You are currently browsing the tag archive for the ‘St Luke’ tag.

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 Second Sunday after Trinity is on June 26, 2022.

Readings for Year C can be found here.

The Gospel reading is as follows (emphases mine):

Luke 9:51-62

9:51 When the days drew near for him to be taken up, he set his face to go to Jerusalem.

9:52 And he sent messengers ahead of him. On their way they entered a village of the Samaritans to make ready for him;

9:53 but they did not receive him, because his face was set toward Jerusalem.

9:54 When his disciples James and John saw it, they said, “Lord, do you want us to command fire to come down from heaven and consume them?”

9:55 But he turned and rebuked them.

9:56 Then they went on to another village.

9:57 As they were going along the road, someone said to him, “I will follow you wherever you go.”

9:58 And Jesus said to him, “Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests; but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head.”

9:59 To another he said, “Follow me.” But he said, “Lord, first let me go and bury my father.”

9:60 But Jesus said to him, “Let the dead bury their own dead; but as for you, go and proclaim the kingdom of God.”

9:61 Another said, “I will follow you, Lord; but let me first say farewell to those at my home.”

9:62 Jesus said to him, “No one who puts a hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God.”

Commentary comes from Matthew Henry and John MacArthur.

A lot happens in Luke 9. Jesus gives the Apostles all of His own powers and sends them out to teach, preach and heal in His name. Herod worried that Jesus was a reincarnated John the Baptist or a resurrected prophet from Old Testament times. Jesus fed the Five Thousand. Going back to the rumours that Herod had heard, Peter declared that Jesus is the Messiah. Then Jesus predicted His own death, which he did twice in this chapter:

21 Jesus strictly warned them not to tell this to anyone. 22 And he said, “The Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests and the teachers of the law, and he must be killed and on the third day be raised to life.”

While everyone was marveling at all that Jesus did, he said to his disciples, 44 “Listen carefully to what I am about to tell you: The Son of Man is going to be delivered into the hands of men.” 45 But they did not understand what this meant. It was hidden from them, so that they did not grasp it, and they were afraid to ask him about it.

The Transfiguration took place, after which Jesus healed a demon-possessed boy. The Apostles disputed amongst themselves who would be the greatest in the world to come. Jesus corrected their folly by bringing a child to illustrate that whoever welcomed young innocents welcomed Him and, in turn, God the Father.

The chapter ends with our Lord’s visit to Samaria.

Of it, Matthew Henry’s commentary says that this particular visit is recorded only in Luke’s Gospel:

This passage of story we have not in any other of the evangelists, and it seems to come in here for the sake of its affinity with that next before, for in this also Christ rebuked his disciples, because they envied for his sake. There, under colour of zeal for Christ, they were for silencing and restraining separatists: here, under the same colour, they were for putting infidels to death; and, as for that, so for this also, Christ reprimanded them, for a spirit of bigotry and persecution is directly contrary to the spirit of Christ and Christianity.

John MacArthur says that today’s reading is all about mercy, even though the word itself is not used:

He took every experience that the disciples had and turned it into an education about how He thought about everything. And here in this village of Samaria, He finds a perfect opportunity to teach a very short lesson but a riveting and unforgettable one about mercy, about mercy. And they had just completed a lesson on humility, verses 46 to 50. He had taught them the deadly dangers of pride and instructed them by that to be humble.  And this is a perfect way to follow that up because only the humble are merciful. Proud people tend to be without mercy and the prouder they are, the more merciless they become. So from the lesson on humility to the lesson on mercy is not a big jump.

MacArthur says that Luke 9 represents a shift in emphasis:

this is a huge change, huge. Up to now everything in Luke’s gospel has been focusing on His coming, on His coming. The prophecies in the first chapter, the angel’s announcement of John the Baptist, the forerunner, then the angel comes to Mary, the announcement to Mary, the meeting with Elizabeth, the genealogies. And all of a sudden He comes and He’s born and the stories around His birth, the shepherds the wise men. And then He comes to the temple at twelve and all those years go by and finally He embarks upon His ministry and He comes into Judea first, then He comes to Galilee and He’s there well over a year in His ministry.  And He’s come, the Messiah’s come, the Messiah’s come and He’s going from place to place, town to town, village to village. And His coming reaches its pinnacle at the Mount of Transfiguration in this chapter, verses 28 to 36. He’s come all the way to the peak of revelation and there on the mount, Peter, James and John see Him transfigured, they see that He is the eternal Son of God, He is the glory of God, the Shekinah incarnate and they also see Moses and Elijah and they are there and they see the fullness of His revelation, His full coming. And after that, that’s the high point, they start down the mountain, verse 37, and things begin to change. Up to that point it was about His coming. From now on it’s about His going. It’s about His going. Now He sets His face to go to Jerusalem. The whole tenor of the gospel of Luke is going to dramatically change. Up to this point we’ve been talking about He’s the Messiah, He’s revealing Himself as the Messiah. All the evidence is there. Look at His power. Look at His miracles. And now what we’re going to see is He’s headed to the cross, He’s headed to the cross. He’s headed to the cross. Look at the hostility, look at the hatred, look at the vitriol, look at the plots. Look at the plans. Watch what’s happening. Up to now it’s been His coming and from now on it’s going to be His going.  He was literally moving toward His exaltation, moving toward the revelation of His full Messiahship. And now He’s going to move to His humiliation.

Luke says that when it was time for Jesus to be taken up, He set His face to go to Jerusalem (verse 51).

MacArthur contrasts this event with the Transfiguration and how important the next ten chapters of Luke’s Gospel are with regard to Christ’s teaching the Apostles:

Wait a minute!  You saw the glory but the glory is not yet possible because before the crown there has to be the cross, before the glory there has to be the sufferingBefore the exaltation, there has to be the humiliation This is really important teaching time Now that they know who He is, now they know His power and the revelation of His person, now they have to understand His death. And so now we’re going to go through the training of the twelve and in these months as He takes them through, as it were, the valley of humiliation with certainly some moments of wondrous glory, but as they go through the time of humiliation, He teaches them all the things they need to know.  And this training, by the way, goes on from chapter 9, verse 51 to chapter 19, verse 27. That whole section is the training of the twelve as Jesus moves toward Jerusalem.

MacArthur discusses the interpretations of ‘taken up’, or ‘lifted up’ in some translations:

Now in verse 51 it’s identified as when the days were approaching for His ascension, specific days, specific days designed by whom? God. “They were approaching” is sumplro, fulfilled. And you see that word “fulfilled” so often in connection with the plan of God. He said something and it’s fulfilled. He plans something and it’s fulfilled. This is sumplro, really fulfilled, thoroughly, completely fulfilled. Jesus operated on a divine timetable. There were times when Jesus said, His hour had not yet come. And then there was another time when He said, “My hour has come.” He operated not on a human schedule or a human timetable, but on God’s timetable.  And He knew that the days were approaching, the fulfillment was coming when He would analmpsis, be lifted up. Only some months left, time to crank up the instruction of the twelve and time now to progress through suffering and sorrow.

Now what is this ascension? Look at it, verse 51, it’s the word, as I said, analmpsis. It’s only used here in the Bible. It means to lift up, to take up. Some think it could be the cross. John 3, as the serpent was lifted up in the wilderness, so shall the Son of Man be lifted up. John 12:32, “If I be lifted up, I’ll draw all men to Myself.” Is He looking at the cross?  Is He thinking about the cross? Is that what He has in mind?  Well the translators must have had something other than that in thought when they used the word “ascension.”  And I think there’s a reason for that. If you go back to verse 31, you remember that up on the mountain at the transfiguration when Moses and Elijah appeared in glory, they were talking with Jesus and they were speaking of His departure, His exodus. And it is that departure, not the cross, but the final departure from the earth that Jesus has in view. It is, John 17, where Jesus says, look, He says to the Father in His prayer, “I glorified You on earth, now glorify Me in heaven with the glory I had with You before the world began.” I’m ready to come back, Father, is what He said, I’m ready to come back. It is what Hebrews 12 calls the joy that was set before Him, and that’s why He endured the cross and the shame.

Jesus sent messengers ahead of Him, probably a number of Apostles and disciples, who entered a village in Samaria in order that they might prepare for His arrival (verse 52).

Henry says that Jesus did this out of courtesy to the villagers, not for self-aggrandisement, which He would never do:

Observe here, 1. How civil he was to them: He sent messengers before his face, some of his disciples, that went to take up lodgings, and to know whether he might have leave to accommodate himself and his company among them; for he would not come to give offence, or if they took any umbrage at the number of his followers. He sent some to make ready for him, not for state, but convenience, and that his coming might be no surprise.

However, the Samaritans from this village did not wish to receive Jesus, because His face was set towards Jerusalem (verse 53).

That means they knew He worshipped at the temple in Jerusalem.

Henry describes the ongoing loathing between the true Jews and the Samaritans, which dated back centuries:

Now the reason was because his face was as though he would go to Jerusalem; they observed, by his motions, that he was steering his course that way. The great controversy between the Jews and the Samaritans was about the place of worship—whether Jerusalem or mount Gerizim near Sychar; see John 4 20. And so hot was the controversy between them that the Jews would have no dealings with the Samaritans, nor they with them, John 4 9. Yet we may suppose that they did not deny other Jews lodgings among them, no, not when they went up to the feast; for if that had been their constant practice Christ would not have attempted it, and it would have been a great way about for some of the Galileans to go to Jerusalem any other way than through Samaria. But they were particularly incensed against Christ, who was a celebrated teacher, for owning and adhering to the temple at Jerusalem, when the priests of that temple were such bitter enemies to him, which, they hoped, would have driven him to come and worship at their temple, and bring that into reputation; but when they saw that he would go forward to Jerusalem, notwithstanding this, they would not show him the common civility which probably they used formerly to show him in his journey thither.

MacArthur has more:

This was typical Middle Eastern tribal hostility that we see even today Samaritans, I remind you, were a mixed race, semi-pagan offspring of Israelites from the northern kingdom who were left behind when the northern kingdom was taken into Assyrian captivity. They were left there. They intermarried with pagans who were loyal to the Assyrian king so they were half breeds. They had abandoned their Jewish roots and heritage.  They had absorbed paganism.  They feared the Lord, 2 Kings 17:33 says they feared the Lord, yet served their own gods They were amalgam of race and amalgam of religion.  They had their own worship at a place called Mount Gerizim, although their temple had been destroyed in 128 by a man named John Hyrcanus so they had no temple but they still had their own religion, full of spirit, void of truth, mongrel race, mongrel religion, deemed unclean, hated by the Jews. But it was to a Samaritan woman that Jesus first revealed His messiahship. Remember John 4, the woman at the well?  And did you know that Jesus made a Samaritan the hero of one of His most wonderful stories? The story called, “The Good Samaritan,” which was a rebuke to the Jewish leaders, because, you remember, the rabbis and the Jewish leaders passed by and didn’t help the man. And later the gospel was commissioned to go to Samaria, Acts 1:8. Go to Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria.

MacArthur explains that our Lord’s intended visit to Samaria was one of mercy, which He showed to all people. Our Lord’s mercy was in stark contrast to the way that everyone else treated each other, including in matters of religion:

Mercy is extended to all. This flows out of this account. Verse 52, He sent messengers on ahead of Him. They’re leaving Galilee. The Galilean ministry is over. It’s been going on for over a year. It’s over now. They’ve had their opportunity. Where are they going? They’re headed toward Jerusalem in a meandering fashion for months.  But the first place it says they went was they went and entered a village of the Samaritans to make arrangements for Him; of all places, the Samaritans. This illustrates what Luke tells us so much about the ministry of Jesus and that is that it was extensive, it was expansive, it went beyond the conventional limitations. Matthew focuses his gospel on the Jews. Jesus is King of the Jews, the rejection of the Jews, etc. Luke is expansive. Luke embraces the world. Luke knocks down all the conventional walls In the Magnificat of Mary in Luke chapter 1, Mary celebrates the blessing of God upon the Jews.  But in the blessing of Simeon at the temple of the child Jesus, Simeon celebrates the salvation of the Gentiles So early on in this gospel we know from Luke’s account that this is a Messiah who has come to Jew and Gentile and Jesus when He goes to the synagogue in Nazareth preaches that great sermon out of Luke … He says, “Salvation is not for Jews, salvation is for the poor, prisoners, blind, and oppressed.” Anyone who is destitute just like in the Old Testament when God went to a pagan, Gentile widow in Zarephath and also God delivered a Syrian Gentile terrorist named Naaman. Luke features the expansiveness of God’s redemptive mercy. Luke also reminds us extensively of how Jesus hung around tax collectors and prostitutes and criminals and riff-raff, needy people. Luke writes about lepers and the demonized and the diseased and the dead and women and thieves and the fringes of society, and even further — as we’ll see in the chapters ahead of us — the poor, the handicapped, the blind, and even children. Jesus just shattered all the stereotypes. The rabbis didn’t want to pay attention to any of those. Jesus cared for those of low status, all ages, all genders, all races, offering divine mercy to everybody. At the same time that the Pharisees and the scribes, according to Matthew 23:23, paid no attention to justice or mercy, Jesus broke all the conventional stereotypes of religion.

And so, He has to train His twelve to this expansive proclamation. And He has to teach them about mercy beyond the borders. The Jews had no mercy for children, the leaders. They had little mercy for women. They had no mercy for Gentiles. And of all people, they hated Samaritans. Jews generally going from Galilee down to Judea, Jerusalem, wouldn’t even walk through Samaria, they’d go all the way around, cross the Jordan twice, just to avoid going through there because it was a defiled, unclean place. 

When James and John saw how the villagers had rejected Jesus, they asked Him if they should command that fire come down from heaven upon them (verse 54). That is a reference to Elijah’s command centuries before. And, recall from the opening verses of Luke 9, they now had those powers so to do.

Henry says:

they would not have thought of such a thing if Elijah had not done it upon the soldiers that came to take him, once and again, 2 Kings 1 10, 12. They thought that this precedent would be their warrant;

Early in His ministry, Jesus called James and John, Zebedee’s sons, Boanerges, or the sons of thunder (Mark 3:17):

17 James son of Zebedee and his brother John (to them he gave the name Boanerges, which means “sons of thunder”) …

Jesus turned and rebuked Boanerges (verse 55). He came to save souls, not destroy them.

Henry says:

so apt are we to misapply the examples of good men, and to think to justify ourselves by them in the irregular liberties we give ourselves, when the case is not parallel.

MacArthur further explains the reaction of James and John and why Jesus rebuked them:

Old feelings ran deep and were lasting. They said no, we’re not going to let you have an easy journey down to your place and help you on your way.  And so it wasn’t really theological, it was more this whole racial thing and this religious jealousy. And verse 54 when His disciples James and John saw this, they said, “Lord, do You want us to command fire to come down from heaven and consume them?” This is the Saddam Hussein kind of reaction.

Now on the one hand, you might say, “It’s understandable. They love the Lord.  They’ve seen His glory on the mountain.” I mean, there’s a touch of nobility in this righteous indignation. These two are called the sons of thunder, Boanerges. I think it’s Mark 3:17. They were volatile guys and they just blew up, they were so angry. Probably tired, probably hungry, probably wanting to rest and they had been rebuked and rebuffed and their Lord has been dishonored and He is the God of the universe in human flesh and they are just outraged by this. And they say, “Lord,” feeling their sort of apostolic oats a little bit, “Do You want us to command fire to come down from heaven and consume them?” Well what made them think they could do that?  They had never done that. They healed some people and maybe raised the dead and perhaps cast out some demons, but they hadn’t been calling fire down from heaven. What in the world are they thinking? Well, I’ll tell you what they were thinking, because some translations say, and you’ll see it in the margin even here, “Do you want us to command fire to come down from heaven and consume them as Elijah did?”  They knew where they were and they were thinking back to 2 Kings, chapter 1. Elijah was in the same area, the same region. And some of the enemies of God got in a situation with Elijah and he called down fire from heaven and burned them up.

Verse 55: “He turned and rebuked them.” He rebuked them. And some manuscripts say, when you go back to the originals some of the old, old manuscripts, some have it and some don’t, but certainly what is here is true, whether or not it was said on this occasion, a similar thing was said and we’ll see it in Luke 19:10, but anyway, we’ll take it as it comes in the text. “He turned and rebuked them and said, ‘You don’t know what kind of spirit you’re of.'” You better get in touch with yourself, guys. You can’t go through ministry with that kind of an attitude. I mean, you’re going to go in and you’re going to make a simple proclamation of Jesus Christ and somebody doesn’t accept Him and you want to burn them to death? This is not sensible evangelism. You know, “Repent or die,” you know, what in the world?  We don’t need that. This is the time of mercy. 

Verse 56: “For the Son of Man didn’t come to destroy men’s lives but to save them.” We know that, don’t we? The Son of Man, Luke 19:10, is come to seek and to save the lost. This may not have been in the original text, but some scribe wanting to embellish it added it and that’s why it shows up in some of the later manuscripts, but even though it’s sort of scribally parenthetic, it’s accurate.  The Son of Man didn’t come to destroy men’s lives but to save them John 3; read that. He didn’t come to destroy. He came to save, to seek and to save the lost.

And what’s the point here?  He gives mercy to the ignorant They didn’t reject Jesus because He claimed to be God and they rejected that claim.  They didn’t reject Jesus because He claimed to save by grace and they wanted law.  They didn’t reject Jesus because they didn’t like the religious doctrines He taught.  They rejected Him because He was Jewish and He was going to the temple, which means they didn’t even understand who He was And there’s always mercy extended to those who may be deeply religious but are ignorant of the truth.

As they were rejected, they moved on to another village (verse 56).

Along the way, Jesus encountered three men who wanted to follow Him.

MacArthur gives us the full import of following. It is not for a few hours or a day here and there. It is a full time commitment:

Three would-be disciples and the subject is, “Following Jesus.”  The first man says I will follow. To the second man Jesus says, “Follow Me.” The third man says, “I will follow.”  Follow is the operative word here.  It’s about following Jesus.  That’s the subject.  It’s about the high cost of following Jesus It’s about what hinders people from following Jesus.  Right at the core it’s about following Jesus.

And though that is a very familiar word in the gospels, Jesus many times called people to follow Him.  He called Matthew to follow Him.  He called the rich young ruler to follow Him.  He called Philip to follow Him.  He called Peter to follow Him.  He called all of the twelve to follow Him at some point and He called many others to follow Him.  And always when He did that He used the same word, akoloutheō, and He used it in the present imperative, which implied an ongoing command“Following” in itself implies a future, implies continuity.  It implies something beyond the moment.  And in the present tense, that implication becomes explicit.  Keep on following Me.  You might even say, “From now on in your life, follow Me.”

It is for that reason that we should reject the Evangelical style of a simple altar call or prayer recitation:

That really is not typical of the modern style of calling people to discipleship or evangelismModern evangelism would lead us to believe that becoming a Christian is a matter of a moment, not a lifetime.  It’s a matter of an accepting of Christ.  It’s a matter of an emotional experience to which you were led by fiery preaching or heart-rending stories or music.  Whatever might be used to induce a person to a moment of emotional breakdown where they will pray a prayer, make a decision, accept Christ, that seems to be the direction of modern evangelical evangelism.  All they have to do is grab that moment, say that prayer.  And if they don’t know what it should be, we’ll give them a formula to pray.  And that’s all it takes to become a Christian.

It’s obvious that Jesus didn’t do that. He never tried to, quote, “Get people saved” by moving them emotionally to a moment of crisis, or a moment of decision, or a moment of acceptance of Himself. He never brought anybody that I know of in the New Testament to a place where they were supposed to pray a prayer. Never did He do that and never did the apostles do that. None of them ever moved toward some crisis event in which supposedly the sinner was redeemed from sin and death and hell. And yet the call to Christ, the call to salvation is typically viewed in our world as an event, as a…a response to an emotional moment. Not so in the words of Jesus. When Jesus invited someone to come into His kingdom, when Jesus invited someone to receive His forgiveness and salvation, He asked that person for the rest of his life. He didn’t want a moment. He didn’t want the emotion of a moment. He wanted the carefully thought out, understood, commitment of a lifetime. Repentance from sin, confession of Jesus as Lord, obedience from the heart to the Word and the Spirit was for life. And there was always that emphasis in the ministry of Jesus. He disdained the short-term disciple. He made things so difficult for many would-be disciples that, for example, in the 6th chapter of John it says, “Many of His disciples walked no more with Him.” The standard was just too high. What was required was too demanding.

As they walked along, a man approached and told Jesus that he would follow Him wherever He went (verse 57).

MacArthur says that the chronology of this differs to Matthew’s account:

though the chronology here is not clear, Luke just kind of throws this little account in here. It is clear in Matthew. And it is clear in Matthew that this event actually happened in the ministry in Galilee around the town of Capernaum which is the headquarters for Jesus’ ministry. In Luke’s flow we are outside Galilee now, we’re moving outside Galilee. The Galilean ministry is over. You remember back in verse 51 that Jesus had resolutely set His face to go to Jerusalem. So He’s on the way now to Jerusalem. There’s a number of months, less than a year now until His death. And as He moves toward Jerusalem, He goes to various places, moving about. But the primary goal is the training of the twelve, to prepare them for the ministry that awaits them after He is gone. Matthew tells us this was during the Galilean ministry. Luke includes it here because it’s part of the training of the twelve. In chapter 9 verse 46 He gave them a lesson on humility. In verse 51 and following He gave them a lesson on mercy. And here He gives them a lesson on discipleship. This is all part of how He’s preparing them and us for this responsibility

Matthew tells us that when this incident happened, Jesus had been doing many powerful miracles. So whenever that happened, there was a swelling of the crowd.

In Matthew’s version, this man was a scribe, therefore well ensconced in the Jewish hierarchy and leading a privileged life. His emotions were no doubt running high. He might also have hoped to bask a bit in our Lord’s reflected glory, so to speak.

Whatever the case, Jesus, being omniscient, knew the man’s heart and mind.

Jesus told him that the foxes have their holes for shelter, just as birds have nests for theirs, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay His head (verse 58), meaning that being a disciple meant material hardship, including lack of a regular home.

MacArthur says:

The scribe saw the crowds, he saw the miracles. He heard the teaching. He wanted to be associated with Jesus because there was no one like Him.

This offer was very complete on the part of the scribe, and yet on the part of Jesus it wasn’t complete enough. It’s really amazing. If anybody came today and said, “I want to follow Jesus wherever He leads,” the average evangelical Christian is going to say, “Pray this prayer, sign this card, start into follow-up.”

Jesus doesn’t do that. He says the most amazing thing to him. You want to follow Me? We’re not going to the Ritz Carlton.

To a second man, Jesus extended an invitation to follow Him, but the man asked if he could first bury his father (verse 59).

Now if we look at one of the first readings for this particular Sunday, we read in 1 Kings that Elisha asked Elijah if he could kiss his parents goodbye before following him:

19:20 He left the oxen, ran after Elijah, and said, “Let me kiss my father and my mother, and then I will follow you.” Then Elijah said to him, “Go back again; for what have I done to you?”

19:21 He returned from following him, took the yoke of oxen, and slaughtered them; using the equipment from the oxen, he boiled their flesh, and gave it to the people, and they ate. Then he set out and followed Elijah, and became his servant.

However, the man whom Jesus encountered had a different home situation as MacArthur explains:

Now you might think that his father’s body is lying at the house. That isn’t the case. And it does seem reasonable, it really does, to go bury your father and the Jews had thirty days of mourning, you know, to take a month and go and do that if your father had just died is reasonable. According to Jewish custom, burial took place immediately after death. They didn’t embalm, they just wrapped bodies and put them immediately in the grave. And there was a thirty-day time of mourning. It would have been appropriate for the son to be there. It was honorable to give burial to the dead and particularly a son’s responsibility to make sure that his father was cared for in death …

On the surface it says some good things about the man, says some necessary things about the man. This man, however, knows that the Lord is moving away from the area. He just said He doesn’t have anywhere to lay His head. He’s itinerant, He’s on the move. He’s on the road, as verse 57 says. Where’s He going to be in a month? Where’s He going to be in two months? Where’s He going to be in whatever amount of time is involved here? And to just make this story very clear, the point here is his father wasn’t dead. He’s not saying the body is laying at the house waiting to be buried. He wouldn’t be there if that were the case because they buried them immediately. He’s saying, “Look, I’ve lived too long to leave now without my inheritance. I’ll follow You but I was just listening to the conversation You had with that guy and You said that You don’t have anywhere to lay Your head, the resources are meager here, You can’t promise us anything, no prosperity gospel here, so I think it would be better for me if I just hung around and I waited till I got what I have been waiting for all these years. I’ll pad my own pockets and I’m in a good fall-back position, if, you know, things don’t work out.”

By the way, “I must bury my father” is a familiar Middle Eastern statement still used. And when they use it and they say, “I must bury my father,” they mean I must stay at home until he’s gone so that I can bring his estate to its final point and so that I can receive my inheritance. I’ll follow You someday, when my father’s dead and I’ve gotten what I need. Ah, he’s attracted to Jesus, who wouldn’t be? He’s amazed at His power, but he loves money. He’s like the weedy soil in the parables of the kingdom.

Jesus, recognising the superficiality and materialism of this man, tells him that the dead should bury their own dead and that he should proclaim the kingdom of God (verse 60).

MacArthur explains the nuances in our Lord’s reply:

If you had a decaying body sitting at the house, Jesus wouldn’t have said this. His intentions weren’t good. Jesus said, “Let the spiritually dead…” What He means by that is: the unconverted people. Let the people in this world who are outside the kingdom of God take care of the dead. Leave temporal things to temporal people. Leave the matters of the temporal kingdom to the people who live in that kingdom. You are called to come into the kingdom of God and for the rest of your life to go and proclaim the glories of that kingdom. Let go of the kingdom of this world, even its good elements, even its noble responsibilities. I mean, that is clearly again an indication that Jesus knew what was in the man’s heart. And it wasn’t something He had to read, He heard it out of his mouth. I want to wait till my father dies. And Jesus would be long gone by then. Who knows years maybe? You don’t get the picture here. Your priorities are messed up. Secular matters belong to secular people. You’re telling Me you want to follow Me, you want to follow Me into the kingdom of God, then forget the secular world and do what relates to the kingdom. What’s that? Go and proclaim the kingdom of God. What does that mean? Go and preach the gospel because proclaiming the kingdom of God is simply telling people how they can enter the kingdom of God, and that’s the gospel. This man is committed to personal riches. He’s like the rich young ruler back in Matthew 19, remember the rich young ruler who said, “How do I receive eternal life?” You know, “What do I do, good Master, to receive eternal life?” And Jesus said, “Well before we talk about eternal life, let’s talk about the law, let’s talk about the law, let’s talk about the Ten Commandments.”

“Oh, I’ve kept the Ten Commandments. I’m not a sinner.”

That’s a problem. That’s a problem.

“And then let’s talk about submission and self-denial. Take everything you have. Sell it and give all the proceeds to the poor.”

And he went away. That’s not what he was willing to do. There was no self-denial there. He wouldn’t deny his own self-righteousness and he wouldn’t deny his own possessions. And so he went away, tragic figure.

Jesus put the barriers up at the appropriate time to make sure that the devotion was complete and consummate. And here was a man who was asked to follow, said I’ll do it sometime in the future after I’ve been taken care of with my inheritance. Jesus said, “You don’t understand. You come into My kingdom, you let go of the kingdom of this world. Friendship with the world is enmity with the God.” If you love the world or the things that are in the world, the love of the Father is not in you.

Then the third man came along, saying that he would follow Jesus but wanted to bid farewell to his parents at home (verse 61).

Again, we think of Elisha’s request to Elijah about kissing his parents goodbye before returning to follow that great prophet.

However, once again, Jesus knew the nature of this man’s heart.

Both commentators surmise that Jesus knew his family would try and talk him out of following Jesus.

Henry says:

This seemed reasonable; it was what Elisha desired when Elijah called him, Let me kiss my father and my mother; and it was allowed him: but the ministry of the gospel is preferable, and the service of it more urgent than that of the prophets; and therefore here it would not be allowed. Suffer me apotaxasthai tois eis ton oikon mouLet me go and set in order my household affairs, and give direction concerning them; so some understand it. Now that which was amiss in this is, (1.) That he looked upon his following Christ as a melancholy, troublesome, dangerous thing; it was to him as if he were going to die and therefore he must take leave of all his friends, never to see them again, or never with any comfort; whereas, in following Christ, he might be more a comfort and blessing to them than if he had continued with them. (2.) That he seemed to have his worldly concerns more upon his heart than he ought to have, and than would consist with a close attendance to his duty as a follower of Christ. He seemed to hanker after his relations and family concerns, and he could not part easily and suitably from them, but they stuck to him. It may be he had bidden them farewell once, but Loth to depart bids oft farewell, and therefore he must bid them farewell once more, for they are at home at his house. (3.) That he was willing to enter into a temptation from his purpose of following Christ. To go and bid them farewell that were at home at his house would be to expose himself to the strongest solicitations imaginable to alter his resolution; for they would all be against it, and would beg and pray that he would not leave them. Now it was presumption in him to thrust himself into such a temptation. Those that resolve to walk with their Maker, and follow their Redeemer, must resolve that they will not so much as parley with their tempter.

MacArthur says:

This guy had long apron strings. I just want to go home. Well that sounds kind of reasonable. I figure he’s thinking to himself, and this is speculation, you know, I don’t need to wait till my father dies to get all the money, I’ll just go home and raise some support for my mission adventure. I’ll just go home and have a big farewell party. And, you know, I’ll cash in on that and that will give me a little to follow. Jesus is worth following, Jesus is exciting. This is phenomenal stuff. I’ll just make a short trip home, be back in a week or so and I’ll have collected something from everybody for the journey. Or it may have been that in his heart was this hold with the family that he couldn’t let go of and you do remember, don’t you, how absolutely adamant Jesus was and said what is so hard to hear, “Do not think that I came to bring peace on the earth. I didn’t come to bring peace but a sword. I came to set a man against his father, or a daughter against her mother, a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law and a man’s enemies will be the member of his household. He who loves father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me, he who loves son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me.”

Jesus warned him about looking back, using an ancient proverb about a plough: no one who puts a hand to a plough and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God (verse 62).

MacArthur tells us about the proverb:

Jesus responds, verse 62, with a proverb that can be traced back to a writer named Hesiod in 800 B.C. “No one, after putting his hand to the plow and looking back is fit for the kingdom of God.” The proverb probably said something like, “You can’t plow a furrow looking backwards.” Jesus said, look, you…you can’t follow Me looking backwards. You can’t have a divided heart. You can’t be Mr. Facing Both Ways, to borrow the words of John Bunyan. There are people who come all the way up to believing, all the way up and could be pushed to pray the prayer, make the decision, accept Christ, do whatever the moment called to do, but if you confronted them with the fact that the self-denial is so complete that it asks you to be willing to give up all your comfort, all your possessions if that’s what the Lord asks, and all your relationships. And the one who is truly being prompted by the Spirit of God and brought into the kingdom is going to say, “Look, Jesus Christ is so infinitely valuable to me that I don’t care what the price is, I will gladly sell all for the pearl.” This man’s heart was divided. And there was no way that he was fit for the kingdom of God because he was holding on to the kingdoms of this world.

Today’s Gospel is about rejection. The Samaritans, like the Gadarenes, whose story we had last Sunday, rejected Christ for a superficial reason. However, Christ also rejected those who would have been fickle followers. However, He did so for good reason, unlike the Samaritans and Gadarenes who rejected Him.

MacArthur concludes:

The issue here is salvation, people. The issue is coming into the kingdom. And if you’ve ever wondered what the issue here was, some people think it’s sort of second-level discipleship. No. And verse 62 makes it clear. It’s about coming into the kingdom. And Jesus is simply saying to these people, “Look, if you’re holding back anything, you can’t come in. Salvation is for those who have come to complete self-denial.” The Lord may not take away all your comfort. He may not take away all your possessions. He may not take away all your relationships. But you’re not negotiating. You’re simply saying the infinite value of the gospel of Jesus Christ is so great that if He asks, I’ll give it all up. I’ll give it all up.

So responding properly to Christ is not a matter of emotion. It’s not a matter of an event. It’s not a matter of a momentary acceptance or a decision. It is not some superficial interest. It is not even a matter of saying, “I will follow.” It is a matter of self-denial, total self-denial, a willingness to give up everything because the value of Christ is so infinite. The sinner has reached that level of desperation by the prompting of the Holy Spirit. He who doesn’t take up his cross and follow me is not worthy of Me, Jesus said. He who has found his life shall lose it. He who has lost his life for My sake shall find it. It’s about losing your life. It’s about hating yourself. It’s about holding on to nothing. It’s a beatitude attitude.

We aren’t told how these three responded to what Jesus said, but it’s pretty obvious. They left Christ to hold on to their earthly loves. What a sad decision. The pearl of great price is available for those who sell all. The treasure hidden in the field is available for those who sell all. That’s how it is with true disciples. They’ve entered into a life of following Jesus, following Jesus.

May all reading this have a blessed Sunday.

Anyone wishing to share their sermon experiences is most welcome to do so in the comments.

The First Sunday after Trinity is June 19, 2022.

Readings for Year C can be found here.

The Gospel reading is as follows (emphases mine):

Luke 8:26-39

8:26 Then they arrived at the country of the Gerasenes, which is opposite Galilee.

8:27 As he stepped out on land, a man of the city who had demons met him. For a long time he had worn no clothes, and he did not live in a house but in the tombs.

8:28 When he saw Jesus, he fell down before him and shouted at the top of his voice, “What have you to do with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? I beg you, do not torment me”

8:29 for Jesus had commanded the unclean spirit to come out of the man. (For many times it had seized him; he was kept under guard and bound with chains and shackles, but he would break the bonds and be driven by the demon into the wilds.)

8:30 Jesus then asked him, “What is your name?” He said, “Legion”; for many demons had entered him.

8:31 They begged him not to order them to go back into the abyss.

8:32 Now there on the hillside a large herd of swine was feeding; and the demons begged Jesus to let them enter these. So he gave them permission.

8:33 Then the demons came out of the man and entered the swine, and the herd rushed down the steep bank into the lake and was drowned.

8:34 When the swineherds saw what had happened, they ran off and told it in the city and in the country.

8:35 Then people came out to see what had happened, and when they came to Jesus, they found the man from whom the demons had gone sitting at the feet of Jesus, clothed and in his right mind. And they were afraid.

8:36 Those who had seen it told them how the one who had been possessed by demons had been healed.

8:37 Then all the people of the surrounding country of the Gerasenes asked Jesus to leave them; for they were seized with great fear. So he got into the boat and returned.

8:38 The man from whom the demons had gone begged that he might be with him; but Jesus sent him away, saying,

8:39 “Return to your home, and declare how much God has done for you.” So he went away, proclaiming throughout the city how much Jesus had done for him.

Commentary comes from Matthew Henry and John MacArthur.

This is the famous story of the Gadarene Swine, covered in the three Synoptic Gospels, Matthew, Mark and Luke.

I wrote about Matthew’s version in Forbidden Bible Verses and also in my Apologetics Corner series, here and here.

In Luke 8, just before this tremendous episode, Jesus had calmed a sea storm. The disciples had been terrified by its power. Jesus rebuked them for having such little faith.

Matthew Henry’s commentary states:

5. Christ’s business is to lay storms, as it is Satan’s business to raise them. He can do it; he has done it; he delights to do it: for he came to proclaim peace on earth. He rebuked the wind and the raging of the water, and immediately they ceased (v. 24); not, as at other times, by degrees, but all of a sudden, there was a great calm. Thus Christ showed that, though the devil pretends to be the prince of the power of the air, yet even there he has him in a chain.

6. When our dangers are over, it becomes us to take to ourselves the shame of our own fears and to give to Christ the glory of his power. When Christ had turned the storm into a calm, then were they glad because they were quiet, Ps 107 30. And then, (1.) Christ gives them a rebuke for their inordinate fear: Where is your faith? v. 25. Note, Many that have true faith have it to seek when they have occasion to use it. They tremble, and are discouraged, if second causes frown upon them. A little thing disheartens them; and where is their faith then? (2.) They give him the glory of his power: They, being afraid, wondered. Those that had feared the storm, now that the danger was over with good reason feared him that had stilled it, and said one to another, What manner of man is this! They might as well have said, Who is a God like unto thee? For it is God’s prerogative to still the noise of the seas, the noise of their waves, Ps 65 7.

Henry introduces our Gospel reading:

II. His power over the devil, the prince of the power of the air. In the next passage of story he comes into a closer grapple with him than he did when he commanded the winds. Presently after the winds were stilled they were brought to their desired haven, and arrived at the country of the Gadarenes, and there went ashore (v. 26, 27); and he soon met with that which was his business over, and which he thought it worth his while to go through a storm to accomplish.

Luke tells us that the country of the Gerasenes is opposite Galilee (verse 26).

John MacArthur describes the scene for us:

Starting in verse 26, they sailed, remember now, the storm was stilled by Jesus, they finished their little trip across the north section of the lake, the Sea of Galilee, really seeking some rest from the huge crowds that just literally never left Jesus alone. Jesus had gotten in a boat with the apostles and disciples. There were a lot of other boats. There was a little flotilla of followers of Jesus going away for some rest and perhaps some private instruction. Jesus, remember now, from this point on in His ministry in Galilee spoke only in parables and only to His own disciples did He explain their meaning so there was always a public meeting and then a private meeting when the explanation was given. So off they went following Jesus on a clear night only to find that a storm came up. Jesus stilled the storm. It had blown them off course so they have to sort of regroup, head the direction they need to go and they arrive there probably just at daybreak, sailing to the country of the Gerasenes which is opposite Galilee. It’s opposite the Galilee which had to do primarily with the western part, the western shore of the Sea of Galilee. So they’re across on the eastern shore to the country of the Gerasenes.

I just need to comment on that. Luke and Mark use Gerasenes. Matthew calls them Gadarenes. Some Greek texts use Gergesenes. I don’t want to get into a big convoluted explanation of all of that. I think it’s relatively simple. There was a town there about six miles due east called Gerasa, or Gergesa, hence the Gerasenes, or the Gergesenes. The modern name is Kersa. There was another town called Gadara which explains why some of the writers refer to it as Gadara. Gadara was further south down the lake and further inland. It wasn’t on the edge of the lake and so it doesn’t provide the right topography to be the place where the pigs ran down the hill into the lake. Gadara, however, was a larger town and gave the name to the region, so that Gerasa or Gergesa was a town in the country of the Gadarenes. So, all of these terms essentially describe the same area. The focus is on the town of Gergesa or Gerasa because it suits the incident so perfectly. There are around Kersa, modern Kersa, in the hillsides many tombs still to this day to be seen and there is a slope that descends to the lake where the pigs could run…tombs being the place where this man was dwelling.

MacArthur says that the demons Jesus encountered during His ministry were unusual in both the Old and New Testaments:

It is a curiosity to me that if you go through the Old Testament you’re not going to find demon-possessed people with the exception of the very unique situation in the 6th chapter of Genesis where the sons of God and cohabitated with the daughters of men, that unique situation where apparently some fallen angels came upon some women. Apart from that… And those demons, you remember, according to what Peter said and Jude said were put into everlasting chains for doing that. But apart from that you don’t have any demon-possessed people in the Old TestamentYou have a lying spirit, you have the appearance of a medium in connection with the demon, but you don’t have people manifesting that they’re full of demons.  Interestingly enough that after the four gospels you only have two occasions, Acts 16 and Acts 19, where you have a demon-possessed situationAnd it’s never even referred to in the epistles of the New Testament, never referred toIt wasn’t an issue in the churches to which the apostle Paul wrote, or John wrote, or Jude wrote, or Peter wrote or James wroteBut in the life of Christ and in the three years of His ministry there is a manifestation of demon possessions that is unlike anything in all of human history, to be exceeded only by the manifestation of demonic power in the time yet to come called the Great Tribulation, just prior to Christ’s Second ComingAnd God Himself will aide that manifestation by opening up the pit of hell and the place of bound demons called the pit, the bottomless pit, the abussos, the abyss and letting it belch out some demons who have been bound there so that there is a greater force of demons in the time of the tribulation than ever before and they are allowed to run rampant over the earth in ways prior to which they have been restrained.

At His Second Coming, Jesus will subdue Satan and his angels.

Returning to our text, when Jesus reached land, a demon-possessed man from the city went to meet Him. It had been a long time since the man wore clothes; he lived not in his house but in the tombs (verse 27).

Students of the Gospels will ask whether there was one man or two.

MacArthur says:

In Matthew 8:28 Matthew says there were two men. There were two men.  He had a compatriot, perhaps equally demon possessed and equally bizarre, and equally deadly and dangerous. But in all the accounts, the one man becomes the focus, so we really don’t know what happened to the second man.  Two of them appeared. The focus of the story is on one man.  Perhaps he was included in the deliverance, perhaps he was not.

MacArthur says the man was naked because he was possessed by these many demons and was far removed from his right mind:

I like to think of this man, I guess the best word I can think of to use is maniac. The definition of maniac is a person exhibiting extreme symptoms of wild behavior. And that’s exactly what you have here. This man is so out of control as not to even be defined in human terms. It’s just so bizarre, so far beyond … Here we’re going to see the greatest exhibition of power over the forces of hell to this point in Scripture. Jesus vanquishes this mass of demons in this horrific individual

Anybody without Christ then is under the rule of Satan and under the influence of his demons and therefore anybody who is a sinner who is not protected by salvation through Jesus Christ is therefore vulnerable. What the entry points are, I’m not sure I can be explicit about in every case. I can say this, that as you study the Scripture, idolatry seems to be a way to throw the door open. Tampering in the occult seems to be a way to throw the door open. But that is not so say the most tormented people were necessarily the worst sinners. This is a Gentile man outside of Israel, so he was involved, if in any religion at all, in some pagan religion. It may have been, as most of them were occultic, and that may have thrown the door open to him, but he’s not any worse. In fact, as the story ends, the people who are the worst people in the story are the townspeople who were sane enough to bind this man up but not willing to believe in the man who delivered him, the God-Man Jesus Christ. So who is really the maniac?

I don’t know that there’s any way to say except that God allows Satan to do his work and demons have their agenda. And within God’s allowance, they pick and choose who they will. It isn’t that these people are worse sinners because what happens to them is not just an expression of their evil heart; it is for them a demonic torment. This man wasn’t happy about his condition, he was tormented by it

Now the person is not necessarily more evil and that gives entrance to the demon, but once the demons come in then evil becomes accelerated. Evil becomes manifest in some cases beyond what can even be discussed or described or understood humanly. They can become so infested by demons, so literally dominated by forces of unclean spirits as to conduct themselves in ways as we’ve been pointing out, that are absolutely beyond description humanly. And that’s this man. Let’s look at some of the characteristics of his conduct.

First of all, it says he hadn’t put on any clothing for a long time. You say, “Well that’s really strange. What’s that about?” Well it’s about perversion. It’s about shamelessness. You remember in the 19th chapter of Acts, I think it’s about verse 16, the evil spirit there pounces on these people and strips off their clothes? From the time that Adam and Eve sinned there has been a shame associated with human nakedness because from the time of their sin on they had lustful and perverted thoughts. And they knew that. And immediately the first thing they did was make coverings. But theirs was only temporarily made out of leaves. God came, killed an animal which is a picture of His Son who had become the final covering, and He covered them with a more permanent garment. And from then on uncovering someone’s nakedness was tantamount to sexual evil. That little phrase “uncovering someone’s nakedness,” you find it in the Pentateuch. It’s tantamount to sexual perversion and evil. The Bible is very clear about clothing and about modesty and about covering. Nakedness is a sign of shamelessness. It is a sign of sexual perversion. I’m talking all the way from the naturalists at the nudist colony to the pornographers at the other end and everything in between. It’s aberrant. But not only was it aberrant, it was also a torment for the man. It gets cold and it gets hot and there are extremes of weather in that part of the world. This was a kind of torment for him as the demons had dominated him and turned him into a shameless, perverted, evil person …

Now it says he was not living in a house but he was living in tombs. Obviously you couldn’t have somebody like this in a house. What would we do with him today? What would we do with somebody like him? We’d put him in prison, right? We’d put him in prison and then you have to isolate him so they can’t get near anybody, or put him in a padded cell. I remember some years back when people who behaved like this were put in straight-jackets. Remember that? I’ve seen people in those things in mental institutions. Now today what is done with people who have this kind of potentiality is they put them on drugs and when they slaughter a bunch of people, such as the Andrea Yates thing, we say the problem was, “She didn’t take her medication.” Demons can’t be medicated but since the human body can be medicated, it becomes less useful to them when it’s medicated. But in those days they couldn’t control them with medication. They didn’t have a mental institution to put them in. They didn’t have a padded cell to put them in.

Furthermore, he was suicidal.  He was a danger to himself.  Mark 5:5 says, “Night and day he was gashing and hacking at his naked body with sharp stones.”  He was mutilating himself because Satan is a murderer, is he not?  He is a killer.  He is an abaddon, he is a destroyer.  And his demons are the same.  Here is a man literally taking sharp rocks and gashing his body.  Mark 5:3 and 4 says nobody could control him. The demon power was too great.  He was violent and he was not only harmful to himself but he frankly was absolutely deadly to other people because he had murderous intentIn the account in Matthew it says he along with his friend, the two of them, were so exceedingly violent that no one could pass by the road.  You couldn’t even walk along the road below where they were because they were so violent they would come screaming down the hill.  It says they would scream, they would shriek, run down the hill nakedness with the intention of doing harm, taking life.  They are really the most manifest bearers of the mark of satanic personality.  They would then stay up in their tombs, as we’ll see, and when people came on the road, screaming and shrieking in nakedness they would run down the hill with the intent to attack, to maim and to kill.  This is what Satan wants to do.

When the man saw Jesus, his demons spoke through him, saying to our Lord, ‘What business do you have with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? I beg You, do not torment me’ (verse 28).

Note that even demons recognise that Jesus is Lord. Put that to your atheist and agnostic friends sometime. See how they react.

Demons know that they are living on borrowed time. One day, Jesus, through the power of God, will defeat them permanently.

Henry explains:

4. They are much enraged against our Lord Jesus, and have a great dread and horror of him: When the man whom they had possession of, and who spoke as they would have him, saw Jesus, he roared out as one in an agony, and fell down before him, to deprecate his wrath, and owned him to be the Son of God most high, that was infinitely above him and too hard for him; but protested against having any league or confederacy with him (which might sufficiently have silenced the blasphemous cavils of the scribes and Pharisees): What have I to do with thee? The devils have neither inclination to do service to Christ nor expectation to receive benefit by him: What have we to do with thee? But they dreaded his power and wrath: I beseech thee, torment me not. They do not say, I beseech thee, save me, but only, Torment me not. See whose language they speak that have only a dread of hell as a place of torment, but no desire of heaven as a place of holiness and love.

5. They are perfectly at the command, and under the power, of our Lord Jesus; and they knew it, for they besought him that he would not command them to go eis ton abyssoninto the deep, the place of their torment, which they acknowledge he could easily and justly do. O what a comfort is this to the Lord’s people, that all the powers of darkness are under the check and control of the Lord Jesus! He has them all in a chain. He can send them to their own place, when he pleaseth.

MacArthur tells us:

“What do I have to do with You, Jesus, Son of the Most High God?”  I’m telling you, the demons’ theology is orthodox. They know who Jesus is.  There were disciples there who weren’t sure.  The demons know.  It is a strange and bizarre testimony to the reality of who Jesus Christ is.  “What do I have to do with You, Jesus, Son of the Most High God?”  It’s very much like that other demon in the 4th chapter who said essentially the same thing.  In chapter 4 the demon said, “What do we have to do with You, Jesus of Nazareth. I know who You are, the Holy One of God.”  And here in an amazing way God gives testimony to the identity of His Son through demons, amazing.

By the way, they are timeless, they are ageless.  They were created at one time. They do not reproduce. They are as old as creation.  They have vast knowledge. They were originally holy angelsThey have vast knowledge of the personality of God and the Godhead, and they knew exactly who Jesus was.

“What do I have to do with You, Jesus?  What’s this all about?”  As if to say, “Why are You here?  What’s this about?  I beg You, do not torment me.”  He calls Him, “Son of the Most High God.”  We’ve discussed that term because it was used in chapter 1. When the angel came to announce the birth of the Messiah, he said He would be the Son of the Most High God and God would give to Him His kingdom.  It’s a New Testament term taken from the Old Testament. The Most High God is El Elyon. It means “God, the sovereign one, God the sovereign Lord.” And so what they’re saying is, “Son of the sovereign Lord.”  Often in the Old Testament “the Most High God” is followed by the statement, “possessor of heaven and earth.”  They know this is the Lord of heaven and earth. This is the Creator God in human form.  This is God the Son, the One who is Most High.  The demons knew Him well.  Even Satan knew Him well.  Remember back in chapter 4 when Satan confronted Him, he said, “Since You are the Son of God,” do this, do this.  Since You are the Son of God do this, do this.  The devils know exactly who He is.

The demons had said that to Jesus because He commanded them to leave the man; the unclean spirit they made up within him caused him to break his shackles, which the townspeople had put him in, and go out into the wilderness, or the desert, in some translations (verse 29).

Jesus asked the man for his name, and the demons replied through him, ‘Legion’, for they were many (verse 30).

The demons numbered themselves as soldiers in the Roman Empire. The size of a Roman legion varied throughout the centuries, but, much of the time, there were more than 3,000 men in a single legion.

How this poor man must have suffered through the years, day after day. It’s horrible.

Because they knew the power of Jesus, they begged Him not to send them to the abyss, where they are eventually doomed in defeat (verse 31).

Their destiny is ultimately under our Lord’s control at all times. Note that they had to ask His permission not to go into the abyss.

On the hillside, a herd of swine were feeding, so the demons begged — yes, begged — His permission to enter them; Jesus granted them permission (verse 32).

MacArthur says:

they didn’t want Him to send them, verse 31, to the abyss, to the abussos, the bottomless pit. It’s called the bottomless pit in the book of Revelation, you read about it in chapter 9, chapter 11, chapter 17. “Don’t send us into the abyss.” That is the present place of demon incarceration. As many demons as there are in the world, thankfully by the goodness of God, His providential common grace, not all the demons that exist are running loose in the world. In fact, 2 Peter 2:4 and Jude 6 and 7, both those places tell us that the demons that possess the people described in Genesis 6 were at that time put in everlasting chains and sent to that bottomless pit from which they will never be released. So there are eternally, or permanently bound demons, ultimately in the end they will all go to the final incarceration in the lake of fire. But there are today bound demons who are bound permanently. Also in this abussos, this bottomless pit there are some demons bound temporarily because in the ninth chapter of Revelation we find in the time of the Great Tribulation to come, God’s going to open up that bit and belching out of that pit are going to come forth some demons to add to the demon force that runs amuck on the earth during the time of the Great Tribulation when Satan has his final heyday under Antichrist. But there is a place where many of the demons are currently incarcerated so that their power is in some way limited in the world. These demons say, “We don’t want to go there before the time. Don’t send us there yet, we want our freedom. Please don’t send us there.”

Henry’s commentary raises an interesting point about the herd owners’ loss of an occupation:

When the devil at first brought man into a miserable state he brought a curse likewise upon the whole creation, and that became subject to enmity. And here, as an instance of that extensive enmity of his, when he could not destroy the man, he would destroy the swine. If he could not hurt them in their bodies, he would hurt them in their goods, which sometimes prove a great temptation to men to draw them from Christ, as here. Christ suffered them to enter into the swine, to convince the country what mischief the devil could do in it, if he should suffer him.

Therefore, this was a demonstration that the demons affected not only the poor man, but others in that town, who probably were a bit sanctimonious about themselves with regard to his plight.

The demons left the man and entered the swine, then the whole herd rushed down the steep bank into the lake, where they all drowned (verse 33).

Henry says:

No sooner had the devils leave than they entered into the swine; and no sooner had they entered into them than the herd ran violently down a steep place into the lake, and were drowned. For it is a miracle of mercy if those whom Satan possesses are not brought to destruction and perdition.

When the swineherds saw what had happened, they ran into the city and adjoining countryside to tell everyone (verse 34).

It was an extraordinary event, as MacArthur explains:

Two thousand pigs careening down a hill, drowning? By the way, from what I’ve read, pigs can swim. But the point was, the demons slaughtered them all. Why? Well, first of all, to show that the man had been delivered, visual, physical proof. Secondly, to reveal the deadly intent of demons to kill. Also, as I said, to reveal the power of Jesus over the kingdom of darkness. That was a tremendous and dramatic illustration that this man had been delivered because the pigs acted in the kind of frenzy and self-destruction that characterized the man. They became maniac pigs. The testimony is convincing. This man definitely had demons. They’re gone because the pigs are behaving like the man did.

And that’s what people concluded. Verse 34, “When the herdsmen saw what had happened, they ran away and reported in the city and out in the country.” They were eyewitnesses. Whoever was working for the owner of the pigs, these men who were taking care of 2,000 pigs, they saw what happened, they reported it in the city and out in the country. The bottom line is it’s another way to say they couldn’t stop talking about it. Everywhere they went they...I mean, they had never seen anything like this in their entire lives, they were probably experienced with pigs and pigs don’t just uniformly all at once dive off a cliff and kill themselves. The most powerful, startling, amazing event of their lives by far and they spread it everywhere. They can’t stop talking about it, everywhere they went they said, “It…it’s inexplicable.” They heard the conversation between Jesus and the man, at least they saw the conversation going on because it says the pigs were nearby. They knew about this man, if they herded pigs in that area they knew about that man, they knew about the maniacal character of that man. And all of a sudden this thing takes place and it’s just the most amazing thing ever. And so they become heralds, as it were, telling everybody about it.

Naturally, people began coming to the site where this had happened, and they saw Jesus, with the now fully restored man, also fully clothed, sitting at His feet; they were afraid (verse 35).

MacArthur brings us back to the terror that people felt when Jesus performed other miracles and calmed storms. They instinctively knew that they were in the presence of the Most High God, and they were ashamed of their own weaknesses, especially their sins:

Well the reaction at the end of verse 35, “They became frightened,” from the word phobeo from which we get phobia. They were terrified is basically what it was. Here again we see the same thing. We see it all the way through the gospel of Luke, people who realize they’re in the presence of the power of God are scared, frightened, traumatized, terrified. And it is so throughout particularly this chapter, back in verse 25 when Jesus stilled the storm, stopped the wind and the waves. It says they were fearful, they were frightened there, they were panicked there. We see it throughout the rest of the chapter as we will note later that people are literally terrified every time Jesus does a miracle, whether it’s a healing or the raising of a dead person, it creates a certain amount of terror in people because they know they’re in the presence of the power of God and that is a holy presence and they are sinful people.

That leads us then to the third power demonstrated here, the damning power of sin…the damning power of sin. The demons exert a power, the Lord Jesus brings His great delivering power, but we also see the terrible damning power of sin. It is the nature of sin to blind. It is the nature of sin to hate the truth. It is the nature of sin to reject proof. It is the nature of sin to resist righteousness. It is the nature of sin to cling tightly to the love of iniquity. Here you have irrefutable evidence that Jesus is the power of God. Here you have a miracle that is so massive that demonstrates not His power over the physical realm, but His power over the supernatural realm, His power over the spiritual world, His power over the forces of evil, to deliver men from evil. You see this without any argument, without any debate. They don’t discuss it. They don’t debate it. They know what has happened. It terrifies them.

Those who had seen the miracle told these people how Jesus had healed the man (verse 36).

Interestingly, instead of thanking Jesus for restoring local peace at long last and inviting Him to stay, they all told Him to leave; they were that frightened. So, He went into the boat and left (verse 37).

Henry makes this observation:

Those lose their Saviour, and their hopes in him, that love their swine better.

They displayed the same spiritual blindness as did the Jewish hierarchy.

MacArthur expands on their extraordinarily negative response:

instead of saying “thank you,” and “how do we get delivered?” you notice verse 36, “Those who had seen it reported to them how the man who was demon possessed had been made well.” This is an interesting verse. They want to know what happened…what happened…give us the details…how did this happen? They’re terrified of Jesus, what’s going on here? And so those who had seen it told them the full story of how the man who was demon possessed had been made well, esothe(?), from sozo, had been saved…sozo-to be saved. How the man had been delivered. And they gave them the full story, details of which aren’t given to us. I’m sure they said, “Well, you won’t believe how it happened. The guy came down the hill and…” And they, they must have been, as I said earlier, close enough to see the engagement and the encounter and to even hear what went on. The man had been delivered, not just from Satan, but I believe he’d been delivered from sin, or at least he was, when those people heard the discussion, beginning to awaken to the forgiveness and the salvation that Jesus had offered which I believe became completed, and I’ll show you why in a moment.

You know, you think sinners would really be convinced if you just had a powerful enough miracle. No, no, you don’t understand the power of sin. You know, if you could just figure a clever enough way to pronounce the gospel, if you could just figure an attractive enough way to present Jesus Christ, if you could just get a powerful enough exhibit of the life of Jesus Christ and His miracle might, boy, people would really be convinced. No…no, the damning power of sin just obliterates reality. The idea that sinners will be convinced by a powerful miracle…a powerful miracle isn’t true.

Well what did the Jews do? They saw miracle after miracle after miracle after miracle after miracle for three years. And at the end of that time what did they do? They wanted Him dead. The Gentiles weren’t any different. I can’t imagine a more powerful, clear example of the saving power of Jesus Christ than this. I can’t imagine a more dramatic event than sending thousands of demons out of a man with a word. And the proof of it in the drowning of this herd of pigs. I…rationally you’ve got to fall down and say, “This is the power of God.” But the truth of the matter is, this is hard soil back from Jesus’ story in the eighth chapter verses 5 and 12, hard soil, the seed of the truth falls just like falling on concrete, it doesn’t penetrate.

What was their reaction? Verse 37, “All the people,” apparently without exception, “All the people of the country of the Gerasenes and the surrounding district, everybody.” Apparently you’ve got a big crowd out there. “All of them asked Him to depart from them. Go away.”

Why? “For they were gripped with phobe, you know, fear megala, great fear, massive fear. What were they terrified of? After all, hadn’t He brought safety where there was danger? Hadn’t He brought peace where there was chaos? What was to be afraid of? What was to be afraid of was they knew they were in the presence of God? They knew they were seeing the great power of God and they knew it was a holy power, a purging, purifying, cleansing power that dispensed with evil and they therefore knew that they were exposed to sinners. And loving their evil so much they wanted to get rid of the intimidation. Even Peter had that reaction when Jesus commanded the fish to come to his boat and he said in Luke 5:8, “Depart from me, O Lord, for I am a…what?…sinful man.” It’s the intimidation of holiness in the presence of sin that causes them to want Jesus to go away. Instead of saying, “Thank You, thank You for delivering us, could You go up and get his friend up there, that other guy and do to him what You’ve done to this man? And could You tell us how we can be delivered from whatever satanic influences exist in our lives? And could You tell us how we can be forgiven of our sin? And could You tell us how this holy power could come upon us?”

They don’t say that. There’s not a word of thanks for the deliverance from the danger of the man. They see Jesus as a greater danger than that man. They would rather have a maniac than the Son of God. They would rather be terrified by Satan than terrified by God. They would rather endure the presence of demonic danger than the presence of divine deliverance. They preferred the unholy to the holy. They preferred a tomb dweller over the Lord of life. Just like Israel. They were not asking Jesus to go away because He messed with their economy, killing their pigs. They weren’t asking Him to go away because they were materialists and not spiritualists and they were mad at Him for what He had done. The whole town and the whole region wanted Him to go away because they were terrified of His holiness. You know, the world is really comfortable with pigs and maniacs, but it’s not comfortable with Jesus Christ, is it? Not the Son of God. David Gooding writes, “What a sad comment on man’s fallen and unregenerate state it is that man should feel more at home with demons than with the Christ who has the power to cast them out. Who would try to help a criminal or a drunkard, or if they should prove incorrigible would want the one imprisoned and the other put into a hospital find it embarrassing and somewhat frightening if that criminal or drunkard is saved by Christ and turned into a wholesome regenerate disciple.” That’s really true…it’s really true. They would rather have a maniac than a Christian. They would rather have the presence of Satan than the presence of Christ. This is the blindness and the damning darkness and ignorance of sin.

And so, sad note, it says verse 37, “He got into a boat and returned.” He never came back, by the way. One time…one day…one occasion…they said, “Get out.” He got into a boat and went back to Capernaum. Was it an insult? Yes. It was more, it was a damning rejection and Jesus never ever came back.

Not surprisingly, the man who had been healed begged Jesus to allow him to be a disciple, but Jesus sent him away, saying (verse 38) that he should return to his home and declare how much God has done for him. Obediently, the man went away, proclaiming to the city just how much Jesus had done for him (verse 39).

Henry says that it is possible that the man’s words might have gained traction once the Gerasenes recovered from what had happened:

Perhaps Christ knew that, when the resentment of the loss of their swine was a little over, they would be better disposed to consider the miracle, and therefore left the man among them to be a standing monument, and a monitor to them of it.

MacArthur says that Jesus told the man to stay because he would be the only witness in that place:

He’s the first Gentile missionary…the maniac who became a missionary. And as I said, if he knew enough to be saved, he knew enough to tell somebody else. And if that man had left with Jesus, there would have been no witness in that place. Here was grace in the face of rejection. Jesus sent him back to his own people and He said to him, “Describe what great things God has done for you, and he went away proclaiming throughout the whole city what great things Jesus had done for him.” How interesting. You tell them what God has done, he told them what Jesus had done because Jesus is God. He became a witness. When I get to heaven I want to ask him how successful he was, how fruitful. He went proclaiming throughout the whole city, kerusso, preaching throughout the whole city. This is personal evangelism, the story of what the Lord had done. Mark 5:20 says, “Everyone was amazed…amazed.”

Well that’s what Jesus does. He turns maniacs into missionaries. It shows us the power of the demons, the power of the delivering Lord, and the damning power of sin. What a story. 

Perhaps we, too, are the only witnesses where we live:

If you have been delivered, you too are a missionary, amen? Tell the story.

I always wonder what sort of sermon I will hear when this Gospel passage is read. Perhaps you do, too.

I hope we will not be disappointed on Sunday morning.

francisco_camilo_-_ascension_-_-672x1024-1Ascension Day, which is remembered 40 days after Easter, therefore, always on a Thursday, is May 26, 2022.

The Spanish artist Francisco Camilo painted Ascension in 1651. It can be seen at the Museu Nacional d´Art de Catalunya in Barcelona. (Image credit: canadiancatechist.com)

Readings for this important feast day can be found here.

My exegesis for the first reading, Acts 1:1-11, is here.

The Gospel reading is as follows (emphases mine):

Luke 24:44-53

24:44 Then he said to them, “These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you–that everything written about me in the law of Moses, the prophets, and the psalms must be fulfilled.”

24:45 Then he opened their minds to understand the scriptures,

24:46 and he said to them, “Thus it is written, that the Messiah is to suffer and to rise from the dead on the third day,

24:47 and that repentance and forgiveness of sins is to be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem.

24:48 You are witnesses of these things.

24:49 And see, I am sending upon you what my Father promised; so stay here in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high.”

24:50 Then he led them out as far as Bethany, and, lifting up his hands, he blessed them.

24:51 While he was blessing them, he withdrew from them and was carried up into heaven.

24:52 And they worshiped him, and returned to Jerusalem with great joy;

24:53 and they were continually in the temple blessing God.

Commentary comes from Matthew Henry and John MacArthur.

Unlike the other three Gospel accounts from the Resurrection to the Ascension, Luke’s is quite short, although it contains some of the same events, including our Lord’s giving the Apostles the Great Commission.

That said, it is worth keeping in mind that Luke also wrote the Book of Acts, which recounts the Ascension in the first chapter: the first reading for this feast day.

John MacArthur explains the various Gospel accounts:

When you come to chapter 24 … indeed, Jesus Christ came; the Son of God suffered, died, rose again the third day; and provided forgiveness of sins in His name. So the Book ends having proven what it promised at the beginning.

Since He died and rose again, He is the Son of God, He is the Lord, He is the Redeemer, salvation is accomplished, forgiveness of sin is available; and now you go tell the world. And by the way, Luke moves quickly to his conclusion. Verse 43 ended the night Jesus arose when He met with His disciples. On that first day of the week, the third day after He was crucified, you remember He appeared to the disciples that night. And to prove that He was literally physically alive, He took a fish and ate it.

And then Luke moves in verse 44 to the final commission and the ascension. Luke tells us nothing about the forty days, nothing at all. Jesus made many appearances to His own during the forty days; at least ten of them are indicated in the New Testament. Luke doesn’t tell us anything about them in his history.

However, in the book of Acts, which is Luke’s second volume of history, which tells the story of how the apostles and the disciples obeyed the Great Commission, he opens the book of Acts in chapter 1 by telling us about the Lord’s appearances during those forty days, and thus he overlaps and interlocks these two histories. So he comes all the way to the ascension here; and then when he starts Acts, he backs up, describes what happened in the forty days, and retells the ascension in detail, so that this is one history overlapping and interlocking. It’s one story, and it’s a story you will notice from verse 44 that goes clear back to Genesis, this one great, vast, unfolding mural of redemptive history. So the words of our Lord here in verse 44, very likely spoken at the end of forty days. Luke 1 tells us it was forty days that Jesus appeared to His disciples before He ascended.

It’s not unusual for Bible writers to vary their approaches. John gives us details about our Lord’s appearance in Galilee during those forty days. If you want to know about the Lord appearing to the disciples, the most interesting description of it is in John 21. But John tells us nothing about the ascension.

Matthew tells us nothing about the ascension either; doesn’t even mention it. But he tells us more about the Great Commission. And this is the beauty of Scripture. You put it all together and you get the whole picture.

So these final words are designed to launch the history of the proclamation of the gospel. You say, “Well how does it relate to us?” Well, the baton just keeps passing generation, to generation, to generation, to generation. This is our time to be obedient to this commission.

Jesus told His disciples that He had told them while He was with them — during His ministry — that everything written about Him in Scripture, in the law of Moses, the prophets, and the psalms, must be fulfilled (verse 44).

Then Jesus opened the disciples’ minds to understand the Scriptures (verse 45).

Matthew Henry’s commentary elaborates on the importance of those two verses:

(1.) He refers them to the word which they had heard from him when he was with them, and puts them in mind of that as the angel had done (Luke 24:44; Luke 24:44): These are the words which I said unto you in private, many a time, while I was yet with you. We should better understand what Christ does, if we did but better remember what he hath said, and had but the art of comparing them together. (2.) He refers them to the word they had read in the Old Testament, to which the word they had heard from him directed them: All things must be fulfilled which were written. Christ had given them this general hint for the regulating of their expectations–that whatever they found written concerning the Messiah, in the Old Testament, must be fulfilled in him, what was written concerning his sufferings as well as what was written concerning his kingdom; these God had joined together in the prediction, and it could not be thought that they should be put asunder in the event. All things must be fulfilled, even the hardest, even the heaviest, even the vinegar; he could not die till he had that, because he could not till then say, It is finished. The several parts of the Old Testament are here mentioned, as containing each of them things concerning Christ: The law of Moses, that is, the Pentateuch, or the five books written by Moses,–the prophets, containing not only the books that are purely prophetical, but those historical books that were written by prophetical men,–the Psalms, containing the other writings, which they called the Hagiographa. See in what various ways of writing God did of old reveal his will; but all proceeded from one and the self-same Spirit, who by them gave notice of the coming and kingdom of the Messiah; for to him bore all the prophets witness. (3.) By an immediate present work upon their minds, of which they themselves could not but be sensible, he gave them to apprehend the true intent and meaning of the Old-Testament prophecies of Christ, and to see them all fulfilled in him: Then opened he their understanding, that they might understand the scriptures,Luke 24:45; Luke 24:45. In his discourse with the two disciples he took the veil from off the text, by opening the scriptures; here he took the veil from off the heart, by opening the mind.

Also:

The design of opening the understanding is that we may understand the scriptures; not that we may be wise above what is written, but that we may be wiser in what is written, and may be made wise to salvation by it. The Spirit in the word and the Spirit in the heart say the same thing. Christ’s scholars never learn above their bibles in this world; but they need to be learning still more and more out of their bibles, and to grow more ready and mighty in the scriptures. That we may have right thoughts of Christ, and have our mistakes concerning him rectified, there needs no more than to be made to understand the scriptures.

Jesus then said, ‘It is written’ — meaning that this was foretold in the Old Testament — that the Messiah would suffer then rise from the dead on the third day (verse 46), emphasising the truth of Scripture.

He instructed the disciples to preach the repentance and forgiveness of sin to all nations, i.e. including Gentiles, beginning at Jerusalem (verse 47).

MacArthur explains why Jerusalem was going to be a problematic starting point:

this was very, very difficult, because the Jews didn’t believe Jesus was the Messiah. The Jews had seen Jesus as utterly disqualified to be the Messiah, because He was the enemy of their religious system, their false religious system, which they thought was the true. Jesus was killed, rejected by the leaders, died, disqualified, had no army, triumphed over nothing. They had a theology of Messiah that only included the triumph and the glory; they didn’t have a theology that included the suffering, and dying, and rising again. They had totally missed that part.

So now the disciples and the apostles are going to have the responsibility to start in Jerusalem to overturn everything the people believed, to change everything. And they were going to have to convince the Jews that Jesus is the Messiah. How would you do that? You can’t use the New Testament, there isn’t any. And the one thing they did revere was the Old Testament. So what did they have to use? The Old Testament.

But they had shown a lack of understanding of the Old Testament. They had shown a severe lack of understanding of most of what Jesus said, even when He said it to them face-to-face in very simple, clear, straight-forward terms. They had been subject all their life to a rather inadequate, if not downright wrong interpretation of the Old Testament at the hands of their rabbis; and so they were in no position to rightly interpret the Old Testament unless somebody helped them. They needed a total correction of their theology and their hermeneutics.

So what’s so very, very important is this: They needed to understand that Christianity was not a disruption of Judaism, it wasn’t a new religion; it was continuity, it was the same great redemptive plan of God rolling through history; and that Judaism without Christ is a false religion, because Christ is the fulfillment of the Old Testament. And so in order to get the gospel in its right context, in order to understand redemptive continuity and redemptive history, you’ve got to go back. And that’s exactly what He does. He says to them in verse 44, “These are My words, which I spoke to you while I was still with you.”

MacArthur cites a few of the relevant passages from the Old Testament, which has more:

The Old Testament promised the Messiah would come and the Messiah would be from the line of Abraham, the Old Testament, Genesis 12; promised that He would come through the tribe of Judah, Genesis 49; that He would come through the line of David, 2 Samuel chapter 7; that He would be born of a virgin, Isaiah 7:14; born in Bethlehem, Micah 5:2; that He would be betrayed by a familiar friend, as the psalmist puts it; that He would be beaten, spit on, beard pulled, gambling would take place for His clothing. He would be pierced, Zechariah 12, Psalm 22, Psalm 69. His death would be vicarious, Isaiah 53. And He would rise from the dead, Isaiah 53 end of the chapter, Psalm 16:8 to 11; many other details.

The Christ of gospel history did not invent Himself, nor is He the invention of a little group of people in the first century. He is the unmistakable fulfillment of divine prophecy. That’s at the heart, that’s at the foundation of the gospel. So we say that if you’re going to carry out the mandate of the gospel and fulfill your mission – and it is your mission – you must understand that as to its foundation, the gospel is Old Testament, biblical.

MacArthur addresses the importance of repentance and forgiveness of sins:

What is the provision that transforms? It is the forgiveness of sins. The gospel message to be proclaimed across the world, folks, is just one simple message: repent and ask for the forgiveness of sins in the name of Christ. That’s it.

We say, “You know, we want people to be saved.” And the obvious question is, “Saved from what?” From their sins, and the punishment of those sins that is everlasting in hell. This is our only message. We don’t have a social message. There are social implications in the gospel, because godly people behave differently. We don’t have an economic message. We don’t have an educational message. We have one message: forgiveness of sins. That’s it. And that’s what was laid out at the beginning.

Let me show you something … Back in chapter 1, verse 77 … in the prophecy of Zechariah, which sets the course of the Book. “He is coming” – this Son of God, the Messiah – “to give to His people the knowledge of salvation.” Okay? How they going to get that? How are they going to be saved? “By the forgiveness of their sins, because of the tender mercy of our God.”

Another point to bear in mind that the Apostles, being Jewish, did not associate with Gentiles. Therefore, preaching to all nations was going to be another stumbling block.

MacArthur explains how this unfolds in Acts:

… the gospel now, while starting there and capturing the remnant, is to go to the world. It’s a very new idea to even Jewish believers. Gentile salvation was never popular with them. Testimony to that comes from Jonah, who chose to take a short ride on a big fish rather than go and preach to Ninevites, because he didn’t want them to repent and get in on the blessings that God provided Israel.

Even the early apostles seemed reluctant to buy into this global extent. Do you know there’s not really any evangelism of Gentiles. They started where they were supposed to. Matthew says, “Go into all the world.” And in Luke’s account, he says, “You are to be witnesses of Me in Jerusalem, Samaria, and the whole world.” But this was a hard pill for them to swallow, because they were basically anti-Gentile. And I think they were reluctant to think about this until Acts 10.

You see, the problem they had with going to the Gentiles was they were convinced that their religion, if they were faithful to it, isolated them from Gentiles. They couldn’t go to a Gentile house. They couldn’t eat with a Gentile utensil. They couldn’t consume non-kosher food. They couldn’t go into a Gentile country without being impure. So they had created this idea of holiness that isolated them.

So how were they going to do this and get across what they believed to be things that honored God? I mean it was God, wasn’t it, who gave them all the dietary laws. It was God who gave them all the restrictions that isolated them from the nations around them for their own preservation and protection. But God never intended it to cause them to be so isolated they wouldn’t take the truth of Him as the true and living trinitarian God to those nations. But they didn’t do that.

And they’re still confused, I think, because God has to come to Peter. God says to Peter – shows him a sheet full of all kinds of animals clean and unclean, and says, “Rise, Peter, kill and eat.” By the way, that is a meat-eater’s dream, that passage. For you vegetarians, you’ve got a problem there in Acts 10. “Rise, Peter, kill and eat.” So Peter says, “No, can’t do it. I’ve never touched anything unclean.” And this whole thing is a metaphor for how are you going to evangelize the Gentiles. You’ve got to get past this.

So they’re very reluctant. And God has to go into very dramatic means to get Peter to do what He wants him to do, and that is, “Go, give the gospel to a Gentile centurion named Cornelius.” That’s a big hurdle, huge.

Peter does it. Turn to Acts 10; and this is the first occasion, really, where they get past Samaria. They go to Samaria, remember, with Philip in chapter 8. The gospel is moving through Jerusalem in the early chapters, and it gets scattered belong Jerusalem. And how does God do that? Did they do it on their own? No, they don’t do it on their own. Chapter 8 begins with a great persecution brought against the church in Jerusalem, and they were all scattered into Judea and Samaria.

You know, God had to scatter them, because it was so hard for them to go. Even Samaritans they despised. They despised them for what they thought was abandoning the truth of God and coming up with a false religious system, which they carried out on Mount Gerizim; and they were the half-breeds who betrayed their people, and their nation, and their heritage, et cetera, et cetera. And they had a hard time going there; that’s why no Jew ever walked through Samaria …

And the apostles finally got it, as we showed in chapter 10. In chapter 9, Paul is converted, and he becomes God’s very special tool to begin this massive enterprise of taking the glorious gospel to the Gentile world; and he launches his ministry in the thirteenth chapter of Acts. Paul understood Gentile salvation. It was explained to him at his conversion, right? Just read it in chapter 9: “You’re going to be a light to the nations.” He understood the responsibility that he had to go to the world.

Jesus told the Apostles that they were witnesses to these things (verse 48).

Henry says this means that they were not to be passive but active in their forthcoming ministries:

The instructions he gave them as apostles, who were to be employed in setting up his kingdom in the world. They expected, while their Master was with them, that they should be preferred to posts of honour, of which they thought themselves quite disappointed when he was dead. “No,” saith, he, “you are now to enter upon them; you are to be witnesses of these things (Luke 24:48; Luke 24:48), to carry the notice of them to all the world; not only to report them as matter of news, but to assert them as evidence given upon the trial of the great cause that has been so long depending between God and Satan, the issue of which must be the casting down and casting out of the prince of this world. You are fully assured of these things yourselves, you are eye and ear-witnesses of them; go, and assure the world of them; and the same Spirit that has enlightened you shall go along with you for the enlightening of others.”

MacArthur says that this act of witness also extends to us:

He can’t just be talking about the apostles, because they couldn’t get to the uttermost part of the earth. They would be dead long before the gospel ever got there. So this is to all of us. Sure the apostles are witnesses.

By the way, the word “witness,” martus, is used all through the book of Acts. “You are My witnesses. You are the ones I’m going to depend on to proclaim this. You, the first generation apostles and prophets” – apostles and disciples I should say – “you are the ones who know Me personally.”

The Apostles — and present-day witnesses — received divine help to spread the Gospel:

So the gospel is biblical, historical, transformational, Christological, global, personal, and finally, one more component: the gospel is supernatural as to its power, supernatural as to its power, because “the weapons of our warfare are not fleshly,” 2 Corinthians 10. The gospel of the King and the kingdom does not advance by human power, human creativity, human ingenuity, human cleverness. It doesn’t even advance by human zeal.

Jesus alluded to the divine power behind witnessing for the Gospel. He told the Apostles that He would be sending what God the Father promised, ‘power from on high’; therefore, they were to stay in Jerusalem until the Holy Spirit arrived (verse 49). Some translations have ‘Behold’ instead of ‘And see’, indicating that the Apostles should pay special attention to His words.

MacArthur tells us why Jesus said that and how it was prophesied in the Old Testament:

Their responsibility to personal witnesses in the doing of this, they’ve got it all down, and they have the zeal and the passion and drive, and they’re ready to go.

But, verse 49: “And behold,” – it’s a surprise what he says, that’s why “behold” is there, it’s a surprise: there’s something you’re missing – “I’m sending forth the promise of My Father upon you; but you’re to stay in the city until you’re clothed with power from on high.”

“With all of that you have going for you, correct theology of the Messiah, the correct historical understanding of the Messiah, eyewitnesses of the death and resurrection of Jesus, with all that you know about the responsibility you have, proclaim the forgiveness of sin in the name of Christ, don’t go anywhere until you’re powered from on high. Don’t go. Even with all of this, you’re inadequate.”

“I am sending forth the promise of My Father upon you,” epangelian. This is the only time this word is used, by the way, in the four Gospels. “I’m sending forth the promise.” It’s all over the book of Acts and the Epistles as the promise begins to unfold.

What is the promise? Promise of the Holy Spirit. Promise of the Holy Spirit. That’s the promise. And by the way, that promise also was given in the Old Testament. Listen to Joel 2:28, “It will come about after this that I will pour out My Spirit on all mankind; and your sons and daughters will prophesy, your old men will dream dreams, young men will see visions. Even on the male and female servants I will pour out My Spirit in those days.” And on the Day of Pentecost, you remember when the Spirit was first poured out, Peter stood up and said, “What you’ve just seen is the fulfillment in part, in part.” Maybe a pre-fulfillment of the words of Joel; and he recites the very words that I just read to you.

But it isn’t just that passage. There are other passages that promise the coming of the Holy Spirit connected with salvation. You remember the promise in Ezekiel 36: “I will put My Spirit” – verse 27 – “within you, cause you to talk in My statutes, and you will be careful to observe My ordinances. I will put My Spirit within you. That’s a prophecy connected to the New Covenant. Ezekiel 37:14, “I’ll put My Spirit within you and you’ll come to life.” Even in chapter 39, “I will not hide My face from them” – verse 29 – “any longer. I will have poured out My Spirit on the house of Israel.” The Old Testament promises then the coming of the Holy Spirit. And so our Lord says, “Don’t go anywhere until that prophecy is also fulfilled.”

You remember that in the New Testament in that last night in the upper room, John 14, Jesus said, “The Spirit has been with you. He shall be in you. You’ve had power; you’ve been given authority and power. You’ve had power; you will now have full power.”

John 20:22 says that on resurrection Sunday Jesus breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit.” They didn’t have that reception then, this was by way of promise. Forty days later, or during the forty-day gap, He repeats that: “I’m sending forth the promise.” And the Spirit actually came on the Day of Pentecost, ten days after the ascension of Jesus.

Then we come to our Lord’s ascension, His return to Heaven.

Luke tells us that Jesus led the Apostles out of Jerusalem, as far as Bethany, and, lifting up His hands, He blessed them (verse 50).

MacArthur tells us more about Bethany, the home of siblings Mary, Martha and Lazarus:

We saw from verse 49 that they were in the city and he told them to stay there. Bethany is a suburb I guess you could say of Jerusalem. If you go out the eastern gate of Jerusalem and you’ll see the Mount of Olives and just a little to the south and over the edge of the Mount of Olives, you will arrive in Bethany. It is a little village on the back slope of the Mount of Olives. Literally, the original text can be translated, “He led them in the vicinity of Bethany.” Acts 1:12 says it was at the Mount of Olives. That is consistent. Just to the east of Jerusalem is the Mount of Olives, and just on the back slope of that hill is the little village of Bethany. I have a lot of memories of Bethany, having visited it a number of times. And what makes it so memorable to me is of course visiting Lazarus’ tomb there …

But that little village to this day is still a very simple and humble little village. It was a very familiar little village to Jesus. He had stayed there often during his ministry because he had a family there that he loved, two ladies, sisters, very famous, Mary and Martha, and their brother Lazarus whom he had not long before this raised from the dead. And during Passion Week it seems that he would stay there with that family if he wasn’t in the deeps of the Mount of Olives in prayer with his Father. So it was a very familiar place for him, and because of its proximity to Jerusalem, it was a great place to go to get away from everything, because it was the Mount of Olives, which is right there near the village of Bethany where the gardens were. People inside the city wall very often had gardens outside the wall, and of course Jesus went into the garden that we call Gethsemane. Olive press, olive trees covered that area. Still many exist today there. So it was a restful place. It was a park-like environment. It was a place that he had familiarized himself with many times in prayer.

And then of course during Passion Week it was there that he went with his followers after the Last Supper, and it was there that he agonized and sweat as it were great drops of blood in anticipation of his sin-bearing. It was there that they came and arrested him, and it was there that Peter pulled out his sword and there that he healed the servant’s ear. It would be there that the Mount of Olives that he would return. Zechariah 14:4 says, “He will come back in his Second Coming to the Mount of Olives.” So this little hill on the backside of Jerusalem has a very, very important place in God’s plan. And so he leads them out in fulfillment of Zechariah 14:4 because he’s going to leave and an angel’s going to come and say, “He’s going to come back the same way he left.” So it had to happen near Bethany at the Mount of Olives, because that’s where he’s coming back.

There Jesus blessed the Apostles, and while doing so, He withdrew from them and was raised up to Heaven (verse 51).

We can think of it as our Lord blessing the Apostles on Earth then, as He rose, blessing them from Heaven, as it were, although He was on the way there before He vanished from their sight. It was a continuing blessing for them. He would not — and did not — forget them when He returned to His Father.

Henry tells us:

While he was blessing them, he was parted from them; not as if he were taken away before he had said all he had to say, but to intimate that his being parted from them did not put an end to his blessing them, for the intercession which he went to heaven to make for all his is a continuation of the blessing. He began to bless them on earth, but he went to heaven to go on with it.

Of the blessing, MacArthur says:

So he led them out as far as Bethany, and then he lifted up his hands, which would be a common gesture for people to make upon offering blessing. By lifting up your hands, you’re pointing in the direction of the source of all blessing. “Every good and perfect gift comes down from the Father of lights.” And he lifted up his hands pointing toward heaven to symbolize the place from where all blessing descends, and he blessed them. I don’t want you to short circuit that statement, “He blessed them,” because I think sometimes we might think of that as some kind of a symbolism, some kind of a symbolic gesture. It isn’t that at all. It isn’t some kind of a mystical sign. When he blessed them, it simply means that he pledged to them blessing. Now, according to Ephesians 1:3, “We have been blessed with all spiritual blessings in the heavenlies in Christ Jesus,” right? According to Ephesians 2:6 and 7, the promise through grace is that God will demonstrate in Christ through all the ages to come his mercy and his kindness toward us. He will lavish us with the riches of his grace forever and ever and ever. And so I think what happened here, I think the last thing Jesus said was blessing. He had given them the commission; that’s responsibility, that’s duty. But the final word is the word of blessing. What would he have said? “Everlasting grace is yours. Everlasting mercy is yours. Everlasting salvation is yours. Comfort is yours. Peace, everlasting peace is yours. I pledge to you my care, my love. I promise you all the things again that I have promised you all along. I am going to heaven to fulfill all my promises to you.”

The Apostles worshipped Him and returned to Jerusalem with great joy (verse 52).

Henry says the Apostles’ joy was a sign that they were finally beginning to fully understand the prophecies of Holy Scripture:

This was a wonderful change, and an effect of the opening of their understandings. When Christ told them that he must leave them sorrow filled their hearts; yet now that they see him go they are filled with joy, being convinced at length that it was expedient for them and for the church that he should go away, to send the Comforter.

The Apostles were continually in the temple praising God (verse 53).

MacArthur explains the significance of the Ascension:

It marked the completion of his salvation work. It marked the completion of his salvation work. After the cross and the resurrection, there was nothing more to do to provide any aspect of salvation. That was summed up in the words on the cross, “It is finished.” “I glorified you on earth,” he said to the Father in John 17, “how having finished the work you gave me to do.” The work of redemption is done.

Secondly, it is the end of his limitation. He says in John 17:5, “Take me back to the glory I had with you before the world began.” He set aside the independent use of his divine authority and power to become a slave to the Father. When that was over, he came back to his preincarnate glory. He came back in once sense more than when he left. He left as Spirit; he came back as Theanthropos, the God man, whom he remains forever. And even when you go to heaven to worship him, according to Revelation 5, you’re going to see a Lamb who has been wounded.

Thirdly, the ascension marked his exaltation and his coronation. It was then that God gave him the name above every name, the name Lord and called on all to bow. Fourthly, it signaled his sending of the Holy Spirit. John 16:7: “If I don’t go, I can’t send the Holy Spirit.” “It’s better for you,” he said, “that I go so that I can send the Helper, the Holy Spirit who will be with you all the time. He has been with you. He shall be in you.”

Number five, his ascension marked the start of his preparation for our heavenly home. In John 14, when they were all moaning and sorrowing over his leaving, he saw it so very differently. “Do not let your heart be troubled. Believe in God, believe also in me. In my Father’s house are many dwelling places. If it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to myself that where I am there you may be also.” He is there preparing our heavenly home.

Number six, the ascension marked the passing of the work of evangelism to his followers. That’s why the Book of Acts begins with Luke saying, “The former treatise, namely the Gospel of Luke, I wrote O Theophilus of all that Jesus began.” Yes, there is the finished work of Christ; that’s the redemptive work. The work of evangelism only began, and he passed the baton to his followers.

Number seven, the ascension signaled our Lord’s headship over the church. He, who is named Lord, he according to Ephesians 1 who is far above all rule, power, dominion, and authority is given as head over the church, which is his body in in which all the fulness dwells. He is exalted then to be Lord and ruler of his church, which embodies his person. That all is launched at the ascension.

Number eight, it marked his triumph over Satan. First John 3:8 says, “He came to destroy the works of the devil.” And in his triumphant coronation, the Father was affirming that he had done that destruction in full. The serpent’s head was crushed, and Christ is supreme. Hebrews 2 puts it this way: “He took away from Satan the power of death, by which he held men in bondage all their lives.”

Number nine, it signaled our Lord’s giving the work of ministry to gifted men. He was the gifted man with his disciples. He never seemed to pass the teacher’s mantle to any of them, but according to Ephesians 4:8, “When he ascended on high, he led captive a host of captives and gave gifts to men.” Because of his work, when he ascended into heaven, he had provided a salvation that would capture souls who would be given back as gifts to men, some apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, some pastor-teachers for the equipping of the Saints for the work of the ministry. So in his earthly provision of salvation, he secured the salvation of all future leaders of the church who would be given to the church for its own edification to make it strong for the work of evangelism.

And then as we’ve indicated, number ten, the ascension marked the start of his high priestly work. He now ever-lives to intercede for us. He is our advocate before the Father no matter what accusations are brought against us by Satan and his emissaries. “Who is going to lay any successful charge against God’s elect? Not Christ who justified us. He has been in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin.” So he’s a “sympathetic and merciful High Priest,” the writer of Hebrews says, “who can come to us and nurture us in all our struggles.”

And finally, the ascension guarantees and secures his Second Coming. “He has been taken from you but he will come in like manner as you have seen him go,” Acts 1:11. What an amazing event. Talk about something worth celebrating. If we can go all the way from the birth of Christ to the ascension of Christ, from his arrival to his departure, we’ll get a picture of the whole thing. He is exalted by his ascension, crowned as Lord. He sends the Holy Spirit. He begins to prepare our eternal home. He takes the headship of the church. He defeats Satan. He passes evangelism and ministry to his followers. He begins the blessed work of intercession on behalf of his people and stands ready to return in God’s perfect time. Yes, in the words of Paul to the Corinthians, “He who was rich became poor, divesting himself of all heaven’s riches, that we through his poverty might be made rich.”

Some of us will be going to church, where possible, on Ascension Day. Others are likely to have the Ascension Day readings this coming Sunday.

Ascension Day has never really been given the universal glory in worship that it deserves. It is to be hoped that more churches will offer services on this important feast day, withouth which we would not been able to have the first Pentecost and the Holy Spirit resting upon all believers from that point forward.

May all reading this have a blessed Ascension Day.

jesus-christ-the-king-blogsigncomMay I wish all my readers a joyful and blessed Easter. Our Lord Jesus is risen!

Readings for Easter Day can be found here.

There are two Gospel choices for Easter Day. The exegesis on John 20:1-18 can be found here.

Today’s post is about the second Gospel reading, Luke 24:1-12 (emphases mine):

Luke 24:1-12

24:1 But on the first day of the week, at early dawn, they came to the tomb, taking the spices that they had prepared.

24:2 They found the stone rolled away from the tomb,

24:3 but when they went in, they did not find the body.

24:4 While they were perplexed about this, suddenly two men in dazzling clothes stood beside them.

24:5 The women were terrified and bowed their faces to the ground, but the men said to them, “Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here, but has risen.

24:6 Remember how he told you, while he was still in Galilee,

24:7 that the Son of Man must be handed over to sinners, and be crucified, and on the third day rise again.”

24:8 Then they remembered his words,

24:9 and returning from the tomb, they told all this to the eleven and to all the rest.

24:10 Now it was Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary the mother of James, and the other women with them who told this to the apostles.

24:11 But these words seemed to them an idle tale, and they did not believe them.

24:12 But Peter got up and ran to the tomb; stooping and looking in, he saw the linen cloths by themselves; then he went home, amazed at what had happened.

Commentary comes from Matthew Henry and John MacArthur.

Matthew Henry’s commentary says that the Resurrection is another holy mystery:

The manner of the re-uniting of Christ’s soul and body in his resurrection is a mystery, one of the secret things that belong not to us; but the infallible proofs of his resurrection, that he did indeed rise from the dead, and was thereby proved to be the Son of God, are things revealed, which belong to us and to our children. Some of them we have here in these verses, which relate the same story for substance that we had in Matthew and Mark.

John MacArthur reminds us that the Resurrection was the culmination of God’s plan for our redemption. It was certainly a belief in Old Testament times:

The resurrection of Christ is the greatest event in history, as I said.  It is the main event in God’s redemptive plan It is the cornerstone and foundation of the gospel According to Romans 10:9 and 10, in order to be saved you have to believe in the resurrection of Jesus Christ Now, we understand that the message that God has delivered to sinners throughout all of Scripture is that death does not end our existence That is the message of Scripture from the start to the finish, that death is merely the doorway into eternity And everyone goes through that doorway and everyone lives forever, some to the resurrection of life, and some to the resurrection of damnation, to borrow the words of John 5.  Every human being ever born will live forever, fully conscious either in everlasting joy or everlasting suffering.

For those who, by faith, have come into the Kingdom of God, into the realm of salvation, the promise is that they will experience a resurrection unto life, that not only will their spirits dwell forever in the presence of God in eternal bliss, but they will receive a resurrected body fit for that everlasting joy This has been the hope of God’s people throughout all redemptive history It was the hope of Abraham, as Hebrews 11 tells us.  It was the hope of Moses, as we learn in Scripture as well.  It was the hope of Job It was the hope of Isaiah It was the hope of Daniel, for example.  This has always been the hope of God’s people, whether it is the psalmist who says, “I know that someday I will wake in His likeness,” or whether it is Job who says, “Though worms destroy this body, yet in my flesh shall I see God.”  The hope of resurrection has always been at the heart of believers’ faith.  It comes to crystal clarity through the resurrection of Jesus Christ who says in John 14:19, “Because I live, you will live also.”  He is the firstfruits of the resurrection He said, “I am the resurrection and the life.  Whoever believes in Me though he die, yet shall he live.” 

The Gospel accounts differ in detail, however, they all agree that Jesus rose from the dead.

MacArthur’s sermon gives us the whole story, not only through Luke’s version but also of the other three Gospel authors:

As we approach the resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ, we’re going to work our way through this account very carefully and very thoughtfully.  Since all four gospels deal with the resurrection, Matthew, Mark, Luke and John all deal with the resurrection, they bring to bear upon the account of this most significant of all events in human history their own perspectives.  They all cover some of the same things and yet each of them has its own special emphasis, and details common to each writer that are not in the other accounts What this means is: we have to weave all of this together to get the full picture My hope will be that you will be able to follow this multi-faceted event as I endeavor to weave the accounts together around the main focus of Luke.

Luke opens his 24th chapter by telling us that ‘they’ — the women — went to the tomb of Jesus in the early dawn of the third day after His death; they had prepared spices for anointing Him (verse 1).

MacArthur says that Luke is picking up from the end of his 23rd chapter:

Verse 1 of Luke 24, they came to the tomb.  Who are they?  Back to verse 55, “The women who had come with Him out of Galilee,” and that’s a larger group of women So, Luke doesn’t mention Mary Magdalene in his opening section, although we’ll get to the mention of Mary Magdalene down in verse 10 in a minute.

We find out their identities in verse 10, but let us establish them now:

Matthew says Mary Magdalene didn’t start out alone Mary Magdalene was accompanied, the Scripture says, with another Mary: Mary, the mother of James and Joseph; Mary also called the wife of Clopas, another MarySo, these two women, Mary Magdalene and Mary, the mother of James and Joseph, also known as the wife of Clopas, they start out together in the early dawn.  Most likely, Mary Magdalene is the youngest of all There are other women, right?

Neither commentator mentioned Joanna. Women in the Bible says that she was an influential woman, the wife of Chuza, who ran the household of Herod Antipas in Galilee. It is thought that Joanna heard about Jesus early on, as the Antipas estate was near Nazareth.

Luke 8 records that Jesus cured Joanna of an infirmity, much like he did Mary Magdalene:

Luke 8:1-3

1 Soon afterward he went on through cities and villages, preaching and bringing the good news of the kingdom of God. And the twelve were with him, 2 and also some women who had been healed of evil spirits and infirmities: Mary, called Mag’dalene, from whom seven demons had gone out, 3 and Joan’na, the wife of Chuza, Herod’s steward, and Susanna, and many others, who provided for them out of their means.

Women in the Bible says that it is possible that Joanna helped to finance the ministry of Jesus and the Apostles. She also might have had some inside information as to what happened during His trial and torture on Good Friday.

Returning to Luke, the women could not have gone to the tomb the day before because it was the Sabbath, so they were eager to attend to Him as soon as they could on Sunday.

The question arises, ‘How could they get into the tomb to anoint our Lord when there was a heavy stone rolled over the door?’

Other accounts tell us that the women knew about the stone and wondered who would be able to roll it away for them.

However, when they arrived, they found the stone rolled away from the tomb (verse 2).

Furthermore, when they entered the tomb, there was no body (verse 3).

What exactly happened?

MacArthur gives us the narrative from the end of Luke 23, Good Friday:

They had come with him, these women out of Galilee.  And they followed, you remember, Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus who showed up They followed them to the tomb.  They were still stunned.  They were still in shock.  They had just lived through the most bizarre, horrific experience.  The one who they had put their trust in, the Lord Jesus, had been arrested, He had been beaten, He had been crucified, He’s dead, and here are these men now putting a few spices on His body, not really a few, a hundred pound weight that Nicodemus brought and they’re anointing His body and putting it in the grave And the women are still stunned, they’re not helping, they’re just looking and watching But they determined that they wanted to have a part in it.  And so it says in verse 56 that after watching His body being laid in Joseph’s tomb, they returned and prepared spices and perfume

Now to the other accounts about the women’s arrival:

Here’s what probably happened The women all go to anoint the body of Jesus.  Mary Magdalene starts out with Mary, the mother of James They’re moving faster than the rest who may have been older They’re stringing out in the darkness as they begin.  The two Marys head for the tomb together.  Matthew 28:1 says, “Those two Marys headed for the tomb,” kind of the first of the women.  But John says, “Mary Magdalene came to the tomb,” which means she outpaced the other one She gets there by herself according to John’s account.  It’s still dark at this point and it’s light enough maybe that she can discern when she gets close to the tomb that the stone is gone She spins on her sandals and head the other direction She arrives in the dusky dark side of the dawn, but clear enough to see the stone is removed.  She’s the first one there.  Her companion Mary is somewhere back progressing in that direction And the other women, perhaps near her, coming in the dark at a different pace. 

John says that Mary Magdalene saw the open entrance and immediately left, didn’t go in, bolted.  Probably didn’t go back maybe the same way the other women did, so that there’s no indication she ran into them.  She heads directly to Peter and John and the apostle, and she gives this report that the body of Jesus has been stolen That’s an assumption she didn’t check And for that moment then, when John says it was still dark, it was the darkest part of any experience that these women had because she was the first one there.  And as the others came progressively, it became light, and that’s why the other writers when the whole group comes say what Luke says, “At early dawn,” or, “The sun had risen.” 

So, the timing is so wonderful, the explicitness of Scripture.  The earliest one there is Mary.  The rest come, verse 1, to the tomb, bringing the spices they had prepared They found the same thing Mary had found She’s there and gone, headed for Peter and John.  They found the stone rolled away from the tomb This is a shocking sight.  This is a stunning sight because, frankly, they had been having a discussion on the way, according to Mark 16.  Listen to what Mark says.  “Very early on the first day of the week, they came to the tomb when the sun had risen and they were saying to one another on the way, ‘Who will roll away the stone for us from the entrance of the tomb?’“ Remember now, they were there on Friday night when Jesus was laid in the tomb, and Joseph and Nicodemus rolled the stone over the entrance They knew it was there and they asked the question: who will roll away the stone for us from the entrance of the tomb?  “And looking up they saw that the stone had been rolled away, although it was extremely large.”  So, on the way they’re having the discussion.  We’re going to go there, we’ve got all these spices we’ve prepared on Friday, we’re going to do our part to show our love to the Lord by putting spices, more spices on His body, but who is going to roll away the stone?

Remember that they had rolled the stone across the front.  Mark 15:46 says that he rolled a stone against the entrance to the tomb, did Joseph of Arimathea They had no idea how they were going to get that stone out of there. 

One aspect the women were unaware of were the Roman guards, who were gone by the time they got there because of a second earthquake that took place early on Sunday. The first earthquake took place on Friday, after Jesus breathed His last:

Furthermore, they had no idea of something else that had happened.  The day after the preparation, Matthew 27:62, “The chief priests and Pharisees gathered together with Pilate and said, ‘Sir, we remember that when He was still alive, that deceiver, Jesus, said after three days I’m going to rise again Therefore, give orders for the grave to be made secure till the third day lest the disciples come and steal Him away and say to the people He has risen from the dead and the last deception be worse than the first.’ Pilate said to them, ‘You have a guard.  Go.  Make it as secure as you know how.’ And they went, made the grave secure and along with the guard they set a seal on the stone.” 

The women had no idea that had happened on Saturday On Saturday the Jews who were afraid that the disciples would steal the body to fabricate a phony resurrection asked Pilate for a guard.  They got a guard.  The tomb is sealed with an official Roman seal, not to be broken And a Roman guard is placed in front of the tomb They have no idea about that.  They’re going to go thinking it’s just the tomb but the only obstacle they’re going to have is the stone.  So, they would not have known about the guard.  Now, when they get there, interestingly enough, there’s no guard there.  It doesn’t say anything in any of the four gospels about the women ever meeting the Roman guard, never.  You say, “Well, where did they go?”  Well, for that you have to go back to Matthew 28.  And here in Matthew 28 verse 2, what happened on Saturday was they set a guard.  What happened in the early dark hours of Sunday, verse 2, “Behold, a severe earthquake had occurred.”  This would be the second earthquake There was one on Friday, equally severe, that split the rocks, threw open tombs “A severe earthquake had occurred, for the angel of the Lord descended from heaven and came, and rolled away the stone and sat upon it And his appearance was like lightning, and his garment as white as snow, and the guards shook for fear of him and became like dead men.”

Well, some interesting things have been going on while these ladies were away.  The guard is set on Saturday and on Sunday morning an angel comes down out of heaven, there is a massive earthquake, the angel rolls the stone away and the guards are shocked into some kind of a coma By the way, the angel did not roll the stone away to let Jesus out, he rolled the stone away to let the people in Jesus could walk through walls He did that a little later, right?  The door being shut, He appeared to the apostles.

Now, what happened?  Well I’ll tell you basically, it’s pretty obvious.  By the time the women get there, there aren’t any soldiers there.  If there were any soldiers there, they would have commented about them, they would have had a conversation with them.  They would have asked them: how did this happen?  What happened?  It is reasonable to assume that in the deep dark night of that Sunday morning when the earthquake came, and the soldiers were knocked into their coma, they eventually they came out of it and they realized what had happened The stone was gone, they had these shaken visions of a blazing angel, the reverberations of a massive earthquake They realized that the body of Jesus is gone They had therefore failed in their duty.  They understood the implications of that.  They know something powerful, if not supernatural, has happened.  They head back into the city. 

As soon as they wake up, there’s no reason to stay there anymore ‘cause Jesus is gone.  They must have gone inside in the pitch darkness and found that He was not there.  So, they have to face reality.  They have to go to the Jewish leaders to try to explain to them what happened And by the time the women get there, they’re gone.  They’re gone …

So, let’s pick up what they said Go back to Matthew 28.  When they finally got to the Jewish leaders to try to explain.  Verse 11, “While they were on their way, some of the guard came into the city, reported to the chief priests all that had happened.”  Just exactly what did they say?  Well they reported all that had happened.  What would they then say?  “Sir, there was this really, really severe earthquake, and then there was this blazing, flashing, dazzling being who rolled the stone away.  And then we were knocked out.  And when we came to, the body was gone.”  That’s what they said because that’s what happened.  Verse 12, “And when they had assembled with the elders and counseled together, they gave a large sum of money to the soldiers.”  Really?  You reward them for that?  Oh, they said to them, “You are to say, ‘His disciples came by night and stole Him away while we were asleep.’“ Huh, they’re not likely to say that because a Roman soldier who slept on his guard would be more than court marshaled; he could even be executed But you’re to lie And if it comes to the governor’s ears, Pilate, who was the commander in Chief of all soldiers, they knew they would be in trouble.  The Jewish leaders say, “We’ll win him over and keep you out of trouble.  We’ll save your hide.” 

And they took the money and did as they had been instructed, and this story was widely spread among the Jews and is to this day, to the day that Matthew is writing, that is still the story the disciples came and stole the body The Roman soldiers knew it was a lie; they were bribed The Jews knew it was a lie; they paid the bribe The tomb was empty.  There was no explanation other than the soldiers’ experience and they were paid off not to tell the truth.

If Jesus didn’t rise from the dead, it would have been an easy thing for the Jews to prove Just bring out His body But they couldn’t, so they entangled themselves in this hopeless series of absurdities trying to explain away the empty tomb.  And they came up with a lie, a huge lie to cover the truth They never, no Jewish leaders, no Jewish people ever denied the tomb was empty They just invented the lie that the disciples had stolen it, a lie that is impossible because the disciples, the women, the men had no expectation that Jesus would rise.

It’s important, folks, to understand the tomb is empty There is no explanation for that on a human level The only explanation is the text of Scripture: an angel came, rolled the stone away and Christ, who promised to rise, was alive and walked out And by the way, the empty tomb alone was enough to convince John He was the only one really convinced According to John 20 verses 6 to 8, “John saw the empty tomb, saw the clothes lying there, and believed.”  Nobody else did.

Returning to Luke, the women were perplexed about the stone and the lack of a body when, suddenly, two men — angels — in dazzling clothes appeared beside them (verse 4).

Upon seeing the men, the women were terrified and bowed their faces to the ground; the men asked them why they sought the living among the dead, when He had risen (verse 5).

MacArthur brings in the other accounts of the angels in the Resurrection story:

the second great evidence of the resurrection is divine revelation.  They are perplexed, back to verse 4, they are perplexed, no idea what occurred.  The whole ordeal, the trial, the cross, the whole thing is surreal, if not outright bizarre.  As they stand in the dawning sunlight and shadows, they’re jolted into the most frightening scene they have ever experienced in their entire lives.  There’s no reason to assume that any of these women had seen angels, apart from the mother of our Lord.  Two men suddenly stood near them in dazzling clothing.  John describes them as two angels Angels appear often in human form Mark describes one of them as a young man, so they are angels, spiritual beings who can take on human form and take on the form of a young man That would be a consistent thing for an angel to do because angels don’t age

Clearly there are two of them, perhaps because of Deuteronomy 19:15, two witnesses to validate anything However, Matthew and Mark speak only of one who speaks Matthew and Mark say, “An angel spoke.  An angel spoke.”  They don’t refer to two, simply identifying the fact that there were two angels but they spoke one at a time.  They spoke separately, and I am sure they probably spoke repeatedly, because you have a little bit of variation of what they say.  Matthew, Mark, and Luke give you a little variation on what they actually said which would indicate to me that it was a very somewhat supernatural conversation, that they would say something and the women would be hard pressed to process that.  And one at a time, not in unison, they would speak.  And so Matthew and Mark tell us what the individual angels said, but we know from John and Luke there were two of them.

The angels reminded the women that when Jesus was in Galilee (verse 6), He said that He would be handed over to sinners, be crucified and rise again on the third day (verse 7).

The women then remembered what Jesus had said (verse 8).

MacArthur expands on these verses:

This is a reminder This is why there’s a mild rebuke.  Why do you seek the living One among the dead?  It’s a mild rebuke He’s been saying this for a long time.  If you go back in to Luke 9 when He’s still in Galilee and verse 22, He warns them and says, “Son of Man must suffer many things.  Be rejected by the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and be raised up on the third day.”  He told them that.  He reiterated again in chapter 9 verse 43, “They were all amazed at the greatness of God, while everyone was marveling at all that He was doing, He said to His disciples, ‘Let these words sink in to your ears, the Son of Man is going to be delivered into the hands of men.’“ But they didn’t understand this statement.  It was concealed from them so they might not conceive it and they were afraid to ask Him about it Even though He said it.  And by the way, He repeats it and repeats it and repeats it.  He makes the same promise several times recorded in the book of Matthew, several times recorded in the book of Mark Another time in the 18th chapter of Luke This is what’s going to happen.  And it started all the way back in Galilee; don’t you remember that He’s going to be delivered?  He’s going to be crucified?  And He’s going to be raised?  Delivered, crucified and raised. 

So, the evidence concerning the resurrection is the empty tomb, and there is no other explanation for the empty tomb than a resurrection The Jews didn’t steal His body.  The Romans didn’t steal His body.  The Apostles didn’t steal His body.  The women didn’t steal His body.  His enemies had no reason to steal His body and fabricate a resurrection.  His friends didn’t even believe in a resurrection, and nor would they steal His body, fabricate a false resurrection and then go out and die as martyrs for a phony.  The angels give the only possible explanation: He’s not here because He’s risen

The aforementioned women (verse 10) left the tomb and told the eleven remaining Apostles what had happened (verse 9).

Some astute readers might be wondering about the other Resurrection accounts concerning Mary Magdalene (verse 10).

MacArthur explains:

The last thing we heard about Mary Magdalene, she went there, saw nothing but an empty grave, came back with the wrong information Up to now, as far as we know, she hasn’t come to any conclusion except that somebody stole the body.  She’s told Peter and John her conclusion that somebody stole the body, which sent them on their way back.  How does she get into this group?  Well, Luke is condensing this story I’ll tell you how she got into this group.  Turn to John 20 – this is just so wonderful.  How can she belong to the group of eyewitnesses when she didn’t go in the empty tomb, and she didn’t hear the angels say anything?  She left before the angels spoke, or appeared.  And she had not seen the risen Christ, so how can she be one of the witnesses?

Answer: This lady went back to the tomb This lady went back to the tomb.  At some point she decides she has to go back And so in John 20, verse 11, we find her standing outside the tomb weeping She’s all alone.  “And so, as she wept, she stooped and looked into the tomb; and she beheld two angels in white sitting” – now they’re sitting on the inside.  These are two different scenes at two different times, and this one is a private viewing for Mary And they’re sitting there, “one at the head and one at the feet, where the body of Jesus had been lying.  And they said to her, ‘Woman, why are you weeping?’”  I mean it just seems so – like you walk in an empty tomb and an angel talks to you, and he just says, “Hey, why you crying, lady?”  It’s just such a natural conversation.  “She said, ‘Because they have taken away My Lord, and I don’t know where they have laid Him.’”  She’s still sticking with her theory.  “And when she had said this, she turned around and behold – or beheld Jesus standing there and didn’t know that it was Jesus.”  Why?  I don’t know; maybe she couldn’t see through her tears.  But then, nobody after the resurrection of Jesus could really know who He was until He revealed Himself, right?  That was true of the disciples on the road to Emmaus.

And Jesus asked the same question, “‘Woman, why are you weeping?  Why are you crying?  Whom are you seeking?’  Supposing Him to be the gardener, she said to Him, ‘Sir, if You have carried Him away, tell me where You’ve laid Him, and I’ll take Him away.’”  That’s a really stupid thing, why would the gardener steal a body out of tomb?  I love this – “Jesus said to her, ‘Mary!’  She turned and said to Him in Hebrew, ‘Rabboni!’ (which means, Teacher).”  And then she grabbed Him, hung on to Him, probably on His feet and ankles.  “‘Stop clinging to Me,’ He said to her, ‘I’ve not yet ascended to the Father; go to My brothers, say to them, “I ascend to My Father, Your Father, My God and Your God.”’”  “Now, Mary, you go, you tell them you saw Me.  I am alive for a while, you can’t keep Me here, I’m going to ascend to heaven, I’m going to go back to the Father, but I will meet you all in Galilee for a while.”  In fact, He met them that night, and the next Sunday night as well, and many other appearances in the 40 days before He ascended So He says to Mary, “You go,” and this is wonderful, verse 18, “Mary Magdalene came, announcing to the disciples, ‘I have seen the Lord,’ and said that He had said these things to her.”

Returning to Luke, the Apostles did not believe the women, thinking that their account was but an idle tale (verse 11).

Henry has a stinging comment:

Their words seemed to them as idle tales, and they believed them not. They thought it was only the fancy of the women, and imputed it to the power of imagination; for they also had forgotten Christ’s words, and wanted to be put in mind of them, not only what he had said to them in Galilee some time ago, but what he had said very lately, in the night wherein he was betrayed: Again a little while, and ye shall see me. I will see you again. One cannot but be amazed at the stupidity of these disciples,–who had themselves so often professed that they believed Christ to be the Son of God and the true Messiah, had been so often told that he must die and rise again, and then enter into his glory, had seen him more than once raise the dead,–that they should be so backward to believe in his raising himself. Surely it would seem the less strange to them, when hereafter this complaint would justly be taken up by them, to remember that there was a time when it might justly have been taken up against them, Who hath believed our report?

Then Peter got up and ran to the tomb, where he saw but the linen cloths; he returned home, amazed by what had happened (verse 12).

This part is a bit confusing, too, but MacArthur says:

Peter arose earlier – this is a flashback – and he had gone to the tomb, stooped, looked in, saw the linen wrappings only; went away to his home marveling at what had happened.  What do you think he was thinking?  What do you mean marveling at what had happened?  Thaumaz, he was traumatized, he – I think he was beginning to think, “This is a resurrection – this is a resurrection.”

Now, when Peter did go to the tomb, it was before Mary Magdalene came back It was before the full testimony of the women The chronology is clear in John, so let’s turn to John chapter 20 This is wonderful.  Verse 3, Peter leaves after hearing from Mary Magdalene, “and the other disciple” – that’s how John refers to himself, in his humble way – Peter goes to the tomb with John, and they’re running They’re going to verify Mary Magdalene’s story that somebody stole the body And the other disciple is faster than Peter, which knowing Peter’s personality was something to bother him.  He always wanted to be the first.  So John’s faster, younger; came to the tomb first, stooping, looking in.  He’s a little more retiring and shy.  He saw the linen wrappings lying there, he didn’t go in.  He’s trying to process this.  “Simon Peter therefore also came following him and entered the tomb.”  Of course, just blows right by John and goes in there.  And he sees “the linen wrappings lying there, and the face cloth which had been on His head, not lying with the linen wrappings,” like it was all jumbled up and thrown in a corner, but lying exactly where it had been when it was put on His head.

“So the other disciple who had first come to the tomb entered then also.  He saw and” – what?  “He believed.”  The empty tomb and the grave clothes was all it took Now remember, they at this point have only heard the testimony of Mary Magdalene, right?  They haven’t heard the other women.  They left when Mary told them to leave.  In the meantime, the women came to the tomb, saw Jesus, came back with the story So all they have, all John has is an empty tomb and grave clothes, and that’s enough – that’s enough.  He knew that stone couldn’t be moved from the inside by a dead Jesus.  And he had seen Him dead, he was there.  He knew.  There was no other explanation but that He rose, and he believed.  “For as yet” – or up to that time – “they didn’t understand the Scripture that He must rise again from the dead.”  But he understands it now.  “So the disciples went away again to their own homes.” 

That’s interesting, isn’t it?  I’m sure they didn’t know, “What do we do next?”  So they went home Go back to Luke, and that’s what Luke says Peter did in verse 12 After he saw the linen wrapping also, “he went away to his own home, marveling – marveling at what had happened.”  Hey, this is not a grave robber’s scene, folks.  Grave robbers, if you wanted the body, you just take the body intact, you don’t fool around in there unwrapping it, and then laying everything in perfect order.  You take the body, and you run.  It was very convincing.  John believed.  Peter – still struggling when he goes home.  Meanwhile, the women have these other nine guys on their hands, and they’re trying to convince them that this thing really happened, and they’re not buying it at all Why are they so stubborn?  Go over to verse 19 of Luke 24, this is on the road to Emmaus, and Jesus shows up later that day These two disciples are walking to Emmaus.  Jesus comes, they don’t know who He is, and He starts a conversation with them They’re looking sad.  “Why are you sad?”  Well, verse 19, “Ah, it’s about Jesus the Nazarene, who was a prophet mighty indeed in the Word in the sight of God and all the people, and the chief priests and rulers delivered Him up to the sentence of death and crucified Him.”  And verse 21, “We were hoping that it was He who was going to redeem Israel” – oh boy.  “Besides all this, it’s the third day since these things happened.”  Huh – it’s the third day, they haven’t seen Him.  The women told them He was alive, they don’t buy thatThey don’t believe that.

“It’s the third day, nothing’s happened.  We were hoping it would happen.  And also – this is the throwaway, verse 22 – “some women among us amazed us.  When they were at the tomb early in the morning, didn’t find His body, they came saying they had seen a vision of angels who said that He was alive.  And some of those who were with us went to the tomb” – namely Peter and John – “and found it exactly as the women had also said.  But Him they didn’t see.”  Peter and John didn’t see Him, but they sent word back.  “Hey, we went to the tomb, and He may be alive, but we didn’t see Him.”  They’re still processing this on the side of believing it, but not fully convinced And so this is the reflection of their stubborn unwillingness to believe until they see You know, you fault Thomas because he didn’t believe Remember, he said, “If I don’t see the nails in His hands, and where the spear went into His side, I won’t believe.”  Well, they were just as bad as Thomas They didn’t want to believe the testimony of the women And Peter and John came back and said, “Well, it’s a bizarre deal.  The tomb is open, and the tomb is empty, and the grave clothes are lying there.  And, you know, He may be alive.”  But they’re not ready to fully commit However, before the day is over, He appears to all of them But the reason the Scripture lays out the unbelief of the disciples is to dispel any ridiculous theories that they invented a resurrection because they wanted one so badly That’s just not the case. 

In closing, MacArthur gives us more thoughts about Easter Day:

The resurrection of the Lord Jesus is not the epilogue to the story It is not the epilogue to the life of Christ.  It is the goal of His life, it is the objective of His life, it is the purpose of His life The church has always understood that.  In fact, the church understood it right from the day of the resurrection on.  For since that time, the church has chosen to meet on Sunday, the first day of the week, the day that Jesus rose from the dead, to commemorate the most important event in His life, and the most important event in human history, His resurrection from the dead The church did not choose to meet on Friday.  The church chose to meet on Sunday, because Sunday is the interpretation of Friday.  Easter is the interpretation of Good Friday Resurrection is the divine interpretation of the death of Christ.  Resurrection is the divine vindication of the work that He did on the crossWithout the resurrection, the cross means nothing, for it has no validation, it has no vindication, it has no affirmation.  But when God raised Jesus from the dead, He was affirming, and validating, and vindicating the fact that He had indeed borne our sins in His own body on the cross, and had satisfied the justice of God with His sin-bearing Without the resurrection, the cross is meaningless, just another death.

The resurrection is everything The resurrection vindicates the great reason for the gospel, and for all redemption.  The purpose of the gospel is not just that we might experience the forgiveness of sin.  The purpose of the gospel is that we, having been forgiven of our sin, could enter into eternal life, and live in the bliss of heaven forever, in perfect holiness and perfect joy, in glorified, physical, resurrected bodies.  Bodily resurrection is peculiar to Christianity, and bodily resurrection is essential to Christianity.  The Christian gospel is not designed to deliver you from your troubles here; not at all, not even close.  The Christian gospel is not so that your spirit can float on into eternity in some nebulous way.  The Christian gospel does not promise that you will live on in influence in some way, nor is the gospel saying that Christ lives on in His influence, or Christ lives on in spiritual form.  The Christian message is that Jesus Christ rose from the grave in a glorified, physical body, in some way like the body you have now, only stripped of all that is sinful and fatal; and that we one day will receive a body like unto His glorified body, and we will live in bodily resurrected form through all the eons of eternity That is the Christian message.

That is not the message of the other religions of the world There is no resurrection in Buddhism There is no resurrection of the body in Hinduism, just a recurring, cycling, reincarnation in some different form.  Christianity teaches a bodily resurrection, and that is the goal of redemption, that we might, in glorified human bodies, live forever with our glorified Christ, and serve Him, and worship Him, in joy and peace Christianity promises a physical resurrection.  Now, your body will be different, thankfully.  It will have nothing about it that’s fatal, terminal, nothing about it that’s sinful, or wicked.  Nothing about it that’s imperfect, but it will be a physical body in a glorified form.  You say, “What’s the model for that” the glorified resurrection body of the Lord Jesus It could be seen, it could be touched It had scars He ateHe walkedHe talkedHe thoughtHe heard He acted in that body in ways familiar to those He met.

I hope that this adds to our understanding of Easter.

May we celebrate it in joy and thanksgiving, praising our Lord God for His goodness and favour towards us.

palm-sunday-donkey-landysadventures_com.jpgPalm Sunday is April 10, 2022.

Readings for Year C can be found here.

The Gospel for the Liturgy of the Palms is as follows (emphases mine):

Luke 19:28-40

19:28 After he had said this, he went on ahead, going up to Jerusalem.

19:29 When he had come near Bethphage and Bethany, at the place called the Mount of Olives, he sent two of the disciples,

19:30 saying, “Go into the village ahead of you, and as you enter it you will find tied there a colt that has never been ridden. Untie it and bring it here.

19:31 If anyone asks you, ‘Why are you untying it?’ just say this, ‘The Lord needs it.’”

19:32 So those who were sent departed and found it as he had told them.

19:33 As they were untying the colt, its owners asked them, “Why are you untying the colt?”

19:34 They said, “The Lord needs it.”

19:35 Then they brought it to Jesus; and after throwing their cloaks on the colt, they set Jesus on it.

19:36 As he rode along, people kept spreading their cloaks on the road.

19:37 As he was now approaching the path down from the Mount of Olives, the whole multitude of the disciples began to praise God joyfully with a loud voice for all the deeds of power that they had seen,

19:38 saying, “Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord! Peace in heaven, and glory in the highest heaven!”

19:39 Some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to him, “Teacher, order your disciples to stop.”

19:40 He answered, “I tell you, if these were silent, the stones would shout out.”

Commentary comes from Matthew Henry and John MacArthur.

Last week’s reading was about the dinner at which Mary, the sister of Martha and the recently resurrected Lazarus, anointed Jesus with fragrant nard, most often used for embalming in that era.

That dinner took place at the last Sabbath under Mosaic law. The following Friday, Jesus, through His death on the Cross, ratified the New Covenant.

Luke has written in a continuum here. He begins verse 28 by saying that after Jesus had ‘said this’, He went up to Jerusalem.

Earlier in Luke 19, Zacchaeus the tax collector had been converted. Then Jesus told the Parable of the Ten Minas, wherein the master of an estate wanted his servants to make money for him.

One of the servants did not invest his mina. The master was angry:

24 “Then he said to those standing by, ‘Take his mina away from him and give it to the one who has ten minas.’

25 “‘Sir,’ they said, ‘he already has ten!’

26 “He replied, ‘I tell you that to everyone who has, more will be given, but as for the one who has nothing, even what they have will be taken away. 27 But those enemies of mine who did not want me to be king over them—bring them here and kill them in front of me.’”

Now it was time for Jesus to ride triumphantly into Jerusalem. John’s Gospel has repeated instances of our Lord’s evasion of death because it was not the time.

Now that time has come. Matthew Henry explains why Jesus wanted a grand entrance into Jerusalem for the final true Passover:

It was no ways inconsistent either with Christ’s humility or with his present state of humiliation to make a public entry into Jerusalem a little before he died. Thus he made himself to be the more taken notice of, that the ignominy of his death might appear the greater.

At the Mount of Olives, near Bethpage and Bethany, He instructed two of His disciples (verse 29) to go to the next village, get a colt that had not been ridden and bring it to Him (verse 30).

Some might find that an unusual request, but Henry says:

all the beasts of the forest are his, and the tame beasts too.

Jesus said that, if anyone asked why, the disciples were to say, ‘Because the Lord needs it’ (verse 31).

Some might wonder why Jesus was so certain His plan would work. Remember, He is God the Son.

Henry explains:

Christ has all men’s hearts both under his eye and in his hand. He could influence those to whom the ass and the colt belonged to consent to their taking them away, as soon as they were told that the Lord had occasion for them.

The two disciples went on their errand for the Lord and found the unridden colt just as He said they would (verse 32).

The owners asked why the two were untying the colt (verse 33).

The disciples told them that the Lord needed it (verse 34).

They returned to Jesus with the colt, threw their cloaks onto its back and placed Jesus upon it (verse 35).

John MacArthur explains the significance of the timing and of the colt, both of which fulfilled Old Testament prophecy:

Daniel 9 verses 24 to 27 said in the prophecy that there would be sixty-nine times seven years, weeks of years, sixty-nine times seven until Messiah would come and be cut off Sixty-nine times seven is 483 years. They calculated years at 360 days a year; 483 years at 360 days totals 173,880.  So from the beginning until the Messiah comes to be cut off, you have this duration of 483 years of 360 days.  That’s prophesied in Daniel 9:24 to 27.  When does it start?  It started with a decree to rebuild Jerusalem.  When was that?  445 B. C. Declared by Artaxerxes and precisely from then until this week and this day is the 483 years He comes in perfect fulfillment of Daniel’s prophecy Everything is in line.  And so He triggers the event Himself by sending the disciples to get the animal which He will ride into the city.

Though His coronation is humble, He comes riding on the colt, the foal of an ass, the foal of a donkey, as the prophet said, and though there are no crowns for Him, and though there are no dignitaries and there is not the usual regalia that occurs at a coronation, and though the people are fickle and though they are shallow and superficial and though they are hypocritical, and though they only cry “Hosanna” to Him this day and soon after are screaming for His blood, in spite of the shallowness and superficiality of this event, He is nonetheless God’s true King He is God’s true King.  And it manifests itself in this coronation in three ways: preparation, adoration, and condemnation.

Last time we looked at preparation in verses 28 to 35. The very fact that He sent them to get that animal and to bring the animal and He rode in on the animal, as I pointed out to you, is a fulfillment of Zechariah 9:9, very specific prophecy Matthew’s account of the triumphal entry refers to that prophecy, Matthew 21. John’s account refers to that prophecy in John 12 He comes vindicating that He is the Messiah by the fulfillment of Old Testament prophecy Also, He demonstrates His omniscience He knew about the animal, though He couldn’t see the animal.  He knew where it was He knew it was tied there.  He knew what the conversation with the owners would be like He demonstrates again His deity and His messiahship in those elements of the preparation for His entry.

As Jesus rode along into Jerusalem, the people watching Him spread their cloaks upon the road (verse 36). They already knew about the resurrection of Lazarus, the news of which had spread quickly. Furthermore, they had all heard about Him and some would have seen Him teaching and performing His healing miracles.

As He came down from the Mount of Olives on the colt, His disciples, who had been with Him to witness His ministry, began praising God joyfully for all the deeds of the power of Jesus (verse 37).

They said (verse 38), “Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord! Peace in heaven, and glory in the highest heaven!”

Henry tells us why they chose those proclamations:

Observe, 1. What was the matter or occasion of their joy and praise. They praised God for all the mighty works they had seen, all the miracles Christ had wrought, especially the raising of Lazarus, which is particularly mentioned, John 12:17; John 12:18. That brought others to mind, for fresh miracles and mercies should revive the remembrance of the former. 2. How they expressed their joy and praise (Luke 19:38; Luke 19:38): Blessed be the king that cometh in the name of the Lord. Christ is the king; he comes in the name of the Lord, clothed with a divine authority, commissioned from heaven to give law and treat of peace. Blessed be he. Let us praise him, let God prosper him. He is blessed for ever, and we will speak well of him. Peace in heaven. Let the God of heaven send peace and success to his undertaking, and then there will be glory in the highest. It will redound to the glory of the most high God; and the angels, the glorious inhabitants of the upper world, will give him the glory of it. Compare this song of the saints on earth with that of the angels, Luke 2:14; Luke 2:14. They both agree to give glory to God in the highest. There the praises of both centre; the angels say, On earth peace, rejoicing in the benefit which men on earth have by Christ; the saints say, Peace in heaven, rejoicing in the benefit which the angels have by Christ. Such is the communion we have with the holy angels that, as they rejoice in the peace on earth, so we rejoice in the peace in heaven, the peace God makes in his high places (Job 25:2), and both in Christ, who hath reconciled all things to himself, whether things on earth or things in heaven.

MacArthur adds that the disciples thought that the Messiah’s temporal kingdom was at hand:

They were the ones, according to verse 37, who began to praise God joyfully with a loud voice, thinking: Surely this is the moment when He is going to come as the conquering hero, the conquering Messiah, set up the kingdom, defeat our enemies They start the celebration The crowd catches the fever and they all begin to cry out the same things, pointing to Jesus as the Messiah He receives it.  He takes it because He deserves it So we see that He is who He is by way of preparation, omniscience.  Fulfilling prophecy He is who He is demonstrated by adoration He receives worship willingly because He deserves it.

However, the Pharisees were angry, telling Jesus that He should order His disciples to stop praising Him (verse 39).

Henry says:

There were some Pharisees among the multitude who were so far from joining with them that they were enraged at them, and, Christ being a famous example of humility, they thought that he would not admit such acclamations as these, and therefore expected that he should rebuke his disciples, Luke 19:39; Luke 19:39. But it is the honour of Christ that, as he despises the contempt of the proud, so he accepts the praises of the humble.

Jesus replied that if the people had been silent, the stones would have shouted out their praise to Him (verse 40).

That might seem a difficult verse to understand, but Jesus spoke of a prophecy that came to pass on Good Friday.

Henry tells us:

Whether men praise Christ or no he will, and shall, and must be praised (Luke 19:40; Luke 19:40): If these should hold their peace, and not speak the praises of the Messiah’s kingdom, the stones would immediately cry out, rather than that Christ should not be praised. This was, in effect, literally fulfilled, when, upon men’s reviling Christ upon the cross, instead of praising him, and his own disciples’ sinking into a profound silence, the earth did quake and the rocks rent. Pharisees would silence the praises of Christ, but they cannot gain their point; for as God can out of stones raise up children unto Abraham, so he can out of the mouths of those children perfect praise.

MacArthur has more, tracing the judgement on Jerusalem back to Habakkuk in the Old Testament:

The opposition to Jesus was so strong that even after the resurrection from the dead, the praise of Jesus was never raised in the city of Jerusalem, or in the land of Israel, except among the few thousand who were saved When Jerusalem grew silent, Jesus said, “The stones will cry out.”  Cry out, kraz, scream, future tense, when in the future these people become silent, in the future the stones will scream.  Screaming stones?  What is that?  What is that?  It’s more than just the expression of praise from some inanimate object, as if God is to be praised by His creation, far more than that.  In fact, in the little prophecy of Habakkuk, chapter 2, we have a very good parallel In the prophecy of Habakkuk we have a statement of judgment on the Chaldeans, the Chaldeans, the wicked, pagan Chaldeans And the Chaldeans had basically prospered as a society, but they had prospered at the expense of other nations, they had prospered by extortion, they had prospered by usury, charging exorbitant interest rate, they had prospered by murder and bloodshed.  They had literally built their towns and cities by the sacrifice and the slaughter and the abuse of other people So Habakkuk, the prophet, is given a message from God of judgment against them I just want to pick out one verse; that is in verse 11.  “Surely the stone will cry out from the wall and the rafter will answer it from the framework.” Then verse 12, “Woe to him who builds a city with bloodshed and founds a town with violence.”  The stones in the houses and the buildings that they built were symbols of their wickedness.  The walls of their houses and the timbers of their roofs, plundered from others, gained by bloodshed and usury, scream of their wickedness, scream of their guilt.  And Jesus is saying the same thing here.

There are going to be some stones who will cry out against you as the stones in the past cried out of the guilt of the Chaldeans.  All you had to do was look at their houses and when you saw them, all their prosperity, all their edifices were testimonies to their corruption and bloodshed.  The stones cried out of their guilt and the judgment of God upon them, and some stones are going to do the same in your case That’s explained in the next section, verse 41.  “When He approached He saw the city and wept over it.”

Here are the ensuing verses from Luke 19, in which Jesus pronounced judgement on Jerusalem — the destruction of the temple by the Romans in AD 70 — for having rejected Him and His salvation:

41 As he approached Jerusalem and saw the city, he wept over it 42 and said, “If you, even you, had only known on this day what would bring you peace—but now it is hidden from your eyes. 43 The days will come upon you when your enemies will build an embankment against you and encircle you and hem you in on every side. 44 They will dash you to the ground, you and the children within your walls. They will not leave one stone on another, because you did not recognize the time of God’s coming to you.”

However, God will lift judgement on the Jews, when the Gentiles fall:

Since that time, Jerusalem has been trodden underfoot to one degree or another by the Gentiles, until the times of the Gentiles ends. 

Paul wrote about that in Romans 11:25-28:

25 Lest you be wise in your own sight, I do not want you to be unaware of this mystery, brothers:[a] a partial hardening has come upon Israel, until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in. 26 And in this way all Israel will be saved, as it is written,

“The Deliverer will come from Zion,
    he will banish ungodliness from Jacob”;
27 “and this will be my covenant with them
    when I take away their sins.”

28 As regards the gospel, they are enemies for your sake. But as regards election, they are beloved for the sake of their forefathers.

So, the time will come for God’s Chosen to be redeemed at some point in history.

More readings for Holy Week will follow in the days ahead.

The Fourth Sunday in Lent is March 27, 2022.

Readings for Year C can be found here.

The Fourth Sunday in Lent is also known as Laetare Sunday and, in the United Kingdom, it is also Mothering Sunday, which was originally a feast to celebrate the Church as well as motherhood.

Laetare Sunday was the day that Britons worshipped at their ‘mother’ church. Afterwards, the congregation gathered round the church and held hands to ‘clip’ it, showing their love for and solidarity with it.

Servants were given time to make a Simnel cake ahead of time to give to their mothers that day. Nowadays, Simnel cake is more often served at Easter. Its 12 marzipan balls symbolise Christ and his faithful 11 Apostles.

Celebrants in the Catholic and Anglican traditions often wore a pink vestment on Laetare Sunday, as it is the one joyful day of worship during Lent.

It is so called for the ancient Introit, which includes these words:

“Laetare Jerusalem” (“O be joyful, Jerusalem”)

Catholics have a longstanding tradition dating back to the Middle Ages of the Golden Rose, which the Pope can award at his discretion to worthy dignitaries for an exemplary life. The University of Notre Dame in Indiana awards its Laetare Medal on this day to a deserving recipient. The Golden Rose symbolises our Lord who sprang from the root of Jesse’s tree like a flower (Isaiah 11:1).

Laetare Sunday was known as ‘the Sunday of the Five Loaves’, as the Feeding of the Five Thousand was the original Gospel reading, prior to the incursion of the Lectionary.

You can read more about Laetare Sunday in the posts below:

Laetare Sunday, Mother’s Day and the Golden Rose

Laetare Sunday is Mothering Sunday

The Gospel reading is as follows (emphases mine):

Luke 15:1-3, 11b-32

15:1 Now all the tax collectors and sinners were coming near to listen to him.

15:2 And the Pharisees and the scribes were grumbling and saying, “This fellow welcomes sinners and eats with them.”

15:3 So he told them this parable:

15:11b “There was a man who had two sons.

15:12 The younger of them said to his father, ‘Father, give me the share of the property that will belong to me.’ So he divided his property between them.

15:13 A few days later the younger son gathered all he had and traveled to a distant country, and there he squandered his property in dissolute living.

15:14 When he had spent everything, a severe famine took place throughout that country, and he began to be in need.

15:15 So he went and hired himself out to one of the citizens of that country, who sent him to his fields to feed the pigs.

15:16 He would gladly have filled himself with the pods that the pigs were eating; and no one gave him anything.

15:17 But when he came to himself he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired hands have bread enough and to spare, but here I am dying of hunger!

15:18 I will get up and go to my father, and I will say to him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you;

15:19 I am no longer worthy to be called your son; treat me like one of your hired hands.”‘

15:20 So he set off and went to his father. But while he was still far off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion; he ran and put his arms around him and kissed him.

15:21 Then the son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you; I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’

15:22 But the father said to his slaves, ‘Quickly, bring out a robe–the best one–and put it on him; put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet.

15:23 And get the fatted calf and kill it, and let us eat and celebrate;

15:24 for this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found!’ And they began to celebrate.

15:25 “Now his elder son was in the field; and when he came and approached the house, he heard music and dancing.

15:26 He called one of the slaves and asked what was going on.

15:27 He replied, ‘Your brother has come, and your father has killed the fatted calf, because he has got him back safe and sound.’

15:28 Then he became angry and refused to go in. His father came out and began to plead with him.

15:29 But he answered his father, ‘Listen! For all these years I have been working like a slave for you, and I have never disobeyed your command; yet you have never given me even a young goat so that I might celebrate with my friends.

15:30 But when this son of yours came back, who has devoured your property with prostitutes, you killed the fatted calf for him!’

15:31 Then the father said to him, ‘Son, you are always with me, and all that is mine is yours.

15:32 But we had to celebrate and rejoice, because this brother of yours was dead and has come to life; he was lost and has been found.’”

Commentary comes from Matthew Henry.

I am using only Matthew Henry’s commentary this week because it is a work of theological genius. I have excerpted it below, so be sure to read it in its entirety.

For most of my life, I struggled mightily with the Parable of the Prodigal Son. I empathised with the dutiful son and believed he had been wronged. I never heard a sermon about it that I agreed with. In fact, the sermons troubled me more deeply than the parable itself.

Had I read Henry’s exposition of it when I was growing up, I would have understood it immediately.

It really is all about sin, brokenness, repentance and forgiveness. Furthermore, the dutiful son is self-righteous when perhaps he shouldn’t be.

Jesus had told two parables before this which were also about the happiness of finding things that one had lost: the lost coin and the lost sheep.

Henry introduces this parable as follows:

We have here the parable of the prodigal son, the scope of which is the same with those before, to show how pleasing to God the conversion of sinners is, of great sinners, and how ready he is to receive and entertain such, upon their repentance; but the circumstances of the parable do much more largely and fully set forth the riches of gospel grace than those did, and it has been, and will be while the world stands, of unspeakable use to poor sinners, both to direct and to encourage them in repenting and returning to God.

The first three verses are important in understanding the parable.

The tax collectors and sinners drew near to hear Jesus teach (verse 1).

As students of the New Testament know, the Jews loathed tax collectors — publicans, in that era — because they worked for the Romans. Henry says that the ‘sinners’ might have been Gentiles. The Jews loathed them, too:

Here multitudes of publicans and sinners drew near to him, with a humble modest fear of being rejected by him, and to them he found it requisite to give encouragement, especially because there were some haughty supercilious people that frowned upon them. The publicans, who collected the tribute paid to the Romans, were perhaps some of them bad men, but they were all industriously put into an ill name, because of the prejudices of the Jewish nation against their office. They are sometimes ranked with harlots (Matthew 21:32); here and elsewhere with sinners, such as were openly vicious, that traded with harlots, known rakes. Some think that the sinners here meant were heathen, and that Christ was now on the other side Jordan, or in Galilee of the Gentiles. These drew near, when perhaps the multitude of the Jews that had followed him had (upon his discourse in the close of the foregoing chapter) dropped off; thus afterwards the Gentiles took their turn in hearing the apostles, when the Jews had rejected them. They drew near to him, being afraid of drawing nearer than just to come within hearing. They drew near to him, not, as some did, to solicit for cures, but to hear his excellent doctrine. Note, in all our approaches to Christ we must have this in our eye, to hear him; to hear the instructions he gives us, and his answers to our prayers.

The Pharisees and the scribes objected, grumbling that Jesus welcomed sinners and broke bread with them (verse 2).

Henry explains their anger and includes a practical application of acceptance for us:

1. They were angry that publicans and heathens had the means of grace allowed them, were called to repent, and encouraged to hope for pardon upon repentance; for they looked upon their case as desperate, and thought that none but Jews had the privilege of repenting and being pardoned, though the prophets preached repentance to the nations, and Daniel particularly to Nebuchadnezzar. 2. They thought it a disparagement to Christ, and inconsistent with the dignity of his character, to make himself familiar with such sort of people, to admit them into his company and to eat with them. They could not, for shame, condemn him for preaching to them, though that was the thing they were most enraged at; and therefore they reproached him for eating with them, which was more expressly contrary to the tradition of the elders. Censure will fall, not only upon the most innocent and the most excellent persons, but upon the most innocent and most excellent actions, and we must not think it strange.

Henry tells us why Jesus preached at length to these notionally lost people:

Christ’s justifying himself in it, by showing that the worse these people were, to whom he preached, the more glory would redound to God, and the more joy there would be in heaven, if by his preaching they were brought to repentance. It would be a more pleasing sight in heaven to see Gentiles brought to the worship of the true God than to see Jews go on in it, and to see publicans and sinners live an orderly sort of life than to see scribes and Pharisees go on in living such a life.

Jesus told them a third parable (verse 3), this time about a man with two sons (verse 11b).

Henry explains the analogy of the sons’ identities in the parable:

It represents the children of men as of different characters, though all related to God as their common Father. He had two sons, one of them a solid grave youth, reserved and austere, sober himself, but not at all good-humoured to those about him; such a one would adhere to his education, and not be easily drawn from it; but the other volatile and mercurial, and impatient of restraint, roving, and willing to try his fortune, and, if he fall into ill hands, likely to be a rake, notwithstanding his virtuous education. Now this latter represents the publicans and sinners, whom Christ is endeavouring to bring to repentance, and the Gentiles, to whom the apostles were to be sent forth to preach repentance. The former represents the Jews in general, and particularly the Pharisees, whom he was endeavouring to reconcile to that grace of God which was offered to, and bestowed upon, sinners.

The younger son is the prodigal, whose character and case are here designed to represent that of a sinner, that of every one of us in our natural state, but especially of some.

The younger son asked prematurely for his share of his father’s property, and the father duly divided his goods between his sons (verse 12).

A sinner will ask God for something in the wrong way or for more than he should, just as this younger son did:

He said to his father, proudly and pertly enough, “Father, give me“–he might have put a little more in his mouth, and have said, Pray give me, or, Sir, if you please, give me, but he makes an imperious demand–“give me the portion of goods that falleth to me; not so much as you think fit to allot to me, but that which falls to me as my due.” Note, It is bad, and the beginning of worse, when men look upon God’s gifts as debts. Give me the portion, all my child’s part, that falls to me;” not, “Try me with a little, and see how I can manage that, and accordingly trust me with more;” but, “Give it me all at present in possession, and I will never expect any thing in reversion, any thing hereafter.” Note, The great folly of sinners, and that which ruins them, is being content to have their portion in hand, now in this lifetime to receive their good things. They look only at the things that are seen, that are temporal, and covet only a present gratification, but have no care for a future felicity, when that is spent and gone. And why did he desire to have his portion in his own hands? Was it that he might apply himself to business, and trade with it, and so make it more? No, he had no thought of that.

The sinner, just as the younger son, tires of his Father’s governance and no longer wishes to obey Him but desires a notional independence:

[1.] He was weary of his father’s government, of the good order and discipline of his father’s family, and was fond of liberty falsely so called, but indeed the greatest slavery, for such a liberty to sin is. See the folly of many young men, who are religiously educated, but are impatient of the confinement of their education, and never think themselves their own masters, their own men, till they have broken all God’s bands in sunder, and cast away his cords from them, and, instead of them, bound themselves with the cords of their own lust. Here is the original of the apostasy of sinners from God; they will not be tied up to the rules of God’s government; they will themselves be as gods, knowing no other good and evil than what themselves please. [2.] He was willing to get from under his father’s eye, for that was always a check upon him, and often gave a check to him. A shyness of God, and a willingness to disbelieve his omniscience, are at the bottom of the wickedness of the wicked. [3.] He was distrustful of his father’s management. He would have his portion of goods himself, for he thought that his father would be laying up for hereafter for him, and, in order to that, would limit him in his present expenses, and that he did not like. [4.] He was proud of himself, and had a great conceit of his own sufficiency. He thought that if he had but his portion in his own hands he could manage it better than his father did, and make a better figure with it. There are more young people ruined by pride than by any one lust whatsoever. Our first parents ruined themselves and all theirs by a foolish ambition to be independent, and not to be beholden even to God himself; and this is at the bottom of sinners’ persisting in their sin–they will be for themselves.

The father held the elder son’s inheritance in reserve, as we see in verse 31. It is rather extraordinary that the father so easily acquiested to his younger son’s request, however, God is equally generous to sinners in His mercy:

How kind his father was to him: He divided unto them his living. He computed what he had to dispose of between his sons, and gave the younger son his share, and offered the elder his, which ought to be a double portion; but, it should seem, he desired his father to keep it in his own hands still, and we may see what he got by it (Luke 15:31; Luke 15:31): All that I have is thine. He got all by staying for something in reserve. He gave the younger son what he asked, and the son had no reason to complain that he did him any wrong in the dividend; he had as much as he expected, and perhaps more. [1.] Thus he might now see his father’s kindness, how willing he was to please him and make him easy, and that he was not such an unkind father as he was willing to represent him when he wanted an excuse to be gone. [2.] Thus he would in a little time be made to see his own folly, and that he was not such a wise manager for himself as he would be thought to be. Note, God is a kind Father to all his children, and gives to them all life, and breath, and all things, even to the evil and unthankful, dieilen autois ton bionHe divided to them life. God’s giving us life is putting us in a capacity to serve and glorify him.

A few days later, the younger son left with everything he had and travelled to a distant country where he squandered all he had on dissolute living (verse 13).

Henry looks at the sinner’s departure from God and the danger of leaving divine grace behind:

When the bridle of restraining grace is taken off we are soon gone. That which the younger son determined was to be gone presently, and, in order to that, he gathered all together. Sinners, that go astray from God, venture their all.

Now the condition of the prodigal in this ramble of his represents to us a sinful state, that miserable state into which man is fallen.

[1.] A sinful state is a state of departure and distance from God. First, It is the sinfulness of sin that it is an apostasy from God. He took his journey from his father’s house. Sinners are fled from God; they go a whoring from him; they revolt from their allegiance to him, as a servant that runs from his service, or a wife that treacherously departs from her husband, and they say unto God, Depart. They get as far off him as they can. The world is the far country in which they take up their residence, and are as at home; and in the service and enjoyment of it they spend their all. Secondly. It is the misery of sinners that they are afar off from God, from him who is the Fountain of all good, and are going further and further from him. What is hell itself, but being afar off from God?

We squander our God-given gifts when we depart from Him. We enter into serious sin then hit rock bottom as the prodigal discovered when a famine hit the land where he lived and he was soon in need (verse 14):

[2.] A sinful state is a spending state: There he wasted his substance with riotous living (Luke 15:13; Luke 15:13), devoured it with harlots (Luke 15:30; Luke 15:30), and in a little time he had spent all,Luke 15:14; Luke 15:14. He bought fine clothes, spent a great deal in meat and drink, treated high, associated with those that helped him to make an end of what he had in a little time. As to this world, they that live riotously waste what they have, and will have a great deal to answer for, that they spend that upon their lusts which should be for the necessary substance of themselves and their families. But this is to be applied spiritually. Wilful sinners waste their patrimony; for they misemploy their thoughts and all the powers of their souls, misspend their time and all their opportunities, do not only bury, but embezzle, the talents they are entrusted to trade with for their Master’s honour; and the gifts of Providence, which were intended to enable them to serve God and to do good with, are made the food and fuel of their lusts. The soul that is made a drudge, either to the world or to the flesh, wastes its substance, and lives riotously. One sinner destroys much good, Ecclesiastes 9:18. The good he destroys is valuable, and it is none of his own; they are his Lord’s goods that he wastes, which must be accounted for.

Sin never brings lasting pleasure. In fact, it brings need to the point of brokenness, as the prodigal discovered:

[3.] A sinful state is a wanting state: When he had spent all upon his harlots, they left him, to seek such another prey; and there arose a mighty famine in that land, every thing was scarce and dear, and he began to be in want, Luke 15:14; Luke 15:14. Note, Wilful waste brings woeful want. Riotous living in time, perhaps in a little time, brings men to a morsel of bread, especially when bad times hasten on the consequences of bad husbandry, which good husbandry would have provided for. This represents the misery of sinners, who have thrown away their own mercies, the favour of God, their interest in Christ, the strivings of the Spirit, and admonitions of conscience; these they gave away for the pleasure of sense, and the wealth of the world, and then are ready to perish for want of them. Sinners want necessaries for their souls; they have neither food nor raiment for them, nor any provision for hereafter. A sinful state is like a land where famine reigns, a mighty famine; for the heaven is as brass (the dews of God’s favour and blessing are withheld, and we must needs want good things if God deny them to us), and the earth is as iron (the sinner’s heart, that should bring forth good things, is dry and barren, and has no good in it). Sinners are wretchedly and miserably poor, and, what aggravates it, they brought themselves into that condition, and keep themselves in it by refusing the supplies offered.

He was forced to work for someone who lived in that country and was reduced to feeding pigs (verse 15), which the Jews would have found horrifying.

Henry says that the prodigal’s master is akin to Satan:

The same wicked life that before was represented by riotous living is here represented by servile living; for sinners are perfect slaves. The devil is the citizen of that country; for he is both in city and country. Sinners join themselves to him, hire themselves into his service, to do his work, to be at his beck, and to depend upon him for maintenance and a portion. They that commit sin are the servants of sin, John 8:34. How did this young gentleman debase and disparage himself, when he hired himself into such a service and under such a master as this! He sent him into the fields, not to feed sheep (there had been some credit in that employment; Jacob, and Moses, and David, kept sheep), but to feed swine. The business of the devil’s servants is to make provision for the flesh, to fulfil the lusts thereof, and that is no better than feeding greedy, dirty, noisy swine; and how can rational immortal souls more disgrace themselves?

The prodigal would gladly have eaten what he was feeding the pigs, but no one gave him anything (verse 16).

Henry says that shows the sinner is eventually brought to his lowest state, being no better than a pig:

A fine pass my young master had brought himself to, to be fellow-commoner with the swine! Note, That which sinners, when they depart from God, promise themselves satisfaction in, will certainly disappoint them; they are labouring for that which satisfieth not, Isaiah 55:2. That which is the stumbling-block of their iniquity will never satisfy their souls, nor fill their bowels, Ezekiel 7:19. Husks are food for swine, but not for men. The wealth of the world and the entertainments of sense will serve for bodies; but what are these to precious souls? They neither suit their nature, nor satisfy their desires, nor supply their needs. He that takes up with them feeds on wind (Hosea 12:1), feeds on ashes, Isaiah 44:20.

Then the prodigal came to his senses and thought of his father’s servants who were well fed while he was not only hungry but dying of hunger (verse 17), much like the sinner whose sin has broken him while he yearned for the nourishment of divine grace:

The prodigal in the far country was dead to his father and his family, cut off from them, as a member from the body or a branch from the tree, and therefore dead, and it is his own doing.

[8.] A sinful state is a lost state: This my son was lost–lost to every thing that was good–lost to all virtue and honour–lost to his father’s house; they had no joy of him. Souls that are separated from God are lost souls; lost as a traveller that is out of his way, and, if infinite mercy prevent not, will soon be lost as a ship that is sunk at sea, lost irrecoverably.

[9.] A sinful state is a state of madness and frenzy. This is intimated in that expression (Luke 15:17; Luke 15:17), when he came to himself, which intimates that he had been beside himself. Surely he was so when he left his father’s house, and much more so when he joined himself to the citizen of that country. Madness is said to be in the heart of sinners, Ecclesiastes 9:3. Satan has got possession of the soul; and how raging mad was he that was possessed by Legion! Sinners, like those that are mad, destroy themselves with foolish lusts, and yet at the same time deceive themselves with foolish hopes; and they are, of all diseased persons, most enemies to their own cure.

He decided to return to his father and confess that he had sinned before him and Heaven — God (verse 18).

It is in our broken state that God reaches out to us to help us realise how spiritually infirm we are without Him:

Note, Afflictions, when they are sanctified by divine grace, prove happy means of turning sinners from the error of their ways. By them the ear is opened to discipline and the heart disposed to receive instructions; and they are sensible proofs both of the vanity of the world and of the mischievousness of sin. Apply it spiritually. When we find the insufficiency of creatures to make us happy, and have tried all other ways of relief for our poor souls in vain, then it is time to think of returning to God. When we see what miserable comforters, what physicians of no value, all but Christ are, for a soul that groans under the guilt and power of sin, and no man gives unto us what we need, then surely we shall apply ourselves to Jesus Christ.

Furthermore, the prodigal wanted to tell his father that he was no longer worthy of being his son; he wanted to be treated as one of his father’s hired hands (verse 19).

He does not deny the relation (for that was all he had to trust to), but he owns that his father might justly deny the relation, and shut his doors against him. He had, at his own demand, the portion of goods that belonged to him, and had reason to expect no more. Note, It becomes sinners to acknowledge themselves unworthy to receive any favour from God, and to humble and abase themselves before him.

Note, True penitents have a high value for God’s house, and the privileges of it, and will be glad of any place, so they may but be in it, though it be but as door-keepers, Psalms 84:10. If it be imposed on him as a mortification to sit with the servants, he will not only submit to it, but count it a preferment, in comparison with his present state. Those that return to God, from whom they have revolted, cannot but be desirous some way or other to be employed for him, and put into a capacity of serving and honouring him: Make me as a hired servant, that I may show I love my father’s house as much as ever I slighted it.”

The prodigal made the long journey back to his father’s house; when he arrived, even though he was still at a distance, his father saw him and ran to him, embracing him with a kiss (verse 20).

We can read this literally, with regard to a parent’s forgiveness of an errant child, and we should go further in seeing it as a happy reunion with God after we have sinned:

We have here his reception and entertainment with his father: He came to his father; but was he welcome? Yes, heartily welcome. And, by the way, it is an example to parents whose children have been foolish and disobedient, if they repent, and submit themselves, not to be harsh and severe with them, but to be governed in such a case by the wisdom that is from above, which is gentle and easy to be entreated; herein let them be followers of God, and merciful, as he is. But it is chiefly designed to set forth the grace and mercy of God to poor sinners that repent and return to him, and his readiness to forgive them.

Like the father towards his son, God sees the sorrowful sinner from a distance and embraces him:

He expressed his kindness before the son expressed his repentance; for God prevents us with the blessings of his goodness. Even before we call he answers; for he knows what is in our hearts. I said, I will confess, and thou forgavest. How lively are the images presented here! [1.] Here were eyes of mercy, and those eyes quick-sighted: When he was yet a great way off his father saw him, before any other of the family were aware of him, as if from the top of some high tower he had been looking that way which his son was gone, with such a thought as this, “O that I could see yonder wretched son of mine coming home!” This intimates God’s desire of the conversion of sinners, and his readiness to meet them that are coming towards him. He looketh on men, when they are gone astray from him, to see whether they will return to him, and he is aware of the first inclination towards him. [2.] Here were bowels of mercy, and those bowels turning within him, and yearning at the sight of his son: He had compassion. Misery is the object of pity, even the misery of a sinner; though he has brought it upon himself, yet God compassionates. His soul was grieved for the misery of Israel, Hosea 11:8; Judges 10:16. [3.] Here were feet of mercy, and those feet quick-paced: He ran. This denotes how swift God is to show mercy. The prodigal son came slowly, under a burden of shame and fear; but the tender father ran to meet him with his encouragements. [4.] Here were arms of mercy, and those arms stretched out to embrace him: He fell on his neck. Though guilty and deserving to be beaten, though dirty and newly come from feeding swine, so that any one who had not the strongest and tenderest compassions of a father would have loathed to touch him, yet he thus takes him in his arms, and lays him in his bosom. Thus dear are true penitents to God, thus welcome to the Lord Jesus. [5.] Here were lips of mercy, and those lips dropping as a honey-comb: He kissed him. This kiss not only assured him of his welcome, but sealed his pardon; his former follies shall be all forgiven, and not mentioned against him, nor is one word said by way of upbraiding. This was like David’s kissing Absalom, 2 Samuel 14:33. And this intimates how ready, and free, and forward the Lord Jesus is to receive and entertain poor returning repenting sinners, according to his Father’s will.

The son confessed to his father as he had contemplated before returning home (verse 21).

Henry notes one omission in the son’s confession:

He was going on in his submission, but one word we find in his purpose to say (Luke 15:19; Luke 15:19) which we do not find that he did say (Luke 15:21; Luke 15:21), and that was, Make me as one of thy hired servants. We cannot think that he forgot it, much less that he changed his mind, and was now either less desirous to be in the family or less willing to be a hired servant there than when he made that purpose; but his father interrupted him, prevented his saying it: “Hold, son, talk no more of thy unworthiness, thou art heartily welcome, and, though not worthy to be called a son, shalt be treated as a dear son, as a pleasant child.” He who is thus entertained at first needs not ask to be made as a hired servant. Thus when Ephraim bemoaned himself God comforted him, Jeremiah 31:18-20. It is strange that here is not one word of rebuke: “Why did you not stay with your harlots and your swine? You could never find the way home till beaten hither with your own rod.” No, here is nothing like this; which intimates that, when God forgives the sins of true penitents, he forgets them, he remembers them no more, they shall not be mentioned against them, Ezekiel 18:22.

The father instructed his slaves to bring the best robe and put it on his son, along with a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet (verse 22).

Henry offers this analysis:

[1.] He came home in rags, and his father not only clothed him, but adorned him. He said to the servants, who all attended their master, upon notice that his son was come, Bring forth the best robe, and put it on him. The worst old clothes in the house might have served, and these had been good enough for him; but the father calls not for a coat, but for a robe, the garment of princes and great men, the best robeten stolen ten proten. There is a double emphasis: “that robe, that principal robe, you know which I mean;” the first robe (so it may be read); the robe he wore before he ran his ramble. When backsliders repent and do their first works, they shall be received and dressed in their first robes. “Bring hither that robe, and put it on him; he will be ashamed to wear it, and think that it ill becomes him who comes home in such a dirty pickle, but put it on him, and do not merely offer it to him: and put a ring on his hand, a signet-ring, with the arms of the family, in token of his being owned as a branch of the family.” Rich people wore rings, and his father hereby signified that though he had spent one portion, yet, upon his repentance, he intended him another. He came home barefoot, his feet perhaps sore with travel, and therefore, “Put shoes on his feet, to make him easy.” Thus does the grace of God provide for true penitents. First, The righteousness of Christ is the robe, that principal robe, with which they are clothed; they put on the Lord Jesus Christ, are clothed with that Sun. The robe of righteousness is the garment of salvation, Isaiah 61:10. A new nature is this best robe; true penitents are clothed with this, being sanctified throughout. Secondly, The earnest of the Spirit, by whom we are sealed to the day of redemption, is the ring on the hand. After you believed you were sealed. They that are sanctified are adorned and dignified, are put in power, as Joseph was by Pharaoh’s giving him a ring: “Put a ring on his hand, to be before him a constant memorial of his father’s kindness, that he may never forget it.” Thirdly, The preparation of the gospel of peace is as shoes for our feet (Ephesians 6:15), so that, compared with this here, signifies (saith Grotius) that God, when he receives true penitents into his favour, makes use of them for the convincing and converting of others by their instructions, at least by their examples. David, when pardoned, will teach transgressors God’s ways, and Peter, when converted, will strengthen his brethren. Or it intimates that they shall go on cheerfully, and with resolution, in the way of religion, as a man does when he has shoes on his feet, above what he does when he is barefoot.

The father instructed his slaves to kill the fatted calf in order that everyone could eat and celebrate (verse 23).

Similarly, the repentant sinner will feast on spiritual food that is our blessed Lord:

Note, There is excellent food provided by our heavenly Father for all those that arise and come to him. Christ himself is the Bread of Life; his flesh is meat indeed, and his blood drink indeed; in him there is a feast for souls, a feast for fat things. It was a great change with the prodigal, who just before would fain have filled his belly with husks. How sweet will the supplies of the new covenant be, and the relishes of its comforts, to those who have been labouring in vain for satisfaction in the creature! Now he found his own words made good, In my father’s house there is bread enough and to spare.

The father rejoiced, saying that his son had been dead but is now alive again; he was lost and now is found, therefore, those present began to celebrate (verse 24).

This is how God considers repentant sinners, who should be a cause for celebration to us as well:

The bringing of the fatted calf was designed to be not only a feast for him, but a festival for the family: “Let us all eat, and be merry, for it is a good day; for this my son was dead, when he was in his ramble, but his return is as life from the dead, he is alive again; we thought that he was dead, having heard nothing from him of a long time, but behold he lives; he was lost, we gave him up for lost, we despaired of hearing of him, but he is found. Note, [1.] The conversion of a soul from sin to God is the raising of that soul from death to life, and the finding of that which seemed to be lost: it is a great, and wonderful, and happy change. What was in itself dead is made alive, what was lost to God and his church is found, and what was unprofitable becomes profitable, Philemon 1:11. It is such a change as that upon the face of the earth when the spring returns. [2.] The conversion of sinners is greatly pleasing to the God of heaven, and all that belong to his family ought to rejoice in it; those in heaven do, and those on earth should. Observe, It was the father that began the joy, and set all the rest on rejoicing. Therefore we should be glad of the repentance of sinners, because it accomplishes God’s design; it is the bringing of those to Christ whom the Father had given him, and in whom he will be for ever glorified. We joy for your sakes before our God, with an eye to him (1 Thessalonians 3:9), and ye are our rejoicing in the presence of our Lord Jesus Christ, who is the Master of the family, 1 Thessalonians 2:19. The family complied with the master: They began to be merry. Note, God’s children and servants ought to be affected with things as he is.

The elder son was in the field at the time; as he neared the house he heard music and dancing (verse 25).

He asked one of the slaves what was happening (verse 26).

The slave replied that his brother had returned home and that his father had brought out the fatted calf because the prodigal was safe and sound (verse 27).

The elder brother became angry and refused to enter the house, which caused his father to come out and plead with him to join in the celebration (verse 28).

The elder brother was like the Jewish hierarchy who disapproved of our Lord’s preaching to the publicans and the sinners. However, we may also view the elder brother as an analogy for those who have resisted temptation yet are upset about the rejoicing over sinners who have repented:

We have here the repining and envying of the elder brother, which is described by way of reproof to the scribes and Pharisees, to show them the folly and wickedness of their discontent at the repentance and conversion of the publicans and sinners, and the favour Christ showed them; and he represents it so as not to aggravate the matter, but as allowing them still the privileges of elder brethren: the Jews had those privileges (though the Gentiles were favoured), for the preaching of the gospel must begin at Jerusalem. Christ, when he reproved them for their faults, yet accosted them mildly, to smooth them into a good temper towards the poor publicans. But by the elder brother here we may understand those who are really good, and have been so from their youth up, and never went astray into any vicious course of living, who comparatively need no repentance; and to such these words in the close, Son, thou art ever with me, are applicable without any difficulty, but not to the scribes and Pharisees.

Then the dutiful son went on a rant about his own obedience which was never rewarded, even with a feast with friends over a kid (verse 29) and his disgust in celebrating over ‘this son’ who had spent all that he had on prostitutes (verse 30).

Henry says that the dutiful son was guilty of self-aggrandisement, something that happens all too often:

[1.] In men’s families. Those who have always been a comfort to their parents think they should have the monopoly of their parents’ favours, and are apt to be too sharp upon those who have transgressed, and to grudge their parents’ kindness to them.

[2.] In God’s family. Those who are comparatively innocents seldom know how to be compassionate towards those who are manifestly penitents. The language of such we have here, in what the elder brother said (Luke 15:29; Luke 15:30), and it is written for warning to those who by the grace of God are kept from scandalous sin, and kept in the way of virtue and sobriety, that they sin not after the similitude of this transgression. Let us observe the particulars of it. First, He boasted of himself and his own virtue and obedience. He had not only not run from his father’s house, as his brother did, but had made himself as a servant in it, and had long done so: Lo, these many years do I serve thee, neither transgressed I at any time thy commandment. Note, It is too common for those that are better than their neighbours to boast of it, yea, and to make their boast of it before God himself, as if he were indebted to them for it. I am apt to think that this elder brother said more than was true, when he gloried that he had never transgressed his father’s commands, for them I believe he would not have been so obstinate as now he was to his father’s entreaties. However, we will admit it comparatively; he had not been so disobedient as his brother had been. O what need have good men to take heed of pride, a corruption that arises out of the ashes of other corruptions! Those that have long served God, and been kept from gross sins, have a great deal to be humbly thankful for, but nothing proudly to boast of. Secondly, He complained of his father, as if he had not been so kind as he ought to have been to him, who had been so dutiful: Thou never gavest me a kid, that I might make merry with my friends. He was out of humour now, else he would not have made this complaint; for, no questions, if he had asked such a thing at any time, he might have had it at the first word; and we have reason to think that he did not desire it, but the killing of the fatted calf put him upon making this peevish reflection. When men are in a passion they are apt to reflect in a way they would not if they were in their right mind. He had been fed at his father’s table, and had many a time been merry with him and the family; but his father had never given him so much as a kid, which was but a small token of love compared with the fatted calf. Note, Those that think highly of themselves and their services are apt to think hardly of their master and meanly of his favours. We ought to own ourselves utterly unworthy of those mercies which God has thought fit to give us, much more of those that he has not thought fit to give us, and therefore we must not complain. He would have had a kid, to make merry with his friends abroad, whereas the fatted calf he grudged so much was given to his brother, not to make merry with his friends abroad, but with the family at home: the mirth of God’s children should be with their father and his family, in communion with God and his saints, and not with any other friends. Thirdly, He was very ill-humoured towards his younger brother, and harsh in what he thought and said concerning him. Some good people are apt to be overtaken in this fault, nay, and to indulge themselves too much in it, to look with disdain upon those who have not preserved their reputation so clean as they have done, and to be sour and morose towards them, yea, though they have given very good evidence of their repentance and reformation. This is not the Spirit of Christ, but of the Pharisees. Let us observe the instances of it. 1. He would not go in, except his brother were turned out; one house shall not hold him and his own brother, no, not his father’s house. The language of this was that of the Pharisee (Isaiah 65:5): Stand by thyself, come not near to me, for I am holier than thou; and (Luke 18:11; Luke 18:11) I am not as other men are, nor even as this publican

He aggravated his brother’s faults, and made the worst of them, endeavouring to incense his father against him: He is thy son, who hath devoured thy living with harlots. It is true, he had spent his own portion foolishly enough (whether upon harlots or no we are not told before, perhaps that was only the language of the elder brother’s jealousy and ill will), but that he had devoured all his father’s living was false; the father had still a good estate. Now this shows how apt we are, in censuring our brethren, to make the worst of every thing, and to set it out in the blackest colours, which is not doing as we would be done by, nor as our heavenly Father does by us, who is not extreme to mark iniquities

Note, It is a wrong thing to envy penitents the grace of God, and to have our eye evil because he is good. As we must not envy those that are the worst of sinners the gifts of common providence (Let not thine heart envy sinners), so we must not envy those that have been the worst of sinners the gifts of covenant love upon their repentance; we must not envy them their pardon, and peace, and comfort, no, nor any extraordinary gift which God bestows upon them, which makes them eminently acceptable or useful.

The father attempted to comfort his son by saying that all that he had was his (verse 31). That is analogous to the righteous person’s heavenly inheritance.

The father went on to say that, as the prodigal son had returned, it was time to celebrate and rejoice; he who had been thought dead was, in fact, alive and he who had been lost had been found (verse 32):

Note, First, It is the unspeakable happiness of all the children of God, who keep close to their Father’s house, that they are, and shall be, ever with him. They are so in this world by faith; they shall be so in the other world by fruition; and all that he has is theirs; for, if children, then heirs, Romans 8:17. Secondly, Therefore we ought not to envy others God’s grace to them because we shall have never the less for their sharing in it. If we be true believers, all that God is, all that he has, is ours; and, if others come to be true believers, all that he is, and all that he has, is theirs too, and yet we have not the less, as they that walk in the light and warmth of the sun have all the benefit they can have by it, and yet not the less for others having as much; for Christ in his church is like what is said of the soul in the body: it is tota in totothe whole in the whole, and yet tota in qualibet partethe whole in each part.

Henry says that God honoured Paul more so than the other Apostles because he, with the help of divine grace, made a full transformation of his life:

Paul, before his conversion, had been a prodigal, had devoured his heavenly Father’s living by the havoc he made of the church; yet when after his conversion he had greater measures of grace given him, and more honour put upon him, than the other apostles, they who were the elder brethren, who had been serving Christ when he was persecuting him, and had not transgressed at any time his commandment, did not envy him his visions and revelations, nor his more extensive usefulness, but glorified God in him, which ought to be an example to us, as the reverse of this elder brother.

I hope that this clarifies the Parable of the Prodigal Son.

May all mothers in the UK enjoy a blessed and happy day on Sunday.

The Third Sunday in Lent is March 20, 2022.

The readings for Year C can be found here.

The Gospel reading is as follows (emphases mine):

Luke 13:1-9

13:1 At that very time there were some present who told him about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mingled with their sacrifices.

13:2 He asked them, “Do you think that because these Galileans suffered in this way they were worse sinners than all other Galileans?

13:3 No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all perish as they did.

13:4 Or those eighteen who were killed when the tower of Siloam fell on them–do you think that they were worse offenders than all the others living in Jerusalem?

13:5 No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all perish just as they did.”

13:6 Then he told this parable: A man had a fig tree planted in his vineyard; and he came looking for fruit on it and found none.

13:7 So he said to the gardener, ‘See here! For three years I have come looking for fruit on this fig tree, and still I find none. Cut it down! Why should it be wasting the soil?’

13:8 He replied, ‘Sir, let it alone for one more year, until I dig around it and put manure on it.

13:9 If it bears fruit next year, well and good; but if not, you can cut it down.’”

Commentary comes from Matthew Henry and John MacArthur.

Last week’s Gospel passage came later on in Luke 13. That said, it helps clarify today’s verses. Luke 13:34-35 refers back to the aforementioned parable of the fig tree:

13:34 Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it! How often have I desired to gather your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you were not willing!

13:35 See, your house is left to you. And I tell you, you will not see me until the time comes when you say, ‘Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord.’”

John MacArthur adds further context:

the subject here is judgment now. End of chapter 12, Jesus closed out that portion of the message by talking about the fact that a person who is going to go to court, who is guilty of something, better settle with his accuser before he gets to the judge or the judge is going to expose his guilt, turn him over to the constable, or the…or the jailer, and put him in prison until he pays every last cent. And what Jesus was saying is, “Look, you better settle your case with God before you ever get to the judgment. You better settle your case with God before you ever get to the judgment because when you get before God at the judgment, it’s too late. You’re going to be turned over to eternal punishment.” That was the point. So judgment is the theme. And that p[ique]s the interest of these people.

Some in the crowd mentioned the Galileans who died at the hands of Pilate’s Romans; the soldiers murdered them and mixed their blood with that of their sacrifices (verse 1).

MacArthur says this was a tragedy that had occurred not long before this discourse from Jesus, so it was fresh in people’s minds:

Now this was something that had just happened, a fresh event. This… This would have been headlines in the Jerusalem Gazette, if there was one. Everybody would have heard about it. It would have gone through Jerusalem like a wildfire. Everyone would have known this … It was largely Pilate’s treatment of the Jews that precipitated the Jews’ rebellion that led to the Roman invasion and the destruction of the city and of the nation in 70 A.D. Pilate lit the fuse because of how he treated the Jews. And so this is consistent with Pilate’s behavior. And apparently Pilate sends his soldiers to find some Galileans and slaughters them while they are offering sacrifices, Galilean Jews who had come down to offer sacrifices. Only one place in Israel where you could offer sacrifice, that’s the temple. Very likely this is the Passover. This is a Passover. And these Galilean Jews had come down to offer their sacrifices. There were so many tens of thousands, in fact some estimates, a quarter of a million animals were slaughtered in the Passover week. It was so massive a slaughter, the priests couldn’t do it themselves, and so the actual worshiper would participate in it. So we could assume that this would have been very likely at a Passover.

Furthermore, Pilate would have been in Jerusalem at the Passover because that’s when the city was bulging with all the pilgrims and trouble could come. And so he would have left Caesarea to come there to be in Jerusalem. And the Galileans were notoriously rebellious so apparently there were some Galileans who maybe had done something of a rebellious nature against Rome and they were tracked down into Jerusalem and tracked by whoever investigates those kinds of things, found at the temple, found there offering sacrifices. We don’t know any…any of the details. But there they were, offering their sacrifices.

And Pilate comes, not personally, but his soldiers. Finds them there and slices them up so that in a very gruesome way, a gory way, it describes their blood as being mingled with the blood of the sacrifices. Now you have to understand, offering sacrifices at Passover would be like being in a slaughterhouse. That would be the only thing comparable. In fact, to kill a quarter of a million animals in a week, you can imagine what kind of a slaughterhouse the temple was, blood everywhere. And now the blood of these Galileans flows with the blood dripping off that altar. Maybe… Maybe they had known Pilate’s men were after them. Maybe they sought sanctuary at the altar. You remember in the Old Testament there was a man named Adonijah, according to 1 Kings, who…who ran into the altar and grabbed on the horns of the altar as if it was a place of safety. And if they were holding onto the horns of the altar of sacrifice, Pilate didn’t spare them. He slaughtered them there.

Jesus, knowing that they were thinking those Galileans must have been very bad to deserve such a horrifying fate, asks whether they were worse sinners than their countrymen (verse 2).

He tells them that they were not worse sinners than other Galileans, but unless those listening to Him repented, they, too, would perish in the same way (verse 3).

Jesus brings up the catastrophe in Siloam, a district of Jerusalem, where the tower had fallen; He asked whether those killed were worse sinners than other residents of Jerusalem (verse 4).

He answers by saying no, adding that unless the people listening to Him repent, they will perish just as those in Siloam did (verse 5).

MacArthur explains this exchange:

The Jews down in Jerusalem tended to think of the Galileans as inferior. So maybe implied in that question was, you know, sort of the idea that Galileans are bad and maybe those were the worst of them. But now Jesus takes it down to their own city and their own area. And He says, “There was a tower in Siloam as you well know that fell over and killed eighteen people.” I mean, there’s no indication of sin here. There’s no indication of sin on the part of the Galileans. They weren’t doing something wrong; they were doing what was right. These people aren’t doing anything with moral consequences. They’re just there when it falls. These aren’t issues of sin.

He tells us more about Siloam and the tower:

We don’t have any other details on this, by the way, except to say Siloam is a section of Jerusalem, the lower city, where the southern and the eastern wall meet. And there was a spring in the area outside the wall called Gihon and the Gihon spring had an abundance of water and that water was brought into the city of Jerusalem through a tunnel that Hezekiah built, well known Hezekiah’s tunnel to anybody who visits Israel. And the water came through Hezekiah’s tunnel and filled up a pool called the Pool of Siloam which is where Jesus sent the blind man in John 9 to wash. Remember that story. So it was a water supply. The city had to have water supply. The water springs on the outside, the water was then funneled into the city through that tunnel.

Well in order to spread the water, Pilate had built an aqueduct. The Romans were great at building aqueducts. The ruins of one is still available to be seen in amazing repair at this point in the city of Caesarea by the coast there. But the Romans loved to build aqueducts by which they moved the water around. And Pilate had done that, put on a big building program to produce an aqueduct which was connected to Siloam and to the water source. Apparently either in the building a scaffolding fell over, or they had constructed a tower on the aqueduct, which the Romans often did in order to observe the flow of the water, and to protect the flow of the water from enemies cutting it off, whether the tower itself that had been built there for that reason fell or whether some kind of scaffolding tower fell, we don’t know. But either workers or people watching or walking by were crushed and died. It’s nothing about sin there. They were just there. They just, you know, we would say today they were in the wrong place at the wrong time. And so He says, “Do you suppose that those eighteen on whom the tower in Siloam fell and killed them were worse culprits than all the men who live in Jerusalem?” Was that the scum of Jerusalem? Were they the worst people here?

Jesus repeated Himself about repentance in verses 3 and 5 for a reason.

Matthew Henry’s commentary says:

Some lay an emphasis upon the word likewise, and apply it to the destruction that was coming upon the people of the Jews, and particularly upon Jerusalem, who were destroyed by the Romans at the time of their passover, and so, like the Galileans, they had their blood mingled with their sacrifices; and many of them, both in Jerusalem and in other places, were destroyed by the fall of walls and buildings which were battered down about their ears, as those that died by the fall of the tower of Siloam. But certainly it looks further; except we repent, we shall perish eternally, as they perished out of this world. The same Jesus that calls us to repent because the kingdom of heaven is at hand, bids us repent because otherwise we shall perish; so that he has set before us life and death, good and evil, and put us to our choice.

Also:

The perishing of those in their impenitency who have been most harsh and severe in judging others will be in a particular manner aggravated.

MacArthur says that these people are not worried about the true calamity, which is the lack of repentance:

That’s the true calamity. The real calamity is not that you were killed in the temple or that the tower fell on you or that you died by any other means. The real calamity is that if you don’t repent, when death comes you will perish. And He’s talking there about eternal judgment. Just because you’re alive doesn’t mean you’ve escaped judgment. “It’s appointed unto men once to die and after that (what?) the judgment.” True calamity is that you die and experience the judgment of God because you haven’t settled your case before you got to court, back to verse 58 of chapter 12. The true calamity is that you feel the judgment of God eternally because you will not repent. The issue is not how people die or when they die or by what cause they die. The issue is that they die without repenting. That’s what I kept saying in interview after interview. “Look, the lesson is you’re going to die, you don’t know when you’re going to die. You need to repent before that happens.” And certainly our Lord knew that a lot of the people who were in Jerusalem at this very time were going to die in 70 A.D. about thirty-five years from now if they were still alive. Those who still lived would very likely perish when tens of thousands of Jews were massacred by the Romans

… Jesus says, “Look, don’t assume anything. You’re going to likewise perish,” likewise not by the same means but with the same certainty. Everybody’s headed for death. And the point is: You better repent before you get there. You better settle your case before you get to court. Just because Pilate’s soldiers ran by you to get to those Galileans, says nothing about your righteousness. Just because the tower fell and you had just left with your water doesn’t mean you’re more righteous than the ones who were crushed. Just because your plane landed and somebody’s crashed doesn’t mean you’re any better than anybody else. What it does mean is God is showing you more mercy, more patience, giving you more opportunity to repent.

The crowd would not have liked that, because, after all, they were already God’s Chosen.

MacArthur says:

This was such a bitter pill the Jews wouldn’t swallow it. Repent? We’re the righteous. We’re the godly. We’re the spiritual. We’re the chosen. We’re the blessed. What are You talking about, repent? They hated His talk of repentance. They hated it with John the Baptist. They hated it with Jesus. And it was because He called them to repentance that they plotted to murder Him and eventually did. They refused to see themselves as sinners. They refused to see themselves as headed for judgment. It infuriated them to be diagnosed that way; most of all the leaders and then the leaders passed on that infuriated attitude to the people. And our Lord doesn’t try to prove they were sinners. He doesn’t give some long litany trying to prove they were sinners … They had the law of God, well acquainted with it. He just said to them, “You better repent. Are you prepared when a tower falls on you?”

MacArthur discusses repentance at length. This is particularly useful:

repentance is simply agreeing with God’s diagnosis of your wretchedness and understanding that you can do absolutely nothing about it.

And so, when you talk about repentance, you’re talking about having to cast yourself on somebody who can do something for you in your helpless condition, somebody who can rescue you from the guilt that you bear, somebody who can rescue you from the judgment that awaits you, somebody who can take you out of the power of sin because you can’t do it for yourself. And there is only one such person. You need mercy. You need grace. You need forgiveness. You need deliverance. And there’s only one Savior and that’s the Lord Jesus Christ.

That leads to the second element in repentance: to acknowledge Jesus Christ as the only Savior, to acknowledge Jesus Christ as the only Savior. Repentance in the New Testament always includes faith in Jesus Christ as the only Savior. You could talk about repentance in its narrow sense, the sense that it is turning from sin. But…and that would be a way that it could be used. But in its New Testament gospel usage, it always embraces faith in Christ. It is a turning 180 degrees, so it’s turning from sin to something and the something or someone is always Christ.

Then Jesus tells a parable about a fig tree that bears no fruit.

He does this to illustrate God’s mercy, but God’s mercy with sinners is not everlasting. If we do not repent, we are doomed.

Jesus illustrates this by telling us the story of a man who owned a vineyard with a fig tree planted in it and saw that the tree had no fruit (verse 6).

Because vineyards need constant tending, they are a good place to intersperse fruit trees.

MacArthur explains:

… they prepared the ground for the vineyard and because they had the most prepared ground and gave the most attention to the vineyard and it was protected and guarded and watered and fertilized, it was just a perfect place to plant the fruit trees So very commonly and you find it in a number of places in the Bible, they planted their fruit trees in the same soil where the vineyard was.  And that’s what happened here.  You can read Micah 4:4 and you’ll see illustrations of that.  There are others as well.

The owner was vexed to find no fruit on the fig tree and told his gardener to cut it down; it had been growing for three years with no fruit and was a waste of soil (verse 7).

The gardener replied, requesting that he give the tree another year; he would tend to the tree with digging and manure for fertiliser (verse 8).

Henry compares the gardener to Christ:

Christ is the great Intercessor; he ever lives, interceding …

We owe it to Christ, the great Intercessor, that barren trees are not cut down immediately: had it not been for his interposition, the whole world had been cut down, upon the sin of Adam; but he said, Lord, let it alone; and it is he that upholds all things.

The gardener concluded with a condition: if the tree bears fruit the following year, all is well; if not, the owner can then cut it down (verse 9).

The fruit of the fig tree is analogous to the fruit of faith that comes through repentance.

MacArthur says of our Lord’s audience:

You think they got it?  I think they got it What would they be thinking of?  John the Baptist, chapter 3 of Luke, down at the river, talking about the Messiah coming and saying, “You better bring forth fruits fit for repentance because the ax is already laid at the root of the tree.”  Right?  Luke 3:9The decree has already gone out: Cut it downThe ax is laid at the root of the tree ready for the first blow.  Hold that ax for a minute.

MacArthur says that we can understand the parable in a personal way and in a way that relates to the Jews of the day:

First of all, the tree is a solitary tree.  The tree is a solitary tree, and therefore, it has individual application.  It has individual application, first of all, to a nation and then to individuals It is both national and personal.  The fig tree, first of all, certainly has to be viewed as Israel This is the patience, if you will, of the Lord saying, as it were, to the Father, just hold back your judgment and give them a little more time.

Like in Isaiah 5, Israel was planted in a very fertile hill.  They were blessed with everything God could give them Like Romans 9:4 and 5, they had the revelation of God.  They had the prophets.  They had the Scriptures.  They had the covenants.  They had the adoption and from them came the Messiah They had it all.  They were already apostate when Jesus arrived They were apostate when John the Baptist began to preach The ax was already laid at the tree when it started Before Jesus ever began the ministry, John said the ax is laid at the tree because the nation was already apostate They already had departed from the true faith and the true and living God and created a system of works righteousness that was an abomination to God.

And now after the three years nearly being up — there’s a number of months yet until it’s all over — but here they are into the last year of Jesus’ ministry and they’re fixed in their unbelief The ax is still at the foot of the tree And yet, there’s a pleading here for a little more time There were a few months before the crucifixion.  There were some more miracles, incredible miracle of the raising of Lazarus from the dead, which everybody knew about, which prompted the Hosannas on Palm Monday, it actually was a Monday, there were some pretty dramatic things going on: the cleansing of the temple on Tuesday of the Passion Week; more teaching from Jesus; more powerful displays from Jesus.  They still had some time.  The hope was dim, but the heart of God was willing to be patient even when the hope was dim.  Look at verse 34 of Luke 13.  Jesus says, “Oh Jerusalem, Jerusalem.” He’s headed there.  He knows He’s going to die.  “Oh Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets, 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 wouldn’t have it.  Behold your house is left to you desolate.”

That was fulfilled historically in 70 A.D., as well as looking ahead to the further destruction of that place that comes in the time of tribulation.  Jesus confirmed then that over and over, that judgment was coming, judgment was coming, judgment was coming. 

Matthew and Mark have the story of Jesus cursing the fruitless fig tree in the week of His Passion. It died instantly.

MacArthur says that fig tree also represented Israel:

… both the fig tree, this one a real fig tree, the other one a fig tree story, there’s one fig tree.  It has that solitary significance.  A lone fig tree; this is emblematic of Israel again He came to it, found nothing on it except leaves only, pretense of life.  Religion, false religion gives a pretense of life, but no fruit.

And He said to it, “No longer shall there be any fruit from you.”  And at once the fig tree withered.  Mark says, gives the parallel account, it withered from the roots up And the disciples were just absolutely stunned to see it die in front of their eyes So in reality, they had time, but they didn’t have much time.  They had months as a nation to change their attitude about Christ.  And that would only happen if individuals changed their attitudes about Christ.  And when Jesus came in two days after hosanna to the Son of David, hailing him as Messiah, two days later He cursed the nationAnd it was over.

MacArthur then gives us the application for us to consider for ourselves:

He’s talking about individuals here It’s a solitary tree.  It’s not just a solitary nation It’s a solitary individual.  Every one of us has to do something with Jesus Christ And let me just have you think about this: Those who have no spiritual fruit will be judged If there is no spiritual life in you that comes only through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, you will be cut down and cast into the fire as John the Baptist put it.  That’s eternal punishment.

Those who bear no spiritual fruit through a relationship to God by means of Jesus Christ will be cut down and that judgment is forever The next thing to keep in mind is that the judgment is near He says “next year” or “until the time.”  And the idea is just one more chance.  The tree has had its whole life and I’ve checked it for three years.  I’m going to give it a little time … Your judgment is near.  The sand is running fast out of the hourglass …

Borrowed time is not permanent.  God’s patience is not permanent.  These points are easy to understand in this little story.  In fact, they’re virtually unmistakable.  The tree is a solitary tree.  It’s a nation, but it’s an individual.  If you have no fruit, you will be cut down … 

You need to come while you have the time, while you have the opportunity.  Psalm 32:6, “Let everyone who is godly pray to You in a time when You may be found.”  There will be a time when He won’t be found …

We all live on borrowed time.  I don’t know how much until Jesus comes, until you die, or until God withdraws.  He relents the calamities because of His mercy, but His mercy is only everlasting to those who worship Him and love Him

What a Lenten thought to contemplate in the week ahead.

May all reading this have a blessed Sunday.

The Second Sunday in Lent is March 13, 2022.

Readings for Year C can be found here.

The Gospel reading is as follows (emphases mine):

Luke 13:31-35

13:31 At that very hour some Pharisees came and said to him, “Get away from here, for Herod wants to kill you.”

13:32 He said to them, “Go and tell that fox for me, ‘Listen, I am casting out demons and performing cures today and tomorrow, and on the third day I finish my work.

13:33 Yet today, tomorrow, and the next day I must be on my way, because it is impossible for a prophet to be killed outside of Jerusalem.’

13:34 Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it! How often have I desired to gather your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you were not willing!

13:35 See, your house is left to you. And I tell you, you will not see me until the time comes when you say, ‘Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord.’”

Commentary comes from Matthew Henry and John MacArthur.

Jesus was preaching and healing in Peraea at this time. It would have been the final winter of His ministry. The following Spring, He returned to Jerusalem, where He met His excruciating death on the Cross.

A group of Pharisees told Jesus that He should leave, because Herod wanted to kill Him (verse 31).

A casual reading might give the impression that those Pharisees had our Lord’s interests at heart, but John MacArthur says that they wanted to intimidate Him because they wanted Him to leave Peraea and return to Judea:

I suppose you could say there were a few good Pharisees around, but I don’t think that’s the point here.  I think they warned Him because they wanted to intimidate Him They wanted to silence Him It’s another way of saying if you don’t stop this you’re going to get killed.  They brought the threat to bear on Jesus to silence Him or to perhaps to force Him back into Judea, out of Peraea, where the Sanhedrin had its authority over Him And the Sanhedrin were already plotting His death As I said, Luke is a little vague on geography because His readers were not necessarily familiar with Israel, but this is the time, according to Matthew, Mark, and John that Jesus went into Peraea and He’s in the territory of Herod.

And with impure motives the Pharisees say you better get out of here.  You better go away and depart from here or you’re going to get killed and Herod’s going to do it.  Herod was the big stick So right after Jesus’ very strong words on the Jews being banned from salvation, the Jews being banned from the kingdom because they will not subdue their pride and their self-righteousness because they will not repent because they have no sense of urgency because they have no reasonable fear of eternal punishment, because they believed they’re already fit for the kingdom they do not need to repent After all of those powerful words, they certainly would be even more offended They want to silence Jesus.  And the way they choose is to threaten Him or intimidate Him with the biggest stick that exists in the area He’s in and that that’s Herod.

I have quoted MacArthur on several other occasions on the history of the Herods.

Last week I received a comment about the Herods being Jews.

Here is MacArthur’s history of the Herods, whom the Jews loathed because the Idumeans, of which the Herods were a part, were not God’s chosen people:

This is, by the way, Herod Antipas, the son of Herod the Great Herod the Great, as I said, is dead.  This is his son, but his hatred for the man Jesus was equal to the hatred of his father for the infant Jesus.  He saw Jesus also as a threat, just as his father had.

Everybody, as I said, seems to have wanted to kill Jesus.  And Herod is among them.  And the Pharisees came up and said to Him, “Go away and depart from here for Herod wants to kill you.”  This indicates that Jesus is in Herod’s territory Get out here.  This is where he has jurisdiction and He wants to kill, apoktein, to annihilate, to destroy, to murder.

Now let me tell you the scenario.  Herod the Great died and he died and left a will, and when Herod the Great died, in his will he wanted the kingdom of Israel divided among his sons Archelaus was one son. He ruled Judea, Samaria and Idumea That would be Judea in the middle, Samaria at the north, and Idumea was at the south.  He had that section. He had another son named Philip.  Philip ruled the northeast if you went above Galilee to the north and east The capital city of that area, Caesarea Philippi, and in the modern day will be up on the Lebanese border.  And then there was Herod and Herod is called the Tetrarch of Galilee He was given the Galilee area around the Sea of Galilee and Peraea Peraea was east of the Jordan River, east of Judea, so we had Galilee and east, Judea and east.  He ruled there for a long time.  He ruled there for about forty years until about 39 A.D. after the death of our Lord.

His real name was Herod Antipas, not to be confused with Herod the Great, his fatherThe Jews despised the man They hated all these rulers because they were all Idumeans, non-Jews, who had power over them and over their land They hated the Romans for that They hated the Idumeans for that as well But they hated Herod Antipas for a lot of reasons One of them was he brought idols in everywhere and they hated idols, of course.  But also he built his capital city, Tiberius.  Tiberius, if you ever go to Israel today, is a flourishing city on the west coast of the Sea of Galilee, been there many times.  It’s a beautiful place.  But he built the capital city of Tiberius on a Jewish cemetery and he put idols in the city, etc., etc.  Interesting thing about the ministry of Jesus, Jesus ministered around Galilee for over a year and then during His Judean ministry might have made some little trips into Galilee even from Judea.  Never is there any record in all the four gospels that He ever went near the city of Tiberius.

This was the man the Jews hated.  He was a puppet of Rome, a puppet ruler.  He had murdered John the Baptist … so this is Herod Antipas, murderous man who led John the Baptist into being beheaded because of his own lustful desire.

Now the word comes to Jesus that this man wants Him dead.  Now this indicates that Jesus has slipped into the Peraea area Probably not all the way up to Galilee, but He’s across the Jordan.  And some of the towns and villages mentioned in verse 22 would have been Peraea.  If you compare this with some of the other gospels, Matthew 19:1, Mark 10:1, and John 10:40, Jesus does have a portion of His ministry in PeraeaSo He’s in the area of Peraea and He’s apparently going to be there for some months ministering

It’s also reasonable to know that since [Herod] was Rome’s lackey, since he was beholden to Rome for everything he had, he was only a puppet king, he didn’t want any trouble from the Jews that would cause Rome to get upset at his inability to keep the peace and he knew Jesus had massive crowds following after Him everywhere He went He feared that He might lead a rebellion, that he himself might become a problem for Rome.  He also, like his father, must have feared that this potentially could be a rival to my throne.  For all those reasons he wants Him dead.

Someday, not too long after this, for the first time he saw Jesus In Luke 23 and verse 8, Pilate doesn’t want to make the decision by himself as to the execution of Jesus.  And so he wants somebody else to weigh in on it. So in Luke 23:8, he sends Jesus to Herod, who happens to be in Jerusalem at that time Now Herod was very glad, Luke 23:8, when he saw Jesus for he had wanted to see Him for a long time, because he’d been hearing about Him and hoping to see some sign performed by Him.

See, he knew of the miracle power of Jesus, and he knew that miracle power could be used for vengeance He knew that miracle power could be used for a revolution.  He knew that miracle power could be used to bring a disturbance that would call Rome down on His own head For all those reasons he…he had wanted to kill Jesus

Now Herod and Pilate became friends with one another that very day, for before they had been at enmity with each other Sure, because they were competing authorities.  Pilate actually represented Rome.  Herod was a petty, puppet king.  They hated each other, competing rulers But they could agree on one thing They wanted Jesus dead, because Jesus potentiated a revolution Jesus could be a rival to their power and Jesus had miraculous power as well.

It’s interesting to me that in all the interrogations of Jesus, by Annas, Caiaphas, Pilate, in all the interrogations of Jesus only one person to whom Jesus did not speak and that’s Herod That is a severe judgment on the state of that man He didn’t say one word to him He had nothing to say to him.  The door really in his case was shut Herod was happy to join with Pilate because they both had the same thing at stake, their power, their position.  He was happy to play a role in the murder of Jesus and to join the fun, the mockery, the contempt.

Unusually, Jesus referred to someone as an animal, in this case, calling Herod ‘a fox’; essentially, He said that the Pharisees should tell Herod that He was too busy performing healing miracles, then included a reference to His death and resurrection with ‘on the third day I finish my work’ (verse 32).

Matthew Henry’s commentary says:

In calling him a fox, he gives him his true character; for he was subtle as a fox, noted for his craft, and treachery, and baseness, and preying (as they say of a fox) furthest from his own den. And, though it is a black and ugly character, yet it did not ill become Christ to give it to him, nor was it in him a violation of that law, Thou shalt not speak evil of the ruler of thy people. For Christ was a prophet, and prophets always had a liberty of speech in reproving princes and great men. Nay, Christ was more than a prophet, he was a king, he was King of kings, and the greatest of men were accountable to him, and therefore it became him to call this proud king by his own name; but it is not to be drawn into an example by us. “Go, and tell that fox, yea, and this fox too” (for so it is in the original, te alopeki taute); “that Pharisee, whoever he is, that whispers this in my ear, let him know that I do not fear him, nor regard his menaces … “I know that death will be not only no prejudice to me, but that it will be my preferment; and therefore tell him I do not fear him; when I die, I shall be perfected. I shall then have finished the hardest part of my undertaking; I shall have completed my business;” teleioumaiI shall be consecrated. When Christ dies, he is said to have sanctified himself; he consecrated himself to his priestly office with his own blood.

Then Jesus makes a scriptural reference by saying that it is impossible for a prophet to be killed outside of Jerusalem (verse 33). Being omniscient, Jesus knew that He would die there.

Henry gives us a brief historical insight, borne out by the prophets’ deaths in the Old Testament:

“I know that Herod can do me no harm, not only because my time is not yet come, but because the place appointed for my death is Jerusalem, which is not within his jurisdiction: It cannot be that a prophet perish out of Jerusalem,” that is, “any where but at Jerusalem.” If a true prophet was put to death, he was prosecuted as a false prophet. Now none undertook to try prophets, and to judge concerning them, but the great sanhedrim, which always sat at Jerusalem; it was a cause which the inferior courts did not take cognizance of, and therefore, if a prophet be put to death, it must be at Jerusalem.

MacArthur points out the bitter irony of prophets being put to death in Jerusalem, supposedly, the holy city:

Now Jerusalem was the city of God Jerusalem was the place of the temple.  But it wasn’t…you know, the interesting thing, it wasn’t the enemies of Israel that killed their prophets No, it wasn’t the…the pagan nations around them that murdered their prophets.  It was them, they killed their own prophets It’s like the parable Jesus told in Matthew 21 and Luke 20, God has a vineyard, the vineyard is Israel and God comes to an accounting for Israel with regard to the blessing and opportunity they’ve had.  He wants that accounting.  He sends His servants, they kill the servants That’s the prophetsHe sends His Son, they kill His Son. That’s Christ

They weren’t killed by the enemies, they weren’t killed by the pagans, they were killed by the people themselves.  So often that it became proverbial the prophet should…it cannot be that a prophet should perish outside Jerusalem, almost a…almost a sort of sarcasm, an ironyThe capital of Israel, the center of worship, the city of God was where they killed the spokesmen for God Bitter irony here really you know.

Jesus lamented the spiritual state of Jerusalem, which God had sent Him to save, along with the rest of His Chosen.

Jesus expressed His deep sorrow by recalling the many prophets, God’s messengers, who met their death there; Jesus said that He had wanted so much to gather Jerusalem’s children up under His wing, as a hen would with her little ones, but they were unwilling (verse 34).

Henry has an excellent interpretation of that verse:

Those that enjoy great plenty of the means of grace, if they are not profited by them, are often prejudiced against them. They that would not hearken to the prophets, nor welcome those whom God had sent to them, killed them, and stoned them. If men’s corruptions are not conquered, they are provoked The reason why sinners are not protected and provided for by the Lord Jesus, as the chickens are by the hen, is because they will not: I would, I often would, and ye would not. Christ’s willingness aggravates sinners’ unwillingness, and leaves their blood upon their own heads.

Jesus concluded by saying that their house — the temple — is left to them, meaning that He has no use for it; He says that they will not see Him again until they say, ‘Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord’ (verse 35).

In the first part of that verse, Jesus was speaking about the destruction of the temple in AD 70.

MacArthur describes it:

The Lord understands that He came unto His own and His own received Him not.  And the judgment is rendered in verse 35.  “Behold your house is left to you.”  And the translators add, borrowing from Matthew 23, “desolate.”  The history of the Jewish people since the time of Jesus Christ is a long, excruciating desolation.  And it really all began to unfold about thirty years after Jesus.  In fact, it is a period of time that Jesus Himself called, in Luke 21:22, the days of vengeance.  And they began to unfold really in the year 66 A.D., as I said, about thirty years after the death of Jesus.  It was May of the year 66 when the Jewish revolution against Rome broke out. Having taken about as much as they could tolerate of Roman oppression, Roman injustice, pagan idolatry, the Jews turned against their occupying rulers, largely driven by a particular group of Jews called Zealots, the party of radical nationalism, known for their guerrilla tactics and terrorist strikes. Many Jews took up whatever arms they could find and joined in the rebellion.  Rome struck back with devastating force.

The first strike fell on Jews in northern Galilee when the Romans soldiers came and slaughtered thousands of themEventually Titus himself, Titus Vespasian, the Roman ruler, came down to Jerusalem with an army in excess of 80,000 men, more than twice the size of the population.  After stationing his army in and around the city he demanded the full surrender of the JewsThey replied with mocking laughter according to some historians and the attack was unleashed.  And before it was done, Jews were massacred everywhereThe massacre also went all the way to the destruction of the city of Jerusalem and the demolishing of the templeAnd about the same time the Gentile inhabitants in Damascus, which is north and east of Israel are said to have caught the spirit of the Romans and in their own hatred for the Jews slit the throats of some 10,000 Jews living in and around the area of Damascus.

The persecution of Jews continues around the world two millennia on.

However, in the second part of verse 35, Jesus said that there will be a massive Jewish evangelisation one day.

God made a promise to the Jews and He will fulfil it. St Paul discussed this in Romans 11:25-28. Sadly, those verses are not in the Lectionary! You can read more about them below:

Romans 11:25-28 – God’s purpose, judgement, Israel, mystery of salvation

Paul writes that God will lift His the judgement against Israel’s unbelief. Gentiles should not necessarily feel proud or secure. Churches will fall into apostasy. The Church was intended for the Jews first, not Gentiles, who were grafted in only because of the Jews’ unbelief.

This is also a warning against anti-Semitism.

MacArthur elaborates on what St Paul wrote:

… notice please verse 25 toward the end, a partial hardening has happened to Israel, a partial hardening, until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in Whenever God is finished gathering His Gentile church, verse 26, and “thus all Israel will be saved.”  Just as it is written in Isaiah 59 again, “The Deliverer will come from Zion.  He will remove ungodliness from Jacob and this is My covenant with them when I take away their sins.”  God binds Himself to His personal covenant, My covenant.  Not the covenant, not a covenant, My promise, My promise.

This can’t change, verse 29, “the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable.”  Yes, individual Jews come to Christ. Yes, there’s always a collective remnant, but more than that, the time will come after the fullness of the Gentiles has come in.  That’s a term to describe the church when Gentiles are all gathered in.  When that is over, then all Israel will be saved.  That is yet to come.  There will come a time then, back to our text of Luke 13:35, “when you see me and you will say, ‘Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord.’”

That finally you will recognize your Messiah And let me just support this and then we’ll conclude.  1 Samuel 12:22, “The Lord will not abandon His people on account of His great name.”  There is the bottom line, dear friends.  The Lord will not abandon His people on account of His great name.  His name is who He is.  And who He is, is faithful. And if He says it, He will do it.  And He cannot break His promise without destroying His name.

MacArthur has more on Jesus’s closing words in verse 35:

Does God speak the truth or does He not? Does He promise and fulfill or does He promise and renege? Does He keep His covenants? Is He faithful or unfaithful? The implications of that obviously are massive

What our Lord says is, “You will not see until the time comes when you say, ‘Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord.’” He didn’t say I’m so sad that you’ll never say it. He said the time will come when you do say it. And it’s emphatic. “I say to you.” That’s emphatic. “Hear me, hear me,” he says. “You shall not see me.” What does He mean? Physically? No. You’ll never really recognize me. You’ll never really know who I am until sometime in the future and then you will say, “Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord.”

He’s not talking about seeing Jesus necessarily in a physical sense, although certainly, the glorified Christ will be revealed to all those who believe in Him in the end. He’s talking here not so much about physical recognition. He’s talking about spiritual recognition.

Part of the reason this has not happened yet is because the Jewish view of the kingdom is a literal interpretation.

MacArthur explains:

The Jews have always understood Old Testament promises to Abraham as literal. They always have understood Old Testament promises to David as literal. David understood them that way. I read you what David’s interpretation was in 2 Samuel 7. You can actually go to 1 Chronicles chapter 6 and read Solomon’s interpretation of the Davidic covenant and you’ll find out he understood it as literal as well. They always understood it that way. They believed in a real restoration, a real kingdom. They even believed it when the Messiah came. And the disciples believed it just before the ascension, when they said to Him “Will you at this time bring the kingdom?”

However, the time will come when they understand the spiritual significance of their promised kingdom.

The First Sunday in Lent is March 6, 2022.

Readings for Year C can be found here.

The Gospel reading is as follows (emphases mine):

Luke 4:1-13

4:1 Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan and was led by the Spirit in the wilderness,

4:2 where for forty days he was tempted by the devil. He ate nothing at all during those days, and when they were over, he was famished.

4:3 The devil said to him, “If you are the Son of God, command this stone to become a loaf of bread.”

4:4 Jesus answered him, “It is written, ‘One does not live by bread alone.’”

4:5 Then the devil led him up and showed him in an instant all the kingdoms of the world.

4:6 And the devil said to him, “To you I will give their glory and all this authority; for it has been given over to me, and I give it to anyone I please.

4:7 If you, then, will worship me, it will all be yours.”

4:8 Jesus answered him, “It is written, ‘Worship the Lord your God, and serve only him.’”

4:9 Then the devil took him to Jerusalem, and placed him on the pinnacle of the temple, saying to him, “If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down from here,

4:10 for it is written, ‘He will command his angels concerning you, to protect you,’

4:11 and ‘On their hands they will bear you up, so that you will not dash your foot against a stone.’”

4:12 Jesus answered him, “It is said, ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test.’”

4:13 When the devil had finished every test, he departed from him until an opportune time.

Commentary comes from Matthew Henry and John MacArthur.

Before beginning the exegesis on this passage, I commend thoroughly the commentary from Matthew Henry and the sermons by John MacArthur.

I could write a week’s worth of posts on this passage. Indeed, a seminary candidate could write a thesis on these thirteen verses, there is so much theology to explore.

I will try to make this as brief as I can but would suggest that if you want a cup of tea or a snack, get it now. This will be a long read.

In Luke 3, we read of John the Baptist’s ministry, followed by the baptism of Jesus and ending with Joseph’s geneaology which, for earthly intents and purposes, leads all the way back to Adam and, ultimately, to God.

Let’s look at a few principal verses from that chapter.

We know that the world is sinful and evil:

19 But when John rebuked Herod the tetrarch because of his marriage to Herodias, his brother’s wife, and all the other evil things he had done, 20 Herod added this to them all: He locked John up in prison.

The baptism of Jesus saw Him imbued with the Holy Spirit and lovingly commended by God the Father:

21 When all the people were being baptized, Jesus was baptized too. And as he was praying, heaven was opened 22 and the Holy Spirit descended on him in bodily form like a dove. And a voice came from heaven: “You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased.”

Jesus is the Son of Adam and the Son of God:

38 the son of Enosh,

the son of Seth, the son of Adam,

the son of God.

Matthew Henry notes that, while Adam succumbed to temptation in a perfect atmosphere of the Garden of Eden, Jesus did not falter in a frightful desert for 40 days and nights:

The last words of the foregoing chapter, that Jesus was the Son of Adam, bespeak him to be the seed of the woman; being so, we have here, according to the promise, breaking the serpent’s head, baffling and foiling the devil in all his temptations, who by one temptation had baffled and foiled our first parents. Thus, in the beginning of the war, he made reprisals upon him, and conquered the conqueror.

Luke tells us that Jesus, being full of — or thorougly imbued with — the Holy Spirit left the Jordan, the place of His baptism, and was led by the Spirit into the wilderness (verse 1).

John MacArthur explains why this was necessary:

So Luke for three chapters has been massing all the proof to indicate that Jesus is, in fact, the Messiah, Son of God, Savior of the world But if one is to be the Savior of the world, there is one rather formidable credential that one must possess Since the problem in the world is a sin problem, and since it is sin that has damned all humanity, since it is sin that has produced death, since it is sin that brings about the death that catapults sinners into eternal hell, since sin is under the aegis of the prince of this world, the ruler of this world, namely the devil, if one is to come and break the power of sin and conquer evil and defeat Satan, He must be able to combat the devil and come out the victor And that’s precisely what Luke tells us He is able to do in this chapter.

Messiah’s credentials would be incomplete without this battle.  If Jesus cannot defeat Satan head on, one on one, then He is not adequate to redeem sinners If He Himself is not impervious to sin, if He is not impeccable, if He is not invulnerable to sin, if He does not come out pure and spotless in the midst of the most violent conflict with the devil, then He cannot be the Savior.  If He is to save sinners from their sin, if He is to save them from the devil, if He is to save them from death and hell, then He must conquer sin and Satan himself.  That is what this text intends to prove.

This, as I said, is the capstone on messianic credentials.  This is what ultimately has to be known.  If we are to trust our time in eternity to Christ, if we are to trust Him as our Savior and the forgiver of our sins, if we are to trust Him to overpower sin and overpower death and overpower the devil and overpower hell and set us free and bring us to heaven, then we need to know that He has the ability to conquer Satan in the most intense confrontation.

MacArthur says that the place where Jesus went is terrifying:

Let me talk about the wilderness a little bit.  I’ve been there.  I’ve stood in that place.  And some of you have done it as well.  The last time I went to Israel we took a group of people and we gave them an experience, the likes of which they’re not likely to forget, and that is we took them into this wilderness on the road from Jericho to Jerusalem, not the main road, not the road everybody travels, but the old road that runs along the area called “the devastation.”  This is a frightening and terrifying kind of experience That is where the Holy Spirit leads Jesus

the area between the Dead Sea, the Jordan river, the Dead Sea and Jerusalem It is an area in the Old Testament called Jeshimon, and it’s called… It could be translated “the devastation.”  It’s a really terrifying place To take a ride in a vehicle up that road is frankly very frightening Many people have been frightened by that.  It is a precipitous area, loose rock. It is rock, rock, rock and more rock, jagged, ragged, craggy peaks with severe ravines that go down hundreds of feet It is dry.  It is barren It is inhabited by wild animals, snakes, scorpions and all of that It is barren.  It is the worst part of the Judean desert It is certainly a place where Jesus would be more alone than any other place in Palestine.  And the fact of the matter is, the only reason we even know what happened there is because Jesus allowed it to be recorded because He was the only one there.  It’s about a thirty-five by fifteen mile area, be very hard to move around in that area I have felt the rocks sliding under my feet I remember standing on a little knoll and feeling the rocks sliding under my feet as I was trying to get closer to the edge and seeing the sheer drop down to a bottom I couldn’t even see It’s that kind of an area; very difficult area to traverse, almost unthinkable experience to spend forty days there, six weeks.

The devil tempted Jesus there for 40 days, during which time He ate nothing; when they ended, He was famished (verse 2).

There is much to look at in this verse.

One aspect of theology I find problematic is the reference to Jesus as the Son of Adam, who capitulated to sin in the Garden of Eden, where everything was perfect.

MacArthur explains:

There once was a man who was perfect.  There once was a man who was without sin.  There once was a man who was undefiled.  There once was a man who lived in a perfect environment, a perfect place, a perfect world.  There once was a man who had everything that could possibly be given him by God and that man, the first time he was ever assaulted with temptation, fell, both he and his wife, and catapulted all of humanity into condemnation Is Jesus like Adam?  Is this another Adam, who though perfect at the start, can’t sustain that in the battle with the enemy?  We need to know that.

And Luke knows we need to know that and the Holy Spirit knows we need to know that.  We cannot have a victim for our Savior We can only have a victor We cannot have someone who is as susceptible to sin as we are, as susceptible to death and hell and the devil as we are.  We have to have someone who can conquer sin, conquer death, conquer Satan, conquer hell

He is not like Adam and yet He is like Adam.  He is a son of Adam, but He is far beyond Adam Though He, like Adam, is truly human, He, unlike Adam, cannot sin.  Let me kind of help you a little bit to see deeper into that contrast because I think it really elucidates this account.

All the way back, son of Adam, Son of God, that is to say Jesus is truly human, He is truly and fully human.  He is not like a man.  He doesn’t look like a man or act like a man, He is a man.  He is 100 percent fully human Hebrews 2:17 puts it this way, “He had to be made like His brethren in all things.”  There is no area in Jesus’ existence that is not fully human.  He is fully human.  He is truly a son of Adam.  He was born as a human.  He was a babe in the womb of His mother.  He lived as an infant, as a toddler, as a child, as a young person, as a teen-ager, as a young adult, as a mature adult, and according to chapter 2 verse 40 and verse 52, He grew in wisdom and stature and favor with God and man.

Remember, one of the most important messages I gave you a few weeks ago was on the humanity of Jesus.  He is God, but He voluntarily set aside the independent exercise of His deity He didn’t cease to be God, He is fully God and fully man, but He voluntarily set aside the independent exercise of His deity and submitted Himself to the Father’s will and the Spirit’s power He did what the Father wanted Him to do and He did it by the power of the Holy Spirit So He set aside the use of His divine powers and submitted Himself to true humanness and allowed the Spirit of God to work His work through Him

So, this is a monumental moment.  This is the second Adam being confronted with a massive assault like the first Adam.  The first Adam was also sinless, like the second Adam But the first Adam fell. The second Adam did not, cannot, and will notAdam then puts the whole race into sin and damnation, and Jesus lifts sinners to heaven It all comes down to the issue of defeating sin He was a true Son of Adam then, truly human, and as a man His Father could say of Him, “This is My beloved Son in whom I am well pleased.  Thirty years He’s lived, He’s never thought, said, or done anything that didn’t please Me.  That is His perfection.”  He is then going to be attacked, as it were, by Satan and where the first Adam fell, He triumphs

So here is Jesus Christ, the second Adam, the head of a new humanity who will rise to glory rather than fall to hell like the old humanity led by the first Adam It tells us that He has infinitely greater power in Himself than Adam ever had.  Adam was just a man, this is the God-Man and His humanity is protected from sin by His deity.

Think about the circumstances that make the distinction between Jesus and Adam so obvious Adam was in a garden, the best imaginable place He was in Eden, he was in paradise Jesus was in an anti-Eden, the most desolate, forsaken, and dangerous place in the Judean desert, barren and empty.

Adam lived in a sinless world, a sinless environment Jesus lived in a sinful world Adam never had known any temptation.  Adam fell at the first temptation, which means there was no prior assault to try to break down his resistance Jesus has had thirty years of temptation and then forty days of temptation before the final three come, all that attempting to break down His resistance.

Adam had perfect human strength, perfect human strength.  Adam was delightfully and wonderfully fed by all the lush provisions of the garden Jesus was weakened by forty days with no food.

Adam had all conceivable things to enjoy, never knowing hungerJesus was hungry, well He was starvingAdam needed nothing, he needed nothing.  He had everything.  He ruled everything.  Jesus had nothing, no food, no authority, nothing, no kingdom, no sphere of rule.  He’s all alone.

And Adam certainly had no need to test God to see if God really cared, to see if God really loved him, since he had ample evidence that God loved him and God cared while he was wandering around in the lavishness of Eden.  Jesus deprived of all of that and everything else, with nothing but a desolate desert and Satan trying to push Him to test God to see if God really does love Him

So, Jesus with a right to eat as the Creator has no food Jesus with the right to rule as King has no kingdom Jesus with the right to divine care and divine protection and divine blessing is exposed to the severest dangers And the point should be clear. Jesus didn’t fall, Adam did.  And that tells you what a vast difference there is between Jesus and Adam.  In the best of circumstances, Adam fellIn the worst imaginable circumstances, Jesus did notThis is our Savior This is our Messiah.  And this is the proof of it Adam, innocent, perfect, rich, lacking nothing, fell under the first assault.  Jesus did not. Poor, alone, weary, hungry and He is triumphant.

I can’t tell you other than to say this is absolutely critical to the issue of salvation That’s why it’s here It’s not just an interesting incident. It’s the heart and soul of everything Jesus can’t save us from sin and death and hell if He Himself cannot conquer it.  So where the first man failed, in Adam we all died, the second man succeeds, in Christ we all live.

Another point to explore before going any further is the Jewish belief in the devil. Although they acknowledge that sin exists, most Jews today do not believe in Satan. They find it quaint that Christians do.

MacArthur says that this was not always so:

Now the Jews knew about the devil In the Old Testament he was called Satan, which means adversary, or enemyHe first appears by name, of course, in Job, then again in Zechariah, then again in 1 Chronicles, but he appears, first of all, as a serpent in the third chapter of Genesis The Jews knew about the enemy, the adversary.  They knew about the personification of evil.  They knew Satan as the source of evil They knew that he had brought down the whole human race in Eden And the question was: If Jesus is the Messiah, can He overturn this?  Can He bring back the paradise lost?  Can He conquer the enemy of God and the enemy of our souls?

Obviously Jesus triumphs over Satan That is absolutely critical That is the last capstone on the wall of messianic credentials This is the final exam that Jesus passes to qualify as the Savior of sinners …

Now devil…the devil, as he is called here in verse 2, is the Greek word diabolos and it means “accuser,” and it means “slanderer.”  And that’s what Satan does.  That’s what he is.  He’s the accuser of the brethren He’s the slanderer And, of course, he would love to bring an accusation against God’s elect, and the Lord, of course, defends us from that, according to Romans 8, because we belong to Him and Jesus has already paid the penalty for our sins It is also true that he would want to bring an accusation against Jesus Himself, but he had none that he could bring legitimately He has no claim on Me. He has nothing in Me.  There was no justifiable charge of sin that ever could be leveled at the Son of God.

There is also the question of the deity of Jesus, which even some of today’s clergy doubt, sadly. MacArthur says that Satan and his demons have never questioned that Jesus is the Son of God:

Some people question the deity of Jesus. Lots of people question the deity of Jesus Mormons deny the deity of Jesus.  Jehovah’s Witnesses deny the deity of Jesus.  Liberals deny the deity of Jesus.  But I’ll tell you one group who don’t: Demons Demons do not deny the deity of Jesus and the devil never denies the deity of Jesus. He always assumes it.  Repeatedly he says to Him, “If” or since “You are the Son of God.” verse 3.  It never was a question, never.  They know who they are dealing with and Satan knew exactly who he was dealing with and he knew exactly what he wanted to accomplish and that was somehow to put so much subtle, powerful, clever pressure on Jesus as to overturn His holiness and force Him into sin so that he could literally destroy Jesus’ ability to save sinners and to destroy him, the devil.

The final theological point to look at is how Jesus was tempted and how He managed to resist sin:

He knew He was the Son of God He knew why He had come He grew like any person grows, like any human being grows.  And as He grew as a real man, the Spirit of God gave to Him more and more of the truth of His personhood And as He grew He was exposed to temptation When the writer of Hebrews says He was at all points tempted like as we are, it means in all points in the chronology of His life.  He was tempted as an infant, the way infants are tempted He was tempted as a child the way children are tempted.  He was tempted as a young adult the way young adults were tempted and so forth and so forth.  All through His life He was tempted, with one great distinction, and you must understand this, all the temptations, all the solicitations to evil that ever came to Jesus stayed on the outside This is why it’s impossible for us to grasp that because we don’t understand temptation in that sense Why?  Because for us temptation takes place predominantly on the inside; but for Jesus, there was nothing in Him that could internalize that temptation and work it toward evil

So, He was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without what?  Without sin.  Because He had no capacity to internalize it.  But nonetheless the onslaught came and He heard it and He heard all the cleverness of it and He saw it in the world around Him and in people and the demons that orchestrated it and here Satan himself who orchestrates it He could see the temptation He could understand the temptation, but He could not internalize it, mixing it with some evil intent because it didn’t exist in Him He was true humanity, He was holy, He was unfallen and He was perfect, but different than Adam in that Adam apparently did have the capacity to internalize temptation and turn it into sin. Jesus did not.  That’s why I love the statement Jesus made in John 14:30, He said that, “The ruler of the world,” Satan, “is after Me but he has nothing in Me.” He has nothing in Me, he has nothing on Me, he can lay no claim on Me, he can make no justifiable charge of sin.” 

Now this brings up the question and theologians have always liked to talk about this question, although I’ve always thought it was kind of silly to do that. The question is: Could He have sinned?  This is called the debate about the impeccability of Jesus, and you can read all kinds of material on this.  Could Jesus have sinned?  And there have been theologians through the years who have said yes He could have sinned.

They’re wrong, clearly. I don’t even know why anybody would discuss it. Of course He couldn’t sin. Can God sin?  God can’t sin. “He’s of purer eyes than to behold evil,” “can’t look upon iniquity.”  He has no capacity to sin.  Jesus had no capacity within Him to turn anything into a sin. He couldn’t conceive anything in such a way, mixing it with lust and evil intent as to produce a sin.  It was impossible because there was nothing in His nature to do that, nothing

Well then, some theologians would say, “Well if He couldn’t sin then temptation wasn’t real.”  That’s not true That’s… That’s not true.  You don’t always sin when you’re tempted which means you could be tempted and not sin You can be hit with some strong temptation and you can be victorious and walk away and not sin and thank God and praise God and be triumphant.  As Christians we do that That doesn’t mean it wasn’t a temptation The fact that Jesus couldn’t sin doesn’t mean He couldn’t be tempted.  Look, Satan tempted Him, he tempted Him personally The devil came and tempted Him personally.  Demons came and tempted Him personally Demons working in the wicked leaders of Israel and others came after Jesus. He was exposed to sin all around Him as the system of Satan worked its way through human depravity.  It came at Him on the outside. He saw it all.  He understood it in His mind but He had no internal capacity to turn that into a sin But it doesn’t mean that He didn’t feel or experience the reality of that temptation

Westcott says, “Sympathy with the sinner in his trial does not depend on the experience of sin, but on the experience of the strength of the temptation to sin which only the sinless can know in its full intensity,” end quote.  That’s exactly right.  Only the sinless One knows how intense the temptation can be, every temptation, because he never gives in and finally the temptation having exhausted itself departs.

Returning to our Lord’s hunger, the devil said to Him that ‘if’ — MacArthur prefers ‘since’ — He is the Son of God, He can command a stone to become a loaf of bread (verse 3).

The devil was tempting Jesus in a way that only He could be tempted: to perform a miracle to stave off His hunger.

MacArthur elaborates:

Satan senses in that hunger a new vulnerability. He senses that in the fact that Jesus is feeling hunger that Jesus is beginning to feel His mortality. He moves in for what he thinks might be the kill. What happens is three temptations that Satan devises that are the most brash, the most ruthless and the most clever. He keeps them until he finds in Christ this moment of vulnerability

… the pattern of battle is very, very important. The temptations directed at Jesus Christ are unique to Him, and I want you to understand that …

MacArthur says that, although Satan tempted Jesus in the way only He could be, the common thread of any temptation is the sense that God does not love us. Satan works on that deception carefully. He did with Jesus, albeit unsuccessfully, and he does the same with us:

We can understand that categorically, can’t we?  That’s there.  I can’t turn stones into bread but I can be tempted to distrust God’s love for meAnd the question, why it is that I don’t have the things that I think would be given to me would be measures in some way of God’s love for me.  And that’s precisely the category, but the temptation is specific.  Let’s look at it.

Verse 3: “The devil said to Him.” All the way through the devil speaks, by the way, with a measure of truthDeception only works if it somehow has partial truth in itAnd so when the devil speaks, he starts from a point of truth. That’s the subtlety of his deceptionSo the devil said to Him, “If” or probably better translated, “Since…” This is a first class conditional with a particle, which is ei in the Greek. And a first class conditional does not presume doubt. It does not presume doubt.  So he’s really saying, “Since…since You are the Son of God.”  This is true and this is the measure of truth with which Satan launches the deception

The implication here is to distrust God’s love.  The implication here is based upon the fact that Satan knew that Jesus had restricted His independent use of His own deity to do only the will of the Father through the power of the Spirit, and that He wasn’t to do anything that the Father didn’t will and the Spirit empower.  In fact, Jesus said, John 4:34, “My food is to do the will of Him who sent Me.”  Numerous times in the gospel of John Jesus says that one way or another. “I only do what the Father tells Me to do, I only do what the Father shows Me to do.  I’ve come to do the Father’s will, that’s it.”

Part of the self-emptying — the kenosis as theologians call it — part of Jesus’ humiliation was to set aside the independent use of His own deity and operate only under the Father’s will in perfect submission and by the Spirit’s power in effecting that will. That was part of His full … condescension.

So the implication here is to say, look, if God really loved You, You wouldn’t be hungry.  How much does God really love You?  You’ve waited all this time in Nazareth, You had Your moment in the sun down there at the Jordan river at Your baptism, and now for forty days You’ve been out here in this God-forsaken place and You’ve been in conflict with the devil and You’ve had nothing to eat for forty days and now You’re very hungry and God hasn’t provided anything for You.  So You think You can trust God’s love?   Do You think that’s an evidence that God really loves You?  Maybe God doesn’t love You as much as You think He loves You.

This is exactly the…the formula that Satan used with Eve, isn’t it?  What Satan was saying to Eve in the Garden is, “You mean to tell me there’s a tree that has fruit on it and God doesn’t want you to have it?  Well if God really loved you, why would He restrict you?  God probably isn’t as loving as you think He is. He’s probably not as kind as you think He is.  He’s probably not as good as you think He is or He wouldn’t…He wouldn’t restrict you from eating that true…that tree.  Don’t you think that maybe God isn’t quite as good as you think He is, or as loving as you think He is.  In fact, you know I’ll tell you why He doesn’t want you to eat that, because if you eat that you’ll be like Him and He hates competition at that levelAnd that will tell you He’s really not good at all because the reason He doesn’t want you to eat of that is you’ll be like Him and He doesn’t want that kind of competition.”

And Eve bought into the lie that God wasn’t as good as she thought He was; He wasn’t as kind as she thought He was; He wasn’t as loving as she thought He was.  And so she ateThat’s the same scenario here.  You think God is loving?  You’re the Son of God, how come You’re hungry?  You think God is loving?  Didn’t You just hear God out of heaven down at the Jordan river say, “This is My beloved Son in whom I am well pleased,” so is this how He demonstrates it?  Forty days in the wilderness, forty days in here in conflict with Satan in this precipitous, dangerous, God-forsaken place, forty days with nothing to eat, this is love?  Since You’re the Son of God, let me suggest to You it’s time to use Your own prerogatives.  And what…what Satan wants to do is to set Jesus against the Father and the Spirit, acting independently on His own.  And he can’t appeal to Him in His deity so he appeals to Him as the God-Man through His humanity.  You shouldn’t be hungry, You shouldn’t be suffering this.  You shouldn’t be going through this.  You’re the Son of God …

You see, he’s never denying the deity of Jesus. He’s never denying He’s the Son of God. He just wants to get Him through this clever manipulation to act independently of the Father, therefore express disobedience, which is sin, and that’s the idea. Distrust God

Jesus responded by quoting Scripture — ‘It is written’ — ‘Man does not live by bread alone’ (verse 4).

Henry says that it is important for us to know Holy Scripture, because it is a principal weapon in spiritual warfare:

it is a quotation out of the Old Testament, to show that he came to assert and maintain the authority of the scripture as uncontrollable, even by Satan himself. And though he had the Spirit without measure, and had a doctrine of his own to preach and a religion to found, yet it agreed with Moses and the prophets, whose writings he therefore lays down as a rule to himself, and recommends to us as a reply to Satan and his temptations. The word of God is our sword, and faith in that word is our shield; we should therefore be mighty in the scriptures, and go in that might, go forth, and go on, in our spiritual warfare, know what is written, for it is for our learning, for our use. The text of scripture he makes use of is quoted from Deuteronomy 8:3: “Man shall not live by bread alone. I need not turn the stone into bread, for God can send manna for my nourishment, as he did for Israel; man can live by every word of God, by whatever God will appoint that he shall live by.” How had Christ lived, lived comfortably, these last forty days? Not by bread, but by the word of God, by meditation upon that word, and communion with it, and with God in and by it; and in like manner he could live yet, though now he began to be hungry. God has many ways of providing for his people, without the ordinary means of subsistence; and therefore he is not at any time to be distrusted, but at all times to be depended upon, in the way of duty. If meat be wanting, God can take away the appetite, or give such degrees of patience as will enable a man even to laugh at destruction and famine (Job 5:22), or make pulse and water more nourishing than all the portion of the king’s meat (Daniel 1:12; Daniel 1:13), and enable his people to rejoice in the Lord, when the fig-tree doth not blossom, Habakkuk 3:17.

The devil then showed Jesus all the kingdoms of the world in an instant (verse 5).

MacArthur thinks that such a vision was real, but Henry says it was a mirage, a phantasm, something Satan conjured up:

He gave him a prospect of all the kingdoms of the world in a moment of time, an airy representation of them, such as he thought most likely to strike the fancy, and seem a real prospect. To succeed the better, he took him up for this purpose into a high mountain; and, because we next after the temptation find Christ on the other side Jordan, some think it probable that it was to the top of Pisgah that the devil took him, whence Moses has a sight of Canaan. That it was but a phantasm that the devil here presented our Saviour with, as the prince of the power of the air, is confirmed by that circumstance which Luke here takes notice of, that it was done in a moment of time; whereas, if a man take a prospect of but one country, he must do it successively, must turn himself round, and take a view first of one part and then of another. Thus the devil thought to impose upon our Saviour with a fallacy–a deceptio visus; and, by making him believe that he could show him all the kingdoms of the world, would draw him into an opinion that he could give him all those kingdoms.

The devil said that he would give these kingdoms to Jesus, including authority over them because they were his to give (verse 6), provided that Jesus worship him (verse 7).

MacArthur points out that was Satan’s huge failure. One could say that Satan ‘jumped the shark’ with that one:

Satan makes this serious overstatement in verse 6, “For it has been handed over to me and I give it to whomever I wish.”  Oh really?  Boy, did he have an inflated opinion of himself and his power.  There is some truth in that and Satan always likes to deal in half-truth.  He is called in John 12:31, John 14:30, John 16:11, “the ruler of this world.”  That’s true.  In 1 John 5:19 it says, “The whole world lies in his lap.”  In 2 Corinthians 4:4 he’s called, “the god of this age.”  It does not mean that he literally possesses the nations of the worldWhat it means is that he rules the system of evil that dominates the nations of the world

… He simply rules the system of evil. He does not determine the nations and who rules the nations. In fact, Romans 13 says the hours that be are ordained by God. But Satan is a liar. Not only did he not have the power to give it, it wasn’t his to begin with anyway.

Once again, Jesus responds by quoting Scripture: ‘It is written’. He quotes the Old Testament, whereby we are to worship the Lord our God and serve only Him (verse 8).

Henry says:

Such a temptation as this was not to be reasoned with, but immediately refused; it was presently knocked on the head with one word, It is written, Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God; and not only so, but him only, him and no other. And therefore Christ will not worship Satan, nor, when he has the kingdoms of the world delivered to him by his Father, as he expects shortly to have, will he suffer any remains of the worship of the devil to continue in them. No, it shall be perfectly rooted out and abolished, wherever his gospel comes. He will make no composition with him. Polytheism and idolatry must go down, as Christ’s kingdom gets up. Men must be turned from the power of Satan unto God, from the worship of devils to the worship of the only living and true God.

Satan then launched his final unsuccessful temptation. Wanting to be kingmaker, he took Jesus to Jerusalem, which MacArthur says would have been possible supernaturally, placed him on the pinnacle of the temple and commanded Him to throw Himself off of it, since if He were the Son of God (verse 9), it is written that God would command His angels to protect Jesus (verse 10), as they would not allow Him to dash His foot against a stone (verse 11).

MacArthur describes the setting:

There is a point on the temple mount in Jerusalem that is the dizzying height. You know, if you have any kind of fear of heights, you don’t want to go near this corner. It’s the southeast corner. The temple mount, of course, is a massive, massive patio kind of thing, a massive place where today is the Dome of the Rock and the Mosque of Omar, as it’s called, two great Muslim places. And up at the north end of it is where they believe the original temple was, and it’s surrounded by a wall and it sits up on what is really Mount Moriah, Moriah where Abraham went to sacrifice Isaac. And so it’s been flattened out and you ascend it long stairs from the southern side. Those gates, by the way, and the stairs there are the very ones Jesus went in and out of the temple of in His lifetime. So it’s a remarkable place. I’ve preached on those very steps.

But on the southeast corner there is a corner of the temple ground that sinks down into the valley, the Kedron valley where the Kedron stream goes through and it is a dead straight drop of 450 feet to the ground. Tradition, Eusebius, tells us that the brother of our Lord, James, who was the leader of the Jerusalem Council, was thrown to his death from that corner. They threw his… They threw him alive off that 450-foot edge.

As for Satan’s quoting Scripture, Henry points out the deception therein:

It is true, God has promised the protection of angels, to encourage us to trust him, not to tempt him; as far as the promise of God’s presence with us, so far the promise of the angels’ ministration goes, but no further: “They shall keep thee when thou goest on the ground, where thy way lies, but not if thou wilt presume to fly in the air.”

Once more, Jesus quoted Scripture: ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test’ (verse 12).

Henry explains the verse and the context:

Christ quoted Deuteronomy 6:16, where it is said, Thou shalt not tempt the Lord thy God, by desiring a sign for the proof of divine revelation, when he has already given that which is sufficient; for so Israel did, when they tempted God in the wilderness, saying, He gave us water out of the rock; but can he give flesh also?

Then the devil departed, until an opportune time (verse 13).

The ‘opportune time’ refers to Judas’s betrayal (Luke 22:53). Jesus said to the Jewish hierarchy — led by Judas — at His arrest at the Mount of Olives:

53 When I was with you day after day in the temple, you did not lay hands on me. But this is your hour, and the power of darkness.”

In closing, MacArthur quotes John Milton and says that the theology in Paradise Regained is spot on:

Now in John Milton’s famous Paradise Regained, the author expresses the purpose of Jesus’ temptation in the wilderness and he does so in the following words, as though spoken by God, His Father.  Milton writes as if God is speaking, “But first I mean to exercise Him in the wilderness.  There He shall first lay down the rudiments of His great warfare, ere I send Him forth to conquer sin and death, the two grand foes, by humiliation and strong suffering,” end quote.

Well, the…the wisdom of John Milton is obviously legendary and Milton had it right.  When he penned those words it was God sending forth His Son for His exercise in the wilderness in which He would defeat the devil and then demonstrate there the power for the great warfare in which He would on the cross conquer sin and at the grave conquer death.  If Jesus would triumph in the wilderness, then He would triumph at Calvary and He would triumph in the garden.  He would triumph at the cross and triumph at the tomb.  And if Jesus could conquer Satan, then we can be assured of that triumph and that there will be paradise regained

So you see, what happens here in the temptation is a foretaste of what is to come through all of the great events of the life and ministry of the King, the Messiah, the Son of God, the Savior of the world. We believe that He will conquer in the future because He conquered in the past, and this is where it all began. It’s as if the…the guarantee of His future conquerings was established in the event of His temptation in the wilderness when Satan came and hit him with the full fury of his best assaults. And Jesus withstood them all triumphantly.

May everyone reading this have a blessed Sunday.

© Churchmouse and Churchmouse Campanologist, 2009-2022. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Churchmouse and Churchmouse Campanologist with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.
WHAT DOES THIS MEAN? If you wish to borrow, 1) please use the link from the post, 2) give credit to Churchmouse and Churchmouse Campanologist, 3) copy only selected paragraphs from the post — not all of it.
PLAGIARISERS will be named and shamed.
First case: June 2-3, 2011 — resolved

Creative Commons License
Churchmouse Campanologist by Churchmouse is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 UK: England & Wales License.
Permissions beyond the scope of this license may be available at https://churchmousec.wordpress.com/.

Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 1,540 other followers

Archive

Calendar of posts

July 2022
S M T W T F S
 12
3456789
10111213141516
17181920212223
24252627282930
31  

http://martinscriblerus.com/

Bloglisting.net - The internets fastest growing blog directory
Powered by WebRing.
This site is a member of WebRing.
To browse visit Here.

Blog Stats

  • 1,680,506 hits