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The Twelfth Sunday after Trinity is on September 4, 2022.

Readings for Year C can be found here.

The Gospel reading is as follows (emphases mine):

Luke 14:25-33

14:25 Now large crowds were traveling with him; and he turned and said to them,

14:26 “Whoever comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, yes, and even life itself, cannot be my disciple.

14:27 Whoever does not carry the cross and follow me cannot be my disciple.

14:28 For which of you, intending to build a tower, does not first sit down and estimate the cost, to see whether he has enough to complete it?

14:29 Otherwise, when he has laid a foundation and is not able to finish, all who see it will begin to ridicule him,

14:30 saying, ‘This fellow began to build and was not able to finish.’

14:31 Or what king, going out to wage war against another king, will not sit down first and consider whether he is able with ten thousand to oppose the one who comes against him with twenty thousand?

14:32 If he cannot, then, while the other is still far away, he sends a delegation and asks for the terms of peace.

14:33 So therefore, none of you can become my disciple if you do not give up all your possessions.

Commentary comes from Matthew Henry and John MacArthur.

We are in the middle of Luke’s episodes of our Lord’s teachings. These began in Luke 9 and continue through most of Luke 19.

Last week, we had His lesson on humility to the Pharisee and his guests where He had gone to share a sabbath meal. It was a foresight into the kingdom of God.

Today’s reading is about the gravity of discipleship. It is not to be taken lightly.

Luke tells us that large crowds were travelling with Jesus when He turned around to speak to them (verse 25).

Matthew Henry’s commentary asks us to note the contrast in the lesson taught with last week’s:

See how Christ in his doctrine suited himself to those to whom he spoke, and gave every one his portion of meat. To Pharisees he preached humility and charity. He is in these verses directing his discourse to the multitudes that crowded after him, and seemed zealous in following him; and his exhortation to them is to understand the terms of discipleship, before they undertook the profession of it, and to consider what they did.

John MacArthur calls this lesson ‘extreme’ in its seriousness:

we find ourselves in the 14th chapter of Luke at a time in the life of our Lord when He is moving from town to town and village to village and He is preaching to the people, doing miracles, healing. Always, He is calling people to follow Him, to become His disciples, to come after Him. And in paragraph after paragraph we hear the words of Jesus. In this particular one we have a very strong call to discipleship. And it is an example of how Jesus always called people to follow Him. In fact, the words that He gives here are found in many other places in the four gospels, very similar words or almost exactly the same words, so we know this to be a constant pattern in His teaching. And His calls are extreme by any measure.

Henry says that many people thought Jesus was an earthly Messiah who would bless Israel and give them an easy, prosperous life over the Romans.

However, they were mistaken:

There went great multitudes with him, many for love and more for company, for where there are many there will be more …

He takes it for granted that they had a mind to be his disciples, that they might be qualified for preferment in his kingdom. They expected that he should say, “If any man come to me, and be my disciple, he shall have wealth and honour in abundance; let me alone to make him a great man.” But he tells them quite the contrary.

He said that those who come to Him who do not hate — dislike, not despise — their family members or their own lives in preferment to Him cannot be His disciples (verse 26).

The word for ‘hate’ is not a cruel or hostile one. Students of the Old Testament know that ‘hate’ was used in the story of Jacob and Esau in Genesis.

MacArthur explains:

Is He talking about emotional hate, psychological hate?  Is He talking about a bitter, angry, hostile attitude? That would be contrary to everything we know about the fact that Jesus said we’re to love one another.  No.  You have to understand that this is a kind of Hebraistic expression.  You remember, Jesus also said this:  “No man can serve two masters. He will love the one and hate the other.”  It’s a way to indicate preference or loving one more and loving one less.  And that’s precisely what Jesus said in Matthew 10:37 when He said almost the same thing, only He said there if anyone loves father, mother more than Me or wife or husband more than Me or brother, sister more than Me, he cannot be My disciple.  So when you compare that passage, this is simply a way to speak of preference, loving one more and another less.  It’s what He said as well in the Old Testament repeated in the New, “Jacob have I loved and Esau have I hated.”  It does not mean that God literally, emotionally hated and despised Esau.  It meant that His priority, His covenant, His promise, His love in that sense with all of the implications was given to Jacob and not to Esau; Jacob, then being the preferred one.  The Old Testament also says if a man has two wives, he’ll love one and hate the other and all it means is not that he will actually love one and despise the other emotionally but rather one will be preferred over the other.  And that is what Jesus is saying here.  You have to understand this, that while your priority may have been in time past the relationships around you and you did what those around you wanted you to do, your family, those that were intimately in your lifes…in your life, they were the ones who basically charted your course, because those relationships meant so much to you, those are all sublimated…those are all subordinated.  From now on, you love Me with all your heart, soul, mind and strength.  What honors Me, what pleases Me, what I desire, what I will, what I command as the Lord of your life takes precedent over all other demands and relationships.  He also said at the end of verse 26, this is not just true of the people around you; this is true of your own self viewYou have to hate your own life.  What does that mean?  That you have some kind of morbid, suicidal attitude?  That you’re somewhat masochistic or self-destructive?  No.  What it means is that you consider yourself and your will and your ambition and your desire and your purposes as minor, miniscule, unimportant compared to your desire to do what honors your Lord.  When you come to Me, Jesus says, you’re not just adding Me to your life.  I’m not just decoration.  I’m not just the topping.  I’m going to take over.  You will receive eternal life.  You will receive a place in heaven.  You will receive blessing in time and unlimited and inexplicable blessing throughout eternity.  Your sins will all be forgivenGrace, peace, joy, fulfillment forever will be yoursBut for that gift I want to take control of your life so that I may truly fulfill it, truly satisfy it and truly use it for My glory and your good.  That’s why Romans 8:28 says, “All things work together for good to those that love God.”  Why?  Because God is working what is best for time and eternity in and through those who are His own.  You’re willing then to subordinate all relationships to the lordship of Christ.  You’re willing to subordinate your own life.  Literally, it’s a kind of death.  It’s a kind of death.  You lose your life to find it.  You die to live.

It was six months before His death that Jesus delivered this lesson on discipleship. No one, other than He, knew that the Crucifixion was looming. Yet, He told the people that whoever does not carry the cross and follow Him cannot be His disciple (verse 27).

Henry intimates that, even if we are not called to do so, we must be prepared for such an eventuality:

He must bear his cross, and come after Christ; that is, he must bear it in the way of his duty, whenever it lies in that way. He must bear it when Christ calls him to it, and in bearing it he must have an eye to Christ, and fetch encouragements from him, and live in hope of a recompence with him.

MacArthur agrees that this is not a figurative expression and that this is the most serious consideration we can ever make in our lives:

The price for following Jesus in those days and in history in many places and even today in parts of the world, you name the name of Jesus Christ, it could cost you your life. The cross here is simply a symbol of death. It was a torture instrument used to execute people. It’s not a mystical idea. It’s a very concrete way to express martyrdom. Are you willing to give your life? Are you willing, not only to give up your desires, your ambitions, your dreams, your hopes, all the things that you think are your well-crafted purposes and plans, abandoning them to My sovereign authority, subordinating them to My will, but even to the point where it could cost you your life? Are you willing to say with the apostle Paul, “For to me to live is Christ and to die is gain”? Are you willing to say that? Are you so eager to have your sins forgiven and the hope of eternal life that if it cost you even your life in this world, that’s a small price to pay?

Jesus then cited two practical examples to illustrate His lesson.

The first was about the building of a tower, probably a manned watchtower to guard farmed fields. Who would not do an estimate first and seriously consider whether he has enough money to complete it (verse 28)?

Henry says that the same holds true of our commitment to Christ, but he begins with a practical material calculation, which was as true then as it is now:

he must be sure to count upon a great deal more than his workmen will tell him it will cost.

[2.] Those that intend to build this tower must sit down and count the cost. Let them consider that it will cost them the mortifying of their sins, even the most beloved lusts; it will cost them a life of self-denial and watchfulness, and a constant course of holy duties; it may, perhaps, cost them their reputation among men, their estates and liberties, and all that is dear to them in this world, even life itself. And if it should cost us all this, what is it in comparison with what it cost Christ to purchase the advantages of religion for us, which come to us without money and without price? [3.] Many that begin to build this tower do not go on with it, nor persevere in it, and it is their folly; they have not courage and resolution, have not a rooted fixed principle, and so bring nothing to pass. It is true, we have none of us in ourselves sufficient to finish this tower, but Christ hath said, My grace is sufficient for thee, and that grace shall not be wanting to any of us, if we seek for it and make use of it. [4.] Nothing is more shameful than for those that have begun well in religion to break off; every one will justly mock him, as having lost all his labour hitherto for want of perseverance. We lose the things we have wrought (2 John 8), and all we have done and suffered is in vain, Gal 3 4.

MacArthur gives us an insight into Middle Eastern culture which would have resonated with our Lord’s audience:

Now, you’ve got to understand, the ancient Near East is an honor-shame culture. You just don’t do things that bring shame on yourself. It’s very important to protect your honor. And the point is, when you’re going to do something as formidable as build a tower…this isn’t the little shack, this isn’t something alongside the house or an addition. We’re talking about a tower. It might have been a watchtower, because in ancient days, enemies attacked by burning fields, sowing tares in the fields and so towers were often built in these great estates from which the people could protect their land. They were used sometimes as great grain storage places like we have silos today. This would be a rather large enterprise, not just a minimal kind of enterprise, but this man is going to build a big tower and everybody in the community is going to know it. And nobody would do that if he was going to wind up with nothing but a foundation and everybody laughing at him … When you’re going to build a tower, he says in verse 28, you’re going to sit down and you’re going to calculate the cost to see if you have enough to complete it. Otherwise you’re left with a half-finished building and a permanent monument to your stupidity. That’s a big issue in an honor-shame environment. You want to make sure…here’s the operative word…that you can finish, that you can complete it.

Otherwise, Jesus said, when the man can afford to lay only a foundation and not finish the tower, all who see it will begin to ridicule him (verse 29); they will say, ‘This fellow began to build and was not able to finish’ (verse 30).

MacArthur points out that ‘this fellow’ or ‘this man’ is derogatory in the original Greek:

In fact, in verse 30, the expression “this man” in the original Greek is derogatory. It could be translated “this fellow,” a kind of a scorn or ridiculing approach. Began to build and wasn’t able to finish…That is a huge element of dishonor in the thinking of the ancient Near East.

There is another Greek element to this:

And verse 30, you don’t want people to say you were not able to finish.  The two times the word “finish” is used, verses 29 and 30, it uses the word ekteleō. Teleō is to finish.  Teleō…Jesus said tetelestai, which is a form of that, on the cross: “It is finished.”  It’s a pretty…pretty final word.  But when you add an ek to it, you compound its intensity, to really finish, to finish to the very last component.  You don’t want your life exposed to ridicule.  So what’s Jesus saying?  He’s saying, look don’t come to Me on some emotional level.  Don’t come to Me because you’re feeling some disappointment, you’re feeling some confusion in your life, you have been left in the lurch in some relationship and you’re looking for a skyhook.  Don’t come to Me to pacify you over some temporary matter.  Don’t come to Me with any kind of superficiality.  I’m telling you, you must, first of all, be willing to abandon all the priorities of the past that have dominated your life so that it is a kind of dying in order to live.  And you’ve got to assess the legitimacy and the integrity of the expression that you’re making at this point to be sure you really have what it takes to finish this.  Are you…Are you just responding to a moment’s emotion? 

Henry says:

Begin low, and lay the foundation deep, lay it on the rock, and make sure work, and then aim as high as heaven.

One cannot say fairer than that in either a practical or spiritual sense.

The second practical example Jesus laid before the crowd was that of a king about to wage war. Would he not consider that if he has 10,000 troops he might not wish to go to war with an opponent who has twice as many troops (verse 31)? He will send a delegation to negotiate peace instead (verse 32).

Henry says that this is not unlike the consideration of spiritual warfare in our Christian journey:

Note, [1.] The state of a Christian in this world is a military state. Is not the Christian life a warfare? We have many passes in our way, that must be disputed with dint of sword; nay, we must fight every step we go, so restless are our spiritual enemies in their opposition. [2.] We ought to consider whether we can endure the hardness which a good soldier of Jesus Christ must expect and count upon, before we enlist ourselves under Christ’s banner; whether we are able to encounter the forces of hell and earth, which come against us twenty thousand strong. [3.] Of the two it is better to make the best terms we can with the world than pretend to renounce it and afterwards, when tribulation and persecution arise because of the word, to return to it.

MacArthur points out that no ruler will go to war if he thinks he will lose. He will try to negotiate a peace:

… if he comes up with the conclusion that he can’t win, verse 32 says, while the other is still far away, he’s going to send a delegation and ask terms of peace. He’s going to send a delegation and say: “Look, we know you can defeat us so what do you want? There’s no sense in spilling all this blood to get to the same end that we could get to by negotiating. So we lose a little of our freedom. So we have an occupation. At least we’re alive.” No king would go to battle and put himself and all those who were following him in danger if there was a way to negotiate a peace.

Then comes our Lord’s often misunderstood conclusion: no one can be His disciple unless they give up all their possessions (verse 33).

Henry says that, if we love our possessions more than anything else, it is not a good idea to pretend to become a disciple of Jesus:

That young man that could not find in his heart to part with his possessions for Christ did better to go away from Christ sorrowing than to have staid with him dissembling.

MacArthur explains the Greek used in this verse:

“No one of you can be My disciple who will or does not give up all his own possessions.”  In what sense do you give them up?  Well, how do you become a Christian?  By selling everything you have and giving it away and becoming a beggar?  Is that what He’s talking about?  Maybe there’s some help with the Greek here.  The original language in verse 33, “give up,” apotassō, say good-bye to.  That’s exactly what it means, to say good-bye to.  In what sense?  Well, it’s not calling for socialism. It’s not calling for you to sell your house, sell your car, sell all your possessions in your house and go out on the street and beg.  That’s not what it’s saying.  What it’s calling for is thisYou become a steward of everything and an owner of nothing.  What you’re saying is: I don’t have any relationships that aren’t subordinated to your lordship I don’t have any self-interests that aren’t subordinated to your lordship.  It doesn’t mean that I ignore my family, cease loving my family.  I want to love my family and maybe love my family more.  It doesn’t mean that I stop my education; that I stop moving down a path to do whatever I can do and to be the best I can be in whatever field I choose to the honor of the Lord.  It doesn’t mean that I unload everything I have.  It just means that all of that is subordinated to what God wants for me.  I hold to nothing in this world, not the relationships, not my self-interests and not the stuff, not my money and my possessions.  I am a steward of all of it and I want to discharge that stewardship before God.  I want to take care of my relationships.  I want to take care of my family.  I want to love them.  I want to take care of my life.  I want to be disciplined.  I want to be healthy.  I want to be useful to the Lord in a physical sense.  I want to make my mind and my body all that it can be to serve Him.  And I…and I want to use whatever He’s given me, a house and a car and a bank account for the glory of His kingdom.  But all of it is subject to His sovereign design.  That’s all He’s saying.  He’s saying: What would you be willing to give up … And if you had plans and ambitions in certain things and I asked you to do other than that and My Spirit directed you to give your life in some service over here, would you be willing to do that?  And even if I asked you to die in the cause, would you do that?  And if I asked you to take everything you have like He asked the rich young ruler in Luke 18, if I asked you to take everything you have, sell it all and give it to the poor, would you be willing to do that?  It isn’t that you’re going to have to do that.  I don’t know what God’s purposes are.  God hasn’t stripped me of everything and He hasn’t stripped all of us of everything.  But I do understand unequivocally that I am a steward of everything and an owner of nothing.  And my priority is this: to love the Lord my God, to love my Christ with all my heart, soul, mind, and strength beyond any love I have for my family, for myself, or for anything in this world.  This is what Jesus is asking.  He’s not asking you to sort of tack Him onto all your stuff and all your self-interests and all your relationships …  Becoming Christ’s disciple demands an abandonment of past priorities.  Everything changes.  It is a whole new life view.  The apostle Paul, Philippians 3:8, says, I looked at it all.  When I saw Christ, I looked at everything in my past and, boy, there were some wonderful things.  And I counted it manure…that’s what he said…compared to Christ.  And he said I ran to Christ to receive a righteousness not my own.  And now all I want, he said in Philippians 3, is to know Him.

MacArthur concludes in a condemnation of the prayer call and the false prosperity theology:

Jesus doesn’t say, hey, just pray the prayer; don’t worry about it — which would be a typical way to approach it. He says don’t even think of this until you know that what is going on in your heart will carry you to its completion. Step back. So when you evangelize somebody and you give them the gospel, you say, now that you understand the gospel, you understand the objective facts of the gospel, Jesus, God in human flesh, lives a sinless life, virgin-born, lives a sinless life, dies a substitutionary death for sinners, raised…is raised from the dead, ascends to the Father, intercedes for us, comes again, you give them the whole layout of the gospel, salvation by grace alone, faith alone and Christ alone, now you know all that? Yes, yes, I know that. Do you believe that? I think I believe that. Oh, good, pray this prayer. No. Let’s back up a little bit. Now, do you understand that He’s saying you’re going to need to love Him as Lord and He’s going to take the priority over your family, over yourself, and over all your stuff? You become an owner of nothing, even relationships, even your own life, everything you possess. You become a steward of everything. At the discretion that God prompts, it is used for His glory and it may even cost you your life. Step back. Don’t be in a hurry here. And assess whether you really have what it takes to build this tower, whether you’ve really assessed what this is going to cost you. That’s all these little stories are intended to say, that when you come against something that is formidable and has massive implications for you or for all the people around you; for you, in the case of the tower, for everybody that is around you, in the case of the king; this has massive implications. You better back up and make sure you have assessed your present powers. And is this faith the real deal? Is this repentance the real repentance? Jesus is halting people. He’s putting the brakes on … You have nothing to fear in saying to someone, “I want you to think about this, I want you to consider the cost carefully.” You have nothing to fear. What you’re doing is stopping people from superficial, non-saving delusion. You’re backing them off and saying, let’s find out whether this is really the work of the Spirit of God and what is happening in your life is not a momentary, emotional thing, but what is happening in your life is the true, regenerating work of the Holy Spirit producing an unrelenting repentance and an undying faith that will go through every barrier. You do all the important things in life by calculating carefully. This is the most important thing you’ll ever do. This is more important than any tower you’ll ever build, more important than any enemy you’ll ever meet. And so the Lord says, you want to be My disciple, do you? Well, you have to abandon your past priorities and you have to assess your present powers.

Following Christ is a serious commitment and not one to be taken lightly.

God is not our butler, nor is His Son. We serve God through His Son.

It is not about our needs or desires, it is about the divine will working through our lives.

May all reading this have a blessed Sunday.

The Eleventh Sunday after Trinity is on August 28, 2022.

Readings for Year C can be found here.

The Gospel reading is as follows (emphases mine):

Luke 14:1, 7-14

14:1 On one occasion when Jesus was going to the house of a leader of the Pharisees to eat a meal on the sabbath, they were watching him closely.

14:7 When he noticed how the guests chose the places of honor, he told them a parable.

14:8 “When you are invited by someone to a wedding banquet, do not sit down at the place of honor, in case someone more distinguished than you has been invited by your host;

14:9 and the host who invited both of you may come and say to you, ‘Give this person your place,’ and then in disgrace you would start to take the lowest place.

14:10 But when you are invited, go and sit down at the lowest place, so that when your host comes, he may say to you, ‘Friend, move up higher’; then you will be honored in the presence of all who sit at the table with you.

14:11 For all who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.”

14:12 He said also to the one who had invited him, “When you give a luncheon or a dinner, do not invite your friends or your brothers or your relatives or rich neighbors, in case they may invite you in return, and you would be repaid.

14:13 But when you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, and the blind.

14:14 And you will be blessed, because they cannot repay you, for you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous.”

Commentary comes from Matthew Henry and John MacArthur.

This post is long; as last week’s explained how synagogues developed, this week’s discusses how the Pharisees came to be so powerful.

We are in the middle of Luke’s accounts of our Lord’s teaching the disciples and others with whom He came in contact. These lessons began in Luke 9 and extend to Luke 19. We are in the last six months of His ministry.

Luke 14 begins with an account of Jesus going to the house of a leader of the Pharisees for a meal on the sabbath; He was being watched closely (verse 1).

The King James Version and other translations say ‘eat bread’ rather than ‘eat a meal’.

John MacArthur explains:

It says “to eat bread” and the reason they ate bread on the Sabbath is because you couldn’t cook anything and so the bread would have to be made the day before Couldn’t do any work on the Sabbath.  That meant you couldn’t cook anything and they would probably have something you could dip the bread in and it was pretty much what the meal was all about.

Even today, some devout Jews ensure that cooking, normally a stew that can stay warm, is done before the sabbath. Some Jews employ a shabbos goy, a Gentile who serves them and takes care of basic needs on the Sabbath, like turning on the lights when it gets dark. It is said that this custom is falling out of use, thanks to electronic timers. A number of famous men were shabbos goys, including Harry S Truman and Barack Obama.

Matthew Henry’s commentary says that the Pharisee did not have good intentions in inviting Jesus to his home:

The Pharisee that invited him, it should seem, did it with a design to pick some quarrel with him; if it were so, Christ knew it, and yet went, for he knew himself a match for the most subtle of them, and knew how to order his steps with an eye to his observers. Those that are watched had need to be wary. It is, as Dr. Hammond observes, contrary to all laws of hospitality to seek advantage against one that you invited to be your guest, for such a one you have taken under your protection. These lawyers and Pharisees, like the fowler that lies in wait to ensnare the birds, held their peace, and acted very silently.

In last week’s reading from Luke 13, Jesus healed the bent over woman in the synagogue on the sabbath, so they knew He performed miracles which they considered to be work. Jesus rightly accused His critics of hypocrisy and turned their man-made rules on them, saying that they had no problem untying their ox or donkey on the sabbath to give them water.

Our Lord’s opponents were put to shame as the congregation rejoiced at His healing the woman, who had been suffering for 18 years from an evil spirit that caused her to be bent over.

MacArthur recaps the end of Luke 13, which provides further context for today’s reading:

He is moving, although not in a direct line, from town and village around the area of Judea, ultimately headed to that final Passover in Jerusalem …

Chapter 13 ends with a judgment pronunciation Verse 34, Jesus says, “Oh Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those sent to her, how often I wanted to gather your children together just as a hen gathers her brood under her wings and you would not have it.  Behold your house is left to you, desolate.  And I say to you, you shall not see me until the time comes when you say, ‘Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord.’”  It’s over for you, He says.  I tried to gather you often.  You would not. You are the city that kills the prophets, stones the messengers of God and, of course, they would kill Him as well.

Regular readers of these exegeses and Forbidden Bible Verses know how spiritually blind the Jewish leaders were and how determined they were to kill Jesus.

MacArthur explains how the Pharisees came to be so powerful and why most Jews obeyed them:

They were, of course, sinful and they loved their sin.  And they were in darkness and they chose their darkness, but they were confirmed in this condition by their religion, which made the bondage so strong And the ones who wrapped them in this bondage were none other than their religious leaders.  The Bible warns from front to back about false teachers and the deadly, eternally destructive impact they have on people.  Satan, himself, is disguised as an angel of light, purveying false religion in order to capture men’s souls.  All his messengers are angels of light says the Bible.  They come offering light; they bring only darkness and death.

Hosea put it this way, “Like people, like priest.”  People are like their leaders The Jews had rejected the Messiah.  They had rejected their Lord, their Redeemer, their Savior, the Son of God and consequently they forfeited salvation and they forfeited an entrance into the kingdom of heaven and they forfeited eternal life, missing forever what they had for centuries waited for.  Now how did they get so deep into a religious system that they could come to the conclusion that their very Messiah, Redeemer and the Son of God was an agent of Satan meant to distract them away from the truth and thus they needed to eliminate Him?

How could they be so wrong?  The answer is they were led astray by their trusted leaders, who had wrapped them up in the chains of a system of religion that doomed them to hell.  And who were these leaders?  Well, they’re Pharisees … 

They were good.  They were moral.  They were fastidious about God’s law.  They were religious, extremely religious, extremely moral, extremely on the outside righteous The people were sure they were the favorites of God and knew the way to heaven This is very informational historically, but it’s much more than that.  It’s very applicational in terms of our world today because the assumption today is that it’s the good people who can be sure they’re going to heaven You hear this all the time.  The good people are going to go to heaven, particularly the good religious people.  I mean, if you’re good you’ll probably get there, but if you’re good and religious you’re a shoe-in

These people were well intentioned. They were driven by their religious beliefs.  And the Son of God came into conflict with them.  They were the fastidious architects of popular Judaism, which dominated the thinking of the people at the time of Jesus and before and after.  And when Jesus came and told them that the system was not of God and that it would not usher them into the kingdom of God, he became their archenemy.  The truth of the matter is that those religious leaders, as zealous as they were, as passionate, as loyal to their system as they were, as careful as they were, were driving people away from the kingdom of God

… You have to understand this was a very, very compelling system Let me give you a little background.  Pharisees were devout.  They were religious.  If you saw one in the street, you hailed him.  They loved to be called father and teacher and rabbi and master.  And they cultivated that.  They cultivated it everywhere they went.  They expected people to revere them and honor them And they were easily identifiable, for they enlarged all the apparatus that they wore, whether it was the phylacteries on their arms or their heads or the tassels on their garments, they were clearly Pharisees and when people came across a Pharisee, they were expected to revere them.

And when there was an occasion to have a meal, they wanted the top seats.  They put themselves in places of prominence and demanded that people recognize their devotion and their extreme righteousness They are a classic illustration of how damning the most serious kind of religion can be, even Judaism.  And they illustrate for us why our Lord Jesus turned from Israel to the Gentiles

The Pharisees might have had good intentions in mind centuries before, as they championed a religious revival in opposition to paganism from the Greeks and then the Romans. However, they became too powerful in all the wrong ways:

As Greek and Roman culture began to seep into the land of Israel, they became concerned that the people were buying into these idolatrous fashions, these pagan superstitions, these ideas, these philosophies that were very seductive.  And so at a time in the history of Judaism when the Jews were being most influenced by the Greeks, first of all, and then by the Romans, the Pharisees began to collect themselves.  The term simply means separatists.

They were separatists. They wanted to separate from the culture, the world that was encroaching upon them and pull back into the purity of Judaism They became especially prominent in the period between the Old and the New Testament around 160 B.C. that we know as Maccabean Period This was at a time when the Greeks were dominating the land and Greek culture and Greek immorality and Greek thought and Greek religion was seeping in.  It was at that time that this movement began.  They were really a return to the…to the Old Testament.  It was a back to the Bible movement.  It was a fundamentalist movement.  It was a restoration movement.  It was a recovery.  Perhaps the two most notable of them would be Rabbi Hillel and Rabbi Shammai Both lived in the decades just prior to ChristThey had a great influence.

So that their particular legacy shows up in some of the discussions and debates that Jesus has. And when He’s debating with some of these Pharisees, He knows that some of them are Hillelites and some of them are Shammaiites because of how they view the Old Testament These men had an immense effect.  So you have it about 160 B.C. right through the time of Christ.  These two rabbis being the dominant ones and their influence continued in two schools of thought that lasted for a couple of centuries after Christ.  But during the time of Jesus, these Pharisees were the recognized leaders of religion among the people.  They were a middle class movement, and they were laymen.

Whereas the Sadducees ran the temple in Jerusalem, the Pharisees ensured they were among the people in local synagogues:

They were not those that ran the temple, the Sadducees.  They were the religious liberals They were the elite They were the ones who denied angels, denied the resurrection, denied the spiritual realm And so they had cut themselves off.  They…the Sadducees were the religious elite, they compromised with Rome They were the politicians.  They went to bed with the Romans which caused them to be disrespected by the people And they basically ran the temple operation, the ritual, the sacrifices, the great festivals that occurred there, but the Pharisees were a grass-roots movement They were a middle class movement.  They were lay people, they were not priests, and they had a strategy.  If we want to bring the people back to the word of God, if we want to bring the people back to the law of God, if we want to separate from the world, the only way to do it is to have influence at every local point.

And they did.  They basically dominated the synagogues.  There’s one temple in Jerusalem The Sadducees oversee that That’s ritual and ceremony, but in every city and village and town all throughout the land of Israel, there were synagogues.  There were synagogues and in every community and neighborhood there was a synagogue, synagogues, a gathering place.  They were born really out of the Babylonian captivity when they didn’t have a temple and they gathered and when they came back to the land, they still had that idea of gathering together in smaller groups.  And so the Pharisees began to take over at the local level and to communicate their teachings at that level in every community Some of them rose to very prominent positions and became members of the Sanhedrin, the ruling body of Israel

This is how they influenced the ordinary Jew of the day:

As Jewish society had moved toward worldliness and secularism and paganism and materialism and idolatry, these were the fighting fundamentalists who called the people to be faithful to Scripture and in order to help them be faithful to Scripture, they created all kinds of additional laws and rules and regulations to put big fences and insulation around them In other words, worrying that you might break a law that God gave, they made five other laws so you couldn’t even get close to breaking that law.

But everything they taught centered on their revering the law of God.  Synagogues, as I said, really invented religious education on a local level.  They took Judaism to the people and the people bought it They were the influencers of Judaism at the time of the Lord.  They took Judaism out of the hands of the priests, who were just the ritualists in one sense.  Although the scattered priests certainly did function in the synagogue, the Pharisees were the dominant force.  They made the law accessible to the people.  You know, they did in a sense what the Reformation did They moved…They moved the religion from being sacerdotal, sacramental, ritual, and ceremony into the hands of the people.

They took the Scriptures to the people and taught and explained it.  And they were against any corrupted form for Judaism such as Sadducees, and Zealots and even the Essenes Summing it up, they were characterized by strong doctrine; strong doctrine.  When they engaged in questions with Jesus, they were questions about doctrine Which is the greatest commandment?  Their questions were doctrinal questions.  In fact, they were so committed to the teaching of the law of God and its doctrine, that in Matthew 23, where Jesus denounces them, He begins by saying, “The scribes and Pharisees have seated themselves in the chair of Moses.”

They’ve taken the posture, the authoritative posture regarding the law; they are strong on the law. Therefore all they tell you, do and observe.  When they tell you what Moses said, when they tell you the law of Moses, you observe it You do it.  Their doctrine was strong and Jesus’ theology was closer to theirs than anybody else’s Not only were they strong in doctrine, but committed to scriptural authority They didn’t equivocate on the inspiration and inerrancy of Scripture.  In fact, every time a synagogue meeting occurred, somebody read the word of God.  It was taken out, it was unrolled, it was handed to someone, it was read and then the teacher sat down, the rabbi sat down, and explained it.  That’s what they did.  It was about the authority of the word of God.  They were also committed to moral living.  Strong doctrine, scriptural authority and moral living; they had a righteousness They had a level of morality Paul says according to his own life measuring it against the law of God, he was blameless, at least externally.

… They prayed, they prayed daily, they prayed routinely through the day many times They were engaged in evangelism: According to Matthew 23:15, they went across land and across sea to find one convert. In the end they made him more a son of hell than themselves But they were aggressive in evangelism.  They were fasting as the one in Luke 18 claimsThey were charitable That same Pharisee said he gives a tithe of everything he possesses away So here you have the good people; the good religious people; the good, religious people worshiping the true God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, the creator God of Israel They are rejecting paganism They are rejecting superstition.  They are rejecting false religion, immorality.  They’re strong on the family They are the guardians of the faith They see themselves as the protectors of the truth. 

And this gets very visceral I mean this gets right down into your soul.  When you see yourself as a protector of the truth and along comes someone assaulting what you think is the truth That’s why, like the apostle Paul, you go out and you catch these Christians who you think are assaulting your truth and you throw them in prison and you kill them if need be to protect the honor of God and the law of God and the true religion.

A few Pharisees believed Jesus was the Messiah, men like Nicodemus and Joseph of Arimathea, but most despised Jesus because He was pouring ice cold water on all their strongly held rules and beliefs. They were false teachers, and Jesus called them out as such:

For the most part, they despised Jesus.  Back in chapter 11 of Luke and verse 53, when He left there the scribes and the Pharisees — scribes again are their scholars who undermine their system — the scribes and the Pharisees began to be very hostile and to question Him closely on many subjects plotting against Him, to catch Him in something He might say.  They were hostile, they were hateful, and they were after Him.  Jesus called them blind, Matthew 23He called them snakes He called them sons of hell and He calls them hypocrites But they were religious and devout and zealous and moral and studious and serious and vigilant and protecting Scripture They were charitable.  They were righteous.  All those things; and it meant absolutely nothing, absolutely nothing.

As for the Pharisee who hosted the sabbath meal, we know nothing more, but MacArthur gives us a few possibilities:

The word “leader” or “ruler” means a prominent Pharisee, maybe the ruler of a synagogue maybe even more prominent than that, higher than that, maybe a member of the Sanhedrin, we don’t know.  But they loved to have meals.  They loved to have dinners and that was a part of life in the ancient Near East and they did it all the time and they were times of hospitality and times of fellowship and of course, for these guys it was a time for them to get with their cronies and to re-enforce and reaffirm themselves in the eyes of the people So they would only invite those people that would elevate them.  So this would be a meeting of the rich and the elite scribes and Pharisees.

For whatever reason, the Lectionary excludes Luke 14:2-6, which I wrote about a few years ago in Forbidden Bible Verses:

Luke 14:2-6 – Jesus, miracle, man with dropsy, oedema, Pharisees

Whilst being a guest at the house of a leader of the Pharisees, Jesus healed a man of dropsy — oedema.

Once again, He questions the Jewish hierarchy on the validity of healing — working — on the Sabbath. They have no answer.

I do not know what harm it would have done churchgoers to hear five more verses from Luke, but that’s the Lectionary for you.

We do not know what relationship the man with oedema had with the Pharisee.

Henry says that they could have been relatives:

probably he was some relation of the Pharisee’s, that now lodged in his house, which is more likely than that he should be an invited guest at the table.

MacArthur thinks that the Pharisee purposely brought the man in to see if Jesus would heal him, which would have constituted work on the sabbath, in his eyes:

It’s pretty clear what the set-up was Drop him right in front of Jesus.  Why?  So Jesus could heal him.  Isn’t it amazing?  Do a miracle so we can for sure not believe in you.  This is like counter intuitive.  This is like backwards.  But there he is right in front of Jesus.  They know exactly how Jesus feels about their ridiculous laws.  They know exactly what He is capable of doing and they want Him to break their law.  Therein lies something of their duplicity and hypocrisy.  They’re supposed to try to keep people from breaking the law.  They want Jesus to break the law by healing the man.

MacArthur says that the man with dropsy was unlikely to have been a guest at the meal because everyone would have considered him unclean and suffering from divine judgement:

Dropsy is edema Dropsy was water retention.  Accumulation of serous fluids in a tissue and in the body cavity, bloatingIn itself it’s not a disease, but a symptom of a disease It could be a number of things, serious compromises in the liver or the kidneys or the heart or all three.  It’s kind of a bloating, indicates perhaps congestive heart failure It could be liver disease Alcoholism was a reality in ancient days and alcoholism can fill the abdomen with gallons of fluid.  When pumped out they will return.

But the point I think you need to know is that in Jewish rabbinical view somebody who had this condition was seen as a vile sinner and they thought that this was related to sexual sin, that this betrayed the judgment of God upon a person for their immorality, or that it was a serious uncleanness because it was related to the body’s failure to eliminate In either case, this is either a wicked, immoral man or a very unclean man.  Serious uncleanness related to this condition …

Verse 4: “He took hold of him and healed him and sent him away.”  That verb took hold of him really strong, very, very strong verb, [???] epilombano. It’s used in Acts, I think it’s chapter 19 or chapter 16, verse 19 and in that particular passage it says, “They seized Paul and Silas and dragged them to jail.”  Very strong word, it’s used in the gospels of Jesus taking hold of a child and setting them in the midst.  He literally wrapped this man up, this bloated man with sick organs manifest in this edemic condition.  Why did He do that?  He did it without hesitation.  He did it forcefully.  He did it unmistakably.  He did it defiantly.  Instead of keeping His distance in healing the man out of compassion in such a way as it might not be clear what had happened, He just grabs the man, seizes him, crushes him in His arms as if to squeeze the fluid out and gives him a new heart, and a new liver, and a new anything else he needed, and creates in the man a whole new set of internal organs.

And then He says, “You can go.”  That’s an interesting little note.  “And sent him away.”  We know that if He sent him away, He knew he wasn’t supposed to be there He wasn’t one of the guests The purpose for which you came is done, now go home.  And truthfully that was the kind thing to do, right?  Because if He said, “Stay for lunch,” the guy’s going to be sitting there saying I need to tell my wife what happened.  Can I get out of here?  Right?  I’ve got to tell my family what happened.  I don’t want any lunch, let me out of here.  So it’s as if Jesus says I understand you want to go.  Go.

And that’s betraying the fact that the man was never a guest for any purpose other than this.  And so He healed him, instantly, completely.  Miracles, by the way, are rare in this section of Luke.  Jesus spends most of His time teaching and preaching.  There’s just a few…Just a couple of miracles really from here on out.  The simplicity of the text is staggering.  The ease with which He creates, no effort, no fanfare, this is the power of God.  And at that moment Pharisees had what they wanted, they thought.  A healing violating the Sabbath, forget the healing idea, He violated the Sabbath.  And He did it to an unclean, sinful man under divine judgment.  What a law breaker He is.  What a law breaker.

When Jesus noted how the guests chose their places at table, He told them a parable (verse 7).

Naturally, they would have been scrambling for the best seats.

MacArthur tells us about dining at table in that era:

Now, if I can just give you a little bit of a background in terms of Jewish history.

In later years, they wrote a lot about this.  Typically the table would be in the middle.  It would be a long table And around the table would be people seated in a U-shaped fashion There was only one head of the table and then down both sides to the far end It could be a long table or a series of tables so that it could be a long way.  The host would sit in the middle at the head of the table and then in importance the guests would sit on his right and his left and then it would begin to flow all the way down to the least important people being way down at the other end.

That’s pretty much how it still is at important events.  The places of honor were not marked with a sign.  They were determined by the host.  But the nearer you were to the host, the more honor you had … 

By the way, they had interesting seats in those days…a little reading about that…called triclinium; it seated three people It was a couch and it seated three people on each couch.  So there’d be one couch at the head with the host in the middle and the most important dignitaries on either said And then those couches would go along.  They reclined on their elbow and ate at leisure as you know.

Eating in a partially propped up position was thought to aid digestion.

In His parable Jesus used the example of a wedding banquet, possibly out of courtesy, so that it did hit not home too much for those assembled; He advised them not to sit too close to the host in case someone more deserving came along (verse 8) and the host asked them to move down in disgrace to the lowest place (verse 9).

Jesus said that a guest should take the lowest place so that, when the host comes along, he might be moved up to a better place and be honoured in front of everyone (verse 10).

He ended by saying that those who exalt themselves will be humbled but those who are humble will be exalted (verse 11).

MacArthur says that Jesus was not giving etiquette lessons but reminding them of Scripture and, more importantly, talking about the kingdom of God:

These guys were experts in the Old Testament They were experts in the law of God.  They probably remember Proverbs 25:7.  “It is better for it to be said to you come up here than that you should be put lower in the presence of the prince whom your eyes have seen.”  Just built on that Proverbs 25:6-7.  It’s a lot better to be told to come to the front than to be told to go to the back.  Is that all it’s about?  No, it’s way more than that.  This is all about the kingdom of God.  This is all about clamoring for the chief place in the kingdom of God, rushing in a display of pride and arrogance to the front only to be told by God, get out of that seat.

Then Jesus addressed his host, the Pharisee, by saying that, when he gives a luncheon or a dinner, he should not always invite those who can repay the favour (verse 12).

Henry explains:

This does not prohibit the entertaining of such; there may be occasion for it, for the cultivating of friendship among relations and neighbours. But, (1.) “Do not make a common custom of it; spend as little as thou canst that way, that thou mayest not disable thyself to lay out in a much better way, in almsgiving. Thou wilt find it very expensive and troublesome; one feast for the rich will make a great many meals for the poor.” Solomon saith, He that giveth to the rich shall surely come to want, Prov 22 16. “Give” (saith Pliny, Epist.) “to thy friends, but let it be to thy poor friends, not to those that need thee not.” (2.) “Be not proud of it.” Many make feasts only to make a show, as Ahasuerus did (Esth 1 3, 4), and it is no reputation to them, they think, if they have not persons of quality to dine with them, and thus rob their families, to please their fancies. (3.) “Aim not at being paid again in your own coin.” This is that which our Saviour blames in making such entertainments: “You commonly do it in hopes that you will be invited by them, and so a recompence will be made you; you will be gratified with such dainties and varieties as you treat your friends with, and this will feed your sensuality and luxury, and you will be no real gainer at last.”

This happens all the time. Whom do we entertain? People who can return the favour.

Jesus told the Pharisee to invite instead the poor, the crippled, the lame and the blind (verse 13).

The Pharisee must have found that shocking, because they did not associate with whom they would have considered as the ‘lower orders’, even able-bodied people.

Yet, we see at the end of this story that the penny began to drop, that at least one guest understood what Jesus was saying.

Jesus ended by saying that inviting those less well off to table expressly because they cannot return the favour will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous (verse 14).

Henry has a marvellous analysis:

There will be a resurrection of the just, a future state of the just. There is a state of happiness reserved for them in the other world; and we may be sure that the charitable will be remembered in the resurrection of the just, for alms are righteousness. Works of charity perhaps may not be rewarded in this world, for the things of this world are not the best things, and therefore God does not pay the best men in those things; but they shall in no wise lose their reward; they shall be recompensed in the resurrection. It will be found that the longest voyages make the richest returns, and that the charitable will be no losers, but unspeakable gainers, by having their recompense adjourned till the resurrection.

I do wish that the Lectionary compilers had included verse 15, which ties everything together and shows that Jesus succeeded in getting His point across:

15 When one of those at the table with him heard this, he said to Jesus, “Blessed is the one who will eat at the feast in the kingdom of God.”

That’s important, especially as a lot of churchgoers don’t really bother to listen to the readings that closely.

MacArthur tells us how the meal ended:

I don’t think it was what they had planned. It’s what they got.  And it doesn’t get any better.  Doesn’t get any better.  While they’re having lunch over in verse 15, the statement is made, “Blessed is everyone who shall eat bread in the kingdom of God.”  But down in verse 24, Jesus says, “I tell you none of those men who were invited shall taste of my dinner.”  By the time this lunch is over, they’ve been told they aren’t coming to the big banquet in the kingdom of God You can be devout, you can be dutiful, you can be outwardly good, you can be serious about God, you can be a defender of your religion, you can be a fundamentalist.  You can be a protector of God’s will.  You can be the best of the best of people and you can reject Jesus Christ and your life is a blasphemy to God It is a slander to His name and you are left in spiritual death and eternal judgment.

And they are the great illustration of that.  They had no signs of the life of God in them They lacked compassion.  They lacked mercy.  They lacked kindness.  They loved money.  They were spiritually proud.  They were hypocrites.  They were self-righteous.  And they sought to kill the very Son of the living God Folks, there’s only one way to heaven and that’s through faith in Jesus Christ No other religion will get you there, but they will all keep you from getting there Reject Jesus Christ and there never will be a place for you among the forgiven in God’s eternal heaven. 

And, after the destruction of the temple in AD 70, MacArthur tells us what happened:

With the destruction of the temple in 70 A.D. and the destruction of the city, the Sadducees disappeared from history, because they basically were concentrated in the temple They were concentrated in the leadership of the nation and when the temple was destroyed and Jerusalem was destroyed it was the end for them.  That left one other somewhat well-known group called the Zealots They were the terroristsThey went around stabbing Romans as we know.

They had a revolt in the year 135 A.D., and it was called the Bar Kokhba revolt It was crushed and the Zealots were eliminatedThe Pharisees then, in the second century, became the dominant Jewish leadership. The dominant viewpoint of Judaism was a Pharisaic viewpoint.  They codified that in writings called the Mishnah You may have heard of the Mishnah.  It is the written compilation of the oral law, the oral rituals and the oral tradition.  They finally wrote it all down.  The Mishnah when it was all written down in that second century sealed their leadership.

Sadducees were gone, Pharisees were gone, the Essenes [ascetics] were gone and Pharisaism is synonymous with historic Judaism From the second century on, Pharisaism is Judaism, and today Orthodox Judaism is the vestiges of Pharisaism

It is a cautionary history, one that bears thinking about when contemplating the consequences of self-righteous unbelief.

Let us therefore pray for more faith and more humility.

The Tenth Sunday after Trinity is on August 21, 2002.

Readings for Year C can be found here.

The Gospel reading is as follows (emphases mine):

Luke 13:10-17

13:10 Now he was teaching in one of the synagogues on the sabbath.

13:11 And just then there appeared a woman with a spirit that had crippled her for eighteen years. She was bent over and was quite unable to stand up straight.

13:12 When Jesus saw her, he called her over and said, “Woman, you are set free from your ailment.”

13:13 When he laid his hands on her, immediately she stood up straight and began praising God.

13:14 But the leader of the synagogue, indignant because Jesus had cured on the sabbath, kept saying to the crowd, “There are six days on which work ought to be done; come on those days and be cured, and not on the sabbath day.”

13:15 But the Lord answered him and said, “You hypocrites! Does not each of you on the sabbath untie his ox or his donkey from the manger, and lead it away to give it water?

13:16 And ought not this woman, a daughter of Abraham whom Satan bound for eighteen long years, be set free from this bondage on the sabbath day?”

13:17 When he said this, all his opponents were put to shame; and the entire crowd was rejoicing at all the wonderful things that he was doing.

Commentary comes from Matthew Henry and John MacArthur.

Here we have an account about a bent over woman being made straight and bent theology that Jesus wanted to make straight.

Although neither of our commentators says so about this story, there was nearly always a spiritual element to our Lord’s miracles. For that reason, I think that Jesus healed her not only physically but spiritually, too, especially in light of the fact that a demon had caused her condition.

We are in the middle of Luke’s accounts of our Lord’s teaching the Apostles and disciples in the last six months of His ministry. These are in Luke 9 through much of Luke 19.

The Gospel writer does not tell us where this miracle took place other than in a synagogue where Jesus was teaching on the sabbath (verse 10).

Matthew Henry reminds us that Jesus often taught in a synagogue on the sabbath, therefore, we should not neglect public worship on Sundays:

We should make conscience of doing so, as we have opportunity, and not think we can spend the sabbath as well at home reading a good book; for religious assemblies are a divine institution

In our Lord’s era, synagogues were places of worship but, unlike today, they were not led by rabbis.

John MacArthur gives us the background:

A synagogue is not the temple.  It’s simply the word sunagōgēs in Greek.  It means “a meeting place,” a gathering place.  And there were many of them.  Some historians tell us that in the Galilee, which was less populated than the southern part of Israel, Judea, in the Galilee there were as many 240 or 250 different synagoguesAnd in Jesus’ ministry over a year in Galilee, He went all through Galilee preaching and teaching in the synagogue.  It was the perfect place to go to teach.  A synagogue, by the way, was called a house of instruction.  It wasn’t the temple.  That’s where you went for the national ceremonies.  That’s where you went to offer sacrifices.  Synagogues had no sacrifices.  They…They didn’t celebrate the Passover and the other feasts at the synagogue.  It was just a gathering place.

They had no pastor, no preacher, no reigning priest.  They had a lay board of elders and one of them was the ruler or the chairman of that board.  He was responsible to oversee it, but he was the layman.  It was a local gathering place for teaching the word of God, the Old Testament.  They came into existence out of the Babylonian captivity, you remember?  When the Jews were taken captive into Babylon, the time they were in Babylon, of course, they were separated from their house of worship, which was the temple. Before that, there was no such thing as a synagogue.

But while they were in captivity, they first, remember, were gathered together to hear Ezekiel.  Ezekiel came in one of the early deportations.  He gathered the people around and He talked about what was going on.  What God was doing in this time in Israel’s life and Ezekiel spoke to the captives, those who’d been deported and that sort of began the…the gathering of God’s people to hear the meaning of God’s wordAnd synagogues began to develop among the Jews in exileAnd when they went back under Nehemiah to rebuild the city and the temple, they took back the idea of the synagogue and they flourished.  In Jerusalem alone there were about 500 synagogues in just that one city.

And so this was a perfect scenario for the ministry of Jesus, one of God’s timing issues.  And when Jesus came, He could always find the Jewish people, the ones He wanted to reach with the truth of the kingdom gospel gathered on a Sabbath in a synagogue somewhere.  And that’s where He went, but synagogues were getting less and less receptive to Him, even though He was still, as verse 17 indicates, popular with the crowd, who were just kind of stunned by the power that He displayed in His miracles.  The synagogues were getting to be unwelcome and this is the last recorded experience of Jesus in a synagogueWe’re only months before His death.  This is the last recorded opportunity that He has to speak in a synagogue.

Suddenly, a woman appeared, bent over by an evil spirit and unable to stand upright (verse 11).

Matthew Henry describes how undignified and painful this must have been for her. Yet, it did not deter her from going to worship God:

She had an infirmity, which an evil spirit, by divine permission, had brought upon her, which was such that she was bowed together by strong convulsions, and could in no wise lift up herself; and, having been so long thus, the disease was incurable; she could not stand erect, which is reckoned man’s honour above the beasts. Observe, Though she was under this infirmity, by which she was much deformed, and made to look mean, and not only so, but, as is supposed, motion was very painful to her, yet she went to the synagogue on the sabbath day. Note, Even bodily infirmities, unless they be very grievous indeed, should not keep us from public worship on the sabbath days; for God can help us, beyond our expectation.

MacArthur says that she would have been an outcast, because the Jews believed that a physical malady was a divine judgement:

Believe me, this woman was an outcast. The Jews had the…the theological viewpoint that if this was the condition you were in, you were a bad person.

Remember the blind man in John 9, and who sinned, this man or his parents? Remember Job? All his friends said well, Job, you’ve done something wrong. There’s some sin in your life. You’re not coming clean, buddy. That’s why you got all the suffering. The basic view of theology was if you suffer, you’re being punished by God. So here was a woman, who for eighteen years, had been looked at and scorned. Here was a woman doubled over in a terrible position physically, perhaps a more a terrible position socially. And to boot, she’s a woman. And women belonged out of sight and in the back of the synagogue.

Henry says that she had her crippling condition ‘by divine permission’. MacArthur agrees that Jesus was meant to heal her in front of the people at that synagogue to point out the hypocrisy of the Jewish religion of that era:

Jesus was the master of the moment, the sovereign Lord of every event and He’s going to use this woman to intensify the conflict and to bring it out in bold relief

I don’t know how it was that she exposed herself to this demon or why this demon picked on her or why Satan did this to her at the front. I don’t know what the motive of hell was, but I do know that God allowed that to happen for this day.

From the very beginning in the synagogues, Jesus told the people and their local leaders who He was and that, in turn, enraged many:

And that’s why after they killed Him, the population of Jerusalem then went after the apostles, to stop this message. And what was it they hated about the message? Well, what they hated about the message was the indictment in it because it overturned their whole view. There are only two ways that you can believe you can come to God; either on the merits of Christ or on your own merits. It’s either by grace and grace alone or it’s by works or some mixture of grace and works. It’s only two things. There’s only two kinds of religion in the world. The religion of divine accomplishment, the religion of human achievement, Christianity, the true gospel is the religion of divine accomplishment: God does it all, you simply believe. Every other religious system in the world is a religion of human achievement. They were in human achievement. They had satisfied themselves with their own self-righteousness. They had self-esteem. They had all this pride about their religion, etc., etc., etc., and Jesus literally struck at the very heart of the system

And Jesus went everywhere preaching salvation and that’s synonymous with coming into the kingdom. Come into God’s kingdom. “I am the way, the truth, the life.” But you have to recognize that you’re not there now, that you’re in the devil’s kingdom. Well, that was just more than they could bear. They hated Him for that. And so He was teaching in the synagogue and you know what He was teaching. He was teaching about the kingdom. And it wasn’t a brutal kind of teaching. It was gracious. It was compassionate. It was loving. It was merciful. It offered them salvation, but at the same time, it confronted the phoniness of their system, and the false hopes of their self-righteous, legalistic hearts.

And so this obviously set up conflict. And wherever the truth is taught, it produces conflict if it’s taught in a place where error prevails.

When Jesus saw the lady, He called her over and told her she was ‘set free’ from her ailment (verse 12).

He laid His hands on her and, immediately, she stood up straight and began to praise God (verse 13).

Note the word ‘immediately’. When Jesus healed, it was instantaneous and all-encompassing. It was not gradual. For many years and for whatever reason, I was never sure if the healing was immediate or gradual. And I was going to church all that time.

MacArthur makes it very clear:

He always healed immediately. There’s no such thing as a lingering healing, a multiple phase healing. There’s no such thing as: I was healed and slowly, I’m getting better. He healed everything, everyone He wanted to heal, completely, instantaneously, and permanently. And it says immediately laying His hands upon her and saying what He said, she was made erect again.

Now, we’ll tell you this is more than just the casting out of a demon. Something had to happen to a spine to go up straight after 18 years in a bent position. You say whoa boy, after she was healed, she would need some serious therapy. Nobody healed by Jesus needs therapy, nobody. It’s contained in the deal. You bypass the therapy to the wholeness in the instant of the healing. All His miracles were like that.

MacArthur says of the woman and our Lord’s purpose:

Now all of a sudden she becomes the centerpiece of the whole day. And Jesus puts her front and center and makes her the focal point of everything. And I love this about Him. He… He reveals His utter indifference to their system of rank and status. He reveals His utter indifference to their perception of privilege. He reveals His complete indifference to their sense…sense of achievement. He had no affection for their honor system. He honors the outcast woman and He humiliates the ruler. He has no affection for their perverted Sabbath. And He supersedes their authority with His own. He has no interest in their self-righteousness, seeking to be elevated. And He elevates one they would seek to sweep away.

However, the leader of the synagogue was indignant because Jesus had cured someone on the sabbath, calling His merciful miracle ‘work’, telling the congregation that such things should be done on the other six days in the week (verse 14).

It sounds so cruel and so awful.

Henry points out that the leader did not dare to speak directly to Christ, so he addressed the congregation instead:

He had not indeed the impudence to quarrel with Christ; but he said to the people, reflecting upon Christ in what he said, There are six days in which men ought to work, in them therefore come and be healed, and not on the sabbath day. See here how light he made of the miracles Christ wrought, as if they were things of course, and no more than what quacks and mountebanks did every day: “You may come and be healed any day of the week.” Christ’s cures were become, in his eyes, cheap and common things. See also how he stretches the law beyond its intention, or any just construction that could be put upon it, in making either healing or being healed with a touch of the hand, or a word’s speaking, to be that work which is forbidden on the sabbath day. This was evidently the work of God; and, when God tied us out from working that day, did he tie himself out? The same word in Hebrew signifies both godly and merciful (chesed), to intimate that works of mercy and charity are in a manner works of piety (1 Tim 5 4) and therefore very proper on sabbath days.

MacArthur says:

the synagogue official, he was an establishment man and he was going to wield the club and he was going to make it as tough as he couldLegalists do that, you knowThey have little or no compassion for the suffering, and legalistic religion is harsh and brutal and merciless and loveless.  This is sort of the archetypal legalist.  He’s just seen a woman, a woman who needed mercy and compassion and tenderness and kindness, released.  You would have thought he would have joined in on the chorus and said let’s all stand and sing glory to God.  But Luke describes him with one word: synagogue official, indignant, aganakteō in the Greek text, intense displeasure.

They’ve broken the system.  That by the way is exactly how the system felt about Martin Luther and everybody else who violated the system: anger, displeasure. Jesus had already unmasked and confronted error that day.  He’d already unmasked and confronted the demon that day and now He was going to unmask false religion and boy He did. That’s the reaction of a man who has no heart, a man whose heart God has never changed. That’s not a godly reaction, because God is a God of compassion, is He not?  Do you ever ask why did Jesus come and heal?  Jesus could have done a lot of miracles to prove He was God.  He could have done anything, right?  He could have created a house.  He could have created a temple.  He could have created a mountain, could have caused the sea to disappear.  Could have spun up in the air and spun around like a helicopter and flown around and landed.

Could have done a lot of things to prove He was God.  What did He do?  He healed people and He healed and basically banished illness from Israel.  Why?  Because He was not only showing divine power, but He was showing the heart of God as a heart of what?  Compassion.  But this is compassionless legalism.  They make people suffer. 

Jesus rebuked the leader and the congregation, calling them hypocrites and asking them whether they untie their ox or donkey on the sabbath in order for the beasts to get their water (verse 15).

MacArthur says:

Well, He got them, because they did that.

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

And by the way, this isn’t the first time He said this or the last. Calling them hypocrites was pretty routine because that’s what they are and all advocates of false religion are hypocrites. They don’t know God. They don’t know the truth. They are really the tools of Satan. It’s a terrible thing to say, but it’s the truth. You’re a phony, He said.

Jesus then asked why the woman, one of their own — ‘a daughter of Abraham’ — should be prevented from being set free from her bondage on the sabbath (verse 16).

MacArthur says that Jesus used a Jewish reasoning method:

Verse 16, “And this woman, a daughter of Abraham, as she is,” a Jewess, He says the same thing in Luke 19 about Zaccheus, a son of Abraham. It means a Jew or Jewess. “She’s one of your own people.” This is not a Gentile. “This woman, a daughter of Abraham, as she is, whom Satan has bound for eighteen long years,” Jesus says, emphasizing the terrible duration of this suffering, “should she not have been released from this bond on the Sabbath day?”

He takes the opposite view. This is the perfect day to do this, set her free. This is the best day to do that. And by what category was this work? What was the work? Jesus saying, “Woman you are freed from this weakness”? Or was the work her standing up? What was the work? It’s a very common way for the Jews to reason all through the New Testament from the lesser to the greater, from the animal to the woman, from bound for eighteen years to being released from being tied up to being freed. This was a great moment in the life of that woman.

When Jesus spoke those words, the leader and those who agreed with him were put to shame and the entire crowd rejoiced at all the marvellous things that Jesus was doing (verse 17).

MacArthur analyses the two responses — shame from one quarter and rejoicing from the other:

Verse 17 sums up the result.  “And as He said this, all His opponents were being humiliated.”  Boy they hated that.  What could they say?  They were dead in their tracks.  The people knew what could be done on the Sabbath.  Believe me they knew it well and they knew that they…they watered and fed their animals on the Sabbath.  They knew that.  And I’m sure they were trying to figure out where was the work here.  They had been unmasked.  They had been stripped.  Their pretense had been uncovered.  They looked like fools.  They were… They were put to shame.  That’s a compound verb, kataischunō, they were fully shamed, publicly; both that ruler and all who agreed with him, called the opponents of Jesus.  They were all shamed.  They were all humiliated. Now they weren’t humbled in the righteous sense.  They didn’t become penitent and say wow, I am a hypocrite.  I need to deal with this.  I…maybe this is Son of God.  Not that.  All this did was make them more angry and more bent on getting Jesus out of the picture.

But there was another response.  Look at the rest of verse 17, the entire multitude, those left “was rejoicing over all the glorious things being done by Him.”  They were just absolutely blown away by what was happening.  And I’m sure some of them who were there were already the followers of Jesus.  Some may have been believers in Him.  But this is their typical response.  Back in Chapter 9, verse 43, they were all amazed at the greatness of God.  Everyone was marveling at all that He was doing. I mean, that was pretty much the typical response.  They were just stunned and floored by it.  It doesn’t necessarily mean that they put their full trust in Christ.  We could wish that that were true.  Some did.  Chapter 16, verse 16, some were pressing into the kingdom.  And it is true in verse 31 of chapter 13, look at that, verse 31 of chapter 13, some of the Pharisees actually came to Jesus and told Him to go away and depart for Herod wants to kill you.  There may have been some among the Pharisees who were beginning to see the light.

MacArthur reminds us that Jesus preached only about the kingdom of God, not social or political issues:

He always preached the kingdom. Thirty-one times in the book of Luke the kingdom of God is mentioned. And even after His resurrection, before His ascension and the forty days it says He spoke to them things pertaining to the kingdom of God. It was always about God’s kingdom, how to become a part of His kingdom, by confessing Jesus as Lord, Messiah, Savior.

He also raised — and will continue to raise — the lowly, like this woman:

The Lord passes by the religious and self-righteous, passes by those that say and think they’re good, passes by the religious leaders, and the Lord chooses the lowest of the low. One who would have been deemed to have been a sinner of some massive proportions to have suffered such a fate. He ignores the proud and He chooses the humble. The Lord sovereignly chooses. The Lord sovereignly delivers. The Lord sovereignly straightens up the one who is bent over. The Lord sovereignly produces praise.

This woman then is a picture of the sovereign work of the Lord in salvation, a picture of the enslaved, oppressed sinner under the burden and bondage of Satan, hiding in the shadows, aware every moment of suffering the weight and the burden of sin hopeless, robbed of dignity, bent over like an animal, the image of God defaced. So is the picture of the sinner shuffling one day into the presence of God to hear the word of God. She is met by the Lord and He out of His sovereign love delivers her, straightens her up. This is the picture of the work of God in salvation. God offers salvation to the outcast, the humbled, those bent over by the weight of sin, who will come and hear Him and He will turn them into true worshipers and He bypasses the curious and the self-righteous.

May all reading this have a blessed Sunday.

The Ninth Sunday after Trinity is on August 14, 2022.

Readings for Year C can be found here.

The Gospel reading is as follows (emphases mine):

Luke 12:49-56

12:49 “I came to bring fire to the earth, and how I wish it were already kindled!

12:50 I have a baptism with which to be baptized, and what stress I am under until it is completed!

12:51 Do you think that I have come to bring peace to the earth? No, I tell you, but rather division!

12:52 From now on five in one household will be divided, three against two and two against three;

12:53 they will be divided: father against son and son against father, mother against daughter and daughter against mother, mother-in-law against her daughter-in-law and daughter-in-law against mother-in-law.”

12:54 He also said to the crowds, “When you see a cloud rising in the west, you immediately say, ‘It is going to rain’; and so it happens.

12:55 And when you see the south wind blowing, you say, ‘There will be scorching heat’; and it happens.

12:56 You hypocrites! You know how to interpret the appearance of earth and sky, but why do you not know how to interpret the present time?

Commentary comes from Matthew Henry and John MacArthur.

Luke 9 through Luke 19 are our Lord’s principal teaching chapters in his Gospel.

Luke 12 has hard-hitting lessons. On the Seventh Sunday after Trinity this year, we had the Parable of the Rich Fool. Last Sunday, we had our Lord’s warning that we know not the day nor the time of His Second Coming.

Today, we read of His telling us to reconcile with God through faith in His Son.

These are the intervening verses between last week’s Gospel reading and this week’s:

41 Peter asked, “Lord, are you telling this parable to us, or to everyone?”

42 The Lord answered, “Who then is the faithful and wise manager, whom the master puts in charge of his servants to give them their food allowance at the proper time? 43 It will be good for that servant whom the master finds doing so when he returns. 44 Truly I tell you, he will put him in charge of all his possessions. 45 But suppose the servant says to himself, ‘My master is taking a long time in coming,’ and he then begins to beat the other servants, both men and women, and to eat and drink and get drunk. 46 The master of that servant will come on a day when he does not expect him and at an hour he is not aware of. He will cut him to pieces and assign him a place with the unbelievers.

47 “The servant who knows the master’s will and does not get ready or does not do what the master wants will be beaten with many blows. 48 But the one who does not know and does things deserving punishment will be beaten with few blows. From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked.

Many Christians today interpret the last part of verse 48 as one of giving money to the Church. It is often used during stewardship season when congregations are asked to pledge money for the following year.

However, Jesus meant it as saying that we will be punished in eternity depending on how much we turned away from Him and, by extension, from God.

Believers who have a good knowledge of Christianity then fall away from the faith will have the harshest punishment; they are the servants who know the Master’s will and do not obey it. Those who have little to no knowledge of Christ will receive a lighter punishment; they are the ignorant servants.

Matthew Henry’s commentary says:

The knowledge of our duty is an aggravation of our sin: That servant that knew his lord’s will, and yet did his own will, shall be beaten with many stripes. God will justly inflict more upon him for abusing the means of knowledge he afforded him, which others would have made a better use of, because it argues a great degree of wilfulness and contempt to sin against knowledge; of how much sorer punishment then shall they be thought worthy, besides the many stripes that their own consciences will give them! Son, remember. Here is a good reason for this added: To whomsoever much is given, of him shall be much required, especially when it is committed as a trust he is to account for. Those have greater capacities of mind than others, more knowledge and learning, more acquaintance and converse with the scriptures, to them much is given, and their account will be accordingly.

Jesus then said that He came to bring fire to the earth and how He wished it were already kindled (verse 49).

Some commentators say He spoke of the Holy Spirit, but, as Henry explains, it is more likely He spoke of a fire of judgement for some and a refining fire of persecution for others:

By this some understand the preaching of the gospel, and the pouring out of the Spirit, holy fire; this Christ came to send with a commission to refine the world, to purge away its dross, to burn up its chaff, and it was already kindled. The gospel was begun to be preached; some prefaces there were to the pouring out of the Spirit. Christ baptized with the Holy Ghost and with fire; this Spirit descended in fiery tongues. But, by what follows, it seems rather to be understood of the fire of persecution. Christ is not the Author of it, as it is the sin of the incendiaries, the persecutors; but he permits it, nay, he commissions it, as a refining fire for the trial of the persecuted. This fire was already kindled in the enmity of the carnal Jews to Christ and his followers. “What will I that it may presently be kindled? What thou doest, do quickly. If it be already kindled, what will I? Shall I wait the quenching of it? No, for it must fasten upon myself, and upon all, and glory will redound to God from it.”

John MacArthur has more. A fire of judgement is referred to often in the Old Testament:

Fire is a picture of judgment.  I mean it is pretty obviously that.  You have that in the Old Testament as well as the New Testament.  We’re familiar with statements like that.  “I am come,” He says, “from the Father.  I have come into the world to save but I’ve also come to judge.”  Fire is emphatic in the Greek.  The Greek reads this way, “For fire, I have come upon the earth.”  Fire is the first thing and this is prophesied in the Old Testament.  You know, there were statements about the Messiah’s coming that talked about fire and the Jews knew thatIsaiah 66:15, Joel chapter 2, verse 30; there are number of places that promise fire and they all knew what that meant.  Amos is one that I might just remind you.  Amos 1, “So I sent fire on the wall of Gaza.  It’ll consume her citadels.”  And then it goes on to talk about the fire of God’s judgment all the way down to verse 14.  Chapter 2 of Amos further discusses this fire.  “I will send fire on Moab.  I’ll send fire on Judah.”  Malachi chapter 3, as the Old Testament closes, talks about God coming in fiery judgment, but the Jews believed that the fire would fall on the Gentiles and that the peace would come to themThey never expected that the Messiah would come and the fire of judgment would fall on them and it is the fire of judgment.

Listen to John 9:39, “For judgment I came into this world that those who do not see may see and that those who see may become blind.”  That’s a very important verse.  “For judgment, I came into this world that those who do not see may see and that those who see may become blind.”  His judgment is two-way.  It is a judgment that saves and it is a judgment that condemns.  It’s two-sided.  If you go back to Luke chapter 3 for a moment, verse 9, we’ll look at a couple of verses there. Luke 9…Luke 3:9, he says for those who don’t believe, of course, in Israel, “the ax is laid at the root of the tree.  Every tree that doesn’t bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.”  Verse 16, John the Baptist says, “The One who is coming is mightier than I.  I am not fit to untie the thong of His sandals.  He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire and He will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire.”  So there’s the fire of judgment, the fire of destruction that is unleashed.

But it’s not only a fire of judgment; it’s also a fire of purging.  You see, the gospel is that fire that either purifies or punishes and Paul said it’s life to life or death to death.  In John 3, Jesus said, “If you believe, you have eternal life.  If you don’t believe, your unbelief puts you under judgment.”  Fire consumes what is combustible and does not consume what is noncombustible.  It purifies the noncombustible and it destroys the combustible and so the coming of Jesus is a fire.  It’s a fire cast to the earth.  To those who believe, it purifiesTo those who reject, it consumes.  And so Jesus is saying, “Look, I’ve come as fire,” and then He adds this most interesting statement, “and how I wish it were already kindled.”  He came for fire but the fire’s not started yet.  The fire hasn’t been kindled yet.  What does He mean by that?  Well, He’s talking about starting the fire.  Kindling is used to start the fire and that’s the intent of the language.  What is He saying?  “It has not been kindled.”  What’s the kindling?  What’s going to kindle the fire?  This is an amazing statement.  “I wish it were already kindled.”  What’s He looking at?  He’s looking at His death, because in the next verse, He calls it a baptism that He has to undergo.  The kindling that started the fire, the gospel fire that both purifies and punishes — the kindling was Jesus.  He was judged by God.  Before He judges, He must Himself be judged.  He’s looking at His cross.  It’s an amazing statement.  The kindling of the fire of judgment is the cross, His death, which is a fire of judgment that God puts on HimGod literally consumes Him in wrath, the just for the unjust, and He’s punished for our sins and He says here, look at this, “How I wish it were already kindled.”  He wishes it were over.

He spoke of His impending death as a baptism and the stress He was under knowing it was coming (verse 50).

Baptism in the Greek sense meant full immersion into something.

Henry tells us that Jesus said that to emphasise how much He wanted to bring us the salvific benefits of His death on the Cross:

See here, (1.) Christ’s foresight of his sufferings; he knew what he was to undergo, and the necessity of undergoing it: I am to be baptized with a baptism. He calls his sufferings by a name that mitigates them; it is a baptism, not a deluge; I must be dipped in them, not drowned in them; and by a name that sanctifies them, for baptism is a name that sanctifies them, for baptism is a sacred rite. Christ in his sufferings devoted himself to his Father’s honour, and consecrated himself a priest for evermore, Heb 7 27, 28. (2.) Christ’s forwardness to his sufferings: How am I straitened till it be accomplished! He longed for the time when he should suffer and die, having an eye to the glorious issue of his sufferings. It is an allusion to a woman in travail, that is pained to be delivered, and welcomes her pains, because they hasten the birth of the child, and wishes them sharp and strong, that the work may be cut short. Christ’s sufferings were the travail of his soul, which he cheerfully underwent, in hope that he should by them see his seed, Isa 53 10, 11. So much was his heart set upon the redemption and salvation of man.

MacArthur says:

… “I have a baptism to undergo,” and again He says, “How distressed I am until it’s accomplished.”  A “baptism” was a word the Greeks liked to use to speak about being immersed in something and we use it that way.  It is used in Greek literature to refer to death but Jesus used it as being immersed in pain, immersed in suffering, immersed in judgment, divine wrath, immersed in death.  He knows that’s a baptism that He must undergo.  He understands that this is necessary because He must bear the judgment for all who will believe.

He refers to it the same way in the 38th verse of Mark 10 where He says to the sons of Zebedee, “Can you be baptized with the baptism with which I am baptized?”  You want prominence in the kingdom.  Can you suffer what I’m going to suffer?  I have a baptism to undergo.  I have an immersion into divine wrath and how distressed I am until it’s accomplished.  The word “distressed,” synechomai.  The verb simply means to seize.  I’m seized.  It’s used for being gripped with fear.  It’s used for being pressed.  It’s used…Paul…Philippians 1:23, I think it is, being hard-pressed from two directions.  It was a…It was an incessant squeezing, just a relentless pressure, until it was finally accomplished. And He uses the word teleō, tetelestai, “until it’s finished,” and, of course, at the end of the cross, He said, “Tetelestai,” same verb, different form, “It is finished,” John 19:30.

So here He’s saying, “I…I wish it was over.”  Our Lord here is anticipating the dividing event.  He is pressed between the suffering and the purpose, between the anticipation of the pain and the plan, between His own will and the Father’s will, but He never wavered when He said in the garden, “Father, if it’s your will, let this cup pass from Me.”  He immediately responded by saying, “Nevertheless, not My will but yours be done.”  “I’ve come to cast fire,” He said, “and it’s going to be kindled by the cross and that’s going to set the fire of judgment.”  That will be the dividing point.  That is where all men are divided.  All men are divided at the cross, both in eternity and in time.

Then He asked the crowd if He was going to bring peace to the earth and said that He was going to bring division (verse 51).

MacArthur puts these verses into context for us:

Now let me just give you a little bit of background in the chapter that we’re in.  If you go back to chapter 12, verse 1, it tells us that Jesus was speaking to many thousands of people, probably tens of thousands of people.  So many people were gathered together they were stepping on each other.  The mass of these people, by the way, already had made up their mind to reject Jesus but He was still the greatest curiosity in existence and the most profound teacher who ever lived and attracted massive crowds, but most of them stood with their leaders.  They had imbibed what their leaders had been giving them to drink in terms of Jesus being satanic, but there were still some who could be classified as disciplesThe word is mathētēs and learners.  It simply means that they were still open to what He was sayingSome of them were apostles.  They had come all the way to faith and been called to ministry.  Some of them were the seventy who also had been sent out to minister for Him because they were true believersSome of them had become believers and there were some who were just still open and the end of verse 1 says He was really talking to them.

And the nature of this message is that it’s a call to salvationIt’s a call to come to Him, to come into the kingdom of salvation, to receive the forgiveness and redemption that He brings.  This is an evangelistic invitation.  It starts in verse 1 and it runs all the way to verse 9 in chapter 13.  There are a couple of interruptions for questions but, in the main, it’s one long discourse.  It is an invitation.  It is a call by our Lord to the crowd and those in the crowd who were still open and still learning and still listening to receive His claims, embrace Him as Messiah, and come into the kingdom of salvation and receive forgiveness of sin and eternal life; and then He delineates what they must do.

MacArthur tells us what Jesus meant about bringing division rather than peace in verse 51:

That’s a mashal.  That’s a paradoxical statement.  “Do you suppose?” is a verb that could be translated “Do you presume?” or “Does it seem right to say?”  That’s the implication of that verb.  It’s sensible for you to assume that I’m bringing peace, right?  Of course, absolutely, based upon all of those Old Testament promises, and His response in the Greek starts with the word “no”, ouchhi, an emphatic “No, I tell you, but rather division,” pretty devastating statementThe promised peace was taken awayThey had rejected the Prince of PeaceThey had therefore forfeited the kingdom of peaceIt could only come through individuals putting faith in the Lord Jesus Christ as Messiah Savior and if there was no peace between the sinner and God, there would be no peace among the people.  There would be no kingdom of peace.  There will be no kingdom of peace until salvation comes to the heart, so in place of peace comes divisionIn Matthew chapter 10 verses 34-36 you have a comparative passage to this where Jesus said the same thing.  Only on that occasion, He said He came not to bring peace but a swordJesus, who came as the Prince of Peace, becomes the great divider, becomes the source of disunity and separation.

Nearer to the time of His death, Jesus referred to the destruction of the temple as He wept over Jerusalem:

… as Jesus approaches Jerusalem headed for the cross, He saw the city and He wept over it saying, and here’s the key, “If you had known in this day, even you, the things which make for peace.” You missed it! “But now they’ve been hidden from your eyes.” Boy! That is one serious condition. When peace is offered and you reject it and then it’s not offered.

what He’s talking about there is the Roman destruction of Jerusalem in 70 A.D. Hundreds of thousands of Jews were massacred. Eventually, nearly 1,000 towns in Israel were sacked by the Romans. The temple was destroyed. It was the end of Judaism. There’s never been a sacrifice offered since then. They thought He was bringing peace. No, as it turned out, because they rejected Him as the Prince of Peace, He brought destructionI brought you peace and you didn’t want it on My terms. So the warnings escalate and they escalate until finally, it’s now hidden. There is a time. There is an opportunity, but God has the right to shut it down whenever He wants, as He did in history, as He does in the life of every individual who rejects that warning.

Jesus emphasised how strong the division would be with regard to faith. He used the example of a family setting rather than, say, a village. He made His message hit home, as it were.

He said that, from now on, a household of five would be divided: three against two and two against three (verse 52), elaborating on the division among family members, especially the women (verse 53).

MacArthur analyses the verses for us, pointing out how relevant they still are today:

Verse 52, “For from now on…”  I want to stop you right there.  That’s another little sort of phrase that Jesus liked to use.  He used it back in chapter 5 verse 10 when He said to James, John and Andrew or James, John and Peter. He said, “From now on, you will be fishers of men.”  “From now on” sort of signifies the way it’s going to be in the future, from now onLuke 22:69, Jesus, anticipating His ascension, said, “From now on, the Son of Man will be seated at the right hand of God in heaven.”  From now on. “From now on,” He says, “this is how it’s going to be.”  Throughout life here, five members in one household will be divided, three against two, two against three.  They will be divided father against son, son against father, mother against daughter, daughter against mother, mother-in-law against daughter-in-law, and daughter-in-law against mother-in-law.  We know… We know that the gospel divides, don’t we?  We just saw that.  At the cross, it dividesIt divides in eternity but I’ll tell you also that backs into time and the gospel of Jesus Christ is very divisive even here and now.

John 7 says, “And there arose a division in the crowd because of Him.”  John 9 verse 16, “There was a division among them.”  John 10, “There arose a division again among the Jews.”  He divided everywhere He went.  Not just in eternity are these people divided, but in time they are divided.  The gospel is a serious problem to people who reject it and those who believe it are outcasts.  In the time of Jesus, they were un-synagogued.  They were thrown out of the synagogue, social outcasts, and it goes all the way down to the most intimate point of human unity, the family.  Jesus could have illustrated it by talking about a town or a community or a neighborhood, but He takes it all the way down to the place where the most natural kind of unity exists and says, “This thing is going to be so divisive it’s going to turn a family against itself, three against two or two against three,” depending on how many Christians in the family and that’s hypothetical.  It might be one against four or four against one.  The gospel is divisive.

The family division is a chilling one, especially because many families lived together in that era but also because there was a similar filial division in the Old Testament. Jesus was citing Micah:

Now you notice in verse 52 there are five members in a household and then they are sorted out in 53: a father, a son, mother, daughter, mother-in-law, daughter-in-law. You say, “Wait a minute. That’s six.” You’re right. That’s six. But remember, the mother-in-law is also the mother of the son who has the wife, not that that’s a big issue but the Bible is very precise. The point is that there is going to be division in the family and sometimes that division can be so severe that it can end up even in death. Listen to the words of our Lord. These are somewhat frightening words when you think about it. Matthew chapter 10 verse 21, “Brother will deliver up brother to death, a father his child, children rise up against parents, cause them to be put to death. You will be hated by all on account of My name. Whenever they persecute you in this city, flee to the next,” pretty serious stuff. It goes on in the world; always has gone on. If you’ve been spared that, that’s a blessing, but Jesus said, “I came to bring a sword and that sword not only cuts into eternity but it comes into time.” I understand that.

I understand that the gospel that we believe, the gospel that I preach, cuts me off from people. I understand that it indicts them, that it condemns them by virtue of its message. It is divisive, really nothing new, by the way. The words of Jesus in verse 53, you might not have ever read this, but He borrowed from the prophet Micah because Micah said this very same thing in the 7th chapter and 6th verse, “For son treats father contemptuously. Daughter rises up against her mother, daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law. A man’s enemies are the men of his own household.” So they would know that Jesus was speaking of something that was biblical. It was from the Old Testament.

Jesus then rebuked the crowd, telling them they were good at predicting the weather by looking at rain clouds (verse 54) and judging temperature by the way the wind blew (verse 55).

He called them hypocrites, saying they could interpret the appearance of the wind and the sky yet do not know how to interpret the present time (verse 56), by which He meant the purpose of His ministry among them.

MacArthur tells us that Jesus played on the fact that the Jews took pride in their powers of discernment, especially spiritual discernment:

This, of course, is down in…in Judea. These are warning words and warning sort of becomes the tone of Jesus’ ministry from now on in these remaining months before His death, but not just warning. It’s sort of an indicting warning. It’s a warning that the die is cast and it gets stronger and stronger as the months go on. The nation has made itself the all-time illustration of wasted opportunity and it’s not just Judas. It’s a whole nation of Judases and the consequences are monumental and forever. Here in these two illustrations, our Lord says, “You failed to discern two things, the time and the threat, the time and the threat.” And, of course, the Jews prided themselves on their discernment. They prided themselves on their spiritual insight but they failed with damning, deadly and eternal results to discern the time and the threat

Jesus warned that the invitation to salvation through Him as their Messiah would soon be withdrawn:

here in verse 54, He opens it up to the crowd and it stops being an invitation because they’ve already made up their mind and it becomes an indictment. It becomes a warning directed at them in their unbelief and from here on to the end of this discourse, chapter 13, verse 9; all of it has that same tone of indictment and judgment to fall. Essentially, up to verse 54, He is inviting Jews to believe. Here, He begins condemning unbelieving Jews and we can extend it beyond that because the Bible is intended for all generations. Up to this point, He has been inviting people to believe and now He condemns those who do not. And first of all, let’s look at illustration No. 1, which shows that they failed to discern the time. Verse 54, “When you see a cloud rising in the West, immediately you say a shower is coming and so it turns out.” Now that’s just a simple, unsophisticated way to tell the weather and, as I said, very much like an illustration Jesus used in Matthew 16 verses 1-4 …

verse 56. Listen to this, “You hypocrites!” Now let me stop you there. You say, “What’s the connection? What does telling the weather have to do with hypocrisy?” Well, first of all, let me say that this was our Lord’s favorite term to describe the people of Israel. He called them hypocrites more than He called them anything else and not only the leaders but the people as well. If you just take your little concordance and bounce through, for example, the gospel of Matthew and see how many times He calls them hypocrites, you would be surprised. Well, you say, “I know they were hypocrites. Sure, because of their false religion.” That’s true. To be a hypocrite means to lie about what you really are, right? It means to deceive somebody about the truth and they were hypocrites because their piety was phony. Their spirituality was false. Their allegiance to God was a sham. Their…Their holiness was superficial. Their religion was external and their hearts were wicked and evil. Their whole religion was an hypocrisy. It was all phony, as all false religion is, all of it, because false religion can’t change the heart. Is that what Jesus meant? Well, that would be a little oblique, wouldn’t it? Why after telling two weather stories would you just make a blanket statement like, “You’re all a bunch of hypocrites” unless you had something more specific in mind.

Well, He does and He says what it is. Verse 56: “Here’s your hypocrisy. You know how to analyze the appearance of the earth and the sky. Why do you not analyze this present time?” What was their hypocrisy? Their hypocrisy was simply this: You see a cloud and you conclude rain. You feel a wind and you conclude heat. Minimal evidence and you draw a confident and accurate conclusion; and with all the evidence that I have shown you that I am God the Redeemer, the Messiah, the Savior, you reject Me. You hypocrites! You have more than enough. Their hypocrisy was in pretending not to have enough evidence and so they forever said to Jesus, “Show us a sign.” He says, “I’m not giving you any more signs except the sign of Jonah,” resurrection. You phonies!

At this point in Luke’s Gospel, Jesus had only six months more of ministry before He was crucified. The people and their leaders had ample evidence that He was their Messiah, yet they wanted more.

MacArthur describes the culmination in Luke 19, when Jesus wept over Jerusalem.

I posted about the destruction of Jerusalem above, but it bears repeating. Jesus tells us what true peace really is — reconciliation to God through faith in Him:

Look at Luke 19.  This is where it all gets kind of summed up.  Luke 19:41, He approached the city, saw it and wept.  And this is what He said, verse 42.  Listen to this statement.  “If you had known in this day, even you, the things which make for peace.”  If you had only known that I was offering you peace, if you had only known, but you refused.  “Now they have been hidden from your eyes.”  This is a judicial act on God’s part.  I gave you time.  I gave you opportunity.  It’s gone.  For the most part, for that nation, by now it was over.  And He pronounces the judgment, verse 43, “For the day shall come upon you when your enemies will throw up a bank before you, surround you, hem you in on every side, level you to the ground, and your children within you, and they will not leave in you one stone upon another.”  That’s the destruction of Jerusalem, began in 66 A.D., finished up in 70 A.D. when the Romans besieged and finally sacked the city of Jerusalem, the horrific event that caused the deaths of hundreds of thousands of the Jews, many who of course were hearing Jesus even then who were very young, still thirty years away from this occasion. But He says, “If you had only known…if you had only known.”  End of verse 44, “…but because you didn’t recognize the time of your visitation, now it’s hidden from your eyes.”  If only you had known.

Of course, tens of thousands of Jews converted to Christianity after the first Pentecost, but many more did not believe.

On a broader note, how can we evangelise unbelievers?

MacArthur recommends suggesting John’s Gospel as a starting point:

When somebody comes to me and says, “I don’t know if Jesus is really God,” do you know what I tell them to do? Read the gospels. Start with the Gospel of John because it’s written that you might know that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the living God, and that you might believe, and believing, have life. That’s why it was written. That’s the record.

As for finding true peace, he says:

… at the Great White Throne Judgment of God, there are only unbelievers. No believers will ever be there because we’re not under any condemnation. Why? Because we put our trust in Christ. That’s how you settle with God. You put your trust in Christ, the one who bore the penalty for your sin and the justice of the court and the judge is satisfied. God is willing to reconcile. God is willing to reconcile. He’s a reconciling God.

May all reading this have a blessed Sunday.

The Eighth Sunday after Trinity is on August 7, 2022.

Readings for Year C can be found here.

The Gospel reading is as follows (emphases mine):

Luke 12:32-40

12:32 “Do not be afraid, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.

12:33 Sell your possessions, and give alms. Make purses for yourselves that do not wear out, an unfailing treasure in heaven, where no thief comes near and no moth destroys.

12:34 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

12:35 “Be dressed for action and have your lamps lit;

12:36 be like those who are waiting for their master to return from the wedding banquet, so that they may open the door for him as soon as he comes and knocks.

12:37 Blessed are those slaves whom the master finds alert when he comes; truly I tell you, he will fasten his belt and have them sit down to eat, and he will come and serve them.

12:38 If he comes during the middle of the night, or near dawn, and finds them so, blessed are those slaves.

12:39 “But know this: if the owner of the house had known at what hour the thief was coming, he would not have let his house be broken into.

12:40 You also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an unexpected hour.”

Commentary comes from Matthew Henry and John MacArthur.

Last week, we had the Parable of the Rich Fool, whom God called to his death just as he was contemplating building barns for his harvest and his goods.

Today’s reading is about the Second Coming of Christ.

In between the Parable of the Rich Fool and today’s verses is another instruction from Jesus, which is not to worry.

Here are those verses from Luke 12:

Do Not Worry

22 Then Jesus said to his disciples: “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat; or about your body, what you will wear. 23 For life is more than food, and the body more than clothes. 24 Consider the ravens: They do not sow or reap, they have no storeroom or barn; yet God feeds them. And how much more valuable you are than birds! 25 Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to your life[b]? 26 Since you cannot do this very little thing, why do you worry about the rest?

27 “Consider how the wild flowers grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you, not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. 28 If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today, and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, how much more will he clothe you—you of little faith! 29 And do not set your heart on what you will eat or drink; do not worry about it. 30 For the pagan world runs after all such things, and your Father knows that you need them. 31 But seek his kingdom, and these things will be given to you as well.

Luke 9 through Luke 19 is all about our Lord’s instructions during the last six months of His life on Earth.

The discourse that Jesus gives in Luke 12 runs all the way through to Luke 13:9.

John MacArthur says:

At this point probably the buzz through the crowd to whom Jesus is speaking… Remember now, 12:1 to 13:9 is one discourse Jesus gave to a crowd, very large crowd, tens of thousands of people. And the buzz through the crowd would be, “Wow, this is pretty amazing stuff here.”

Jesus addressed the crowd as ‘little flock’, telling them not to be afraid, because God would give them His kingdom (verse 32).

Matthew Henry explains the words ‘little flock’:

This comfortable word we had not in Matthew. Note, [1.] Christ’s flock in this world is a little flock; his sheep are but few and feeble. The church is a vineyard, a garden, a small spot, compared with the wilderness of this world; as Israel (1 Kings 20 27), who were like two little flocks of kids, when the Syrians filled the country. [2.] Though it be a little flock, quite over-numbered, and therefore in danger of being overpowered, by its enemies, yet it is the will of Christ that they should not be afraid: “Fear not, little flock, but see yourselves safe under the protection and conduct of the great and good Shepherd, and lie easy.”

God will gladly give the faithful His kingdom as their inheritance:

[3.] God has a kingdom in store for all that belong to Christ’s little flock, a crown of glory (1 Pet 5 4), a throne of power (Rev 3 21), unsearchable riches, far exceeding the peculiar treasures of kings and provinces. The sheep on the right hand are called to come and inherit the kingdom; it is theirs for ever; a kingdom for each. [4.] The kingdom is given according to the good pleasure of the Father; It is your Father’s good pleasure; it is given not of debt, but of grace, free grace, sovereign grace; even so, Father, because it seemed good unto thee. The kingdom is his; and may he not do what he will with his own? [5.] The believing hopes and prospects of the kingdom should silence and suppress the fears of Christ’s little flock in this world. “Fear no trouble; for, though it should come, it shall not come between you and the kingdom, that is sure, it is near.” (That is not an evil worth trembling at the thought of which cannot separate us from the love of God). “Fear not the want of any thing that is good for you; for, if it be your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom, you need not question but he will bear your charges thither.”

Jesus told the crowd to sell their possessions and give to charity, to create a spiritual, heavenly ‘purse’ that does not wear out and cannot fall prey to a thief or a moth (verse 33).

Henry says that Jesus did not mean to literally sell everything and leave oneself a pauper but give away whatever prevents us from fully coming to Christ:

Sit loose to this world, and to all your possessions in it: Sell that ye have, and give alms,” that is, “rather than want wherewith to relieve those that are truly necessitous, sell what you have that is superfluous, all that you can spare from the support of yourselves and families, and give it to the poor. Sell what you have, if you find it a hindrance from, or incumbrance in, the service of Christ. Do not think yourselves undone, if by being fined, imprisoned, or banished, for the testimony of Jesus, you be forced to sell your estates, thought they be the inheritance of your fathers. Do not sell to hoard up the money, or because you can make more of it by usury, but sell and give alms; what is given in alms, in a right manner, is put out to the best interest, upon the best security.”

MacArthur says that Jesus is inviting the crowd into His Father’s kingdom:

So here is an invitation then to the kingdom But it appeals only to the desperate, only to the broken, only to the penitent, only for the hungry and thirsty whose desire to be delivered from sin and death and hell into the kingdom of righteousness, joy and peace is so strong that they would pay any cost.  So Jesus is saying what John the Baptist said, “Bring forth fruits unto repentance.”  You say you want to repent, do you?  Are you willing to give up everything?  Are you willing to make for yourself purses which don’t wear out?  In other words, instead of accumulating everything in this world in earthly barns, or earthly purses, are you…are you willing to put them in a heavenly purse, to put your treasure in heaven?  Are you willing to give up everything in a spiritual investment with God, who will return to you eternal dividends?  You will receive in heaven an unfailing treasure where no thief comes near nor moth destroys.

Jesus said that, where our hearts are, there will our treasure also be (verse 34). That is one of my favourite Bible verses.

MacArthur says:

So here is our Lord’s invitation.  It is an invitation to live in His kingdom.  It is an invitation to submit your life to the heavenly King and to invest everything into His careTo set your affections on things above, as verse 34 says, to put your heart in heavenHeart is kardia, cardiacIt means feeling, thought, desire, will, the core of life; everything in that heavenly investment.

Jesus then went into an allegory of a wedding feast, with the bridegroom not yet home and with waiting servants. This is His discussion of His Second Coming.

He said to be dressed appropriately — ‘for action’ — and have enough oil in the lamps, as did servants and slaves in that era (verse 35).

MacArthur explains that the length of time for a wedding feast in those days varied. No one knew when it would begin or end:

… a wedding feast was something that just sort of happened in a general sense at a general time rather than saying, you know, we’re going to have a wedding, it’s going to be Saturday at eight o’clock. They would say you’re all invited to a wedding. They would send out wedding invitations and it would say, like, “In the month of April and we’ll let you know when it starts.” And by the way, they would last … up to seven days or even more, depending on how wealthy they were, how many people came, and how much food there was available. They weren’t sure exactly when it would begin because all of the accumulation of the food and all that needed to be done was somewhat undetermined. And so here’s a perfect illustration. A master goes to a wedding. And he has to tell his people, “I…I don’t know when I’ll be back,” because that’s how weddings were. “So I’m just going to put you in charge of everything.” Now they could take it seriously or not so seriously.

MacArthur explains the attire, being dressed ‘for action’:

The Lord gives four analogies of readiness, OK?  Four analogies of readiness.  Now we’ll go back and look at verses 35 to 39 and it will all just unfold pretty simply.  Four analogies of readiness. Number one, verse 35, first half of the verse, “Be dressed in readiness.”  Literally, let your loins be girded. Let your loins be girded.  Everybody wore dresses in those days, everybody wore wrong…long robes.  They had a couple of holes for the arms and a hole for the head and you just threw on this robe.  You’ve seen all the pictures and film depictions of life in this period and it’s true.  They all wore these flowing robes.  If you were going to go into action that was a very, very inconvenient way to be dressed and so what they would typically do would be take a sash or some kind of belt and pull it around their waist and pull all of that loose material together.  And very often they would take the corners of their robes, pull them up through so that they would shorten them up so that they could move with more facility and more alacrity.  It was very important.  This goes even back to the Exodus, back in Exodus chapter 12 verse 11, the angel of death was going to come and it was moving time. After four centuries in Egypt, they were going.  And Israel was going out of Egypt.  God was going to deliver them.  And you remember what He said?  “You eat the Passover but you eat the Passover fast and you eat the Passover with your loins girded and your sandals on.” We’re moving out.

What is He saying?  He’s saying you’ve got to be ready to be goingIt’s going to happen so fast, it’s going to happen in a nanosecond, you don’t know when it’s going to happen. You better be ready to move.  The New Testament adds to that. There are a number of Old Testament uses of that phrase, 1 Kings 18:46, 2 Kings 4:29. It was a very familiar Jewish metaphor for readiness It also worked in the Roman worldPaul said that a Roman soldier, when he was talking about the armor of the Christian, had on a belt of sincerity or truthfulness, the belt of truth. And what he was saying by that is, look, if you’re going to engage in spiritual war, you’ve…you’ve got to pull the loose ends of your life together.  First Peter 1:13, “Gird up your minds for action.”  Pull in the loose ends of your lifeIt’s a metaphor for spiritual readiness, call to action to be ready to move and move fast.

Now on to the lamps:

Second metaphor is lamps. The first one is clothing. The second one is lamp, lamps. “Keep your lamps alight,” or “keep your lamps lit.” This is not time to be meandering around in the darkness. This is no time to be fumbling and stumbling. Be alert, be aware, be watchful, have everything ready. You remember the story in Matthew chapter 25, the parable that Jesus told about the ten virgins. And the ten virgins, you know, were the bridesmaids to the bride and they were supposed to be ready for whenever the bridegroom came. Weddings were really very hard to nail down in terms of time. They started when they started and they ended when they ended. You know, they started when everything was done and the preparations were made and the food was fixed and they ended when they ran out. And so they were sort of floating as to their beginning and their end. And in the case of Matthew 25, they were waiting and waiting for the bridegroom to come and He didn’t come and He didn’t come and it got to be night and dark and, of course now it’s midnight and some of them let their lamps go out. They weren’t ready when He came. That’s a metaphor of lack of preparation. The bridegroom came, the wedding took place, the door was slammed in the faces of the virgins who had no oil and Jesus is saying by that story…story, “You don’t know when the bridegroom is coming and you better be ready or you’re going to be on the outside. And outside is weeping and wailing and gnashing of teeth.” Be ready when He comes. You don’t know when He’s coming.

Paul put it this way in Romans 13, “Do this knowing the time that now it is high time to awake out of sleep.” Wake up. “Now our salvation is nearer than when we first believed. The night is far spent, the day is at hand.” He’s saying that 2,000 years ago. “Let us cast off the works of darkness. Let us put on the armor of light. Let us walk properly as in the day, not in revelry and drunkenness, not in lewdness and lust, not in strife and envy. Put on the Lord Jesus Christ. Make no provision for the flesh to fulfill its lust. It’s time to come to Christ. It’s time to live godly lives.” Jesus is coming, could come at any moment. You need to be alert, have the light on and not be in spiritual darkness.

Jesus told the crowd to be ready for the time the bridegroom returns — His Second Coming — so that they can be ready to open the door as soon as he/He knocks (verse 36).

MacArthur says:

Third picture, third metaphor is of servants. Clothing, lamps, and servants …

And so in verse 36 he’s saying, “You need to be like that. You need to be like servants waiting for their master to return from a wedding feast which carries the idea of you don’t know when it’s going to be, so that he may immediately open the door to him when he comes and knocks. You’ve just got to be there waiting so that when he arrives and puts one hand on that door, that door is open and you’re ready to receive him and give a full account of everything.”

Jesus went on to say that those servants or slaves who are ready for the master’s return will be blessed, because he will fasten his belt, call them to table and serve them himself (verse 37).

Now that must have struck the crowd as an amazing thought, because it was unheard of.

MacArthur says:

That’s turning the proverbial tables. When he comes home and he finds you ready, everything is ready, everything is as you know he would want it to be, you are prepared for his arrival. He is going to be so thrilled and so thankful for that that he is going to say, “Folks, sit down, I’ll cook dinner. I’ll feed you. You are now my honored guests.”

Jesus said that the slaves who were ready in the early hours of the morning and near dawn would be blessed indeed (verse 38).

MacArthur says that big households with servants or slaves set up a schedule so that a group of them would be on watch at various times starting in the evening and going into the early morning:

The Romans had divided the night military watch into four parts: six to nine, nine to twelve, twelve to three, three to six. The Jews divided into three parts. Scholars like to debate whether Jesus was thinking of a Jewish watch or a Roman watch and really, who cares? It’s not a critical point. Who knows what Jesus was thinking, we only know what He said, and He didn’t say either. The point is this, the second or the third watch would be late. In a Roman setting, it would be between nine and three A.M. and in a Jewish setting it would span basically the same amount of time. So you’re talking about a very inconvenient time when people would normally be asleep and they had finished their day of work and he said, “But you know what? If you’re ready in that most unexpected time, if you’re ready even if he comes in the third watch of the night, even if he comes in the dark when you should be asleep, and you’re ready, He is going to light everything, He’s going to set a table, He’s going to sit you down and He’s going to feed you.” And there’s another picture of the Marriage Supper of the Lamb at which the bridegroom Himself will serve His bride. When He comes and takes us to heaven, He will sit us at His table and He will serve us. That’s one of the great pictures of the love of Christ for His redeemed church. I understand the part that we serve Him. This is over the top, that He serves us. When He comes back and finds us faithful, He will serve us.

Jesus ended with a warning.

He said, ‘Know this’, that, if the owner of the house knew what time a thief would break in, he would have been on guard to prevent it (verse 39).

He ended by saying that we must be ready, at all times, because the Son of Man will return at an unexpected hour (verse 40).

In verse 39, we have our Lord’s fourth and final metaphor, that of the thief and the associated element of shock and surprise that accompanies a break-in.

MacArthur tells us:

one final metaphor here in Luke 12: that of a thief. Clothing, lamps, servants, and a thief, verse 39, “Be sure of this.” This is emphatic, obvious but emphatic, “that if the head of the house had known at what hour the thief was coming, he would not have allowed his house to be broken into,” or literally, dug through, because houses were made out of mud and the thieves would dig through as verse 33 says, they would steal.  And so if a man knew when the thief was coming, he would make sure that no thief could do his dastardly work.  A thief’s stock-in-trade is surprise, when you don’t expect it.  I mean no thief is very successful who comes when you expect it.  They thrive on coming when you don’t expect it.  And this is the picture of the coming of the LordHe’s going to come like a thief, not in that he’s going to do damage, not in that he’s going to take something he’s not entitled to, but it’s the element of surprise that is carried in this metaphor.  Listen to 1 Thessalonians 5 verse 2, “You yourselves know full well the Day of the Lord will come just like a thief in the night,” just like a thief in the night.  “But you, brethren, are not in darkness that the day should overtake you like a thief, for you are all sons of light and sons of the day.”  You’re ready, you have the lamps on, you have your loins girded and you’ve rendered your service to your Master and you’re ready to go.  He’s coming like a thief. Peter said the same thing in 2 Peter, using that same metaphor.  Once the Lord used it, they all started borrowing it from Him.  Second Peter 3:10, “The day of the Lord will come like a thief.”  Revelation, we even have the same thing and here in chapter 16 and verse 15 says, “Behold,” this is the Lord talking, “I am coming like a thief.  Blessed is the one who stays awake, has the lamp on, keeps his garments,” that is, is dressed and ready to go.  And even back in I think it’s the 3rd chapter of Revelation, and verse 3, “Remember therefore what you have received and heard, keep it and repent. If therefore you will not wake up, I will come like a thief” and here it is, “and you will not know at what hour I will come upon you.”  That’s the concept of the thief, you don’t know when.  So be ready.

Luke has more quotes from Jesus on spiritual readiness:

How do we get ready?  How do you get ready?  First of all, you need to come to Christ.  We can go back to Luke 9, can’t we, on that one and it says in verse 23, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, let him deny himself, take up his cross and follow Me.”  Come to Christ, “For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, whoever loses his life for My sake is the one who will save it.  What does a man profit it he gains the whole world and forfeits his own soul?  For whoever is ashamed of Me and My words, of him will the Son of Man be ashamed when He comes.”  Get ready, He’s coming and you don’t want Him to be ashamed of you when He comes.

Listen to Luke 21:34, “Be on guard that your hearts may not be weighted down with dissipation and drunkenness and the worries of life and that day suddenly come upon you like a trap.  For it will come on all those who dwell on the face of all the earth, but keep on the alert at all times, praying in order that you may have strength to escape all these things that are about to take place and to stand before the Son of Man.”  Be ready to stand before the Son of Man when He comes.  This is a call to salvation.

Readiness also implies sanctification:

But there’s also a call to sanctification, a call to sanctification, and Peter gives us that call in 2 Peter 3:14.  He says, “Therefore, beloved, since you look for these things” I love this “be diligent to be found by Him in peace, spotless and blameless.”  You want to be ready when He comes, not just because you belong to Him but because you are living a godly life.  You’re living a holy life.  Since we are looking for this coming, what kind of persons should we be?  Second Peter 3:11 says: “You are to be holy in your conduct and godly.”  He’s coming. He’s coming when we don’t expect it.  You need to come to Christ and be saved, to be ready when He arrives to be taken to glory and you need to be living a godly life to receive then a full reward when He arrives.

A lot of Christians think that the end of the world will come in our lifetime.

It might, but it might not. However, we will surely pass this mortal coil, and for that, we also need to be ready.

As to when the end of the world will come, I often think of one of the lines of O God, Our Help in Ages Past:

A thousand ages in thy sight are like an evening gone …

MacArthur gives us reason to think the end of the world is coming, but, perhaps not yet. He cites 2 Peter 3:

… you say, “But…but He said He’s coming and it’s 2,000 years.” Verse 8, here’s the key. “Do not let this one fact escape your notice, beloved, that with the Lord one day is as (what?) a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day.” You’re talking about the eternal God who is beyond time. You say, “But still, what’s He waiting for?” You know, we want to crawl under the altar with the saints in Revelation, “How long, oh Lord, how long, how long? When are You going to come? When are You going to glorify Yourself? When are You going to judge the ungodly? When are You going to vindicate Your name and manifest the glory of Your people? How long? What’s He waiting for?”

Verse 9 tells you what He’s waiting for. “The Lord is not slow about His promise as some count slowness.” Some people accuse God of not…just not getting around to it, maybe, “but is patient toward you.” You? Who are you? The ones He’s writing to. Who are they? Verse 1 chapter 1, “Those who have received a faith of the same kind as ours by the righteousness of our God and Savior Jesus Christ.” You believers, what is God waiting for? Listen to me, He’s waiting for you because He does not wish that any of His own who have been chosen perish, but that all come to repentance, and God cannot come, He cannot return, Jesus can’t return until all the elect are redeemed. That’s what He’s waiting for. The reason for His delay is not that He’s negligent. It’s not that He’s careless. It’s not that He’s doing other things. He’ll come when His bride for His Son is complete. He’ll come when redemption is over. The fact that 2,000 years have elapsed is utterly irrelevant to the doctrine of imminence. It’s still imminent. I don’t know when He’s coming, but I’ll tell you this, it’s sooner than it’s ever been. A certain event, an uncertain time.

Until then, MacArthur gives us guidance for readiness:

One other comment from Luke and that is to ask the question. So what are we supposed to do now in the light of this? And that’s how Jesus begins that verse, verse 40. “You too be ready.” Be ready. How do you get ready? Abandon false religion, fear God, confess Christ, trust the Holy Spirit, be rich toward God, leave the world behind, seek His spiritual kingdom. That’s how you get ready. He’s coming and His coming is certain and powerfully and for the purpose of motivation, motivating every generation, its timing is uncertain. And so the message is, you better be ready, you better be ready.

May all reading this enjoy a blessed Sunday.

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 their 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.

Philippians 1:19-20

19 for I know that through your prayers and the help of the Spirit of Jesus Christ this will turn out for my deliverance, 20 as it is my eager expectation and hope that I will not be at all ashamed, but that with full courage now as always Christ will be honored in my body, whether by life or by death.

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Last week’s post discussed Paul’s joy that the Good News was travelling quickly around Rome thanks to preachers who were doctrinally sound, even though some of those men bore ill will and jealousy towards the Apostle, hoping to see him languish in prison so that they could usurp his position as the best teacher of the Gospel story.

Comparing those preachers with those who taught out of love for Christ and for Paul, the Apostle wrote that he would rejoice either way (Philippians 1:19):

What then? Only that in every way, whether in pretense or in truth, Christ is proclaimed, and in that I rejoice. Yes, and I will rejoice,

Here he says that with the Philippians’ prayers and the help of the Spirit of Christ — the Holy Spirit — what he is experiencing will turn out well for his deliverance (verse 19).

John MacArthur tells us that Paul was confident of five things, which will become apparent as we look at these two verses.

First of all, Paul had confidence in the Lord (emphases mine):

Number one, he is confident in the precepts of the Lord, the precepts of the Lord, or the Lord’s Word – what the Lord has said Verse 19, “For I know that this shall turn out for my deliverance.”  Stop right there.  Great statement.  I know – “Why are you rejoicing?”  “Because I know this: that this shall turn out for my deliverance.”  Now when he says, “For I know,” oida, he is really asserting what to him is an absolute knowledge “I know this; it’s unequivocal.  I know this; this is the knowledge of satisfied conviction.  I know,” he says, “that this—” Now what is this?  The present circumstance – the present trouble, the chains, the detractors, the imprisonment, all of the difficulties, adversities in his life and ministry, the whole scenario, the whole thing he’s going through.  He says, “I know that this present trouble shall turn out” – future tense; it’s going that direction – “shall turn out for my deliverance, for my deliverance.”

You say, “How do you know that?”  Well, because that was the promise of God He had received it first-hand, by the way, when he wrote down, “All things work together for good to them that” – What? – “love God and are the called according to His purpose” (Romans 8:28).  He knew that principle.  “For I know” – absolutely confident – “that this” – all this trouble – “shall” – future – “turn out for my deliverance.”

MacArthur explains what Paul meant by ‘deliverance’:

The word here is stria, which is the word for salvation And some of your Bibles may say “for my salvation.”  Well, what do you mean by that?  Well, that word can be translated “salvation”; it can be translated “deliverance”; it can be translated “well-being”; it can be translated “escape.”  What does it mean?  Some say it means ultimate salvation Some say he is simply saying, “I know that this present trouble is going to turn out for my eternal salvation, ultimately to be in the presence of the Lord, my soul salvation.”  He is confident that he will endure to the end and be fully, finally saved and glorified in the day of Christ, the day he sees Christ.  Some say, “No, it means his health, his well- being, his welfare, his benefit – that I’m going to benefit from this, that my well-being will be secured.”  Some say “vindication.”  Some say it means “vindication.”  Some commentators think he’s saying that, “I’ll be vindicated in court and that my trial, when it reaches its second phase” – the first phase had already been held when no one defended him, and he’s waiting for the second phase, namely the sentence – that he’s saying, “It’ll all work out for my vindication at my sentencing.”  Others say it means his release from prison Since the primary meaning is deliverance from death, that he’s saying, “All of this that’s going on is going to ultimately end up in my being released from prison.”

Well, which of those is right?  I would say that the truth is in all of those, and let me show you what I mean.  It is in my judgment fair to include in one way or another the whole of all of those things which I mentioned to you in this sense.  Paul believes – and here’s the key thought; you need to get it – Paul believes that his current distress is only temporary That’s really what he’s saying.  It’s temporary; that’s the point.  It isn’t going to last “I will be delivered from it.  Maybe I’ll be vindicated at my second phase of the trial.  Maybe I will be released from prison.  Maybe I will go to heaven to be with Jesus Christ, and therefore be delivered in the sense of ultimate salvation.  Maybe my well-being will be at last the issue.”  I don’t think he knows.  But what he is saying is, “I do know this that what I’m going through now is temporary, and the future holds my deliverance, whether it’s vindication in court, release from prison, well-being, or eternal heaven – I’ll be delivered out of this.”

Paul quotes Job verbatim in verse 19:

… this statement that he makes, “For I know that this shall turn out for my deliverance,” is a verbatim quote of Job 13:16, a verbatim quote of the Greek Old Testament, Job 13:16 – word for word.  Paul was a scholar in Scripture And obviously identified his own problems and his own struggle with that of Job He knew the story of Job. All the Jews know the story of Job.  And he knew that Job was a righteous man and that God put Job the righteous man in a situation of suffering, but Job knew because he knew God delivered the righteous that no matter what he went through God would deliver him out of it.  Job knew that even to the point of death where he said, “Though worms destroy this body, yet in my flesh shall I” – What? – “see God.”  He knew that one way or another, either temporally or eternally, God would deliver him.

Why?  Because God delivers the righteous.  That’s an Old Testament principle.  Job knew it because it was the truth about God, even before the Old Testament was written.  Paul knew it, and Paul is identifying with Job, who is a righteous man going through very difficult times who also said, “I know that this shall turn out for my deliverance.” And Paul quotes Job because he takes security in the precepts of the Lord, the truth of the Word of God He obviously viewed his present trouble like that of Job, and since Job was a faithful, righteous man, he was ultimately saved from his situation because God delivers the righteous. So Paul could quote the same thing, “I know that You will deliver me.”  Because He knew his heart, his conscience was clear This wasn’t the chastening of God or the punishment of God or the condemnation of God. So he is giving expression to the conviction that everything must work together for good to them that love God. And whether he was released from prison in this life, whether he was vindicated at his trial, or whether it worked out for his physical well-being, or whether he went to glory as a martyr, he would be delivered.

Personally I don’t think you can isolate it to his release from prison, because he says right here, “Whether by life or death.” So he didn’t know that he was going to live.  He wasn’t sure whether he would live or die, so he can’t say, “I know this will turn out for my release from prison,” or he wouldn’t have said, “Whether I live or die.”  He is simply saying God delivers the righteous. That’s a great principle – confident, then, in the precepts of the Lord.

In addition to his trust in the Lord, Paul also had confidence in the power of prayer, also evidenced in verse 19.

MacArthur has more on the power of prayer:

Secondly, he was confident in the prayers of the saints He was confident in the prayers of the saints.  He says, “Through your prayers” – what a wonderful statement.  Listen, he knew the Word of God would come to pass.  He believed in the sovereignty of God.  He believed in the eternal purposes of God laid down from before time began, but he also knew that God effected His work and brought His purposes to pass in concert with the prayers of the saints And so he says, “Through your prayers.”  One of the most wonderful truths of Scripture is that God works His purposes through the prayers of His people – and he says to the Philippians who loved him so dearly and to whom he was bonded in a very unique way, maybe unlike any other congregation, as we pointed out earlier – he knew he had their prayers, and he knew that the effectual, fervent prayer of righteous men produces much fruit and has great effect. And he knew that God working out His purpose through the faithful prayers of these people would bring his deliverance.  He believed in prayer.  He was confident in prayer.  And he called people to pray on his behalf; in Romans 15:30, “Now I urge you, brethren, by our Lord Jesus Christ and by the love of the Spirit, to strive together with me in your prayers to God for me.”  He says, “Please pray for me.”

In Ephesians chapter 6, as he draws to a conclusion the passage on the armor, he says, “Pray on my behalf, that utterance may be given to me in the opening of my mouth, to make known with boldness the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in chains” (Ephesians 6:18-19).  “Pray for me.”  And there are other places we don’t have time to examine: 1 Thessalonians 5:25, “Brethren, pray for us.”  Beloved, he believed that God worked His purpose through the prayers of His people.  And so he said, “This will work out for my deliverance. My joy is fixed. My joy is fixed. My joy is fixed in the face of trouble, in the face of detractors, in the face of death.” Why, Paul?  Because the Word says God vindicates the righteous, and because the prayers of the saints are effective.

Paul also had confidence in the power of the Spirit.

MacArthur’s translation says ‘the provision of the Spirit of Jesus Christ’:

Thirdly, he was confident of the provision of the Spirit In verse 19, “And the provision of the Spirit of Jesus Christ.”  “I know this will turn out for my deliverance through your prayers and – implied – through the provision of the Spirit of Jesus Christ.”  And these are the three things that always work together: the Word, prayer, and the Spirit, right?  The Word, prayer, and the Spirit.  And they always work together for the benefit of the servants of God.

“The provision of the Spirit,” a wonderful statement. It means “the provision given by the Spirit,” not “the provision which is the Spirit,” although that certainly is true. I think the emphasis here is “the provision which the Spirit gives.”  In other words, the Spirit will grant to me whatever is necessary to sustain me The word provision,” by the way, epichorgias, means “help” or “supply.”  It can be translated “bountiful supply” here. It could be translated “full supply.”  I like “full resources,” “full resources.”  And the full resources of “the Spirit of Jesus Christ.” That’s the Holy Spirit, who is called here “the Spirit of Jesus Christ.” Who is called in Romans 8 and 9 “the Spirit of Christ,” so that’s not an unfamiliar designation.  The Spirit can either be the Spirit of God or the Spirit of Christ within the Trinity.

So he is confident that the Holy Spirit – his indwelling teacher, interceder, guide, source of power – will provide what he needs Boy, what a tremendous confidence, tremendous confidence.  The Spirit is the provider.  Acts 1:8, Jesus said, “You’ll receive power after the Holy Spirit has come upon you.”  In John 14 Jesus said, “I’ll send you the Helper, the Comforter, and He’ll give you everything that you need. He’ll bring all the resources of God to you.”  That’s right, He’ll bring you all the resources of God.  And the fruit of the Spirit is even listed in Galatians 5, “Love, joy, peace, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, self-control” – whatever you need He’ll bring it to you.  If you need power, He brings you power.  He is the provider who brings the provision.  And every Christian possesses the Holy Spirit, and every Christian then has that resource, that provision.  He knew what Zechariah 4:6 says, “‘Not by might nor by power, but by My Spirit,’ says the Lord.”

So, Paul is confident in the presence of the Spirit.  By the way, that’s why everything works out together for good.  In Romans 8:28 it says, “All things work together for good to them that love God, and are called according to His purpose.”  But in the verse before it says, “We know not what to pray for as we ought, so the Holy Spirit makes intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered,” and that’s why everything works out together for good That doesn’t happen in a vacuum. That happens as a result of the provision of the Spirit of God, the supply of the Spirit of God, the intercession of the Spirit of God in an unutterable language between Himself and the Father.

Wow. I wish I’d had that lesson in Confirmation class. Even though Confirmation is all about the Holy Spirit, the Third Person of the Trinity was underemphasised. It is only now in my teatime years that I have begun to appreciate Him. It is a sad admission to make. I mention it because it is essential for those who are parents or in charge of children to make the power of the Holy Spirit abundantly clear to young people.

Another thing I would like to mention is the serendipity of today’s verses with the Year C Gospel reading for the Sixth Sunday after Trinity, July 24, 2022, in which Jesus taught the disciples how to pray — boldly. Note Luke 11:13, in which Jesus mentions the Holy Spirit:

If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!

Also note Paul is confident that the Holy Spirit will provide his daily bread, so to speak. The Holy Spirit will ensure his survival, what he needs to stay alive.

Amazing. I love it when verses and themes coincide. It makes the Bible come alive.

Paul goes on to say that he has an eager expectation and hope that he will not be at all ashamed and that, with full courage now and always, he will honour Christ in his body, in life and in death (verse 20).

MacArthur explains:

Fourthly, he was confident in the promise of Christ, he was confident in the promise of Christ.  This is really implicit here rather than explicit … 

What he is saying there is simply this: “I’m confident in the promise of Christ, that if I’m faithful to Him, He’ll be exalted in me. That if I’m never ashamed of Him, He’ll never be ashamed of me” (Mark 8:38).  Jesus said, “If you confess Me before men I’ll confess you before My Father. But if you’re ashamed of Me before men, I’ll be ashamed of you before My Father.”

And Paul is saying, “I have this earnest expectation and this hope that I will never be put to shame in anything, never. And I just move with all boldness so that Christ, as always, can be exalted in my body.”  He had this earnest expectation, this tremendous hope that he would never be shamed.  He had no fear of being disappointed by Christ He trusted His promise.  He trusted that Christ would never fail him, that Christ would never forsake him, that Christ would never leave him, that Christ would never abandon him, that Christ would never let go of him.  He trusted the words of Christ when he was converted, “You’re a chosen vessel; you’re a chosen vessel to represent Me.”  He knew the promise of Christ – to be with him, to strengthen him, to empower him, to serve through him.

And so he says in verse 20, “My earnest expectations” a very graphic word, apokaradokia. The “earnest expectation” is “to stretch your head.” That’s kind of the literal picture here – “concentrated eagerness”; “intense, fixed gaze,” straining with the neck as far as you can.  And then he adds the word “hope,” and the New English Bible translates it well: “my hope-filled, eager anticipation.”  He says, “I live in this eager anticipation that I’ll never be put to shame, I’ll never be shamed, not before the world, not before the courts of Caesar, not before God, because Christ will be exalted in my body – that’s His promise to me.  So with all boldness I go forward.”  That’s why he’s confident facing death.  “I’ll never be ashamed.  I’ll never be put to shame” …

And he says, “This is, I know this is the promise of God,” and I think he’s reaching back to the promise of our Lord that those who are not ashamed of Him will never have Him be ashamed of them.  In fact, in Isaiah 49:23 the Lord says this: “Those who hopefully wait for Me will not be put to shame.” Maybe he had that in mind. Maybe he had that very verse in mind. “Those who hope or hopefully wait for Me will not be put to shame,” almost a parallel to that statement.  He says, “I’ve got the Word of the Lord on this thing. I’ll never be shamed, so I’ll preach and preach faithfully and not fear death.”  He never feared God because He knew God was on His side – never feared Him in the negative sense He never feared man because, what could man do to him?  The promise of Christ belonged to him. The promise of Christ was his that he would never be shamed or disappointed or disillusioned.  Listen to Romans 9:33 – wonderful statement taken out of Isaiah again – “And he who believes in Him will not be disappointed.”  Oh how wonderful, and that’s what he’s saying.

MacArthur discusses ‘whether by life or by death’:

… he adds this one phrase at the end of verse 20, “whether by life or by death,” and he introduces us to the fifth aspect of confidence He is confident in the plan of God. He doesn’t know what it is. It might be life; it might be death; but he’s confident in it – “whether by life or by death, I will boldly move on, for God’s plan is God’s plan, and I rejoice in it.” Confident in the plan of God.

He’s resigned to God’s plan He didn’t know whether he was going to live; he didn’t know whether he was going to die.  In fact, if he had a choice he’d die. Verse 23, he says, “I’m hard-pressed, I really have a desire to depart and be with Christ, for that’s very much better.  So if you really want to know what I’d like to do, I’d like to die.”  “But,” he says (verse 24), “to remain in the flesh is more necessary for your sake. So I know that I shall remain and continue with you for your progress and joy in the faith.”  He says, “My feeling is, the Lord’s going to let me live because you need me.  But for the time being,” he says, “I’d rather die if I had my choice, but whatever the plan is, I leave it with Him”

And he sums it up in this great statement in verse 21 This is the capstone, “For to me, living is Christ and dying is gain.”  That’s it.  That is the summum bonum of his life, “living is Christ, dying is gain.”  I live only to serve Him, only to commune with Him, only to love Him I have no concept of life other than that.  Now follow this thought.  He is saying, “I am totally wrapped up in Christ – loving Him, knowing Him, preaching Him, serving Him.  Christ is the raison d’etre, the reason for my being, the reason for my existence.”  He doesn’t mean Christ is the source of his life, though He is.  He doesn’t mean Christ lives in him, though He does.  He doesn’t mean Christ controls him, though He does.  He doesn’t mean that Christ wants him to submit to Him, though He does.  He simply means “living is Christ.”  Life is summed up as Christ “I’m filled with Christ.  I am occupied with Christ.  I trust Christ, love Christ, hope in Christ, obey Christ, preach Christ, follow Christ, fellowship with Christ, Christ is the center circumference of my life. It’s all Christ.  Christ and Christ alone is my inspiration, my direction, my meaning, my purpose – consumed, dominated by Christ.”

Matthew Henry’s commentary says this about verse 20:

Here observe, (1.) The great desire of every true Christian is that Christ may be magnified and glorified, that his name may be great, and his kingdom come. (2.) Those who truly desire that Christ may be magnified desire that he may be magnified in their body. They present their bodies a living sacrifice (Rom 12 1), and yield their members as instruments of righteousness unto God, Rom 6 13. They are willing to serve his designs, and be instrumental to his glory, with every member of their body, as well as faculty of their soul. (3.) It is much for the glory of Christ that we should serve him boldly and not be ashamed of him, with freedom and liberty of mind, and without discouragement: That in nothing I shall be ashamed, but that with all boldness Christ may be magnified. The boldness of Christians is the honour of Christ. (4.) Those who make Christ’s glory their desire and design may make it their expectation and hope. If it be truly aimed at, it shall certainly be attained. If in sincerity we pray, Father, glorify thy name, we may be sure of the same answer to that prayer which Christ had: I have glorified it, and I will glorify it again, John 12 28. (5.) Those who desire that Christ may be magnified in their bodies have a holy indifference whether it be by life or by death. They refer it to him which way he will make them serviceable to his glory, whether by their labours or sufferings, by their diligence or patience, by their living to his honour in working for him or dying to his honour in suffering for him.

What follows are the remaining verses of Philippians 1. Once again, he uses the words ‘standing firm’:

21 For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain. 22 If I am to live in the flesh, that means fruitful labor for me. Yet which I shall choose I cannot tell. 23 I am hard pressed between the two. My desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better. 24 But to remain in the flesh is more necessary on your account. 25 Convinced of this, I know that I will remain and continue with you all, for your progress and joy in the faith, 26 so that in me you may have ample cause to glory in Christ Jesus, because of my coming to you again.

27 Only let your manner of life be worthy[h] of the gospel of Christ, so that whether I come and see you or am absent, I may hear of you that you are standing firm in one spirit, with one mind striving side by side for the faith of the gospel, 28 and not frightened in anything by your opponents. This is a clear sign to them of their destruction, but of your salvation, and that from God. 29 For it has been granted to you that for the sake of Christ you should not only believe in him but also suffer for his sake, 30 engaged in the same conflict that you saw I had and now hear that I still have.

Paul has more advice on how the Philippians — and we — should live a Christian life. More on that next week.

Next time — Philippians 2:14-18

The Sixth Sunday of Trinity is on July 24, 2022.

Readings for Year C can be found here.

The Gospel reading is as follows (emphases mine):

Luke 11:1-13

11:1 He was praying in a certain place, and after he had finished, one of his disciples said to him, “Lord, teach us to pray, as John taught his disciples.”

11:2 He said to them, “When you pray, say: Father, hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come.

11:3 Give us each day our daily bread.

11:4 And forgive us our sins, for we ourselves forgive everyone indebted to us. And do not bring us to the time of trial.”

11:5 And he said to them, “Suppose one of you has a friend, and you go to him at midnight and say to him, ‘Friend, lend me three loaves of bread;

11:6 for a friend of mine has arrived, and I have nothing to set before him.’

11:7 And he answers from within, ‘Do not bother me; the door has already been locked, and my children are with me in bed; I cannot get up and give you anything.’

11:8 I tell you, even though he will not get up and give him anything because he is his friend, at least because of his persistence he will get up and give him whatever he needs.

11:9 “So I say to you, Ask, and it will be given you; search, and you will find; knock, and the door will be opened for you.

11:10 For everyone who asks receives, and everyone who searches finds, and for everyone who knocks, the door will be opened.

11:11 Is there anyone among you who, if your child asks for a fish, will give a snake instead of a fish?

11:12 Or if the child asks for an egg, will give a scorpion?

11:13 If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!”

Commentary comes from Matthew Henry and John MacArthur (as indicated below).

This is another long post, so please be prepared with refreshment.

Unlike the Jewish hierarchy who prayed aloud in public, reciting the same prayers several times a day, the ordinary Jew in our Lord’s era had forgotten how to pray in a heartfelt way as exemplified by the Psalms.

Jesus never prayed aloud in public. He said that those who did, i.e. the hierarchy, already had their reward. They prayed so that they would be seen and admired by other Jews. Jesus said that God was having nothing of their showy rituals.

Recall that Luke 9 through to Luke 19 documents how Jesus taught His disciples. Here, by request, He teaches them how to pray.

Now, at this point, Jesus was teaching and preaching in Judea. These were the final months of His life.

We are not sure exactly where He was at this point except that He was likely praying away from the crowds in a private place, as He always did. His disciples might have been praying with Him, using their own prayers. Luke does not tell us.

At this place, one of His disciples requested that He teach them to pray in the manner that John the Baptist taught his followers (verse 1).

Matthew Henry explains the request:

Their plea is, “As John also taught his disciples. He took care to instruct his disciples in this necessary duty, and we would be taught as they were, for we have a better Master than they had.” Dr. Lightfoot’s notion of this is, That whereas the Jews’ prayers were generally adorations, and praises of God, and doxologies, John taught his disciples such prayers as were more filled up with petitions and requests; for it is said of them that they did deeseis poiountaimake prayers, ch. 5 33. The word signifies such prayers as are properly petitionary. “Now, Lord, teach us this, to be added to those benedictions of the name of God which we have been accustomed to from our childhood” … This disciple needed not to have urged John Baptist’s example: Christ was more ready to teach than ever John Baptist was, and particularly taught to pray better than John did, or could, teach his disciples.

Students of the Bible know that Jesus had already laid out the Lord’s Prayer earlier in His ministry at the Sermon on the Mount. Matthew’s account has our Lord’s instructions in his sixth chapter.

Henry lays out the differences between Matthew’s and Luke’s accounts:

There are some differences between the Lord’s prayer in Matthew and Luke, by which it appears that it was not the design of Christ that we should be tied up to these very words, for then there would have been no variation. Here is one difference in the translation only, which ought not to have been, when there is none in the original, and that is in the third petition: As in heaven, so in earth; whereas the words are the very same, and in the same order, as in Matthew. But there is a difference in the fourth petition. In Matthew we pray, “Give us daily bread this day:” here, “Give it us day by day“—kath hemeran. Day by day; that is, “Give us each day the bread which our bodies require, as they call for it:” not, “Give us this day bread for many days to come;” but as the Israelites had manna, “Let us have bread to-day for to-day, and to-morrow for to-morrow; for thus we may be kept in a continual dependence upon God, as children upon their parents, and may have our mercies fresh from his hand daily, and may find ourselves under fresh obligations to do the work of every day in the day, according as the duty of the day requires, because we have from God the supplies of every day in the day, according as the necessity of the day requires. Here is likewise some difference in the fifth petition. In Matthew it is, Forgive us our debts, as we forgive: here it is, Forgive us our sins; which proves that our sins are our debts. For we forgive; not that our forgiving those that have offended us can merit pardon from God, or be an inducement to him to forgive us (he forgives for his own name’s sake, and his Son’s sake); but this is a very necessary qualification for forgiveness, and, if God have wrought it in us, we may plead that work of his grace for the enforcing of our petitions for the pardon of our sins: “Lord, forgive us, for thou hast thyself inclined us to forgive others.” There is another addition here; we plead not only in general, We forgive our debtors, but in particular, “We profess to forgive every one that is indebted to us, without exception. We so forgive our debtors as not to bear malice or ill-will to any, but true love to all, without any exception whatsoever.” Here also the doxology in the close is wholly omitted, and the Amen; for Christ would leave them at liberty to use that or any other doxology fetched out of David’s psalms; or, rather, he left a vacuum here, to be filled up by a doxology more peculiar to the Christian institutes, ascribing glory to Father, Son, and Holy Ghost.

Some might wonder why this disciple asked again, if he had heard Jesus teach the prayer before.

It could be that some among them needed reminding of how to pray, as John MacArthur explains:

… they had been raised in a Judaistic environment of apostate religion.  They had been raised with heresy.  They had been raised under the leadership of rabbis and scribes and priests and Pharisees and Sadducees who didn’t know God.  They thought they did but they did not, and so they had invented a false kind of praying; a ritualistic, vainly repetitious kind of praying. It was external, ceremonial that was used for hypocritical purposes to demonstrate one’s supposed self-righteousness publiclyThey had been cheated out of the examples of what it really is to pray.  And as we saw, listening to Jesus pray here in verse 1, waiting till He was finished they were hearing a kind of prayer that was very different from what they were experiencing in the Judaism in which they were raised.  And so one of them says, “Teach us to pray like You pray. Teach us to pray the way John the Baptist taught his followers to pray,” which gives us a wonderful insight. John the Baptist, of course, was a true man of God, a true servant of God, a true saint of God, a true believer in God and so in the midst of apostate Judaism there were those true believers, John being one, who did know how to pray.  And John’s disciples had the same problem Jesus’ disciples had, they had been raised in that apostate environment, they had been raised in the environment of false and hypocritical prayers and they also needed to know how to pray the right way.  And John the Baptist had instructed them. Even the Pharisees comment on that in Luke 5:33, they say, “John’s disciples always fast and pray.” And so here the disciples of Jesus bring up the question: How are we to pray?

He had already taught His apostles to pray.  He had already given this prayer in the Sermon on the Mount so we might conclude that this was a different group of disciples this timeCertainly there were some who had departed from Him and there were others who had been attracted to Him.  We don’t know specifically who these people were, but it may well have been as well that the others who knew the prayer when it was given in Galilee needed to hear it again here in Judea many months later.  It’s really important to know how to pray the right way.  If we have access to all of the supply of heaven, if we have entrance given to us, if the gates to the treasure house of heaven have been kicked wide open and God has invited us to come and put no constraints or limits on our coming, we certainly know then how to access that is critical for us.  They understood it and I think they heard the way Jesus prayed and it was different than the way they were used to hearing people pray.  And they needed Him to teach them.

Note that the Lord’s Prayer begins first by acknowledging God’s power and glory and ends with personal petitions for sustenance and forgiveness.

Jesus told the disciples to first say, ‘Father, hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come’ (verse 2).

‘Hallowed be your name’ means ‘Holy is your name’.

MacArthur has more on the word ‘hallowed’, which has two meanings:

First, to hallow, to make holy, to set apart as holy, can mean to make an ordinary thing holy by bringing it into contact with something that is holy, to make an ordinary thing holy by bringing it into contact to something that is holy. Now that’s biblical because that’s what happened to us. I’m not holy and you’re not holy but God views us as holy because He’s united us to whom? To Christ. So in our union with Christ, that which is unholy has been made holy. So we are now called holy ones. We are called saints. That’s what the word “saint” is. So we are holy in the sense that we have been made holy by being brought into contact with one who is holy.

That’s not the usage here because God doesn’t need to be made holy by being brought into contact with someone else who is holy. It simply means here to treat as holy, to hold as holy. That is to say, to recognize that God is different, separated, separated, separated, separated, holy, holy, holy, a different sphere, a different quality of being, a different power, a different knowledge, a different wisdom way beyond us. God is supremely separate from us. He absolutely belongs to a different sphere of life and being. And we come acknowledging that. He is vastly beyond us and above us.

MacArthur advises us on how to consider the words ‘Thy kingdom come’:

When you come to Christ and you’re sick of yourself and sick of your sin and your selfish ways and you bow the knee to the lordship of Jesus Christ and receive from Him eternal salvation, from then on the objective is expressed in this praise and prayer, “Thy kingdom come.” Confessing Jesus as Lord and King is to say, “Take over my life, fit me into Your purpose, put me somewhere in Your objectives and agenda and program.” When I say, “Thy kingdom come,” I am affirming that I have relinquished the rule over my own life. And I allow You to do whatever it is that You want to do. It’s very like the next phrase, “Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” Now this petition is based on one great assumption and that is that God is sovereign and Jesus is Lord and at salvation we are submitting to that glorious reality

“Thy kingdom come.” This puts His interest first. Do whatever advances Your kingdom

First: the logical flow. You know He cares, He’s your Father, you have access, He has wisdom; He has resources. At the same time you know He’s holy and only does what is right. And then, thirdly, you concern yourself with His kingdom and not your own. There are only really two kingdoms. There is the kingdom of God, and there is the kingdom of Satan. There is the kingdom of darkness, as Paul called it, or the kingdom of God’s dear Son, just those two. And everybody is in one or the other. We are either the children of God in His kingdom, or the children of the devil in his kingdom. We either serve God, or we serve Satan. Jesus said, “You’re either for Me or against Me.” There really is no middle ground. And as believers, it shouldn’t be any stretch for us to understand that all of our desires and longings and hopes would be toward the kingdom of which we are a part and in honor and affirmation of the King whom we love and serve.

Then Jesus prayed, ‘Give us each day our daily bread’ (verse 3).

He used ‘bread’ as an all-encompassing word symbolising what we need to survive this life.

MacArthur says:

Now let’s break this request in verse 3 down into several little features.  OK?  Just break it down a little bit.  Number one, the substance, what is it that we’re praying for?  Bread, see it there.  “Give us each day our daily bread.”  What do we mean by bread?  Well we mean more than cooked or baked wheat or flour.  Don’t we?  What do we mean by bread?  Well basically that simply stands for all the temporal issues of life, physical care; food, clothing, housing, basics to survive, to stay alive Martin Luther wrote that bread was the symbol for everything necessary for the preservation of this life Luther said, “Like food, health, good weather, a house, a home, wife, children, good government and peace.”  It’s a way of saying, Lord, if I’m to survive physically You have to be the source of my survival And again, it’s not the necessities of life, it doesn’t talk about what kind of house or what kind of food, or what quality of life.  It just says, “Lord, sustain my life because I cannot advance Your kingdom, I cannot do Your will, I cannot honor Your name, I cannot bring You glory unless I am alive.”

Finally, Jesus said to petition God to ‘forgive us our sins, for we ourselves forgive everyone indebted to us. And do not bring us to the time of trial’ (verse 4).

Henry explains that we cannot expect God to forgive our sins if we do not forgive those who sin against us. We also pray that we are not tempted to sin:

(9.) That we have no reason to expect, nor can with any confidence pray, that God would forgive our sins against him, if we do not sincerely, and from a truly Christian principle of charity, forgive those that have at any time affronted us or been injurious to us. Though the words of our mouth be even this prayer to God, if the meditation of our heart at the same time be, as often it is, malice and revenge to our brethren, we are not accepted, nor can we expect an answer of peace.

(10.) That temptations to sin should be as much dreaded and deprecated by us as ruin by sin; and it should be as much our care and prayer to get the power of sin broken in us as to get the guilt of sin removed from us; and though temptation may be a charming, fawning, flattering thing, we must be as earnest with God that we may not be led into it as that we may not be led by that to sin, and by sin to ruin.

Jesus then illustrates God’s infinite love for them — and us — by giving them a hypothetical situation of a disciple who goes to a friend in the middle of the night to ask for three loaves of bread (verse 5) because he has an unexpected houseguest and nothing to give him to eat (verse 6).

The friend doesn’t want to give him anything because it is the middle of the night, he is drowsy from being awakened and his wife and children are asleep (verse 7).

Yet, persistence, Jesus said, will cause the friend to relent in the end and give the man what he needs, if only to get rid of him and go back to bed (verse 8).

Jesus was saying that God is different to that friend. We have only to ask and if it be His will, He will give us what we request; if we knock, He will open His door to us (verses 9, 10).

MacArthur explains our Lord’s illustration leading into His Father’s response:

What happened here was this guy finally got out of bed and gave the man what he wanted because he was annoyingly persistent He was overly persistent.  He was troublesomely urgent.  It’s the word in the Greek anaideian, it’s hapax legomena, that is, once said in the New Testament, the only place it ever appears And really what it means – and you might see this in your marginal reading in the NAS – is “shamelessness, somebody who just sets aside all sense of shame.”  It’s, one lexicon said, “overly bold.”  Another one said, “utter shamelessness.”  Somebody who is just brash, and bold, somebody who has a lot of nerve.  Are we supposed to pray like that?

That’s what Jesus is going to teach us here to pray like that, and thus to participate in the means by which God achieves His ends … 

“Lend me three loaves.”  Now he doesn’t mean three great big bakery loaves, like we’re used to.  A loaf would be basically one piece of flat bread He wants three pieces of flat bread, which would be a normal meal dipped in perhaps some kind of olive oil, or spread with some kind of fruit, or whatever.  This would be sufficient for an evening meal.

Now this is not an emergency He isn’t saying, “My wife is having a baby.  My wife is dying.  My kid broke his leg.  We’ve got a robber in the house.”  He’s in the middle of the night and he says, “I want these three loaves.”  And the guy is probably thinking, “What in the world?  He is waking me up for a midnight snack.  This is ridiculous.”  Actually, it’s a very generous and unselfish act on his part because he’s been awakened himself.

Because verse 6 says, “For a friend of mine has come.”  I’m just passing on the joy here.  “Friend of mine has come to me from a journey and I have nothing to set before him.”  People often traveled at night in that hot part of the world, and his friend came at midnight, and he had to get up and host him.  He arrived unexpectedly. 

Hospitality, by the way, was expected in the ancient world, very much expected among the Jewish people.  They majored on hospitality.  It was part of their social duty, more a part of their religious duty.  Part of their duty to God to care for the stranger, right?  I mean, that’s Old Testament stuff.  They knew what they had to do.  And so this poor man who had this guest arrive at midnight at his house, he had sort of a difficult dilemma: I can be a poor host or a poor neighbor, right? 

Being a poor host was not an option because hospitality was at the high level of priorities in cultural considerations And he knew his neighbor knew it, as wellSo both of then would really be doing what’s right, even though it was a bit inconvenient for both of them So he says, “It’s really not for me.  I don’t want a midnight snack.  It’s a friend of mine that’s come to me from a journey, and I have nothing to set before him.”  He’s obviously hungry, hasn’t had anything to eat, no shops, restaurants, no stockpile of food, nothing.  Very different, by the way, from our world, isn’t it?  When you just make it every day with the bread you have …

“The door has already been shut.”  It wasn’t a door like we have that you shut it easily Sometimes doors actually dropped through rings, a combination of metal and iron, and removing it was not just a simple thing to do, and opening would make a lot of racket And there was a whole family there And he says, “My children and I are in bed.”  Usually the same bed.  They had a big mat, one-room houses, right?  One-room houses The kitchen in one corner, living space over here, and bedroom in the same place.  Just roll out the mat and everybody goes down on the mat with some pillows, or whatever.  And the colder it got, the closer they all got together.  That’s how they all kept themselves warm. 

So if he gets up, everybody’s up, all the kids are up, everybody’s up.  And probably by now the people living close next door are up because they’re listening to the conversation, as well.  The whole thing seems very presumptuous, very bothersome.  It really isn’t a big emergency.  I mean, couldn’t he – would he die if he waited till breakfast?  Isn’t he – aren’t you a little bit overdoing this hospitality thing?  Tell the guy to go to bed.  You’ll forget it when you fall asleep.  You know, give him a speech.  You’ve been on a long journey.  You’re probably tired.  Just lay down.  You’ll fall asleep and you’ll forget.  The man says, “I’m not going to get up and give you anything.  This is too much trouble.”

And then Jesus, skipping any prolonged narrative, jumps to the point of the story in verse 8 “I tell you, even though he will not get up and give him anything because he is his friend, yet because of his persistence – his importunity, his brashness, his boldness “ – he will get up and give him as much as he needs.”  There’s really no sense in not getting up because he’s not going away.  And you’ve already awakened me, and you’ve already awaken the kids. 

I tell you, he’s going to get what he asks for because of his shamelessness That’s the word, anaideian, because of his shamelessness, his brashness, his gall.  The emphasis here is on this boldness.  It isn’t so much on persistence and much asking, it’s just the boldness of asking at such an inopportune time, just took a lot of gall to do this. 

Well, it’s a perfect illustration.  It’s just a perfect illustration of us going to God and saying, “I know it’s inappropriate to interrupt You because You’re running a universe and You’ve got all these things going But I just need You to sit down and listen to me, and look at this, and don’t be distracted.  I’ve got some things I need to – ”  That is just – that’s over the top.

But it isn’t.  The picture here is of shameless nerve, boldness, importunity, things that seem almost ludicrous to us going into the presence of the God of the universe.  But our Lord is teaching us how to be invasive, how to be bold in our prayers This man responded not for friendship, but for irritation.  He is in contrast to God who, by the way, the Old Testament says, “Never sleeps and never – ” what? “ – slumbers.”  So you’re not waking Him up.  And if this man would give this man what he wanted not for friendship, but just because of his shameless boldness, what will God who loves you perfectly give you when you come into His presence?

Here’s how you pray.  “Father, hallowed be – ” what? “ – Your name, Your kingdom come – ” and then we add, of course, from Matthew 6, “Your will be done.”  So it’s always according to God’s name, according to God’s kingdom, and according to God’s will that we ask.  It’s not a blank check.

The generosity of the statement in verses 9 and 10 is absolutely amazing And because verse 9 is so shocking, verse 10 repeats the same thing It’s not necessary to say the same thing twice, especially when you don’t really change anything.  But he does because of the first verse, verse 9, just sort of leaves you stunned.  “Come on,” God says, “you can start whispering if you want through the wall, and you can raise your voice and begin to make demands, and you can even bang on the door, if you want, and I’ll tell you this.  When you ask, you’ll find; and when you knock you will receive what you desire.  I will open the door.”  What a great statement

And what comes out of this?  I’ll tell you what comes out of this, an experience of the goodness of God.  An experience of communion with God This is the richness of what we enjoy in this life and in the life to come, the eternal reward for being eager participants in the purposes of God.  Next time you pray, be bold.  Next time you pray, which should be at all times, praying without ceasing, be shamelessNext time you pray, go into the presence of God eager to pour out your heart Next time you pray, ask God to listen and to see, and not to turn away, and to hear the cry of your heart.  And as you pray and God unfolds His purpose, you will be enjoying the experience of having been a part of what He accomplishes and enjoy His goodness

This concept, this great truth, this great promise is built on a sort of axiom, an obvious principle, and that is built on a divine foundation. 

Then Jesus spoke of a father’s innate goodness.

I realise that with all the horrible news stories we read, some will think that few fathers have innate goodness, but most of them do — and that’s why we do not read about them in the newspapers. They get on with providing well for and loving their children.

Jesus asked the disciples, a number of whom must have been fathers themselves, if their child asks for a fish, will these men give them a snake instead (verse 11).

Or, if their child asks for an egg, would they give them a scorpion (verse 12).

MacArthur says that Jesus was asking them to follow His logic by moving on from friendship to fatherhood:

Friendship is one thing and friendship goes so far. Fatherhood is something else, isn’t it? This again is a typical common Jewish pattern of reasoning from the lesser to the greater. If a friend will respond to your boldness, what will a father do?

My children certainly didn’t hesitate to ask me for what they wanted.  Do yours?  They certainly have never hesitated to ask their mother what they wanted.  And the expectation is that if it’s something they need and we know they need it, they’re going to receive it, because they understand the relationship that we have is one of love, and care, and responsibility, and affection.  And that’s the point here. 

So Jesus is then saying this promise.  You can ask, and seek, and knock, and you will receive, and you will find, and the door will be opened, is based on the fact that you’re coming to a father.  This is the analogy.  This is the principle here.  And it’s very interesting how he lays it out.  He says one of you fathers, one of you of the disciples that are listening to this – it says back in verse 1 that He was speaking to His disciples.  “One of you fathers is asked by his son for a fish.  Your son’s hungry.  He wants a fish.  He wants fish.”  That was kind of the staple meat. 

And so what are you going to give him?  You’re going to give him a snake instead of a fish?  I mean, if he wants to eat and he’s hungry, you’re not going to mock his hunger and you’re certainly not going to give him a snake.  Some suggest that this is also the word for eel, I think it’s best to see it as a snake.  You wouldn’t give him an animal that could poison him.  When he wants food and he wants to be fed, you’re not going to give him something that could kill him.

And then He gives another simple analogy. “If he asks for an egg, he will not give him a scorpion, will he?”  Why that comparison?  Because scorpions were kind of a yellowy color.  There are different breeds that are different kinds of scorpions.  But historians tell us the kinds in those days were of a sort of a yellow color, not unlike the color of an egg, and they would curl up, and when they curled up in a little ball, they looked like a small egg.  So there was some kind of a similarity there to make the analogy work.  He says, “If your son wants an egg because he’s hungry, you’re not going to give him a deadly scorpion.”

Now when Jesus taught this elsewhere in the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 7:9, He added a third analogy.  He said, “If your son asks for bread, you’re not going to give him – ” what?  “ – a stone.”  You’re not going to mock your son’s hunger.  You’re not going to mock your son’s need.  And you’re not going to give him something that he can’t eat.  You’re not going to give him something that will kill him.  That’s the principle.  The principle is that fathers take care of their childrenAnd when children come and they have needs, the father meets the needs.

And so we see the parable which illustrates that we are to come at any time, no matter how simple the need, and to be overly bold in our asking.  The promise that underlies our coming is that whatever it is that we seek, if it’s within the framework of His will, we’ll receive it.  That is based upon the principle that God is a father.

Jesus ended by saying that if the disciples, who are evil — inherently sinful — know how to give good gifts to their children, how much more will God the Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him (verse 13).

MacArthur explains ‘how much more’, a longstanding Jewish comparison used to emphasise the greater of two things:

You, being evil.  However, have the residual imago dei, you have left in you the residue of the image of God that was defiled in the fall, but it’s still there, because even though you are at heart evil, “the heart is deceitful above all things and desperately wicked,” Jeremiah 17:9; “there is none good, no not one,” Romans chapter 3.  We are evil. “Yet know how to give good gifts to your children.”  That’s the residual of the image of God

Whenever you see what we call “the milk of human kindness,” whenever you see people who don’t know God parent well, love their children, show kindness, give their children what they need, be philanthropic; you’re seeing the residual of the image of God, so warped and scarred in the fall, but still there.  And so He says, “You, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children – ” and here comes the key “ – how much more – ”

This is an old rabbinical way to argue, an old Jewish way to argue, the “how much more” argument, the “how much more” approach.  “How much more than you who are evil shall your heavenly Father – ” implied, who is not evil, who is perfectly holy “ – give?”  I mean, if you who are at heart evil give good gifts to your children, how much more shall your heavenly Father who is holy give to His children?  If you who can only love imperfectly give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father who loves perfectly give to His children?  If you who are limited in your wisdom give to your children what you think is best, how much more will your Father who is perfectly wise give the best to His children?

The whole thing sets a huge gulf in our understanding.  You can go to God because He’s a loving Father.  But He’s a loving Father far beyond the most loving father in this world who is by nature evil and who does his best to give good gifts out of a corrupt and fallen heart.  How much more will your heavenly Father love you with a perfect love?  How much more with perfect wisdom, and perfect compassion, and perfect mercy and grace, and perfect understanding of your situation, and perfect goodness give to you?

So when you go to God, and you go with boldness, and you go with persistence, and you rush in and you unload what’s on your heart, and first you ask, and then you start pleading, and then you start banging, know this, that God is delighted with that – delighted with that – because He, with His perfect love, and perfect wisdom, and perfect power, and perfect provision is able to give the best to His children.  In fact, Psalm 84:11 says, “He withholds no good thing from those who walk uprightly,” His children.  He holds nothing back.  So how much more shall your heavenly Father give than any earthly father? 

I must confess that I have been praying boldly for something in the distant future for some time now.

I do end my petition by asking if it be His will. I have no idea if it is His will and, just by praying that, I accept that it might not be.

But I most certainly know one thing: if what I ask for is not His will, then He will grant me something far better than I had ever imagined.

Therefore, I pray boldly.

MacArthur summarises the Lord’s Prayer as follows, which will help put us in the right mind when we recite it. Note that this great prayer ends just as it started with an affirmation of God’s supreme nature:

… as you look back at the prayer, this is a pattern, a framework for praying.  It gives us what it is that God expects to be the character of our prayers.  It is a marvelously simple, memorable little framework.  And as I’ve been saying each week, you learn to pray your way through this framework.  It’s sequential. It’s designed that way, and if you blend together the Luke passage with the Matthew passage, you get the full prayer in terms of our Lord’s instruction and we’re doing that, importing what we need to from Matthew to get the whole thing.  It sets the record straight once and for all as to how we are to pray, how we are to access the throne of God for the glory of God.  You remember our little verse, John 14:13, “Whatever you ask in My name, that will I do that the Father may be glorified in the Son.”  In the end, all our prayers are for the glory of the Father through the Son.  And this prayer points that out.  When you say, “Father,” you acknowledge God as source.  When you say “Hallowed be Thy name,” you acknowledge God as sacred.  When you say, “Thy kingdom come,” you acknowledge God as sovereign.  When you say, “Thy will be done,” you acknowledge Him as superior.  When you say, “Give us this day our daily bread,” you acknowledge Him as supporter.  When you say, “Forgive us our sins,” you acknowledge Him as Savior.  When you say, “Lead us not into temptation,” you acknowledge Him as shelter.  And when you say, “Thine is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever and ever, amen,” you acknowledge Him as supreme.  It really is praying to the end that God is glorified.

May all reading this have a blessed Sunday.

The Fifth Sunday of Trinity is on July 17, 2022.

Readings for Year C can be found here.

The Gospel reading is as follows (emphases mine):

Luke 10:38-42

10:38 Now as they went on their way, he entered a certain village, where a woman named Martha welcomed him into her home.

10:39 She had a sister named Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet and listened to what he was saying.

10:40 But Martha was distracted by her many tasks; so she came to him and asked, “Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to do all the work by myself? Tell her then to help me.”

10:41 But the Lord answered her, “Martha, Martha, you are worried and distracted by many things;

10:42 there is need of only one thing. Mary has chosen the better part, which will not be taken away from her.”

Commentary comes from Matthew Henry and John MacArthur.

Ever since I first paid attention to this reading in my early teens, part of my heart goes out to Martha.

Martha was a pragmatist. Even when Jesus appeared after hers and Mary’s brother Lazarus died and He asked to see the body, she said:

39 Jesus said, Take ye away the stone. Martha, the sister of him that was dead, saith unto him, Lord, by this time he stinketh: for he hath been dead four days.

She did not want to expose Jesus to any unpleasantness. She wanted everything to be just right.

Moving on to Luke’s Gospel, John MacArthur explains the narrative that has been unfolding since Luke 9 and which will extend into Luke 19:38:

that whole section is primarily going to focus on His teaching ministry. It’s a teaching time. Miracles will take a backseat. They are only occasionally mentioned. The emphasis is going to be on the Lord’s teaching. And the students, through this whole six months, are primarily His apostles and disciples. This is their final semester in preparation for taking the gospel to the ends of the earth. This is their final preparation to proclaim the will of God, to ready them to be inspired by the Spirit, some of them to write the New Testament. And what dominates this section is teaching. Luke isn’t even interested in where Jesus goes. Here we read in verse 38 He entered a certain village. In chapter 11 verse 1 He was praying in a certain place. And it’s going to be like that until chapter 18 verse 35 and we finally get a town mentioned. And it’s Jericho, Jericho down at the Dead Sea, from which Jesus starts up to Jerusalem. Luke is not concerned about where Jesus is. And as I said, miracles are only occasionally discussed. The focus here is on the content of His teaching, not on where. And we’re not even sure that this is necessarily in chronological sequence. We can’t hold Luke to that. This is not necessarily in the order that Jesus taught all of this. In fact, He crisscrossed in Judea even into the border areas of Galilee into Perea, moving north and south and east and west all over that area throughout this time. But what is important is that we learn what He taught. This is private instruction from the incarnate God of the universe, nothing like it. It is in many ways the richest time in this whole gospel of Luke

Now the Lord’s teaching is radical. The Lord’s teaching calls for a departure from Jewish conventional wisdom. It is cogent. It is powerful. It is urgent. It is and is and will be life changing. For us this could be the greatest adventure of our Christian life. It will all sort of culminate when we come into chapter 19 verse 28, Jesus will enter Jerusalem, start the last week of His life, which runs to the end of chapter 23 and then chapter 24 is the resurrection. So we’re going to be in school with Jesus for the last months of His life. And He prepares us for this with this wonderful little story of Martha and Mary.

Matthew Henry calls to our attention the fact that Jesus spent much of His time in villages and the countryside:

Christ honoured the country-villages with his presence and favour, and not the great and populous cities only; for, as he chose privacy, so he countenanced poverty.

That is something to keep in mind, especially as history shows us that people have often scorned the countryside and those they consider to be ‘country bumpkins’. Jesus thought — and acted — differently in this regard.

Luke tells us that as ‘they’ — Jesus and His disciples — went on their way, He entered a certain village where a woman named Martha welcomed Him into her home (verse 38).

Henry says:

This village was Bethany, nigh to Jerusalem, whither Christ was now going up, and he took this in his way.

MacArthur has more on Bethany, the village that would become so pivotal for Jesus:

The name of the village was Bethany. How do we know that? Because we find out from John in John 11 and 12 that that’s where Mary and Martha lived with their brother Lazarus. And so we know this village, Bethany. Been there many, many times. It’s just a little under two miles east of the eastern wall of Jerusalem, just over the top of the Mount of Olives and down the backside … Bethany was so near to Jerusalem as just to be a brief walk. And that’s where He was, indicating again His crisscrossing. This isn’t at the end, this is many months before He’ll finally go back to Bethany, stay with Mary and Martha, raise Lazarus from the dead, then enter the city when the buzz has hit the whole city that He raised him from the dead. And that is the thing that finally precipitates His crucifixion because the leaders realize He’s completely taken over the people. That comes later.

This may have been the first visit, may have been the first time they met. But between this time and the last time when Lazarus was raised from the dead, there may have been other visits in between because by the time you get to the account of Lazarus, He knows them very well, very intimate and perhaps had stayed there on a number of occasions. But for now, He comes to this village of Bethany. And it says there in verse 38, “A woman named Martha,” and the language here indicates that He probably didn’t know her. It doesn’t say a friend, it doesn’t say Martha. It says a woman named Martha.

We know from the past few weeks in the Year C readings, specifically those from the Second and Third Sundays after Trinity, that Jesus and His disciples did not always receive a welcome when they entered a village.

Here, they did.

MacArthur shows us that Martha gave Jesus and His disciples a warm welcome:

“Martha” is an Aramaic word meaning “mistress.”  That is rather than the master of the house, the mistress of the house.  It suits her since obviously she appears to be the hostess and it is her houseShe is likely the oldest because she’s usually named first when Martha and Mary are namedAnd also likely she was a widow since no husband is named.  Well she welcomed Him.  That’s a grand word. Dechomai is to receive. Hupodechomai is to embrace and entertain as a guest.  They were happy to have Him.  They were excited to have HimThey believed in Him.

How do you know that?  Verse 40, Martha says to Him, “Lord,” Kurios. They had at some point embraced the truth that He was Lord.  And here He was coming to their town, they having heard the gospel perhaps from the seventy. Perhaps they had been some who had been delivered from demons when the seventy went out. We don’t know.  But she rushed to take the initiative.  And here was a receptive house.  And you remember the instruction for the seventy, when you go into a house and they’ll take you there, stay there. Remember?  Stay there.  Her goal was to take Jesus in, serve Him with hospitalityThis is only equaled by Abraham and Sarah having God and two angels come for dinner.  Here comes God and the apostles and whoever else and she makes extensive preparations, of course.

Luke tells us that Martha had a sister Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet and listened to what He was saying (verse 39).

It appears that this was a spontaneous and natural act for Mary.

She was also the lady who anointed Jesus with nard, a very expensive perfume used in embalming, a short time before He was crucified.

That also appeared to be a spontaneous reaction. She was, it would seem, a woman for whom still waters — emotion — ran deep.

Here is Matthew’s account (Matthew 26:6-13). Those nearby criticised Mary for her heartfelt act of love for the Lord. He, in turn, rebuked them:

Jesus Anointed at Bethany

While Jesus was in Bethany in the home of Simon the Leper, a woman came to him with an alabaster jar of very expensive perfume, which she poured on his head as he was reclining at the table.

When the disciples saw this, they were indignant. “Why this waste?” they asked. “This perfume could have been sold at a high price and the money given to the poor.”

10 Aware of this, Jesus said to them, “Why are you bothering this woman? She has done a beautiful thing to me. 11 The poor you will always have with you,[a] but you will not always have me. 12 When she poured this perfume on my body, she did it to prepare me for burial. 13 Truly I tell you, wherever this gospel is preached throughout the world, what she has done will also be told, in memory of her.”

Returning to today’s reading, MacArthur tells us that it was highly unusual for a woman to sit at a man’s feet. Only a man could do that:

The rabbis didn’t allow that.  A woman could learn in the back, or in the woman’s section.  But to come up and be at His feet, actually parakathezomai, para, alongside, she was as close as she could get, as near as she could be.  Her position indicated her intense interest in His teaching.  She got as close as she could get not to miss a wordShe was literally riveted to the most powerful, clear, truthful teacher who ever spoke.  There she is right alongside Jesus, sitting at His feet.  That’s a term we use today.  When you say you go to school, you sit at the feet of a certain scholar. It’s borrowed from the ancient world But women didn’t have that privilege.  Some rabbis said it’s useless to teach a woman.  It wasn’t. It isn’t.  She didn’t care about conventional wisdom. She was there listening to the Lord’s words, the closer the betterAnd she demonstrates the attitude of a true believer.

We can see from that there was but a short step in her mind to anointing Jesus with precious perfume some time later.

Meanwhile, Martha was elsewhere in the house, ‘distracted by her many tasks’; in her frustration, she went up to Jesus and asked if He did not care that she was left with all the work, wanting Him to tell Mary to go and help her (verse 40).

Henry points out the good and the bad side of Martha in that verse:

1. Something commendable, which must not be overlooked. (1.) Here was a commendable respect to our Lord Jesus; for we have reason to think it was not for ostentation, but purely to testify her good-will to him, that she made this entertainment. Note, Those who truly love Christ will think that well bestowed that is laid out for his honour. (2.) Here was a commendable care of her household affairs. It appears, from the respect shown to this family among the Jews (John 11 19), that they were persons of some quality and distinction; and yet Martha herself did not think it a disparagement to her to lay her hand even to the service of the family, when there was occasion for it. Note, It is the duty of those who have the charge of families to look well to the ways of their household. The affectation of state and the love of ease make many families neglected.

2. Here was something culpable, which we must take notice of too. (1.) She was for much serving. Her heart was upon it, to have a very sumptuous and splendid entertainment; great plenty, great variety, and great exactness, according to the fashion of the place. She was in care, peri pollen diakonianconcerning much attendance. Note, It does not become the disciples of Christ to affect much serving, to affect varieties, dainties, and superfluities in eating and drinking; what need is there of much serving, when much less will serve? (2.) She was cumbered about it; periespato—she was just distracted with it. Note, Whatever cares the providence of God casts upon us we must not be cumbered with them, nor be disquieted and perplexed by them. Care is good and duty; but cumber is sin and folly. (2.) She was then cumbered about much serving when she should have been with her sister, sitting at Christ’s feet to hear his word. Note, Worldly business is then a snare to us when it hinders us from serving God and getting good to our souls.

Martha made a bold, possibly impertinent, request of our Lord.

In response, Jesus gently rebuked Martha, addressing her by her first name, to make it all the more pertinent, telling her that she was worried and distracted by many things (verse 41) — too many things.

Henry says:

He repeated her name, Martha, Martha; he speaks as one in earnest, and deeply concerned for her welfare. Those that are entangled in the cares of this life are not easily disentangled. To them we must call again and again, O earth, earth, earth, hear the word of the Lord.

Jesus said that there is only one thing which is important and Mary chose the better part, which will not be taken away from her (verse 42).

MacArthur gives us this analysis about Martha and our Lord’s response to her:

she was doing it for the Lord, the guest of all guests. But in the process she just had her priorities completely twisted. Forget that. You’ve got God in there speaking divine truth, Martha. She’s fussing around all over the place trying to get done what she wants done the way she wants it done and loses sight completely of a rare privilege, to hear the Lord of the universe teach privately and personally she and her sister; could have learned from His lips. Her sister took the privilege; she got it. Furthermore, it wasn’t bad enough that Martha’s priorities were messed up, but once your priorities get messed up your attitude does too. So she starts losing the joy of this service. She becomes agitated. She becomes frustrated. And then she gets mad. That is not the right attitude by which to dispense your hospitality. At the apex of her exasperation, she acted in a way that shows how twisted she was, how easy it is to start out doing something good but because you don’t understand what is best, even what is good, creates selfishness, frustration, and then you do something that’s outrageous. Because you can’t contain your attitude, it comes out.

Look at this. “She came up to Him.” I mean just that. “Lord, could You just hold it there for a minute? And I know these are important things. Could You…” She came up to Him. What she should have done, especially when she was frustrated and angry and full of anxiety, irritated, she should have just gone in there and sat down next to Mary and listened. The Lord didn’t care about the stuff. He didn’t care about the meal. He came to teach the truth. If He ate or didn’t eat, it wouldn’t matter to Him or the rest. She comes up to Jesus and she says this, “Lord, do You not care?” That’s unbelievable. What an indictment. “Do You not care?” I mean, that is one of the most graceless statements ever made by a human being to Jesus. Do you mean the One on whom you cast all your care because He cares for you? Do you not care? That is a sad attack. That is an unthinking indictment. She’s out of control, she’s over the top. This is what we call, “She’s lost it.” It’s like saying, “Well, are You just going to stand there or sit there, whatever posture Jesus was in, and just keep talking about divine life-changing, soul-transforming, sin-shattering, heavenly blessing-producing joy, giving peace, bringing glorious truth, and ignore the fact that the table isn’t set?”

I mean, she could have come up behind Jesus, you know, and got Mary’s attention and gone… But to come up to Jesus and say what she said? Specifically she says, “Do You not care that my sister has left me to do all the serving alone?” I know You know all the secrets of time and eternity. I know You know all that needs to be known about life and death, righteousness and iniquity, and all the glories of heaven. But do You know the bread is burning? And Mary is just sitting there doing nothing.

Now Martha was all caught up in the bread that perishes, wasn’t she? She was worried about the bread that feeds the body and Mary was into the bread that feeds the soul. What a skewed view. And finally she says, well it’s kind of hidden in there, “I assume You do understand that so tell her to help me.” She’s gone all the way to commanding God. Tell her to help me. Staggering, frankly, to me; this is a very bossy lady. And it all comes because she has a twisted priority. She doesn’t get it …

Now, you know, the Lord could have said to her, “Whoa, back off, Martha,” like we might.  But He didn’t, so gracious.  Verse 41, “The Lord answered and said to her, ‘Martha, Martha…'” There’s tenderness in that, isn’t there?  “Martha, Martha.”  It’s a rebuke but it’s a sympathetic rebuke.  “Martha, Martha, you are worried,” merimnaō, to be unduly concerned, “and bothered,” thorubazō, to be troubled.  You are all messed up, worried, bothered about so many things, but only a few things are necessary, really only one.  This is corrective, but it’s sympatheticIt was good to do what she did, but not then, not when it was time to hear the Word of God.  And He says this amazing statement, “Only a few things are necessary, really only one.”  You can boil it down, a few things. David said, “I…I just seek Your face, I just want to see Your beauty.”  Paul said, “I want to be like You, I want to see Your beauty, I want to be like You, I want to love You.”  Well all that boils down to one, doesn’t it?  You have to know Me. And how you going to know Me?  You’ve got to know My mind.  How you going to know My mind?  Hear My Word.

The lesson of the story, MacArthur tells us, is this:

How can you tell a true believer? They hear the Word of God and they do itShe had a desire to hear the Word of God. She grasped the amazing opportunity. Here was the Lord in of all places in her little village, of all places her house, in her little room and she was sitting at His feet and hearing the very truth of God from the lips of the Lord of heaven Himself. And her priority was to hear, to listen, to love that truth, to believe that truth, to act on that truth.

The single priority for all Christians is to hear the revealed Word of God because that is prior to every other spiritual duty, which is motivated by, informed by, and defined by Scripture. The story makes it so clear. Number one priority, hear what God has said. Now if that’s your responsibility, what is mine? Pretty obvious. To tell you what God has said. Is that not true? Talk about basic and simple, that’s it. And how rare is that? How many times every week of my life do I hear from people, “We cannot find a church anywhere in our place where the pastor will tell us what is in the Bible,” unthinkable

Nothing is as important as divine truth. It is the priority. And the Lord takes Mary’s side. This rare opportunity is too rich and too critical to turn to anything else.

May all reading this have a blessed and beautiful Sunday.

The Third Sunday after Trinity is July 3, 2022.

Readings for Year C can be found here.

The Gospel reading is as follows (emphases mine):

Luke 10:1-11, 16-20

10:1 After this the Lord appointed seventy others and sent them on ahead of him in pairs to every town and place where he himself intended to go.

10:2 He said to them, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore ask the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.

10:3 Go on your way. See, I am sending you out like lambs into the midst of wolves.

10:4 Carry no purse, no bag, no sandals; and greet no one on the road.

10:5 Whatever house you enter, first say, ‘Peace to this house!’

10:6 And if anyone is there who shares in peace, your peace will rest on that person; but if not, it will return to you.

10:7 Remain in the same house, eating and drinking whatever they provide, for the laborer deserves to be paid. Do not move about from house to house.

10:8 Whenever you enter a town and its people welcome you, eat what is set before you;

10:9 cure the sick who are there, and say to them, ‘The kingdom of God has come near to you.’

10:10 But whenever you enter a town and they do not welcome you, go out into its streets and say,

10:11 ‘Even the dust of your town that clings to our feet, we wipe off in protest against you. Yet know this: the kingdom of God has come near.’

10:16 “Whoever listens to you listens to me, and whoever rejects you rejects me, and whoever rejects me rejects the one who sent me.”

10:17 The seventy returned with joy, saying, “Lord, in your name even the demons submit to us!”

10:18 He said to them, “I watched Satan fall from heaven like a flash of lightning.

10:19 See, I have given you authority to tread on snakes and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy; and nothing will hurt you.

10:20 Nevertheless, do not rejoice at this, that the spirits submit to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven.”

Commentary comes from Matthew Henry and John MacArthur.

This is a long exegesis requiring a cup of tea and perhaps a snack.

Today’s reading follows on from last week’s, which was about the Samaritans’ rejection of our Lord’s planned visit, the fury of James and his brother John at the refusal and the Lord’s subsequent refusal to accept three potential disciples.

What we learned about Luke 9 was that it represents a turning point in Luke’s account. Jesus has but one year of ministry left; what we discover through to Luke 19 is how He trains and prepares His disciples for His imminent death.

‘After this’ — meaning after Jesus turned down the three offers of discipleship from men who were deeply flawed with internal conflicts — He appointed 70 — some translations say 72 — disciples, sending them in pairs to towns and places where He intended to visit (verse 1).

These disciples were heralds, or, in today’s parlance, advance men.

There are some numbers in the Bible that are referred to as divine numbers, because they have a religious significance. The number three is significant for the Persons of the Trinity. Twelve is another: the twelve tribes of Israel, the twelve Apostles.

Matthew Henry’s commentary explains the significance of 70:

As in the choice of twelve apostles Christ had an eye to the twelve patriarchs, the twelve tribes, and the twelve princes of those tribes, so here he seems to have an eye to the seventy elders of Israel. So many went up with Moses and Aaron to the mount, and saw the glory of the God of Israel (Exod 24 1, 9), and so many were afterwards chosen to assist Moses in the government, in order to which the Spirit of prophecy came unto them, Num 11 24, 25. The twelve wells of water and the seventy palm-trees that were at Elim were a figure of the twelve apostles and the seventy disciples, Exod 15 27. They were seventy elders of the Jews that were employed by Ptolemy king of Egypt in turning the Old Testament into Greek, whose translation is thence called the Septuagint. The great sanhedrim consisted of this number.

In the beginning of Luke 9, Jesus had already given the Apostles His own gifts, sending them out to preach and heal. Now it is the turn of these 70 or 72 disciples.

Jesus sent them out in pairs for mutual support: physically, emotionally and spiritually.

Jesus said that the harvest was plentiful but the workers to gather it were few; therefore, it was important to ask the Lord of the harvest for more labourers to gather the harvest (verse 2).

Henry says that the harvest refers to lost souls, those whom the Jewish hierarchy neglected. The disciples were to bring them to salvation, especially with the presence of Christ in the region:

They must be duly affected with the necessities of the souls of men, which called for their help. They must look about, and see how great the harvest was, what abundance of people there were that wanted to have the gospel preached to them and were willing to receive it, nay, that had at this time their expectations raised of the coming of the Messiah and of his kingdom. There was corn ready to shed and be lost for want of hands to gather it in. Note, Ministers should apply themselves to their work under a deep concern for precious souls, looking upon them as the riches of this world, which ought to be secured for Christ. They must likewise be concerned that the labourers were so few. The Jewish teachers were indeed many, but they were not labourers; they did not gather in souls to God’s kingdom, but to their own interest and party. Note, Those that are good ministers themselves wish that there were more good ministers, for there is work for more. It is common for tradesmen not to care how few there are of their own trade; but Christ would have the labourers in his vineyard reckon it a matter of complaint when the labourers are few. (2.) They must earnestly desire to receive their mission from God, that he would send them forth as labourers into his harvest who is the Lord of the harvest, and that he would send others forth; for, if God send them forth, they may hope he will go along with them and give them success. Let them therefore say, as the prophet (Isa 6 8), Here I am, send me. It is desirable to receive our commission from God, and then we may go on boldly.

Matthew’s account also includes our Lord’s mention of the harvest.

John MacArthur tells us about that and the gut-wrenching compassion that Jesus, in His humanity, felt for the lost souls:

Go back to verse 35, Matthew 9:35.  Jesus was going about all the cities, all the villages, and this is in Galilee.  And He was teaching in their synagogues.  He was proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom, healing every kind of disease, every kind of sickness.  “And seeing the multitudes, He felt compassion for them, because they were distressed and downcast, like sheep without a shepherd.  Then He said to His disciples, ‘The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few.'” That statement was born of His compassion. It was born of His compassion.  Everywhere the Lord went in His ministry, and particular in Galilee, but everywhere else the Lord went in His ministry, He was moved with compassion.

For example, if you go through Matthew, you see Matthew 14:14 in addition to this, Matthew 15:32, Matthew 18:27, Matthew 20 verse 34, and it will say, “The Lord was moved with compassion, the Lord felt compassion.”  Luke 7:13, “The Lord was moved with compassion.”  And again other places in Luke; this is just a sampling.  The Lord moved through His ministry literally overcome with compassion.

Now this word is the strongest word for “compassion” in the language, the Greek language.  It refers to a deeply felt sympathy.  It refers to a deep pain that comes from empathy or affection.  You feel this one.  It actually comes from a root word that has to do with abdominal painYou feel it in the pit of your stomach where suffering emotions are felt even by folks like us.  What it’s saying is the Lord felt an aching in His stomach.  It is to say the Lord was nauseated physically.  You see Him, for example, at the tomb of Lazarus in the 11th chapter of John and the picture of Him there is first He’s sobbing and then He’s groaning, and then He bursts out into tears and then He shudders over the plight of sinners when He sees the reality of a dead Lazarus and a weeping Mary and Martha.  And it’s not all this agony simply over Lazarus and Mary and Martha because He was going to raise him from the dead and stop all the pain, but it’s the agony of seeing that as an illustration of the horrendous suffering in the world.  Lazarus was an illustration of what all of humanity goes through.  And Jesus literally sobbed, groaned, burst into tears, and shuddered with agony

MacArthur tells us of the horrifying plight of the lost souls, the lost sheep, that Jesus saw through that compassion:

Isaiah said about Him, “He would be a man of sorrows, acquainted with grief.”  And Matthew, as I said, uses the strongest word for “compassion,” one that indicates that the Lord had a deep ache, a pain, a nauseating churning in His stomach over the future condition of the unregenerate, as well as their present state.  Look back at that passage in Matthew.  It says He saw them as distressed and downcast, eskylmenoi and errimmenoi. Those two words mean worn out, exhausted, or literally flayed, skinned, like sheep whose shepherds had not only exhausted them, not fed them, but then flayed them, as it were, injured them, wounded them.  The second word, errimmenoi, means thrown down, lying prostrate, totally helplessHe looked at the sheep of the shepherds of Israel, the scribes and the Pharisees and religious leaders and their sheep were not healthy, they were not well fed, they were not well watered, they were not well cared for, they were literally wounded and injured, they had been attacked and assaulted and left for near dead by their evil false shepherdsAnd these people would have some kind of vague craving for satisfaction and not have any idea how to find it.  As Psalm 111:4 says, “The Lord is gracious and full of compassion.” That’s describing God, and here is God in human flesh and His heart is literally achingOn another occasion He wept over the city of Jerusalem, the ache was so profound.  He looks at the people of Israel and He sees them like flayed, mangled corpses.  They’re sort of like road kill sheep who have been totally destroyed by their own shepherds.  And there they lie bewildered and desolate.  They have been treated mercilessly.  They have been devoured by their own shepherds, as Jesus said of the Pharisees in Matthew 23:13.  And so He is so overwhelmed with sympathy for them that He says to His disciples, “The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few.”

However, there is another meaning to ‘harvest’ and that is one of burning chaff during the time of reaping. The farmer saves the good crops and burns whatever was unproductive. This refers to judgement.

MacArthur has more:

The Jews knew about a harvest. They knew about a harvest. The prophets had talked about a harvest. In fact, Joel chapter 3 verse 12, “Let the nations be aroused and come to the valley of Jehoshaphat. I’ll sit to judge and all the surrounding nations, put in the sickle for the harvest is ripe. Come tread, for the winepress is full, the vats overflow, for their wickedness is great. Multitudes, multitudes in the valley of decision, for the Day of the Lord is near in the valley of decision. The sun and the moon grew dark. The stars lost their brightness as the Lord roars from Zion.” That…That’s the harvest. It’s the harvest of the final judgment. And that’s why the compassion of the Lord is excited because He sees these people on a path to devastation. He sees them not only in their stricken condition, but in their disastrous future. He looks ahead, down human history, as it were, and He sees many who will be literally devastated, depressed and destroyed by false leaders, false shepherds. And His heart aches over them because they’re headed for the final harvest and it is a harvest of judgment. The New Testament follows that imagery. The Lord Himself in Matthew 13 verse 30 talks about the wheat and the tares growing together and He says they will grow together until the harvest. And the time of harvest will come, I’ll say to the reapers, “Gather up the tares. Bind them in bundles to burn them. But gather the wheat into My barn.” Again, the harvest is the end of the age when the angels gather together God’s people and put them in His kingdom, that’s the barn, and gathers together the ungodly and they burn forever in hell. That is clearly explained later in Matthew 13 verse 39. “The enemy who sowed the tares is the devil. The harvest is the end of the age and the reapers are angels. Therefore just as the tares are gathered up and burned with fire, so shall it be at the end of the age. The Son of Man will send forth His angels, they’ll gather out of His kingdom all stumbling blocks, all those who commit lawlessness, cast them into the furnace of fire. In that place, there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” That’s the harvest … It’s not a harvest that we often think about like there are all those souls that need to be harvested for the gospel. That’s not the imagery. The imagery is this, these unredeemed, unconverted people, deceived and left destitute by their false religious leaders and fake shepherds, are headed toward a harvest of judgment and it is a massive harvest. It is a worldwide harvest. It reminds us again that few there be that find the narrow way. The mass of humanity are headed toward a divine harvest.

And in verse 14 of chapter 14 of Revelation, we read further and more specifically about that harvest. Listen to these gripping words, “I looked and behold, a white cloud. Sitting on the cloud was one like a Son of Man, having a golden crown on His head and a sharp sickle in His hand.” That was the tool of harvest. “And another angel came out of the temple crying with a loud voice to Him who sat on the cloud, ‘Put in your sickle and reap because the hour to reap has come because the harvest of the earth is ripe.’ And He who sat on the cloud swung His sickle over the earth and the earth was reaped.” The next few verses carry the imagery. “Another angel came out of the temple which is in heaven. He also had a sharp sickle and another angel, one who had the power over fire came out of the altar and called with a loud voice to the one who had the sharp sickle and said, ‘Put in your sharp sickle and gather the clusters from the vine of the earth because the grapes are ripe.’ And the angel swung his sickle to the earth and gathered the clusters from the vine of the earth and threw them into the great winepress of the wrath of God.”

The harvest is associated with wrath. Wrath at the end of the tribulation, wrath at any point at the coming of Jesus Christ, it is the wrath of God at the end of time. And so the Lord looks at the people and His heart is just overturned. He is literally sick in His stomach because He sees the future all the way out to the great, horrific wrath of the final harvest. And to compound the matter, back to verse 2, the laborers are few. You’ve got this mass of humanity moving toward judgment and only a few laborers, only a few.

Therefore, prayer was — and remains — important:

That leads to a second essential motive and that is prayer.  You stand there and say, “Well how are we going to do anything about it?”  And the Lord says in verse 2, “Therefore,” in consequence, “beseech,” beg, plead with “the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into His harvest.”  You don’t just pray for the salvation of people. You do that, 1 Timothy 2 makes it clear. “Pray for all men, for kings and those in authority, and everybody else to be saved.” You don’t just do that though. You pray that the Lord will raise up more missionaries, that the Lord will save more and send more.  By the way, the Lord of the harvest, isn’t that an interesting phrase?  Who is the Lord of the harvest?  The judge.  John 5:22 to 29 says, “The Father has committed all judgment to Christ.”  So Christ is going to be the judge.  Christ is the executioner.  This is amazing.  The Lord Himself, the Lord of the harvest says, “Pray to Me and ask Me to send laborers to go out to deliver people from Me.”  It’s amazing.  It is the Lord Himself in 2 Thessalonians 1, the Lord Jesus, who is “revealed from heaven with His mighty angels in flaming fire, dealing out retribution to those who do not know God, to those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus.”  It is Jesus who is the Lord of the harvest.  It is Jesus who is the one who comes back with the sword in his mouth.  It is Jesus who brings the sickle along with the angels who attend His return.  It is Jesus who is the judge.  It is Jesus who is the executionerAnd it is also Jesus who is the one who hears your prayer and sends the people to deliver those who are perishing from His execution.  You can put it this way. Pray to Jesus to send somebody to deliver people from Jesus.  Pray to the Son of God and ask Him to send more messengers to reach this great harvest to deliver them from the Son of God.  Saved from what?  Saved from hell, yes.  But saved primarily from the God who sends you there and the God who sends you there has delegated that authority to His Son, so the Son says, “Pray to Me and ask Me to send messengers to preach a gospel so sinners can be delivered from Me.”  Amazing.  Amazing depth and profundity.

Jesus told His disciples to go on their way; He was sending them out like lambs into the midst of wolves (verse 3).

In other words, they were to expect rejection, possibly persecution.

However, as Henry says, one of the gifts that Jesus gave the disciples was courage, which would give them fortitude and perseverance:

They must set out with an expectation of trouble and persecution: “Behold, I send you forth as lambs among wolves; but go your ways, and resolve to make the best of it. Your enemies will be as wolves, bloody and cruel, and ready to pull you to pieces; in their threatenings and revilings, they will be as howling wolves to terrify you; in their persecutions of you, they will be as ravening wolves to tear you. But you must be as lambs, peaceable and patient, though made an easy prey of.” It would have been very hard thus to be sent forth as sheep among wolves, if he had not endued them with his spirit and courage.

In the next several verses, Jesus, as He did with the Twelve, instructs the disciples on how to evangelise, beginning with their personal behaviours.

They were not to carry any purse — money bag — or bag for clothes and possessions, no extra pair of sandals; furthermore, He told them not to greet anyone along the way (verse 4).

With regard to material possessions, they were to go with what they had on them already and nothing more. They were to trust that He would ensure they would have what they needed.

With regard to refusing to greet strangers along the way, this refers not to a simple greeting of ‘Hello’ or ‘Good day’ but developing a relationship with people, which could prove to be a distraction.

MacArthur says that Jesus implied urgency with these instructions:

The Lord just collects seventy who have denied themselves, taken up their cross, followed Him. They are genuine and true believers. They have entered into His kingdom. That’s enough, go your way and tell them I’m coming. The mission is immediate. It is urgent. The time is short. The cross is only months away. There are many, many, many villages and towns all across Judea and Perea, across the Jordan, that need to be ready for His coming and they need a full explanation of who He is so that when He gets there they’ll be ready to receive what He has to say. Evangelism is immediate. And I say this, if you are a Christian, I don’t care if you were saved five years ago or you were saved yesterday, start today with your ministry of evangelism. It’s urgent. Today is the day of salvation, 2 Corinthians 6. This is the time, don’t wait.

Henry cites a precedent in the Old Testament for going on a mission without a bag and not to greet strangers along the way:

They must not encumber themselves with a load of provisions, as if they were going a long voyage, but depend upon God and their friends to provide what was convenient for them: “Carry neither a purse for money, nor a scrip or knapsack for clothes or victuals, nor new shoes (as before to the twelve, ch. 9 3); and salute no man by the way.This command Elisha gave to his servant, when he sent him to see the Shunamite’s dead child, 2 Kings 4 29. Not that Christ would have his ministers to be rude, morose, and unmannerly; but, (1.) They must go as men in haste, that had their particular places assigned them, where they must deliver their message, and in their way directly to those places must not hinder or retard themselves with needless ceremonies or compliments. (2.) They must go as men of business, business that relates to another world, which they must be intent in, and intent upon, and therefore must not entangle themselves with conversation about secular affairs. Minister verbi est; hoc age—You are a minister of the word; attend to your office. (3.) They must go as serious men, and men in sorrow. It was the custom of mourners, during the first seven days of their mourning, not to salute any, Job 2 13. Christ was a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief; and it was fit that by this and other signs his messengers should resemble him, and likewise show themselves affected with the calamities of mankind which they came to relieve, and touched with a feeling of them.

MacArthur tells us more about the ancient meeting of greeting someone:

greeting in the ancient Near East was a big event kind of thing. You stayed and you got involved. Don’t depend on friendships to sustain you. Don’t depend on making relationships with people so that they provide for you. Don’t…don’t go the human route. Just go, don’t stop to make relationships, and know this, I will provide even if you have no human relationships to depend on. That’s the great lesson of trust. You’re going to have to be cared for by strangers you don’t even know, people you haven’t even cultivated a relationship with. This is just trust. You go, you trust, wherever God sends you, you go, you preach the gospel, you leave the results to the Lord. If you have nothing, you go, He provides. If you have everything, you go, you use what you have and if you ever come to a point where you have need, you know He’s going to step in and make provision. Don’t worry about the friendship side of it. Keep the message clear … But it is interesting that this was not friendship evangelism which may be…some people may overrate. I think friendship evangelism is good, you should evangelize your friends, but I don’t think you should wait to evangelize someone until after you’ve made a friendship. I don’t think that’s necessary. People are saved by the power of the gospel, not by the power of a friendship.

Jesus told them about where they were to stay and how to handle the initial greeting at those homes.

The disciples were to proclaim peace to that house (verse 5). If someone there shared in that peace, it remained with them, but if someone refused the offer of peace, it would return to the disciples (verse 6).

Henry says:

“You will meet with others that are no ways disposed to hear or heed your message, whole houses that have not one son of peace in them.” Now it is certain that our peace shall not come upon them, they have no part nor lot in the matter; the blessing that rests upon the sons of peace shall never come upon the sons of Belial, nor can any expect the blessings of the covenant that will not come under the bonds of it. But it shall return to us again; that is, we shall have the comfort of having done our duty to God and discharged our trust. Our prayers like David’s shall return into our own bosom (Ps 35 13) and we shall have commission to go on in the work. Our peace shall return to us again, not only to be enjoyed by ourselves, but to be communicated to others, to the next we meet with, them that are sons of peace.

Where they did find a home of peace, the disciples were to stay there and not seek another abode; they were to eat and drink what was provided, as that was to be their only wage (verses 7, 8).

Henry says that we should learn not to be fussy about our hosts’ food nor, as did some of the ancient Jews, enter into rigid beliefs about nourishment:

Be thankful for plain food, and do not find fault, though it be not dressed according to art.” It ill becomes Christ’s disciples to be desirous of dainties. As he has not tied them up to the Pharisees’ superstitious fasts, so he has not allowed the luxurious feasts of the Epicureans. Probably, Christ here refers to the traditions of the elders about their meat which were so many that those who observed them were extremely critical, you could hardly set a dish of meat before them, but there was some scruple or other concerning it; but Christ would not have them to regard those things, but eat what was given them, asking no question for conscience’ sake.

MacArthur has more about our Lord’s proscription on moving from house to house and taking a wage. That is how false prophets made their money:

This was all about authenticating the integrity of the messengers because it was very typical of false prophets, false teachers everywhere who were itinerant, they were like ants, they were all over everywhere And they were looking for the…for the most comfortable situation They were looking for the place where they could get the most money.  They would go into a place; they would go into a home. They would take whatever the home had to offer They would then go somewhere else They would keep moving up the ladder, taking money from as many as they could and bettering their circumstances That was the pattern.  False teachers are always in it for the money They’re always in it for filthy lucre How often do you meet a false teacher, long-term false teacher who hasn’t managed to make money off his lies and deceptions?  That’s why they do what they do.  Some of them make an awful lot.

Typically the itinerant preachers would take advantage of as many people as they could, as many houses as they could and as many comforts as were available Jesus says when you find a worthy place, you find a son of peace, for the sake of fellowship, for the sake of comfort, for the sake of discipleship and for the sake of integrity and sincerity and honesty and as an example that sets you apart from false teachers, stay there, don’t seek a better place Don’t seek any other food than what they give you.  If the food is meager, so be it; if it’s unappetizing, tough luck.  If it’s different than you’re used to, you’ll have to learn to endure it.  Whether it’s clean or unclean, whether it’s idol food, whether it’s a Jewish house or a Gentile house, stay there, accept the accommodations and accept the food Don’t be discontent.  Let them see that you live for the peace gospel; you don’t live for your own personal gain This will set you apart from false teachers very rapidly.

Jesus said that, where people accepted them, the disciples were to cure the sick telling them, ‘The kingdom of God has come near to you’ (verse 9).

What does that message mean?

MacArthur says that the kingdom of God is moving throughout human history, but especially for those sons and daughters of peace, because the long-awaited Messiah was in their midst and would be in person soon:

It has arrived. Eggiz is the Greek verb. It has arrived and nothing can stop it I don’t know if I can give you the picture, but the kingdom is moving and it’s moving through human history and finally the acceptable year of the Lord has arrived, the Messiah is here, the kingdom has come in the fullness of the very King Himself And for the people who were sons of peace, this was the fulfillment of all their dreams, all their aspirations, all their hopes, all their longings, all their desires The kingdom had come for their peace The kingdom had come for their peace.  It’s here now today and for all who believe in the King and submit their lives to Him, all who repent of sin, trust Christ and submit to Him, they enter into the kingdom.  The kingdom is peace to them.  We have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.  When you embrace the King, you enter the kingdom of peace.

However, for those places that did not welcome the disciples (verse 10), Jesus told them to shake the dust off their feet in that place — in the traditional Jewish way — and warn them, ‘Yet know this: the kingdom of God has come near’ (verse 11).

That warning was to be made public, as MacArthur explains:

Don’t steal away quietly in the night. “Go out in the streets and say…” Go right in the middle of the street in that place and make a public announcement.  Expose that rejection at the widest level possible.

The idea is not to pronounce some quiet judgment on rejecters but a public judgment.  Declare openly God’s absolute displeasure with that rejection Make it as public as it possibly can be made.  And make it known that they have rejected the King and the kingdom of peace and then say this, verse 11, “Even the dust of your city which clings to our feet, we wipe off in protest against you.” Can you imagine that vivid thing going on?  They stand in the middle of the town wiping off the dirt from that town from their feet?  That in the ancient Near East was the most demonstrative expression of disdain.  When the Jews went into a Gentile country and came back, they shook the dust off their garments. They washed the dust off their feet so they didn’t bring Gentile dust into the holy land.  That showed their hatred, their disdain for the Gentiles.  And here are the servants of the King, the kingdom messengers, missionaries who came in with the message of grace and a message of peace and a message of salvation and they leave town with a message of judgment, of warning, of condemnation, of disdain, a message literally of punishment We will have nothing to do with you and symbolically, of course, and neither will the King, except to treat you in this same way with the same disdain and the same rejection that you have treated Him.  “If they don’t receive you” means as back in chapter 9 verse 5, “as for those who do not receive you as you go out from that city, shake off the dust from your feet as a testimony against them.”  The apostles did it and now the seventy are doing it Show God’s displeasure openly before the whole town and do it with an abject lesson.

MacArthur says that this applies even today:

It is literally the testimony of God against those rejecters that they are acting out.  You can’t let people sort of come into the church and hear the gospel, or go to them and give them the gospel and then they don’t receive and quietly go away It demands a strong, final gesture, effort, proclamation of the reality of the implications of that rejection That is the last appeal, you see.  You have to understand what you’re doing.

As I was saying in talking to a prominent person not too long ago, at the end of our two-hour conversation, I just said, “You have to understand the consequences. You have to understand the consequences.  To reject Jesus Christ is to be rejected by Jesus Christ and that is to spend all eternity in torment in the punishments of hell.”  I don’t discharge my responsibility if I don’t say that That in itself, while a statement of judgment, is also a last appeal.

So this is the message and this is the messenger’s responsibility Find those who hear, give them the truth, and the kingdom will come in peace.  When you find those who don’t hear, you give them the truth and the kingdom will still come but will come in punishment.  Look at the end of verse 11, how interesting, “Yet be sure of this,” even where a rejection occurs, “be sure of this, the kingdom of God has come near.”  You know, the picture is this, folks, the kingdom of God is moving inexorably through history and you are either getting swept up in the kingdom or crushed by it That’s it.  It is the dominant reality in existence in the spiritual realm.  The kingdom of God is moving. It is moving through the world and it is gathering those who bow to the King in peace and it is crushing those who reject it.  That is the gospel It is good newsBut it is the worst news to those who refuse it The kingdom moves.  Preach the kingdom.  It’s no effort to change the strategy.  There’s no effort to…nothing here that says, “You know if they reject you, go back and retool the gospel.  Hang around and make some friends.”  It doesn’t say that.  Give the gospel, the gospel is the gospel When heard is either believed or rejected When believed it brings peace When rejected it brings punishment But be sure of this, you will not avoid the kingdom.  You will not avoid the King.  Every human being, whoever has lived on the planet will stand one day before the King and either that King will say, “Enter into the joy of your Lord,” or He will say, “Depart from Me, you workers of iniquity.”  But He will render the final judgment on everyone because there’s only one King in the world, there’s only one King in the universe, the King of kings and Lord of lords.  His kingdom is for peace or it is for punishment It is for salvation, forgiveness and heaven, or sin, guilt, judgment and hell.  We are this generation’s kingdom missionaries and God calls us to this same challenging task.

Now we get into some of the Lectionary’s sins, the omitted verses. Their omission proves MacArthur’s point. We can’t just have the positives, we also have to have the warnings. Here they are:

12 I tell you, it will be more bearable on that day for Sodom than for that town.

13 “Woe to you, Chorazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! For if the miracles that were performed in you had been performed in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago, sitting in sackcloth and ashes. 14 But it will be more bearable for Tyre and Sidon at the judgment than for you. 15 And you, Capernaum, will you be lifted to the heavens? No, you will go down to Hades.[b]

In verse 12, Jesus meant that any town that rejected His imminent arrival and the word of His disciples would suffer a worse judgement than Sodom.

Henry says that this is because Sodom rejected Lot’s warnings but these towns were rejecting the Messiah and Lord of all who was ministering to the people:

The Sodomites indeed rejected the warning given them by Lot; but rejecting the gospel is a more heinous crime, and will be punished accordingly in that day. He means the day of judgment (v. 14), but calls it, by way of emphasis, that day, because it is the last and great day, the day when we must account for all the days of time, and have our state determined for the days of eternity.

As for verses 13 through 15, you can read more about the significance of our Lord’s mention of them. This is my post from Forbidden Bible Verses, which are also Essential Bible Verses:

Luke 10:13-15 – condemned towns: Chorazin, Bethsaida, Capernaum; Sodom, Tyre and Sidon

Because the people in these towns actually saw and heard Him, yet disbelieved or were indifferent, Jesus says their punishment will be greater than that of Sodom, Tyre and Sidon.

Jesus explained the judgement by saying that whoever rejects the disciples rejects Him and that anyone who rejects Him rejects He who sent Him, meaning God the Father (verse 16).

MacArthur elaborates on the meaning of that verse:

If you think it’s going to be bad in eternity for the people who rejected the law of Moses, it’s going to be worse for the people who’ve rejected Jesus Christ.  There are degrees of punishment in eternityThere are degrees of suffering in hellAnd the more you know about the gospel and reject it, the severer will be your punishment.

To make it very practical, if you’re a non-believer, being in this church and hearing the gospel is high-risk behaviorYou’d be better off to climb Everest in a snowstorm or jump out of an airplane with a parachute with a huge hole in the middle of it.  Or better yet, jump out of an airplane with an umbrella than to sit in this church and listen to the gospel because the implications of rejecting it are so severe forever.  Don’t just come here, sit, know more and more about the gospel and continue in your rejection and not expect to be eternally held accountable for that rejection.  The severest eternal punishment belongs to those who rejected the most exposure to the gospel.

You say, “Why are you telling all this to us?”  Because this is exactly the point of the text.  Let’s go back to Luke 10.  This is the point of this text.  Let me pick up the text in verse 12, Luke 10:12.  “I say to you, it would be more tolerable in that day for Sodom than for that city.  Woe to you, Chorazin, woe to you, Bethsaida, for if the miracles had been performed in Tyre and Sidon which occurred in you, they would have repented long ago sitting in sack cloth and ashes.  But it will be more tolerable for Tyre and Sidon in the judgment than for you.  And you, Capernaum, will not be exalted to heaven, will you?  You will be brought down to Hades,” or hell.  “The one who listens to you listens to Me.  The one who rejects you rejects Me.  And he who rejects Me rejects the One who sent Me.”

The message here is very clearThere are comparative punishments in hell.  The more exposure you have to the glory of Christ, the more potential judgment you will receive if you reject it.

Turn over to the 11th chapter of Luke. This is not an isolated teaching from Jesus, it is oft repeatedIn the 11th chapter of Luke verse 29, the crowds were increasingHe began to say this generation is a wicked generation.  It seeks… It was a religious one, it was steeped in Judaistic religion, but it was wicked by Jesus’ judgment.  “It seeks for a sign and yet no sign shall be given it but the sign of Jonah for just as Jonah became a sign to the Ninevites, so shall the Son of Man be to this generation.  The queen of the south shall rise up with the men of this generation at the judgment and condemn them because she came from the ends of the earth to hear the wisdom of Solomon and behold, something greater than Solomon is here.”

This is an interesting statement.  Jesus is saying the queen of the south, the pagan, Gentile queen at least was so stunned and struck by the glory of Solomon as to come and give honor to Solomon, and here when a pagan woman gave honor to a great king like Solomon, she demonstrated the appropriate response to the glory of a man.  You, who are Jews, who are the people of God’s promise, cannot even give honor to one far greater than Solomon who comes to youAnd so in the Day of Judgment the queen of the south, that is to say a pagan, is going to stand up to your condemnation She showed an attitude toward a man that you didn’t even show toward the Son of God.  You’ll be condemned even by what she did.

Luke’s account then gives us a glimpse of joy as the disciples returned rejoicing that, when they invoked the Lord’s name, even the demons submitted to them (verse 17).

Henry says:

Though only the healing of the sick was mentioned in their commission (v. 19), yet no doubt the casting out of devils was included, and in this they had wonderful success. 1. They give Christ the glory of this: It is through thy name. Note, all our victories over Satan are obtained by power derived from Jesus Christ. We must in his name enter the lists with our spiritual enemies, and, whatever advantages we gain, he must have all the praise; if the work be done in his name, the honour is due to his name. 2. They entertain themselves with the comfort of it; they speak of it with an air of exultation: Even the devils, those potent enemies, are subject to us. Note, the saints have no greater joy or satisfaction in any of their triumphs than in those over Satan. If devils are subject to us, what can stand before us?

MacArthur expands on the theme of joy:

Joy is the operative word. We’re going to talk about joy here. The seventy returned with joy. Nobody died in this effort. They were willing. They came back and after going out in all these towns and being rejected in many places, being certainly put out of town, run off, having to give warnings, shake dust off their garments, pronounce judgment. They also had spiritual success. There also, as always, was a remnant out there that responded positively. They gave up their lives. They gave up their comfort, their money, their popularity. And what they got in return for that was joy. They returned after their first effort into these various towns and villages all over the place where Jesus was going to eventually come. And they were full of joy. And we ask the question immediately, “Where did the joy come from?” In the light of such a demanding call to discipleship, where did the joy come from? …

Reason number one: divine power over Satan’s kingdom, divine power over Satan’s kingdom. Verse 17, “And the seventy returned with joy saying, ‘Lord, even the demons are subject to us in Your name'” …

The key phrase, “in Your name.” That is, by Your power. There was no other power that could command demons. You remember the exorcist in the 19th chapter of Acts, they were trying to cast out demons and the demons said, “Jesus we know, and Paul we know, but who are you?” You have no authority over us. It may…it may not have been that they even particularly went to cast out demons, it doesn’t say when it tells about the power they had back earlier in chapter 10. It says in verse 9, “They had power to heal the sick.” It doesn’t say specifically that they were given power to cast out demons, they may have been. But it may well have been that when they were preaching the gospel, the power of the gospel was delivering people who responded and believed and therefore the demons were thus overpowered and perhaps manifestly so. They saw the power of Christ flowing through them, conquering the power of Satan …

In other words, you’re going to invade the kingdom of darkness and rescue the souls of men and womenPaul says that was my commission and I was obedient to it.  Well who wouldn’t be?  What a calling.  And it’s true for us.  I mean, think of how your life really should matter.  When you go out and faithfully proclaim the gospel of Jesus Christ, you literally invade the kingdom of darkness to rescue the souls there.  Through your faithfulness to the proclamation of the message, the power of God flows to awaken the dead, give sight to the blind, and rescue the perishing as the old hymn put it, out of the kingdom of darkness, literally, Colossians 1:13, transferring them from the kingdom of darkness into the kingdom of God’s dear Son.  This is what we do.  Is that cause for joy?  To have your life matter like that?  What else matters?

Jesus said that He knew of their success against the powers of darkness, telling them that He saw Satan fall from heaven like a flash of lightning (verse 18).

MacArthur explains the Greek words from the original manuscript:

You guys were out there, you were preaching, people were hearing, they were being delivered.  I was watching.  I was watching, theōreō in the imperfect tense. I was a spectator continuously.  It’s not talking about a one-time event, the fall.  Not talking about a one-time event, the temptation.  Not talking about a one-time event, the future, although I think He saw the future fall of Satan in that.  I think that was in certainly in His mind and in His view.  But for this moment He was saying, “I was watching Satan fall from heaven like lightning.”  Have you ever been in a lightning storm?  Sha-koom! And then it’s black.  Sha-koom! And then it’s black.  Choo! And then it’s black. And choo! It’s black.  And I was watching you.  Satan in a final flash and then the soul was rescued and he was goneThen I saw it again.  Then I saw it again.  Then I saw it again.  Then I saw it again.

Jesus told the disciples that He had given them authority over all unpleasant beasts, such as snakes and scorpions — synonymous with evil spirits — and over the power of the enemy; therefore, nothing could hurt them (verse 19).

‘See’ in that verse is sometimes translated as ‘Behold’, an emphatic word that demands attention.

MacArthur has more on this verse:

The thought might be, “You know, we could get ourselves in trouble with the forces of hell and that might not be too good.”  So immediately in verse 19 Jesus says this, “Behold,” a startling fact is coming, that’s why He uses this term “behold.”  “Behold, I” love that, the divine sovereign Lord have given you, perfect tense in the past with continuing effect, I have permanently given you exousia, dominance, right, authority, “power to tread upon serpents and scorpions and over all the power of the enemy and nothing shall injure you.”  Wow!  They might not like you and they might want to stop you but they can’t.  I, the sovereign divine Lord, have given you permanently as My own the power and dominance that gives you the right to tread upon serpents and scorpions.  Sounds like the Marine image, doesn’t it?  Serpents and scorpions… He’s not talking about the literal animals, bugsThat’s metaphorical for demonsSatan is viewed as a serpentIn the book of Revelation chapter 9, demons have tails like scorpions and a scorpion king over them. The angel of the abyss called Abaddon and Apollyon.  In Revelation 16 demons are like slimy frogs.  These deadly kinds of creatures, serpents and scorpions, are metaphors for the subtle, sneaky, deadly demons.  Those are well-known symbols, by the way, of evil spirits.

Jesus concluded by saying that, while that power was a real cause for joy, there was a greater one: the fact that their names were written in heaven (verse 20). Therefore, they would know salvation.

MacArthur explains the reference to names written in a book, an ancient custom of the time:

In Jewish thinking there was a Book of Life. Exodus 32:32 and 33 talks about it, Psalm 69:28 talks about it, Isaiah 4:3, Daniel 12:1, Revelation 3:5, Revelation 13:8. There was a Book of Life and God has written the names of His own in the book.  That’s the way they did it in ancient timesIn towns they had a book and all the citizens who were in good standing were in the bookGod has a book and all the citizens of heaven have their name thereAnd He says your names are there because you’re My true disciplesIf you’re going to rejoice supremely, rejoice in that.

I would like to close with an observation from MacArthur which is particularly pertinent to atheists and agnostics.

People have said to me, ‘He’s your God, not mine. I have nothing to fear from a so-called Last Judgement.’

MacArthur explains that unbelievers live in a kingdom, just as believers live in the kingdom of God. Both kingdoms will fall under divine judgement:

… when you become a Christian, you enter a kingdom.  In fact, the apostle Paul in Colossians 1:13 says you’re delivered out of the kingdom of darkness into the kingdom of His dear Son.  Lest people get the wrong idea, if you’re not in the kingdom of God, that doesn’t mean you’re free, you’re just in the kingdom of darkness and you’re under another sovereign, and that sovereign is Satan and you’re a slave to sin Everybody lives in a kingdom You just live in the kingdom of darkness or the kingdom of light, the kingdom of Satan, or the kingdom of the Savior.  You live in a kingdom.  You are subject to the authority and the power of the enemy of your soul, or you are subject to the authority and power of the Savior of your soul.  You are either in the kingdom that ends up in hell, or the kingdom that ends up in heaven.  You’re either a slave to sin, or a servant of righteousness.  Don’t be under any illusion that somehow coming into the kingdom of God takes away all your freedom You really have no freedom except the freedom to sin You can choose your poison, that’s all.

This is how you must view the spiritual realities of life

I wish when we preached the gospel we talked more about it like that We talk so much about sharing Christ, like you’re inviting people to get in on something that’s the sort of superficially enjoyable What we’re asking people to do is to come into a kingdom and submit their lives entirely to a King, an absolute monarch who has the right to determine everything without our consultation and who has revealed His will to us in the pages of the Word of God and calls on us to live in absolute submission and obedience to that revelation.  It’s not about your self-satisfaction. It’s not about your self-promotion or your self-fulfillment. It says: We’ve been saying about self-submission and self-suicide, it’s the end of you because you’ve had enough of you. You refuse to associate any longer with the person you are.  You’re sick of the kingdom of darkness, you’re sick of the kingdom of sin and Satan and you are now ready to submit yourself to the benevolent, gracious, loving Lord and King Jesus Christ who will give you forgiveness of your sins and the promise of eternal blessing in His perfect kingdom.

There is a sense in which God is King over the whole universe, His kingdom rules over all, Psalm 103 says.  But we’re not talking about that sort of universal kingdom, the realm of His creation.  We’re talking about the spiritual kingdom in which He rules over the souls of those who have come to Him through Christ This is what we preach, but we preach a kingdom and nothing less and we preach a King and no one less and this King is an absolute monarch.  That is why it says in Romans 10 that if you want to be saved, you must confess Jesus as (what?) Lord.  And Lord is the name above every name.  Lord is the name in which every knee bows.  Lord is a synonym for King.

My sincere thanks to anyone who made it this far, however, this reading has several eternal truths which needed exposition and explanation.

May everyone have a blessed Sunday.

The ongoing preoccupation and concern about how Anglican parishes will survive, especially in rural England, might be resolved soon.

On June 26, 2022, The Sunday Telegraph reported that wealthier parishes could be allowed to give more to poorer ones. The plan will be debated at the upcoming General Synod meeting in July (emphases mine):

Wealthy church dioceses will be allowed to share funds with their poorer neighbours under plans to be voted on by the Church of England.

The proposals, which have been submitted before the General Synod, the Church of England’s legislative body, will mean that for the first time cash can be more evenly distributed.

The move would remove some barriers to dioceses sharing resources and comes amid concern about the viability of smaller, poorer and more rural parishes.

Why did that not happen sooner? It’s common sense. In Paul’s epistles, we read of his collection for the poor church in Jerusalem. The other churches he planted in Asia Minor and Macedonia gave generously, and he succeeded in presenting the donation to the struggling congregation in Jerusalem.

It will be left to the dioceses to decide if they wish to participate. Hmm. Based on previous diocesan splurging of money on rather useless ‘initiatives’, I do hope they will be generous towards their poorer congregations:

In papers published last week and submitted to the Synod for its conference in July, David White, deputy director of finance for National Church Institutions, said that his amendment would “in effect, enable a Diocesan Board of Finance to grant funds from its income account for use by other dioceses in the Church of England if it wished to do so” …

In May the archbishops admitted that they “got it wrong” by not prioritising rural parishes over city churches, as they announced funding worth £3.6 billion.

We shall see.

On June 23, Andrew Selous MP, the Second Church Estates Commissioner, answered a question from Labour MP Ben Bradshaw on putting more clergy into neglected parishes. I agree with the Revd Giles Fraser of St Anne, Kew, that Selous’s response was far from reassuring:

Churches are struggling to obtain curates, as obtaining more clergy is not in their direct control:

The Save the Parish network will be meeting before the Synod members get together. I wish them all the very best. They have two champions in the Revds Giles Fraser and Marcus Walker, rector of St Bartholomew the Great in London:

Giles Fraser is enjoying his new assignment at the Parish Church of St Anne in southwest London:

He is out and about meeting fellow residents:

On a serious note, Fraser warns of the Lords Spiritual — serving Church of England bishops in the House of Lords — becoming irrelevant if the parish system breaks down:

In his recent article in UnHerd, he says:

the bishops draw their moral authority from the fact that the Church of England operates a universal service provision. We serve in all communities, from the richest to the poorest, from cities to rural areas. The bishops are in fact well suited to the Lords because they connect it to every parish in the country — well, in England at least. And if there is a current threat to bishops in the Lords it comes not from the fact that they sometimes irritate the government with moral pronouncements — ‘twas ever thus — but rather because the bishops are dismantling the source of their own authority. Armed with half-arsed MBAs, they want the Church to be run with increasingly centralised efficiency; inefficient parishes are being closed. As a result, the connection between the bishops and the parishes is being severed, and with it the source of their authority to sit in the legislature.

Fraser warns that this plays into secularists’ hands:

The role of the bishops is to represent the whole country spiritually. On the whole, other faiths are glad of this particular role held by the Church of England. The National Secular Society and other troublemakers are keen to sow division among people of faith in order to argue that no one church should have legislative priority over another. But this is simply a ruse to dislodge religion from the public sphere. The Church of England is not a special interest group, it exists for all. Even, heaven help us, for secularists.

On that note, the Revd Stephen Heard is concerned about the single-minded political leanings of C of E clergy, starting with the archbishops. Their constant political pronouncements could be alienating the laity — and potential converts:

He cites an article from The Critic, ‘The closing of the Episcopal mind’, which provides bishops’ opinions dating back to the 19th century, and concludes:

Given this deep uncertainty and debate as to the political implications of Christianity, total political consensus among its leadership makes me very uneasy. It alienates large swathes of lay Anglicans who, in perfectly good faith, come to conclusions that differ from the liberal-left consensus, and makes our mission as a broad national church harder. It belies a real lack of intellectual vibrancy and curiosity, and implies, by some curious happenstance, that the political spirit of a restless and secular age has magically aligned itself with the truths of the Christian religionWhat providential perfection! And what an unlikely state of affairs all round.

Political causes have even entered into baptismal and confirmation vows in the Diocese of Oxford, which now requires a promise to uphold God’s creation.

Marcus Walker rightly points out that this places Christ, the Person to whom we pledge our faithful allegiance, in second position:

He wrote an article about it for The Telegraph:

In it, he says:

Baptism and Confirmation are two of the most important steps a human being can make. I say this, I concede, as a clergyman, but what happens at these sacraments is not just a significant religious service, but an event that transforms a person’s life, temporal and eternal.

This is why it’s really important that the Church avoids putting barriers up that would discourage people from encountering this grace. It is difficult enough for the Church to persuade people that the Christian message is true (we’ve all seen the stats). Pushing away those who don’t hold to the ideologies of the current bench of bishops is foolish in the extreme.

This week, the Bishop of Oxford has decided to add to the service of Baptism and Confirmation a new little exchange: “Will you strive to sustain the integrity of creation, and sustain and renew the life of the earth?” “With the help of God, I will.” It is important to note that this is not a change to the actual baptismal vows. It’s part of a rather naff “commissioning” that the new prayer book, Common Worship, allows at the end of these services. Nobody knows what happens if a candidate says “no”, mostly because none of the other questions are controversial so this issue has not come up before.

At this point you might be saying, “but there’s nothing controversial here either”, and, if speaking entirely for myself, I would agree. You might also say that this seems pretty consonant with long-standing mainstream Christian and Anglican theology and this would be true.

But the question of how we engage with environmental concerns has become a major political issue recently, one controversial enough to have even caused long standing conservatives to reconsider their loyalty to the Crown in anger at the way some members of the Royal Family proselytise about “The Environment”.

This is the only part of the service which engages directly with a live political discourse. We are not asked to pledge anything to do with poverty, international relations, race, or even loyalty to the Supreme Governor of the Church of England …

Walker acknowledges that the 1662 Book of Common Prayer (BCP) requires confirmands to pledge loyalty to the monarch and says that it is no longer used in today’s confirmation ceremonies:

to use it now would turn away any republican. It would cause those who don’t think this country should have a monarch to have second thoughts about finding God. High Tory though I am, I would not want to stand before the Throne of Judgment and have held against me the souls I had turned away because of my politics.

Which means my advice to the Bishop of Oxford is not to mess with this liturgy; to those cheerleading the move to ask yourself what if the boot were on the other foot and you were being forced to assent to a political position you dissent from as a condition of baptism; to the Church to be grateful for anyone willing to commit themselves to Christ and to welcome them with open arms.

In closing, this guidance on sermon writing from 2017 is worthwhile reading. It could apply to any essay. Parts of it remind me of the Expository Writing course I took at university many moons ago.

This is called ‘Good to Great: Turning a Decent Sermon into a Wonderful One’:

It’s excellent advice — and difficult to achieve, therefore, all the more worthwhile in the pursuit of ‘good to great’.

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