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The Third Sunday of Easter is April 23, 2023.

Readings for Year A can be found here.

The Gospel is as follows (emphases mine):

Luke 24:13-35

24:13 Now on that same day two of them were going to a village called Emmaus, about seven miles from Jerusalem,

24:14 and talking with each other about all these things that had happened.

24:15 While they were talking and discussing, Jesus himself came near and went with them,

24:16 but their eyes were kept from recognizing him.

24:17 And he said to them, “What are you discussing with each other while you walk along?” They stood still, looking sad.

24:18 Then one of them, whose name was Cleopas, answered him, “Are you the only stranger in Jerusalem who does not know the things that have taken place there in these days?”

24:19 He asked them, “What things?” They replied, “The things about Jesus of Nazareth, who was a prophet mighty in deed and word before God and all the people,

24:20 and how our chief priests and leaders handed him over to be condemned to death and crucified him.

24:21 But we had hoped that he was the one to redeem Israel. Yes, and besides all this, it is now the third day since these things took place.

24:22 Moreover, some women of our group astounded us. They were at the tomb early this morning,

24:23 and when they did not find his body there, they came back and told us that they had indeed seen a vision of angels who said that he was alive.

24:24 Some of those who were with us went to the tomb and found it just as the women had said; but they did not see him.”

24:25 Then he said to them, “Oh, how foolish you are, and how slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have declared!

24:26 Was it not necessary that the Messiah should suffer these things and then enter into his glory?”

24:27 Then beginning with Moses and all the prophets, he interpreted to them the things about himself in all the scriptures.

24:28 As they came near the village to which they were going, he walked ahead as if he were going on.

24:29 But they urged him strongly, saying, “Stay with us, because it is almost evening and the day is now nearly over.” So he went in to stay with them.

24:30 When he was at the table with them, he took bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it to them.

24:31 Then their eyes were opened, and they recognized him; and he vanished from their sight.

24:32 They said to each other, “Were not our hearts burning within us while he was talking to us on the road, while he was opening the scriptures to us?”

24:33 That same hour they got up and returned to Jerusalem; and they found the eleven and their companions gathered together.

24:34 They were saying, “The Lord has risen indeed, and he has appeared to Simon!”

24:35 Then they told what had happened on the road, and how he had been made known to them in the breaking of the bread.

Commentary comes from Matthew Henry and John MacArthur.

I wrote an exegesis about the first 12 verses of Luke 24 in 2022, which readers might find of interest. In that account, two angels appear to the women who had brought spices to our Lord’s tomb:

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.

24:10 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.

Luke continues the Resurrection story with two male disciples.

On that same day — the third day, when Jesus rose from the dead — two of them were going to a village called Emmaus, seven miles from Jerusalem (verse 13).

Passover had finished, so people were returning home from Jerusalem.

Matthew Henry tells us that, for these two disciples, hope of Jesus as Messiah had vanished at this point:

I suspect that they were going homewards to Galilee, with an intention not to enquire more after this Jesus; that they were meditating a retreat, and stole away from their company without asking leave or taking leave; for the accounts brought them that morning of their Master’s resurrection seemed to them as idle tales; and, if so, no wonder that they began to think of making the best of their way home.

The two men spoke of all that had happened (verse 14), likely in Jerusalem during that last week of Christ’s ministry.

It was a dangerous time for our Lord’s followers to be talking about Him openly, especially in Jerusalem.

Henry says:

They had not courage to confer of these things, and consult what was to be done in the present juncture at Jerusalem, for fear of the Jews; but, when they were got out of the hearing of the Jews, they could talk it over with more freedom. They talked over these things, reasoning with themselves concerning the probabilities of Christ’s resurrection; for, according as these appeared, they would either go forward or return back to Jerusalem.

While they were talking about these things, Jesus Himself came near and went — walked — with them (verse 15).

It was usual for people to travel on foot in that era and to offer hospitality through conversation to others going in the same direction.

Henry imagines the conversation:

They communed together, and reasoned, and perhaps were warm at the argument, one hoping that their Master was risen, and would set up his kingdom, the other despairing. Jesus himself drew near, as a stranger who, seeing them travel the same way that he went, told them that he should be glad of their company. We may observe it, for our encouragement to keep up Christian conference and edifying discourse among us, that where but two together are well employed in work of that kind Christ will come to them, and make a third … They in their communings and reasonings together were searching for Christ, comparing notes concerning him, that they might come to more knowledge of him; and now Christ comes to them. Note, They who seek Christ shall find him: he will manifest himself to those that enquire after him, and give knowledge to those who use the helps for knowledge which they have. 

Their eyes were kept from recognising him (verse 16). At His resurrection, Christ would have had a glorified body, even though He still had his wounds from the Crucifixion.

Henry explains the possibilities and purpose of divine intervention here:

Their eyes were held, that they should not know him. It should seem, there were both an alteration of the object (for it is said in Mark that now he appeared in another form) and a restraint upon the organ (for here it is said that their eyes were held by a divine power); or, as some think, there was a confusion in the medium; the air was so disposed that they could not discern who it was. No matter how it was, but so it was they did not know him, Christ so ordering it that they might the more freely discourse with him and he with them, and that it might appear that his word, and the influence of it, did not depend upon his bodily presence, which the disciples had too much doted upon, and must be weaned from; but he could teach them, and warm their hearts, by others, who should have his spiritual presence with them, and should have his grace going along with them unseen.

John MacArthur explains the Greek used in this verse:

So He is in form and face glorified, and yet He is not alien; He’s human. They’re not shocked. They’re not surprised by His form, by His appearance. This is a wonderful insight, dear friends, as to how it will be when we receive a body like unto the body of His glory when we go to heaven, we will be fully human without our fallenness, without our sinfulness.

But there’s really more than that here. The verb ekratounto has been called by some a divine passive. It’s a passive verb in verse 16, “Their eyes were prevented from recognizing Him.” It wasn’t that this was their own inability, it was that they were prevented from recognizing Him by Him.

Jesus asked them what they were talking about as they were walking along; they stood still, looking sad (verse 17).

One of the disciples, Cleopas, answered in amazement (verse 18), ‘Are you the only stranger in Jerusalem who does not know the things that have taken place there in these days?’

MacArthur discusses the disciple’s name and why Luke has mentioned it:

Probably the reason you have a name here in verse 18, Cleopas, which is the male form of Cleopatra, a kind of a shortened version of Cleopatras. The reason you have a name here is very possibly because he’s the source of this account to Luke. And while the writer was inspired by the Holy Spirit to write without error, they had human sources to tell them the story; and Cleopas was probably well known to the church by this time. Luke is writing in 60 or 61, which is nearly thirty years after these events had happened.

And Luke may well have heard the story from Cleopas, because I’m pretty confident that Cleopas and his unnamed companion on the road probably told this story every single day of their life to somebody. The greatest joy in their life would be to find somebody who hadn’t heard it and tell them: “One day we were walking to Emmaus and you will never know what happened.” So Cleopas – not to be confused with Clopas, which is a Hebrew Aramaic word, this one a Greek word, another person all together – probably told Luke his story, and that’s why his name is here, and he was known to the church when Luke wrote.

Jesus asked them to elaborate; they said that Jesus of Nazareth was a prophet mighty in deed and word before God and the people (verse 19).

The chief priests and scribes handed Him over to be condemned to death and crucified (verse 20).

But, the men said, ‘we had hoped that he was the one to redeem Israel’, pointing out that this was the third day since His death (verse 21), inferring that He should have risen from the dead.

MacArthur says that we cannot be certain about their length of time with Jesus before His death:

We don’t know whether it was weeks or months, we have no idea. We don’t know how much they had heard, but they had heard a lot, seen a lot, enough to be convinced. And what happened in the end made no sense.

The men told Jesus about the women who had visited His tomb early that morning (verse 22); they returned talking of their vision of angels who said He was alive (verse 23).

The men said that some of their group went to the tomb and found it as the women had said, but they did not see Him (verse 24).

MacArthur reminds us of the hopes of our Lord’s disciples for a temporal Messiah, a powerful king who would overthrow the Romans:

The things about Jesus they describe as, “He being a prophet,” – verse 19 – “mighty in deed and word in the sight of God and all the people, and the chief priests and the rulers delivered Him to the sentence of death, and crucified Him. And we are so disappointed. We were hoping that He was going to be the Redeemer of Israel. And He did say something about rising on the third day, but it’s late in the third day. The third day actually began last night after sundown at six o’clock, and here we are in the late afternoon; nobody has seen Him. Oh, yes, some women came and said that the tomb was empty, and they said an angel told them He was alive. And they also said they met Him and saw Him personally, but we’re not buying it, we’re not buying it.”

They can’t put Jesus in the messianic box, because the Romans killed Him and the Jews, the leadership of the Jews rejected Him. That doesn’t fit their messianic theology. Triumph, glory, kingdom, power, overthrowing enemies, conquering the world, setting up His throne, that’s their messianic theology. It’s a limited theology, a partial theology. They had no place for suffering and death as a sacrifice for sin, even though that dominates the Old Testament. They had conveniently ignored all of that, because they wished for the triumph and the glory, so that’s what they focused on. 

Henry wonders at their limited vision of the Messiah, which is exactly what Jesus homes in on:

see how they made that the ground of their despair which if they had understood it aright was the surest ground of their hope, and that was the dying of the Lord Jesus: We trusted (say they) that it had been he that should have redeemed Israel. And is it not he that doth redeem Israel? Nay, is he not by his death paying the price of their redemption? Was it not necessary, in order to his saving Israel from their sins, that he should suffer? … since that most difficult part of his undertaking was got over, they had more reason than ever to trust that this was he that should deliver Israel; yet now they are ready to give up the cause.

Jesus turned to the men and said (verses 25, 26), ‘Oh, how foolish you are, and how slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have declared! Was it not necessary that the Messiah should suffer these things and then enter into his glory?’

Beginning with Moses and the prophets, Jesus interpreted to them all the things about Himself in the Scriptures (verse 27).

MacArthur explains why Jesus began by asking questions before teaching them:

So in Luke’s gospel, there are about a dozen times when Jesus starts to teach by asking questions, because the learner then has to come to grips with what it is that he knows, what it is that he believes, and where the confusion lies, or where the ignorance is located. And so Jesus begins this encounter of instruction, explaining the Scriptures, by asking questions that elicit from these two their understanding and their confusion.

As we look at the story, we’re going to see it from three perspectives. One, the need for understanding; two, the source of understanding; and three, the result of understanding. The need for understanding, the source for understanding, the result of understanding. Let’s begin with the need for understanding. This is elicited by Jesus in simple questions

God’s design for these two was to hold back that recognition until the time He wanted them to see Him.

This is really important, remarkable. If He had said, “I’m Jesus,” and then explained to them the Scriptures, they would have bought it, they would have lit up, they would have been ecstatic and thrilled to hear from Him. But He didn’t do that, because I think He wanted to explain to them the Scriptures while they still thought He was just a stranger, so that they and all of us would understand that the power is in the explanation, not the person.

And then He revealed the person. And this is why in this story you not only have this amazing account of the post-resurrection appearance of Jesus, but you have this incredible implication coming out of this story of the power of an explanation of the Scripture; and Christ is the model for that. That’s why I say, the most important thing is divine truth. The most important service anybody could ever render then is the meaning of Scripture. That’s what He does to them. Then He reveals who He is.

Henry echoes that sentiment:

Were we but more conversant with the scripture, and the divine counsels as far as they are made known in the scripture, we should not be subject to such perplexities as we often entangle ourselves in.

As they approached the village to which they were going — Emmaus — Jesus walked ahead, as if he were going further (verse 28).

But the men urged Him strongly to stay with them as it was almost evening, so He went in to stay with them (verse 29).

MacArthur says that the men wanted to hear more from Him:

This isn’t about hospitality, this is about more teaching. They’ve had enough to know, they want a lot more. “Stay with us.” They don’t even put a timing element in there: For the night? For the evening? For an hour? “Stay. And He went in to stay with them.”

When He was at table with them, He took bread, blessed it and gave it to them (verse 30).

MacArthur points out the incongruity of this gesture, considering Jesus was a guest and not the host, as he was at the Last Supper:

Now that’s very odd. This is not a communion service, there’s no wine here. Breaking bread was just a way to describe a meal; and the way meals were prepared in those days, you had some kind of gravy-type in a bowl, some kind of soup or pasty kind of mixed fruit and vegetables or whatever, and you dipped bread in it, and you ate it, and that was a common ordinary meal.

But the breaking of the bread and the distributing of the food was the responsibility of the host. If you went to somebody’s house for dinner, a total stranger, you walked in, you wouldn’t say, “Now sit down while I go in the kitchen and serve you.” It would be ridiculous. In fact, it would be inappropriate. In fact, it might be a bit rude.

Why does He do this? Well, we aren’t told; but the only assumption I can make is because they didn’t have any interest in eating; and Jesus was just being kind to them. They didn’t want to stop long enough to do anything: get the bread, break the bread, pass the bread, or put the bread in their mouths. I don’t know if you’ve had that experience; it’s a rather common experience to those of us who dive down deeply into the Word of God to have little or no interest in eating. It’s not some kind of a spiritual experience in itself, it’s just that the Word becomes so rich and so wonderful that there’s nothing that can draw you away. And I think He did what needed to be done for their sake in an act of kindness. And also, to let them know that they weren’t intruding on Him if they ate. They don’t know who He is yet.

Then their eyes were opened, and they recognised Him; He vanished from their sight (verse 31).

MacArthur refers us back to the divine intervention in verse 16:

Verse 31 says this: “And their eyes were opened and they recognized Him.” Passive verb again. Their eyes were opened in the same way that their – verse 16 – eyes were prevented. This is something that happens to them. Again, nobody that saw Jesus after the resurrection really recognized Him unless God opened their eyes. But there are some elements that aid them in the process.

Why would they have recognized Him in the breaking of the bread? Well, the simple answer is because God let them recognize Him. But I think added to that simple answer is, in the familiar confines of this little house, seated at a table, as Jesus broke the bread and prayed, can’t you imagine that they began to see and hear some things that sounded familiar? That there was familiarity in the way He did it? And we would have to wonder what the prayer was like. And I can tell you how it started: “O” – what’s the next word? – “Father,” – because all His prayers did.

Did they recognize Him in the familiarity of the table and the customary way in which He did that? Did they recognize Him in the prayer and the blessing? I think maybe more than that in the flickering candlelight. Did they, because He had a robe that was loose, did they see some fresh wounds in His hands or His wrists? I think they probably did, and they knew He was alive.

Again, from the depths of despair to the transcendent heights of joy, they recognized Him. And He vanished out of their sight …

They had hoped He would be their Redeemer, and turns out He was; and all the Scripture now made sense.

They said to each other (verse 32), ‘Were not our hearts burning within us while he was talking to us on the road, while he was opening the scriptures to us?’

MacArthur describes what they were feeling at that point and the amazing truth of it:

By the way, these are the two most brilliant biblical scholars on the planet, at least in the afternoon on Sunday, because nobody else knows what they know. Nobody in Judaism knows it: no priest, no rabbi, no scribe, nobody. You talk about your moment in the sun; this was it, this was it …

That same hour, they got up and returned to Jerusalem, where they found the eleven — Apostles — and their companions gathered together (verse 33).

MacArthur explains their palpable excitement:

What lit their hearts on fire was an understanding of Scripture. That’s why I say the most important thing in the world is the Scripture; and therefore the greatest service that could ever be rendered to anybody is to explain to them the Scripture, the meaning of the Scripture. This is the only thing you could call Christian ministry, gospel ministry: explaining the Scripture. And it produces a burning heart.

What is that burning? It’s the burning of joy; and the joy is so overwhelming and overpowering that they jumped up from the table when Jesus disappeared, turned right around in the pitch black, and headed back to Jerusalem to declare that He was alive and that it all made sense, it all made sense. Jesus is alive and the Scripture is alive. Their fired hearts came from Him explaining, opening up the Scriptures. And it turned into a zeal to preach the message, proclaim the message.

What we’re talking about here is joy and testimony. Two things that flow out of this: when your heart’s on fire because you understand the Scripture, you have an internal joy, because you know it’s the truth; and your salvation is secure, and you can’t contain it, so you run to spread the fire.

They — those gathered together in Jerusalem — were saying (verse 34) to the men, ‘The Lord has risen indeed, and he has appeared to Simon!’ Simon means Peter.

MacArthur elaborates:

Now the two from Emmaus think they have a scoop. Okay? They think they’ve got the news these people have really been waiting to hear, and that they have more credibility than the women, because in the culture women didn’t give testimony in a court of law. So they’re men. But they’re surprised. It says, “They returned to Jerusalem, found gathered together the eleven and those who were with them.”

Now just to give you a little scene here, they go to wherever this is. The door is locked and bolted, John tells us in John 20, because they’re afraid, they’re hiding from the Jews, afraid they’re going to get them. So they’re banging on the door. “It’s Cleopas and” – whoever else – “it’s us; we’re here, we’re here. We have something to tell you; we have something to tell you. Let us in; let us in.”

So they open the door and they let them in. And then notice this, the end of verse 33: “Those who were with them,” – the eleven and those who were with them – “saying,” – very important. It’s the eleven and those who were with them who now speak. The use of the Greek verb form is accusative rather than nominative. If it was nominative it would mean the two were speaking. Because it’s accusative, it means the object is speaking. So it is them who are speaking, it’s in the accusative case. So they go in ready to blurt out their incredible news, and everybody on the inside says, “The Lord has really risen and appeared to Simon.”

This is one up on them. They’re just Cleopas and the no-name. I mean the most convincing appearance would be to be to Simon, Simon Peter the leader. So before they can shout their joy, before they can dispense the thrill, tell their story, in their face comes this testimony, “The Lord has really arisen.” Truly, indeed, it’s an emphatic word: “been risen.” Again, it’s a divine passive, “been raised and appeared to Simon.” This is the only time in the four Gospels you hear about that appearance to Simon. The actual appearance isn’t narrated.

Wouldn’t you love to know what Jesus said to Peter?

So would MacArthur, but then he assumes that Jesus probably rebuked Peter and, for the sake of graciousness, the Holy Spirit excluded it from Scripture:

I would love to have heard what the Lord said to him, because Peter had not done well that week. Right? He had done about as badly as anybody could possibly do: triple denier, scattered, doesn’t even go to the cross, hiding. He’s part of the reason that none of the others believed the testimony of the women, because he didn’t believe it. And leaders are leaders, and followers are followers, and he was the leader. And the Lord had said to him, “Satan desires to have you” – Luke 22 – “to sift you like wheat; and I’ve given him permission to do that.”

This is confrontation, folks. And maybe it’s not recorded because God is just being gracious to Peter. I don’t know what the rebuke was, but I’m sure it was pretty stern. Silence, to me, is gracious to the denying coward. And it also tells us that all of that is in the past and it’s all forgiven. It really doesn’t matter; that’s over, that’s gone. Peter was restored, and he got it, boy, did he get it. His first letter, 1 Peter 1:3, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His great mercy has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.” He got it.

Then Cleopas and the other man told the group of their experience on the way to Emmaus and how Jesus had manifested Himself to them in the breaking of the bread (verse 35).

MacArthur describes the scene:

You know, it’s just a simple sentence in how He was recognized by them in the breaking of the bread. How long would that take? I mean if you were telling that story, I know what it would be. Like, “You know, we left,” – and you want to build it up, right? – “and we walk, and we had walked about a mile-and-a-half, two miles, and we were talking about this.”

“Man, what happened? Well, how did you know He was there? Well, where did He come from? How did He show up?” I mean this would not be just – you know, people didn’t talk like the Bible narrative. They were real people having real conversations in a room full of people, and this was the most important information they had ever had in their lives. So it must have been a wondrous thing for them to talk about all the experiences along the road, and pointing to some of the Old Testament passages that He clarified in regard to the Messiah having to suffer and die, and how they sat down at the table and He broke the bread, and it was revealed who He was, and then He vanished out of their sight.

And what I want you to see in this opening section is everybody’s got the same testimony: “We saw Him; we saw Him. It was Him; it was Him. He’s alive; He’s alive; He’s alive.” Very consistent, consistent appearances and consistent professions of having seen Him.

That takes us to a second point, we’ll call this confounding presence, just for a little alliteration. Somewhere in the telling, these two people have already been upstaged once by Simon; they’re about to get upstaged again big time.

This is because while they were talking, Jesus appeared in their midst (Luke 24:36-49):

36 While they were still talking about this, Jesus himself stood among them and said to them, ‘Peace be with you.’

37 They were startled and frightened, thinking they saw a ghost. 38 He said to them, ‘Why are you troubled, and why do doubts rise in your minds? 39 Look at my hands and my feet. It is I myself! Touch me and see; a ghost does not have flesh and bones, as you see I have.’

40 When he had said this, he showed them his hands and feet. 41 And while they still did not believe it because of joy and amazement, he asked them, ‘Do you have anything here to eat?’ 42 They gave him a piece of broiled fish, 43 and he took it and ate it in their presence.

44 He said to them, ‘This is what I told you while I was still with you: everything must be fulfilled that is written about me in the Law of Moses, the Prophets and the Psalms.’

45 Then he opened their minds so they could understand the Scriptures. 46 He told them, ‘This is what is written: the Messiah will suffer and rise from the dead on the third day, 47 and repentance for the forgiveness of sins will be preached in his name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem. 48 You are witnesses of these things. 49 I am going to send you what my Father has promised; but stay in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high.’

MacArthur says that John 20 records the same scene:

John chapter 20, verse 19, who’s describing the same scene: “So when it was evening on the first day of the week, when the doors were shut” – bolted – “where the disciples were for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood in their midst.” And by the way, He did the same thing a week later for Thomas’ sake, according to John 20, and verse 26

You say, “So why does it say in verse 37 they were startled and frightened and thought they were seeing a spirit?” Because, not because of what He looked like, but because of, “How did He get there?” He just “whoosh” is there in a locked room; that’s the shock.

It wasn’t the thing that happened to the soldiers at the tomb who were knocked into a coma by a blazing angel. It was just that He was there, and a second ago He wasn’t there. And they were startled, ptoeō is the Greek verb. It means “to be suddenly startled.” And then emphobos from which we get phobias, fears. It means “to be in a continued state of fear.”

They were stunned and startled and shocked into a condition of terror. That is a natural reaction.

What a marvellous record — and reminder for us — of the joy of Easter. Note Luke 24:45, in particular: ‘He opened their minds so they could understand the Scriptures’.

May we, too, come to understand them so as to avoid, as Henry says, being ‘subject to such perplexities as we often entangle ourselves in’.


Giotto Wikipedia 220px-Giotto_-_Scrovegni_-_-19-_-_Presentation_at_the_TempleThe feast of Candlemas — the presentation of Jesus at the temple — is February 2.

However, a number of Anglican churches designated Sunday, February 5, 2023, as Candlemas.

Pictured at left is Giotto’s representation of the event, with Simeon holding the Christ Child and Anna the prophetess on his right.

Candlemas always falls on February 2, because it is, in the Church calendar, the 40th day after Jesus’s birth. According to Jewish law (Leviticus 12, Exodus 13:12-15), Mary would have had to complete her ritual purification prior to accompanying Joseph and Jesus to the Temple. The presence of the infant Jesus, although circumcised and formally named (January 1), was required so that the priests could conduct the ceremony of the redemption of the firstborn. In those days, Mary and Joseph would also have brought an animal sacrifice. They could only afford a pair of turtledoves.

As the Holy Family had to travel from Nazareth to Jerusalem on foot, it would have probably taken them three days one way. Therefore, it was no light undertaking.

Luke tells us that there were two holy, elderly people present: Simeon and Anna (Hannah, in Hebrew). Simeon’s prayer over Jesus became the Nunc Dimittis (or Canticle of Simeon). It can be found in Luke 2:22-40:

Lord, now lettest Thou Thy servant depart in peace; according to Thy word: for mine eyes have seen Thy salvation, which Thou hast prepared before the face of all people: to be a light to lighten the gentiles and to be the glory of Thy people Israel.

You can read more about Candlemas here.

Simeon and Anna the prophetess are the focal points in Luke’s account.

Luke tells us that the Holy Spirit moved through Simeon, a devout man who had no time for worldly religion or temporal deliverance. He was, in the traditional Jewish sense of the term, ‘waiting for the consolation of Israel’, the Messiah. Luke describes Simeon as ‘righteous’, meaning ‘right with God’ (verse 25).

Indeed, Simeon was so close to God that the Holy Spirit revealed that he would not die until he saw the Son of God (verse 26).

You can read more about Simeon here and here.

When Anna heard Simeon’s prayer, she knew that this infant was the Messiah.

Luke describes Anna as a prophetess. She is unlikely to have received divine revelation directly. It is more probable that she was a lay minister for women, either teaching them or praying with them. She would have had no teaching authority over men.

Anna lived at the temple and was known for her holiness. She spoke of God and Scripture, little else. She was a widow for most of her life and might have been a lay minister to women.

You can read more about her here. Anna was one of six prophetesses in the Bible. You can read about them here.

Our church was one of many Anglican churches that kept their Nativity scenes up past Christmas. Candlemas, or the Sunday when it is celebrated, is the very last day to see them until they reappear on Christmas Eve.


Forbidden Bible Verses will appear on Monday.

Reign of Christ — Christ the King — Sunday is on November 20, 2022.

Readings for Year C can be found here.

The Gospel reading is as follows (emphases mine):

Luke 23:33-43

23:33 When they came to the place that is called The Skull, they crucified Jesus there with the criminals, one on his right and one on his left.

23:34 Then Jesus said, “Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing.” And they cast lots to divide his clothing.

23:35 And the people stood by, watching; but the leaders scoffed at him, saying, “He saved others; let him save himself if he is the Messiah of God, his chosen one!”

23:36 The soldiers also mocked him, coming up and offering him sour wine,

23:37 and saying, “If you are the King of the Jews, save yourself!”

23:38 There was also an inscription over him, “This is the King of the Jews.”

23:39 One of the criminals who were hanged there kept deriding him and saying, “Are you not the Messiah? Save yourself and us!”

23:40 But the other rebuked him, saying, “Do you not fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation?

23:41 And we indeed have been condemned justly, for we are getting what we deserve for our deeds, but this man has done nothing wrong.”

23:42 Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.”

23:43 He replied, “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in Paradise.”

Commentary comes from Matthew Henry and John MacArthur.

Apologies in advance for another long post, but what our commentators have to say will open our eyes to the true depth of this reading.

John MacArthur says that the story of the penitent thief is found only in Luke’s Gospel:

The story of the penitent thief is not in Matthew, Mark or John.  It is only in Luke.  This is all we have.  And in a sense, as we look at verses 39 to 43 and consider this miraculous conversion of a thief hanging on a cross next to Jesus, we might conclude that this is a rather cryptic account Perhaps we would wish that Matthew had given us another look at it or Mark or both or John, but this is all we have …

we come to the conversion at Calvary, the story of the salvation of a crucified thief.  And as I said, as you first look at it, it seems a bit brief and perhaps not very revealing, but you will find by the time we’re done that it is anything but that.

MacArthur explains that our Lord’s crucifixion was set up to play out as a comedy for both Romans and Jews:

I understand that’s a stunning notion, that this is a comedy, but it is precisely that which was intended by the crucifiers.  To them, Jesus was an object of absolute ridicule.  As a king, he was laughable.  This whole thing was intended to be a mockery of the fact that he was a king.  He had no army.  He had no sovereignty over anything or any place.  He had meager and minimal followers.  He had conquered no one and nothing and delivered no one.  There was nothing about him that looked as if he was a massive power, but rather he was increasingly weaker and weaker and weaker And so the whole thing was so comedic they turned it into a kind of burlesque.  Here, those that are gathered around the cross are mocking, sneering and hurling abuse at Jesus with sarcasm.  They’re endeavoring to treat the Son of God with as much dishonor as they can muster, with as much disrespect and disdain and shame as they can possibly generate. 

Along with Judas’s betrayal a few days beforehand, this is one of history’s greatest sins. Both show how horrible spiritual blindness truly is:

Here is sin at its apex.  Here is sin at its ultimate.  Here is blasphemy at its pinnacle.  Mocking deity, sneering at the incarnate God, and with glib satisfaction piling sarcastic scorn on the Creator and the Redeemer – the true King; the true Messiah.  Sinners cannot to worse than this.  Nothing that sinners can do could more offend God than this.  Blasphemy can’t be worse than this.  We might ask that in light of the heinousness of this, maybe this is time for God to act.  We should be expecting a holy, righteous God to react to this kind of ultimate blasphemy by pouring out wrath and vengeance and fury on those who are perpetrating this on him …

Judgment will come 40 years after this in the destruction of Jerusalem by the Romans.  Many, if not most of these people, gather today who are still alive 40 years later will perish in that judgment.  Many will die before that ever comes.  But doesn’t this seem like an undue patience?  Just how tolerant is holiness?  Just how patient is righteousness?  Just how enduring is divine mercy and grace?  If ever there seemed to be a time when God’s wrath would be justified if it came swiftly, this would be it.

Well, in a strange irony, His judgment did come swiftly at the cross, but it didn’t come on the crowd, it came on Jesus on behalf of those who blasphemed him.  The Old Testament is clear about blasphemy.  It says this in Leviticus 24:16, “Anybody who blasphemes my name shall die.”  It is a capital crime to blaspheme the name of God.  They are blasphemers.  They know that.  They’re content to blaspheme Him, to pronounce curses on Him, to heap abuse on Him.  That is exactly what they are doing.  In a perverted twist, however, they accuse him of being the blasphemer.  When earlier in his ministry Jesus demonstrated the power to forgive sin, Matthew 9, they said this man blasphemes.  You come to the end of Matthew – or toward the end of Matthew in chapter 26, Jesus says, “You’ve said it yourself, nevertheless I tell you that you shall see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of power and coming on the clouds of heaven.  And the high priest tore at his robes saying, “He has blasphemed.  What further need do we have of witnesses.  Behold, you have heard the blasphemy.  He is deserving of death.”  And they spit in his face and beat him with their fists and slapped him.

They are the blasphemers, but in a perverted twist, they make him into the blasphemer and they are the ones who think they’re upholding righteousness

MacArthur reminds us of God’s infinite patience:

When you run out of patience, God does not.  When you look, at something and think the patience of God must be exhausted because my patience would have been long ago exhausted, God’s is not.  And the answer is that God is far beyond us, infinitely beyond us, in how He thinks and how He acts.  The uniqueness of God is this: when He is massively offended and when He is relentlessly offended, He still comes to the offenders, and warning them of the judgment to come offers them forgiveness and mercy and grace and compassion and makes them His children and takes them to His holy heaven forever.  It is that God who is hanging on the cross.  That God whose patience is far beyond ours because His ways are not our ways, His thoughts are not our thoughts.  The stunning contrast at Calvary is the contrast between the merciless insults of the crowd and the merciful intersession of the Christ, and those are the two points I want you to look at.  The merciless insults of the crowd, verse 35.  We’re going to look at the merciless insults of the crowd.  The crowd is made up of four groups.  There’s the people, the leaders, the soldiers and the thieves and they all have the same response to Jesus.  They’re literally without sympathy.  They are heartless, cruel, brutal.

When the Romans — ‘they’ — came to the place that is called The Skull, or Golgotha, they crucified Jesus with the two criminals, one on His right and one on His left (verse 33).

Matthew Henry’s commentary says:

he was crucified at a place called Calvary, Kranion, the Greek name for Golgotha—the place of a skull: an ignominious place, to add to the reproach of his sufferings, but significant, for there he triumphed over death as it were upon his own dunghill. He was crucified. His hands and feet were nailed to the cross as it lay upon the ground, and it was then lifted up, and fastened into the earth, or into some socket made to receive it. This was a painful and shameful death above any other.

Our Lord’s place in the middle of the two men was significant:

he was crucified in the midst between two thieves, as if he had been the worst of the three. Thus he was not only treated as a transgressor, but numbered with them, the worst of them.

Jesus interceded to His Father asking Him to forgive them because they didn’t know what they were doing; the soldiers cast lots to divide His clothing (verse 34).

MacArthur says that casting lots for a criminal’s belongings was normal:

That’s standard procedure, by the way.  The executioners were given the right to keep the possessions, the final possessions of clothing and things of the people who were executed.  That was sort of a small job benefit, I guess, a perk.  Now there’s a little more detail on this back in John because John gives us some insight into exactly what the soldiers did.  In 19 John 23, “The soldiers, therefore, when they crucified Jesus, took his outer garments and made four parts.”  There would be four parts.  There would be four garments that a man would wear in that day.  There would be an outer cloak that you kept warm with, like a jacket, and you slept on and used as a blanket.  There would be shoes or sandals.  There would be a headpiece.  There would be a sash or a belt.  Four pieces. 

Psalm 22 prophesied this would happen:

We know that there were four Roman soldiers assigned to a crucifixion.  If you look in 12 Acts 4, you read about a squad of Romans.  It’s a quaternion made up of four In fact a full one was four units of four, so it’s very likely that there were four soldiers in a death squad That’s why the four garments could be divided one to each of the four, but there was also a tunic which would have been his regular garment and the tunic was seamless, woven in one piece, so they said let’s not tear it.  Let’s cast lots for it to decide whose it shall be.  That the scripture might be fulfilled they divided my outer garments among them and for my clothing they cast lots.  That, too, in Psalm 22. 

Out of the four groups of people there that MacArthur wants us to look at, we see the soldiers first:

We might expect cruelty out of Roman soldiers because they did this all the time. 

The people stood by watching, and the leaders scoffed at Jesus, saying that if He saved others, let Him save Himself if He is the Messiah of God, His Chosen One (verse 35).

Here Luke shows us the crowd and the leaders.

Remember that every Jew possible was in Jerusalem for the Passover, so it was a huge crowd.

Of them, MacArthur gives us something to think about:

these are the people, probably, who had been healed by Jesus of certain diseases.  These might be people who had had experiences of other miracles that Jesus had performed in the area of Judea and Jerusalem, and there were lots of them from, of all places, Galilee in the north.  There may have been, and surely were, people in the crowd who were fed among the 5,000 when Jesus made the food.  There were certainly people who knew well those who had been healed, maybe been given their hearing or their sight, or raised up to walk from a state of paralysis.  I mean wouldn’t we expect to find something sympathetic out of them and didn’t they hear Jesus teaching, and didn’t they experience the meekness and gentleness of Christ and the love of Christ that was so manifest in the beauty and magnificence of what he taught? 

But even the crowd is merciless.  You say, “Wait a minute.  All it says in that verse is the people stood by looking on.”  Well, that’s not all that can be said about the merciless crowd, I’m sorry to say.  This is a large crowd.  They’ve come from everywhere.  It’s Passover.  The city has swelled by hundreds of thousands of people and the crowd moving toward Calvary from the public trial early in the morning is growing and growing and growing, because Jesus is the most popular person in the country by far and he’s drawing a massive crowd that are now collected around the cross.  These are people who were there to hail him as the potential king on Monday when he came into the city.  They were the same people who were there to scream, “Crucify him!  Crucify him!” earlier in the day, and now they sort of appear to be exhausted, I guess, sort of blank stares from what Luke tells us.  But Matthew and Mark tell us more.  Matthew and Mark tell us what we need to know.  Matthew 27:39, “And those passing by, the milling crowd, were hurling abuse at him, wagging their heads, a gesture of taunting, and saying, “You who are going to destroy the temple and rebuild it in three days, save yourself.  If you are the son of God, come down from the cross in the same way,” the priests, etc.

MacArthur thinks the leaders influenced the crowd:

Mark 15 verse 29, “And those passing by the milling crowd were hurling abuse at him saying, “Ha!” Wagging their heads, “You are going to destroy the temple and rebuild it in three days.  Save yourself and come down from the cross.”  Again, in the same way which sorts out the rulers from the passing, milling crowd.  The crowd were in it.  They had been orchestrated by the leaders.  They’re easily seduced by their evil hearts of unbelief, easily seduced by the manipulation of their leaders.  They’d picked up the comedic game and they pour out the venomous sarcasm on Jesus.  They never do the right thing, this crowd.  They haven’t done the right thing all week.  Here they’re just vicious, merciless, to the merciful son of God.  It’s amazing.  It’s amazing.  This is the worst possible conduct by the people of Israel.  So the merciless crowd, then the merciless rulers – back to Luke 23:35, “And even the rulers were sneering at him.”  Of course they had orchestrated all of it, “Saying he has saved others, let him save himself if this is the Christ of God, His Chosen One.”  Then they use to Messianic terms, The Christ of God, the Anointed; the word Messiah, and His Chosen One a Messianic title taken from Daniel chapter 9 The Old Testament expressions related to the Messiah are in reference – in general reference when they use the term the Christ of God.  The specific words, “His Chosen One” comes from Daniel 9 and definitely is a Messianic title. 

The soldiers joined in the mocking, offering him sour wine (verse 36) in His moment of greatest thirst and taunting Him, saying that if He were the King of the Jews, He should save Himself (verse 37).

Of the sour wine, Henry says it was a taunting invitation to drink with them:

They mocked him (v. 36, 37); they made sport with him, and made a jest of his sufferings; and when they were drinking sharp sour wine themselves, such as was generally allotted them, they triumphantly asked him if he would pledge them, or drink with them.

MacArthur discusses the Greek word for ‘taunt’ and the sour wine:

The actual Greek word empaiz is to taunt.  Inflicting even more pain on him to his face as he hangs in agony.  And in a mock act of obeisance and service to him as if he were a king, they offer him sour wine Now there are a couple of occasions that are clearly identified when Christ was crucified in which he was offered something to drink.  The first one was when they got him to the place to be crucified, you remember they offered him a drink that had a sedative in it, that would probably be used to sedate the person a little bit so it would be easier to nail him to the cross and he wouldn’t fight And Jesus refused that, remember? 

And then when he comes to the very end of his dying, six hours later, at the very end, at 3:00 in the afternoon when he’s about to die, he says, “I’m thirsty,” and they lift up to him a drink on a sponge on the end of a stick.  This seems to me to be something different from both of those.  This seems to me to be part of the game they were playing.  This is certainly not their giving him the wine in response to his asking.  This does not appear to be the sedative because he’s already there and the mockery is already full scale.  It seems to me that they are offering him sour wine and saying at the same time, if you’re the King of the Jews, save yourself.  It’s a pretend act of obeisance, as if they were bringing royal wine to the king.  The mockery just reaches ultimate proportions.  Roman soldiers drank a cheap form of wine.  They offered it to him, mimicking the rulers, mimicking the people, spewing out the same taunts.

MacArthur looks at Matthew’s account and prophecies from the Old Testament:

According to Matthew’s account, Matthew 27:42, “He saved others, he can’t save himself.  He is the King of Israel.  Let him now come down from the cross and we’ll all believe him.  He trusts in God, let Him deliver him now if he is taking pleasure in him, for he said, “I am the son of God.”  You know, they say these things and they just have no idea what they’re saying.  Listen to this.  Psalm 22 looks at the cross of Christ.  It’s prophecy.  It starts out this way.  Here’s the beginning of 22 Psalm, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”  Does that sound familiar?  The very words of Jesus on the cross. But go down to verse seven, 22nd Psalm 7, “A reproach of men despised by the people, all who see me sneer at me.  They separate with the lip.  They wag the head.”  That’s exactly what they did.  “Saying commit yourself to the Lord.  Let Him deliver him. Let Him rescue him because he delights in him.”  All that sarcasm was predicted in the Psalm.  They fulfilled it to the letter. 

They knew about the title of the Chosen One, because Jesus had applied it to Himself during His ministry:

… you can go back to the ninth chapter of Luke and in verses 20 and 35 you will see that Jesus did take the title The Christ of God and he did take the title His Chosen One.  They knew he claimed it.

Paul said that the Jews would find Jesus to be a stumbling block and the Gentiles would find Him foolish, things that are still true today. MacArthur addresses that and dying on a tree, the ultimate curse for a Jew:

Remember, Paul says in 1 Corinthians 1 that a crucified Messiah is to a Jew a stumbling block, and of course to the gentile, foolishnessThey thought of someone hanging on a tree according to 21 Deuteronomy 23 as cursed by God and Jesus was cursed by God, and so they heap on him all the scorn of this notion that he is the true Messiah and King that they’ve been waiting for.  How could that possibly be true?  It’s absurd.  The leaders orchestrate this and egg on the mindless crowd.  Little did they know, as I said, that he was being cursed by God That was true.  Further, 53 Isaiah 4 says, “He was smitten by God and afflicted,” and verse 10 says, “The Lord was pleased to crush him, putting him to death.”  Paul looks back on that and said he was made a curse for us But it was all nonsense to the people. 

Henry says this mocking of Jesus was a moment of unity between Roman and Jew:

… they said, If thou be the king of the Jews, save thyself; for, as the Jews prosecuted him under the notion of a pretended Messiah, so the Romans under the notion of a pretended king.

There was an inscription over Jesus: ‘This is the King of the Jews’ (verse 38).

Although Luke doesn’t say so, it was written in Latin, Greek and Hebrew. Our commentators place great emphasis on it being in those three languages.

Henry says that it was part of God’s plan to spread the Gospel:

That the superscription over his head, setting forth his crime, was, This is the King of the Jews, v. 38. He is put to death for pretending to be the king of the Jews; so they meant it; but God intended it to be a declaration of what he really was, notwithstanding his present disgrace: he is the king of the Jews, the king of the church, and his cross is the way to his crown. This was written in those that were called the three learned languages, Greek, and Latin, and Hebrew, for those are best learned that have learned Christ. It was written in these three languages that it might be known and read of all men; but God designed by it to signify that the gospel of Christ should be preached to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem, and be read in all languages. The Gentile philosophy made the Greek tongue famous, the Roman laws and government made the Latin tongue so, and the Hebrew excelled them all for the sake of the Old Testament. In these three languages is Jesus Christ proclaimed king. Young scholars, that are taking pains at school to make themselves masters of these three languages, should aim at this, that in the use of them they may increase their acquaintance with Christ.

MacArthur explains why Pontius Pilate wanted the inscription to read just that:

We know historically that when people were crucified, their crime was posted and since Jesus committed no crime there could be no crime posted over him So Pilate decided what was going to go on the sign Pilate, 19 John 19, Pilate wrote an inscription and put it on the cross.  This was Pilate’s thing and this is what it said, “Jesus, the Nazarene” or Jesus of Nazareth, “The King of the Jews.”  If you combine Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, it actually says, “This is Jesus of Nazareth, The King of the Jews.”  It was all placarded there.  Well, therefore this inscription many of the Jews read for the place Jesus was crucified was near the city, again reason for the huge crowd.  It was written in Hebrew, Latin and Greek.  Pilate wanted everybody to know it and so the chief priests and the Jews were saying to Pilate, “Do not write the King of the Jews, but that he said, “I am King of the Jews.”  Pilate answered, “What I have written I have written.”  Pilate wouldn’t change it because this is Pilate’s way to mock them.  They had mocked him.  They had backed him into the proverbial corner and blackmailed him into a executing a man he knew was innocent.  Even his wife said wash your hands of this innocent man.  Pilate said multiple times, “I find no fault in him.”  Herod found no crime.  And Pilate had been made to look like a fool and he wasn’t going to leave it at that, so he wanted to turn the tables and make them look like fools.  It was Pilate’s little joke.  This is Jesus of Nazareth, the King of the Jews.  They said take that down and put up he said he’s the King of the Jews and he said what I have written I have written.  So you have the people mocking Jesus and Pilate mocking the people.

Then we meet the last group, the two criminals on crosses next to Jesus.

One of them also joined in the mocking, saying Jesus that, if He were the Messiah, He should save Himself — and them (verse 39).

MacArthur tells us that in Matthew’s and Mark’s accounts, both thieves had been mocking our Lord:

One of the thieves, only one is quoted by Luke, but Matthew and Mark tell us the rest of the story.  Here’s what Matthew says, 27 Matthew 44, “The robbers were also insulting him with the same words,” both of them; plural.  15 Mark 32, “Those who were crucified with him were also insulting him.”  They both joined in; the whole crowd, all the rulers, all the soldiers, both thieves.  All Luke does is record for us what one of the two said, but they were both involved.  “Are you not the Christ?” again with scorn and sarcasm, “Save yourself and us.” 

The silent thief rebuked the other, asking him if he did not fear God, for both were under the same sentence of condemnation (verse 40).

The penitent thief told his companion that both of them were justly condemned but that ‘this man’ — Jesus — had done nothing wrong (verse 41).

Henry points to divine grace in the spiritual transformation of the penitent thief:

2. He owns that he deserves what was done to him: We indeed justly. It is probable that they both suffered for one and the same crime, and therefore he spoke with the more assurance, We received the due reward of our deeds. This magnifies divine grace, as acting in a distinguishing way. These two have been comrades in sin and suffering, and yet one is saved and the other perishes; two that had gone together all along hitherto, and yet now one taken and the other left. He does not say, Thou indeed justly, but We. Note, True penitents acknowledge the justice of God in all the punishments of their sin. God has done right, but we have done wickedly. 3. He believes Christ to have suffered wrongfully. Though he was condemned in two courts, and run upon as if he had been the worst of malefactors, yet this penitent thief is convinced, by his conduct in his sufferings, that he has done nothing amiss, ouden atoponnothing absurd, or unbecoming his character. The chief priests would have him crucified between the malefactors, as one of them; but this thief has more sense than they, and owns he is not one of them. Whether he had before heard of Christ and of his wonderous works does not appear, but the Spirit of grace enlightened him with this knowledge, and enabled him to say, This man has done nothing amiss.

MacArthur describes what happened to the penitent thief physically and spiritually:

As the hours passed on the cross, one of the two most thoroughly degenerate people on the mountain, at the scene, a man devoted to violent robbery, a wicked criminal, has a massive transformation.  It is shocking; 180 degrees.  His taunting goes silent and while his body is in horrible trauma and agony, the unparalleled suffering of crucifixion, his mind might be assumed to go foggy as he tries to deal with the pain.  And as some kind of shock would set in, just to protect him from agonies that would be totally unbearable, and we know the body has the capacity to send us into shock in order to mitigate those kinds of excruciating experiences, but in the moment of the worst imaginable kind of agony, his mind becomes crystal clear with a clarity and perception of reality and truth that he’d never experienced in his life.  With a clarity and a perception of truth and reality that he hadn’t experienced a moment before.  Something has happened.  All of a sudden, he turns to his friend and rebukes him for doing what he had just been doing.  What has happened?

I’ll tell you what has happened.  A divine, sovereign miracle has happened.  There is no other explanation.  You want a parallel to this?  Paul on the Damascus Road.  That’s the best parallel.  His thoughts of Jesus are thoughts of hate.  His thoughts toward those who confess the name of Jesus are thoughts of persecution and execution.  Paul has papers.  He’s on his way to Damascus to persecute and execute those who named the name of Christ.  And while he’s on his way with his papers in his hand, God invades his life, slams him to the dirt, blinds him and saves him That’s how salvation works, folks.  It is a sovereign miracle.  Not always that dramatic, but sometimes that dramatic

The penitent thief is a form of the Prodigal Son:

If you want to connect this with somebody else, this man would be the prodigal This is a wicked man, but all of a sudden in the moment he is dramatically transformed and it becomes immediately evident what has happened.  He goes from blaspheming Jesus to being horrified at the other criminal blaspheming Jesus.  His whole perception of how you treat Jesus is completely changed and that’s where the story begins The other criminal has had no such change, hanging there hurling abuse at Jesus with the same mocking sarcasm, “Are you not the Christ?  Save yourself and us.”  It must have shocked him to hear from the other side of Jesus, his friend, verse 40, who answered and rebuking him said, “Do you not even fear God since you’re under the same sentence of condemnation?  And we, indeed, justly for we’re receiving what we deserve for our deeds.  But this man has done nothing wrong.”  This must have been a shock to the other thief who was hurling the abuse.  What happened to you?  What happened to you since you were nailed up there?  The transformed man finds the taunts coming out of the mouth of his companion criminal repulsive to him and frightening to him and they had just come out of his mouth.  What this man says is the evidence of his changed heart. Salvation is a divine miracle and it manifests itself There’s a lot more here than you might think. 

First of all, he becomes very, very aware of God and the fear of God Then he openly acknowledges his own sin Then he confesses the sinlessness of Christ and affirms his messiah-ship and his savior-hood It’s an amazing thing.  And all of these are responses to the miraculous sovereign work of the spirit of God on his dark heart.  This is the light of the glorious gospel of Christ shining in the midst of the darkness and dispelling it.  I want to sort of unpack those elements that are the manifest evidences that God has done the work of transformation.  The other sinner, no fear of God, no fear of judgment, no sense of sinfulness, no sense of justice, no sense of guilt, no desire for forgiveness, no longing for righteousness, no desire for reconciliation.  And the thief who has been transformed confronts that tragic condition, which moments before had been his own condition.  He can’t understand it any more.  In a moment of time he went from being a part of it to not being able to comprehend it.  How can you act like that?  How can you talk like that?  Don’t you fear God?  Don’t you know you’re getting what you deserve?  Don’t you know this man is righteous?  What a transformation.  Let’s look a little more closely at it.

While the one criminal is hurling abuse at Jesus, the other answered and rebuking him said – rebuking is a very strong word Epitima He said, “Do you not even fear God?”  Let me tell you the first evidence that God is doing the work of conversion:  the fear of God.  The fear of God.  If someone is converted to Christ, if someone is regenerate and someone is born again, made new, Paul says in 2 Corinthians 5:17 he becomes a new creature, old things pass away and all things become new.  Boy, do we see that here.  And the first thing you see in a real conversion is a heightened awareness that God is a threat.  To be afraid of God, literally to fear God.  He really is not seeking someone to get him off the cross.  He’s not trying to find someone who can save him from physical death.  He wants to make sure he is saved from divine judgment.  His problem is not really what’s happening to him on the earth, it’s what’s going to happen to him when he comes to the throne of God.  He’s a Jew, no doubt, raised to know the laws of God, to understand God – God’s holiness, God’s law, obedience to God’s law.  He is a violator of God’s law.  He is an open violator of God’s law.  He is a known violator of God’s law.  He is a tried and proven violator of God’s law and he’s dying a death that is just and he says it.  And the law of men was a reflection of the law of God, certainly in Israel, and so he knows that if this is what men to do him for breaking the law of God, what in the world is God going to do to me?  All of a sudden he has clarity on what he had learned about the law and guilt and sin and judgment.  He knew he was a violator.  He was internally convicted by the work of the Holy Spirit, to be aware that what he was getting from a human judge was only a small sampling of what he was going to get from a divine judge.  And to add to his guilt, which put him on the cross, you can add that he had been blaspheming the Messiah and he now knows it, producing an even greater guilt From this place of clarity he can’t even imagine that he did that, that he said what he said to Jesus and he can’t understand how his friend can say that.  He says in verse 40, “Do you not even fear God since you’re under the same sentence of condemnation?”  They’re two of a kind.  Look, we’re getting exactly what we deserve.  Don’t you have a fear of what’s going to happen when we wind up before God?  As Jesus said in Luke 12:4-5, “I don’t fear those who destroy the body, but fear him who destroys both soul and body in hell.”  I will tell you this, and you need to remember this, Romans 3:18 says this when it defines the inherent nature of fallen man and his sinfulness, “there’s none righteous, no not one, there’s none that understand, none that is good,” etc.  That text from verse 10 of Romans 3 to verse 18, ends in verse 18 with this statement:  “There is no fear of God in their eyes.”  It is characteristic of the unregenerate not to fear God.  This is a typical unregenerate comment, “I’ve lived a pretty good life.  Certainly God will take me to heaven.”  Like the Jews in Romans 10 who didn’t understand the righteousness of God.  The sinner does not live under the fear of God.  He must be brought under the fear of God by the convicting power of God.  This thief who is still hurling abuse at Jesus has no fear of God like all other sinners.  But the sinner who comes to salvation has been brought by the power of the Spirit of God to a deadly fear of divine judgment And friends, as we communicate the gospel with sinners, you can’t hold back that reality.  The gospel is not telling sinners that Jesus will make them happy or Jesus will give them a better life or Jesus will fix up the pain and bring fulfillment and all of that.  The message of salvation is you are a violator of God’s law and you are headed for eternal punishment under the wrath of God. You’d better fear God.  That’s the message.  And when you see a real conversion, you see this and it’s reminiscent, isn’t it, of Luke 18.  What is the public doing as he pours his head down and looks at the ground and pounds his breast saying, “Lord, be” – what – “merciful to me, a sinner.”  Don’t give me justice.  Don’t give me judgment … 

… All of a sudden, he had crystal clarity in his mind on the fact that he was going to stand before God as a sinner with nothing that could rescue him.  That’s the first evidence of a work of salvation in the heart.  The second one is a sense of one’s sinfulness.  They go together.  The fear of God coupled with a sense of one’s guilt.  Verse 41, we indeed, justly, we’re receiving what we deserve for our deeds.  He says I’m a lawbreaker.  I know that.  It’s a true assessment of his condition.  Like the prodigal, who in getting down with the pigs and trying to eat and be on the brink of death, he says – and Jesus told the story in Luke 15 – he came to his senses That’s where true repentance begins, when you come to your senses.  He’s guilty, he’s aware of his sinfulness, he’s in a sense saying I am a sinner.  I know I am a sinner.  I am receiving what I deserve for my deeds.  This is the attitude of a true repenter.  He understands that if justice is operating in his life, then he is going to get exactly what he’s getting.  No excuses.  He’s not saying I was led astray and there were evil influences in my life.  I was molested when I was four or whatever it might be.  He’s saying look, we’re receiving exactly what we deserve for our deeds.  Justice is operating and it will operate not only in the human world, in the world of men, but it will operate in God’s realm as well.  Spiritual reality makes clear that in spite of the system of Judaism teaching salvation by works, salvation by self effort, salvation by ceremony, etc., the true convert pleads nothing but confesses his utter guilt and absolute bankruptcy.  He has nothing to offer God; nothing to commend himself.  Like the prodigal he comes back stinking and dying.  He needs mercy, he needs grace and he knows it He’s an unworthy sinner.  These are the evidences of a saving work of God He needs mercy and it’s never been this clear.  By the way, sin never becomes as clear to the sinner as when he’s in the presence of righteousness.  Like Isaiah, who in the presence of God, who was holy, holy, holy, said, “damn me, for I am a man of unclean lips.”  He had a clear perception of the judgment of God which he was deserving and a clear perception of his great guilt. 

There’s a third element that becomes in evidence for us of the work of God in his heart and that is that he believed in Christ.  He believed in Christ.  We talk about two things that make up a real conversion repentance under the fear of divine wrath and faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, and we see that.  The things that he says about Christ, though brief, are really quite stunning.  The end of verse 41 he does what the sinner must do.  He compares himself with the perfection of Christ.  “We’re getting exactly what we deserve for our deeds.  But this man has done nothing wrong.”  Here the story moves from an assessment of his own condition to an assessment of Jesus Christ That’s what happens in a true conversion.  And he goes beyond saying Jesus isn’t guilty of the crime for which he’s being crucified to saying something far broader than that.  He has done nothing wrong.  I don’t know how much he knew about all the attempts to try and find a crime for which they could legitimately crucify Christ and they never could find one.  I don’t know what exposure he had to Christ.  I don’t know what he heard other people say about the perfections of Jesus Christ, but our Lord had been on display for three years with all of his perfections and no one had ever been able to lay any legitimate charge against him.  He is given, by the power of the Spirit of God, clarity to understand that he is hanging on a cross as a sinner who is getting what he deserves next to someone who is righteous and is getting what he doesn’t deserve.  He believes, then, in the righteousness of Christ. 

The repentant thief asks Jesus — by name — to remember him when He comes into his kingdom (verse 42).

It’s a highly humble request.

Henry also says the request showed that the man believed in the righteousness of Christ:

1. Observe his faith in this prayerChrist was now in the depth of disgrace, deserted by his own disciples, reviled by his own nation, suffering as a pretender, and not delivered by his Father He made this profession before those prodigies happened which put honour upon his sufferings, and which startled the centurion; yet verily we have not found so great faith, no, not in Israel. He believed another life after this, and desired to be happy in that life, not as the other thief, to be saved from the cross, but to be well provided for when the cross had done its worst. 2. Observe his humility in this prayer. All his request is, Lord, remember me. He does not pray, Lord, prefer me (as they did, Matt 20 21), though, having the honour as none of the disciples had to drink of Christ’s cup and to be baptized with his baptism either on his right hand or on his left in his sufferings when his own disciples had deserted him he might have had some colour to ask as they did to sit on his right hand and on his left in his kingdom. Acquaintance in sufferings has sometimes gained such a point, Jer 52 31, 32. But he is far from the thought of it. All he begs is, Lord, remember me, referring himself to Christ in what way to remember him. It is a request like that of Joseph to the chief butler, Think on me (Gen 40 14), and it sped better; the chief butler forgot Joseph, but Christ remembered this thief. 3. There is an air of importunity and fervency in this prayer. He does, as it were, breathe out his soul in it: Lord, remember me, and I have enough; I desire no more; into thy hands I commit my case.” Note, To be remembered by Christ, now that he is in his kingdom, is what we should earnestly desire and pray for, and it will be enough to secure our welfare living and dying. Christ is in his kingdom, interceding. “Lord, remember me, and intercede for me.” He is there ruling. “Lord, remember me, and rule in me by thy Spirit.” He is there preparing places for those that are his. “Lord, remember me, and prepare a place for me; remember me at death, remember me in the resurrection. See Job 14 13.

MacArthur looks at the thief’s calling Jesus by name:

“Jesus, yeshua.”  What does that mean?  Jehovah saves.  “We shall call him Jesus for he will save his people from their sins,” Matthew 1:21.  Yeshua.  He recognizes Jesus as righteous.  He recognizes Jesus as a source of forgiveness and grace and mercy.  He recognizes that Jesus is so merciful and gracious that he’s not even holding the sin of these people against them, but rather desirous of their forgiveness.  And he sees, I think, all of this with clarity given only by the spirit of God who drew, perhaps out of his background, perhaps out of conversations – who knows where it came from – to focus the clarity because he had to know the truth about Christ.  Then when he says, “Jesus,” there’s a lot in that word.  He recognizes Jesus as the Savior.  How do you know that?  Why would he then ask him to remember him when he comes into his kingdom unless he thought he was the one who could save him?  He doesn’t say to him, “Dear sir, could you find somebody that could save me.”  He doesn’t say, “Could you connect with whoever’s in charge of saving people like me?”  He says, “Jesus.  Yeshua.”  Save me.  Remember.  More than a thought.  We think about remember, it’s a hazy, foggy kind of thing.  That’s not what he’s talking about.  Much, much more than that.  It’s a plea of a broken penitent, an unworthy sinner, for grace and forgiveness.  And what he’s really saying is save me from the judgment of God.  Save me from what I deserve.  Forgive me.  You’ve prayed it.  Can I be one of those that’s in answer to your prayer? 

And then I love this.  Boy, he’s got a pretty comprehensive Christology because he says, “Remember me when you come in your kingdom.”  He’s got the Old Testament eschatology.  What did the Old Testament teach?  That the Messiah would come in the end of the age, gloriously, and establish a kingdom, right, fulfilling all the promises to Abraham, all the promises to David and fulfilling all the reiterated promises of the Old Testament that are rehearsed again and again by the prophets, including the new covenant salvation to Israel, and that there would be a kingdom established on earth that’s defined and described in great detail in the Old Testament …  Nobody survived crucifixion, so he also believed that Jesus would die and what, rise again and bring his kingdom.  That’s pretty good Christology.  That’s exactly what he was saying.  Remember me when you come in your kingdom.  He is saying this isn’t the end of you. Like the Centurion, remember, who says surely this is the son of God He’s convinced.

Jesus replied, beginning with ‘Truly I tell you’ — meaning emphatically and sincerely — that the repentant thief would be that day, with Him, in Paradise (verse 43).

Paradise was the third of the heavens referred to in that era. It meant the highest heaven.

MacArthur discusses our Lord’s reply and promise:

Did he have a right to be with Christ?  Are you kidding me?  With me?  Today.  What had he done to earn it?  Nothing.  He’d be dead before he could do anything.  This is grace, isn’t it?  This is the father kissing the son.  This is full reconciliation; instantaneous.  Today.  Paradise, paradeisos, an old Persian word for garden.  It’s a synonym for heaven.  In 2 Corinthians 12 Paul says in verse two, “I was called up to the third heaven.”  And in verse four he says he was called up to paradise.  Same thing.  Third heaven, first heaven, atmospheric, second heaven, celestial, third heaven the abode of God.  That’s paradise.  Or in relation to seven, Jesus says, “To him who overcomes I will grant the tree of life which is in the paradise of God.”  If you turn to Revelation 21 and 22, the tree of life is in heaven.  So he’s not saying anything but you’re going to be with me in heaven today.  There’s no waiting place.  There’s no transitional place.  Absent from the body, present with the Lord, to depart and be with Christ.  If that is not the great illustration of grace I don’t know what is.  This is a man whose whole life qualified him for hell.  And in one moment a sovereign God swept down, gave him complete clarity on himself and on Christ and by the power of the Holy Spirit rescued him from divine judgment and that same day met him in heaven and fellowshipped with him

Henry has this analysis:

1. Christ here lets us know that he was going to paradise himself, to hades—the invisible world. His human soul was removing to the place of separate souls; not to the place of the damned, but to paradise, the place of the blessed. By this he assures us that his satisfaction was accepted, and the Father was well pleased in him, else he had not gone to paradise; that was the beginning of the joy set before him, with the prospect of which he comforted himself. He went by the cross to the crown, and we must not think of going any other way, or of being perfected but by sufferings. 2. He lets all penitent believers know that when they die they shall go to be with him there. He was now, as a priest, purchasing this happiness for them, and is ready, as a king, to confer it upon them when they are prepared and made ready for it. See here how the happiness of heaven is set forth to us. (1.) It is paradise, a garden of pleasure, the paradise of God (Rev 2 7), alluding to the garden of Eden, in which our first parents were placed when they were innocent. In the second Adam we are restored to all we lost in the first Adam, and more, to a heavenly paradise instead of an earthly one. (2.) It is being with Christ there. That is the happiness of heaven, to see Christ, and sit with him, and share in his glory, John 17 24. (3.) It is immediate upon death: This day shalt thou be with me, to-night, before to-morrow. Thou souls of the faithful, after they are delivered from the burden of the flesh, immediately are in joy and felicity; the spirits of just men are immediately made perfect. Lazarus departs, and is immediately comforted; Paul departs, and is immediately with Christ, Phil 1 23.

What an amazing illustration of forgiveness, divine grace and salvation.

MacArthur has an interesting observation on the Jews’ misunderstanding of Passover during that era. This ties in with the Crucifixion:

There’s another irony, that the Jews want him dead so they can get on with the celebration of the Passover that points to his death.  The Jews want to get on with the slaying of the lambs that can never take away sin while rejecting the one, true lamb of God how alone can take away the sin of the world While they are busy killing the lambs who had no power, God was by their hands, killing the lamb to whom all salvation power belongs.  The Jews looked at Passover as God rescuing them from Pharaoh.  That really wasn’t what the Passover was.  They looked at the Passover as God rescuing them from the power of Pharaoh in Egypt.  It was really far more than that.  While there was a deliverance from Egypt, there was a far greater deliverance in the Passover.  Do you remember what the Passover was?  The word came from God that he was going to come in sweeping judgment on both Egyptians and Jews, and the only people who would be protected from that judgment would be those who put the blood of the lamb on the door post and the lintel.  Otherwise, the judgment of God would hit that house and take the life of the first born.  And God did not discriminate between the Jews and the Egyptians.  He would take the life of any first born.  He would bring wrath and judgment on any household that was not covered by the blood of the Passover lamb.  The night of the Passover, then, was not truly a deliverance from the power of the Pharaoh and the wrath of Pharaoh, it was a deliverance from the wrath of God.  Somehow they had skewed that thinking that they were delivered from the wrath and power of Pharaoh.  They celebrated that part of it and they forgot that the real Passover was a deliverance from the wrath of God And all sinners are always deserving of wrath unless they’re covered by the blood, and the blood of bulls and goats can’t take away sin and can’t really cover the sinner.  So they had no idea what as going on at their cross of Calvary when the true Passover lamb was dying so that his blood might become the protection of all who believe in him.

So in not saving himself, Jesus was able to save others, exactly opposite their assumption that he couldn’t save anybody because he couldn’t even save himself.  How twisted their perception.  How wrong.  And the whole scene was feeding this twisted perception.  There was no clarity anywhere.  The leaders didn’t have clarity.  The people didn’t have clarity.  The Romans didn’t have clarity.  The high priests didn’t have clarity.  The chief priests didn’t have it.  Nobody had it.  Everybody had a twisted and perverted understanding of what was happening and in the midst of all of this, one man gets clarity.  In spite of everything that’s going on around him in which he’s been a participant, the light dawns.  Life comes out of death.  Knowledge comes out of ignorance.  Light dispels the darkness.  And that’s the story of this man that we call the penitent thief.  It’s a personal story. It’s a very personal story.  It’s about one man.  It’s a personal story of salvation, but it’s also the pattern of the story of all people’s salvation  

MacArthur sums up these verses as follows for what to remember about the Crucifixion and what happened at the first Pentecost:

Without argument what is being spewed out of these evil hearts and evil mouths right at the son of God is the supreme blasphemy, the ultimate desecration of holiness, the lowest sin every committed, wickedness at its lowest, and it is deserving of divine cursing, divine threatening, divine vengeance, divine judgment, divine damnation.  This is injustice without parallel, transgression without equal.  This is heresy above heresy, irreverence above irreverence, profanity above profanity, sacrilege beyond comprehension.  We would expect Jesus to pour out furious denunciations on all of them, to judge them, to make them pay for their outrageous, extreme iniquity immediately on the spot, but he doesn’t.

Contrary to that he says, “Father, forgive them for they know not what they’re doing.”  He asks God to provide forgiveness for them.  Now Jesus spoke seven things from the cross He spoke to one of the thieves and said, “Today you’ll be with me in paradise.”  Then he spoke to his mother and John and said, “Behold your mother, behold your son,” and gave the care of his mother to the apostle John who were standing far, far away.  And then for three hours the whole earth was dark and he spoke not at all.  And after the darkness he spoke to God and he said, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”  And then he spoke to the soldiers and said, “I’m thirsty,” and they gave him the sponge And then he spoke to himself and said, “It is finished.”  And then he spoke to God and said, “It’s at thy hands I commit my spirit.”  But the first thing he said, before any of those was, “Father forgive them for they know not what they do.”  His first words were words seeking divine forgiveness for the world’s most wretched sinners Certainly this is Jesus, the Father, running to embrace the stinking prodigal, isn’t it?  This is not surprising.  Jesus even said that the more someone is forgiven the more they love, so he set himself up to forgive great sinners so that he might experience from them great love. 

Peter says that when he was reviled he was reviled not again and that when he was being abused he did not cry out for vengeance, 1 Peter 2:23 and 24 Stephen picked up on this and when Stephen saw life was being crushed out by the bloody stones, Stephen, following his Lord said, “Lord, lay not this sin to their charge.”  This is a general prayer.  To understand what he meant by this, it is a general prayer for all the world to know that there’s no sin against the son of God that is so severe it cannot be forgiven if one will repent That’s the message.  If there is forgiveness for these people, there is forgiveness for anyone.  You can’t get beyond this.  But it’s more than just a general prayer, it’s a specific prayer.  When he said, “Father, forgive them for they know not what they’re doing,” he knew who the “them” were because on the day of Pentecost, 3,000 Jews in Jerusalem were converted to Christ and baptized and the church was begun Within a few weeks another 5,000 men and more and more and it moves into tens of thousands of people in Jerusalem who embrace the faith of Jesus Christ, and there must have been many of those who came to Christ in those weeks after the resurrection who were there in that crowd, so that it is a general prayer telling the whole world that the sinner who repents and comes to Christ can be forgiven of the worst crime ever committed.  But it is also a specific prayer that God knows in His mind from before the foundation of the world, who in that crowd He will truly forgive A church was born out of these people who stood at the foot of Calvary and mocked the son of God.  They became the first church.  Not only that, there was a soldier among the soldiers.  One of them came to salvation.  23 Luke 47 when the Centurion saw what had happened, he began praising God saying, “Certainly this man was innocent.”  And Matthew says he said something besides that, he said, “This was the son of God.”  And by the way, don’t think it was just that Centurion Listen to 27 Matthew 54, “Now the Centurion and those who were with him keeping guard over Jesus said, “Truly, this was the son of God.”  The prayer was answered on the spot.  Some in the crowd formed the first church.  Some among the soldiers affirmed the deity of Jesus Christ, and a Roman Centurion praising the true God of Israel and affirming the reality of His son and others with him?  By the way, some of the leaders also were saying it.  In 6 Acts 7, “The word of God kept on spreading.  The number of the disciples continued to increase greatly in Jerusalem.”  Listen to this:  “And a great many of the priests were becoming obedient to the faith.”  And by the way, there was one of the two thieves who said, “Remember me when you come into your kingdom,” and to him Jesus said today, “I’ll meet you in paradise.”

In one sense it’s a general prayer that throws open the forgiveness of God for all who have rejected Christ no matter how great the crimes committed against him, but on another level this is a very specific prayer that was immediately answered among the crowd, among the soldiers, among the thieves and even among the priests.  The great irony of Calvary is that while all this scorn was being heaped on Christ, he was bearing the curse of God far worse than anything they could put on him You think it’s bad to be cursed by men, he was being cursed by God.  But in taking both the curses from men and the curse from God, he provided the very atonement which makes the forgiveness he prayed for possible

Christ the King: truly He is, now and forever.

This is the last Sunday in the 2021-2022 Church year. Next Sunday, a new Church year begins with the season of Advent, and a new set of Lectionary readings from Year A.

May everyone reading this have a blessed Sunday.

The Twenty-second Sunday after Trinity is on November 13, 2022.

Readings for Year C can be found here.

The Gospel reading is as follows (emphases mine):

Luke 21:5-19

21:5 When some were speaking about the temple, how it was adorned with beautiful stones and gifts dedicated to God, he said,

21:6 “As for these things that you see, the days will come when not one stone will be left upon another; all will be thrown down.”

21:7 They asked him, “Teacher, when will this be, and what will be the sign that this is about to take place?”

21:8 And he said, “Beware that you are not led astray; for many will come in my name and say, ‘I am he!’ and, ‘The time is near!’ Do not go after them.

21:9 “When you hear of wars and insurrections, do not be terrified; for these things must take place first, but the end will not follow immediately.”

21:10 Then he said to them, “Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom;

21:11 there will be great earthquakes, and in various places famines and plagues; and there will be dreadful portents and great signs from heaven.

21:12 “But before all this occurs, they will arrest you and persecute you; they will hand you over to synagogues and prisons, and you will be brought before kings and governors because of my name.

21:13 This will give you an opportunity to testify.

21:14 So make up your minds not to prepare your defense in advance;

21:15 for I will give you words and a wisdom that none of your opponents will be able to withstand or contradict.

21:16 You will be betrayed even by parents and brothers, by relatives and friends; and they will put some of you to death.

21:17 You will be hated by all because of my name.

21:18 But not a hair of your head will perish.

21:19 By your endurance you will gain your souls.

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

We are approaching the end of our Lord’s ministry, as He delivered this discourse during what we commemorate as Holy Week, or Passion Week.

John MacArthur says:

This is our Lord’s own sermon on His Second Coming. And it comes at a very, very appropriate time because from the human viewpoint, it looks as if His coming has been a total disaster and abysmal failure, a massive disappointment. It is, when we come to verse 5, still Wednesday, Wednesday of what is known as Passion Week, the week in which our Lord is crucified. On Thursday the betrayal will take place. And on Friday He will be crucified by the Romans. It is Wednesday. It is only going to get worse, a lot worse from the human viewpoint. In fact, from the human viewpoint, His life is worse than a failure, it is a disaster. And so it is on the brink of what appears, from a human viewpoint, to be a tragic end that our Lord gives to us the real story of the end bound up in His return to earth in the future.

Some of our Lord’s disciples were admiring the beauty and magnificence of the temple and the gifts therein dedicated to God (verse 5).

The Jews considered the temple to be God’s house, wrapped up with prayer and worship.

However, Jesus replied that the day would come when not one stone of the temple would lay on top of another; all would be thrown down (verse 6).

The disciples must have found His response shocking, especially as they viewed Him as the Messiah and expected a magnificent kingdom on earth.

They asked Him when this would take place and by what sign (verse 7), so that they would know what to expect.

MacArthur says:

The word in the Greek is parousia. It means presence…presence.  And it really was used of a king who had arrived and would continue to dwell among his people.  So what they’re really asking is this, “Now that You are here, what are we looking for that will inaugurate the work that You’ve come to do?”  They don’t see Him there and going away and coming back several thousand years later.  They see His parousia, His presence, and they want to know: You’re here, what sign are we looking for that’s going to inaugurate all our messianic expectations?  That’s their question and it comes in response to His statement about the tearing down of the temple in verse 6, that not one stone will be left upon another that will not be torn down.

They were still hopeful about an earthly kingdom, but Jesus was saddened by what had happened in the days beforehand:

this is Wednesday, all day long He has been in the temple which He had cleansed the day before, throwing out the buyers and the sellers, the corrupt money changers and those who were extorting money at exorbitant prices out of people by disqualifying the sacrifices they brought and making them buy sacrifices from them. Jesus had done that at the beginning of His ministry and He had to do it again. There was no question in the minds of His followers that the system was corrupt. They knew it was corrupt because they had grown up in it. They knew it was corrupt because they had been saved out of it. Of course, His disciples, for the most part, affirmed Him as Messiah. They had come to believe in Him as Messiah. They had been taught by Him and He had taught them plenty about the corruption of the Jewish religious system. He had spoken very strong words about the Sadducees, Pharisees, the scribes, the religious leaders. They knew exactly how He felt. He had cleansed the temple the day before, cleansed it at the beginning of His ministry. He had just finished a prolonged speech or sermon against the leaders of Israel in which He pronounced repeated judgment and damnation curses upon their heads. And He made very clear that Jerusalem was cursed, the religious system cursed. And because its effect had reached the nation as well as the city, the whole nation would bear the curse. And, in fact, He had told them on a couple of occasions that the land and the people and the temple was desolate and was falling under the judgment of God. Now He gets very specific and says, “This judgment is going to mean the dismantling of the temple itself.”

The first four verses of Luke 21 are about the poor widow who goes to the temple to donate her last two coins. As we saw last week, the Sadducees who ran the temple got incredibly rich off of the sacrificial system. Those overseeing the donations allowed that destitute woman to give her final coins, rather than saying, ‘No, you’re fine. You keep those coins for yourself’.

MacArthur tells us:

He has preached His last message, His last warning. He’s had His last discussion, His last dialogue confrontation with the leaders. It’s over. The last thing that we know that He did in the temple was sit down because He was drained and weary. And as He sat down in the Court of the Women, He looked across opposite Him to the treasury and He watched the people putting money in and He saw the widow come by in the first four verses of chapter 21, and He watched the widow put in her last two cents to go home to die. And He hated the kind of religious system that would take the last two cents out of the hand of a defenseless, destitute widow. And that was the final scene with Jesus in the temple, so corrupt, so corrupt that those whom He accused of devouring widows’ houses are doing just that and He watches a widow give up her last two cents because that’s what that religious, legalistic system required of her if she was to buy her salvation and blessing from God. And He has had all that He can take of this system.

Furthermore, according to Matthew’s account, He wept over Jerusalem:

And so, He leaves the temple. We know this from the parallel passage in Matthew, the parallel passage in Matthew, the end of chapter 23. He closes the sermon against the false leaders with these words, verse 37, “Oh Jerusalem, Jerusalem, who kills the prophets and stones those who were sent to her. How often I wanted to gather your children together the way a hen gathers her chicks under her wings and you were unwilling. Behold, your house (that is your temple and your city and your nation all encompassed in your house) is being left to you desolate. For I say to you, from now on you shall not see Me until you say, ‘Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord.'” And He implies there that there’s going to be a long time of desolation; desolation upon your house, destruction and emptiness upon your house for a long time until you acknowledge Me.

The temple was said to be the ne plus ultra of its time. Herod the Great began the immense construction project, which grew and grew with time. Herod was not in the slightest bit religious, but he wanted his name on the temple in his memory.

MacArthur describes the temple:

What a stunning place. What an amazing place, one of the wonders of the ancient world. Some writers say it was the greatest building in the world, most impressive. Before it was actually completed, it was being built and decorated for eighty-five years, about fifty years of building at the time our Lord walked out on that Wednesday. It had been started by Herod the Great in 19 and 20 B.C. It was an unbelievable building project. And the Jews were so concerned that it would be sacred that Herod actually trained priests to be masons and carpenters and craftsmen so that there would only be people who understood holy things who were actually leading the work. And it went on and on and on and on, nearly fifty years by the time Jesus walked out. Fifty years of the best that you could ever imagine. Every stone in that place was made of mezza, white brilliant stone available in the land of Israel that can be finely cut and polished so that it looks like marble. It was a staggering project.

I’ve seen models, reconstructive models of the best estimate of the Herodian temple. It’s indescribable. As to its myriad porticos, colonnades, plazas, patios, rooms, multiple level upon level upon level, all the way up to the parapet around the highest level which had to be fenced in so the people didn’t fall at one particular point on the southwest corner. It’s about a 400 foot drop to the valley below, Kidron. Massive walls, massive colonnades, porticos. It’s a staggering facility. To imagine this thing coming down is stunning

prior to this there was another temple there built by Zerubbabel after the restoration from Babylonian captivity. The Babylonians destroyed the Solomonic temple. But Zerubbabel’s temple looked more like a fort, and maybe didn’t get any higher than three stories. It lacked the glory of the Solomonic temple and so Herod came along and said, “Look, this is an inadequate temple for the God of Israel. I will build a greater one, far greater one.”

His real reason was not to honor the God of Israel. His real reason was to immortalize himself in this great building. So work began in the 18th year of his reign and went on long after his death. They took the old temple, Zerubbabel’s temple, and they flattened it to the ground right down to the bedrock. They laid massive new foundation stones, some of which are still there and visible today. Construction, as I said, went on and on and on and on. The place got larger and larger and larger and larger and could accommodate hundreds of thousands of people.

As Jesus foretold, the end of the magnificent complex came in AD 70, at the hands of the Romans:

On August 29, 70 A.D., Titus Vespasian, the great Roman general, came in after a long siege and they began burning the colonnades, the great porticos and colonnades that surrounded the outer courtyards and there were numbers of them. And then some soldier on his own against the wishes of Titus, historians tells us, took a torch and threw it into the Holy Place. And they tried to put it out but they couldn’t save it and down came the Holy Place and the Holy of Holies. The whole thing was torched. There were about 6,000 people, Josephus says, who were trying to seek refuge in the temple who were consumed in the conflagration and died and there were tens of thousands more that were massacred by the Romans throughout the city of Jerusalem. The priests, Josephus tells us, tried in a feeble way to defend their temple. They got up on the highest parapet where there were spikes driven up like this to keep the birds from perching there and they were pulling the spikes out and throwing them at the Romans in a useless effort to stop the horrible destruction.

Returning to what Jesus told the disciples, they must have wondered how exactly that destruction would take place:

So as they left, they look backed at this massive, glorious, incredible building, must have been wondering about the words of Jesus that they had already heard just a day before, that it was coming down. It was the grandest of Herod’s many massive building projects. Its eastern front, its eastern front, the side they would be seeing as they went out the east and down the little slope at the backside of the mountain, across the Kidron and up the Mount of Olives, the eastern side was completely covered in gold plating so that it looked like one massive piece of solid gold. In the morning sun, the sun would roll up over the top of the Mount of Olives. It would reflect itself in such a blaze that it would blind someone who didn’t cover his eyes just to look at the temple. And in the evening when the sun was on the other side, its golden glory was only subdued but still impressive. By all accounts, it was the most beautiful building in the world.

MacArthur says that, according to the historian Josephus, a deceiver told people to gather in the temple and they would be safe:

Some false prophet, Josephus says, had told people that if they go there they would be safe from the Romans. Six thousand people huddled for safety in the temple and were consumed by the fire.

In response to the disciples’ question as to when this would take place, Jesus gave an interesting response.

He did not say when it would take place. Instead, He told them not to be deceived — led astray — because many would falsely claim they were He and that the time was near (verse 8).

Henry explains why Jesus responded that way:

Now as to this, he gives them a needful caution (1.) “Take heed that you be not deceived; do not imagine that I shall myself come again in external glory, to take possession of the throne of kingdoms. No, you must not expect any such thing, for my kingdom is not of this world.” When they asked solicitously and eagerly, Master, when shall these things be? the first word Christ said was, Take heed that you be not deceived. Note, Those that are most inquisitive in the things of God (though it is very good to be so) are in most danger of being imposed upon, and have most need to be upon their guard. (2.) “Go you not after them. You know the Messiah is come, and you are not to look for any other; and therefore do not so much as hearken to them, nor have any thing to do with them.” If we are sure that Jesus is the Christ, and his doctrine is the gospel, of God, we must be deaf to all intimations of another Christ and another gospel.

Once again, what Jesus told the disciples came true.

MacArthur says there were many false prophets and many were executed:

Many false teachers came after Jesus had gone and claimed to be the Messiah and that the kingdom was going to begin … they were executing one a day, according to Josephus, false claimants, as insurrectionists.

Jesus told the disciples not to be terrified by wars and insurrections because those had to take place first, but the end will not follow immediately (verse 9). Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom (verse 10).

Henry says that Jesus was telling His followers that they must approach such situations with wisdom rather than fear:

… trust therefore in him, and be not afraid. Nay, when you hear of wars, when without are fightings and within are fears, yet then be not you terrified; you know the worst that any of these judgments can do to you, and therefore be not afraid of them; for,” [1.] “It is your interest to make the best of that which is, for all your fears cannot alter it: these things must first come to pass; there is no remedy; it will be your wisdom to make yourselves easy by accommodating yourselves to them.” [2.] “There is worse behind; flatter not yourselves with a fancy that you will soon see an end of these troubles, no, not so soon as you think of: the end is not by and by, not suddenly. Be not terrified, for, if you begin so quickly to be discouraged, how will you bear up under what is yet before you?

These wars did not take place just before the destruction of the temple. Jesus was talking about the future.

MacArthur explains:

There is going to be war among nations, war between kingdoms, lots of time passing. What He’s describing here is history. Don’t be mistaken, long way off. But I will come.

As you break down His message starting in verse 8, He talks about the preliminaries to His coming, the things that are going to happen before He comes. Then starting in verse 25 He talks about His actual coming and then in verse 29, talks about preparation. So it’s preliminaries, then the promise of His coming, and then the preparation.

Jesus said that there will be great earthquakes and, in various places, plagues and famine; there will also be great portents and signs from heaven (verse 11).

MacArthur says that Jesus knew these were — and are — terrifying things for mankind:

It’s easy to become terrified. If I didn’t know what Scripture says, if I didn’t know God was sovereign, if I didn’t know God was on the throne and God was ordering history, this would be a terrifying world to live in. It would be a terrifying world to raise children in. It would be terrifying to think about your grandchildren, to think about your future in this world, especially with people out there making the worst case scenario all the time for everything that possibly could go wrong. And so the Lord understands that. And we can be terrified by the way things go in this world, even in a primitive world around the time of the Lord Jesus Christ. It was a terrifying world to live in because it was marked by wars and disturbances. It was marked by terrifying things.

The dreadful portents and signs from heaven are likely to come at the very end.

MacArthur tells us:

Turn to Revelation 16, verse 17. “The seventh angel sounded.” This would be the last blast of trumpet judgments, the last bowl judgment, which is the last part of the last trumpet judgment. They’re kind of telescopic. “The seventh angel poured out his bowl on the air and a loud voice came out of the temple from the throne saying, ‘It is done.” It’s over. This is the last judgment before Christ comes. “There were flashes of lightning, sounds, peals of thunder and there was a great earthquake such as there had not been since man came to be upon the earth, so great an earthquake was it and so mighty.” John is given a vision of that last of all these great earthquakes. The great city was split into three parts, Jerusalem. The cities of the nations collapsed. “Babylon the great was remembered before God to give her the cup of the wine of her fierce wrath.” And again you have Babylon connected with the end.

How bad is this earthquake? Look at verse 20, “Every island fled away and the mountains were not found.” Huge hailstones, about 100 pounds each, came down from heaven upon men. And what is their response? “They blasphemed God because of the plague of the hail, because its plague was extremely severe.” Jesus said, “Expect great earthquakes. Expect them to escalate in a fallen, corrupted physical realm.”

And then: great signs from heaven. What should we expect in this period of history? Death at the hand of wild beasts? I’m sure that’s happened. Earthquakes? That’s happened and happening and will happen, escalating. Plagues? Yes. Famine? Yes. And even great signs from heaven. What could that be? Is it a meteor hitting the earth? That’s happened. What could it mean? …

Revelation 6 verse 12, “I looked when he broke the sixth seal and there was a great earthquake and the sun became black as sackcloth made of hair.” That’s goatskin. Black means the sun goes out. The moon becomes like blood, dark as well. In the future there will be a great earthquake and the sun will go out and the moon as well, for it’s reflected light from the sun. “The stars of the sky fell to the earth as a fig tree casts its unripe figs when shaken by a great wind and the sky was split apart like a scroll when it is rolled up. And every mountain and island were moved out of their places. And the kings of the earth and the great men and the commanders and the rich and the strong and every slave and free man hid themselves in the caves and among the rocks of the mountains. They said to the mountains and rocks, ‘Fall on us.’” As long as you’re falling, fall on us “’and hide us from the presence of Him who sits on the throne and from the wrath of the Lamb’ for the great day of the wrath has come and who is able to stand?”

The future, time of the tribulation, massive changes in the heavens above, massive. Look at chapter 8 and verse 3, another angel came, stood at the altar, has a golden censer. And verse 4 says, the smoke of the incense in that censer with the prayers of the saints went up before God out of the angel’s hand. The angel took the censer, filled it with the fire of the altar, threw it to the earth; a symbolic act. There followed peals of thunder, sounds, flashes of lightning and an earthquake. “And the seven angels who had the seven trumpets prepared them to sound them. And the first sounded, and there came hail and fire, mixed with blood, and were thrown to the earth. A third of the earth was burned up. A third of the trees were burned up. And all the green grass was burned up.” Fire coming from the sky.

“The second angel sounded. Something like a great mountain burning with fire” a meteor perhaps, “was thrown into the sea. A third of the sea became blood. A third of the creatures in the sea had life, died. A third of the ships were destroyed. The third angel sounded and a great star fell from heaven,” another heavenly body catapulted to the earth like a torch, “fell on a third of the rivers and the springs of waters.” The salt waters are devastated and so are the fresh waters. “The name of the star is called wormwood and a third of the waters became wormwood and many men died from the waters because they were made bitter,” or toxic. A fourth angel sounds, a third of the sun, a third of the moon, a third of the stars were smitten, a third of them might be darkened and day might not shine for a third of it and the night in the same way. You know what that means. All the tides are thrown off. Day and night is thrown off. All the crops are thrown off. Things can’t grow. Life is total chaos.

“And I looked and heard an eagle flying in mid-heaven saying with a loud voice, ‘Woe, woe, woe to those who dwell on the earth because of the remaining blasts of the trumpet of the three angels who are about to sound.’” If it’s that bad with the first four, what in the world is going to happen with the final three?

This is the future of this planet. This is the future of humanity. This is the future of the world. Deceivers will flourish and abound in the name of Christ. False Christianity will cover the globe. Deception and disaster … Disaster will come and stay and grow and escalate until the final disaster.

Then Jesus tells the disciples what will happen before this. This, I believe, is the most pertinent part, because it has happened continuously throughout our two millennia and will go on to the end of time.

Jesus said that they — those in authority — will arrest and persecute you in punishment and judgement because of His name (verse 12).

I wrote about Luke 21:10-19 several years ago for my Forbidden Bible Verses series. At that time, I was using a Lectionary reading schedule from the Episcopal Church, which, fortunately, is no longer being used.

My post tells what happened to the Apostles that Jesus had under His care during His ministry, except for Judas. All were martyred, bar John, who was exiled to Patmos. That in itself was a type of martyrdom, too, although not as physically brutal and immediate as what the others suffered. St Paul was also martyred.

Jesus told them that persecution would give them an opportunity to testify in His name (verse 13), which Sts Peter, Stephen and Paul certainly did.

Henry explains:

God will bring glory both to himself and them out of their sufferings: “It shall turn to you for a testimony, v. 13. Your being set up thus for a mark, and publicly persecuted, will make you the more taken notice of and your doctrine and miracles the more enquired into; your being brought before kings and rulers will give you an opportunity of preaching the gospel to them, who otherwise would never have come within hearing of it; your suffering such severe things, and being so hated by the worst of men, men of the most vicious lives, will be a testimony that you are good, else you would not have such bad men for your enemies; your courage, and cheerfulness, and constancy under your sufferings will be a testimony for you, that you believe what you preach, that you are supported by a divine power, and that the Spirit of God and glory rests upon you.”

Jesus told them not to plan their defence in advance (verse 14), because He would give them words and wisdom that none of their opponents could contradict (verse 15).

The same holds true for us.

MacArthur says:

Ah, what a promise. Don’t worry, don’t be fearful. Don’t wonder whether you’ll be able to say the right thing in that hour, in that moment …

Don’t worry about what you’re going to say, the Holy Spirit who dwells within you will show you what to say, and in such a way that none of your opponents will be able to resist or refute you.

You can go through the book of Acts and you can see illustrations of this, how that when they were brought before the authorities they said exactly the right thing, for which the authorities had no response. Even in my little world, I have rested on this promise. I get myself in situations where I’m under fire from people who hate the gospel, sometimes on worldwide television. And people ask me, “How do you prepare for that?” And I have always said this, “I prepare for that by simply trusting in the Holy Spirit.” I’m actually excited. It’s an adventure. I’m eager to find out what I’m going to say. And sometimes I’ll replay it and I’ll say, “Wow! That was pretty good.” But they’re never a match for the truth. They’re never a match for the truth.

Yes, on the world stage there will come relentless persecution. Don’t worry, it’s going to come. You need to know it’s going to come because that will insulate you against it. You don’t need to be surprised by this.

Christians will also come under attack from family and friends, some of whom will put their nearest and dearest to death (verse 16).

Jesus, once again, was correct.

MacArthur says that Christianity is the only religion with martyrs, tens of millions of them through the ages:

No other religion has this history.  In many places in the world today, believers continue to be persecuted.  Muslim- and Hindu-controlled countries, especially Africa and the Middle East, especially murderous toward Christians; though other nations such as communistic states are also antagonistic and during the development of communism, Christians were massacred wholesale.  1997, an article in the New York Times reports, quote: “More Christians have died this century simply for being Christians than in the first nineteen centuries after the birth of Christ.” Twentieth century, more Christians died than in the nineteen centuries before, New York Times, February 11, 1997.

In addition, an incalculable number of faithful believers have been rejected by their families, hated by their parents, hated by their siblings, by their friends, arrested, beaten, persecuted short of death, all on account of loyalty to Christ.  There’s a relatively new book called The New Persecuted, published in 2002A Roman Catholic journalist, Antonio Socci: He estimates that in the 2,000 years of church history, seventy million Christians have been martyred.  The number is likely much greater since he minimizes the number of those executed under the Roman Catholic Church.  God knows. I don’t know how many but the numbers are staggering.

He also says that of these seventy million Christians, two thirds have been killed in the last hundred years.  He claims that an average of 160 thousand Christians have been killed every year since 1990; 160 thousand a year since 1990.

Persecution, like wars, plagues, famines, earthquakes and all the rest will continue to escalate until the Second Coming:

So was our Lord right when He said you can expect this in the time between My first and My Second Coming? He was right about the wars. He was absolutely right about the earthquakes and the plagues and the famines that they would increase and escalate and become worse and worse and worse. And we see it played out just the way He said it. Don’t think for one split second that the purpose of Jesus failed at the cross. Don’t think that what He intended to do didn’t come to pass. He laid out exactly what would happen and that’s the way it is in the history of the world. And it’s going to get worse, not better. If you think persecution of believers is going to go away, you’re wrong. The church is going to continue to be persecuted because it’s going to continue to be scattered for purposes of evangelism. And it’s going to continue to have to give its testimony of triumph in the face of persecution so to demonstrate its truthfulness and validity, and persecution will continue and get worse.

Jesus said that the disciples — and other believers in the ages to come — will be hated by all because of His name (verse 17).

Henry explains the hate that unbelievers have had throughout history:

They were hated of all men, that is, of all bad men, who could not bear the light of the gospel (because it discovered their evil deeds), and therefore hated those who brought in that light, flew in their faces, and would have pulled them to pieces. The wicked world, which hated to be reformed, hated Christ the great Reformer, and all that were his, for his sake. The rulers of the Jewish church, knowing very well that if the gospel obtained among the Jews their usurped abused power was at an end, raised all their forces against it, put it into an ill name, filled people’s minds with prejudices against it, and so made the preachers and professors of it odious to the mob.

However, Jesus said that no one who is persecuted will perish, not one hair on their head (verse 18).

The martyrs might have lost their heads or tortured alive in many other horrific ways, but the Triune God knows who has suffered, and they will be saved.

Henry says:

First, “I will take cognizance of it.” To this end he had said (Matt 10 30), The hairs of your head are all numbered; and an account is kept of them, so that none of them shall perish but he will miss it. Secondly, “It shall be upon a valuable consideration. We do not reckon that lost or perishing which is laid out for good purposes, and will turn to a good account. If we drop the body itself for Christ’s name’s sake, it does not perish, but is well bestowed. Thirdly, “It shall be abundantly recompensed; when you come to balance profit and loss, you will find that nothing has perished, but, on the contrary, that you have great gain in present comforts, especially in the joys of a life eternal”; so that though we may be losers for Christ we shall not, we cannot, be losers by him in the end.

Jesus ended this part of His discourse saying that endurance will gain us our souls (verse 19).

‘Endurance’: that word of which Paul was so fond, using it several times in his letters.

Henry interprets the verse as follows:

“It is therefore your duty and interest, in the midst of your own sufferings and those of the nation, to maintain a holy sincerity and serenity of mind, which will keep you always easy (v. 19): In your patience possess ye your souls; get and keep possession of your souls.” Some read it as a promise, “You may or shall possess your souls.” It comes all to one. Note, First, It is our duty and interest at all times, especially in perilous trying times, to secure the possession of our own souls; not only that they be not destroyed and lost for ever, but that they be not distempered now, nor our possession of them disturbed and interrupted. “Possess your souls, be your own men, keep up the authority and dominion of reason, and keep under the tumults of passion, that neither grief nor fear may tyrannize over you, nor turn you out of the possession and enjoyment of yourselves.” In difficult times, when we can keep possession of nothing else, then let us make that sure which may be made sure, and keep possession of our souls. Secondly, It is by patience, Christian patience, that we keep possession of our own souls. “In suffering times, set patience upon the guard for the preserving of your souls; by it keep your souls composed and in a good frame, and keep out all those impressions which would ruffle you and put you out of temper.”

The rest of Luke 21 is about the destruction of the temple and our Lord’s Second Coming in His own words. They are two different events.

I do not believe the following passages are in the Lectionary, and they are important to understand:

Luke 21:20-24 – Jesus, destruction of Jerusalem

Luke 21:32-38 – Jesus, Second Coming, be on guard, no excesses, no drunkenness

May all who persevered in reading this post enjoy a blessed Sunday.

The Twenty-first Sunday after Trinity is November 5, 2022.

Readings for Year C can be found here.

The Gospel reading is as follows, emphases mine:

Luke 20:27-38

20:27 Some Sadducees, those who say there is no resurrection, came to him

20:28 and asked him a question, “Teacher, Moses wrote for us that if a man’s brother dies, leaving a wife but no children, the man shall marry the widow and raise up children for his brother.

20:29 Now there were seven brothers; the first married, and died childless;

20:30 then the second

20:31 and the third married her, and so in the same way all seven died childless.

20:32 Finally the woman also died.

20:33 In the resurrection, therefore, whose wife will the woman be? For the seven had married her.”

20:34 Jesus said to them, “Those who belong to this age marry and are given in marriage;

20:35 but those who are considered worthy of a place in that age and in the resurrection from the dead neither marry nor are given in marriage.

20:36 Indeed they cannot die anymore, because they are like angels and are children of God, being children of the resurrection.

20:37 And the fact that the dead are raised Moses himself showed, in the story about the bush, where he speaks of the Lord as the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.

20:38 Now he is God not of the dead, but of the living; for to him all of them are alive.”

Commentary comes from Matthew Henry and John MacArthur.

Last week’s reading about Zacchaeus was near the end of Luke’s 10-chapter long account of our Lord’s final lessons to His disciples and the Pharisees, along with His final healing miracles to those in the crowds following Him.

We are now in the middle of Holy Week.

John MacArthur says of the timing of this story:

this is Wednesday Matthew, in fact, gives the parallel account to Luke in Matthew 22.  Mark gives a parallel account in Mark 12.  Matthew says they came on the same day.  The same day as the prior questioning by the Pharisees which puts it on Wednesday. 

Wednesday was a busy day for Jesus, the last week of His life.  He is crucified on Friday.  On Wednesday He’s teaching in the temple, and He is in dialogue with the people, and He is in conflict with these leaders.  The Pharisees have come after Him.  The Herodians have come after Him.  And now it is the Sadducees’ turn.  And they are furious at Jesus. 

Matthew Henry’s commentary says that the Sadducees were the theological free-thinkers of their era, as they did not believe in the resurrection of the body:

I. In every age there have been men of corrupt minds, that have endeavoured to subvert the fundamental principles of revealed religion. As there are deists now, who call themselves free-thinkers, but are really false-thinkers; so there were Sadducees in our Saviour’s time, who bantered the doctrine of the resurrection of the dead and the life of the world to come, though they were plainly revealed in the Old Testament, and were articles of the Jewish faith. The Sadducees deny that there is any resurrection, any future state, so anastasis may signify; not only no return of the body to life, but no continuance of the soul in life, no world of spirits, no state of recompence and retribution for what was done in the body. Take away this, and all religion falls to the ground.

II. It is common for those that design to undermine any truth of God to perplex it, and load it with difficulties. So these Sadducees did; when they would weaken people’s faith in the doctrine of the resurrection, they put a question upon the supposition of it, which they thought could not be answered either way to satisfaction. The case perhaps was matter of fact, at least it might be so, of a woman that had seven husbands. Now in the resurrection whose wife shall she be? whereas it was not at all material whose she was, for when death puts an end to that relation it is not to be resumed.

Marriage is an institution meant for this life; it will no longer exist in the next. Jesus’s teaching appeared in an old episode of Larry David’s Curb Your Enthusiasm several years ago. Larry told his Gentile wife that they would no longer be married in the next life. She became very angry, indeed. He said, ‘But it’s true!’ If I remember rightly, he chided her for not knowing the New Testament, which made her even angrier.

MacArthur has a fascinating account of the Sadducees’ ties with Rome, even though they were the top of the elitist heap that made up the Sanhedrin. Their links with Rome, which made them very rich, angered everyday Jews who experienced the corruption at the temple in Jerusalem, particularly with regard to purchasing animals for sacrifices:

When you study the gospel accounts, you don’t see the Sadducees very often.  You don’t see them in Jesus’ ministry in Galilee.  You don’t see them as He’s moving around in the land of Judea.  Where you see them is where they always were, and that’s at the temple.  They come into play at the times that Jesus cleanses the temple. 

He did it at the beginning of His ministry.  He did it again at the end … in chapter 19.  They ran the temple operation, very lucrative, very powerful.  They were wealthy.  And Jesus interrupted their very successful business.  They hated Him.  They were furious at Him for what He had just done a matter of hours before this event in cleansing the temple, throwing out the buyers and the sellers and the moneychangers.  And so He had assaulted them.  Just as He had assaulted the theology of the Pharisees, He had assaulted the economics of the Sadducees.  They had the power over the temple operation.

Now let me just give you a little more background about them.  Politically, they were eager to cooperate with Rome.  Since there was no resurrection, since there was nothing to be worried about in the life to come, they put all their stock in this life They went after all the power, all the wealth, all the position, all the control that they could get.

And in order to do that, they had to cooperate with Rome because they were an occupied country under Roman power.  It was the Romans who gave them the right to do what they did.  They had a delegated authority from the Romans.  And so they did everything they could to kowtow to Rome to make sure they curried the favor of Rome to keep their position.  The people hated them.  They hated them.  That’s why there weren’t many of them.  It wasn’t a popular thing to be. 

The people hated them for their accommodation to Rome and they hated them for the corruption of the system to which the people were subjected every time they came to the temple They pursued policies that pleased Rome, and therefore they pursued policies that angered the Jews.  And their corrupt temple operation was a continual irritation to the nation.

When the temple was destroyed in AD 70, the Sadducees disappeared:

… in the destruction of 70 A.D. when the Romans finally had all they could take from the Jews who were rebelling against them and came in and destroyed Jerusalem, destroyed the temple, crushed the nation, actually massacred people in up to a thousand towns and villages around Israel, when the Romans finally brought it all down, the Sadducees ceased to exist.  Once their priestly position and power was broken their history was over.

Although the Sadducees were free-thinkers when it came to the resurrection of the body and everlasting life, they were more fundamentalist than the Pharisees when it came to interpreting Scripture for the ordinary Jew:

Religiously, they were very narrow and very strict.  Some people have thought that they were liberal.  They were liberal in the sense that they didn’t believe in resurrection and angels and spirits and that’s a view like liberal theologians take today.  But in applying justice in the land and in applying the law, they werecruelIt was part of how they kept their power to be cruel. 

Josephus tells us they were more savage than any other group of Jews.  The Pharisees, he says, does Josephus, were lenient in dealing with people compared to the Sadducees.  They were brutal in enforcing their will upon the people as they interpreted the Law of God in order to keep their power and position.  They were viewed, then, as fundamentalists and traditionalists who refused to accept the oral law and the scribal law.  Which, by the way, the Pharisees fully accepted.  The Pharisees accepted Scripture and the oral tradition and the scribal writings.  But the Sadducees did not.  They only accepted Scripture. 

They prided themselves on being committed to the pure faith, nothing more.  They interpreted Mosaic Law more literally than any others and were fastidious beyond all others in the matters of Levitical purity … 

They ended up like that because they honoured only the Pentateuch, the first five books of the Bible, the books of Moses:

Now the question comes, how in the world could they call themselves literalists, fundamentalists, traditionalists, purists, adhering to Scripture and not accept the Scriptures that I read to you about resurrection?  And the answer is they very likely held to the primacy and the priority of the Mosaic Law, that is the five books of Moses, the five books of Moses, the Pentateuch, the five books.  Everything was subordinated to the books of Moses.

Since they were protectors of the pure faith, they apparently affirmed the absolute priority of Moses.  And they said all other books in the Old Testament are merely commentaries on those five books, and since nowhere in those five books is resurrection mentioned, therefore resurrection is not a part of the pure faith, and any other attempt to talk of resurrection is an aberration, even by another Bible writer.

The doctrine of resurrection life cannot be found in the Pentateuch, they said, so resurrection as a reality must be rejected, since all of the rest of the Old Testament is only commentary on Moses and it wasn’t in Moses’ writings, then there must be another way to understand that commentary than to believe in resurrection. 

That’s how they defined themselves.  They lived life as if there were no tomorrow, being fastidious on the one hand, pounding people in a cruel and brutal way with the law, but with a view to using that to keep their power base so they could indulge themselves in anything and everything they wanted at the expense of the people.

It sounds illogical to me.

The Pharisees, by contrast, believed in the resurrection of the body and the life to come. Naturally, questions arose about what would happen. The Pharisees devised answers to those questions:

the Pharisees were very, very definitive about the resurrection.  And the Pharisees loved to discuss the resurrection.  It seems to me that they sort of followed the flow of Baruch and some other writers, that you would be raised the same way you died because the Pharisees discussed things like when you are raised from the dead, will you be naked or will you have clothes on? 

Well, they couldn’t comprehend that everybody in the resurrection would be naked so they came to the conclusion that you would have clothes on.  And then the question was where would you get the clothes?  And then the debate was about whether you get new clothes or whether you rise in the same clothes you used to wear, in fact the very clothes with which you were buried.  And then the question they loved to discuss was if you have defects in this life, physical defects, or mental defects, or whatever, when you rise from the dead again will you have those same defects? 

And many of the Pharisees felt that you would rise in the same clothes you died in and you would rise with the same defects you had in this life.  In fact, some of them believed that all Jews would rise, all Jews who died throughout all of history would all rise in the land of Israel.  In other words, wherever they died, they would all rise in the land of Israel.

And, in fact, it was suggested that beneath the earth there’s a massive network of tunnels and somehow they’re all slanted so that whenever Jews go into the ground, they wind up rolling down a series of tunnels till they all land in a pile in Israel So that they’re all conveniently there as a result of this complex of tunnels and they’ll be raised there.

The Sadducees found such statements absurd:

The Pharisees loved to discuss these kinds of things and occasionally discussed them with the Sadducees.  The Sadducees thought this was ridiculous, as it is.  Thought it was bizarre.  Thought it was outrageous and loved to scorn and mock such ridiculous things.  They became mockers of the resurrection.  They were so defined by not believing in the resurrection, that they had mastered the art of infuriating the Pharisees and the rest of the people with their arguments.  They made a joke out of resurrection.

With this in mind, some Sadducees approached Jesus (verse 27), with a question they thought would stump Him.

MacArthur says the Sadducees wanted Jesus out of their way, because if enough Jews believed in Him, their corrupt system would disappear:

I don’t really think they wanted Him arrested by the Romans.  I don’t think they necessarily cared about that.  Eventually they fell in line with that.  I think they were very worried about Rome getting involved in anything, doing anything to irritate Rome at all threatened their security But in this conflux of Pharisees and Sadducees in John 11:47, they come together, hold a council and they say, “What are we doing?  This man is performing many signs.” 

They never denied His miracles, even the raising of Lazarus from the dead.  “If we let Him go on like this, all men will believe in Him, and the Romans will come and take away both our place and our nation.”  That was what they feared, they feared losing their position, losing their place.  “And if we don’t do something about Him, the Romans are going to come and take away our position.”  That has to be the sentiment of the chief priests.  The Pharisees, they want the Romans to come and arrest Him and the people will immediately know He’s not the Messiah because He can’t overthrow the enemy.

But the Sadducees, they don’t want the Romans involved in this because they think they’ll lose their position.  So a certain one of them, the high priest, Caiaphas, who is a Sadducee, said to them, “You know nothing at all.  Do you take into account that it is expedient for you that one man should die for the people, and that the whole nation should not perish?”  In other words, we have to have Him put to death.  He’s got to die or we’re all going to perish. 

And so the Pharisees and the Sadducees come together, even though the Pharisees wanted Him dead for sure, the Sadducees might have not necessarily wanted Him dead thinking Rome would invade, Caiaphas steps up.  He’s the high priest.  And says, “Wait a minute, He’s got to be dead or we’re all going to lose everything.”  They’re determined that Jesus has to die.

The Sadducees’ approach is to discredit Him in front of the people by asking Him a question that nobody’s been able to answer.  This is their ultimate question.  This is the one that stumped everybody, I’m sure, all the way along in the debates.  This is their best shot.  Let’s make Him look stupid.  Let’s make Him look foolish by this question on the resurrection.

The Sadducees ask Jesus a question, addressing Him as Teacher and citing Mosaic law, about a man marrying his brother’s wife and raising his children should she become a widow (verse 28).

MacArthur explains the source of their question and why that command was there:

They bring up Moses, of course.  They bring up the Pentateuch, of course.  They bring up Deuteronomy 25.  Deuteronomy 25.

Now, I just remind you of it.  Deuteronomy 25, part of God’s law for the nation Israel, this is what it says, verse 5, “When brothers live together and one of them dies and has no son, the wife of the deceased shall not be married outside the family to a strange man.”  There are several brothers, one of them gets married, he dies before he can raise up a child to propagate the family.  She’s not to marry a stranger.  “Her husband’s brother shall go into her take her to himself as wife and marry her perform the duty of a husband’s brother to her.  And it shall be that the firstborn whom she bears shall assume the name of his dead brother, that his name may not be blotted out from Israel.”

In the time when Israel is on the edge of going into the land in the book of Deuteronomy, they’re going to go in.  The land is going to be apportioned.  Families, tribes are going to get certain portions of the land.  It is very important for those tribes to have progeny, to have offspring, to continue God’s covenant promise, and the promise is in the giving of the land to those tribes.  What happens if somebody has a wife and never gives birth to a son?  A brother in the same family then takes that woman as his own wife to raise up the seed to keep the family moving, because that was God’s covenant promise and purpose.  That was a way of protecting and preserving the nation and the identity of the peoples and the places that God had designed.  It is called levirate marriage from the Latin meaning “brother.”

It first appears in the Old Testament, by the way, back in Genesis 38 in the household of Judah, son of Joseph.  Onan refused to comply and raise up a child to his dead brother’s wife and it resulted in God taking the life of Onan in Genesis 38.  God wanted to protect and preserve His people and the tribes of His people for the fulfillment of His plan and prophecy and this is the way God did it

The hypothetical woman the Sadducees describe sounds like a black widow spider.

There were seven brothers, the first of which married and died childless (verse 29). The second and the third brother married the woman in sequence and also died childless, along with the remaining brothers (verses 30, 31). Then the woman died (verse 32).

The Sadducees asked Jesus whose wife the woman will be at the resurrection if all seven brothers married her (verse 33).

They knew the Pharisees had a view on this, too, as MacArthur tells us:

How many times had they posed that question before?  How many jokes had they made out of the absurdity of resurrection using this kind of illustration or analogy?  The Pharisees were the ones who said the next life will be just like this life.  Same person, same features, same clothes, same weakness and strengths, same relationships.  Are you kidding?  And there were some, like Maimonides, who actually said children will be born after the resurrection He’s the original Mormon.  That’s not new.

Jesus replied succinctly, saying that those who belong in this age — live on earth — marry and are given in marriage (verse 34).

Henry says that marriage is an institution that reins us in from sin and gives us a structure in which to raise children:

The children of men in this world marry, and are given in marriage, hyioi tou aionos toutouthe children of this age, this generation, both good and bad, marry themselves and give their children in marriage. Much of our business in this world is to raise and build up families, and to provide for them. Much of our pleasure in this world is in our relations, our wives and children; nature inclines to it. Marriage is instituted for the comfort of human life, here in this state where we carry bodies about with us. It is likewise a remedy against fornication, that natural desires might not become brutal, but be under direction and control. The children of this world are dying and going off the stage, and therefore they marry and give their children in marriage, that they may furnish the world of mankind with needful recruits, that as one generation passeth away another may come, and that they may have some of their own offspring to leave the fruit of their labours to, especially that the chosen of God in future ages may be introduced, for it is a godly seed that is sought by marriage (Mal 2 15), a seed to serve the Lord, that shall be a generation to him.

MacArthur gives us a bit of Matthew’s account of this question, which includes a response from Jesus that Luke does not include:

Matthew 22, which is the parallel passage giving the same account, adds this, Matthew 22:29, “Jesus answered and said to them – listen to this “ ‘ – You are mistaken, not understanding the scriptures or the power of God.’  

He was telling them that, as the high priests, their knowledge of Scripture was woefully deficient:

Wow.  If you think it was painful for Him to go in with a whip and clean out their business, how painful was it for them to take that shot at their theology?  They prided themselves at being interpreters of Scripture.  You are mistaken, from the verb plana meaning “to cause to wander, to lead astray.”  Means “you have caused yourselves to wander.  You have led yourselves astray.  You are cut loose from the truth and from reality.  You don’t get it.”  Why?  “Because you do not understand the Scriptures.”  What an indictment that is …

Not understanding the Scriptures, you couldn’t have said anything more painful for them to hear than that You are ignorant interpreters of Scripture.  You’ve gotten it wrong.  You have misled yourselves.  You have wandered from the truth.  You do not understand the Scriptures.  And that could describe every false teacher ever.

They prided themselves on the knowledge of the Scripture.  They didn’t have it.  And then “you do not understand the Scriptures – ” He says “ – nor the power of God.”  Had they known the Scriptures, had they really known the Scriptures, they would have known that God promises resurrection.  Had they known the power of God, they would have understood that God can raise people in a state where all their supposed absurdities are absent.  They were spiritually blind.

And so, He’s going to tell them the truth.  Verse 34, “Jesus said to them, ‘The sons of this age marry and are given in marriage.’ ”  “Sons of this age.”  That’s a Hebraism for “people living in this world,” us, temporal humans.  What is Jesus saying?  The matter of marriage, sex, reproduction, childbirth, and everything accompanying it is for this life, not the next.  It’s for this life, not the next.  There is for this age marrying and giving in marriage.  That is a part of this age.

Mormons take note, you will not spend forever on your own planet having celestial sex and producing supernatural children.  Muslims take note, you will not be on green pillows having sex with 72 virgins either in the life to come.  Marriage is for this life only.

Jesus went on to tell the Sadducees that those who are worthy of a place in that age and in the resurrection neither marry or are given in marriage (verse 35).

He was talking about the life to come.

Henry says:

Note, There are more worlds than one; a present visible world, and a future invisible world; and it is the concern of every one of us to compare worlds, this world and that world, and give the preference in our thoughts and cares to that which deserves them.

With that in mind, MacArthur says that Jesus was warning the Sadducees about their spiritual inadequacy and blindness:

Notice that little phrase in verse 35, “who are considered worthy to attain to that age and the resurrection of the dead.”  That poses the question, why does He say that?  I think it’s a warning.  I think it’s a direct warning to the Sadducees.  In effect it’s saying to them, implying to them, “You obviously aren’t worthy to attain to this since you don’t even believe in this.”  It’s a warning.  “You don’t even believe in angels, sons of God, sons of the resurrection, that age to come, the resurrection from the dead.  You reject all of that.  Obviously, you’re not worthy.”

On the other hand, how would one be considered worthy to enter heaven?  How is one considered worthy to become a son of God, a son of resurrection?  Answer, by faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.  The Bible is clear about that.  We don’t have any worthiness of ourselves.  All our righteousness is filthy rags.  The Old Testament was clear on that.  Isaiah said that.

Henry explains the life to come, saying that, as there will be no more death, there is no longer a need for marriage and procreation:

(1.) Who shall be the inhabitants of that world: They that shall be accounted worthy to obtain it, that is, that are interested in Christ’s merit, who purchased it for us, and have a holy meetness for it wrought in them by the Spirit, whose business it is to prepare us for it. They have not a legal worthiness, upon account of any thing in them or done by them, but an evangelical worthiness, upon account of the inestimable price which Christ paid for the redemption of the purchased possession. It is a worthiness imputed by which we are glorified, as well as righteousness imputed by which we are justified; kataxiothentes, they are made agreeable to that world. The disagreeableness that there is in the corrupt nature is taken away, and the dispositions of the soul are by the grace of God conformed to that state. They are by grace made and counted worthy to obtain that world; it intimates some difficulty in reaching after it, and danger of coming short. We must so run as that we may obtain. They shall obtain the resurrection from the dead, that is, the blessed resurrection; for that of condemnation (as Christ calls it, John 5 29), is rather a resurrection to death, a second death, an eternal death, than from death.

(2.) What shall be the happy state of the inhabitants of that world we cannot express or conceive, 1 Cor 2 9. See what Christ here says of it. [1.] They neither marry nor are given in marriage. Those that have entered into the joy of their Lord are entirely taken up with that, and need not the joy of the bridegroom in his bride. The love in that world of love is all seraphic, and such as eclipses and loses the purest and most pleasing loves we entertain ourselves with in this world of sense. Where the body itself shall be a spiritual body, the delights of sense will all be banished; and where there is a perfection of holiness there is no occasion for marriage as a preservative from sin. Into the new Jerusalem there enters nothing that defiles. [2.] They cannot die any more; and this comes in as a reason why they do not marry. In this dying world there must be marriage, in order to the filling up of the vacancies made by death; but, where there are no burials, there is no need of weddings. This crowns the comfort of that world that there is no more death there, which sullies all the beauty, and damps all the comforts, of this world. Here death reigns, but thence it is for ever excluded.

Jesus continued, saying that those belonging to the next life cannot die again, because they are like angels and are children of God, being children of the resurrection (verse 36).

Henry and MacArthur cite the same Greek word used in that verse, isangeloi — angels’ peers.

MacArthur says:

“Rather they’re like angels.”  That’s a verb that Luke coins, isangeloi, “equal to angels,” used only here.  The angels were all created at one time, they don’t procreate and they don’t die Their number is fixed.  There’s no need for marriage because there’s no need for propagation.  There’s no need for replacement.  There’s no need for continuity in the race.  There’s also no need for that kind of union because having a relationship with God and Christ as our true bridegroom and having a perfect relationship with everybody else in the glory of heaven precludes the necessity of having any other lesser relationships.

Verse 36, “Because people don’t die anymore, they are equal to angels, they are sons of God.”  What does that mean?  They take on God’s life, God’s life, which is not sexual.  They take on God’s life, which is an eternal life.  They become sons of the resurrection.  Whenever you see in the Bible “son of, sons of this age, sons of God, sons of the resurrection,” and you’ll see that repeated throughout the gospels, it’s simply a way to identify the essential nature or essential defining quality of something

If you’re a son of Belial, the essential quality is satanic.  If you’re a son of God, the essential essence of life is divine.  If you’re a son of the resurrection, you possess resurrection life.  That’s the defining reality.  If you’re a son of this age, humanity is your defining reality.  If you’re a son of the age to come, eternality is the defining reality.

And so He says those who come to the age of resurrection will take on the character of angels who do not procreate, do not have those kinds of relationships, take on the character of sons of God, that is they will be the possessors of the pure fulfilling life of God.  And they will take on the character of resurrection, newness of life.  Marriage is not necessary.  Marriage does not define any aspect of life in the age to come.

And so our Lord corrects their theology.  If you want more about that, read 1 Corinthians 15, start at verse 35, read to the end of the chapter, where the Lord through the  apostle Paul gives us a look at the form of the resurrection body.  It will be a body like the glorious resurrection body of Jesus as it tells us in Philippians 3:21.

Henry says:

[3.] They are equal unto the angels. In the other evangelists it was said, They are as the angelsos angeloi, but here they are said to be equal to the angels, isangeloiangels’ peers; they have a glory and bliss no way inferior to that of the holy angels. They shall see the same sight, be employed in the same work, and share in the same joys, with the holy angels. Saints, when they come to heaven, shall be naturalized, and, though by nature strangers, yet, having obtained this freedom with a great sum, which Christ paid for them, they have in all respects equal privileges with them that were free-born, the angels that are the natives and aborigines of that country. They shall be companions with the angels, and converse with those blessed spirits that love them dearly, and with an innumerable company, to whom they are now come in faith, hope, and love. [4.] They are the children of God, and so they are as the angels, who are called the sons of God. In the inheritance of sons, the adoption of sons will be completed. Hence believers are said to wait for the adoption, even the redemption of the body, Rom 8 23. For till the body is redeemed from the grave the adoption is not completed. Now are we the sons of God, 1 John 3 2. We have the nature and disposition of sons, but that will not be perfected till we come to heaven. [5.] They are the children of the resurrection, that is, they are made capable of the employments and enjoyments of the future state; they are born to that world, belong to that family, had their education for it here, and shall there have their inheritance in it. They are the children of God, being the children of the resurrection. Note, God owns those only for his children that are the children of the resurrection, that are born from above, are allied to the world of spirits, and prepared for that world, the children of that family.

In the final two verses, Jesus pointed out where the Sadducees failed in their knowledge of Scripture.

He said that even Moses showed that the dead are raised to new life in the story of the burning bush, where the Lord said that He is the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob (verse 37).

MacArthur explains that this is the real shot across the bow:

The main answer comes in verse 37 and it is a powerful answer.  Listen to this.  “But that the dead are raised,” in other words, let’s get back to the point.  Forget the marriage thing, we settled that.  “But that the dead are raised – ” which is the big issue here.  You say they’re not.  “Even Moses showed – ”  Wow, now He’s coming at them in their own zone, right?  In their own zone, because that’s the issue.  It’s not in Moses.  It can’t be so.  So He says, “Even Moses showed in – ” literally “ – in the bush – ” in the text about the bush, the passage about the bush, the burning bush, Exodus 3.

What?  In Exodus 3 Moses showed the truth of resurrection?  How did he do that?  Because it was there “where he calls the Lord the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.”  Well, what does that mean?  Well, I think the important thing for you to know is that when in Exodus 3:6 God said – listen to this – here’s a quote, “I am the God of Abraham.  I am the God of Isaac.  I am the God of Jacob.”  When He said that emphatically, and the I am is recorded in Matthew’s version of this, Matthew 22:32, I think it is.  When He said, “I am the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob,” He did not say, “I was the God of Abraham.  I was the God of Isaac.  I was the God of Jacob.”  I am.  I am, and therefore they are.  Follow that?  A little bit of a careful exegesis of verb tenses.  He doesn’t say, “I was their God.”  He says, “I am their God.”  I am and they are, not I was and they were.

In Genesis 26:24, in Genesis 28:13, God calls Himself “the God of Abraham,” and Abraham is dead.  In Exodus 3:6, 15, 16, again in chapter 4, God calls Himself “the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob,” and all three are dead.  So is God the God of dead people?  Verse 38, “Now He is not the God of the dead but of the living; for all live to Him.”  From our perspective they’re dead.  From His perspective they’re – what? – they’re alive.  They all live to Him. 

The God who says, “I am the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob,” isn’t establishing His glory on the basis that He’s worshiped by corpses.  That wouldn’t bring Him any honor.  Notice that each is singled out individually: The God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, the God of Jacob, emphasizing the personal reality of each Each is alive to God, in God’s presence, in relationship to God, though dead from a worldly view.

Jesus emphasised that reality by saying that God is not of the dead but of the living; to Him, all of them are alive (verse 38), meaning Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.

That also includes God’s chosen, those who are worthy of eternal life with Him in glory.

MacArthur says that if we are alive in Christ, we, too, will share that life to come:

“He is not the God of the dead, but of the living; for all live to Him.”  To God, all who are His are alive and in union with Him in His presence, just as the Old Testament says.  Death does not end one’s existence.  There is another life, an afterlife, a resurrection life, for those who belong to God in His presence.  “I am – ” said Jesus in John 11 “ – the resurrection and the life, whoever believes in Me though he die yet shall he live.”  We will live forever and if we belong to Christ, we will live forever in the presence of Christ and in the presence of God.

It is a pity that the Lectionary compilers did not include the next two verses in this reading, because they show that Jesus silenced the Sadducees in their folly. ‘Teachers of the law’ here refers to the scribes:

39 Some of the teachers of the law responded, “Well said, teacher!” 40 And no one dared to ask him any more questions.

MacArthur says that, in popular parlance, we could say that Jesus blew away their minds:

And that leads us to the last point, the astonishment of the crowd, the astonishment of the scribes, and I guess you could say the astonishment of the Sadducees.  “Some of the scribes answered and said, ‘Teacher, You’ve spoken well.’ ”  Scribes are the legal experts.  They were the theologians.  They were the ones who thought most carefully and deeply about Scripture.  They were wowed.  They were floored. 

This is an understatement, “You have spoken well.”  Matthew 22:33 says, “The multitudes heard and were astonished.”  The word “astonished” and there could be a number of words in the Greek, but the one that’s used in Matthew 22:33 is ekplss and one lexicon, I think, gives it a good spin.  This is what it essentially means.  “To strike out of one’s wits.”  It’s kind of an Old English approach.  We would say this:  To blow their minds.  That’s exactly what it means.  He blew their minds.  They were just astonished at the teaching of Jesus, astonished, amazed, astounded, marveling.

And the Sadducees?  They were done.  Verse 40, they didn’t have courage – the Greek verb is “to dare, or to presume.”  “They didn’t dare question Him any longer about anything.”  They gave it their best shot.  They were done.  They had been cleaned out economically and then they had been dismantled spiritually and theologically.  They’re done.  They disappear.

May all reading this have a blessed Sunday.

All Saints Day is officially and traditionally November 1 every year.

However, some churches commemorate it on the Sunday before, i.e. October 30, 2022.

Readings for Year C follow, emphases mine.

First reading

Daniel has a dream of four winds — four neighbouring kingdoms — and an attendant (angel) interprets the dream saying that the faithful will receive and be part of the kingdom of God for eternity.

Daniel 7:1-3, 15-18

7:1 In the first year of King Belshazzar of Babylon, Daniel had a dream and visions of his head as he lay in bed. Then he wrote down the dream:

7:2 I, Daniel, saw in my vision by night the four winds of heaven stirring up the great sea,

7:3 and four great beasts came up out of the sea, different from one another.

7:15 As for me, Daniel, my spirit was troubled within me, and the visions of my head terrified me.

7:16 I approached one of the attendants to ask him the truth concerning all this. So he said that he would disclose to me the interpretation of the matter:

7:17 “As for these four great beasts, four kings shall arise out of the earth.

7:18 But the holy ones of the Most High shall receive the kingdom and possess the kingdom forever–forever and ever.”


This Psalm of praise (Psalms 145 to 150) looks forward to the kingdom of the Messiah, Jesus Christ.

Psalm 149

149:1 Praise the LORD! Sing to the LORD a new song, his praise in the assembly of the faithful.

149:2 Let Israel be glad in its Maker; let the children of Zion rejoice in their King.

149:3 Let them praise his name with dancing, making melody to him with tambourine and lyre.

149:4 For the LORD takes pleasure in his people; he adorns the humble with victory.

149:5 Let the faithful exult in glory; let them sing for joy on their couches.

149:6 Let the high praises of God be in their throats and two-edged swords in their hands,

149:7 to execute vengeance on the nations and punishment on the peoples,

149:8 to bind their kings with fetters and their nobles with chains of iron,

149:9 to execute on them the judgment decreed. This is glory for all his faithful ones. Praise the LORD!


Paul impresses upon the Ephesians the glory of Jesus Christ and his thanks that they are part of His divine inheritance.

Ephesians 1:11-23

1:11 In Christ we have also obtained an inheritance, having been destined according to the purpose of him who accomplishes all things according to his counsel and will,

1:12 so that we, who were the first to set our hope on Christ, might live for the praise of his glory.

1:13 In him you also, when you had heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and had believed in him, were marked with the seal of the promised Holy Spirit;

1:14 this is the pledge of our inheritance toward redemption as God’s own people, to the praise of his glory.

1:15 I have heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love toward all the saints, and for this reason

1:16 I do not cease to give thanks for you as I remember you in my prayers.

1:17 I pray that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you a spirit of wisdom and revelation as you come to know him,

1:18 so that, with the eyes of your heart enlightened, you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance among the saints,

1:19 and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power for us who believe, according to the working of his great power.

1:20 God put this power to work in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places,

1:21 far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the age to come.

1:22 And he has put all things under his feet and has made him the head over all things for the church,

1:23 which is his body, the fullness of him who fills all in all.


This is Luke’s version of the Beatitudes, which are about spiritual as well as temporal wants that the Lord will satisfy. These verses were read earlier this year over two Sundays: the Sixth and Seventh after Epiphany. Those links contain the exegeses to the following reading.

Luke 6:20-31

6:20 Then he looked up at his disciples and said: “Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God.

6:21 “Blessed are you who are hungry now, for you will be filled. “Blessed are you who weep now, for you will laugh.

6:22 “Blessed are you when people hate you, and when they exclude you, revile you, and defame you on account of the Son of Man.

6:23 Rejoice in that day and leap for joy, for surely your reward is great in heaven; for that is what their ancestors did to the prophets.

6:24 “But woe to you who are rich, for you have received your consolation.

6:25 “Woe to you who are full now, for you will be hungry. “Woe to you who are laughing now, for you will mourn and weep.

6:26 “Woe to you when all speak well of you, for that is what their ancestors did to the false prophets.

6:27 “But I say to you that listen, Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you,

6:28 bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you.

6:29 If anyone strikes you on the cheek, offer the other also; and from anyone who takes away your coat do not withhold even your shirt.

6:30 Give to everyone who begs from you; and if anyone takes away your goods, do not ask for them again.

6:31 Do to others as you would have them do to you.

All Souls Day is November 2. On that day, Christians remember the faithful departed in the hope of their rising again in Christ.

The Twentieth Sunday after Trinity is on October 30, 2022.

The readings for Year C can be found here.

The Gospel reading is as follows (emphases mine):

Luke 19:1-10

19:1 He entered Jericho and was passing through it.

19:2 A man was there named Zacchaeus; he was a chief tax collector and was rich.

19:3 He was trying to see who Jesus was, but on account of the crowd he could not, because he was short in stature.

19:4 So he ran ahead and climbed a sycamore tree to see him, because he was going to pass that way.

19:5 When Jesus came to the place, he looked up and said to him, “Zacchaeus, hurry and come down; for I must stay at your house today.”

19:6 So he hurried down and was happy to welcome him.

19:7 All who saw it began to grumble and said, “He has gone to be the guest of one who is a sinner.”

19:8 Zacchaeus stood there and said to the Lord, “Look, half of my possessions, Lord, I will give to the poor; and if I have defrauded anyone of anything, I will pay back four times as much.”

19:9 Then Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house, because he too is a son of Abraham.

19:10 For the Son of Man came to seek out and to save the lost.”

Commentary comes from Matthew Henry and John MacArthur.

This is a long post, as it discusses not only Jericho but also tax collectors and the purpose of our Lord’s ministry.

As I have said over the past several weeks of Luke’s Gospel passages this year — Year C — Luke 9 through most of Luke 19 contain our Lord’s lessons to His disciples and also to the Pharisees, along with the miracles that Jesus performed during this time.

John MacArthur says:

Jesus is headed for Jerusalem, leaving His ministry behind as He heads for the cross in a few days.  He’s about to give His life as the only acceptable sacrifice that satisfies God, the only ransom price paid to God for sin.  It is imminent.  He’s wrapped up His earthly ministry.  Spent most of that last year in Judea, just before this occasion had made a little foray into Galilee and then down through Perea, crossing the Jordan to the east so as not to go through Samaria, which the Jews did not traverse normally, and coming down the east side of Jordan back across the river, headed through Jericho up to Jerusalem for the Passover This would be His last time

Luke tells us that Jesus entered Jericho and was passing through it (verse 1), meaning that He would not be staying there long.

Matthew Henry’s commentary says of Jericho and the purpose of our Lord’s visit:

This city was build under a curse, yet Christ honoured it with his presence, for the gospel takes away the curse. Though it ought not to have been built, yet it was not therefore a sin to live in it when it was built. Christ was now going from the other side Jordan to Bethany near Jerusalem, to raise Lazarus to life; when he was going to do one good work he contrived to do many by the way. He did good both to the souls and to the bodies of people; we have here an instance of the former.

Compelling Truth explains why some believed the city should not have been rebuilt:

After the defeat of Jericho, Joshua delared, “Cursed before the LORD be the man who rises up and rebuilds this city, Jericho: ‘At the cost of his firstborn shall he lay its foundation, and at the cost of his youngest son shall he set up its gates'” (Joshua 6:26). Why did he give this curse?

First, Joshua clearly did not want to see this city that worshiped other gods to be rebuilt. A curse was upon its citizens and their memory due to their worship of false gods.

Second, the destruction of Jericho served as an example to other cities that opposed Israel and its God. When the Israelites crossed the Jordan River, Jericho was the first major city they encountered. Its devastation would serve as a powerful warning to other people in the land of God’s power.

Third, Joshua realized the negative influence the city could have on the Israelites. In fact, the very next chapter records the account of Achan, an Israelite who secretly kept some of the plunder from the battle. His sin caused the Israelites to lose their next battle. Eventually, Achan’s sin was revealed and punished.

During the reign of King Ahab, the curse was fulfilled:

We read in 1 Kings 16:34, “In his days Hiel of Bethel built Jericho. He laid its foundation at the cost of Abiram his firstborn, and set up its gates at the cost of his youngest son Segub, according to the word of the LORD, which he spoke by Joshua the son of Nun.”

The cost of rebuilding Jericho came at a price for Hiel of Bethel. Jesus then removed any taint of curse by visiting it during His ministry:

Some have misunderstood this curse, believing Jericho would never be rebuilt. However, the curse only referred to the one who attempted to rebuild the city. The rebuilt Jericho appears in the New Testament as the place where Jesus healed two blind men (Matthew 20:29; Mark 10:46; Luke 18:35) and where Jesus met Zacchaeus (Luke 19:1–3). It is also mentioned in the account of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:30). The city of Jericho exists still today, home to approximately 18,000 residents in the West Bank.

MacArthur says that Jericho was a beautiful, prosperous — and fragrant — city:

… He arrives at the City of Palms, as it was called, the city of Jericho six miles north of the Dead Sea and six miles west of the Jordan River.

it was really a wonderful city.  It was the garden city of the ancient world, certainly of the land of Israel at that time; a far more wonderful place then than it is frankly is now.  It was fed by springs that were producing ample amounts of water which was brought by aqueduct into the city and used to irrigate the area so that it bloomed in a magnificent way It was a walled city, new walls, not the ones that fell down in the Jericho of the Old Testament.  There was a theater there. There was an amphitheater there built by Herod.  There was a new palace as well.  Gardens designed by Archelaus, it was a magnificent, magnificent place.  Edersheim, the great historian, says, “It was characterized by groves of feathery palms rising in stately beauty, stretched gardens of roses and sweet-scented balsam plantations The largest behind the royal gardens of which the perfume is carried by the wind almost out to the sea and which may have been given to the city…may have been used as the reason the name was given to the city, Jericho, Jericho meaning ‘the perfumed.’” Edersheim says, “It was the Eden of Palestine, the fairy land of the Old World.”

Deep down in a hallowed valley it sits; massive limestone mountains to the west.  The sunken Jordan Valley to the east and off in the distance the purple mountains of Moab, a remarkable place, its streets filled with a motley throng.  Pilgrims from Galilee and Perea, priests who lived there and served there, traders from all lands, it was one of the high density trading centers, there were routes going north, east, west and south, it was a busy, busy place, full of good people in a human sense, full of the wretched, the worst who occupied places where there was lots to steal The robbers were there en masse.  The great caravans came through there.  There was ample supply for those who stole, as well for those…as well as for those who bought and sold.  Soldiers were there, courtiers were there, the worst of everything, the best of everything. Tax collectors had a high profile there because it was one of the three regional tax centers in the land of Israel, the northern one being Capernaum, the central one on the coast being Caesarea, the southern one being Jericho.

MacArthur sets the scene for us as Jesus arrived:

So here Jesus came with His disciples headed for Jerusalem, not just His disciples but all other kinds of followers that had collected with Him, plus all the pilgrims headed for a Passover.  It was a huge crowd that crossed the Jordan and came into…entering says verse 1, and passing through Jericho.  And the question was on people’s minds: Is this Jesus the Messiah?  Is He going to bring the promised kingdom?  They knew He had miracle power. He had filled the land with His miracles.  They knew He was a teacher like no other teacher.  And in Jericho they knew He had raised Lazarus from the dead because just up the hill a little ways from Jericho is Bethany, before you enter into Jerusalem, where Lazarus lived and was well known and it was only a matter of weeks before this event that He had raised him from the dead.  And the word would have spread everywhere. We know it spread. It spread right up to the upper echelons of the leadership of Jerusalem.  We can be certain that it spread down the hill into Jericho that He had power over death as well as disease, as well as demons.

Interestingly, MacArthur says that Jesus had already raised Lazarus from the dead. Henry says that Jesus resurrected Lazarus after this visit. I’ll leave it to you to decide.

Whatever the timeline, one thing we know for certain: wherever Jesus went, His crowds were well known.

Returning to the reading, Luke says that a man named Zacchaeus was there, a chief tax collector who was very rich (verse 2),

MacArthur says that this story is unique to Luke:

It is only recorded by Luke, does not appear in the other three gospels, but Luke’s account is rich and instructive. 

Henry tells us about Zacchaeus:

His name bespeaks him a Jew. Zaccai was a common name among the Jews; they had a famous rabbi, much about this time, of that name. Observe, 1. His calling, and the post he was in: He was the chief among the publicans, receiver-general; other publicans were officers under him; he was, as some think, farmer of the customs. We often read of publicans coming to Christ; but here was one that was chief of the publicans, was in authority, that enquired after him. God has his remnant among all sorts. Christ came to save even the chief of publicans. 2. His circumstances in the world were very considerable: He was rich. The inferior publicans were commonly men of broken fortunes, and low in the world; but he that was chief of the publicans had raised a good estate. Christ had lately shown how hard it is for rich people to enter into the kingdom of God, yet presently produces an instance on one rich man that had been lost, and was found, and that not as the prodigal by being reduced to want.

MacArthur has more on tax collection in Jericho and explains that God instituted government, therefore, tax is (an unfortunate) part of that structure:

Highway going through the west through Jerusalem, headed to Caesarea and Joppa, great trade centers also on the Mediterranean Sea.  Highway going through heading to Egypt in the south and cities east of the Jordan into Moab and the far east from which all kinds of products came and went, great exchange center This city would have had many, many tax collectors.  This man is identified as a chief tax gatherer.

As you know, because we’ve seen our tax gatherers before, this is number six in the gospel of Luke This is the sixth time our Lord has an encounter with a tax gatherer.  And by the way, all of them are favorable.  So He defies the conventional wisdom and the attitude of the people toward these men; and in so doing, reminds us that it’s not a crime to be a tax collector That may encourage those of you who are.  It is a noble calling if you do it right because taxation is a divine institution.  Jesus said, “Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s.”  Pay your taxes. He did.  Paul said, “Custom to whom custom is due, tribute to whom tribute is due, tax to whom tax is due,” Romans 13.  The entire theocratic kingdom of Israel in the Old Testament was basically functioning by a very carefully laid out taxation system in which every Jewish person paid essentially twenty-three and a third of their average income to the theocratic kingdom in order to fund the government.  The Lord instituted taxation because He instituted government.  Powers that be are ordained of God.  The Lord never had a problem with the people who collected tax because He never had a problem with tax as such.  But the Lord does have a problem with abusive taxes, with illegitimate taxes, with corruption, dishonesty, crime, and separating people from their money illegitimately by use of physical force and cruelty, which is what the tax collectors in the ancient world did.

MacArthur explains why the Jews considered tax collectors to be unclean. It was because they had made a conscious decision to be in league with Rome:

In order to have a tax franchise, you had to buy it from Rome So you were a traitor from the very outset to your own people who were occupied by the Roman idolatrous and despised pagans.  Rome would set a certain amount that the tax gatherer had to pay.  Whatever else he could collect, he could keep; a formula for corruption for sure.  And there were so many ways to tax The people had no idea what they were supposed to pay.  Yes, there were some sort of foundational taxes.  There was, for example, an individual tax, kind of a poll tax for men from 14 to 65 and women from 12 to 65 and they paid that tax.  There was a ground tax they called like a property tax, one tenth of all grain or something the equivalent of grain, one fifth of wine and oil. So there were some fixed taxes; even a kind of income tax which was about 1 percent of a person’s income.  So they had those that were fixed.  But beyond that, you could tax anything that you could get away with taxing.  You could tax everybody’s commerce by taxing every wheel, every axle on their cart, taxing every animal pulling the cart, taxing every product that they bought and sold, every way imaginable.  And so tax collectors became filthy rich because what they paid Rome was only a portion of what they actually collected.  They also became despised and hated.  They couldn’t attend the synagogue.  They couldn’t have any social relationships with people because the people wouldn’t get near them because they were considered unclean and anybody who came near one of them would be polluted.  So the only people they could associate were the people who were also unclean, and so they were the collection of people called the tax collectors and sinners that we meet so often in Jesus’ ministry, the very people that God loves to save.  “He came not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.”  In fact, Jesus spent so much time with the scum and the riff-raff, the tax gatherers and their assorted criminals, that they called Him, Luke 7:34, Matthew 11:9, “a friend of tax gatherers and sinners.” They would have said that with such disdain you couldn’t imagine it.  And it is really why they thought that He represented Satan because He spent so much time with the people that they thought belonged to Satan.

Well here’s one of them.  There was a man called by the name of Zacchaeus.  Now his mom and dad had good intentions for him when he was born.  Zacchaeus means — Are you ready for this? clean, innocent, pure, and righteous.  Nice try, things didn’t go the way they intended them to go.  So he in his life defies the intent of his parents and becomes unclean, guilty, impure, and unrighteous.

He was, it says, architelns, architelns, actually means commissioner of taxes, commissioner of taxes.  He was at the top of the pyramid, top of the pile.  Everybody who collected everything, and there were lots of tax collectors, had to pay him a piece of the action.  So everything came up the…up the pyramid and landed eventually in his pocket Everybody extorted for him.  He got a piece of everybody’s action.  And as a result, he was rich, a combination of legitimate and illegitimate activity.

Zacchaeus was trying to see who Jesus was, but, because he was short, he could not do so (verse 3).

Henry points out that Jesus was never carried on a sedan chair or anything that elevated Him above the people, which would have made Him more easily visible:

He could not get his curiosity gratified in this matter because he was little, and the crowd was great. Christ did not study to show himself, was not carried on men’s shoulders (as the pope is in procession), that all men might see him; neither he nor his kingdom came with observation. He did not ride in an open chariot, as princes do, but, as one of us, he was lost in a crowd; for that was the day of his humiliation. Zaccheus was low of stature, and over-topped by all about him, so that he could not get a sight of Jesus. Many that are little of stature have large souls, and are lively in spirit.

In order to see Jesus, Zacchaeus ran on ahead of the crowd and climbed a sycamore tree, because our Lord was going along that way (verse 4).

When Jesus got to the place where Zacchaeus was, He called out to him by name, telling him to come down because He was going to stay at his house that day (verse 5).

MacArthur explains that Jesus intended to spend the night, not just go for lunch or dinner:

… that phrase, “stay at your house,” indicates to spend the night I’m coming and I’m going to stay overnight.  This is not, by the way, a request and he didn’t run a Bed and Breakfast.  This is a divine command.  Zacchaeus never could have anticipated anything like this because he knew he was a defiled person and no one who considered himself righteous or clean would ever come near him, let alone near his house, and worst of all, eat a meal with him, which was tantamount to affirmation and partnership Yes, Zacchaeus wanted to see who Jesus was, but far more than that, Jesus wanted to see Zacchaeus.

Zacchaeus hurried down and was happy to receive — welcome — Jesus (verse 6).

He was happy because he was an outcast in society, even lower than the blind, the lame and the beggars. Despite all his riches, he had no friends other than tax collectors and could not worship with the other Jews because of his occupation.

Henry says that our Lord’s request of Zacchaeus was an efficacious call:

The notice Christ took of him, the call he gave him to a further acquaintance (v. 5), and the efficacy of that call, v. 6. 1. Christ invited himself to Zaccheus’s house, not doubting of his hearty welcome there; nay, wherever Christ comes, as he brings his own entertainment along with him, so he brings his own welcome; he opens the heart, and inclines it to receive him. Christ looked up into the tree, and saw Zaccheus. He came to look upon Christ, and resolved to take particular notice of him, but little thought of being taken notice of by Christ. That was an honour too great, and too far above his merit, for him to have any thought of. See how Christ prevented him with the blessings of his goodness, and outdid his expectations; and see how he encouraged very weak beginnings, and helped them forward. He that had a mind to know Christ shall be known of him; he that only courted to see him shall be admitted to converse with him. Note, Those that are faithful in a little shall be entrusted with more. And sometimes those that come to hear the word of Christ, as Zaccheus did, only for curiosity, beyond what they thought of, have their consciences awakened, and their hearts changed. Christ called him by name, Zaccheus, for he knows his chosen by name; are they not in his book? He might ask, as Nathanael did (John 1 48), Whence knowest thou me? But before he climbed the sycamore-tree Christ saw him, and knew him. He bade him make haste, and come down. Those that Christ calls must come down, must humble themselves, and not think to climb to heaven by any righteousness of their own; and they must make haste and come down, for delays are dangerous. Zaccheus must not hesitate, but hasten; he knows it is not a matter that needs consideration whether he should welcome such a guest to his house. He must come down, for Christ intends this day to bait at his house, and stay an hour or two with him. Behold, he stands at the door and knocks. 2. Zaccheus was overjoyed to have such an honour put upon his house (v. 6): He made haste, and came down, and received him joyfully; and his receiving him into his house was an indication and token of his receiving him into his heart. Note, When Christ calls to us we must make haste to answer his calls; and when he comes to us we must receive him joyfully. Lift up your heads, O ye gates. We may well receive him joyfully who brings all good along with him, and, when he takes possession of the soul, opens springs of joy there which shall flow to eternity. How often has Christ said to us, Open to me, when we have, with the spouse, made excuses! Cant 5 2, 3. Zaccheus’s forwardness to receive Christ will shame us. We have not now Christ to entertain in our houses, but we have his disciples, and what is done to them he takes as done to himself.

All who saw this began to grumble — complain — and said that Jesus was going to be the guest of a sinner (verse 7).

Once again, Jesus spurned the self-righteous for the notional sinner, something He did often.

MacArthur analyses the crowd’s reaction and our Lord’s magnanimity:

It would have been the first time any righteous, clean, noble, respected person had come to his house.  And here is the Lord, like that father, throwing his arms around a stinking, prodigal son, kissing him all over the head and reconciling him and embracing him.  Of course he received Him gladly, profusely, because he was so overjoyed.  Contrast that with the crowd in verse 7 and you understand the difference between the heart of God and apostate first century Judaism.  “And when they saw it, they all said, ‘Isn’t it wonderful to see the grace of God toward a sinner.'” Oh, is that what it says?  Afraid not.  What it says is, “They all began to grumble.” That is in the Greek an onomatopoetic word.  You remember what an onomatopoeia is?  It is a word whose meaning sounds like it.  The word is diagogguz, da-ga-da-goo-goo, diagogguz, rr-rr-rr-rr. It’s a compound strong term.

This is absolutely predictable.  This is…you know they’re going to do this, outraged propriety, religious incorrectness, no self-respecting Jew would ever expose himself to such severe pollution by staying at the house of the chief administrator of taxation, the most corrupt of all tax gatherers and then to eat a meal with him, to sleep at his house, absolute outrage.  And then you’ve got to realize that there are people in the crowd who are just looking for some action on the part of Jesus to take them on the last few steps to being convinced that He’s the Messiah, and instead He does something that would literally undo all of their previous idea that He would be the Messiah by defiling Himself in this way It’s just against the grain of everything that was a part of their religious thinking.  He’s gone to be the guest of a man. That is a Greek verb, katalu, and it means to loose in a…in a compound sense, to take off.  What it means is to be a guest. He went to take His clothes off to stay the night. He went to loose His clothing.  It’s also used to unhitch an animal.  It’s only here and in Luke 9:12.  But it means to take everything apart, to take all your clothes off, get ready for the night And this man is a hamartl. He’s in the category of the wretched, the despised and the rejected, the category of those people who are the unclean and the untouchable.

Anyone who went to a notional sinner’s house automatically assumed that person’s sins, merely by association:

No Jew would go to his house because then he would be basically a partaker in his evil deed.  He would be guilty of all his crimes and all his corruption.  But Jesus goes to his house because He seeks to save this lost man.  He is on a divine mission, established by divine, sovereign grace and a divine timetable.  He knows exactly who he is though he’s never met Him.  He knows his name though he’s never heard it.  And he has an appointment with salvation He received Him gladly.  What a contrast.  And when they saw it, they began to grumble.  They never got it.  People of Israel never got it.  All the way to the end they’re holding on to their vile, damning, self-righteous religion while Jesus is saving sinners who have no merit, nothing to commend them to Him.

Zacchaeus then stood and made a declaration, saying that he would give half of his possessions to the poor and, if he had defrauded anyone, he would pay them back four times as much (verse 8).

That went far beyond the stipulation of Jewish law, yet Zacchaeus felt it necessary. He was being regenerated, right then and there.

Henry analyses that verse as follows:

The proofs which Zaccheus gave publicly that, though he had been a sinner, he was now a penitent, and a true convert, v. 8. He does not expect to be justified by his works as the Pharisee who boasted of what he had done, but by his good works he will, through the grace of God, evidence the sincerity of his faith and repentance; and here he declares what his determination was. He made this declaration standing, that he might be seen and heard by those who murmured at Christ for coming to his house; with the mouth confession is made of repentance as well as faith. He stood, which denotes his saying it deliberately and with solemnity, in the nature of a vow to God. He addressed himself to Christ in it, not to the people (they were not to be his judges), but to the Lord, and he stood as it were at his bar. What we do that is good we must do as unto him; we must appeal to him, and approve ourselves to him, in our integrity, in all our good purposes and resolutions. He makes it appear that there is a change in his heart (and that is repentance), for there is a change in his way. His resolutions are of second-table duties; for Christ, upon all occasions, laid great stress on them: and they are such as are suited to his condition and character; for in them will best appear the truth of our repentance.

Recall last week’s reading, the Parable of the Pharisee and the Publican, Luke 18:9-14, when the publican — tax collector — prayed that the atonement sacrifice he had just witnessed at the temple would be applied to him for his sins.

MacArthur says that the isolated status of the tax collector and his inability to worship in the temple, even a synagogue, made Zacchaeus’s joy and repentence all the more profound:

Zacchaeus received Him gladly, rejoicing.  That tells us that he came for more than curiosity.  That tells us that he came for more than some kind of superficial interest.  He didn’t just come because he had some kind of a little idea that maybe this was a unique guy and he wanted to have a novel experience.  He responds with joy because he’s got some things going on his heart that are pretty profound and pretty deep.  Now remember, he is alienated, he is isolated.  He has no relationships with anybody that matters, with anybody that’s good or noble or pure.  His only companions are the riff-raff, the worst of the worst, the scum.  But remember, deeper than that is the fact that he is an extortioner and a thief and a robber who has abused and harmed and hurt people and stolen from them, and impoverished them, and abused them in every sense possible.  And he feels the weight of that and he feels the guilt of that.  He can’t worship.  He can’t go to the temple.  He can’t have a…an atonement offered for him.  That’s why in Jesus telling the story of the Pharisee and the publican, you remember the publican goes to the temple and says, “God, please apply this atonement to me,” because that was not how it was.  They were outcasts.  And typically of a Pharisee…if a publican went to the temple ground, they would be discovered there as one of the unclean and thrown out the eastern gate.  So he was isolated from God.  He was isolated from religion He was isolated from hope And then he was bearing the full weight of this massive burden of extortion and corruption which is the way he had lived his life in his heart.  And to hear that a holy prophet of God with miracle power who may well be in the eyes of some the Messiah of Israel was going to come to his house?  It wasn’t just that now in spite of the way he was treated by everybody else, the most significant person in all of Israel would come to his house. It wasn’t a yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah attitude.  Too bad for you, He’s coming to my house.  It wasn’t that.  It is just the overwhelming unbelievable joy of an aching heart, of an empty heart having a meeting with someone who represents God.  He was eagerly joyous though he must have been stunned.  It doesn’t say he received Him with fear.  It doesn’t say, “Whoa, I don’t want to go that far, I just wanted to know who You were.  I don’t want to get that close.”  He received Jesus with joy.

The self-righteous called the unclean sinners, which dates from the Old Testament, most noticeably in the Book of Job. However, the self-righteous did not, to paraphrase Elizabeth I, have eyes into their souls.

This is what Jesus is actively opposing:

… again in typical fashion, he stands in direct contrast to the rest of the populace.  When they saw it, verse 7, they all began to grumble saying, “He’s gone to be the guest of a man who is a sinner.”  That may have been sort of orchestrated by some Pharisees in the crowd, or some of their more devout disciples.  “Sinner” not meaning…meaning in some personal sense they knew about his life, although that were true, sinner in the sense that he belongs to the category of the despised, the category of the rejected, the category of the outcasts You don’t go to their house.  This is more of the cantankerous criticism that came against Jesus Christ from the self-righteous people who thought He worked for Satan because He hung around Satan’s people so much.

Please notice verse 7, “When they saw it, they all began to grumble.” This is universally the viewpoint.  This man belongs in the category of rejected, despised, defiled, corrupted people.  No Jew with any sense of purity would ever go to his house, stay and eat; you share his corruption.  But Jesus says, “I’m coming to your house.”  He hurried and came down and received Him gladly. 

MacArthur analyses Zacchaeus’s pledge to Jesus:

Look at verse 8 again with that in view.  Zacchaeus stopped.  I don’t know if that’s the best word for that, statheis, statheis in the Greek It really means he…he took a stand…he…he set himself with a fixed attitude It could be used for a formal act.  It is really saying this: Zacchaeus, after the conversation is over that we can assume took place, rises, sets himself, and makes this confession.  That’s the idea.  “And said to the Lord…” This is where he takes his formal stand.  Obviously the Lord made everything clear.  The Lord talked of salvation.  He believed by the power of the Spirit of God at work in his heart, not apart from his will but through his will.  And so he rises, takes his stand and said to the Lord, “Behold, Lord.” That’s enough right there.  He’s confessing Jesus as what? As Lord.  This is foundational.  This isn’t something that comes later.  This is foundational.  If you confess Jesus as Lord, you’re saved, Romans 10:9 and 10.  It’s essential.  “Behold, Lord,” and behold is an exclamation.  I suppose today we would say, “Wow, Lord, whoa, Lord.”  And this is just a way to exclaim something that speaks of the dramatic transformation that has taken place in this man’s life.  First thing he says when he takes his stand is, “You’re my Lord.”  Second thing, “Half of my possessions I will give to the poor.”  Wow that is a change.  This is self-denial.  This is, “If any man will come after Me, let him deny himself.” That’s it.  “Take up his cross and follow Me.”  He has affirmed that Jesus is his Lord and he says immediately, “I’m going to give half of everything that I possess to the poor.”  Now he possessed a lot.  Remember back in verse 3…pardon me, verse 2…he was…he was rich, he was really, really rich.  In one day he was so totally transformed that he went from being a thief to being a benefactor; that he went from being selfish to being unselfish; that he went from being a taker to being a giver.  It’s stunning, stunning.  Ah, it’s very much different than the rich young ruler back in chapter 18 verse 22. “Jesus said, ‘One thing you still lack, sell all that you possess and distribute it to the poor, you’ll have treasure in heaven, come follow Me.’ When he heard these things he became very sad, he was extremely rich.”  There was a man who wasn’t about to be parted from his riches.  It’s impossible, Jesus says, for rich men to give up their riches on their own.  Verse 24 of 18: “How hard it is for those who are wealthy to enter the kingdom of God!”  How hard is it?  “It’s easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God.”  Wow, that sounds like impossible, not hard.  Verse 27: “Things impossible with men are possible with God.”  It’s impossible for a rich man on his own to give up his riches. Here’s an illustration in the very next chapter of a rich man who immediately gave up his riches Why?  Because he was sought and saved by a sovereign Lord True righteousness results in a transformation, a transformation that hits at the very core of your dominant category of sin.  Now you can pick a lot of categories.  For this guy it was money and extortion.  For somebody else, it might be something else.  It might be anger, it might be immorality. It might be homosexuality.  It might be whatever.  But when true salvation comes and real transformation comes, it strikes a death blow at the core category of one’s wretchedness.

You remember that Ephesians 2:10 says that “you were saved unto good works which God has before ordained that you should walk in them.”  That is a natural consequence of a supernatural transformation.  And here you see it.  You don’t need to know what the conversation was.  You don’t need to know what he said about believing.  All you need to see is this massive miracle of a transformed soul: Half of my possessions I’ll give to the poor.  And now he’s got half left. What about the other half?  “If I have defrauded any one of anything, I’ll give back four times as much.”  Wow!  Anybody that I’ve defrauded, I’ll give back four times as much.  Now how many people would that be?  Hundreds?  Thousands?  Just play that scene out in your mind.  This isn’t a parable, this is a real man in a real story in a real place

Now where did he get that idea?  Did that just come out of the air?  If you go back to Leviticus, chapter 6 verse 5, or Numbers.  In fact, you might look at Numbers. I think it’s chapter 5 verse 6 and 7. There is an Old Testament prescription for restitution.  Numbers 5, go down to verse 6, The Lord said…spoke to Moses saying, “Speak to the sons of Israel, when a man or woman commits any sin of mankind acting unfaithfully against the Lord and that person is guilty” verse 7 “he shall confess his sins which he has committed, he shall make restitution in full for his wrong” to the person he has wronged, obviously, “and add to it one fifth of it and give it to him whom he has wronged.” So this was pretty much the Jewish standard.  If you read any Jewish literature, 20 percent, one fifth, would have been what was necessary in restitution.  You…you stole somebody from something…something from somebody, you defrauded somebody, you gave them back plus 20 percent, which would cover something of the lost interest or accumulation that could have been gained by whatever it was you stole.  That would be typically what Judaism would honor.  Judaism at that time would honor the 20 percent.  So he could have said that.  He could have said, “I’ll tell you what, I’ll follow the Old Testament prescription in Leviticus and Numbers and I’ll give back everything I’ve taken plus one fifth.” And he would have been…Well he would have been right on target.

Or he could have done it another way.  He could have based it…and I won’t take time to go to that…He could have based it on Exodus 22 In Exodus 22 if you read the first seven verses, you find that in the case of an ordinary robbery which was what he was doing, according to Exodus 22 verses 4 and 7, you paid back double. You paid back double.  So he could have said, “You know what?  I’ll pay back two fold.” That would have been more generous than 20 percent. Now you’ve gone to 200 percent.  That’s pretty good…or 100 percent, that’s pretty good.

Well, why did he say fourfold?  Because in Exodus 22:1, if you robbed someone with violence and destruction, a fourfold response was required.  He went to the max.  He said, “I’ve done this, I’ve done it violently, I’ve done it destructively.  I will gladly pay back the max.”  He knew his Old Testament Law.  And this is the evidence of transformation.  It’s not a, “Oh, is that what I’m supposed to do?  Oh do I have to do that?  How little can I do and get away with it?  How little can I obey and still be considered a Christian?  How close can I walk to the edge?”  It’s, “Look, just show me the maximum demonstration of obedience, that’s what I want to do.” This is the real deal, folks, the real deal.  He was determined to do more than was asked, more than the law required.  There wasn’t any law that said give half of everything you have to the poor.  He would have probably given more, but he needed to keep half because he was going to give back 400 percent of what he had defrauded people of to the maximum of Old Testament allowance.  This is the kind of obedience that marks the one who has denied himself, taken up his cross and followed Christ and doesn’t live on the minimal but lives at the maximum level of obedience.  He acted as if every illegitimate, defrauding taxation was destructive, violent, devastating.  And he strips himself of everything he has, even his honest gain.

Jesus said to him that salvation had come to his house that day because, he, too, is a son of Abraham (verse 9).

Well, if that wasn’t a shot across the bow of the self-righteous witnessing that scene.

The self-righteous Jews were fond of calling themselves the sons of Abraham. They meant by lineage and, therefore, automatically saved. Jesus called Zacchaeus a son of Abraham in terms of faith, Abraham’s absolute faith and trust in God.

MacArthur says:

It’s a similitude, it’s a similarity.  Abraham was a man of faith, Genesis 15:6, he believed God and God accounted to him for righteousness.  Here’s another one, here is an ethnic, genetic son of Abraham who is a spiritual son of Abraham as well He is a true Jew.  Paul says in Romans, “Not all Israel is Israel.  Not all Israel is Israel.” In fact, he says, “I…I have heaviness of heart and great sorrow” for Israelites, “I could almost wish myself accursed” for the Israelites, because the Israelites do not know God. 

MacArthur explains that when Jesus said salvation had come to Zacchaeus’s house, He probably meant just him, not the whole household:

“And Jesus said to him, ‘Today salvation has come to this house.'” Sure, and salvation can even refer to Him, that is to Jesus, because you remember back in Luke 2:30 Simeon took the little baby Jesus in his arms and says, “My eyes have seen Your salvation.”  Salvation in Christ came to his house and salvation as an act of transformation happened in his soul.  The proof: transformation.  “House,” does that mean his whole household?  It doesn’t say that. There are times when like in the Philippian jailor’s case, he believed, and his household.  Probably just means house and Zacchaeus and salvation in a moment turned an essentially greedy man into a gracious, generous man, turned a passion of his life from abuse and gain to kindness and giving.  And Jesus says, “Because he, too, is a son of Abraham.”

Jesus says that the Son of Man came to seek out and save the lost (verse 10).

MacArthur interprets that all-important verse as follows:

… this is the very reason Jesus came, to seek and save that which was lost.  And this is one final comment made to Israel You haven’t gotten it all along and you don’t get it now.  You’re still grumbling and you’re still complaining because you don’t get it.  I'[ve] come to seek and save the lost and I can’t do anything for the self-righteous.  In the Middle Eastern mind, to include this man in the community of salvation was outrageous.  But for us, it is the most magnificent expression of the redeeming grace and love of God Jesus came to seek and save sinners and then to totally transform them.

MacArthur gives us the secret of salvation. God seeks us first, then we seek Him. However, we cannot seek Him without Him seeking us first:

In our sinfulness, in our fallenness, in our reprobation, in our blindness, in our ignorance, in our association and relationship to the kingdom of darkness and under the power of Satan, we cannot seek after God. We do not seek after God.  There would then be no reconciliation, no salvation, no forgiveness, no hope of heaven if God did not seek after us.  God does the initial seeking.  God does the saving of those who apart from Him would hide themselves from Him like Adam and Eve, running from His presence with no capacity in them to ever turn and pursue Him.

MacArthur explains why Jesus referred to Himself so often as the Son of Man:

He is the seeker.  He is the saver of those who are lost.  And the story is an illustration.  A man out of a massive crowd sitting in a tree has a divine appointment with the seeking, saving Lord who spots him, names him and by divine necessity says, “I’m coming to your house because this is the day of your salvation.”  This is one of the great biblical illustrations of sovereign salvation, of God seeking not just sinners in a general or vague way but seeking sinners in a very specific, personal way.  And this is the work of the Son of Man.  The Son of Man in verse 10 is a title which Jesus used of Himself more than any other, by far.  It refers to Him as man, that is His humanity, but far more than that, it is a messianic title referring to Him as the all-glorious, chosen One by God to rule and reign over an ever-lasting kingdom.  That is prophesied as He is there identified in Daniel chapter 7 So it sees Him, yes, in His humanity, but far more in His divine glory and everlasting rule Son of Man has come. “Has come” refers to His incarnation, not has come to Jericho, but has come into the world. At His birth He came, incarnation, for the purpose of seeking and saving.  Those are two infinitives which means it starts with to, t-o.  That’s an infinitive. These are what we call in Greek infinitives of purpose, two purposes to seek, to save.  The word “seek,” zte, means to pursue, to look for, to search for.  To save means basically to rescue from harm, to deliver from danger And the amazing irony of it all is that God sends Christ to seek and to save those who are headed for His own wrath and judgment.

When we read of being ‘lost’, we think of it rather loosely. MacArthur explains that, in the Greek, it means to be destroyed, damned:

God seeks to save people from Himself, from His own wrath and His own holy judgment.  The ones that He seeks to save are identified here as that which was lost, that which was lost.  Literally in the Greek it’s a condition of being, the having been lost one, the one who is in a permanent state of lostness.  But even being lost doesn’t express the fullness of this word.  It’s a very strong word in the Greek, apollumi. Any Greek students know it’s a familiar word. It means to be ruined. It means to be destroyed.  The Son of Man then was incarnated, coming into this world for the purpose of pursuing and saving those who are in a condition of ruination and destruction and headed for damnation Couldn’t be more clear … 

Sin has devastated all of humanity and all of humanity is marred, corrupted, evil, ruined, headed for eternal damnation We are all in that same condition.  In fact, that condition needs to be understood, and so we read in Romans 3, starting in verse 10, a very careful description of that condition There is none righteous, not even one.  There is none who understands.  There is none who seeks for God.  All have turned aside.  Together they have become useless.  There is none who does good There is not even one.  Their throat is an open grave.  With their tongues they keep deceiving.  The poison of asps” or snakes “is under their lips.  Whose mouth is full of cursing and bitterness.  Their feet are swift to shed blood.  Destruction and misery are in their paths.  The path of peace have they not known.  There is no fear of God before their eyes.” So writes the apostle Paul and every single sentence he drew from the Old Testament.  This is not a new description of man. This is God’s description of man’s sinful condition from the start.

In Ephesians chapter 4, an even more concise description of the human condition, verse 17, “We walk in the futility of our minds, darkened in our understanding, excluded from the life of God because of the ignorance in us, because of the hardness of our hearts we are callous given over to sensuality for the practice of every kind of impurity with greediness.” We can never get enough impurity.  This is the human condition.  And the purpose of the coming of the Son of Man, the Lord Jesus into the world, is to rescue sinners from this condition with its inevitable result of eternal damnation.

Knowing the true purpose of our Lord’s earthly ministry is exceedingly important:

Jesus did not come into the world to be a good teacher.  He did not come to be a moral leader.  He did not come to espouse religious ideas.  He did not come to raise the religious consciousness of the people in His community and His society.  He did not come into the world to show us what a good life looks like.  He came into this world to rescue doomed sinners.  That is the Christian message.  That is the only Christian message.  Everything in the Old Testament points to that.  Everything in the New Testament defines that.

We all want to know what happened to Zacchaeus.

MacArthur has a highly possible answer as to why Luke has this story and named him:

It’s interesting that he gave him a name.  This is the first for us to see a tax gatherer who actually named other than Matthew who is called an apostle by Jesus.  Why the name?  Well again, remember when we studied Bartimaeus and we suggested the church historians have said that Bartimaeus later became a very prominent Christian and his name was used because everybody knew who he was and this would have associated him with that great moment in his life when he was given sight and saved in Jericho.  Well, here you have, according to some church historians, a similar situation.  It’s Clement of Alexandria, one of the church fathers, who says that this man, Zacchaeus, became a very prominent Christian leader and ended up a pastor of the church in Caesarea, later to be succeeded by none other than Cornelius, the centurion.  That’s from church history.  We can’t find that in the Word of God.  So perhaps it’s so and that’s why his name was used.


Acts 10 has the story of Peter and Cornelius, which I wrote about a few years ago:

Acts 10:1-8 – Cornelius, divine vision, angel, Peter, God-fearer

Acts 10:9-16 – Peter, divine vision, allegory, animals, Gentiles, forbidden food is now clean

Acts 10:17-23 — Peter, Holy Spirit, obedience, Gentiles, hospitality

Acts 10:24-29 — Peter, Cornelius, Jewish converts, Gentile converts

Acts 10:30-33 – Peter, Cornelius, Jew, Gentile, Jesus Christ

Acts 10:44-48 – Peter, Cornelius, the Holy Spirit, baptism, Gentile, Jew

May all reading this have a blessed Sunday.

The Nineteenth Sunday after Trinity is on October 23, 2022.

Readings for Year C can be found here.

The Gospel reading is as follows (emphases mine):

Luke 18:9-14

18:9 He also told this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous and regarded others with contempt:

18:10 “Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector.

18:11 The Pharisee, standing by himself, was praying thus, ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other people: thieves, rogues, adulterers, or even like this tax collector.

18:12 I fast twice a week; I give a tenth of all my income.’

18:13 But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even look up to heaven, but was beating his breast and saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, a sinner!’

18:14 I tell you, this man went down to his home justified rather than the other; for all who exalt themselves will be humbled, but all who humble themselves will be exalted.”

Commentary comes from Matthew Henry and John MacArthur.

This reading picks up from where we left off last Sunday. Jesus told a parable about a widow who cried for justice from an ungodly judge. He gave in and granted her justice only because he did not want to be beaten down (the Greek words used) by her wailing anymore. Jesus said how much more merciful God would be to those who cry out to Him:

18:7 And will not God grant justice to his chosen ones who cry to him day and night? Will he delay long in helping them?

18:8 I tell you, he will quickly grant justice to them. And yet, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?”

Of today’s parable, John MacArthur says:

There is no time indicator here. There is no transitional statement here so we don’t know exactly whether or not Jesus said this on the same occasion He was talking about the kingdom. Perhaps He did, perhaps He didn’t, but certainly in Luke’s inspired order of the text, this is the right discussion because we’ve just been talking about the kingdom and that Jesus is coming and you must be ready for His coming. And when He comes, there’s going to be separation and there’s going to be the death of the ungodly and carcasses are going to be everywhere. You want to be ready for the coming King. You want to be in His kingdom. And so that begs the question: How does one enter the kingdom? Who is in the kingdom and why? And so the parable fits in the flow of thought.

Regular readers of this column over the past few months will know that Jesus was in His final six months of public ministry. Luke 9 through Luke 19 documents His lessons to the disciples and to the Pharisees before He entered Jerusalem for the final time.

Jesus addressed this parable to the self-righteous who regarded others with contempt (verse 9).

Matthew Henry’s commentary explains:

He designed it for the conviction of some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and despised others. They were such as had, 1. A great conceit of themselves, and of their own goodness; they thought themselves as holy as they needed to be, and holier than all their neighbours, and such as might serve for examples to them all. But that was not all; 2. They had a confidence in themselves before God, and not only had a high opinion of their own righteousness, but depended upon the merit of it, whenever they addressed God, as their plea: They trusted in themselves as being righteous; they thought they had made God their debtor, and might demand any thing from him; and, 3. They despised others, and looked upon them with contempt, as not worthy to be compared with them. Now Christ by this parable would show such their folly, and that thereby they shut themselves out from acceptance with God. This is called a parable, though there be nothing of similitude in it; but it is rather a description of the different temper and language of those that proudly justify themselves, and those that humbly condemn themselves; and their different standing before God. It is matter of fact every day.

MacArthur says:

… in particular who did He have in mind? Who were the real leaders of this religion in Israel of trusting in yourself that you were righteous? The Pharisees, the scribes. Go back to chapter 16 verse 14. The Pharisees…says Jesus…First of all it says Luke. “The Pharisees who were lovers of money were listening to all these things and were scoffing at Him and He said to them,” and here are the words of Jesus, “You are those who justify yourselves in the sight of men. You make yourselves righteous in the sight of men, but God knows your hearts. That which is highly esteemed among men is detestable in the sight of God.”

MacArthur would agree with Henry about self-righteouness continuing to be a matter of fact every day:

… the people believed that trusting in yourself to become righteous was the way that you gained a place in the kingdom of God and the way you would eventually get to heaven. The benchmark of their system: self-confidence in one’s ability to achieve righteousness by their own power and works trusting in their own righteousness. These are the Pharisees for sure. These are the people who followed the Pharisees. But these are also all the people of all time who have developed any kind of self-styled approach to God in which they believe they have the power to live a life that satisfies God, that somehow they are good enough to be acceptable to God, into His kingdom, into His goodness and into His heaven. These are all the people in the religion of human achievement. Basically that’s how people think in the world

The Pharisees were sickeningly self-righteous, or as Walter Liefeld says, “They are obnoxiously self-righteous.” And that’s why you have a further description of them at the end of verse 9.  Not only did they trust in themselves that they were righteous, but they viewed others with contempt.  They viewed others with contempt.  Contempt is the worst scorn that you can heap on somebody.  In Luke 23:11 the only two times this word is used in the gospels, once here in 18 and once again in 23:11, Herod with his soldiers after treating Jesus with contempt and mocking Him, dressed Him in a gorgeous robe and sent Him back to Pilate.  Scorn, ridicule, mockery, sarcasm, the lowest form and the most biting form of derision; the Pharisees were that way.  They looked at anybody below them outside their group with contempt.  The word, I think, is interesting enough to kind of break down, exoutheneō.  It comes from two words, as do many Greek terms, many of the verbs combining a preposition at the beginning.  Ek, out of, ouden, not, not even; out of not even anything, the nobodies, the nothings, the non-existents.  They viewed them as if they didn’t exist.  By the way, that same word is used by Peter in Acts 4 when he preached a sermon, and he said this about Jesus, “He is the stone which the builders rejected.” That’s the same verb.  Jesus was treated as if He was nothing, absolutely nothing.  By the way, the word is also used in 1 Corinthians 1 where the Lord has chosen the base things and the despised. The nothings and the nobodies God has chosen.

So, there’s in this self-righteousness, in this pride, a contempt for anybody beneath you.  The Jews, the law keepers were called the habarim and the lawbreakers were called the amharitz, the low-lifes.  And in the eyes of the Pharisee, he couldn’t get near to anybody who was an amharitz.  That was an absolutely unthinkable thing for him to do.  Kenneth Bailey writes, “In the eyes of a strict Pharisee, the most obvious candidate for the classification of amharitz would be a tax collector.  But there was a particular kind of uncleanness that was contracted by sitting, riding, or even leaning against something unclean. This uncleanness was called midras uncleanness. And for Pharisees, he writes, “The clothes of an amharitz count as suffering midras uncleanness.”  They didn’t get near any of the low-lifes and the riff-raffs that they disdained. Remember I told you earlier, not even so much as to teach them the law of God.

And so here we have these two men.  And they are at extreme polesAnd they’re going to be the ones that convey the message Jesus wants to convey to the people who think they can be good enough to get to heaven on their own.  The audience is really universal, a comprehensive audience.

Jesus began the parable by saying that two men went up to the temple to pray: a Pharisee and a tax collector (verse 10).

In old money, this parable was known as the one of the Pharisee and the publican. Publican in this context means tax collector, not someone who runs a pub.

Henry says that the custom of praying in the temple dated from the time of Solomon:

Two men went up into the temple (for the temple stood upon a hill) to pray. It was not the hour of public prayer, but they went thither to offer up their personal devotions, as was usual with good people at that time, when the temple was not only the place, but the medium of worship, and God had promised, in answer to Solomon’s request, that, whatever prayer was made in a right manner in or towards that house, it should therefore the rather be accepted.

MacArthur says an atonement sacrifice was offered twice a day, dating back to Leviticus:

What’s the scene here?  Two men went up to the temple to pray.  That happened twice a day, basically, every day, 9 A.M., 3 P.M., morning and evening sacrifice prescribed for the burnt offering which was laid out in the 1st chapter of Leviticus.  They were to go up and make an animal sacrifice, a blood sacrifice as a symbol of atonement.  That was a very, very important thing.  They were very, very fastidious people who made sure they showed up at 9 A.M. and at 3 P.M. every day, particularly Pharisees who were in the proximity and could do that.  Now the crowd would go up the steps at the prescribed time.  The sacrifices would be offered on the altar.  Following the sacrifices which would symbolically open the way to God because atonement had been made, incense would be burned symbolizing prayer.  Now because atonement has been made, prayers can be offered. And prayers would be offered.  There would come a priestly benediction upon the people who were faithful enough to be there as well, and that would be the typical scene.  When it says they went up to the temple to pray, “pray” would embody all the worship, all of the activities that went onThe temple, according to Matthew 21:13 by the mouth of Jesus Himself is a house of prayer.  Remember Jesus said, “My Father’s house is a house of prayer,” taking the language from Isaiah 56:7, “and you’ve turned it in to a den of thieves.”  A house of prayer: “Prayer” synonymous with worship, a house where you go to offer yourself and your petitions and your praise to God.  It was that time and the crowd ascended the long, steep steps up to the temple mount.  They went up, anabainō. They ascended up there to worship.  The two men are in the crowd and everybody would understand.  It’s a very familiar scene, every morning, every afternoon the same scene went on.

They’re going up there because an atonement is going to be made for sin.  Some are going up there feeling they need the benefits of that atonement.  Some are going up there to display themselves and they’re just looking for a crowd to gather for that purpose.  There would be a time when all of the people would gather around the altar as the sacrifice was being made, after which the incense being burned, people would then pray.  The Pharisee, very familiar to us, we don’t need to say any more about them, you know all there is to know: self-righteous, self-promoting, self-satisfied purveyors and protectors of the religion of human achievement.  Tax collector, also familiar; we’ve seen tax collectors already in four chapters. This is the fifth time.  We know they were the low-lifes of that society because they had purchased tax franchises from the Romans who were the idolaters, oppressors, thus desecrating themselves.  They then extorted money from their own people using strong-armed thugs and any intimidation, manipulation or criminal activity they could and were surrounded by the low-life, riff-raff of society.  So, they are shown going up together with the crowd, but they separate when they get there.

The Pharisee stood by himself, praying to God with an erroneous thanksgiving that he was not like other people he considered to be unclean and beneath himself: thieves, rogues, adulterers — ‘or even like this tax collector’ (verse 11).

Henry says:

Here is the Pharisee’s address to God (for a prayer I cannot call it) … he was wholly intent upon himself, had nothing in his eye but self, his own praise, and not God’s glory; or, standing in some conspicuous place, where he distinguished himself; or, setting himself with a great deal of state and formality, he prayed thus. 

MacArthur comes to the same conclusion:

Jesus even talks about in Matthew 6:5 standing in a posture of prayer but not doing it to be seen of men.  He says don’t be like the hypocrites who stand in order to be seen by men.  Well here’s one of those hypocrites.  Not wrong to stand but to stand to be seen by men. Again you go back to the issue of the heart.  Very likely he would take his place in a most visible location and nearest to the holy place that he could get to show his proximity to God.  He wants to be wherever God is believed or deemed to be, to give the unwashed around him a good look at a truly righteous man.  He takes his posture there.

The Pharisee said that he fasted twice a week and tithed a tenth of all his income (verse 12).

Henry offers this analysis:

The Pharisees and their disciples fasted twice a week, Monday and Thursday. Thus he glorified God with his body: yet that was not all; he gave tithes of all that he possessed, according to the law, and so glorified God with his worldly estate. Now all this was very well and commendable. Miserable is the condition of those who come short of the righteousness of this Pharisee: yet he was not accepted; and why was he not? (1.) His giving God thanks for this, though in itself a good thing, yet seems to be a mere formality. He does not say, By the grace of God I am what I am, as Paul did, but turns it off with a slight, God, I thank thee, which is intended but for a plausible introduction to a proud vainglorious ostentation of himself. (2.) He makes his boast of this, and dwells with delight upon this subject, as if all his business to the temple was to tell God Almighty how very good he was; and he is ready to say, with those hypocrites that we read of (Isa 58 3), Wherefore have we fasted, and thou seest not? (3.) He trusted to it as a righteousness, and not only mentioned it, but pleaded it, as if hereby he had merited at the hands of God, and made him his debtor. (4.) Here is not one word of prayer in all he saith. He went up to the temple to pray, but forgot his errand, was so full of himself and his own goodness that he thought he had need of nothing, no, not of the favour and grace of God, which, it would seem, he did not think worth asking.

MacArthur says:

… the construction lends itself better to understand that he was actually directing his prayer in a self-congratulatory fashion. And that is fairly well indicated by the fact that in two verses he refers to himself five times. That’s pretty hard to do. You have to have short sentences and a lot of first person pronouns. This is a self-congratulatory prayer and the translation of the NAS is a good translation. “The Pharisee stood and was thus praying to himself.” He is parading himself. This is no prayer to God. He gives God no praise. He asks nothing from God, no mercy, no grace, no forgiveness, no help. But he does refer to God. “God,” because you’re supposed to, that’s the way all prayers are supposed to begin, “I thank you that I’m not like other people.” Wow. Well, what’s there to thank God for? You’ve done this on your own. This is sheer hypocrisy. This is an unequivocal confession to God of his worthiness, of his righteousness. Thanking God for what you are on your own? This is where self-righteousness leads you. I’m good enough. God, I thank You that I’m good enough. I’m good enough to have a relationship with You. I’m good enough to be here in Your temple. I’m good enough to be standing by this holy place. I’m good enough to be the paragon of religious righteousness and virtue. I’m good enough to stand here so all the low-lifes can see what a really godly man looks like.

MacArthur says that when the prayers began, the notionally unclean were separated and ushered out of the temple:

And he must have kept himself a little bit of distance away.  If he were to brush against any amharitz, he would be unclean.  And physical isolation for a Pharisee was a statement.  They stood aloof from others when they gather around the altar, they stood aloof from others at all time in society, they never had a dinner or a lunch at their house with anybody but another Pharisee, unless they invited somebody in which to trap Jesus.  According to the Mishnah, by the way, the Jewish law, at the time of the incense, after the sacrifice in the morning and evening service, prayers were made. And when the prayers began, according to Mishnah, there was a delegation of Jews that was responsible at the time of the beginning of the prayer, of the praying, to find the unclean people in the crowd and clear them away to the eastern gate, get all the unclean people out.  And maybe a Pharisee like this would wonder why there was even a tax collector in his vision who should have been ushered off and out the eastern gate.

MacArthur also has more on the Monday and Thursday fasting of that era:

Verse 12: “I fast twice a week.”  Impressive, huh?  By the way, the Old Testament only prescribed one fast, Day of Atonement, preparation for the Day of Atonement. Leviticus 16:31 called for a fast.  There are no other required fasts.  There were times of sorrow, times of penitence, times of mourning when people fasted and that was something you could choose to do.  But there was only one prescribed fast.  But as I said, these self-styled, self-righteous, external legalists like to invent rituals and ceremonies as all false religions do.  And they get more complicated and more complicated and more complicated and more symbolic and more symbolic in direct proportion to the absence of truth and reality.  And so they had developed a scheme of fasting on Monday and Thursday, Monday and Thursday.  Why Monday and Thursday?  Because those were the market days and the crowds were bigger, so you could go into the big crowd and throw a bunch of ashes on your head and look sad, and fast, spiritual impression would be made.  And why Monday and Thursday?  Some other writers say, well because it was a Monday, according to some rabbi, that Moses went up to Sinai and forty days later he came down on a Thursday. So Monday and Thursday.  Some other rabbi offers this explanation, “Because Monday and Thursday are equal distant from the Sabbath while being as far from each other as possible.”

Jesus condemned showy fasting:

Jesus condemned that, remember, in the 6th chapter in the Sermon on the Mount when He said, “Don’t fast like the hypocrites fast, in the public streets and in the corners, calling attention to yourself.” It’s talking exactly about this. People putting on external spiritual displays by ritualistic, ceremonial behavior by the clothing they wear, the garb, the way they dress as if this is the mark of real holiness.

The Pharisee’s tithes were in addition to the Old Testament tithes, something they invented, therefore, man-made:

Further he says, “I pay tithes of all that I get.”  Sounds like a good Baptist, but not really.  I pay tithes of all that I get.  The Old Testament laid down prescription for tithing, 10 percent of what you get goes to fund the national theocratic government, 10 percent goes to fund the national festivals and feasts on high holy days, and 10 percent every third year for the poor.  So it was three and a third a year, so about a 23 and a third percent tax, that’s what funded the theocratic kingdom of Israel.  Now that’s all the Lord required.  Then there was a half-shekel temple tax and that was it.  But again, they wanted to invent laws to appear righteous, so in Matthew 23:23 and Luke 11:42, I think it is, it says that they tithe of mint and anise and cumin.  Those are tiny little spices.  They tithed the tiny little seeds and leaves of the spices as a way to demonstrate their virtue, their holiness, their law-keeping.  They went beyond the law.

MacArthur gives us an actual prayer from the Pharisees’ era:

A Pharisaic prayer dating from about the time of Jesus goes like this, “I thank Thee, Jehovah, my God, that Thou hast assigned my lot with those who sit in the house of learning and not with those who sit in the street corners. I rise early and they rise early. I rise early to study the words of the Torah and they rise early to attend to things of no importance. I weary myself and they weary themselves. I weary myself and gain thereby while they weary themselves without gaining anything. I run and they run. I run toward the life of the age to come. And they run toward the pit of destruction.” That was self-righteousness in the Pharisaic mind.

Jesus said (verse 13) that the tax collector stood far off, would not look upward to heaven, but instead beat his breast saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, a sinner!’

Henry discusses the tax collectors stance and gesture:

He expressed his repentance and humility in what he did; and his gesture, when he addressed himself to his devotions, was expressive of great seriousness and humility, and the proper clothing of a broken, penitent, and obedient heart. (1.) He stood afar off. The Pharisee stood, but crowded up as high as he could, to the upper end of the court; the publican kept at a distance under a sense of his unworthiness to draw near to God, and perhaps for fear of offending the Pharisee, whom he observed to look scornfully upon him, and of disturbing his devotions. Hereby he owned that God might justly behold him afar off, and send him into a state of eternal distance from him, and that it was a great favour that God was pleased to admit him thus nigh. (2.) He would not lift up so much as his eyes to heaven, much less his hands, as was usual in prayer. He did lift up his heart to God in the heavens, in holy desires, but, through prevailing shame and humiliation, he did not lift up his eyes in holy confidence and courage. His iniquities are gone over his head, as a heavy burden, so that he is not able to look up, Ps 40 12. The dejection of his looks is an indication of the dejection of his mind at the thought of sin. (3.) He smote upon his breast, in a holy indignation at himself for sin: “Thus would I smite this wicked heart of mine, the poisoned fountain out of which flow all the streams of sin, if I could come at it.” The sinner’s heart first smites him in a penitent rebuke, 2 Sam 24 10. David’s heart smote him. Sinner, what hast thou done? And then he smites his heart with penitent remorse: O wretched man that I am? Ephraim is said to smite upon his thigh, Jer 31 19. Great mourners are represented tabouring upon their breasts, Nah 2 7.

Henry analyses the publican’s prayer:

His prayer was short. Fear and shame hindered him from saying much; sighs and groans swallowed up his words; but what he said was to the purpose: God, be merciful to me a sinner. And blessed be God that we have this prayer upon record as an answered prayer, and that we are sure that he who prayed it went to his house justified; and so shall we, if we pray it, as he did, through Jesus Christ: “God, be merciful to me a sinner; the God of infinite mercy be merciful to me, for, if he be not, I am for ever undone, for ever miserable. God be merciful to me, for I have been cruel to myself.” (1.) He owns himself a sinner by nature, by practice, guilty before God. Behold, I am vile, what shall I answer thee? The Pharisee denies himself to be a sinner; none of his neighbours can charge him, and he sees no reason to charge himself, with any thing amiss; he is clean, he is pure from sin. But the publican gives himself no other character than that of a sinner, a convicted criminal at God’s bar. (2.) He has no dependence but upon the mercy of God, that, and that only, he relies upon. The Pharisee had insisted upon the merit of his fastings and tithes; but the poor publican disclaims all thought of merit, and flies to mercy as his city of refuge, and takes hold of the horn of that altar. “Justice condemns me; nothing will save me but mercy, mercy.” (3.) He earnestly prays for the benefit of that mercy: O God, be merciful, be propitious, to me; forgive my sins; be reconciled to me; take me into thy favour; receive me graciously; love me freely.” He comes as a beggar for an alms, when he is ready to perish for hunger. Probably he repeated this prayer with renewed affections, and perhaps said more to the same purport, made a particular confession of his sins, and mentioned the particular mercies he wanted, and waited upon God for; but still this was the burden of the song: God, be merciful to me a sinner.

MacArthur reminds us that the heart is the centre of evil:

An old Jewish commentary says, and I quote, “Why do the righteous beat on their heart as though to say all is there?  The righteous beat their heart because the heart is the source of all evil longing.”

This is a recognition of what our Lord taught, that it’s out of the heart that all evil comes You remember the words of our Lord Jesus, Mark 7:21 and Matthew 15:19, parallel passages.  Let me read you Matthew 15:19 and 20, “Out of the heart come evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, slanders. These are the things which defile the man.”  He understands. This is a man who understands his own sinfulness. His location demonstrates it, his posture demonstrates it. His behavior demonstrates it.  He knows what’s in his heart.  He knows that what Jeremiah said is true, that the heart of man is deceitful above all things and desperately wicked.  He is anguished over his guilt.  He is broken over his shame, his unworthiness.  He is crushed and humbled.  And it comes out in everything about him and even in his words.  He says, “God,” and he is truly talking to God. That’s not just doing what is expected, he is talking to God. “Be merciful to me, the sinner.”  Those are the words of a true penitent.  Start with the sinner, not a sinner; toh hamartōlō, definite article, the sinner.  Like Paul in 1 Timothy 1:15, “For I am the chief of sinners.”  This is an unequivocal confession of his extreme and supreme sinfulness and there’s no comparing him with others. He is the worst sinner.  And that is a legitimate response because of all the sinners in the world he knows he knows himself to be the worst because no sinner knows so much about himself as the individual himself.  He knows about other sinners, but he knows his own heart better than he knows anybody else.  “Who knows the spirit of a man but the spirit of the man that is within him?” says the Scripture.  He is the worst sinner in the world, as far as his personal knowledge is concerned.

MacArthur says that the Pharisee thought he himself was a sinner but that, unlike the publican, he had more right to be forgiven. As such, the Pharisee thought God would overlook his sins:

The Pharisee had faith in God. He believed in God. He believed in the true and living God, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. He believed in the God who was the Savior God. He believed in the sacrificial system. He believed in atonement for sin. He believed in God’s forgiveness.

You say, “You mean he really did believe in God’s forgiveness?” Sure. A Pharisee didn’t believe that he never committed any sin ever in his entire life. He just believed that he had earned the right to be forgiven.

MacArthur cites a modern day example of this type of belief, that of the Mormons:

When I was meeting with some of the leaders of the Mormon church, we were having a conversation, one of the stunning statements they made to me and they wanted to affirm it again and again, is we believe salvation is all of grace, all of grace. And I said, “Okay, well then if I want to be sure to go to heaven, what do I need to do?” And they said, “Well, first of all you have to be baptized in this Mormon ritual, and then you have to join the Mormon church, and then you would have to adhere to…” and they started down this list.

I said, “Wait a minute. It doesn’t sound like grace. That sounds like works.” And as I pressed the issue, it came around to this: Isn’t God gracious that He allows us to earn our salvation? … That’s the way religious people think. It isn’t that the world is full of people who don’t think they’ve ever done anything wrong. It’s just that they think they have not done as much wrong as they have done right. And so they’ve tipped the scales in their favor and God is going to forgive the stuff that they’ve done because they’ve earned it.

MacArthur discusses the publican’s prayer for God’s mercy in light of the atonement sacrifice:

The defining distinction here is that the first man has nothing for which to what?  Repent.  He’s like the rich young ruler. He says, “I’ve kept everything since my youth.  I can’t find anything I need to confess or repent of.”  That is the issue.  There is no possibility of salvation apart from this kind of repentance because this is the defining element.

Now notice what he says.  “Be merciful to me.”  The Greek is, very important phrase, hilaskomai, hilaskomai. Hileos tati is not to show mercy. That’s a different word.  If you go down to verse 38, Jesus meets a blind man in verse 38 of this chapter, and the blind man calls out and says, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me.” That is a true translation of eleēson me, different word, from the verb eleeō, which means to show mercy.  That’s exactly what that means, to show mercy.  Hilaskoimoi comes from the Greek verb hilaskomai, which means to propitiate, to appease, to make propitiation, to make satisfaction.  And every word attached to that verb root, hilas, whether it’s alasmos, halasterios, hilaos, they all have to do with the same idea.  This is what he said, “God, be propitious to me.  God, be appeased toward me.”

What is he saying?  He’s saying this, “God, please apply the atonement to me.”  He understood the theology of atonement.  He understood the wages of sin is death, the soul that sins it shall die.  He understood all the way back to the wonderful story of Abraham and Isaac that God would provide a sacrifice that would satisfy Himself and would satisfy His justice, a substitute.  He understood that the millions of animals that had been offered throughout all of Jewish history were symbolic of the fact that God could be appeased by a sacrifice, though none of those sacrifices ever gave the final appeasement to God. Otherwise they would have ceased.  He’s talking atonement language here.  This is not a general plea for mercy.  And this needs to be expressed clearly because sometimes when we present the gospel, all we want to do is say God loves you and has this wonderful purpose for your life and God wants you to have the joy and happiness and all of this and if you just ask Him, He’ll be merciful to you.

That’s not what he’s saying.  He is saying, “I am a wretched sinner.  I am unworthy to stand near you.  I am unworthy to look up toward you.  I am in profound agony and anguish over my wretchedness.  I need an atonement for my sins to be applied to me.”  That’s what he’s saying.  This is about sin and atonement.

This verb is only used two times in the New Testament, one here and the second use in Hebrews 2:17 where it says, concerning Jesus Christ, that He is a faithful high priest in things pertaining to God to make propitiation for the sins of His people, to make satisfaction, to satisfy the wrath of God, to satisfy the justice and holiness and vengeance of God.  And that’s what this man is crying for. Oh God, please apply the atonement to me, make atonement for me.  That very day a sacrifice had been made on that altar. He pleads that it would apply to him.  He understood the theology of substitution, imputation and atonement.  They knew that there would come one day a Son of David, a root out of Jesse, Isaiah 53, and He would bear our iniquities and He would die in our place.  That’s what Isaiah 53 says, “He was wounded for our transgressions, bruised for our iniquities.  And by His sacrifice we have peace with God.  Please, oh God, please make the atonement apply to me.  May Your anger with me over.”  That’s the plea of a penitent sinner.  “Oh God, cease being justifiably, righteously angry with me.  May Your justice be satisfied through atonement.”

One historian says this, “One can almost smell the pungent incense, hear the loud clash of ceremonial cymbals, see the great cloud of dense smoke rising from the burnt offering.  And the tax collector is there, stands afar off, anxious not to be seen, sensing his unworthiness to stand with the participants.  In brokenness he longs to be a part of it all.  He yearns that he might stand with the righteous.  In deep remorse he pounds his chest and cries out with repentance and hope, ‘Oh God, let it be for me.  Make an atonement for me, a sinner.'”  There in the temple, this humble man aware of his own sin and unworthiness, with no merit of his own to commend him, longs that the great dramatic atonement sacrifice might be applied to him.”

Jesus ended the parable by saying ‘I tell you’ — making it most emphatic on His authority — that the tax collector went home justified, not the Pharisee; those who exalt themselves will be humbled and those who humble themselves will be exalted (verse 14).

MacArthur explains why Jesus began that ending the way He did:

Jesus says, “I tell you.” Why does He say that? Why begin like that? Because He knows He couldn’t get this anywhere else in Judaism. He can’t quote a rabbi. He speaks with absolute authority, “I tell you.” Here is sound soteriology from incarnate God. “I tell you, this man went down to his house…” That’s not what the rabbis tell you, that’s not what the scribes tell you, that’s not what you have heard. “I tell you, this man went down to his house having been made just,” having been made righteous, having been made acceptable. And speaks of a completed condition, the verb form, a state of having been declared righteous and that’s permanent.

MacArthur says that our Lord’s statement about instantaneous and permanent divine justification of the publican would have shocked the legalists listening to Him:

This would draw gasps from the legalists. Think of it, Jesus, God in human flesh, the holy one, the perfect sinless one says that in one moment an extreme sinner can be pronounced instantly righteous without any works, without any merit, without any worthiness, without any law-keeping, without any moral achievement, religious achievement, spiritual accomplishment or ritual. No time lapse, no penance, no works, no ceremony, no sacrament, no meritorious activity whatsoever, nothing to do, instant declaration of justification on the spot, permanent. Wow! How can that be? Because the only righteousness that God will accept is perfect righteousness and since you can’t earn it, He gives it as a gift to the penitent who put their trust in Him. That’s the gospel. All the sinner ever does is receive the gift, coming in penitent trust, pleading for atonement to be made to satisfy the wrath of God against his sin.

Here is the broken-hearted, self-confessed sinner, humble, unworthy, trusting only in God’s atonement, pleading that God would apply it to him, who is instantaneously made perfect before God, as perfect as God, for the righteousness of God is credited to him. He’s the one who enters the spiritual and will be in the earthly and will live forever in the eternal kingdom, rather than the other. The self-righteous pride of the Pharisee and everybody like him only intensifies the alienation. His soliloquy up there just solidified his self-confidence and he went down even more wretched than when he went up. Atonement is worthless to the self-righteous.

So the listening crowd who heard Jesus say this and anybody who reads it is forced to reassess how a person enters the kingdom of God. It’s not by human morality, goodness, or religion, but by repentance and conviction of sin and a plea for an atoning sacrifice.

MacArthur says this is the only time that Jesus ever spoke of justification:

The work of our Lord is not mentioned because it’s not yet occurred.  But what is clear is this, that righteousness and justification is a gift from God apart from works that is only made possible through the application of an atoning sacrifice.  We leave it to Paul after the cross to teach the rich meaning of the atonement of Jesus Christ being that one and only sacrifice that satisfies God.  But isn’t it interesting that the starting point for Paul, the starting point for the New Testament understanding of righteousness through atonement is traceable back to this story which Jesus told?

When I wrote the book The Gospel According to Jesus and I rewrote a later edition and a newer edition of it, I wanted to include in that the doctrine of justificationThis is the only place in the teaching of Jesus where you have this explicit instruction.  It is here that the foundations for the teaching of Paul are found.  Christ becomes that sacrifice and it’s His death who’s applied… it’s applied to all in the past and all sins.  However, know this, that there is no salvation on this side of the cross apart from recognizing Christ and His work on the cross, for there is no salvation in any other name.

MacArthur then discusses the second half of verse 14, a truth mentioned throughout the Bible:

The Lord ends this amazing story with what I’ll call the central axiom. The audience, the analogy, the answer, the central axiom in verse 14, this is a truism, a proverb, “For everyone who exalts himself shall be humbled, but he who humbles himself shall be exalted.” “Exalted” here is a synonym for salvation, a synonym for righteousness. It’s used in an Old Testament sense. In the Old Testament, only God is truly exalted and only God can exalt men. Men can’t exalt themselves successfully to His level. So this refers to spiritual salvation, reconciliation, righteousness, justification, being in the kingdom. All efforts to doing that on your own are going to leave you humiliated. Everyone who exalts himself — that is, tries to save himself or make himself righteous — shall be humbled in the severest sense of the word, crushed in eternal loss and punishment. The path of self-exaltation ends up in eternal judgment. God resists the proud and gives grace to the humble.

On the other hand, all who humble themselves, confessing they cannot do anything to save themselves, will be lifted high into eternal glory. The damned think they’re good. The saved know they’re wicked. The damned believe the kingdom of God is for those worthy of it. The saved know the kingdom of God is for those who know they’re unworthy of it. The damned believe eternal life is earned. The saved know it’s a gift. The damned seek God’s commendation. The saved seek His forgiveness.

May everyone reading this have a blessed Sunday.

The Eighteenth Sunday after Trinity is on October 16, 2022.

Readings for Year C can be found here.

The Gospel reading is as follows (emphases mine):

Luke 18:1-8

18:1 Then Jesus told them a parable about their need to pray always and not to lose heart.

18:2 He said, “In a certain city there was a judge who neither feared God nor had respect for people.

18:3 In that city there was a widow who kept coming to him and saying, ‘Grant me justice against my opponent.’

18:4 For a while he refused; but later he said to himself, ‘Though I have no fear of God and no respect for anyone,

18:5 yet because this widow keeps bothering me, I will grant her justice, so that she may not wear me out by continually coming.’”

18:6 And the Lord said, “Listen to what the unjust judge says.

18:7 And will not God grant justice to his chosen ones who cry to him day and night? Will he delay long in helping them?

18:8 I tell you, he will quickly grant justice to them. And yet, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?”

Commentary comes from Matthew Henry and John MacArthur.

We are nearing the end of our Lord’s lessons to His disciples and to the Jewish hierarchy, which began in Luke 9 and conclude in Luke 19.

The context for today’s reading is set in light of our Lord’s discourse in Luke 17 about His Second Coming.

This parable illustrates the need for perseverance and patience in God’s justice delivered through His Son Jesus Christ.

Jesus told a parable to His disciples about the importance of praying always and not losing heart (verse 1).

Matthew Henry’s commentary says:

When we are praying for strength against our spiritual enemies, our lusts and corruptions, which are our worst enemies, we must continue instant in prayer, must pray and not faint, for we shall not seek God’s face in vain. So we must likewise in our prayers for the deliverance of the people of God out of the hands of their persecutors and oppressors.

Jesus said that in a certain town there was a judge who neither feared God nor respected the people (verse 2).

That means he was self-centred and corrupt.

John MacArthur says that this scenario would have been familiar to the disciples. The judge was a civil judge and not a religious one:

This is simply a city that Jesus fabricates in the story. But we can assume that since He’s talking to people in the land of Israel, it would be typical of a city in Israel. And what follows would be all too familiar to the people of Israel, for Israel, frankly, had much experience with widows and much experience with unjust judges. And here we meet such a judge, a judge who did not fear God and did not respect man.

And while that seems a rather simple characterization, it is a very well chosen characterization because you find such references to people in literature from ancient times outside the Bible and this kind of description is used to describe the most wicked person, someone who has absolutely no reverence for God and no interest in people, no concerns regarding the law of God, the will of God and completely indifferent to the needs of people and their just causes.  This man is ultimately and finally wicked.  There is no way to penetrate this man’s wickedness either from the viewpoint of the law of God or from the viewpoint of the need of man.  He is not moved by reverence or worship and he is not moved by compassion or sympathy.  He has no interest in the first commandment, loving God; no interest in the second commandment, loving his neighbor.  He is the most wicked man …

Now the kind of court that a judge like this would be a part of would be a civil court.   In towns and villages, or in large cities, these civil courts were in a lot of locations.  Every little town had to have one and a place like Jerusalem would have many of these civil courts.  This is not a position of national responsibility in a religious court where they were interpreting the religious things, or the traditions, or the law of the Old Testament. This is a civil court, but nonetheless the judge would have a very serious responsibility before God to uphold the law of God and to uphold sympathy and compassion toward people.  Any judge in Israel would be very familiar with Old Testament instruction regarding being a judge.  Second Chronicles chapter 19, Jehoshaphat is the king of Judah.  It says in verse 4, “Jehoshaphat lived in Jerusalem, went out again among the people from Beersheba to the hill country of Ephraim and brought them back to the Lord, the God of their fathers.  And he appointed judges in the land in all the fortified cities of Judah, city by city.  And he said to the judges, ‘Consider what you are doing for you do not judge for man but for the Lord who is with you when you render judgment.’  “Now then,” verse 7, 2 Chronicles 19:7, “let the fear of the Lord be upon you.  Be very careful what you do for the Lord our God will have no part in unrighteousness, or injustice, or partiality, or the taking of a bribe.”

Everyone who was ever appointed to any judicial responsibility in Israel would know that passage very, very well.  But even in the Old Testament, in spite of the clear instruction of God, judges were corrupt.  Amos the prophet, chapter 5 verse 10, “They hate him who reproves him in the gate.  They abhor him who speaks with integrity.  Therefore because you impose heavy rent on the poor and exact a tribute of grain from them, though you have built houses of well-hewn stone, you will not live in them.  You have planted pleasant vineyards; you will not drink their wine, for I know your transgressions are many, your sins are great, you who distress the righteous and accept bribes and turn aside the poor in the gate.”  The gate is normally where the civil law was adjudicated.  These judges that Amos mentions are corrupt and will know the judgment of God.

But this kind of judicial corruption was not limited just to the Old Testament. It was also true in the time of our Lord Jesus.  Alfred Edersheim, who has written the classic Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah, the great history of that period of time, describes the judges in Jerusalem as being so corrupt that the people changed their title.  They were known as dayyaney gezeroth. That was the term used to describe a judge and his responsibility to deal with the prohibitions of the law.  The people called them dayyaney gezeloth. They changed one letter in the Hebrew which turned the expression “a judge dealing with the law” to “a judge who is a robber.” “Robber judges” became their title because they were so corrupt.  They did just exactly what the Bible said not to do, what God said not to do.  They showed partiality.  They were unjust and they took bribes.  The Talmud said they were so perverted in some occasions that they would actually pervert justice for one meal, for one meal.  And so, when our Lord says this is an unrighteous judge, adikia, meaning no sense of justice, dishonest and corrupt. He is defining what everybody would know by the description in verse 2, that he didn’t fear God and he didn’t respect man.

Let me look at that word “respect” for just a moment in verse 2, Entrepōmi, interesting verb, it means to be put to shame, to be put to shame.  In other words, this man had no shame.  Now remember the Middle Eastern culture then and even now is a shame-honor culture.  You do what brings you honor at all cost, you avoid all things that produce shame, you avoid shame like the plague.  That was typically the way life was lived.  And so the way to understand that expression “did not respect man” would be to understand it this way: He is not ashamed before people, he has no shame. He cannot be put to shame.  In fact, if you were to study Middle Eastern translations of this verse in Middle Eastern language, New Testament Syriac and Arabic, they never translate it any other way over the centuries than “he was not ashamed before people.”  He had no shame. He could not be shamed no matter what he did.  Good social behavior in those cultures basically was encouraged by an appeal to shame. 

In that city, a widow repeatedly approached him appealing for justice against the person who wronged her (verse 3).

Widows, then and now, were — and are — often in a precarious position if they have no male to help them fight their cause.

Henry says:

Note, Poor widows have often many adversaries, who barbarously take advantage of their weak and helpless state to invade their rights, and defraud them of what little they have; and magistrates are particularly charged, not only not to do violence to the widow (Jer 21 3), but to judge the fatherless, and plead for the widow (Isa 1 17), to be their patrons and protectors; then they are as gods, for God is so, Ps 68 5.

MacArthur tells us that a court of law was a man’s domain and that women were largely ignored. The Old Testament states that God’s people were to protect widows:

“There was a widow in that city and she kept coming to him saying, ‘Give me legal protection from my opponent.’”  Someone has defrauded her.  In fact, someone has so seriously defrauded her that she is destitute.  Not only is she destitute by virtue of the fact that she keeps coming and keeps coming and keeps coming, which is our Lord’s way of pointing out that she really was in a situation where she had to have what was rightfully hers, but we know that her destitution goes beyond the financial, she apparently has no man in her life, no man in her family, not a brother, not a brother-in-law, not a father, not a son, not a cousin, not a nephew, not any man who could come to plead her case, because courts belonged to men. They did not belong to women, they belonged exclusively to men.  Men came to court. Women did not come to court.  The courts belonged to the men.  The only time a woman would come to court was when there was no man to plead her case.  This woman is alone. She represents the destitute, the powerless, the helpless, the deprived, the lowly, the unknown, the unloved, the uncared for, the desperate.  And it’s wonderful to use the illustration of a widow because her case is clear-cut, as far as the Old Testament goes, if not on a legal basis, purely on the basis of mercy that he should have done something to care for her.   Exodus 22 verses 22 to 24 talks about the responsibility to show mercy to a widow.  Deuteronomy 24 verses 17 and 18, Isaiah 1:16 and 17, and many other places, widows were to be cared for. Their needs were to be met.  This judge is utterly indifferent to her on a sympathetic side, on the side of compassion, but apparently she had the law on her side as well because she is asking for legal protection.  She has been defrauded.  Property, money which was life to her has been taken from her.

By the way, as a footnote, there are a number of interesting widows that Luke focuses on both in his gospel and in the book of Acts as well.  They were an important part of the ancient world.  Corrupt judges, there were plenty of them; and there were even more needy widows.

The judge refused to entertain her plea for justice but later said to himself that, though he did not fear God or respect man (verse 4), he would grant her justice so that she would not wear him out by continually bothering him (verse 5).

Henry says:

bad as he was, would not suffer him to send her to prison for an affront upon the court.

MacArthur gives us this analysis:

His wickedness is obviously toxic, it is compounded because he is in the role of a judge and he renders his judgments in regard both to the law of God and the needs of people and since he is not moved by either, he is, as Jesus characterizes him, an unrighteous judge.  The word “unrighteous” would mean dishonest, corrupt, unjust.  Not only is he this evil but he knows it and he’s comfortable with it.  In verse 4 he said to himself, “Even though I do not fear God nor respect men.” This is not simply a definition of the man that has been placed upon him by those that know him, he agrees with it in full.  Here is the worst possible human being in a very, very important position of responsibility whose disregard for God and man has massive implications in regard to all the people who come into his court

Well consistent with his utter disdain for the commandments of God and any sense of justice and his utter disinterest in showing compassion to anyone, even a lowly widow, verse 4 says, “And for a while he was unwilling.”  He was just outright indifferent.  He is the worst kind of human being who is then the worst judge imaginable.  Just as the prodigal son was the worst possible profligate sinner and the older brother was the worst possible hypocrite.  Jesus is into painting these extreme pictures in his stories with just a minimum of language.  But if you can fill in the gaps, the people would understand that.  But it says in verse 4, “Though he for a while was unwilling, but afterward he said to himself…” Now we get a soliloquy like the soliloquy of the prodigal son who came to his senses and talked to himself. So this man speaks to himself, “Even though I do not fear God nor respect man.” He’s a self-confessed wretch, he holds nothing back.  He has no noble motive.  He is first to admit he has no noble motive whatsoever. 

The woman’s appeals would have been loud, characteristic of a Middle Eastern culture of powerless women:

But he says, in spite of that, verse 5, “Yet because this woman bothers me.” In the Greek, “She causes me trouble, she is irritating me.”  Every day she’s there.  Every day she’s pleading her case.  It’s becoming very troublesome.  I will give her legal protection “lest by continually coming…” “Continually” is eis telos, sometimes translated in the Bible “forever.”  She will come forever if I don’t get rid of her and “she will wear me out.”

He has no regard for God.  He has no regard for man.  But he has regard for himself.  He cares not for what pleases God.  He cares not for what pleases men.  But he cares a lot for what pleases him and this does not please him.  This is an irritating, troubling harangue that he hears out of this widow every single day that is intrusive and interruptive.  And by the way, I like that little phrase, “She will wear me out.”  But it’s a little more benign than the Greek.  The Greek is a verb hupopiazo, which means it’s a boxing term and it means to strike someone with a full blow in the eye She is punching me silly day after day after day. She is beating me up.  Some translations would be, “to blacken the face,” to indicate the severity and the strength of the blows.  She’s giving me a black eye, she’s beating me.  It’s used in 1 Corinthians 9:27 where Paul says, “I buffet my body, I punch my body with a fierce blow to beat it into submission.”  This woman is not just troublesome, this woman is painful.  This is more than I can stand and she’s going to do it eis telos, forever, if I don’t get rid of her.  So the powerful and impervious judge is defeated by the weak widow through her persistence.

Now you need to know something else, a little bit more about the Middle Eastern culture.  Women were really powerless.  I guess that’s a good way to say it.  They were powerless in the male-dominated culture; still largely true in Middle Eastern culture today.  But they were respected and they were honored.  And while they had no power, they did have honor and they could get away with things that men couldn’t get away with.  I was reading one Middle Eastern scholar who said, “A woman could scream and complain at the top of her voice relentlessly and get away with it because women are to be honored and respected.  And if a man did the same thing, he would lose his life.”  And so, even today sometimes you see pictures in the Arabic world of women who are pleading their case by screaming and yelling and this would be the crying day and night kind of relentless approach of this woman that is characterized hereThe crying day and night comes in the explanation in verse 7 So she’s driving this man to destruction in his own mind.  He’s got to get rid of her.  And so he rules in her favor.  Go back to verse 5, “I will give her legal protection.” That simply means I will vindicate her.  I will vindicate her.  It’s got the word dikēo in it, from which we get the word dikaiōs, righteousness, justice.  I will execute justice, righteousness on her behalf.  I will vindicate her.  I will avenge her.  I will do justice to her because I cannot tolerate her…her harangue any longer.  So that’s the story. That’s the illustration.

Jesus called on the disciples to take heed of what the unjust judge said (verse 6).

It is interesting that both commentators use the same expression about this parable.

Henry says:

This parable has its key hanging at the door; the drift and design of it are prefixed. Christ spoke it with this intent, to teach us that men ought always to pray and not to faint, v. 1.

MacArthur says:

What’s the intention of this story? Go back to verse 1. Now He was telling them a parable to show that at all times they ought to pray and not to lose heart. So here we find that the key to the parable is hanging on the door. Before you even get inside to the parable, the key is out there. This is a parable designed by our Lord to show that at all times they ought to pray and not to lose heart.

Then Jesus implied that if the corrupt judge showed justice — left unsaid — how much more will the righteous, all-merciful God grant justice to those who cry out to Him day and night, asking if He will delay helping them (verse 7).

MacArthur explains:

This is a “much more than” kind of comparison, this is a “lesser and greater” kind of comparison.  This is extreme.  You have the most wicked, impervious, impenetrable, indifferent human being doing what is right for someone about whom he has no feeling or interest.  And if a judge who is like that will do what is right for someone for whom he has no affection, do you think God will not do what is right for those who are His eternal elect, who are loved by Him before the foundation of the world?  And who cry out to Him day and night pleading for His glory to come and for them to be glorified with Him?

The elect are represented by the widow.  We are, in a sense, helpless.  We are, in a sense, at the mercy of our judge.  But this judge is not like God.  This judge is the opposite of God.  He is as unlike God as you can get.  God always does what is right by His own law.  God is always compassionate, merciful, gracious, tender-hearted, and kind.  And God will do what He says He will do to bring about the glorious manifestation of His own children who are loved by Him from before the foundation of the world.  The wicked, unjust, unloving judge will do what is right. What will a righteous, loving, holy God do?

The answer: verse 7, “Now shall not God bring about justice for His elect?”  Literally, “Make the vindication,” make the vindication.  Again “the vindication” comes from that same verb, dikēo, which is related to the word group “justify.”  Will He not justify?  Will He not vindicate His elect, those whom He has chosen for salvation?  First Peter 2:23 says, “God is the one who judges righteously.”  Romans 12:19 says that, “God has said, ‘Vengeance is Mine, I will repay.’”  Revelation 19:2, “True and righteous are His judgments.”  He will do what He has promised for His elect because His Word is at stake and He’s faithful to His Word, He’s faithful to His law, because He’s merciful, because He’s compassionate, and because He loves those whom He has eternally chosen.

Henry refers to earnest prayer as wrestling with God, which is what Jacob did and was blessed afterwards with the name Israel. That passage from Genesis 32 is one of today’s First Readings:

And herein we must be very urgent; we must cry with earnestness: we must cry day and night, as those that believe prayer will be heard at last; we must wrestle with God, as those that know how to value the blessing, and will have no nay. God’s praying people are told to give him no rest, Isa 62 6, 7.

Jesus concluded by saying that, contrary to the corrupt judge, God will quickly grant justice to the faithful, however, on that day of the Second Coming, will the Son of Man — Jesus — find faith on Earth when He returns (verse 8)?

MacArthur says:

He closes with a question, verse 8, “However, when the Son of Man comes, will He find faith on the earth?”  What does that mean?  Jesus is just pensively asking the question that when He does come, given that it’s going to be a long time, will there be anybody left persistent like this widow?  When He does come, and He will, will He find people praying for His return?  I kind of think that if He were to come now He would find a whole lot of people who call themselves Christians with very little interest in that.  Genuine Christianity never loses its grip on God, never loses its trust in Christ, never loses its hope.  But we get easily distracted, don’t we?  And the Lord is trying to nail this down in a practical way.  When He comes, will He find His people still crying day and night eagerly waiting for His return?  Will we love His appearing?  Will we be crying out “Maranatha”? First Corinthians 16:22, even come, Lord, come, Lord.  Or will it be like in Noah’s day with just a few, or Lot today with just a few?

We live in hope, beloved, we live in hope.  We…We are true Christians and we have been given a tremendous promise.  This is how it’s all going to end.  In the meantime we suffer and we’re rejected and persecuted and alienated and the gospel is resisted and Christ is dishonored and sometimes maybe we think it’s going on too long and too long.  We continue to pray and plead for the glory of Christ, the honor of Christ.  And when you live that way and pray that way and plead that way, it changes everything about your life.  How you view every part of your life.  Yes it’s been 2,000 [years]. But our hope burns shining bright, and our love for Christ is still true and pure and our confidence that He keeps His Word is fast and firm.  And so we pray persistently calling on Him to come, to glorify Himself, to vindicate Himself, to punish sinners, dethrone Satan, establish a righteous kingdom and peace on the earth, reign as King of kings and Lord of lords and create the eternal new heaven and the new earth. We say, “Even so, come, Lord Jesus,” and it ought to be on our lips day after day after day, says our Lord.  Live in that kind of anticipation until He comes.  And watch how it changes your life.

Henry mentioned Jacob’s earnest faith and the blessing he received.

I wrote more about the background of Genesis 32 a few years ago in ‘The Parable of the Prodigal Son and brothers in Genesis’.

After he sold his birthright to Jacob for a mass of pottage, Esau wanted to kill him.

In Genesis 32, Jacob prayed fervently in this appeal to God:

And Jacob said, “O God of my father Abraham and God of my father Isaac, O Lord who said to me, ‘Return to your country and to your kindred, that I may do you good,’ 10 I am not worthy of the least of all the deeds of steadfast love and all the faithfulness that you have shown to your servant, for with only my staff I crossed this Jordan, and now I have become two camps. 11 Please deliver me from the hand of my brother, from the hand of Esau, for I fear him, that he may come and attack me, the mothers with the children. 12 But you said, ‘I will surely do you good, and make your offspring as the sand of the sea, which cannot be numbered for multitude.’”

Today’s alternate First Reading tells us of Jacob’s wrestling with God and obtaining an enduring blessing for prevailing — overcoming:

Genesis 32:22-31

32:22 The same night he got up and took his two wives, his two maids, and his eleven children, and crossed the ford of the Jabbok.

32:23 He took them and sent them across the stream, and likewise everything that he had.

32:24 Jacob was left alone; and a man wrestled with him until daybreak.

32:25 When the man saw that he did not prevail against Jacob, he struck him on the hip socket; and Jacob’s hip was put out of joint as he wrestled with him.

32:26 Then he said, “Let me go, for the day is breaking.” But Jacob said, “I will not let you go, unless you bless me.”

32:27 So he said to him, “What is your name?” And he said, “Jacob.”

32:28 Then the man said, “You shall no longer be called Jacob, but Israel, for you have striven with God and with humans, and have prevailed.”

32:29 Then Jacob asked him, “Please tell me your name.” But he said, “Why is it that you ask my name?” And there he blessed him.

32:30 So Jacob called the place Peniel, saying, “For I have seen God face to face, and yet my life is preserved.”

32:31 The sun rose upon him as he passed Penuel, limping because of his hip.

My follow-up post discussed God’s blessing to Jacob in his 12 sons, ‘The Parable of the Prodigal Son relates to the lost tribes of Israel‘.

One day, Jesus will be seen by God’s people as the Messiah.

For now, we can meditate on the faith and perseverance that Jacob showed.

May all reading this enjoy a blessed Sunday.

The Seventeenth Sunday after Trinity is on October 9, 2022.

Readings for Year C can be found here.

The Gospel reading is as follows (emphases mine):

Luke 17:11-19

17:11 On the way to Jerusalem Jesus was going through the region between Samaria and Galilee.

17:12 As he entered a village, ten lepers approached him. Keeping their distance,

17:13 they called out, saying, “Jesus, Master, have mercy on us!”

17:14 When he saw them, he said to them, “Go and show yourselves to the priests.” And as they went, they were made clean.

17:15 Then one of them, when he saw that he was healed, turned back, praising God with a loud voice.

17:16 He prostrated himself at Jesus’ feet and thanked him. And he was a Samaritan.

17:17 Then Jesus asked, “Were not ten made clean? But the other nine, where are they?

17:18 Was none of them found to return and give praise to God except this foreigner?”

17:19 Then he said to him, “Get up and go on your way; your faith has made you well.”

Commentary comes from Matthew Henry and John MacArthur.

As regular readers of this series of exegeses for Year C during the season of Trinity know, we have been studying our Lord’s lessons to His disciples and others from Luke 9 onwards. We will soon reach their conclusion in Luke 19.

In those chapters, Luke takes us through the last six months of our Lord’s ministry.

John MacArthur says:

During this period of Jesus’ journeys which really began in chapter 9 verse 51 when it’s recorded that He moved in the direction of Jerusalem, we’re in the final months of Jesus’ life It isn’t a direct route.  It’s taking months to finally arrive for the last time in Jerusalem.  He will make that arrival in chapter 19 verse 28.  He will go into Jerusalem through Jericho in the 18th chapter, so we’re getting close to that great moment.

During this time of months and months of ministry there were many healings, and many miracles, and many casting out of demons.  And there were multiple times of teaching and ministering as He moved with His disciples and apostles around the land.  Luke, however, records five miracles for us.  They aren’t the only five by any means.  During the time of His ministry, He nearly banished disease from the whole of Israel.  There is no way to even calculate the number of His miracles.  Even the New Testament testifies to the fact that the things that He said and done couldn’t be contained in the books of the world.

But we do have five miracles during this journey period. This is the fourth miracle.  The first three involve one person. The last one involves two in Jericho when Jesus heals two blind men.  Luke focuses on one; Matthew fills us in on the other one.  But here is a miracle that involves ten people, ten people with the most terrible disease. The disease is leprosy.

Matthew Henry’s commentary tells us that Luke is the only Gospel writer to record this particular miracle, mentioning that Jesus went out of His way to find these lepers in order to heal them. Leprosy was considered a severe divine curse for sin:

We have here an account of the cure of ten lepers, which we had not in any other of the evangelists. The leprosy was a disease which the Jews supposed to be inflicted for the punishment of some particular sin, and to be, more than other diseases, a mark of God’s displeasure; and therefore Christ, who came to take away sin, and turn away wrath, took particular care to cleanse the lepers that fell in his way. Christ was now in his way to Jerusalem, about the mid-way, where he had little acquaintance in comparison with what he had either at Jerusalem or in Galilee. He was now in the frontier-country, the marches that lay between Samaria and Galilee. He went that road to find out these lepers, and to cure them; for he is found of them that sought him not.

On His way through the region between Samaria and Galilee (verse 11), ten lepers approached him from a distance (verse 12).

If there is any mercy in leprosy, it is in the death of nerve endings. A leper cannot feel his extremities drop off.

Today, this horrifying disease is still active, for the most part in Asia and Africa.

MacArthur tells us more about leprosy, which, among modern medics, is called Hansen’s Disease, or HD:

Leprosy can be a general word, lepis in the Greek, meaning scaly and is a word that can be used to describe a number of skin diseases.  They could be of various kinds, not very serious to the worst kind which is created by a bacillus, a bacteria, that is the disease we know as leprosy This is such a serious and such a communicable disease that the Old Testament made proscriptions about people who had it And, in fact, this is a very ancient disease.  It has been found in mummies, so it goes way back.  Medical historians believe that leprosy originated in Egypt where it was found in a very ancient mummy.

Leviticus chapter 13 and 14 lays out a very long and careful prescription for determining whether somebody had this disease.  And the local health inspectors were the priests. That was part of their function.  Since they were responsible to know the law of God and apply the law of God and since this was laid out in the law of God, if you had a skin disease of any kind, you went to the priest and you went through a process of all that was required in Leviticus 13 and 14 so there could be a determination as to what exactly you had And if it is discovered that you have that communicable disease called leprosy that’s so horrific, you were then removed from all social contact and the only people you could ever associate with were other lepers It was the worst, the absolute worst.  The people you needed most, the loving family and friends, you couldn’t come near.  You couldn’t associate with other people in the synagogue or any social environment whatsoever.  You were an alien from all of life and left only with others in your same horrific misery.  So these were the most miserable of all people, believing that they had been cursed by God and cursed by man as well.  And when Jesus comes, they are healed.  It is an astounding and incredible healing from all human viewpoints.

Let me just tell you a little bit about leprosy without going into unnecessary detail.  This severe type of leprosy is caused by a bacteria.  It attacks the nerves and the skin.  It anesthetizes the body and the limbs so that feeling is lost.  And then the potential for serious injury becomes large.  It starts, we’re told, with a white or pink patch of skin usually on the brow, the nose, the ear, the cheek, the chin and the head.  The patch then begins to spread in all directions, a portion of the eyebrows disappears; spongy, tumorous swellings grow, first of all, all over the face and then begin to descend all over the body as the disease becomes systemic.  It becomes also involved with the internal organs as well as the skin.  Fingers and toes can be absorbed into the body, literally absorbing themselves into the body because of the bacillus invading the bone marrow, impairing blood supply, causing the bones to shrivel and the rest of the body to shrivel as well With the accompanying loss of feeling in the body due to nerve disease, the victim destroys his own tissue because he has no feeling The bacillus can destroy the eye, causing blindness; penetrates the teeth so they fall out, penetrates all the bodily organs and affects the larynx so that one winds up with a weak and raspy voice.

The medical history on this is abundant.  Just a few things that might help you understand this plight.  The skin loses its original color, becomes thick, glossy, and scaly.  As the sickness progresses, the thickened spots become dirty sores and ulcers due to poor blood supply The skin, especially around the eyes and ears, begins to bunch with deep furrows between the swelling so that the face of the afflicted individual begins to resemble that of a lion.  Fingers drop off or are absorbed.  Toes are affected similarly.  Eyebrows and eyelashes drop out.  By this time, one can see the person in this pitiable condition is truly a leper.  By the touch of the finger one can feel it. One can even smell it for a leper emits a very unpleasant odor, open sores.  Morever, in view of the fact that the disease-producing agent frequently attacks the larynx, says this writer, the leper’s voice acquires a grating quality.

Dr. Paul Brand is the modern, world-renowned expert on leprosy, gives us some wonderful insight in a modern up-to-date look.  It’s called Hansen’s Disease, HD. It is cruel, not at all the way other diseases are.  It primarily acts as an anesthetic, numbing the pain cells of hands, feet, nose, eyes, ears.  Not so bad really, one might think; most diseases are felt because of their pain. What makes a painless disease so horrible?  Hansen’s Disease’s numbing quality is precisely the reason it is so horrible.  For thousands of years people thought this disease caused the ulcers on hands and feet and face which eventually led to rotting flesh and loss of limbs.  Mainly through Dr.  Brand’s research it’s been established that in 99 percent of the cases HD only numbs the extremities, the destruction follows solely because the warning system of pain is gone.  Basically people destroy their own limbs.

How does the decay happen?  In villages of Africa and Asia, a person with HD has been known to reach directly into a charcoal fire to retrieve a dropped potato. Nothing in his body tells him not to.  Patients at Brand’s hospital in India would work all day gripping a shovel with a protruding nail or extinguish a burning wick with their bare hands or walk on splintered glass.  Watching them, Brand began formulating his radical theory that HD was chiefly anesthetic and only indirectly a destroyer.  On one occasion he tried to open the door of a little storeroom but a rusty padlock would not yield.  A patient, an undersized, malnourished, ten-year-old approached him smiling, “Let me try, Sahib Doctor,” he offered and reached for the key.  With a quick jerk of his hand, he turned the key in the rusty lock.  Brand was dumbfounded.  How could this weak youngster show more strength than him?  His eyes caught a tell-tale clue.  Was that a drop of blood on the floor?  Upon examining the boy’s fingers, Brand discovered the act of turning the key had gashed the finger open to the bone.  Skin, fat, and joint were all exposed yet the boy was completely unaware of it.

The daily routine of life grinds away at the HD patient’s hands and feet.  No warning system alerts him.  If an ankle is turned, tearing tendon and muscle, he will adjust and walk crooked.  If a rat chews off a finger in the night, he will not discover it even missing until the next morning.  And so the sad story goes.

Stanley Stein went blind because of another quirk of HD.  Each morning he would wash his face with a hot washcloth.  But neither his hand nor his face was sensitive enough to temperature to warning him that he was using scalding water, gradually destroyed his eyes.  That’s how it worked.

The disease went from ten to thirty years with victims usually dying from low resistance, other diseases, or infections.  It can be easily transmitted by inhalation or bodily contact or even contact with the clothing.  That’s why the clothing are involved in Leviticus 13 prescriptions.  Since 1982, by the way, so you know that, there has been an effective treatment that can kill the bacterium Still there are probably a million and a half cases in the world, mostly in third world countries where they don’t have that kind of protection.  This disease is still with us.

There were times when God cursed individuals in the Old Testament with leprosy:

In biblical times the effect was so severe and the potential for wiping out a population was so great that God laid down proscriptions.  “Command the children of Israel that they put out of the camp every leper.”  Put him out.  This is too horrific, too horrible to leave these people in any proximity to the healthy.  God even used leprosy as a punishment.  The Jews had a reason that they saw it as a curse of God.  Naaman was a leper by divine punishment … Uzziah was a leper by divine punishment. Being a leper was the worst, and they had a lot of lepers in Israel, as Luke 4:27 says.  There were many lepers in the day of Elijah and Elisha; obviously they were still there in the day of Jesus.  Religiously, socially defiled in every way; no family, no job, no friends, no worship, no hope, they were walking illustrations of sin, they were walking illustrations of divine judgment, horrific life. Little wonder that when Jesus came to their village, they cried out to Him collectively.

Before going further, did anyone read this as both a real-life account and a parable? Those readers who did would be correct in their assessment.

MacArthur tells us that this miracle is a sign:

of divine power, to reverse that disease, to bring it to a screeching halt and restore fully all ten people to their pure and whole condition. As in the case of all of Jesus’ miracles, they were instantaneous and complete It is also an astounding story of ingratitude, shocking.  It is also a wonderful story, more importantly, of gratitude, worship and salvation.

I want us to look at the story as a story.  But I can’t help but think this story is intended by the Spirit of God to be more than just a story for its own sake. I have to believe that this is also a parable Most of Jesus’ parables were stories that He invented.  But many other things that happened in His life are marvelous analogies and illustrations, and this certainly is one.  First, the story, then we’ll see its broader implications.

The lepers called out (verse 13), no doubt in raspy voices, ‘Jesus, Master, have mercy on us!’

Henry points out that they did not ask for a cure, only for His mercy on them:

Those that expect help from Christ must take him for their Master, and be at his command. If he be Master, he will be Jesus, a Saviour, and not otherwise. They ask not in particular to be cured of their leprosy, but, Have mercy on us; and it is enough to refer ourselves to the compassions of Christ, for they fail not.

MacArthur focuses first on their calling Jesus ‘Master’, then their request for mercy:

Of all the words they might have chosen, they chose “Master.”  In the Greek it’s epistats. It’s used only by Luke and only here is it used to refer to Christ by any other than His followers.  It was a word of some weight.  It was a word of some honor.  In fact, epistats is a word that speaks of someone who has notable authority, or notable power, even miraculous power, of course.  And that’s why it’s used to apply to Jesus.  So here these men are borrowing a word that affirms they recognized the notable authority and power of Jesus, which is to say that they had had some exposure to His power and His abilities.  They knew His reputation; let’s put it that way.  They may have known it from the massive healings that He had done in His Galilee ministry, or from His healings in the Judean ministry prior to that and since leaving Galilee in chapter 9 and coming through the area of Judea He had done many more miracles.  His reputation was widely known.

This was their only hope.  This was their only chance.  They had no way out of their dilemma.  There were no cures.  There were no solutions.  Their faith may be meager but they are desperate men.  What other option do they have?  And so they say, “Have mercy on us,” a phrase that recognizes that one is in a pitiful condition, that one is unable to solve a problem, that one is in a dilemma about which he can do nothing and must depend upon a superior power That’s why they ask for mercy. Have mercy on us, a common expression.  By the way, in Matthew, Mark and Luke this is commonly the expression used by people who are asking Jesus to heal them And we’re going to find it again in the 18th chapter when the blind man says, “Have mercy on me,” meaning show me pity and power, You are one greater than I am, You are one who is known to have power to deal with my infirmity.  It expresses a recognition of superior power and one who at the same time is approachable.  Not just a recognition of power but to cry “Have mercy!” assumes that someone before has indicated to you that this man listens to people who cry for mercy So His power and His compassion are widely known.  They’re aware of it, aware enough of it to cry out to Him for healing.

Interestingly, Jesus told them to present themselves before the priest then, as they walked away, healed them (verse 14).

Henry says that He did so in order for them to obey:

He did not tell them positively that they should be cured, but bade them go show themselves to the priests, v. 14. This was a trial of their obedience, and it was fit that it should be so tried, as Naaman’s in a like case: Go wash in Jordan. Note, Those that expect Christ’s favours must take them in his way and method. Some of these lepers perhaps would be ready to quarrel with the prescription: “Let him either cure or say that he will not, and not send us to the priests on a fool’s errand;” but, over-ruled by the rest, they all went to the priest.

It is likely that Jesus told them to visit the priest before healing them so that the priest would be an indirect witness of His divine power:

As the ceremonial law was yet in force, Christ took care that it should be observed, and the reputation of it kept up, and due honour paid to the priests in things pertaining to their function; but, probably, he had here a further design, which was to have the priest’s judgment of, and testimony to, the perfectness of the cure; and that the priest might be awakened, and others by him, to enquire after one that had such a commanding power over bodily diseases.

Unlike His earlier healing of a leper, this time Jesus tells the healed men to present themselves to their priest.

MacArthur says that it was because His death was but a short time away:

In that miracle with regard to the leper in Luke 5, He told him not to tell anybody because it was such a stunning thing to heal a leper, not only from the sympathy side and the power side, but the overturning of what they perceived as a divine curse He told that first leper in Luke 5 don’t tell anybody because it could foment overwhelming enthusiasm, unrealistic messianic expectations and bring to bear upon Him undue pressure that could force Him out of His Father’s timetable.  But that was long ago.  Here He doesn’t tell them that because it’s very near already to the Father’s timetable for the cross.

MacArthur says that our Lord’s healing miracle was a dramatic one of compassion, as He removed the divine curse of the disease:

Lepers were, of all people, the most to be avoided.  Obviously these people had the real leprosy.  That’s why it tells us they stood at a distance.  Jesus then demonstrates on this occasion compassion, sympathy, and power.  And also, undoes what the people would have assumed would be a divine curse.  As we learned through the gospel record, the people had the idea that sickness came as a result of sin.  And leprosy, of all things, so horrific, was viewed as a divine judgment.  And so here is Jesus, sympathetic, compassionate, powerful and overturning divine judgment In this case then you have a stunning miracle by all perspectives.

It was important for the priest to verify this miracle, not only to know the power of the Messiah but also to pronounce the men as clean individuals who could finally live a normal life.

MacArthur explains:

By the way, the leper in chapter 5 He went near and touched him.  Jesus had no reluctance to go near lepers or to touch lepers.  In this case, He didn’t do that.  I don’t know what the circumstances were, but He didn’t go to them, He simply said to them, verse 14, “Go and show yourselves to the priest.”  Now that seems like a very strange thing to say.  Why didn’t He say, “Be healed”?  Why did He say, “Go and show yourselves to the priest”?  Because He’s doing a couple of things here.  He’s testing their faith.  It may have been a meager faith, but this is a good test.  He’s also affirming the viability of divine law.  He knew Leviticus 13 and 14, of course.  And He is upholding that law.  “Go show yourselves to the priest.” That’s exactly what He told the leper in chapter 5 verse 14, because leprosy required that.  You had to go to the priest. There was a rather long and involved protocol you went through.  The priests, as I said, were the health inspectors. You went to the priest. You went through the whole thing.  It was an eight-day process that could be repeated another eight days and another.  It could even lead to necessary sacrifices.  It could even take you all the way to Jerusalem to make those sacrifices before the priest would pronounce you clean.  So He says, “Go show yourselves to the priest.”

That is a pretty big assumption.  You wouldn’t want to go anywhere near the priest if you still had leprosy.  You’d be going to the wrong people.  You’d be going to the health inspectors with your disease …

Leviticus 13 and 14…Leviticus 14 even prescribes what you do when it is verified.  There are ceremonies and washings and sacrifices and all those kinds of things and lepers are touched in certain places, a tip of the ear, and it’s a huge thing when somebody is being certified that they’re cleansed from leprosy And Jesus sent the first leper in chapter 5 to the priest and He sends these ten to the priest.  And there’s a wonderful footnote on that.  The priests who rejected Jesus, as you know… There were a few who believed on Him finally at the end, but en masse they pretty much rejected Jesus, the priests.  And here come ten lepers and they’re going to have to validate this healing so they’re going to become very reluctant, very unwilling witnesses to the compassion and the power of Jesus and they’re going to be very clear eyewitnesses to the fact that Jesus overruled any assumption that these men were cursed by God.  This is some kind of power.  The priests would be forced to confirm the supernatural power of Jesus.  Really if they were honest, forced to confirm His deity and as well His adherence to the law.  So they became reluctant witnesses to His deity when the men arrived and went through the process.  That part of it isn’t in the story.  For eight days though, at least, the men would be living testimonies to the power of Jesus’ divine power.  The priests would have to validate that publicly.

The final verses enter the realm of a parable, what we would call ‘life imitating art’.

One man turned back, a Samaritan — an outsider as far as the Jews were concerned. He did three things: a) praised God with a loud voice, b) prostrated himself at our Lord’s feet and c) thanked Him (verses 15, 16).

It’s not the nine Jews who turn back. No. It is the Samaritan, the outcast of mixed Jewish and Gentile blood.

MacArthur says:

So he comes back and he does three things First, says, end of verse 15, “Glorifying God with a loud voice.”  Perhaps a voice that now was able to do what it hadn’t been able to do for years. No more squeaky, raspy, leprosy-affected larynx.  Now he could cry out with new vocal chords.  This is a phns megals, a big loud voice.  Luke likes that.  He has Elizabeth doing that when she was filled with the Holy Spirit in chapter 1.  Even has an unclean spirit shouting with a loud voice when confronted with the power of the Son of God, Luke 8:28.  This is Luke’s way of expressing the idea of great emotion; it just burst out in a loud voice.  He comes back at the top of his lungs glorifying God, meaning he knew where the power had come from, he knew who had healed him and he knew Jesus was more than a mere man because he doesn’t just glorify God, he…notice it…verse 16, fell on his face at His feet.  He worships Him.  And he knew, but they all knew, Samaritan and Jew, that God and God alone was to be worshiped.  He takes a worshiping posture.

And, thirdly: giving thanks to Him.  He knew that it was God in Jesus that had given him this gift.  He could not restrain his praise, he could not restrain his worship, he could not restrain his thanks, but his posture is there saying, “I want a relationship with You, I want everything You have to give.”  He knew he was in the presence of God.

Jesus asks where the other nine men were (verse 17), not expecting the Samaritan to know, but asking aloud, knowing that He healed them. Where was their praise and thanksgiving to Him and to God? There was only ‘the foreigner’ (verse 18).

This shows that the nine might have thought that the temple was the only place where God dwelt.

They were wrong, displaying once again the mistaken notions the Jews of our Lord’s time had of God. Yet, somehow, the Samaritan recognised that Jesus was the Messiah. Oh, the sad irony of it all.

MacArthur gives us this analysis:

Interesting way to look at that: What are the other nine guys doing?  They’re moving toward the priests, maybe with a view, we’re going to go, we’re clean, he’s going to see it, we’re clean then we’re going to the temple.  We’re going to the temple, because you ultimately have to go there to make the sacrifices that are required of one who’s been cleansed.  We’re going to the temple and when we get to the temple, sure we’re grateful, we’re excited, we’re enthusiastic.  This is an unbelievable thing.  When we get to the temple we’ll…We’ll worship God where we should worship God, in the temple.  We’ll thank God there and we’ll praise God when we get to the place where God dwells.

Hmm, guess what?  God doesn’t dwell in that temple.  God hadn’t been in that temple in a long, long time.  Ichabod was written on that temple long ago when the glory departed That was an apostate temple and an apostate form of religion.  And that’s why Jesus said, “The time is coming when you won’t worship God in Jerusalem or in Mount Gerizim, because you’re going to worship God in spirit and in truth and you’re going to worship Him from the heart any place,” but most significantly this man knew where to worship God, where God really dwelt And where God really dwelt was in Jesus Christ. That was the real temple.  He goes back to the true temple of God.  He recognizes that wherever the compassion of God is, God is.  Wherever the power of God is, God is.  Wherever the grace of God is, God is.  And that’s where Jesus is and so that’s where God is.  Jesus is the true temple.  God doesn’t dwell in Jerusalem, He dwells in Jesus.  And he knows it.   And here’s the punch line.  “And he was a Samaritan,” the least likely from a Jewish viewpoint to be healed, an outcast.  The only reason he could associate with Jews at all was because they were all lepers and their common misery obviated the normal social separation. 

According to John 4:9 the Jews had no dealings with the Samaritans, they hated each other.  Samaritans had intermarried with Gentiles and from a Jewish standpoint polluted their race, polluted their religion.  They had a strange, hybrid religion on Mount Gerizim that the Jews despised.  They had no relationships with them at all.  They were forced together in their misery.  Surely no one would expect God to heal a Samaritan.  But not only did God heal one, but God saved another one.  Started out saving Samaritans, remember?  The first person to whom Jesus revealed His messiahship was a Samaritan woman in John 4.

And so this man knows that God is not like the people he’s used to.  God is not a racist.  And he knows that God is a Savior and a Redeemer and he comes back and he worships.  Verse 17, Jesus answered and said…and here are three rhetorical questions that drive home an important point of ingratitude and indifference “Were there not ten cleansed?”  The structure, by the way, expects a positive answer.  “Were there not ten cleansed?”  There were ten cleansed, weren’t there?  That would be another way to say that.  And then He asks a second rhetorical question, “But the nine, where are they?”  The “where” is last in sort of a punctuation point place of primacy.  In other words, it would read like this in the original, “But the nine, they are where?”  They ought to be here. They’re where?  No answer, presumably they’re on the way to the priest …

And then He asks a third question.  “Was no one found who turned back to give glory to God except this allogens, The word ”foreigner” was a strong word.  Nobody came back except this man of another race?  It reminds me of John 1:11, “He came unto His own, His own received Him not.”  By the way, that word allogens, “foreigner,” was written on the outer wall of the temple forbidding any foreigner from access to the temple precincts, the areas only allowed for the Jews.  There was a Court of the Gentiles, but they couldn’t go anywhere beyond that.  He is a foreigner. He is one outside the Covenant, outside the people of God, outside the promises, outside the adoption.  That’s the… That’s the real jolt.  He’s a Samaritan.  He’s a foreigner.  He can’t go into the forbidden, inner court of the temple, but instead he walks right back face-to-face with God Himself and goes into His own Holy of Holies He couldn’t get near the inner court, let alone the holy place, let alone the Holy of Holies in the temple, but he went straight into the Holy of Holies, fell on his face before the Holy One Himself and worshiped in humility and joy

It could also be that the nine Jews were interested only in the healing and nothing more:

They don’t have any interest in Jesus anymore.  They got what they wanted out of Him.  They’re very shallow, very superficial.  They have no desire to worship Him, no desire to glorify Him, no desire to thank Him.  They don’t see Him as God. They don’t fall down and give to Him what you only give to God.  They don’t glorify Him as God.  And again we’re face-to-face with this dominant attitude among these people that we see all through the ministry of Jesus. We are the people of God and God gives us what we deserve.  Our souls are fine.  No sense of sin.  They’re like the rich young ruler.  No sense of remorse, no sense of desperation.  They are not looking for a Savior from sin. They’re looking for a political Messiah. They’re looking for somebody who will feed them free food.  They’re looking for somebody who will heal all their diseases.  They’ll take that, they’ll take the food, they’ll take the healing, they’ll take all that but they don’t want anything else.  We’ve got a lot of people in the evangelical world today who are offering that kind of Jesus.  This one man knew he needed a Savior.  He knew he had come face-to-face with God and his soul was traumatized.  He knew he was a sinner, but he knew that God had showed him mercy and compassion, kindness, power.  He could process the implications of what had just happened.  The others, hard-hearted, impenitent, satisfied with themselves; sought nothing more from Jesus.  And you know, the sad thing is He really doesn’t have anything to offer you on a permanent basis unless it’s eternal life and salvation.  If you don’t come to Him for that, you cheat yourself out of what really He came to bring

And they walked away to their dead, blind, cold religion with no more interest in Jesus at all.

Jesus told the Samaritan to rise and be on his way, ‘Your faith has made you well’ (verse 19).

The Samaritan exhibited faith. He knew his sin, his spiritual weakness:

… he also knows that God offers more than just a physical healing.  That isn’t the real issue in his life, that’s only a temporal detail.  He returns not just to be thankful for a healing. He returns to seek what his soul really desired and needed, salvation.  How do I know that?  Because that’s exactly what Jesus gave him. 

MacArthur says that the word ‘well’ in that verse does not accurately describe the spiritual healing the man also experienced. The man was not only healed physically but also saved:

The English is misleading.  Many translations say, “Has made you well.”  Everybody was made well, all ten were made well. That’s not a definitive ending to the story.  The verb is not the word for “healed,” iaomai, which is used earlier in the story in verse 15. It’s not the word for “cleansed,” katharizo, which is used also back earlier in the story in verse 14.  It’s the word sz. It’s the word sz.  It is the word for “salvation.”  In the gospels it’s used for that and in the epistles it’s the word that’s used for “saved” and “salvation.”  It’s translated that way, and I don’t know why translators treat it arbitrarily. There are some contexts in which it can mean something less than salvation, but in the context where that’s obvious it should be translated that way.  For example, in Luke 7 Jesus forgives the sins of a woman and in verse 50 He said to the woman, “Your faith has saved you.”  Same word, your faith has saved you.  Here it’s very obvious that this man has come back and he has come penitently, worshipfully and the Lord has healed his soul and given him salvation.  It should then be translated as it is in chapter 7, verse 50: “Your faith has saved you.”  This refers to a second miracle uniquely for this man.

MacArthur wraps up the context of the parable in this real-life miracle:

it’s not just a story of an individual, it’s a parable.  Of what?  I can’t help but look at the nine and believe that the Spirit of God would want me to see in those nine the general attitude of the Jews toward Jesus.  They are representative of the general attitude toward Jesus Give us healing, give us food, deliver us from demons, do miracles, but do not expect worship.  Do not expect praise, adoration, thanks.  Do not expect us to acknowledge you as God.  Listen, this man fell down glorifying God.  I believe He knew God was in Jesus.  Obviously his theology wasn’t fully developed.  Then he worshiped, and knowing that worship belongs to God.  And he knew God was the source of his miracle and he thanked Jesus, he thanked Him as well as worshiped Him.  He came back with the right attitude.  So while the ungrateful nine illustrate the general attitude of the Jews, we’ll take everything You give, we’ll take all the benefits, we’ll take all the miracles, just don’t expect worship.  The one Samaritan is a picture of the outcasts, the remnant, the ten percent, like Isaiah 6, the tenth that will believe the doctrine of the remnant.  The grateful Samaritan is a picture of the outcast who believed.  Might be a Samaritan like the Samaritan woman in John 4, might be Jews who were tax collectors and sinners, the riff-raff, the scum, the thugs, the lowlifes, the prostitutes who surrounded Jesus and of whom He said He’d come to call the sinners not the righteous.  Everybody heard the message.  Everybody enjoyed the benefit of Jesus’ power.  Everybody basked in the wonder of His teaching and His miracles.  But only a few came, fell at His feet, glorified Him as God, worshiped Him, humbled themselves, and offered Him thanks.  The majority, they were the takers.  Small group were the ones who gave Him worship.  The majority were content with fixing their life up a little bit, superficial, temporal.  Small group wanted Him to change their souls, transform their hearts.

Well, the warning here is that you can experience the goodness and common grace of God and you do, the whole world does.  He makes the sun rise on all of us, the rain to fall on the just and the unjust.  He’s good to all men.  You can be blessed by God in an earthly physical way.  He is a Savior temporally of all men.  You can be even blessed to hear the stories of Jesus and gospel truth and you can say I’ll take what I get, I’ll take my life I like it the way it is.  OK, God gave it to me, I thank God for it. You hear people say that all the time, thank God that I’m healthy, thank God that I have my children, thank God for my job, etc., etc.  And you can walk away right into eternal hell.  Or you can come back and fall on your face before Jesus Christ and embrace Him as your Master and Savior.  And the miracle that He did for that one man, He will do for you this day

May everyone reading this enjoy a blessed Sunday.

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