve our money.

Next time: Luke 21:14-19

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 really want us understand Holy Scripture in its entirety? I wonder.

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

Luke 20:45-47

Beware of the Scribes

45 And in the hearing of all the people he said to his disciples, 46 “Beware of the scribes, who like to walk around in long robes, and love greetings in the marketplaces and the best seats in the synagogues and the places of honor at feasts, 47 who devour widows’ houses and for a pretense make long prayers. They will receive the greater condemnation.”

———————————————————–

My previous entry on December 13, 2014, discusses Jesus’s conversation with the scribes — theological lawyers — on the same day, thought to be Wednesday of what we call Holy Week.

This passage immediately follows. Jesus warns His disciples against the scribes (verses 45, 46). Last year, when I wrote about Luke 11:39-44, I included John MacArthur’s helpful explanation of the scribes’ responsibilities. In short, they exercised the application of Jewish law in daily life. They were powerful men and had a certain celebrity status. They were legalist lords of the manor and expected to be treated as such. They were also Pharisees. However, whilst all scribes were Pharisees, not all Pharisees qualified as being scribes.

Jesus criticises the scribes for their distinctive attire, expectation of people fawning over them, having the most prominent seats in the synagogue and at feasts. He adds that they help themselves to widows’ property and are known for their lengthy prayers (verse 47). For this, He says, they will receive greater condemnation in divine judgement.

The mention of widows describes the practice of a religious elder overseeing — ‘protecting’ — them by visiting them and encouraging their hospitality. That would have entailed money, food, drink and material goods.

Matthew Henry says that our Lord’s message to the disciples is two-fold, even if they are unaware they will soon be shepherds of His Church. First, the disciples are not to imitate the scribes in any way. Secondly, they must not bring problems for themselves involving the scribes (emphases mine):

1. “Take heed of being drawn into sin by them, of learning their way, and going into their measures beware of such a spirit as they are governed by. Be not you such in the Christian church as they are in the Jewish church.”

2. “Take heed of being brought into trouble by them,” in the same sense that he had said (Matthew 10:17), Beware of men, for they will deliver you up to the councils beware of the scribes, for they will do so. Beware of them, for,” (1.) “They are proud and haughty. They desire to walk about the streets in long robes, as those that are above business (for men of business went with their loins girt up), and as those that take state, and take place.”

John MacArthur says that the warning against following or acting as the scribes did holds true for us, whether we are laity or clergy. False teachers fall into the scribe category as do preachers who insist that church members donate a certain amount of money for their personal upkeep. Such men pose as being religious but are in fact religious frauds.

For this, they will be severely condemned, particularly because they purported to be men of God:

Greater, perissoteron, it’s a comparative, krima, judgment.  Perissoteron, “a far greater, an excessive, a more abundant,” or if you will, “an extraordinary” condemnation, more than the usual.  Religious people get a greater damnation, not a lesser one.  Far from pleasing God somehow because they’ve lived up to whatever truth they had, they receive a greater condemnation, especially if they’ve trampled underfoot the blood of the covenant and counted it an unholy thing, Hebrews 10:29-31, rejected Christ.

The idea is clear.  If you’re in the wrong religion, you’re going to be condemned.  If you’re a purveyor of the wrong religion, you’re going to receive a far greater suffering and damnation in hell.  They’re dangerous.  Be warned.  They’re hypocrites.  They’re worthy of condemnation.  Compassion?  Yes.  Gospel?  Give them the gospel.  Pray for their salvation.  Have a sad heart.  But in the end, we have nothing to learn from false teachers and false religions.  And they must know that they are under sentence of divine condemnation.  They must know for their sake and the sake of those who need to be protected from them. 

May we pray for discernment in our choice of church and pastors whose teachings we follow. May none of them be scribes.

Next time: Luke 21:1-4

 

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