Posts Tagged 'Luke'

Plastic Plants and Plastic People

 

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Luke 11:37-44

 

Jesus rarely turned down an invitation to lunch, even if it came from a Pharisee.  When our Lord ignored tradition – the Rabbinic tradition of washing before eating – His hosts were incensed.  This prompted Jesus to issue a series of “woes” or denunciations.  Many of the things He said about the Pharisees and the experts in the Law here in Luke sound a lot like the things He said of these same groups in Matthew 23.  But we are looking at two different situations and two different occasions.  The incident in Matthew took place during the Passion Week, and here this little luncheon at the Pharisee’s house took place while He was in Perea on His way to Jerusalem.  Still, it’s late in Jesus’ ministry and things weren’t as easy as they were in the early years.  Relationships with the religious elite were deteriorating.  His teachings were pointed and for some, now hard to accept.

When Jesus had finished speaking, a Pharisee invited him to eat with him; so he went in and reclined at the table.   (Luke 11:37 NIV84)

By now, most of the Pharisees were at odds with Jesus, so it is possible that this invitation to lunch was part of a larger plan to trap Jesus; to use His habits, which were well-known, or His words against Him.  But Jesus had a plan of His own, and nothing – not even religious leaders – would stop Him.  Part His plan involved these very religious leaders, the lawyers and the Pharisees.  Jesus had a message for them, and what better time to deliver it than over lunch?  So, the religious leaders thought they were in charge, but it was Jesus who used this situation for His purpose.  We will find out that these men, whatever else they may have been, were hypocrites.   We will also learn that Tennyson was right in his observations regarding these people who pervert the truth:

A lie which is half a truth is ever the blackest of lies! A lie which is all a lie may be met and fought outright, But a lie which is part of a truth is a harder matter to fight!

1.  A hypocrite is more concerned with the traditions of man than the truth of God

But the Pharisee, noticing that Jesus did not first wash before the meal, was surprised. (Luke 11:38 NIV84)

These so-called experts in all things having to do with the Law, the Old Testament, were actually far more interested in compliance to certain rituals that had nothing to do with Scripture.   In fact, these people were quite literally obsessed with hundreds of man-made rules.  They were constantly being handed down and enforced as if salvation depended on their strict observance.  In truth, the very simple precepts of the Levitical Law demanding cleanliness and ceremonial purity had been blown way out of proportion.   Jesus, by His action of entering the house and simply “reclining” at the table, was demonstrating what He thought of their precious hand-washing requirement. 

The Pharisees cared more about the traditions of the elders, which were always in a state of flux, being added to or altered, than they were with the true, unchanging Law of God or with the true dignity of Jesus’ divine character.  In truth, the true child of God ought never be put in a position of having to be bound by the opinions of man.

It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.  (Galatians 5:1 NIV84)

Living by faith, understanding that your position in Christ is a work of faith alone, sets the believer free from the notion of having to “earn” his salvation through man-made rules and regulations. 

But the hypocrite is the one who thinks – and insists that others think as he does – that salvation is a matter of God’s grace and faith, but also a matter of believing the right “doctrines,” as determined by some man or committee of men.  Jesus would have nothing to do with such nonsense.  Why, then, do we?

2.  The hypocrite is more concerned with being clean on the outside than with purity of heart.

Then the Lord said to him, Now then, you Pharisees clean the outside of the cup and dish, but inside you are full of greed and wickedness.”  (Luke 11:39 NIV84)

Jesus called a spade a spade!  His words here are strong, direct, but necessary.  The word translated “greed” means literally “plunder” or “robbery.”  His point here is that the only good side to the Pharisee is the outside; inside he is rotten to the core.  They live their lives for the eyes and scrutiny of other people.  These were the man-pleasers that continually got under the skin of the apostle Paul:

To the pure, all things are pure, but to those who are corrupted and do not believe, nothing is pure. In fact, both their minds and consciences are corrupted.   They claim to know God, but by their actions they deny him. They are detestable, disobedient and unfit for doing anything good.   (Titus 1:15-16 NIV84)

Jesus went to to say:

Fools! Didnt God make the inside as well as the outside? Purity is best demonstrated by generosity.  (Luke 11:40, 41  TLB)

In typical hypocrite fashion, they were partly right but mostly wrong!  These religious types made sure the outside was squeaky clean, but they neglected to clean up the inside.  Erdman comments,

Jesus declared that to wash the body while the heart is impure is as absurd as to clean only the outside of the cup or platter.  God made both the body and soul, and is more concerned with the latter than with the former.

The precise meaning of these two verses is a little unclear, but Jesus may have in  mind the Pharisee’s predilection for being all talk but with very little action.  And our Lord may also have had in mind the numerous Old Testament passages that stress obedience to the more important aspects of the Law over obedience to ceremonial ordinances.  These passages might include:  Isaiah 1:10-17; Amos 5:21-24; Micah 6:6-8.  It’s not that Jesus is advocating a works-based salvation, but rather something akin to what His half-brother would later write:

In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.   (James 2:17 NIV84)

But there is a deeper meaning here.  These hypocrites should have been giving unselfishly to help others, motivated not from the outside but from their inner most being.  But we get the sense that, in fact, the opposite was going on:  they were actually robbing  the poor.  That may be taken two ways:  (1)  by not giving generously, the Pharisees were robbing them; (2)  somehow they were literally taking what little the poor had away from them.  Perhaps in the form of offerings or  some sort of “temple” tax.  Either way, the shoddy way these men treated the poor showed them for what they were:  hypocrites who talked right but walked wrong.

3.  The hypocrite majors on the minors

Woe to you Pharisees, because you give God a tenth of your mint, rue and all other kinds of garden herbs, but you neglect justice and the love of God. You should have practiced the latter without leaving the former undone.  (Luke 11:42 NIV84)

It’s a fact that nothing good follows the word “woe” in the Bible!  The hypocrites eating lunch with Jesus observed scrupulously the tithing admonition taught in Leviticus 27–

A tithe of everything from the land, whether grain from the soil or fruit from the trees, belongs to the Lord; it is holy to the Lord.  (Leviticus 27:30 NIV84)

What strikes you is that these Pharisees not only observed this part of the Law, but they observed it to the minutest detail!  They tithed…herbs!  Mint?  Why stop there…why not tithe a grain of sand?  Their absolute obsession such minor points of the Law blinded them to the needs of others.  They were strong on their knowledge of the Law, which Jesus never condemned by the way, but they had no love.  We don’t know why they were like this; perhaps they thought themselves above being charitable to others or it may be that as far as they were concerned being sticklers for the letter of the Law absolved them from getting involved with others. 

Jesus informed these men that it was proper for them to practice their tithing; the New Covenant wasn’t established yet.  It’s interesting that the Gospels mention the “tithe” only three times, all in connection with the Pharisees.  Tithing is also mentioned in Hebrews but only in a historical context.  We never read of any member of the early church tithing.  We do, however, read a lot about “generous giving.”  Christians ought to give generously, as God enables them to do so. 

But these religious men eating with Jesus, they were all about the minute letter of the Law.  That’s what motivated them. 

4.  The hypocrite loves to impress people with his “religiosity.”

Woe to you Pharisees, because you love the most important seats in the synagogues and greetings in the marketplaces.  (Luke 11:43 NIV84)

Yes, these hypocritical Pharisees loved to be seen in the synagogues and loved to be greeted in the streets.   And so are religious hypocrites today.  They don’t really care about adorning the great doctrines of the Bible, but like to be adorned by those doctrines.  In other words, the religious hypocrites of today use and warp Biblical doctrines to meet some need they have.  How many preachers and pastors are in those professions because they like the (imagined) power or for the prestige that comes from being introduced as “Reverend” or “Doctor” or “Reverend Doctor?”

5.  The hypocrite true character is opposite to what he projects

Woe to you, because you are like unmarked graves, which men walk over without knowing it.  (Luke 11:44 NIV84)

This “woe” is a little different from the parallel “woe” in Matthew 23:27–

Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You are like whitewashed tombs, which look beautiful on the outside but on the inside are full of dead mens bones and everything unclean.   (Matthew 23:27 NIV84)

In Matthew, the Pharisees are compared to beautiful tombs that look clean and well-kept on the outside but full of putrid rot on the inside.  Here in Luke, though, the comparison is a little different.  Here Jesus says the Pharisees are just unmarked graves that anybody would walk over without even noticing. 

According to Jewish customs of the day, these kinds of “unmarked graves” needed to be whitewashed so as to be easily seen.  If, as Jesus said, a hapless Jew were to walk over one of those graves, he would have been ceremonially impure, so that’s why these undistinguished grave markers had to be whitewashed.  To the religious types listening to Jesus this lunch hour, this “woe” must have been particularly stinging because here they were, thinking they “all that”  and being looked up to and admired by everybody.  Yet they were like unkept grave markers; neglected.  The Pharisees had hidden their hypocrisy, presuming people were impressed with them.  Yet, according to Jesus, some people were not – they were, as it were, just walking right over them.

The true character of the hypocrite is the opposite to what they project.  So let’s be careful to make sure our hearts are right and our motives pure as we serve the Lord and lead others to Him.

Luke and the 70 or 72

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Luke 10:1 -20

Chapter 10 of Luke’s Gospel is very encouraging because we read about large group of dedicated, sincere, and enthusiastic disciples of Jesus whom He called to serve.  Without a moment’s hesitation, they all answered the call and were successful in their mission for The Lord.

Not all who were interested in Jesus were interested in serving Him.  The three would-be followers of the previous chapter testify to this (see Luke 9:57 – 62).  To the last man Jesus replied, using a well-known proverb, attributed to Hesiod:

Jesus replied, No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for service in the kingdom of God.  (Luke 9:62 NIV84)

A man who tries to plow his field but is constantly looking backward will never plow a straight furrow.  In other words, if you want to follow Jesus you can’t have a divided heart; service for Jesus must always come first.  If we, who call ourselves Christians, do not put Him first above all others and all else in our lives, we simply cannot be His disciples. 

There is a very high cost in following Jesus.  This idea is almost foreign to North American Christians, with our “easy faith.”  The fact is, if we want to follow Jesus, He demands ALL we have.  Paul understood what single-minded devotion to God meant:

Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.  (Philippians 3:13-14 NIV84)

Luke is the only Gospel writer to record the incident of our Lord sending out 70 disciples.  Apparently this was a “temporary mission,” meant for a limited time because Jesus was on His way to Jerusalem.

It should be noted that there are some textual issues surrounding the exact number of people Jesus actually sent out.  Some texts say “70,”  others “72.”  There seems to be good arguments in support of either number.  On this point, for the purpose of this brief study, I would say, “Who cares?”  The really interesting thing is not the exact number, but rather the fact that Jesus had this  many trustworthy disciples at this point in His earthly ministry.  It’s easy to forget that even while He was in the flesh, Jesus was much loved by many and had many, many loyal followers.

1.      Their own great commission

We, of course have the “Great Commission” recorded elsewhere in the Gospels, but, really, whenever our Lord asks us to anything for Him, it’s our “great commission.” 

Go! I am sending you out like lambs among wolves.   (Luke 10:3 NIV84)

Lambs

Granted, this is not the most exciting commission a follower of Jesus could hope for!  It sounds more like a “suicide mission!”  This statement is real paradox, though.  Consider:  Lambs going out to rescue sheep from wolves!   It seems like an impossible mission.  What defense does a lamb  have against a wolf?  Actually plenty, if the Lord of all is sending that lamb out!  The “I” of Jesus is emphatic – the Great Shepherd is doing the sending.  Without Him, these lambs would face certain slaughter in the face of a helpless situation.  But they are being commissioned by Him, to be His servants, therefore, the opposite is true!

He tends his flock like a shepherd:He gathers the lambs in his arms and carries them close to his heart;he gently leads those that have young.  (Isaiah 40:11 NIV84)

Jesus would never ask any of His people to do anything they were incapable of doing!  He always equips us to His work.  These “lambs” were not to be “rams,” fighting there way to accomplish the terms of their commission.  They were to be trusting in their Great Shepherd, as all lambs do!

Forerunners

After this the Lord appointed seventy-two others and sent them two by two ahead of him to every town and place where he was about to go.   (Luke 10:1 NIV84)

These disciples were, literally, the forerunners of Jesus, going on ahead of Him to the places He wanted to visit to act as heralds, to make the people aware that Jesus was on His way to their very town.  Time was so short and there was still a lot of work to be done.

Heralds

 …tell them, The kingdom of God is near you.   (Luke 10:9 NIV84)

The Kingdom of God refers to God’s kingship – His rule or sovereignty over the hearts and lives of His people.  The Kingdom actually arrived when Jesus began to preach:

 From that time on Jesus began to preach, Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near.  (Matthew 4:17 NIV84)

In fact, by virtue of their preaching, these forerunning heralds were bringing the kingdom to these towns because it was IN them already!  Think about that.  When you share your faith with one who is lost, you are literally bringing the kingdom in close proximity to them because it is within you, too! 

For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking, but of righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit,   (Romans 14:17 NIV84)

2.  Their joyful testimony

Was this very early “missionary” activity successful?  Consider —

The seventy-two returned with joy and said, Lord, even the demons submit to us in your name.  (Luke 10:17 NIV84)

We have no idea how long it took them to accomplish their commission, but we do know they had stunning success!  To a one, each missionary was full of joy.  No wonder; they were doing precisely what Jesus told them to do.  There is always joy in serving Jesus, even if the task is a difficult one.   But in addition to joy, they had great success.  We assume they obeyed Jesus to the letter, healing the sick and preaching the nearness of the kingdom.  What elated them so, however, was not how well each town received them or their message, but that “demons submitted” to them in Jesus’ name. 

The “name of Jesus” is not like a magic charm.  The 72 didn’t use it that way.  That phrase means that the demons recognized the authority of Jesus Christ in these disciples.  In connection with this, we read the following–

He replied, I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven.”  (Luke 10:18 NIV84)

There are a number of interpretations to this verse, including these popular ones:

   Jesus saw Lucifer’s original fall (or expulsion) from Heaven;

   Jesus is referring His victory of Satan during His wilderness temptation;

   Jesus is prophesying about the future, when Satan will forever banished from the Heavenlies in a final, awful judgment.

The problem with all of these views is that they don’t fit the context.  Jesus had no reason for bringing up any of them at this point.  No, what Jesus is referring to is what happened when His disciples exercised His authority over the demons: Jesus saw their leader – Satan – falling. It was sudden in the sense that Jesus’ disciples didn’t expect it to happen.   We might go further and say that this “falling” of Satan was among the first of many times the evil one would fall until His final defeat at the hands of the triumphant, all-conquering Christ, as the apostle John foresaw in Revelation 20:1-3. Whenever any one of Jesus’ servants is obedient and does good work for Him, Satan falls a little lower. 

I have given you authority to trample on snakes and scorpions and to overcome all the power of the enemy; nothing will harm you.   (Luke 10:19 NIV84)

What a powerful statement!  It’s written in the perfect tense, meaning it is still if force to this day:  followers of Jesus still have His authority to trample and overcome the power of the enemy. 

Quite often this verse is cited in conjunction with Mark 16:18–

“…they will pick up snakes with their hands; and when they drink deadly poison, it will not hurt them at all; they will place their hands on sick people, and they will get well.  (Mark 16:18 NIV84)

Sometimes preachers like to take these verses literally, but the figurative interpretation is probably the best one.  Without commenting on the authenticity of Mark 16:9-20, it’s safe to assume that our Lord was speaking figuratively in the Luke reference and, if Mark 16 is genuine, there as well.  Mind you, in Acts 28:3 we read of a startling event in the life of Paul that sends chills down the spines of a lot Bible readers–

Paul gathered a pile of brushwood and, as he put it on the fire, a viper, driven out by the heat, fastened itself on his hand…But Paul shook the snake off into the fire and suffered no ill effects.  (Acts 28:3, 5 NIV84)

Unlike the verses in Mark and Luke, these verses form part of Paul’s history and, therefore, are to be taken at face value.  It was miraculous indeed that he survived being bitten by that snake!

Figuratively speaking, these followers of Jesus, and in reality all followers of Jesus since, have this same authority of Jesus to withstand the evil attacks of the enemy.  This does not in any way mean that Christians will never face Satanic attacks, nor does it mean they should go looking for them, but that they can prevail in the face of them.  Of course, it follows that we ought to dedicated wholly to Christ and are living in obedience to Him and His Word. 

Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand.   (Ephesians 6:13 NIV84)

3.  A word of caution

However, do not rejoice that the spirits submit to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven.  (Luke 10:20 NIV84)

This is not a reprimand, but a word of caution.  Power and authority are two very attractive qualities that more often than not wield a corrupting influence over people.  These things, power and authority, may be glamorous but eternal life is essential!  Or, we could say, going to heaven is way more important than causing fear in Hell!  Casting out demons will eventually come to an end when our earthly life comes to an end, but our right standing with God – our names being recorded in heaven – is  meant to last forever.  So, as Jesus might have said, Christians should not focus too much on the victories in this life.  It was and is proper to rejoice when believers experience a spiritual victory, but our focus should always be on Christ and what He has done for us.

Besides, casting out demons is no guarantee that one’s soul is right with God.  Consider the awful truth of Matthew 7:22, 23

Many will say to me on that day, Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and in your name drive out demons and perform many miracles?’  Then I will tell them plainly, I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!

Exercising some kind of supernatural faith and power is not what saves us.  It is the fact that our names are recorded in God’s Big Black Book in Heaven!  We must be careful to rejoice in, not what we have done, but what has been done for us.  God recorded our names in His Book.  Let’s be sure to always be thankful and to rejoice in that fact. 

 

Luke and the Inhospitable Samaritans and the Not-So-Hospitable Disciples

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Luke 9:51-56

Up to this point in Luke’s Gospel, the writer-physician had been following Mark’s Gospel closely.  But now, with this division, Luke breaks and goes his own way.  Chapters 9-19 have no parallel in Matthew and Mark, although a many of the incidents Luke records are found in the Synoptics.

With 9:51, Jesus begins His journey to Jerusalem.  It’s a crooked road that got Him there, with many much-loved and familiar teachings being given along the way.  The Good Samaritan, The Prodigal Son and The Rich Man and Lazarus are among the parables Jesus gives in this section.

It has been observed that a small blade of grass may indicate which way the wind is blowing or in what direction a river flows.  In other words, very often a seemingly insignificant event may in fact have a major significance.  Such an event occurred in verses 49 and 50–

Master, said John, we saw a man driving out demons in your name and we tried to stop him, because he is not one of us.Do not stop him, Jesus said, for whoever is not against you is for you.  (Luke 9:49-50 NIV84)

Consider the attitude of grace exhibited by Jesus in allowing a stranger to “use His Name” and the grudge held by the disciples in wanting to forbid him from doing so.  These two verses represent that insignificant blade of grass, showing the the bent of the hearts of the disciples and that of our Lord.  In the following verses a stark contrast is drawn between the attitude of Jesus and that of His disciples.

1.       Jesus’ devotion

As the time approached for him to be taken up to heaven, Jesus resolutely set out for Jerusalem.   (Luke 9:51 NIV84)

Jesus’ absolute determination is revealed in this verse, and it startles us.  He was a determined Man on a journey to fulfill His mission.  His mind was made up.  He WILL go to Jerusalem so He can eventually return to His Father.  Nothing from here on in will stop Jesus, not even the inhospitable Samaritans.  This verse suggests a number of things:

   Every movement in the life of Jesus, including this journey to Jerusalem, was according to God’s plan and purpose.

   Jesus was fully aware of what was to come.

   Jesus’ will was in complete agreement with His Father’s plan. 

   Even as Luke wrote this Gospel years after Calvary, he does not refer to Jesus’ impending death, but to His Ascension.  Luke knew that the Cross  was merely a “steppingstone to the crown.”

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.  (Hebrews 12:1, 2  TNIV)

Jesus was determined to get to Jerusalem, not because it was such a wonderful city to visit, but because the only way He could return Home and to His Father, was by way of Jerusalem and the Cross.   It’s not that the Cross was unimportant, but our Lord’s attention was focused beyond it.

The NIV’s “as the time approached” means literally “the days were filling up,” that is, we might say “the time was winding down.”  The countdown had begun.  It was only a  matter of time before Jesus would encounter His destiny, the destiny that was God’s will, a destiny Jesus fully embraced.

2.  Samaritan bigotry

but the people there did not welcome him, because he was heading for Jerusalem.  (Luke 9:53 NIV84)

Jesus alerted the Samaritan village that a group of some 13 people was approaching.  Maybe they were looking for lodging or for food.  But the Samaritns didn’t care.  They weren’t at all interested in having these men visit their village. 

The Samaritans were “half-breeds,” and practiced a religion that was a mixture of Judaism and paganism.  When Israel fell to the Assyrians centuries earlier, the invaders carried away most of the ten tribes into captivity, replacing them with pagans from the east.  These pagans intermarried the few Israelites that remained, and their offspring became the Samaritans, named after the capital of the northern kingdom, Samaria. 

There had been a long-standing feud between the Samaritans and the Jews.  The Samaritans had their temple on Mount Gerizim, but because Jesus was heading to Jerusalem and “His Father’s House,” they would have nothing to do with Him.  Essentially there were three other reasons for this:

   Because Jesus would not  honor their works.  The Samaritans had “made up” their own religion, a mixture of “the best parts” of a number of religions, including Judaism.  How many people today do exactly the same thing?  They invent all manner of customs and traditions that make them feel good about themselves as they try to excuse their sins and serve God at the same time. 

   Because Jesus will not follow them.  The Samaritans had made up their minds to worship God their own way, in a place determined by themselves:  atop Mount Gerizim.  Because Jesus would never condescend to worship God in any man-made way, they would have nothing to do with Him.  The self-righteous religious person invents ways of approaching God based on what HE thinks God wants, not on what the Bible says God wants. 

   Because Jesus chooses His friends carefully.  Jesus didn’t hang around with just anybody.  Sure, He dined with “publicans and sinners,” but for the purpose of converting them, not to fellowship with them.  Jesus was on His way to the Cross, then Home.  The Jews would have nothing to do with the Samaritans and vice versa, but Jesus was willing to associate with anybody IF it meant winning them over.  But to the Jews and the Samaritans, Jesus was an offense; His cross was an offense to them both.  Jesus offends a lot of people today.  He offends a lot of religious people today

3.  The disciple’s intolerance

When the disciples James and John saw this, they asked, Lord, do you want us to call fire down from heaven to destroy them?   (Luke 9:54 NIV84)

Jesus knew what He was doing when He nicknamed James and John “the Sons of Thunder!”  These two brothers may or may not have had red hair, but they often showed their dispositions.  Here we see those fiery dispositions on full display; their dislike for the Samaritans and their loyalty to Jesus collided and resulted in their sincere but humorous question.  

Their question showed they were indeed loyal to Jesus but it also showed they had faith in God, or maybe in Jesus, who they tought would surely answer their request even as God had used the  prophet Elijah to call fire down from heaven in the Old Testament.  Ungracious and zealous as they were, their questions shows three things–

   Faith.  They obviously wouldn’t have asked if they hadn’t believed it was possible.  Their question may seem funny to us, but to them it was serious; they seriously believed that if Jesus willed it, they could call fire down from Heaven.   Do we have that much faith?

   Zeal.  We can fault them, but how many Christians have this much zeal when the character of Jesus is impugned? 

   Ignorance.  Their hearts may have been right, but they were so wrong in their attitude.  They were ignorant and they reacted and spoke in ignorance.  The “heart” should never trump the “Word” of God nor the “will of God.” 

4.  Jesus’ rebuke

Jesus wouldn’t let James and John get away with their intolerant, ignorant attitude. 

But he turned, and rebuked them, and said, Ye know not what manner of spirit ye are of.   (Luke 9:55 KJV)

This verse has caused some controversy over the years.  The KJV makes it twice as long as the NIV does because it adds, “Ye know not what manner of spirit ye are of.”  Some translations choose not to include that phrase in the body of the text but place it as a footnote or in italics off to the side.  In all likelihood, Luke did not write it, a scribe probably did, thinking he was adding “pizzazz” to what Jesus had said.  But, really, the important word in this verse is “rebuke.”  It’s a stern word and would have caught James and John completely off guard.  These men were zealous, but ignorant.  In their zeal, they misspoke and came off sounding like bigots, not  followers of Jesus.

A lot of Christians today are just as zealous and just as ignorant.  They say all manner things about God and even to God, but their words betray their lack of knowledge.  How serious an offense is this “lacking in knowledge?”  Consider–

My people are destroyed from lack of knowledge. “Because you have rejected knowledge, I also reject you as my priests; because you have ignored the law of your God, I also will ignore your children.”  (Hosea 4:6  TNIV)

Praying in ignorance has always been a problem in the Church.  Some may be familiar with this prayer–

 Lord, bless me and my wife, my son John and his wife; bless us four, and no more.  Amen.

The Lord rebuke people with such attitudes!

5.  Jesus gracious explanation

Here’s an example of wisdom at work, and why Jesus is the Messiah and not James or John.

For the Son of man is not come to destroy mens lives, but to save them. And they went to another village.   (Luke 9:56 KJV)

Or, it’s always better to just go to another village than to call down fire! 

Besides, it wasn’t Jesus’ purpose to destroy anybody, but to save them.  To put it another way, the purpose of the Incarnation was to save men.  Consider the Samaritan village.  Certainly they may have rejected Jesus, but had the disciples made any effort at all to win them to Jesus?  Had the Gospel ever been preached to them?  Had they ever been given a chance to believe?  The answer must be “No.”  James and John had to no right to want to see that ignorant village destroyed.  Their’s was a fleshly desire for revenge.  And that’s why Jesus used such a stern word as “rebuke.”  And He had to remind them of just why He came – not to hurt, but to heal.

Many people read this story and see only the fault of the Samaritans.  But they were just lost souls; they needed a Savior to find them.  James and John are really the ones at fault here.  They knew Elijah had called down fire from heaven, but Elijah didn’t do so out of a spirit for revenge.  Jonah once acted just like James and John and God corrected him.  It’s always God’s way to wait and to be patient.  Remember the words of Peter–

But do not forget this one thing, dear friends: With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day. The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.  (2 Peter 3:8, 9  TNIV)

Think about it.  God waited 120 years while Noah was building his boat before He sent the flood in judgement. He waited some 40 years after the crucifixion before Jerusalem was destroyed, also in judgment.  Yes, God is indeed patient.  This was something James and John needed to learn, and something we Christians would do well to remember because our mission in the world today is the same as our Lord’s back then:  do seek and to save those who are lost, not to destroy them.

Breakfast on the Beach: A Resurrection Fish-Fry

"Come and get it, boys!"

“Come and get it, boys!”

John 21:1-14

The Gospel of John begins with a prologue and ends with an epilogue.  In the prologue we learn some life-changing things about Jesus:  His eternity, His deity, and His Incarnation.  In the epilogue we not only see Jesus after His death and resurrection, but we seen His interaction with Peter and how Peter was restored after His night of betrayal.

After the resurrection of Jesus, nobody just “ran into” Him on a crowded street.  After His Resurrection, nobody could just “call Him up” and talk to Him or search Him out for fellowship.  Neither Mary nor the two disciples on the road to Emmaus recognized Jesus until He revealed Himself to them.  Nobody, save the disciples, ever saw Jesus in His Resurrection Body.  Now, seeing Jesus has become a spiritual issue; only those who believe can see Him.

On that memorable morning of the Resurrection, it happened this way.

1.  The time

As in life, Jesus appeared at just the right time after His Resurrection.

(a)  After a dismal night of failure

Im going out to fish, Simon Peter told them, and they said, Well go with you. So they went out and got into the boat, but that night they caught nothing.  (John 21:3 NIV84)

Seven of the group formerly known as “the 12” were together.  Once again, Peter is the man of action; the leader of the group.  He was ready to go fishing.  After three years of traveling with Jesus, Peter made a decision to return to his former occupation.  Jesus had promised to make him a “fisher of men,” but after everything he had been through, catching fish must have seemed like a good excuse to relax and think about things.  That this fishing expedition happened after these men had seen and talked with Jesus on two different occasions after His death (Thomas just one time), seems odd.   It does, however, show that these men were like sheep without a shepherd.

We wonder if, after a night of fishing and catching nothing, they remembered a similar experience they had back in the early days of Jesus’ ministry.  Was history repeating itself?  What a disappointment it must have been – all that work and not a thing to show for it.  Sometimes, though, it takes disappointment and even defeat to prepare us to see a manifestation of God’s power and grace.  Sometimes we have to be maneuvered into a position whereby God can show us His power.

These men, close friends of Jesus, were about to learn a valuable lesson.  It doesn’t pay to lift a finger to do anything without His presence.

(b)  At the dawning of a new day

Early in the morning, Jesus stood on the shore, but the disciples did not realize that it was Jesus.  (John 21:4 NIV84)

The way this sentence is written in the Greek, we sense the absolute frustration these  men were experiencing.  “The morning was finally arriving.”  At long last, the night of failure was coming to an end.  We might say, “What a long night!  I’m glad it’s finally over!”

…weeping may remain for a night, but rejoicing comes in the morning.  (Psalm 30:5  TNIV)

When there was enough light to see, the frustrated, tired disciples looked toward the shore and they saw a man standing there.  They didn’t recognize that He was Jesus.  Why not?  Scholars offer all manner of explanations, from the obvious – it wasn’t quite bright enough, that the early morning mists obscured their view – to the notion that these men were so preoccupied with their work and failure that they missed the fact The Lord was nearby.  The fact remains that Jesus was never recognized by anybody after His Resurrection until He revealed Himself to them.  It may well be that all people are so spiritually dull that Jesus could be standing right in front of them and remain unrecognized until He tells them who He is.

2.  The manner

Jesus is unique.  He never reveals Himself the same way to two different people. He knows the human heart and He alone knows what it takes to get the attention of a lost sheep.  Consider how He dealt with these frustrated disciples.

(a)  He led them to make a confession

He called out to them, Friends, havent you any fish?”“No, they answered.  (John 21:5 NIV84)

The way Jesus addressed them made it easy for them to be  honest.  He initiated the conversation like this:  “Boys, have rough night?  Catch anything?”  Jesus knew they didn’t have any fish.  He asked a question to which He knew the answer, but these men needed to make the confession.  Their return to their former occupation had been an utter failure.  They did not realize God’s plan for their lives.

“No,” was an honest confession of complete failure.  All night long they fished and didn’t get so much as a nibble.  They had nothing and, to their credit, they made no attempt to make it look like something.   When we are completely honest with Jesus, Jesus can show us a better way.  But if we try to “pull the wool over Jesus’ eyes,” if we try misrepresent ourselves to Him, He can’t do anything for us.  Christ wants us to be open and honest with Him.  If we have sinned, we must be honest.  If we have failed Him, we have to tell Him.

(b)  He tested their faith

He said, Throw your net on the right side of the boat and you will find some. When they did, they were unable to haul the net in because of the large number of fish.  (John 21:6 NIV84)

Experienced fishermen would probably not listen to a stranger’s advice.  They, however, obeyed immediately, apparently without hesitation.  Why?  Did Jesus speak with some kind of authority that seemed vaguely familiar to them?   We may debate why, but the fact remains they did.  Really, what did they have to lose?

Again, timing is everything.  Jesus could easily have given them a full net any time during the night.  But He let them get to the very end of their resources.  They were tired, frustrated, hungry, and probably ready to just crawl into bed.  It’s our Lord’s way, though.  We need to be tested; our faith needs to be stretched just as surely as the disciple’s.  No doubt must remain.  In a sense, it’s the perfect way to deal with weak human beings.  When God manifests Himself, it must be obvious to the spiritually dull.

(c)  He turned their failure in success

He said, Throw your net on the right side of the boat and you will find some. When they did, they were unable to haul the net in because of the large number of fish.  (John 21:6 NIV84)

The disciples obeyed the stranger and they were rewarded for they obedient faith.  There could be no doubt, no room for debate, that this was a miracle.  Jesus did not suddenly create all those fish, instead He moved His friends into the right place at the right time and He moved those fish into the right place at the right time so as to create the perfect storm of circumstances to take place to manifest His glory.

The fact of this miracle is important, but the reason for it is more important still.  These men needed to see that on their own, they could do nothing.

Then the disciple whom Jesus loved said to Peter, It is the Lord! As soon as Simon Peter heard him say, It is the Lord, he wrapped his outer garment around him (for he had taken it off) and jumped into the water.   (John 21:7 NIV84)

The hearts of Peter and John are revealed.  John shows that of all the disciples, he is the “spiritual genius.”  He saw Jesus in the miracle.  But it was impulsive Peter who leapt out of the boat and ran to shore to see His Lord.  Throughout their association, it was always Peter who seemed to act first.  John may have believed first, but Peter was the man of action.

What was it that caused John to realize who this stranger on the shore was?  It was the miracle, of course.   It was just like Jesus to turn failure into success; defeat into victory.  It was just like Jesus to meet the needs of His friends.  He always had before!

(d)  He fed them and fellowshipped with them

When they landed, they saw a fire of burning coals there with fish on it, and some bread.  Jesus said to them, Bring some of the fish you have just caught.  (John 21:9, 10 NIV84)

It was a wonderful and welcome scene that greeted the weary fishermen.  Here they were, unable to provide food for themselves, about to sit down to big breakfast, courtesy of their Lord.  Even in His Resurrection Body, Jesus was keenly aware of what His friends needed.  Here is yet another revelation of our Lord’s love, concern, and compassion for His own.

The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing.  (Psalm 23:1  TNIV)

And my God will meet all your needs according to the riches of his glory in Christ Jesus.  (Philippians 4:19  TNIV)

This was the Jesus these men knew so well.  He was the Good Shepherd, and He showed them who He was, He didn’t have to say a word.  They knew His ways, and that’s how they recognized Him.

Jesus said to them, Come and have breakfast. None of the disciples dared ask him, Who are you? They knew it was the Lord.   (John 21:12 NIV84)

The miraculous haul was a great miracle, but it wasn’t only one that took place this morning.  Consider this verse:

Jesus came, took the bread and gave it to them, and did the same with the fish.   (John 21:13 NIV84)

Where did the cooked fish come from?  Jesus didn’t cook any of the fish His friends caught, He had them there, on the coals, cooked, seasoned and waiting for them!  They worked and worked and worked, essentially wasting an entire night, and Jesus had some fish already fried up and waiting on them to finally get there.  The disciples contributed NOTHING to the breakfast.

Nothing can for sin atone,
Nothing but the blood of Jesus;
Naught of good that I have done,
Nothing but the blood of Jesus.

Jesus lives to give!

O how He loves you and me
O how He loves you and me
He gave His life, what more could He give?

This incident teaches us so much about Jesus and ourselves.  Jesus is never far from those who love Him and most certainly near to the discouraged and frustrated.  The Lord know our hearts, even as He knew the hearts of those three disciples.  They weren’t malicious.  They weren’t engaged in some dreadfully sinful activity.  They went fishing!  They were confused and discouraged.  At worst they were spiritually blind and worldly minded.  To these men, Jesus came, giving them precisely what they needed to get them back on track.


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