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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.”

————————————————————–

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

 

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 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 20:39-44

39 Then some of the scribes answered, “Teacher, you have spoken well.” 40 For they no longer dared to ask him any question.

Whose Son Is the Christ?

41 But he said to them, “How can they say that the Christ is David’s son? 42 For David himself says in the Book of Psalms,

“‘The Lord said to my Lord,
“Sit at my right hand,
43  until I make your enemies your footstool.”’

44 David thus calls him Lord, so how is he his son?”

—————————————————————

This exchange takes place in Wednesday of Holy Week.

The scribes’ compliment to our Lord (verse 39) is in response to their question about marriage in heaven, about which you can read more in Mark 12:18-27.

Although Luke says this is the last challenge the hierarchy had for Jesus (verse 40), John MacArthur says that Matthew’s Gospel had one more:

Matthew records, though Luke does not, that the Pharisees, relentless guys they were, want to take one more shot.  So Matthew 22:33, “When the multitudes heard it, they were astonished at His teaching.”  As I said, it blew their minds.  “But when the Pharisees heard that He had put the Sadducees to silence, they gathered themselves together and came up with a question.”

They’re just gluttons for punishment, aren’t they?  He put the Sadducees to silence.  They came up with one more question, you know what it was?  “What’s the greatest commandment?”  And, of course, Matthew gives us that account.

Oh, by the way, after that question, even the Pharisees were done, Matthew 22:46.  “No one was able to answer Him a word, nor did anyone dare from that day – ” Wednesday “ – to ask Him another question.” 

Matthew 22:41-42 has a good introduction to Luke 20:41, illustrating more of the exchange Jesus had with the Pharisees:

41 Now while the Pharisees were gathered together, Jesus asked them a question, 42 saying, “What do you think about the Christ? Whose son is he?” They said to him, “The son of David.”

This establishes that they clearly believed that the Messiah would be a son of David. Matthew 1 gives a detailed account of Jesus’s lineage, establishing Him as one of King David’s descendants.

In the accounts from all three Synoptic Gospels, Jesus cites Psalm 110 (Luke 20:42-43). All Jews, from Old Testament days to the present, consider it a Messianic psalm. The Messiah would come from David’s family. MacArthur explains and includes Gospel passages where people referred to our Lord in this way:

Second Samuel 7:12-14 prophesies clearly the Messiah would come out of the line of David.  Read Psalm 89, you’ll find it there five, six times.  Messiah will come out of the loins of David.  Amos 9:11, Micah 5:2.  He’s going to be in David’s line.

Now this is commonly believed by the Jews of Jesus’ day.  It’s so obvious in the Old Testament, they all believed it.  For example, Matthew 9:27, “Jesus passed on, two blind men followed Him, crying out, saying, ‘Have mercy on us, Son of David!’ ”  Not only was the Messiah to be a Son of David, everybody knew that, but Jesus was, in fact, a Son of David.  He was in the Davidic line and apparently the people not only knew the Messiah would be a Son of David, but they knew Jesus was a Son of David.

In fact, this was a common expression in Matthew 12:23, after Jesus healed a demon-possessed man who was blind and dumb, “the multitudes were amazed and began to say, ‘This man can’t be the Son of David, can He?’ ”  So again indicating their understanding that the Messiah was to be a Son of David.

Matthew 15:22.  “A Canaanite woman came out from the region of Tyre and Sidon and began to cry out, ‘Have mercy on me, O Lord, Son of David; my daughter is cruelly demon-possessed’. ”  15:22, that was.  Matthew 20:30, a great multitude from Jericho, two blind men, again, and they say, “Lord, have mercy on us, Son of David.”  Then when He entered into the city, “Hosanna to the Son of David,” Matthew 21:9.  So everybody understood that.  Luke 18:38-39 also refers to the Jericho expression by the blind men, “Have mercy on us, Son of David.”

Jesus’s purpose in asking them how He is the son of David is to reinforce that He is the Messiah (verse 41). The Jewish hierarchy knew His family tree very well. All His family records would have been kept in the temple.

MacArthur says that Jesus is pointing out a ‘divine reality’. Yet, the religious leaders refused to believe this reality because they feared they would lose their power and prestige. Since then, MacArthur says that both Jews and deists have reinterpreted Psalm 110 in various ways to deny that Jesus is the Son of David:

It wasn’t long after the completion of the New Testament and the availability of this that the Jews changed their viewpoint of Psalm 110 and they said it refers to Abraham in some strange way.  And others said, “No.  It refers to Melchizedek.”  And others said, “No.  It is a reference to Judas Maccabeus,” who was a ruler from 135 to 143 – 143 to 135 B.C.  And those who came up with the Judas Maccabeus idea took the Hebrew and altered it to create an acrostic of the name of Judas Maccabees.  They were the originators of the Bible codes.  They did anything and everything they could do to manipulate the text of Psalm 110 to make it non-Messianic, because if it is the Messiah to whom the Lord is speaking and the Messiah surely is David’s Son, David also calls Him “his Lord”.

… some liberals came along and said, “Oh, David was wrong when he said this.  And it was just a crazy moment for David.  He was wrong.”  And if you were leading Luke, you might conclude that, well, David said it but he shouldn’t have said it. 

Yet:

What David said then was not wrong, it was right, absolutely right, absolutely accurate.  Same kind of construction there in Mark that you find in Acts 4:25, where it says, “By the Holy Spirit, through the mouth of our father David.”  It’s the same thing.  The Spirit of God inspired David to say it.  David said the Messiah who hasn’t even come yet is now, at this moment, my Lord.  That kind of reminds me of what Thomas said when He saw Jesus after His resurrection and said, “My Lord and my God.”

It is coincidental, although highly appropriate, that this passage appears during Advent. Jesus is the Son of David and the Son of God. Matthew Henry’s commentary says:

Christ, as God, was David’s Lord, but Christ, as man, was David’s Son. He was both the root and the offspring of David, Revelation 22:16. By his human nature he was the offspring of David, a branch of his family by his divine nature he was the root of David, from whom he had his being and life, and all the supplies of grace.

May we remember Christ’s complete divinity and complete humanity as we celebrate Christmas.

Forbidden Bible Verses will return in the New Year.

Next time: Luke 20:45-47

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 20:20-26

20 So they watched him and sent spies, who pretended to be sincere, that they might catch him in something he said, so as to deliver him up to the authority and jurisdiction of the governor. 21 So they asked him, “Teacher, we know that you speak and teach rightly, and show no partiality, but truly teach the way of God. 22 Is it lawful for us to give tribute to Caesar, or not?” 23 But he perceived their craftiness, and said to them, 24 “Show me a denarius.[b] Whose likeness and inscription does it have?” They said, “Caesar’s.” 25 He said to them, “Then render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.” 26 And they were not able in the presence of the people to catch him in what he said, but marveling at his answer they became silent.

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Last week’s reading, Luke 20:1-8, related that the chief priests, scribes and elders challenged Jesus’s authority with regard to His cleansing of the temple the previous day.

The entirety of Luke 20 involves various challenges to Him from different groups of the Jewish hierarchy.

By way of follow-up to their challenge of His authority, Jesus related the Parable of the Tenants, which I covered in my study of Mark’s Gospel two years ago in 2012.

The religious elite knew He was talking about them (Luke 20:19):

19 The scribes and the chief priests sought to lay hands on him at that very hour, for they perceived that he had told this parable against them, but they feared the people.

So, they decided to challenge him about paying taxes to Caesar.

To get a fuller appreciation of this exchange, it is helpful to also look at Mark’s and Matthew’s versions. I have emphasised in bold the differences from Luke’s account.

Mark 12:13-17:

Paying Taxes to Caesar

13 And they sent to him some of the Pharisees and some of the Herodians, to trap him in his talk. 14 And they came and said to him, “Teacher, we know that you are true and do not care about anyone’s opinion. For you are not swayed by appearances, but truly teach the way of God. Is it lawful to pay taxes to Caesar, or not? Should we pay them, or should we not?” 15 But, knowing their hypocrisy, he said to them, Why put me to the test? Bring me a denarius[d] and let me look at it.” 16 And they brought one. And he said to them, “Whose likeness and inscription is this?” They said to him, “Caesar’s.” 17 Jesus said to them, “Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.” And they marveled at him.

Matthew 22:15-22:

Paying Taxes to Caesar

15 Then the Pharisees went and plotted how to entangle him in his words. 16 And they sent their disciples to him, along with the Herodians, saying, “Teacher, we know that you are true and teach the way of God truthfully, and you do not care about anyone’s opinion, for you are not swayed by appearances. 17 Tell us, then, what you think. Is it lawful to pay taxes to Caesar, or not?” 18 But Jesus, aware of their malice, said, Why put me to the test, you hypocrites? 19 Show me the coin for the tax.” And they brought him a denarius. 20 And Jesus said to them, “Whose likeness and inscription is this?” 21 They said, “Caesar’s.” Then he said to them, “Therefore render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.” 22 When they heard it, they marveled. And they left him and went away.

Now on to Luke’s version of this incident. The religious authorities had to rely on the government to bring any charges against Jesus (verse 20). As we have read, the Herodians were involved in this attempt to see that He was at least arrested, if not sentenced to death.

John MacArthur explains the connection between the Pharisees and the Herodians in this regard:

In Mark 3:6, way back, long before this, way back at the start of Jesus’ Galilean ministry, it says, “The Pharisees went out and immediately began to take counsel with the Herodians against Jesus, as to how they might destroy Him.”  So they have been in alliance or collusion to get rid of Jesus literally for years.

He then outlines who these different groups were:

Scribes, Pharisees, priests, Herodians.  Some of the priests, no doubt, would have been Sadducees, as well.  Sadducees were the religious liberals.  Pharisees were the religious fanatics and fundamentalists.  Herodians were the politically motivated.  They were all together, along with the theologians called scribes.  All of them had the same common end, get rid of Jesus …

He adds:

They were anti-Rome, all of them, really.  They played whatever game they needed to play with Rome to keep their power, but they bitterly hated all things Roman and they knew the populous despised all things Roman.  But they needed Rome’s help, not just to execute Jesus, but they needed Rome to arrest Him, and they needed it quickly.  How were they going to do that?  Rome was hyper-sensitive about one crime, insurrection.  Insurrection

The Herodians were:

a political party of pro-Herod Jews.  They’re sort of the odd man out, in a sense.  The Jews did not particularly like the Herods.  They were not Jews, they were Hasmoneans.  And yet they had dominant power and rule in the land of Israel.  That was not a happy situation for the Jews, particularly for Pharisees and others who were zealous for Judaism.  But there were some who saw it expedient for themselves to be pro-Herod because the Herods were wealthy and powerful.  The Pharisees basically hated the Herodians cause the Herodians were pure politicians who wanted to be attached to the reigning power and knew to do that you have to play the game with Rome.  The Pharisees were willing do that a little bit, not to the degree that the Herodians were

The religious spies sought to entrap our Lord, so they tried to flatter Him (verses 20, 21). They then asked him if it was legal to pay tax to Rome (verse 23).

The Jews had to pay various taxes which they considered unjust as they considered the Romans a foreign occupier. The popular view was that the Messiah would liberate them from this system and restore Israel. A question about tax, therefore, was intended to force Jesus to make an insurrectionist statement, resulting in His arrest.

Around the time of our Lord’s birth a Jewish rebel named Judas of Galilee:

leads an insurrection against the Romans and he leads this insurrection against the Romans on the basis of the fact that they shouldn’t have to pay taxHe says, “God is our only Lord and ruler.”  And he revolts against the paying of census tax and any other tax because he says it is basically funding paganism and idolatry.

Well, they killed him  …  And everybody who was trying to follow his rebellion scattered all over every place. 

However, even though he lived thirty-odd years before, unjust tax was very much at the forefront in people’s minds.

Another issue was the nature of Roman coins themselves. MacArthur says that because they had Caesar’s image on them, the Jews declared them idolotrous. They carried local currency — shekels — or copper coins instead.

However, there is another subtext here which the spies hope to play against Jesus. The Roman coins carry a certain appellation, which Jesus rightly claims for Himself:

Augustus Caesar had coins minted in 17 B.C.  identifying himself as the son of God, which made those coins particularly repulsive to the Jews.  Tiberius Caesar had coins designating himself as high priest of God.  Well, since Jesus claimed to be the Son of God, and since He claimed to be the mediator between men and God, certainly He, if He is the true Messiah and a true prophet of God, sees these blasphemous idol coins for what they really are.  Really a clever plan.

Jesus, in His divinity, knows what they are thinking (verse 23). He considered their hypocrisy in running an ungodly commercial racket at the temple, which was why He cleansed it. Matthew Henry’s commentary describes His thought process as follows:

“Why then,” saith Christ, “you should first have asked whether it was lawful to pay and receive Cæsar’s money among yourselves, and to admit that to be the instrument of your commerce. But, having granted this by a common consent, you are concluded by your own act, and, no doubt, you ought to give tribute to him who furnished you with this convenience for your trade, protects you in it, and lends you the sanction of his authority for the value of your money …”

Jesus went on to ask for a denarius — a coin worth a full day’s wages — to illustrate what He was going to say (verse 24). MacArthur says that someone in the crowd would have had to provide one.

Once He has the coin, He illustrates the two-Kingdom principle by saying that the Romans are due their demands via taxation. Similarly, we are to render to God what is His (verse 25).

MacArthur expands on this:

There are some things in this world that belong to this world.  There are some things in this world that belong to the earth, that are earthly.  There are some things that belong in the providence of God to the temporal realm.  Do your temporal duty under God’s providence in history, the divine God Himself had brought Israel under Roman rule.  God had brought them there.  Caesar is their earthly king.  Caesar is their earthly ruler.  And they must support his rule because all government is ordained by God.  Romans 13.  Powers that be are ordained by God and they don’t carry the sword for nothing.  Government is ordained to protect the innocent and punish the evil. 

And the Romans did that.  They were powerful militarily and they produced peace, and security, and protection, and great roads, and shipping channels, and added to the prosperity of life.  This had value, and you paid for that.  We understand that.  We live in two realms as Christians.  We live in a worldly realm and we are obligated and we owe to that worldly realm what belongs to that worldly realm.  And in the providence of God, we happen to be the United States of America and if they want my tax money to provide the highways and fix the bridges and do the rest, then that’s their right.  And this is a world I live in.  Is it Christ honoring?  God-exalting?  No.  But it’s not supposed to be.

He adds:

The church is not to become the critic of civil government, neither by war, by civil disobedience, or by political power are we supposed to control civil government.  This is not a sacral society.  This is not a theocratic kingdom.  America is not, neither is any other earthly nation.

Give Caesar what’s Caesar’s and thank God that providentially you are under a government that you are under because there are some far, far worse in places of the world and through history than this.  But whatever it is, we are known as good citizens.  That is the message of the apostle Paul to Timothy and to Titus, if you remember.

This reading is yet more proof that Jesus did not come to Earth to effect a temporal socio-political transformation. Oddly, many Christians today are under the same misconception as the Jews of Jesus’s era in their liberation theology and theonomy. They believe this in error. What makes it worse is their approach to the Gospel, which they view as a spiritual ‘analogy’ (their word) for deliverance in this world.  It is not going to happen. It is not meant to happen.

The spies ‘marvelled’ at Jesus’s answer (verse 26). He had evaded their trap once again. However, as we shall see next week, the religious leaders would continue to challenge Him.

In closing, it is helpful to mention that the hierarchy were becoming increasingly nervous about Jesus’s teaching and His great following among the people. They worried for their own positions of power. Consequently, they wanted rid of Him as soon as possible. MacArthur tells us:

You see, popularity, acceptance, elevation, honor, respect came to them from the people.  They fed on it.  In fact, it was essential to feeding their self righteous egos.  They loved to draw attention to themselves.  They loved to wear certain clothes, and act in certain ways, and carry on certain behaviors that drew people’s attention to them and made them seem pious, and holy, and elevated, and superior.  They sought the chief seats at the banquets, Jesus said in Matthew 23.  They wanted people to call them “father, teacher, master.”  They needed the people like all false religious leaders do …

And they had nothing but contempt for the people.  They despised them, thought them lower than they, never invited them to their homes, or their luncheons, or their dinners, or their banquets.  Had no contact with them.  They were not God pleasers but they were not man pleasers, either.  They were self pleasers who fed their proud souls on the accolades of those that they intimidated and abused.  And they knew that if Jesus was arrested by the Romans, the people’s hopes in Him would be crushed, and they would get rid of Him, and secure their ongoing prominence

So they’re full of hate and they’re full of pride.  And they have to find another way because they can’t just lay hands on Him – which is a term that means “seize Him” and “take Him away” either to kill Him or to the Romans to have Him killed –  until they have a reason.  And if they did that with no apparent reason before the people, the people would turn on them.  So they have to turn the attitude of the people.

As for us, Henry has a word of warning for clergymen regarding entrapment by the ungodly:

Note, Ministers are concerned to stand upon their guard against some that feign themselves to be just men, and to be wise as serpents when they are in the midst of a generation of vipers and scorpions.

Next time: Luke 20:39-44

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 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 20:1-8

The Authority of Jesus Challenged

1 One day, as Jesus[a] was teaching the people in the temple and preaching the gospel, the chief priests and the scribes with the elders came up and said to him, “Tell us by what authority you do these things, or who it is that gave you this authority.” He answered them, “I also will ask you a question. Now tell me, was the baptism of John from heaven or from man?” And they discussed it with one another, saying, “If we say, ‘From heaven,’ he will say, ‘Why did you not believe him?’ But if we say, ‘From man,’ all the people will stone us to death, for they are convinced that John was a prophet.” So they answered that they did not know where it came from. And Jesus said to them, “Neither will I tell you by what authority I do these things.”

———————————————————–

The dialogue in this reading took place the Wednesday before our Lord’s crucifixion.

The day before He cleansed the temple, described in last week’s post.

Jesus spent these last few days teaching and healing in the temple. The Jewish hierarchy confronted him (verse 1). In analysing the King James Version of this confrontation — using the words ‘came upon him — Matthew Henry’s commentary tells us that their manner was meant to intimidate (emphasis in the original):

II. That his enemies are here said to come upon himepestesan. The word is used only here, and it intimates,

1. That they thought to surprise him with this question they came upon him suddenly, hoping to catch him unprovided with an answer, as if this were not a thing he had himself thought of.

2. That they thought to frighten him with this question. They came upon him in a body, with violence.

John MacArthur agrees:

Ephistēmi is the Greek verb.  It means “to attack, to come upon, to pounce on.”  It’s inevitable.  They can’t contain their outrage.  And they’re trying to restrain themselves, and they do it by forming a question that masks their real hostility in a sort of theological case.  But they come after Him with a vengeance. 

He says that it is important that we understand that those who approached Jesus had very different theological outlooks on Judaism but that they all agreed in opposing Him:

Please notice, it is the chief priests and the scribes with the elders.  It’s really important.  The chief priests would encompass the high priests, the one that was immediately under the high priest, kind of a captain of the priests from which high priests were selected, who had responsibility to oversee just about everything.  Then there would be ranking orders of priests, priests who were over the priests who were doing their two-week service there per year.  There were all kinds of authorities and dignitaries.  They’re collectively represented in the chief priests. 

Then the scribes represent the theologians.  Many of them were Pharisees.  Not all of them were Pharisees, many of them were.  And the elders would be the remaining ones, including – the chief priests would be made up of mostly Sadducees, the elders would be some Sadducees, probably some from the Herodians, some from the Pharisees, they would constitute the Sanhedrin, the group of 70 men who were the reigning group over the affairs of religion. 

So a delegation comes to Him of this collective body.  And what is so interesting about it is this.  These are divergent groups.  The Sadducees had their own views.  The Pharisees had very diverse views.  The Herodians had their own views, very diverse again.  They are all very diverse groups who agree on one thing:  We want this man dead.  The whole religious establishment is unified on this account.  All divergent groups are commonly united in the desire to kill their Messiah.  If that doesn’t tell you how far from God Judaism was, I don’t know what would.  They couldn’t agree on much, but they could agree on this.  They wanted Jesus dead.  It’s a good lesson.  All false religions have their own diversities, but all false religions agree in taking a position opposite the gospel of Jesus Christ.

They ask Him what authority He has to ‘do these things’ (verse 2). MacArthur explains what these words refer to:

What has caused them to ask this question is the cleansing of the temple.  That’s “these things.”  How dare you take over this place?  “These things” meaning the triumphal entry, the claim that you are willing to accept as the Messiah.  You come in, You clean the place out, and then You take it over.  By what authority?

Jesus responds with a question (verses 3 and 4), the classic way of teaching and used in good rabbinical dialogue. In this instance:

Jesus is not evading the answer, He’s unmasking their hypocrisy. 

He had backed them into a corner and they had to consider their answer about John the Baptist’s ministry (verses 5 and 6). They themselves never went to be baptised. They considered themselves above baptism, which traditionally was given to Gentiles converting to the Jewish faith. These men had their earthly power and authority already. They did not consider they had any reason for personal repentance of sin.

They also could not criticise John the Baptist because the people rightly considered him as a prophet. Indeed, he was the first prophet they had had in four centuries. Although he appears only in the Gospels, he is the one who bridges the Old and New Testaments. The people grasped his message; the hierarchy did not. Yet, because of his popularity, these men dared not say he preached from earthly authority for fear of a backlash from the crowd.

Therefore, the chief priests, scribes and elders responded that they did not know the source of John the Baptist’s authority (verse 7). They took a safe — and stubborn — option when they actually knew that it was divinely inspired. They just denied it. It was too threatening to their privilege. The Gospels, especially John’s, record many similar confrontations.

So Jesus ends this encounter by saying that He will not state anymore by whose authority He does ‘these things’ (verse 8).

Henry concludes (emphases mine):

(3.) It is not strange if those that are governed by reputation and secular interest imprison the plainest truths, and smother and stifle the strongest convictions, as these priests and scribes did, who, to save their credit, would not own that John’s baptism was from heaven, and had no other reason why they did not say it was of men but because they feared the people. What good can be expected from men of such a spirit? (4.) Those that bury the knowledge they have are justly denied further knowledge. It was just with Christ to refuse to give an account of his authority to them that knew the baptism of John to be from heaven and would not believe in him, nor own their knowledge, Luke 20:7,8.

MacArthur says:

The confrontation led to the counter-question, and finally the condemnation.  This is one of those really sad, sad statements.  “Jesus said to them, ‘Neither will I tell you by what authority I do these things.’ ”  That is just tragic.  Jesus is saying essentially, “Based on what you’ve done with the information you have, I’m not giving you any more.  It’s over.” 

They rejected all the light willfully, no reason to give them more.  This is judgment on the religious leadership of Israel, judgment.

He explains that this also happened in the Old Testament:

There comes a time when God says, “I have no more to say to you.”  Isaiah reiterates it, Isaiah 63:10, “They rebelled, they grieved His Holy Spirit: therefore He turned Himself to become their enemy.  He fought against them.”  Jeremiah chapter 11, very similar, a couple of verses, verse 7 and 11, “For I solemnly warned your fathers in the day that I brought them up from the land of Egypt, even to this day, warning persistently saying, ‘Listen to My voice.’ ”  They didn’t.  Verse 11, “Therefore, thus says the Lord, ‘I’m bringing disaster on them which they will not be able to escape; and though they will cry to Me, yet I will not listen to them.’ ” 

I pray that none of us ever rejects our Lord, causing God to leave us to our own devices — ultimately, eternal condemnation.

Next time: Luke 20:20-26

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