One man's view of theology, sports, politics, and whatever else in life that happens to interest me. A little bit about me.

Saturday, March 28, 2015

TOMS: Luke 18

For an introduction to this series, click here.

March 28, 2007

This chapter begins with teaching about prayer. The first story in the chapter is the persistent widow. She pestered the unjust judge until he decided to hear her case just to get her off his back, not because he was interested in her case. 

This is one of the great mysteries of prayer. I'll be the first to admit I don't understand a lot about prayer. I know it's one of the basic things Christians do, but often it is difficult to understand. God is an all-loving, all-knowing Father. He knows what we need before we ask, and He knows the desires of our heart before we ask. Of course the two (what we need and what we want) don't always match up. I think that's the basis of much of the mystery of prayer. Jesus tells us here to be just like the persistent widow: bugging God until we get what we need. That seems so strange. And I'm not sure what else can be said right now.

The next story is the tax collector and the Pharisee. The Pharisee, of course, bragged about himself to God in his prayer. No doubt Jesus' audience had heard lots of prayers like this. Jesus may have been exaggerating for effect just a little, but you can bet a lot of the people recognized some of the platitudes in the prayer. Meanwhile, the tax collector went off by himself and prayed simply, "God, be merciful to me, a sinner!" Of course, Jesus informed his audience that the tax collector was justified before God, whereas the Pharisee was not.

Next, I always wonder: why did the disciples always send the little kids away? Surely by this point (This section of Luke is generally agreed to be within a couple of months of the Crucifixion) they would have seen that Jesus enjoyed being around children. I don't understand people that don't like kids. When I was a kid, there were people that I knew didn't like me or kids in general, just because they were kids. Kids live in a simpler world, and just the chance to be a part of that world is enough of a reason to be interested in them and help them.

Next we have the story of the rich young ruler. This pitiful man was so tied up in his money that he was unable to commit himself to God. I think the lesson we need to learn here is that Jesus was willing to let people walk away. So much of the evangelism techniques we see in our day borrow heavily from sales techniques. The most important rule of sales is to not let the customer get away before they make a final decision. Jesus does the opposite of that here. We assume that the rich young ruler never came back, but we don't know. God works in ways we don't understand. Certainly not all of us came to faith in Christ the first time we heard the Gospel. I'm certainly thankful for the people who were patient with me and did not strongarm me into making a shallow commitment to Christ. I know there's more to it than that, but sometimes we as Christians get so excited about witnessing to others that we cut corners to make Christianity more palatable. And when they do commit to that, are they really committing to Christ? We can't see people's hearts, but I've seen too many people walk away from their profession to say that they all committed to Christ.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

TOMS: Luke 17

For an introduction to this series, click here.

March 25, 2007

It's good to be back. I love going home, but that means being totally unplugged: no computer, no internet, no cell service, at least not at my folks' house. It's nice not to have to mess with them for a few days, but then you begin to miss them.

Jesus has a very different message in this chapter from the previous. After the encouragement we got in chapter 16, this chapter has one of the most depressing (I know that's not exactly the right word, but it's all I can come up with) statements ever made by Jesus: "Will any one of you who has a servant plowing or keeping sheep say to him when he has come in from the field, 'Come at once and recline at table'? Will he not rather say to him, 'Prepare supper for me, and dress properly, and serve me while I eat and drink, and afterward you will eat and drink'? Does he thank the servant because he did what was commanded? So you also, when you have done all that you were commanded, say, 'We are unworthy servants; we have only done what was our duty.'" (17:7-10)

Too many times we aim too low. We think God is satisfied when we do some little thing at church or give God a little bit of our money in the offering. I am not sure what to think of all this. Jesus Himself said that if we give a cup of water in His name, we will be rewarded. Where is the line where duty stops and sacrifice (I guess that is the right word) begins? I don't know, but this is an encouragement to be like Paul and be always pressing toward the mark, something I don't think most of us understand and wouldn't do if we did.

Next we have the story of the 10 lepers cleansed. I'm sure you know the story. I have heard some people say they think the nine who were unthankful got their leprosy back. I'm sorry, but that doesn't make sense to me, and neither is it stated in the scripture. More importantly, this is an example of general grace. This is the goodness that God gives to all men, both saved and lost. Another example would be Jesus' statement that God sends rain on the just and the unjust. God provides good things for everyone, but only a few turn to God for salvation. These nine men got their leprosy cleansed, but their souls were still desperately sick. Only one man recognized that God was at work in his life, and he came back. The ESV in 17:19 quotes Jesus as saying, "Your faith has made you well," but notes in the margin that another reading could be "Your faith has saved you." This sheds more light on the subject. Jesus was telling him that not only was his physical sickness cleansed, but he was now a new spiritual man, too.

Jesus next gives us a warning about the immediacy of the Day of the Lord: "The days are coming when you will desire to see one of the days of the Son of Man, and you will not see it. And they will say to you, 'Look, there!' or 'Look, here!' Do not go out or follow them. For as the lightning flashes and lights up the sky from one side to the other, so will the Son of Man be in his day." (17:22-24)

The coming of the Lord will not be hidden. No one has a mystical monopoly on God's truth. When the Lord comes, all the true believers will be aware of it immediately. Lots of people in our day claim to be the only church that's doing it right or to have a secret key of knowledge, whether it is about the Lord's return or some other sort of teaching. Don't believe it. God doesn't keep secrets from His children.

Jesus continues with the warning about the coming judgment: "On that day, let the one who is on the housetop, with his goods in the house, not come down to take them away, and likewise let the one who is in the field not turn back. Remember Lot's wife. Whoever seeks to preserve his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life will keep it." (17:31-33)

This warning tells us to hold the things of this material world very loosely. Lot's wife, of course, looked back to Sodom as they were fleeing the destruction of the city. This was not just a passing glance, or at least it was not done out of a heart that was merely acting as an observer. If merely looking at the burning city was enough to turn someone into a pillar of salt then Abraham would be the same, because the Bible tells us that Abraham watched from afar off as Sodom burned. Lot's wife's look back was a look of longing to be back and a regret that she had to be leaving with her hypocritical husband. Lot was a believer, and no doubt at some points Lot got tired of all the wickedness in Sodom. His wife would maybe (I know this is not exactly in the Bible) then scold him for being stuck in his cranky uncle Abraham's ways. Lot would give in and come to terms with whatever it was, but he was still saved, and he knew what was right.

Sunday, March 22, 2015

TOMS: Luke 16

For an introduction to this series, click here.

March 22, 2007

Well, this has been a crazy week, and it's probably going to get crazier, since I'm planning on going home this weekend, but I am so far behind at work I'm not sure if I can or not.

Anyway, to me this is one of the most interesting chapters in the Bible. It starts out with a parable that hardly anyone ever preaches from (at least it seems like) but it has an amazing message. The story begins with a man who works as a manager at a rich man's estate. The rich man accuses him of stealing from him. The manager figures he is done for, so he calls his boss's creditors and makes deals with them, writing off part of their debts in exchange for favors. Then Jesus presents an interesting twist: "The master commended the dishonest manager for his shrewdness. For the sons of this world are more shrewd in dealing with their own generation than the sons of light. And I tell you, make friends for yourselves by means of unrighteous wealth, so that when it fails they may receive you into the eternal dwellings." (16:8-9)

Here we have a man who used something that wasn't his to gain something in the future. Actually, the King James is clearer on this point: "Make to yourselves friends of the mammon of unrighteousness; that, when ye fail, they may receive you into everlasting habitations." (16:9) Jesus explains His parable in the verses that follow: "If then you have not been faithful in the unrighteous wealth, who will entrust to you the true riches? And if you have not been faithful in that which is another's, who will give you that which is your own?" (16:11-12)

Here is the lesson: God gives us the opportunity to invest our material goods on earth to gain eternal rewards in heaven. What a deal we have as servants of God! He gives us the power, the will and the means to do His will on earth, and then He rewards us for doing what we were supposed to do! The people of this world are wiser because they invest all their resources for advancement in this world, and that is the best they can do. How many times are we guilty of the same thing the lost world does, spending all of our lives and resources working out the best for ourselves in this life, and never concerned about our eternal home?

I could go on, but let's finish this chapter. This chapter concludes with the story of the rich man and Lazarus. I have heard lots of preachers teach that this is a true story, but that can hardly be the case. The point of this story is not the torments of hell, which is what most preachers use this passage to say. Not that hell isn't real, but to put so much stock in the details of this story is unfair to the context, and there are plenty of other scriptures which speak of the horrors of hell.

Others say this is not a parable because Luke doesn't call it a parable. Well, none of the parables in this section, including the Prodigal Son and the parable we just discussed above, are introduced by name as parables. I have yet to hear anyone claim that the Prodigal Son is a true story, even though it seems way more plausible than this one.

The point of this parable is riches: temporal vs. eternal. The previous parable was about riches, and in between Jesus criticizes the Pharisees: "You are those who justify yourselves before men, but God knows your hearts. For what is exalted among men is an abomination in the sight of God." (16:15) The Pharisees equated riches and popularity among men with God's blessing. Jesus tells this parable to show them they are wrong.

Why else would Jesus quote Abraham as saying, "Child, remember that you in your lifetime received your good things, and Lazarus in like manner bad things; but now he is comforted here, and you are in anguish."? (16:25) You don't get to heaven by being poor, nor do you go to hell because you are rich. The message of this parable is not how to avoid hell and go to heaven. Instead, Jesus is telling them there is more to receiving God's blessings, especially eternal blessings, than just being rich. You have to believe.

Some folks try to build up an entire body of belief about the eternal state of Old Testament saints from this parable. That is very dangerous way to handle Scripture. I don't have a specific chapter and verse I can point to, other than "I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever" in Psalm 23, that says that the OT saints were in heaven, but I believe it until proven otherwise. There is no other passage that indicates that there may have been in a "holding place" in hell.

As far as the phrase "Abraham's bosom" is concerned, the ESV is more explanatory. It says "Abraham's side." This is the same word picture as when John is described at the Last Supper as being in Jesus' bosom. It just means Lazarus was reclining next to Abraham in the place of honor at the heavenly banquet, which reinforces the whole point of the story anyway: that poor Lazarus, afflicted with a terrible disease, which the Jews looked on as a sure sign of God's judgment, was the guest of honor at the banquet in heaven.

Thursday, March 19, 2015

TOMS: Luke 15

For an introduction to this series, click here.

March 19, 2007

If you've been in church for any length of time, you know that practically everything that can be said has been said about this chapter. There are few more popular chapters in the Bible. This one ranks right up there with Psalm 23, John 3 and the Sermon on the Mount. There are three parables from Jesus here, and four things that are lost. Read on if you are not sure what I'm talking about.

First of all, let's set the scene. Most people skip the first three verses of this chapter, so let's look at those: "Now the tax collectors and sinners were all drawing near to hear him. And the Pharisees and the scribes grumbled, saying, 'This man receives sinners and eats with them.' So he told them this parable:" (15:1-3, ESV) 

Now we see the context. The scribes and Pharisees, who apparently had people following Jesus all the time, trying to catch Him in something He said or did, were griping about Jesus eating with tax collectors and sinners. I wrote last week about how the Jews took seriously the people that they ate with. 

Jesus responds with the parables of the lost sheep, the lost coin and the lost sons. The point of the lost sheep is missed on most people (at least my view of it, maybe I'm the one who is missing the point). The point is no shepherd in his right mind would risk 99 sheep to get one back. And certainly if he found the one lost sheep, he would not call his neighbors to celebrate. That's like celebrating successfully adding one and one and coming up with two. But that is how God feels about when a lost person comes home to Him. He is thrilled to welcome them home, certainly more thrilled than the Pharisees who could only look at their neighbors' state in life and not see their hearts.

The lost coin, of course is another example. I may be reading this wrong, but once again you don't call your friends together because you found a piece of money you lost, even if it is worth quite a bit. Most people would be embarrassed by the fact they lost it in the first place and would not want to draw attention to it. But not this woman, and not God.

And then at last we have the parable of the lost sons. I know, this parable has been known for centuries as the prodigal son, but which son is really lost by the time the parable is over? The prodigal who repents and comes home, or the one who is spiteful toward his father for the way he shamelessly celebrates his wayward son's return? It's a shame that most people focus on the prodigal, because Jesus, and you can bet the Pharisees, were focused on the older brother. This was a direct shot at the Pharisees for their attitude they were displaying in the first three verses. I guess we can identify more with the prodigal, but that's only because we don't want to look at the older son, because I think if we look too close, we might find ourselves looking right in the mirror at ourselves if we aren't careful. 

Monday, March 16, 2015

TOMS: Luke 14

For an introduction to this series, click here.

March 16, 2007

This chapter opens with the healing of a man on the Sabbath, something Jesus seemed to take delight in. Jesus seems to do most of His healing on Saturday, I guess because the stories are more compelling. As a journalist, I know a little bit about that. It's not that you're ignoring the other things that go on, but the events that are controversial or have more drama are the ones you gravitate to. I guess I read the Gospels with a little bit different view than most people, but that's OK.

The rest of this chapter has a lot of practical teaching in it. Of course Jesus always taught with some sort of lesson in mind, and most of the time He did teach to try to stir people up, or at least get them thinking. It is worthwhile to point out that the first set of lessons Jesus gives were at a meal, since they involve meals.

Jesus gives instruction about going to a feast. Instead of taking the best seat, and being embarrassed when we are asked to move down, we should take the lowest seat, and then when we are invited up, we will be honored. I guess the opposite of that would be that if we are not invited up, we won't be embarrassed. I think Jesus probably lived this out in His life to a great extent. I can't see Jesus demanding to be the center of attention (even though He was most of the time) and making a fool of himself.

Next Jesus says: "When you give a dinner or a banquet, do not invite your friends or your brothers or your relatives or rich neighbors, lest they also invite you in return and you be repaid. But when you give a feast, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, and you will be blessed, because they cannot repay you. You will be repaid at the resurrection of the just." (14:12-14) The Jews were very particular about whom they ate with. That is why they were so angry with Jesus that He ate with publicans and sinners. Jews saw themselves as being on the level of the people they ate with: therefore, the higher class people you ate with, the better you were. Of course there is something about eating with someone that is almost spiritual, but that is no excuse to look down on people, which is exactly what most respectable Jews did.

After Jesus said this, some (presumably) self-righteous person said, "Blessed is everyone who will eat bread in the kingdom of God!" (14:15) This man was trying to make himself look good by making a pious comment. Jesus sees through his hypocrisy, and tells the parable of the great feast, where the man's guests all refused to come, citing some sort of excuse. Jesus ends the parable by putting this statement in the mouth of the host: "For I tell you, none of those men who were invited shall taste my banquet." (14:24, ESV) Now of course, you know who the "invited" were, don't you? They were the very Jews Jesus was talking to. The Jews got their invitation years ago: we call it the Old Testament. But they were refusing to accept the invitation, and so God was about to turn to the rejects: us Gentiles.

Sunday, March 15, 2015

TOMS: Luke 13

For an introduction to this series, click here.

March 15, 2007

Here we go with Luke 13. It seems like Jesus doesn't spend much time coddling His audience, telling them what they want to hear. He is always challenging something. In this case, He challenges the idea that bad things happen to bad people: "There were some present at that very time who told him about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mingled with their sacrifices. And he answered them, 'Do you think that these Galileans were worse sinners than all the other Galileans, because they suffered in this way? No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish. Or those eighteen on whom the tower in Siloam fell and killed them: do you think that they were worse offenders than all the others who lived in Jerusalem? No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish.'" (13:1-5)

The boys in my Sunday School class think like the Jews did here. Our lesson was about how Peter raised Dorcas from the dead. I asked them why God chooses to heal some people and allows others to die or get worse. They didn't really have any answers, other than they deserved it. Of course they are just 7-9 year olds, but still lots adults think that way today. Jesus disabuses the Jews of that notion here. He brings up two instances which are not recorded elsewhere in the Bible but were apparently big news at the time. Pilate, who was governor of Judea and not Galilee, apparently executed some Galileans as they were making sacrifices in Jerusalem. Also, the tower at the pool of Siloam, one of the water sources for Jerusalem, fell and killed 18 people. Everybody thought these people died because of God's punishment. But Jesus tells them punishment had nothing to do with it. The circumstances of a person's death do not indicate whether or not they were a good or bad person. These people did not die because they were especially wicked, and God did not have an extra special punishment waiting for them. The real question is whether they repented, and that is the real question for everyone.

Next we have a couple of parables that are often misinterpreted: "He said therefore, 'What is the kingdom of God like? And to what shall I compare it? It is like a grain of mustard seed that a man took and sowed in his garden, and it grew and became a tree, and the birds of the air made nests in its branches.' And again he said, 'To what shall I compare the kingdom of God? It is like leaven that a woman took and hid in three measures of flour, until it was all leavened.'" (13:18-21)

This parables teach basically the same thing. A mustard seed is the smallest of seeds, or at least one of the smallest, and yet if it is allowed to grow, it will become a large plant. The kingdom of God, whether Jesus is talking about the kingdom in general or the church in particular I don't know and it doesn't really matter because it's all the same thing, starts out small but will one day become a large, glorious thing. A little yeast is nothing compared to a lump of dough, but it is the key factor in making the small lump into a large loaf of bread. A lot of people think the yeast here refers to sin, but Jesus would never say the kingdom of God is like sin. Yeast is compared to sin in other places, but context is important to determine if a comparison is to be applied uniformly. There's no hard and fast rule that requires that metaphors always be used the same way in Scripture.

In the next section, Luke records a similar teaching to what is found in the Sermon on the Mount, but Luke adds more: "Strive to enter through the narrow door. For many, I tell you, will seek to enter and will not be able. When once the master of the house has risen and shut the door, and you begin to stand outside and to knock at the door, saying, 'Lord, open to us,' then he will answer you, 'I do not know where you come from.' Then you will begin to say, 'We ate and drank in your presence, and you taught in our streets.' But he will say, 'I tell you, I do not know where you come from. Depart from me, all you workers of evil!' In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth, when you see Abraham and Isaac and Jacob and all the prophets in the kingdom of God but you yourselves cast out. And people will come from east and west, and from north and south, and recline at table in the kingdom of God." (13:24-29, ESV)

The Jews were confident that they were going to heaven because they were Abraham's children. But Jesus tells them it takes more than bloodlines to be part of the kingdom of God. It takes repentance, a renewal of your heart.

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

TOMS: Luke 12

For an introduction to this series, click here.

March 11, 2007

Jesus begins this chapter with a warning about the Pharisees. Then He adds this: "I tell you my friends, do not fear those who kill the body, and after that have nothing more they can do. But I will warn you whom to fear: fear him who, after he has killed, has authority to cast into hell. Yes, I tell you, fear him!" (12:4-5) Then Jesus warns about not being ashamed of Him before men. This is a rare reference in which Luke sounds more like Matthew, with its specific references to the Jewish opposition to Christianity.
Next we have the parable of the rich fool. But the story is introduced with a very interesting situation which I had never realized went along with this story: "Someone in the crowd said to him, 'Teacher, tell my brother to divide the inheritance with me.' But he said to him, "Man, who made me a judge or arbitrator over you?' And he said to them, 'Take care, and be on your guard against all covetousness, for one's life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.'" This makes the parable of the rich fool, the man who said he would tear down his barns and build bigger ones and then he would eat, drink and be merry, in a different light. When we hear warnings about rich people, we never include ourselves. Very few of us consider ourselves rich, not even millionaires. But the fact is that greed is not exclusively a sin of the rich. A person can barely have two pennies to rub together and be greedy, and a billionaire doesn't have to be greedy. Greed is a sinful attitude of the heart, not a measure of wealth.
After telling the parable, Jesus goes into the teaching against worry which Matthew records in the Sermon on the Mount, which includes the "Consider the ravens," and "Consider the lilies." Jesus then warns about being ready for judgment. Whether Jesus is specifically referring to the Rapture, the Second Coming, or simply to the fact of death, the reality is that we all will one day stand in judgment for our actions, and it will likely not come at a time when we are ready for it.
Finally Jesus makes a statement that many have misinterpreted down through the ages: "Do you think that I have come to give peace on earth? No, I tell you, but rather division. For from now on in one house there will be five divided, three against two and two against three." (12:51-52, ESV) This statement by Jesus is not an excuse for war, nor is it an excuse for obnoxiousness and selfishness. It is basically a statement of fact. The Gospel by its very nature divides people. The lost world does not understand believers, and many are repulsed by the mention of the name Jesus Christ. But at the same time, don't point to this verse if you find yourself opposed by everyone you know and figure you're in the right. There's a difference between standing for the truth and simple stubbornness and pride. If everyone thinks you're wrong, they might be right.

Friday, March 6, 2015

TOMS: Luke 11

For an introduction to this series, click here.

March 6, 2007

This chapter starts off with  the Lord's Prayer and a parable about prayer. I'm sure you are familiar with the Lord's Prayer, so let's go on to the parable. A man has a friend come to visit at midnight, and he has nothing to feed him with. So he goes next door to his neighbor's house and starts asking him for food. The conclusion of the story is this: "I tell you, though he will not get up and give him anything because he is his friend, yet because of his impudence he will rise and give him whatever he needs. And I tell you, ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened." (11:8-10)

Luke then records a similar statement that Matthew gives us in the Sermon on the Mount about the son who asks his father for food. I have a problem asking God for things. I often feel like it's insulting to God to ask for something that I can do for myself. Now certainly the Lord does not reward laziness, but He does command us to pray about everything.

Next, some of the Jews accuse Jesus of casting out demons by the power of Satan. This is the ultimate insult to God, to attribute His obvious good work to the power of the devil. Jesus replies: "Every kingdom divided against itself is laid waste, and a divided household falls. And if Satan also is divided against himself, how will his kingdom stand?" (11:17-18) This accusation proves the stubbornness of the people. They could see the mighty hand of God at work in their midst, but instead of praising God for His goodness, they were trying to prove that it wasn't really God doing the work.

Then Jesus tells a very interesting story: "When the unclean spirit has gone out of a person, it passes through waterless places seeking rest, and finding none it says, 'I will return to my house from which I came.' And when it comes, it finds the house swept and put in order. Then it goes and brings seven other spirits more evil than itself, and they enter and dwell there. And the last state of that person is worse than the first." (11:24-26) 

This parable teaches us the principle of replacement. It is not enough to just get rid of a besetting sin or bad habit. You need to have something to put back in its place. I have seen, and I'm sure you have seen, lots of people who make a positive step in their life, and they don't follow through, they just kind of stay in place. Unfortunately they don't stay there for long; they soon end up in a worse place than they were before.

Jesus then confronts the Pharisees directly, pronouncing a series of woes on them similar to Matthew 23. Luke adds a new one though that is very interesting: "Woe to you! For you are like unmarked graves, and people walk over them without knowing it." (11:44, ESV) Walking into or over a grave was a minor offense in Moses' law. It was one of those that if you did it you were "unclean until the evening." The P's professed to be the spiritual leaders, the paragons of virtue. Jesus points out that they were actually unknowingly trapping people in their false teaching. There are lots of teachers out there that we need to be wary of. I usually don't like to look at the next chapter, but in 12:2, the same context as all the woes, Jesus tells the disciples, "Beware of the leaven of the Pharisees." There are some seemingly good teachers out there who are really setting a trap for your mind and your soul.

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

TOMS: Luke 9

For an introduction to this series, click here.

March 1, 2007

This is a very long chapter, and it has a lot of stuff in it. This chapter starts out with the sending out of the disciples. Luke does not go into the detail that Matthew does, he just tells us that Jesus sent them out to teach and heal among the people.

Next we have a very interesting parenthetical statement that somehow Luke found out. Remember that in the previous chapter Luke mentions that the wife of Herod's steward contributed to Jesus' ministry. Perhaps Luke learned about this from her: “Now Herod the tetrarch heard about all that was happening, and he was perplexed, because it was said by some that John had been raised from the dead, by some that Elijah had appeared, and by others that one of the prophets of old had risen. Herod said, ‘John I beheaded, but who is this about whom I hear such things?’ And he sought to see him.” (9:7-9) Herod was perplexed by Jesus; he didn't know what to think. Eventually Herod did meet Jesus, but he showed his unbelief and did not save Him from death. Lots of people are intrigued by Jesus, but they don't want to commit their lives to Him.

Next we have the feeding of the 5,000, followed by Peter's confession of Jesus as "The Christ of God." This is followed by the transfiguration. Then we have the demonstration by Jesus that the one who believes as a child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. (I am really moving fast, but I feel like I have already covered these stories.)

That is followed by a couple of storied unique to Luke's Gospel that involve John the Apostle. Remember that John was likely a teenager when he followed Jesus. John, ever the zealot, comes up to Jesus and says that they found a man casting out demons in Jesus' name, and they tried to stop him. Jesus tells them, "Do not stop him, for the one who is not against you is for you." (9:50, ESV) This is an important lesson for everyone to learn. It's easy to get distracted into thinking of people we disagree with as our enemies, but the reality is that our ultimate enemy is Satan. He will use anything to keep us from following Jesus, including controversies over minor points with fellow believers.

Next we have a Samaritan village. This could have been the same trip through Samaria that Jesus made when He visited with the Samaritan woman in John 4, but then again maybe not. Jesus was certainly not the type to bypass Samaria when traveling from Judea to Galilee as were most Jews of the time. Anyway, there was a Samaritan town that would not receive Jesus. The disciples, particularly James and John, were furious with them, and asked Jesus if they could call down fire from heaven and burn them up. Jesus "rebuked them" and they went on. Now I don't know how much of John and James' statements were based on racism, but it's a pretty safe bet there were lots of Jewish towns that rejected Jesus, and , as far as we know, they never wanted to rain down fire on them. I'm not wanting to be too hard on them, I just want to point out that the Gospels do paint a frank picture of everyone involved, including the Apostles who would become the foundation of the church. I am glad Luke mentions this story. It gives us some neat insight into the disciples.

Monday, March 2, 2015

TOMS: Luke 8

For an introduction to this series, click here.

Feb. 27, 2007

The beginning of this chapter gives us unique insight into the life of Jesus. We are told of at least three women who supported Jesus financially: Mary Magdalene, Joanna, the wife of Herod's household manager, and Susanna. Jesus lived just like every other rabbi did: on the generosity of others.

Next we have the parable of the sower, which is the name Jesus gives it in Matthew's Gospel. The point of the parable is not so much the sower, but the different soils, which represent different responses to the Word of God.

In Jesus' explanation in private to the disciples, He made no bones about the fact that His parables were not intended to make spiritual things easier to understand. In fact, they did the exact opposite: "To you it has been given to know the secrets of the kingdom of God, but for others they are in parables, so that 'seeing they may not see, and hearing they may not understand.'" (8:10) Ephesians 2:8 (and other passages) tells us that faith is a gift of God. I don't pretend to understand how that works. I do know this: God promises to be found by those who search for Him with all their heart, and He also invites whoever wills so to come to Him. Some people hear about the concept of election and wonder whether they or someone else might not be able to come to Jesus for salvation. Don't worry about it. If you have the desire to come to Jesus, Jesus is waiting with open arms.

Next we have the story of the calming of the sea (or the lake, as Luke calls it). The disciples were scared to death, and meanwhile Jesus is asleep in the boat. I like to think that Jesus was more perturbed at being awakened from His nap than He was about the storm. Luke doesn't tell us the words Jesus used: he only tells us that He "rebuked the wind and the raging waves."

When they got to the other side, they met the maniac of Gadara. Jesus plays an ironic joke on the pig farmers a little way up the shore. They should have known better than to be raising hogs, but here they were doing it anyway. The people's reaction is sad but typical. They should have been overjoyed that Jesus had healed this man who had been a terror for years, but instead they were furious that He had ruined their illicit hog operation.

Last we have a story that involves two people with great faith: Jairus and the woman with an issue of blood. Jairus, apparently a well-to-do man in the community, falls at Jesus feet and asks Him to heal his daughter. The fact that he would do that, as Luke tells us there was a large crowd waiting for Jesus as He returned from across the Sea, tells us that he was desperate. Jesus goes walking toward Jairus' house, and all of a sudden Jesus stops. He asks a ridiculous question: "Who was it that touched me?" (8:45) Peter tells Him it is a stupid question, but then this woman comes out of the crowd. She had been healed, and all because she had touched Jesus' robe. Meanwhile, one of Jairus' servants comes out and tells him, "Your daughter is dead; do not trouble the Teacher any more." (8:49) What a heartless way to say it. Jesus simply turns to Jairus and says, “Do not fear; only believe, and she will be well.” (8:50, ESV)

The group proceeds to Jairus’ house. No doubt most of the people in the crowd were interested in what would happen when Jesus found the girl dead. When Jesus comes to the house, He only brings in Peter, James, John, Jairus and his wife. The crowd certainly did not have faith to believe Jesus could heal her. He was not about to let those faithless ingrates in on the miracle. Jesus tells the family not to tell what happened. Obviously it was going to be hard to hide the fact that this little girl who had been dead was alive, so I don't know how well they succeeded at that.