Certainty In Uncertain Times: Luke 22:39-46 – Praying During Life’s Encounters

Grace For The Journey

The passage this morning begins with, “Coming out, He went to the Mount of Olives” (Luke 22:39).  Luke is telling us that after spending a considerable amount of time indoors, inside the upper room where Jesus and the disciples ate the “Last Supper” together and where Jesus did some important teaching, that they are now going outdoors and outside to a favorite gathering place, the Garden of Gethsemane in the Mount of Olives.

It was about a 15-minute walk from the house with the upper room in Jerusalem to the Mount of Olives in Gethsemane.  That word “Gethsemane,” means “olive press.”  There were and still are a number of olive trees scattered around Gethsemane and there are actually trees there today that date to the time of Jesus.  Trees that are 2,000 years old!  You could visit Jerusalem today and lean against an olive tree there that, perhaps, Jesus Himself leaned against 2,000 years ago.  The Bible teaches that Jesus and the disciples gathered there frequently and spent the evenings outside there under the sky, maybe because of the overcrowding in Jerusalem that week as it was Passover Week.

That is a little background before we study this passage.  It is important to remember the context of Jesus’ recent teaching.  Jesus tells Simon that Satan plans to shake up the disciples, to “sift them as wheat” (Luke 22:31).  Jesus tells Simon in particular that He has prayed for him that his faith would not fail.  This is what every Christian should do, to pray that our faith would not fail.  Jesus had taught earlier back in chapter 11 that we should pray regularly, “Lead us not into temptation” (Luke 11:4).

Now what we read in our passage this morning is a failure on the part of the disciples to pray.  And – do not miss this – their lack of prayer helps us understand why they stumbled in the coming hours, why Peter denied the Lord three times and why the remaining disciples would all run away when the going got tough. 

It is pretty clear this passage is about praying.  The word “pray” occurs in some form nearly half a dozen times in this short passage.  The passage begins with Jesus telling the disciples to pray and ends with Jesus telling the disciples to pray; then in the middle you have Jesus Himself praying.  When someone starts talking about prayer, preaching about it or teaching about it, we often find ourselves a little uneasy.  It is easier to talk about prayer than to actually pray, so it is helpful to remember that . . .

Prayer is not so much a discipline

To be worked into a routine,

But rather a means by

Which we talk to God,

To commune with God.

The Bible is God talking to us, prayer is our talking to God.  The Bible is God talking to you and your prayer is your talking to God.  It is not really important how “perfect” those words come out of our mouths.  Someone has said, “God can pick sense out of a confused prayer.” 

Of course, it is wise to begin each day talking to God in prayer.  John Bunyan wrote, “He who runs from God in the morning will scarcely find Him the rest of the day.”  I read where early African converts to Christianity were especially disciplined to have a regular time of prayer.  Each one would find a private place in the thicket where he would pour out his heart in prayer.  So frequently would these men and women find their place of private devotion each day that the grass would be worn away from the path they took to their daily spot of prayer.  You can imagine that when one of these brothers became negligent in his daily prayer that it would be readily apparent to the others as the path lost that well-worn look.  When this happened, one of the other Christians would find him and kindly say, “Brother, the grass grows on your path,” and this was a way of saying, “You have neglected to do the most important thing each day, to pray.”

But prayer is not only what we do

At the beginning of a day

Or at night before bedtime,

But prayer is something we do

Frequently throughout the day.

Remember that prayer is our talking to God, so there are many times we should talk to Him when facing different challenges and difficulties.  From this passage we will see three different times we should pray to God.  First:

1) Pray When You Are Tempted: Verses 39-40,46.

Verses 39 and 40 tell us, “Coming out, He went to the Mount of Olives, as He was accustomed, and His disciples also followed Him.  When He came to the place, He said to them, “Pray that you may not enter into temptation.”  There it is, “Pray that you may not enter into temptation.”  That is the same phrase Jesus uses again at the end of this passage.  In verse 46 is says, “Then He said to them, ‘Why do you sleep?  Rise and pray, lest you enter into temptation.’”

Pray when you are tempted.  What was the temptation the disciples faced?   The immediate temptation was the temptation to sleep rather than stay awake and be an encouragement and help to Jesus.  But the temptation also included challenges and difficulties they would face in the coming hours.  Jesus would soon be arrested and led away to the cross and they would be tempted to deny Him and to flee from Him.  The temptation to abandon Jesus in times of difficulty is one reason Jesus teaches in Luke 11:4, “…And do not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.”  We may also be tempted to abandon Jesus when we were are tempted to sin in some matter of personal holiness, tempted to speak hatefully to someone, tempted to sexual impurity, lust, tempted to do something we shouldn’t, tempted to take something that isn’t ours, tempted to complain, to be bitter, to not forgive.  Jesus says, “Pray, lest you enter into temptation.”

J. C. Ryle said, “To be assaulted by temptation is one thing, but to enter into it quite another.”  Throughout the day we should pray regularly when we are tempted.  Let me give you an example.  Most of you know 1 Peter 5:8-9, “Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour.  Resist him, steadfast in the faith …”  That is God talking to you.  Now when you are tempted, you talk to God.  You say, “God, I am tempted to do something I know is wrong.  Your Word says, ‘Be sober, be vigilant; because my adversary the devil is going about like a roaring lion trying to devour me.’  God, help me to resist him and to stand fast in the faith.’”

Can you do that?  That is pretty easy, really.  Praying when tempted is not difficult.  The problem is that we do not do it.  And if we do not do it, we will find ourselves in sin.  Jesus says, “Pray, lest you enter into temptation.”  Try that out this week.  Whatever temptation you find yourself facing, do this: Stop . . . Bow your head . . . And talk to God.  Watch how just the doing of that helps you re-focus on truth and to avoid the lies of the adversary, the devil.  Pray when you are tempted.

2) Pray When You Are Troubled: Verses 41-44.

This is prayer during times of agony and stress; intense moments where you feel like you and your world are coming apart.  How many of you have been there?  Some tragedy you are facing, or a crisis, or a sudden turn of events, or you are very concerned about someone else, a friend, a family member, or you are troubled in your spirit.  It happened to Jesus – Verse 41 tells us, “And He was withdrawn from them about a stone’s throw, and He knelt down and prayed.”

Before we move on, note the posture of Jesus in prayer.  Prayer can take any form and the usual form of prayer in Jesus’ day was to pray standing up, but here Jesus kneels.   Matthew, in his Gospel, tells us Jesus eventually got down and prostrated Himself (Matthew 26:39.  This how most of us find ourselves when we are troubled in spirit?  You can pray in any number of postures.  You can pray standing, or sitting, or lying down.  You can pray with your eyes open or shut, head bowed or remaining upright.    When it comes to prayer . . .

It is not so much

The position of the body

As it is

The attitude of the heart.

There are times, when you are troubled, that you find yourself kneeling down and eventually prostrate on the ground pouring out your heart to God.

I remember hearing Adrian Rogers preach a sermon once where he was talking about a time he was making sure he was truly saved.  He was either a senior in high school or beginning college and he was by himself one evening on a baseball field.  And he said he got down on the ground to pray and he did not feel that was down low enough so he lay down on the ground with his face to the ground and that did not seem low enough.  So he said he dug a little hole in the dirt there for his face and placed his face down into that hole and he prayed.  I have felt that way, at times, haven’t you?  It is easy to prayer when we are troubled.  But how should we pray is the important thing. 

Listen to the content of Jesus’ prayer in verse 42, “Saying, ‘Father, if it is Your will, take this cup away from Me; nevertheless not My will, but Yours, be done.’”  Jesus says, “If it is Your will, take this cup away from Me.”  That “cup” to which Jesus is referring is not a literal cup, but a metaphorical way of speaking of someone’s portion, of something given to him.  For example, how many of you know Psalm 23?  Remember the part where David says, “My [what?] runneth over?”  My cup.  The psalmist is like, “God, You have given me this and that and my cup is more than I can drink in!”  Similarly, the cup to which Jesus is referring is a cup that He must drink, a portion given to Him, but unlike the cup in Psalm 23, which was a cup filled with God’s blessing, this cup is a cup filled with God’s wrath.  It is a cup that Jesus must drink in order to die for our sins.

In John’s Gospel when Peter takes out his sword in the Garden and slices off the ear of the High Priest’s servant, Jesus says to Peter, “Put your sword into the sheath. Shall I not drink the cup which My Father has given Me?” (John 18:11).  The imagery is seen throughout the Old Testament, just a couple of references here:

  • Psalm 75:8, where the Bible says, “For in the hand of the Lord there is a cup, and the wine is red; it is fully mixed, and He pours it out; surely its dregs shall all the wicked of the earth drain and drink down.”
  • Isaiah 51:17, where the Bible says, “Awake, awake!  Stand up, O Jerusalem, you who have drunk at the hand of the Lord the cup of His fury; you have drunk the dregs of the cup of trembling, and drained it out.”

This cup is a cup of God’s wrath poured out because of sin.  Jesus, in drinking that cup, is taking upon Himself the punishment we all deserve for our sin.  He takes that upon Himself.  If you can imagine that cup sitting before God from all eternity and imagine that every time a person sins, the wrath of God for that sin goes into the cup.  Every single time you sin, you deposit into that cup something that needs to be punished.   Every single time.  Imagine just from those who are members of your church if you passed around a cup and each one present envisioned every single sin they had ever committed or would commit in the future, every single sin going into that cup.  That cup has is filled from the very first sin by Adam and Eve until the Lord comes.  Adam and Eve’ sin was the first ones to go into the cup.  And every sin throughout history goes into the cup.  Each one of those sins requires judgment, requires punishment.

The Bible in these verses that Jesus will willingly drink that cup of God’s wrath to take upon Himself the punishment we all deserved.  Someone said it is like . . .

A dam of water breaking,

And the water begins to rush

Out violently forward to destroy

Everything in its path and

Jesus stands in front

Of all the water like a wall

To absorb, to “drink in,” all of the fury

So that we are protected and saved.

As the Bible says in 2 Corinthians 5:21, “God made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us so that we might In Him become the righteousness of God.”  The Bible also says in 1 Peter 2:24, “Who Himself bore our sins in His own body on the tree, that we, having died to sins, might live for righteousness – by whose stripes you were healed.“  And in 1 John 2:2, the Bible says, “And He Himself is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the whole world.”

The part of the prayer of Jesus where He says in verse 42, “Father if it is Your will, take this cup away from Me,” is Jesus’s way of saying, “If there is any other way, please allow another way.”  Why does He ask for this?  Well again, imagine taking upon yourself the wrath of God poured out for every sin committed by every person throughout history!  So here is Jesus, the God-Man, two natures in one person, two natures that cannot be divided but can be distinguished.  In His human nature, Jesus seeks some other way.  But in His divine nature He says, “Your will be done.”

By the way, praying, “Not my will but Your will be done” is an excellent way to pray, isn’t it?  It is a great prayer of faith.  It is not a cop-out.  It is asking for what you desire, but then saying, “God, I trust You as the One who always does what is right.  So while I am asking for this or that, I am trusting You to know me better than myself.  Let Your will be done.”

Jesus says, “If there’s some other way …”  But there is no other way.  Jesus must drink the cup of God’s wrath if we are to be forgiven of our sin.  He must become our substitute.  This is the only way God can at once be both just and the One who justifies (Romans 3:26).

love Jesus shows for us by dying is a death for us, a substitutionary death.  It is more like we are both in the water and you are drowning and I take off my life preserver and throw it to you and I die and you live.  That is the kind of love Jesus shows for us by drinking the cup of God’s wrath, taking our sins upon Himself, dying for us that we may live and go free.

Jesus is agonizing in the garden and what happens next?  Verse 43 tells us, “Then an angel appeared to Him from heaven, strengthening Him.”  Note that the angel does not remove the suffering!  Modern notions of angels coming and fixing our hurts and sending us happily on our way are not helpful.  Sometimes it is God’s will for us to suffer.  Sometimes our prayers are not answered the way we would like.

A little boy’s father was a pastor.  The little boy noted every Sunday that as his dad stood in the pulpit, just before preaching his dad would bow his head for a moment.  The little boy asked him, “Why do you do that?”  His dad said, “I am praying the Lord will help me preach well.”  The boy said, “Well, why doesn’t He answer your prayers?!”  Sometimes God does not answer our prayers the way we would like.  Sometimes it is God’s will for us to suffer.  But God will also see that we are strengthened during the time of trouble: “An angel appeared to Him from heaven, strengthening Him.”

Verse 44 says, “And being in agony, He prayed more earnestly. Then His sweat became like great drops of blood falling down to the ground.”  Imagine bearing the burden of the entire world’s imputed sin, all of the sin of every person throughout the ages imputed – or placed upon – Jesus.  The strain of this is so great, the idea of bearing this burden so weighty, that Jesus is literally “agonizing” over us, praying more earnestly, so much so, “His sweat became like great drops of blood falling to the ground.”  Some see the word “like” here as Luke’s way of saying that Jesus did not literally sweat blood, but more that He sweat in such a way that His sweat dropped like blood drops from a body.  On the other hand, there are accounts both modern and ancient, of people sweating blood when undergoing extreme anguish or pain.  Blood vessels burst causing a person to both sweat and bleed at the same time.  The point is that Jesus is agonizing over the matter of dying for our sins.  It was a time of intense trauma and difficulty.

Jesus prayed when facing trouble.  How much more should you and I pray when troubled?  God says in Psalm 50:15, “Call upon Me in the day of trouble; I will deliver you, and you shall glorify Me.” 

That’s what Joseph Scriven wrote in 1855:

Have we trials and temptations?  Is there trouble anywhere?

We should never be discouraged; take it to the Lord in prayer.

Can we find a friend so faithful who will all our sorrows share?

Jesus knows our every weakness; take it to the Lord in prayer.

Pray when you’re tempted.  Pray when you’re troubled.  Thirdly:

3) Pray When You Are Tired: Verse 45).

There are times when you are so emotionally drained, so thoroughly exhausted because of grief and sorrow that you just feel like you can sleep forever.  Someone you love has passed away, or something has happened, and you are down and depressed, and just plain tired.  How many of you have been there?  It is natural.  It happened to the disciples.  Verse 45 tells us, “When He rose up from prayer, and had come to His disciples, He found them sleeping from sorrow.”  The other Gospel writers tell us that Jesus finds them this way three times.  Three times He comes and finds them sleeping.  Luke, in his compassion, provides this detail that Jesus found them “sleeping from sorrow.”  Why were they sleeping from sorrow?  Evidently the words Jesus had been sharing with them about His future suffering and death are beginning to sink in.  It is remarkable, really.  Not too long before they were ready to take up swords and battle the enemy.  Peter had said, “Lord, I am ready to go with You, both to prison and to death” (Luke 22:33).  Here they are now asleep.

There’s so much grace here in our Lord.  He does not go over and kick them and berate them for sleeping.  “Hey! I thought you guys were ready to go to battle for Me, what’s the deal?!”  Rather, He lovingly says, “Why are you sleeping?  Rise and pray so you don’t enter into temptation.”  Such love, such compassion, and such grace!

The best thing you can do when you are in sorrow and pain is to pray.  Talk to God.  When you are hurting this week, talk to God in prayer.  Say to Him something like,  “Lord, You have said in 1 Peter 5:7 that we are to cast all our care and anxiety upon You because You care for us.  So right now I am coming to You and I am saying that I do not understand why this happened and I hurt and I am in sorrow, but I am trusting in You.  Comfort me with the assurance of Your power and presence.”

Pray when you’re tempted.  Pray when you’re troubled.  Pray when you’re tired.

Prayer is what makes the difference in the Christian’s life.  Prayer is what brings peace.  The Bible says in Philippians 4:6-7, “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.”  God will take care of you, Christian.  God will never be arrested for child neglect.  He will take care of you.

So, pray when you are tempted . . . Pray when you are troubled . . . Pray when you are tired.  And experience the peace of God.

This is God’s Word …

This is Grace for your Journey …

Rest and Rejoice in this eternal truth!

Pastor Terry

Ephesians 4:7 – “But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it.”

Hebrews 4:16 – “Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”

Certainty In Uncertain Times: Luke 22:24-38 – Greatness of the One Among Us

Grace For The Journey

Text

Description automatically generated with low confidence  As we prepare to study Luke 22, recall that we are in a section of material called “The Upper Room Discourse.”  It is called that because Jesus and the 12 are in an upper room of a house where they are partaking of the Last Supper and listening to Jesus as He teaches them about some things to take place in the future.  Jesus has just talked to them about His coming death, shedding His blood, the blood of the New Covenant, and He has told them He will be betrayed by one of them.  At this point, the Bible says the 12 then questioned among themselves who the betrayer might be and then, remarkably, the 12 begin to have an argument among themselves, and what they are arguing about is surprising given what Jesus has just said about His own selfless, giving of His life, in the coming hours. 

Funny how certain memories stick in our minds with unique clarity.  I can remember back to 1975 a popular song was written and played a lot on the radio.  It was a song about the heavyweight boxing champion Muhammed Ali.  The chorus of that song included these words . . .  

Muhammad,

Muhammad Ali:

Floats like a butterfly

Stings like a bee

Those lyrics were taken from Ali’s own words.  That is how he described his unorthodox boxing stye: “I float like a butterfly and sting like a bee.”

Ali was a gifted boxer.  He fought 61 times and won all but 5 of those fights, 37 of them by knockout.  The three of those matches were against Joe Frazier and one was against George Foreman.  Those fights are still popular discussion topics in boxing circles today.  But another thing known and remembered about Ali was nearly everything he said about himself.  He always engaged in a lot of pre-match hype where he would “trash talk” his opponents, often in self-written rhymes.

Before fighting George Foreman, Ali said, “[I] float like a butterfly, sting like a bee. His hands can’t hit what his eyes can’t see. Now you see me, now you don’t. George thinks he will, but I know he won’t.”  He also said, “I’ve seen George Foreman shadow boxing, and the shadow won!”  Nearly everybody knew Ali’s most popular nickname: “The Greatest.”  It was a self-designated nickname.  He spoke often of his own greatness.   He was quoted once as saying, “I said [I am the greatest] even before I knew I was.”  Another time he said, “I’m not the greatest; I’m the double greatest.  Not only do I knock ’em out, I pick the round.”  And he said, “It’s hard to be humble, when you’re as great as I am.”

The way he spoke of himself is legend and his continual self-designation as “the greatest” was part of his entertaining routine.  At the same time, however, his calling himself “the greatest” resonated with many people because people naturally aspire to greatness.  Greatness, in and of itself, is not a sin.  It really depends on what we are valuing as great or calling great.  For example, it was Missionary William Carey who said, “Expect great things from God; attempt great things for God.” 

Greatness is only wrong when it is located in ourselves. 

And greatness is always right when it is located in God.

This teaching however, goes totally against the natural current of contemporary culture, not just today, but 2,000 years ago, as well.  Jesus asks His disciples in verse 27, “Who is greater, he who sits at the table, or he who serves? Is it not he who sits at the table? Yet, I am among you as the One who serves.” 

Today we are going to study the actions of Jesus Christ in these verses and learn how we share in these actions.  Three things to know about Jesus . . .

I. Know that Christ Serves – Verses 24-30.

This character quality of Jesus, as one who serves, surfaces from this dispute among the disciples in verse 24, “as to which of them should be considered the greatest.”  I always have to smile when I read this passage because Jesus has just been talking about going to the cross to die, arguably the greatest example of the humble giving of one’s self, and it is like the disciples are not even listening.

Remember they are sitting around a table.  I do not know if they are arguing over the seating arrangement here.  That was probably part of the problem, but remember these guys had been arguing about this sort of thing before (See Luke 9:46-48).  They were continually jockeying for a position of advantage, asserting themselves before one another.  So Jesus says in verse 25, “Look, the kings of the Gentiles exercise lordship over them,” okay?  That’s how the unbelievers live, guys.”  And then Jesus says, “And those who exercise authority over them are called ‘benefactors,’” which was a term used to describe heroes and gods.  Jesus says in verse 26, “But not so among you.”  That is, “You’re not to be that way, to live that way.  Not so among you.”  He adds in verse 26, “On the contrary, he who is greatest among you, let him be as the younger, and he who governs as he who serves.”  The youngest in Jesus’ day would be the person who had the least claim for “ruling over” someone else.  Jesus is saying, “I want you to live totally opposite of how the world lives, exchange places in your thinking.”  The truly great person humbles himself and is willing to put others first.  Live as one who “serves.”

The Greek word for “serves” is diakonwvn, the word from which we “deacon.”  A deacon is one who serves.  In the New Testament the words serve, servant, and service occur over ninety times.  This is an important teaching.  Jesus asks in verse 27, “For who is greater [and He means from the standpoint of the world, popular culture, who is greater], he who sits at the table, or he who serves?”  According to popular culture in both the disciples’ day 2,000 years ago and our day today, the one who is greater is the one sitting at the table, of course!  Some people even act this way today in restaurants, treating waiters and waitresses like they are hired servants. 

Jesus says it was the same way back in His day, too.  He says in verse 27 that it is the one who “sits at the table” who is considered greater.  Yet, note this now, Jesus says, “I am among you as the One who serves.”  Note the irony.  Jesus says popular culture identifies the greater one with the guy sitting at the table, but Jesus says, “I am One who serves.”  But Jesus, is greater than anyone else!  True greatness is found not in sitting at a table demanding everybody look at you and fawn over you; true greatness is found in selflessness, humility, and service.

True greatness is totally reverse of what the world thinks.  In God’s kingdom greatness is diametrically opposed to the kingdom of this world.  Jesus stresses the difference in the next three verses (verses 28 through 30), when He says, “But you are those who have continued with Me in My trials.  And I bestow upon you a kingdom, just as My Father bestowed one upon Me, that you may eat and drink at My table in My kingdom, and sit on thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel.”  Jesus is contrasting His kingdom with the kingdom of this world.  He is calling for us to swim against the popular tide and flow of this world.  As Christ-followers we are to live for Christ’s kingdom, a kingdom that identifies true greatness with the action of service.  We are not to fall in love with this kingdom, the kingdom of this world, eating and drinking at the table of popular American culture.  Rather, we are to live for the kingdom of God, Christ’s kingdom, eating and drinking at His table, doing His things, living for Him.  After all, we will one day share in the benefits of His rule.

This is the meaning behind the last phrase of verse 30, “sitting on thrones and judging the twelve tribes of Israel.”  The idea is not that believers will sit on thrones and pass sentences of judgment, but rather that believers will one day share in the benefits of Christ’s rule and reign.  In the consummated kingdom, Jesus will share with His followers the blessings of the kingdom.

If you want to be truly great

You will not seek greatness

So much as you will seek

Jesus Christ and His kingdom.

That is the idea here.  True greatness is found only by falling in love with Jesus Christ, surrendering to Him, living for Him, and following Him daily.  If one loves Jesus and follows Jesus he or she will be living for His kingdom, living as Jesus lives, loving as Jesus loves, and serving as Jesus serves.

Know that Jesus serves and those who follow Jesus serve, also.  Husbands and wives, serve one another.  Children are to be taught to serve others.  We are to be known in the workplace as one who serves.  We should treat others with respect and dignity.    Rather than demanding things from your waiter or waitress, bless them as one who is familiar with service.

In the church, we are to serve one another.  Paul echoes our Lord’s teachings in Philippians 2:3-4, “Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself.  Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others.” 

Know that Christ Serves.  Secondly . . .

II. Know That Christ Strengthens: Verses 31-34.

Verse 31 says, “And the Lord said, ‘Simon, Simon! Indeed, Satan has asked for you, that he may sift you as wheat.’”  That phrase, “that he may sift you as wheat,” means, “that he may really shake you, or unsettle you.”  Who is Simon?  What is the name Jesus gave Simon that He has been using since He gave it to him?  It is “Peter,” which means “Rock.”  Jesus addresses Peter here as Simon, using his “pre-Christian” name.  Why?  For one, I am sure it got his attention, just as a parent uses a son’s middle name to get the attention when speaking a warning or rebuke.  Jesus is saying to Simon Peter that his name means unshakable like a rock, but he will for a time revert to his pre-Christian ways.”  Ever do that?  We all have at one time or another.

In fact, the pronoun “you” there in verse 31 is plural.  It actually reads, “you all.” Jesus is telling Simon that Satan has asked for you all that he may sift you all like as wheat, shaking you up the way a farmer shakes up grain to sift it.  Satan wants to unsettle the disciples in order to turn them away from following Christ.  That is what he does.  Peter would write later in 1 Peter 5:8 under the leadership of the Holy Spirit, “ Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour.”

Do note here that Satan can do nothing without the permission of God.  It is much like what we read in the book of Job.  A puritan wrote, “Satan always works in chains.”  He is always bound to God’s perfect will.  God may allow Satan to unsettle us, but it is for good reason, to strengthen us in our faith.  Listen to how Jesus strengthens Peter in verse 32, “But I have prayed for you, that your faith should not fail[I’m praying for your strength to be faithful]; and when you have returned to Me, strengthen your brethren.”  The pronoun here, the “you” here, is singular.  Jesus goes from addressing the believers in general to addressing Peter in particular.  And Jesus says, “Look Peter, I am praying for you.  I am praying that you will remain faithful to me.  You will stumble, you will fall.”  Jesus is talking about when Peter will deny three times that he knew Christ.  “You will stumble Peter, but I have prayed for you so when you have returned,” note that: when, not if.  “When you have returned to Me, strengthen your brethren.”

Peter will deny Christ, but Peter will repent and return to Christ.  Why?  Because Jesus’ prayer trumps Satan’s plans.  The prayer works.  Yes, Peter will stumble, but he will not ultimately turn his back upon Christ and abandon Him.  True believers never abandon Christ, they persevere in their faith.  Someone said, “Peter’s true faith and perseverance would be revealed in his repentance, not in his sinfulness.”  Jesus prayed for Peter.  Remember that Jesus prays for every Christian.  The Bible says that Jesus always lives to intercede for us (Romans 8:34; Hebrews 7:25).  Because Christ lives true Christians will remain faithful.

Now what is Peter to do when he returns to Christ?  Jesus strengthens Peter so that Peter may strengthen whom?  Last part of verse 32 tells us, “Strengthen your brethren.”  Peter will be used by God to help others grow in Christian faith (See Acts 18:23; Romans 1:11; 16:15, 1 Thessalonians 3:2; 3:13; 2 Thessalonians 2:17; 2 Peter1:12).  One of God’s purposes in allowing temporary failure is not only that we should be strengthened in our faith, but that we should then use our experience to strengthen others.

J. C. Ryle addressed this when he said, “Have we ever fallen, and by Christ’s mercy been raised to newness of life?  Then surely we are just the men who ought to deal gently with our brethren.  We should tell them from our own experience what an evil and bitter thing is sin.  We should caution them against trifling with temptation.  We should warn them against pride, and presumption, and neglect of prayer.  We should tell them of Christ’s grace and compassion, if they have fallen.  Above all, we should deal with them humbly and meekly, remembering what we ourselves have gone through.”

Be a blessing to another Christian this week by speaking wisdom into his or her life.   Share from your experience how you were strengthened by turning back to Christ and how they, too, should turn back to Christ.

Notice Peter’s response in verse 33 says, “But he said to Him, ‘Lord, I am ready to go with You, both to prison and to death.’”  Peter does not understand how he is going to deny Christ.  He is like, “But I’m a Rock, Man!  I’m not going to deny You.”  Our tendency here is to laugh at Peter, but remember that Satan had asked Jesus for the permission to sift Peter as wheat. I have a question . . .

“Has your Christian commitment ever posed

Such a threat to Satan that your name came up

In a conversation between Satan and Christ?”

How many of us are no threat to Satan?  How many of us live not for the kingdom of God, but for the kingdom of self, or the kingdom of the world, the kingdom over which Satan is Prince?  Has your Christian commitment unsettled Satan, so that he seeks to unsettle you?  If so, why, or why not?

Verse 34 tells us how Jesus responds, “Then He said, ‘I tell you, Peter, the rooster shall not crow this day before you will deny three times that you know Me.’”  Like Old Testament prophets, Jesus foretold exactly what would take place in the future.  But how is Jesus unlike an Old Testament prophet? 

An Old Testament prophet speaks for God. 

A prophet gets his message about the future

From God and then speaks for God. 

Jesus Christ is God. 

He speaks about the future without having

To wait on a message from above, because

He is from above, He is God.

We will be reading of Peter’s denial later in chapter 22.  For now, just know that although Peter would stumble in his faith, he would turn back to Christ because he was a true follower of Christ and true followers of Christ always turn back because they serve a living Savior who ever lives to intercede for them, to pray for them, to strengthen them. 

Know that Christ Serves, Know that Christ Strengthens.  Thirdly . . .

III.  Know That Christ Suffers: Verses 35-38.

Verses 35 to 36 say, “And He said to them, When I sent you without money bag, knapsack, and sandals, did you lack anything?’ So they said, ‘Nothing.’  Then He said to them, ‘But now, he who has a money bag, let him take it, and likewise a knapsack; and he who has no sword, let him sell his garment and buy one.’”  Jesus is speaking figuratively and He is contrasting an earlier mission of the disciples in Luke 9:1-6, a time when they were to depend on the hospitality of others, with a different time that is about to take place.  In the past, they could hang out in the homes of people and enjoy one another’s company.  Now, Jesus says, “I am talking a bit a different kind of time you are getting ready to face.  This is a time where you must be prepared to suffer.”  Rather than hospitality, you will face hostility.  Rather than being on the receiving end of pleasantries, you will be on the receiving end of persecution.

Jesus continues in verse 37 by saying, “For I say to you that this which is written must still be accomplished in Me: ‘And He was numbered with the transgressors.’ For the things concerning Me have an end.’”  Jesus is quoting here from Isaiah 53.  He is talking about the suffering He will soon face on the cross at Calvary.  Note how the disciples totally miss the figurative way in which Jesus is speaking about preparing for spiritual battle by speaking metaphorically about taking up swords in verse 38, “So they said, ‘Lord, look, here are two swords.’ And He said to them, ‘It is enough.’”  This is actually kind of funny.  Jesus is not talking about taking up literal weapons as though they were going to battle the opposition in a sword fight.  The disciples, however, thought that is what they were going to have to do.  They are like, “Lord, check it out: we’ve got not just one sword, but two!”

Obviously Jesus did not mean for the disciples to take Him literally here as though He were calling for a literal battle against the Romans.  Do you think that two measly swords really be “enough” to battle the mighty legions of the Roman Empire?  Hardly!  We will read later about Peter’s cutting off the ear of the servant of the high priest later on in this chapter.  After Peter cuts off the guy’s ear, Jesus is like, “No, I’m not talking about that kind of sword fighting,” and He heals the guy’s ear.  Jesus is saying, “Look, the time is coming when you will suffer for your faith.  It is a spiritual battle I am talking about.”  The sword is understood metaphorically as being spiritually armed and prepared to do spiritual battle.  It is so important to be spiritually prepared that one should be willing to sell costly things in order to prepare himself.

That is why I think this is kind of funny.  In verse 38, the disciples said, “Lord, look, check out these swords!  What is Jesus’ reply?  “It is enough.”  I think it is like He goes (hands to the air), “Enough.  I’m not talking about that, you guys!”  It is kind of like in John 4:32-33 where Jesus is talking with the Samaritan woman and the disciples go into town to get some food and they come back and find Him talking with the woman.  The disciples are like, “Jesus, we have sandwiches from Kohen’s Bakery!”  And He says, “I have got food to eat you guys know nothing about.”  And they are like, “Where did He get food?  We didn’t see Him in town!”  But Jesus was speaking figuratively of food, spiritually of food, the blessing of doing the Father’s will.  It is like that here, “Look, Jesus.  Here are two swords.”  He shakes His head and says, “Enough of this foolish sword talk.”

His point is that suffering is coming.  Be prepared to suffer persecution for your faith in Christ.  Jesus has taught the He Serves, He Strengthens, and He Suffers.  In verse 37 Jesus quotes from Isaiah 53.  This is the only place in the Gospels were Isaiah 53 is actually quoted.  His words in verse 37 are from Isaiah 53:12, “And He was numbered with the transgressors.”  We will be reading about that fulfillment in chapter 23 when Jesus is crucified between two transgressors, two criminals.  Isaiah goes on to say in verse 12, “And He bore the sin of many.” 

When Jesus suffered on the cross, He “bore the sin of many.”  He died for the sins of those who would believe in Him by grace through faith in His name.  He died in my place to take my punishment.  At Calvary’s cross Jesus died in your place to take your punishment.  He suffered and died so that you might live.  Can you say with the hymn-writer,

 Years I spent in vanity and pride,

Caring not my Lord was crucified,

Knowing not it was for me He died on Calvary.

Mercy there was great, and grace was free;

Pardon there was multiplied to me;

There my burdened soul found liberty at Calvary.

Know that in the life of Christ, the greatness One was among us.  He serves . . . He strengthens . . . He suffers.

Ephesians 4:7 – “But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it.”

Hebrews 4:16 – “Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”

 This is God’s Word …

This is Grace for your Journey …

Rest and Rejoice in this eternal truth!

Pastor Terry

Certainty In Uncertain Times: Luke 22:7-20 – Lest We Forget

Grace For The Journey

The Lord’s Supper service is all about remembering and honoring the Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, lest we forget the significance of what Jesus has done for us and what the Lord’s Supper service means to us, we need to spend some time looking into the wonder of this great event.

A WORD ABOUT THE BACKGROUND

It Is Important To Consider The Context Of The Passage. 

Jesus used the backdrop of the Passover observance as a canvas upon which He painted the truth of the new covenant.

Passover (“Pesach” in Hebrew) is a Jewish festival celebrating the exodus from Egypt and the Israelites’ freedom from slavery to the Egyptians.  The Feast of Passover, along with the Feast of Unleavened Bread, was the first of the festivals to be commanded by God for Israel to observe (see Exodus 12).  Commemorations today involve a special meal called the Seder, featuring unleavened bread and other food items symbolic of various aspects of the exodus.

Passover is one of the most widely celebrated Jewish holidays.  Along with Shavuot (the Feast of Weeks or Pentecost) and Sukkot (the Feast of Tabernacles), Passover is one of the three “pilgrimage” festivals in Scripture, during which the Jews were commanded to travel to Jerusalem and observe the feasts together. Passover takes place in the spring, during the Hebrew month of Nisan.  In Western countries, Passover is celebrated in early-to mid-April and is always close to Easter.

The Book of Exodus tells of the origin of Passover.  God promised to redeem His people from the bondage of Pharaoh (Exodus 6:6).  God sent Moses to the Egyptian king with the command that Pharaoh “let my people go” (Exodus 8:1).  When Pharaoh refused, God brought ten plaques on the land of Egypt.  The tenth and worst of the plagues was the death of all the firstborn in Egypt.

The night of the first Passover was the night of the tenth plague.  On that fateful night, God told the Israelites to sacrifice a spotless lamb and mark their doorposts and lintels with its blood (Exodus 12:21-22).  Then, when the Lord passed through the nation, He would “pass over” the households that showed the blood (verse 23).  In a very real way, the blood of the lamb saved the Israelites from death, as it kept the destroyer from entering their homes.  The Israelites were saved from the plague, and their firstborn children stayed alive.  From then on, every firstborn son of the Israelites belonged to the Lord and had to be redeemed with a sacrifice (Exodus 13:1-2, 12; cf. Luke 2:22-24).

The children of Israel in Egypt followed God’s command and kept the first Passover. However, none of the Egyptians did so.  All through Egypt, behind the unmarked, bloodless doorways of the Egyptians, the firstborn children died at midnight (Exodus 12:21-29).  Verse 30 tells us, “There was loud wailing in Egypt, for there was not a house without someone dead.”  This dire judgment finally changed the Egyptian king’s heart, and he released the Israelite slaves (verses 31–32).

Along with the instruction to apply the Passover lamb’s blood to their doorposts and lintels, God instituted a commemorative meal: fire-roasted lamb, bitter herbs, and unleavened bread (Exodus 12:8).  The Lord told the Israelites to “And you shall observe this thing as an ordinance for you and yours sons forever.” (Exodus 12:24), even when in a foreign land.

To this day, Jews all over the world celebrate the Passover in obedience to this command.  Passover and the story of the exodus have great significance for Christians also, as Jesus Christ fulfilled the Law, including the symbolism of the Passover (Matthew 5:17).  Jesus is our Passover (1 Corinthians 5:7; Revelation 5:12).  He was killed at Passover time, and the Last Supper was a Passover meal (Luke 22:7-8).  By spiritually applying His blood to our lives by faith, we trust Christ to save us from death. The Israelites who, in faith, applied the blood of the Paschal lamb to their homes become a model for us.  It was not the Israelites’ ancestry or good standing or amiable nature that saved them; it was only the blood of the lamb that made them exempt from death (see John 1:29 and Revelation 5:9-10).

In this passage, we are given the details necessary to understand all we need to know about this event we know as the Lord’s Supper, of the Communion.

This Passage Shows Us The Purpose Of The Lord’s Supper – Verses 19-20.

Verses 19 and 20 say, “And He took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to them, saying ‘This is My body which is given for you, do this in remembrance of Me.  Likewise He also took the cup after supper, saying, ‘This cup is the new covenant in My blood, which is shed for you.”  The Lord’s Supper is different than a typical memorial service that we have today!  Memorial services are held for those who are dead.  The Lord’s Supper is exactly what the Lord says it is right here, and that is it is a “time of remembrance.”  

  • It is a time for the church to call to mind the Person of the Lord Jesus Christ.
  • It is to be a time of reverence, yet at the same time it should be a time of extreme celebration.
  • Above all, it must be a time of worship and of focus upon the Person work of Jesus, alone.

Every other thought should be stricken from the mind, and He should be allowed to be the centerpiece of the Lord’s Supper celebration.

This is the way things ought to be.  In the beginning of the church, we find the believers observing the Lord’s Supper on a regular basis (See Acts 2:42).  Unfortunately, not many years passed until the Lord’s Supper became corrupted by the church.  The Bible tells us in 1 Corinthians 11:17-34 what happened in the early church.  Even though these things happened nearly 2,000 years ago, there is still the danger that we might permit some of the same errors in our day.  Therefore, let’s I want to take a few minutes to look at the events in Corinth and how they speak to us today.

This passage Shows Us The Problems Surrounding The Celebration In The Early Church.

Notice Paul’s tone as he addresses the Corinthians, verse 17.  He uses the word “declare”.  This word means “command.” Paul comes to them in power and tells them that he is about to set the record straight.  I can almost feel the wrath of the great Apostle as he writes these words.

Notice the abuses that were present in the church and in the observance of the Lord’s Supper in particular.  Please note that there is always the danger that we will fall into the same trap into which the Corinthians fell.  There are 4 abuses catalogued here that need to be mentioned this morning.

Verses 18-19 There Were Cliques And Divisions In The Church.

When divisions, cliques, factions, and parties exist in any church, then there is disorder in that church. I t always means that there is pain, anger, disturbance, rumors, gossip, pride, selfishness, misunderstanding and misrepresentation in the church.  The bottom line is that minds are not fixed on Jesus as they should be.  There is no peace with God, or with one another. (Note: Why does God allow cliques and divisions?  So that genuine believers might shine more brightly.  You see, when there are divisive and cliquish people in the church it proves that they are not genuine believers, verse 19.  When the false believers act as they do, it causes the true Christians to be more visible.)

Verse 20 Tells Us There Was Self Deception.

When they came together in this divisive and cliquish atmosphere, they thought they were partaking of the Lord’s Supper.  In truth, they weren’t “remembering and honoring” the Lord, they were putting self on display.  Everything they did was for their own benefit.  That spirit is also evident today!  Many just go to church and go through the motions to be seen of men.  Sadly, this is the same spirit in which they approach the Lord’s Supper.

Verse 21 Tells Us There Was Selfishness And Neglect Of Others.

When the Corinthian believers gathered for the Lord’s Supper, there was no sense of fellowship or communal celebration.  The church broke apart along its internal fault lines.  It became a case of every man for himself.  God help the church that ever loses sight of one another.

Verse 22 Tells Us They Abused The Sanctity Of The Church And Shamed The Poor.

There was a bad spirit surrounding the entire meal.  There was no sense of community and brotherly love on a horizontal level, and there was no genuine worship of God on a vertical level.  The church had degenerated into nothing more than a social club.  That must never be allowed to happen in any local body of believers.

This Passages Shows Us The Penalty Associated With Partaking Of The Lord’s Supper Unworthily – Verses 27-30.

What Does It Mean To Partake “Unworthily?”  Paul was addressing the Corinthian church about their sins.  It was their sins which caused them to partake of the Lord’s supper in an unworthy manner.  What were their sins?

1. Division – Verse 18.

2. Heresy – Verse 19.

3. Self-deception – Verse 20.

4. Selfishness and indulgence – Verses 21.

5. Drunkenness – Verse 21.

6. Neglect of the poor – Verse 21.

7. Irreverence and carelessness in protecting the sanctity of the church – Verse 22.

In summary, there was a general spirit of irreverence and thoughtless surrounding their entire approach to the Lord’s Supper.  The bottom line is this, it would appear that having sin in one’s heart and life is what is meant by partaking unworthily.  The Bible tells us in Psalms 66:18, “If I regard iniquity in my heart, The Lord will not hear.”

How Then Can Anyone Be Counted Worthy? – Since our only worthiness can be found in the Lord Jesus, it is only when we are counted worthy by Him that we are found worthy to partake of the Lord’s Supper. There are 3 basic necessities for being counted worthy . . . :

1. That we walk in constant confession.

2. That we walk in consistent obedience.

3. That we walk in continuous praise and thankfulness of Christ’s Person, His    

    grace and His work!

What Are The Consequences Of Partaking Unworthily?

Verse 22 tells us that we become guilty of the Lord’s death.  That is, we are held accountable for His death.  When we partake of the Lord’s Supper unworthily, we are guilty of 5 terrible sins . . .

a. We insult Christ.

b. We offend Christ.

c. We trample Christ under foot.

d. We treat the death of Christ as a meaningless thing.

e. We shame the name of Christ.

Verses 28 and 29 tell us that such action causes us to condemn ourselves.  When we fail to examine ourselves, we bring damnation on our lives. This does not mean that we will go to Hell, it does mean that we will open our lives up to the chastisement and the judgment of God.  When we do this, it is evidence that we do not have a proper respect for the seriousness and holiness of the Lord’s Supper service.  God takes the Lord’s Supper very seriously, even if we do not!

Verse 30 teaches us that we will also face the chastisement and judgment of God – When the Lord’s Supper is abused to the level witnessed at Corinth, God will step in with chastisement.  This verse plainly tells us that sickness and death are the results of abusing the Lord’s Supper service.

Verse 31 address the procedure for dealing with our sins as individuals and as a church.  This verse tells us that self-examination is the only remedy for sin.  When we examine ourselves against the Word of God, we will see our shortcomings.  Then, we can confess them, forsake them, and receive immediate cleansing from the Lord, 1 John 1:9.

A WORD ABOUT THE BREAD

  • It Refers To A Symbol.  Jesus took bread and used it to symbolize His body. When we take the bread, we do not eat flesh, but should see only a symbol.
  • It Refers To A Sacrifice.  The broken body of our Lord calls to mind the terrible price He paid for our redemption on the cross at Calvary.  There, He endured all the brutality, humiliation, and degradation the human race could dish out.  Notice some of what He endured for you and me.
  • He was Beaten – Luke 22:63-64.
  • He Was Scourged – Matthew 27:6; Psalm 129:3.
  • He was Spit Upon – Matthew 27:30.
  • He was Mocked – Matthew 27:26-29.
  • His beard was Plucked Out – Isaiah 50:6.
  • He was Stripped Naked – Matthew 27:35.
  • He was Nailed to the Cross and Crucified – Matthew 27:38; John 20:25.

(Note: All of this was done for one reason – YOU!  The Bible tells us in Romans 5:8, “But God demonstrated His love toward us, in that while we were sinners, Christ died for us.”  That is the gift that we celebrate when we observe the Lord’s Supper.  When you take the bread that symbolizes the broken body of the Lord Jesus take the time to “stir up your minds by way of remembrance and actively meditate” upon suffered for you.

A WORD ABOUT THE BLOOD.

Like the bread, the juice is also symbolic in nature . . .

The Blood Speaks Of A New Covenant.  In the Old Testament, the sinner approached God through the blood of a slain animal.  Under the new covenant, the one which Jesus inaugurated, men must come to God through the shed blood of the Lord Jesus Christ.  The Bible tells us that in Hebrews 9:11-15 and 22, “But Christ came as High Priest of the good things to come, with the greater and more perfect tabernacle not made with hands, that is, not of this creation.  Not with the blood of goats and calves, but with His own blood He entered the Most Holy Place once for all, having obtained eternal redemption.  For if the blood of bulls and goats, and the ashes of a heifer, sprinkling the unclean, sanctifies for the purifying of the flesh, how much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself without spot to God, cleanse you conscience from dead works to serve the living God?  And for this reason He is the Mediator of the new covenant, by means of death for the redemption of the transgressions under the first covenant, that those who are called my receive the promise of the eternal inheritance … “And according to the law almost all things are purified with blood, and without shedding of blood there is no remission.”

The Blood Speaks Of A New Cleansing.  We just read that in Hebrews 9:22.  It takes blood to save the soul and . . .  

The only blood that possesses

The power to save the soul

Is the precious

Blood of the Lord Jesus Christ.

The Bible says in 1 Peter 1:18-19, “Knowing that  you were not redeemed with corruptible things, like silver or gold, from your aimless conduct received by tradition from your fathers, but with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot.”  Under the new covenant, only the blood of Jesus can make the lost sinner clean and prepare him for a heavenly home.  It is simple faith in the shed blood of Jesus that saves the soul!.

The Blood Speaks Of A Priceless Compassion.  In our passage today (Luke 22:20) Jesus reminds us that His blood was poured out for us.  He did not die for Himself!  He did not go to the cross to liberate Himself, but to liberate you and me!  He died to set us free!  When you take the cup as you participate in the Lord’s Supper, which symbolizes the shed blood of the Lord Jesus, allow your mind to actively meditate on the glory and the power of Hid precious blood which was shed for you.

According to 1 Corinthians 11:26, “For as often as ye eat this bread, and drink this cup, ye do shew the Lord’s death till he come.”  When we participate in the Lord’s Supper as a congregation, we preach a sermon about the death, the resurrection, and the return of the Lord Jesus.  If we carry out this observance in the right spirit, then we celebrate our Lord’s death and we center our minds on Him.  As a result, we are brought closer to Him through worship.  Also, we have delivered the Gospel to the lost and they will now have the opportunity to come to the Lord for salvation.  If you need Jesus in your life, I invite you to come to Him right now and let Jesus save your soul. Will you do that?

May we Christians, who have the privilege to meditated on the Lord and His glorious gift of salvation through the Lord’s Supper, and be reminded of His greatness, glory, and grace and of all He has done for us.  May we come before Him with a spirit of praise and worship.  How we ought to thank Him for giving His life and being alive today!

This is God’s Word …

This is Grace for your Journey …

Rest and Rejoice in this eternal truth!

Pastor Terry

Ephesians 4:7 – “But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it.”

Hebrews 4:16 – “Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”

Certainty In Uncertain Times: Luke 22:1-6 – Three Cautions Of The Christ-Follower

Grace For The Journey

We are in the last three chapters of Luke.  There is a certain order in the last three chapters of the synoptic Gospels (Matthew, Mark, and Luke) that makes it easy to remember where to locate a few things.  Chapters 22, 23, 24 of the Gospel of Luke are, respectively: the Lord’s Supper, the Lord’s crucifixion, and His resurrection.  It is the same in Mark 14, 15, 16 and Matthew 26, 27, 28.  These last three chapters of Luke’s Gospel focus primarily upon Christ’s death.  Only two Gospels give us details of Christ’s birth, but all four Gospels give us many and careful details about Christ’s death because Christ’s death and resurrection is the integral part of God’s crowning work of redemption.  Today’s study takes us to the first six verses of chapter 22.

Judas is something of a scary character in the Gospel narrative.  He is a striking illustration of what we mean when we speak of the doctrine of the “perseverance of the saints.”  This doctrine teaches that all true believers persevere in their faith to the end. A simple definition of this truth is, “All who are chosen by God, redeemed by Christ, and given faith by the Spirit are eternally saved.  They are kept in faith by the power of Almighty God and thus persevere to the end.”

Some of you are familiar with the classic Christian allegory Pilgrim’s Progress by John Bunyan.  Dads, get a copy of Pilgrim’s Progress and read it to your family, a chapter an evening.  It is a great story that illustrates what it means to live the Christian life.  Bunyan tells of a dream he had of a man named Christian and he perseveres in his faith along with his friend Hopeful.  And when the two reach the gate of the celestial city at the end of their lives, the symbolism continues as they present “certificates” which stand for the saving grace they had received when they trusted Christ indicating that they belonged to God.  Christian and Hopeful are then escorted through the gate into heaven.  Then Bunyan says in his dream he then saw that there was someone else trying to make it through the gate of heaven.  His name was Ignorance.  He writes: “Now while I was gazing upon all these things, I turned my head to look back, and I saw Ignorance come up to the river” . . . “When he arrived at the gate” . . . “he began to knock, assuming that he would quickly gain entrance.  But the men who looked over the top of the gate asked, “’Where did you come from?’ and ‘What do you want?’ He answered, ‘I have eaten and have drunk in the presence of the King, and He has taught in our streets.’  Then they asked him for his certificate, so that they might show it to the King; so he fumbled in his coat for one, and found none.  Then they said, ‘Have you none?’  And the man answered not a word.  So they told the King, but He would not come down to see the man. Instead, He commanded the two Shining Ones, who had conducted Christian and Hopeful to the city, to go out and bind Ignorance hand and foot and take him away.”  Then Bunyan adds, “Then I realized that there was a way to hell even from the gates of heaven.”

Now that is an extraordinary statement, isn’t it?  Bunyan warns that not all those who refer to themselves as Christians are truly Christians.  Not everyone who uses religious language or does Christian work is necessarily a true believer.  In the words of Jesus, “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 7:21).  Such was the case of Judas Iscariot.  If we can learn anything from Judas, we had better learn to examine ourselves as to whether we are truly in the faith (2 Corinthians 13:5).

We may also learn from Judas how we too may be guilty of betraying Christ in a number of different ways.  Let’s consider that possibility as we study these verses a little more closely and then I will leave you with three cautionary considerations. 

Verse 1 tells us, “Now the Feast of Unleavened Bread drew near, which is called Passover.”  The very fact that Luke tells is that the Feast of Unleavened Bread “is called Passover” is another reason we know Luke, himself a Gentile, was writing primarily to Gentiles – non-Jews.  If he were writing to Jews – like Matthew was in his Gospel – then he would not have explained that this was called Passover, because his audience would be familiar with it.  You might not be that familiar with it.  What is the Passover?  The Passover was the “opening-day feast” beginning the seven-day “Feast of Unleavened Bread.”  The Passover was a Jewish festival to be observed just once a year, a special time when the Jews would recall their miraculous deliverance from Egypt.  You will remember from reading through Exodus that the final plague sent by God to Pharaoh was the death of the firstborn.  The Jews protected themselves from the plague by smearing the blood of a sacrificial lamb upon their doorposts so that the Angel of Death would “pass over” their homes.  Unleavened bread was eaten to remind the people of their haste in fleeing Egypt, the bread did not have time to rise.  By the New Testament times thousands upon thousands of people would enter into Jerusalem for this annual feast. 

Verse 2 says, “And the chief priests and the scribes sought how they might kill Him, for they feared the people.”  This is not the first time we have read of the envy and anger of the religious leaders towards Jesus (Luke 19:47, Luke 20:19).  They have now made their minds up that Jesus must go.  He must be killed.  The chief priests and the scribes, however, “feared the people.”  Remember this is Passover and there are a lot of people in town.  The Jewish historian Josephus estimates there may have been as many as 1-2 million people in Jerusalem.  And Jesus has grown in popularity.  They are looking for some way to kill Him without creating a riot (Mark 14:2).  Matthew and Mark, in their Gospels, underscore the conniving nature of these religious leaders, both of them writing about it (Matthew 26:4; Mark 14:1).  Who could have guessed that the answer to their dilemma would come from the very inner circle of Jesus’ followers? 

Verse 3 tells us, “Then Satan entered Judas, surnamed Iscariot, who was numbered among the twelve.”  Judas was numbered among the 12!  He was one of the 12.  It is not by accident that he is always listed last in order when you read the lists of the 12 disciples in the Gospels.  In fact, in their references to Judas the Gospel writers often append the statement, “Judas – who was to betray Christ.”

Judas had never really believed that Jesus was the Christ and Jesus knew this ahead of time.  John is led by the Holy Spirit to write, “There are some of you who do not believe.” John adds, “For Jesus knew from the beginning who they were who did not believe, and who would betray Him.”  He also tells us in John 6:70-71 that Jesus answered a question of the disciples by saying, “… ‘Did I not choose you, the twelve, and one of you is a devil?’  He spoke of Judas Iscariot, the son of Simon, for it was he who would betray Him, being one of the twelve.”  Of course, the other disciples did not know this about Judas. 

Verse 3 begins with the words, “Then Satan entered Judas.”  Remember Satan had left Jesus back in Luke 4, the time of the temptations in the wilderness.  Remember Luke had written, “When the devil had ended every temptation, he departed from Him until an opportune time” (Luke 4:13).”  Now is that opportune time.  He is back.  Satan entered Judas, finding a comfortable place there as Judas’ sinful heart made him welcome.  Satan influences Judas to go to the religious leaders and agree to betray Jesus.  John tells us that Satan will “enter Judas” again at the time of the Last Supper (John 13:27). 

Verse 4 says, “So he went his way and conferred with the chief priests and captains, how he might betray Him to them.”  Judas “went his way.”  It is not as though Judas is an unwilling pawn in a chess game played by God, a robot with no decision in the matter.  Judas welcomed Satan’s entering into his heart.  We never once read anywhere in the Scriptures that Judas had no control over his actions.  He made a willful choice.

Yes, there is a mystery here.  God has a plan and is working it out.  He is sovereign. Jesus Christ had to die, but Judas did not have to be the one to make it happen.  He did not have to be the traitor.  Because he willingly chose to be the traitor, he opened the door and Satan came in.  His sinful heart made a welcome invitation for Satan to enter in.  Judas had already been under the influence of Satan.  Now he would be under an even greater influence of Satan.

Verse 5 tells us, “And they were glad, and agreed to give him money.”  Judas and the religious leaders negotiated a sum of money for Judas’ betraying Christ into their hands.  Matthew puts it this way in Matthew 26:14-15, “Then Judas” … “went to the chief priests and said, ‘What are you willing to give me if I deliver Him to you?’  And they counted out to him thirty pieces of silver.”  And, incidentally, this account fulfills the Old Testament prophecy in Zechariah 11:12 as noted by Matthew. 

Verse 6 says, “So he promised and sought opportunity to betray Him to them in the absence of the multitude.”  We will read, of course, that the “opportunity” will come in the cover of darkness (Luke 22:53).  It is nearly always easier to sin in the dark.  So Judas seeks an opportunity to betray Christ and we can imagine Jesus quoting from Psalm 41:9, “Even my own familiar friend in whom I trusted, Who ate my bread, has lifted up his heel against me.”

What are we to make of these six verses?  Are they preserved by God in Scripture only to serve as introductory remarks about the imminent death of Christ, or is there more here for our profit?  One of the benefits of going verse-by-verse through books of the Bible is that by doing so God provides for us not only easy sayings, but hard sayings, good and bad, fun and not-so fun.  Sometimes God’s Word comforts us, other times it convicts us.  Sometimes it challenges us and other times it cautions us.  We have here in this passage some cautionary principles that surface from this passage.   

Three Cautions for Christ-Followers:

1)  Beware Of The Danger Of Religion.

Look at all the characters in these six verses.  You have the chief priests and the scribes on the one hand and Judas on the other.  All of them are religious.  None of them is a true believer.  Do not you find that remarkable?  Is that not a caution to us today?  You can be really close to Christ and be lost.  The chief priests and scribes new a lot of Scripture, they knew religious language, but were lost.  Judas was one of the 12 disciples and sat under Christ’s teaching and was involved in His ministry, but he was lost.

We often say that Christianity is not a “religion,” but a “relationship.” 

Christianity is about receiving Jesus Christ into our lives,

Believing He died on the cross for our sins,

Bearing the punishment we deserved,

Rising the third day so we may be declared

Righteous, justified by faith and therefore at peace with God.

Christian faith is not so much a religion, but a relationship – a living, vibrant, day-by-day relationship with God through faith in Christ.

Beware of the danger of religion.  Second caution for Christ-followers . . .

2)  Beware Of The Danger Of Satan.

Never underestimate the influence of the one who “entered Judas.”  I am afraid we are often guilty of too quickly dismissing what happened to Judas as “demon possession,” something that can come only to an unbeliever and that is the end of our discussion.  But whether Judas was “demon possessed” in the technical sense of that term misses a greater point and blinds us to the very real possibility that when your heart is bent toward evil, evil will find you.

The Bible says in Proverbs 11:27, “Evil comes to him who searches for it.”  This is the way we ought to think of Judas.  It is not, “Poor, old Judas,” as though Judas had no choice in the matter and Satan came along and entered in and took him over against his will.  No, Judas’ heart was bent toward evil.

It is not unlike what we read in Genesis 4 with Cain killing Abel.  How many of you think Cain made a choice when he killed his brother Abel?  Me, too.  In fact, the warning from God in Genesis 4:7 is, “Sin is crouching at your door (lying at your door).  Sin desires to rule over you, Cain, but you must rule over it.”  Sin was crouching at the door and Cain opened the door.  He sinned.  He sinned willingly.

Peter does not underestimate the danger of Satan.  He writes in 1 Peter 5:8, “The devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour.”  Sin crouches at your door.  If your heart is inclined to sin, Satan will do his level best to come to you and pave for you a lovely road for you to walk down.  Beware.

Sin crouches at our door all the time.  Sin crouches at our door, men, in the form of lust and internet pornography.  You make a decision whether to open the door when you decide whether to click that link.  Ladies, sin crouches at your door when you look at that man who is not your husband and you are looking for the wrong reason.  Sin crouches at your door, young people, when you are tempted to cheat on that exam.  Sin crouches at your door when you envy another person’s stuff, another person’s position, another person’s popularity – this can happen in ministry and often does – seeking the approval of others, forever expecting others to applaud your efforts.  Just in case you feel you would never stoop as low as Judas, the Bible warns us in 1 Corinthians 10:12, “Let him who thinks he stands take heed lest he fall.”

 Beware of the danger of religion, beware of the danger of Satan, thirdly . . .

3)  Beware Of The Danger Of Money.

How frequently we have read in Luke’s Gospel the warnings about money and the lure of riches.  Most recently we read the Parable of the rich fool (Luke 12:13-21), the Parable of the Rich Man and Lazarus (Luke 16:19-31), and  the Parable of the Rich Young Ruler (Luke 18:18-25).  Judas seems obsessed with money.  In John’s Gospel we have the account where Mary anointed Jesus’ feet with costly oil.  Judas complains, “Why wasn’t this oil sold and the money given to the poor?”  That sounds real spiritual, but remember John adds, “He said this not because he was concerned for the poor, but because he was a thief and kept the money box and stole from it as he had need.” (John 12:4-6).

The 30 pieces of silver he agreed to receive in order to betray Christ was worth only about 4 months wages.  That is not really much when you consider who Christ is.  But it is an awful lot to a person who is greedy and counts every penny.  Judas loved money.  The love for money ensnared him, proving true the Bible’s warning in 1 Timothy 6:9-10: “But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and harmful lusts which drown men in destruction and perdition.  For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil, for which some have strayed from the faith in their greediness, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows.”

Judas is one such example, an example of a person who “strayed from the faith in his greediness and pierced himself through with many sorrows.”  Yes, it is possible to have money without loving it, but it is equally possible to love money without having it.  Both rich and poor alike may be ensnared by money.

The problem is love placed on the wrong thing.  Being a true Christ-follower means we love Him more than anyone or anything.  He must be number one, the love of our lives!  The desires of your heart are to be like pieces of metal drawn like a magnet to the Lord Jesus.  Anything less is idolatry.  Beware Christ-followers, beware of the danger of money.

Those are the warnings.  And how fitting that they should come in this passage in the context of the Passover, the annual event where a lamb was sacrificed as a reminder of God’s salvation.  Each lamb sacrificed at the Passover pointed forward to another Lamb, the one John the Baptist called, “The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world” (John 1:29), the Lamb of God slain for the nations, the One the Bible refers to in 1 Corinthians 5:7, “Christ our Passover (who) was sacrificed for us.”

Christ’s death was the ultimate fulfillment of the Passover.  Like the blood of the lamb which saved God’s people from death in Egypt, Jesus Christ shed His blood to save us from spiritual death.  Have you received Him by faith into your life?  Is He your “Number One Love?”

This is God’s Word …

This is Grace for your Journey …

Rest and Rejoice in this eternal truth!

Pastor Terry

Ephesians 4:7 – “But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it.”

Hebrews 4:16 – “Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”

Certainty In Uncertain Times: Luke 21:5-38 – What Does the Future Hold?

Grace For The Journey

I remember in the 70s hearing a song from the 50s that was sung by Doris Day entitled, “Que Sera, Sera,” which means “Whatever will be, will be.”  It was a song about the future . . .

When I was just a little boy

I asked my mother, what will I be

Will I be handsome, will I be rich

Here’s what she said to me:

Que Sera, Sera,

Whatever will be, will be

The future’s not ours, to see

Que Sera, Sera

What will be, will be.

We have in our study today a passage of Scripture that is often referred to as the “Olivet Discourse,” a passage that takes place while Jesus and His disciples are on the Mount of Olives, a mountain rising some 150 feet above Jerusalem, affording a breathtaking view of the Jewish Temple.  It is at this moment some of the disciples speak of the splendor and grandeur of the temple.  As they admire the scene before them, the disciples ask questions about the future and Jesus’ answer is quite different than “the future’s not ours to see,” but quite the contrary . . .

He tells them of two events that will

Most certainly occur in the future.

Since the time Jesus spoke those words one of the events has taken place just as Jesus said it would.  The other event awaits fulfillment and may take place during our lifetime.  Jesus speaks here in chapter 21 of the future.

Let’s take a walk together through this passage and then I will leave you with a few actions to take from it in response to the teaching of Jesus.

Verse 5 tells us that some of the disciples were simply awestruck by the beauty of the Jewish temple.  The temple was impressive; 46 years in the making (John 2:20), it would not be completed until AD 63, just three years before the future Emperor Titus and the Roman legions began surrounding it before ultimately destroying it in AD 70.  It was double the size of the Acropolis in Athens and the perimeter of the temple was a mile long and took up a space equivalent to one-sixth of the city of Jerusalem.  It was impressive.

The Jewish historian Josephus writes, “The exterior of the building lacked nothing that could astound either mind or eye” … “Covered on all sides with massive plates of gold, the sun was no sooner up than it radiated so fiery a flash that persons straining to look at it were compelled to avert their eyes…it appeared from a distance like a snow-clad mountain; for all that was not overlaid with gold was of purest white.”

But Jesus says in verse 6 that the whole thing will be destroyed, “The days will come in which not one stone shall be left upon another,” a general way of saying one day the whole thing will come toppling down.  This leads the disciples to ask a question in verse 7, “So they asked Him, saying, ‘Teacher, but when will these things be? And what sign will there be when these things are about to take place?’”  The disciples had heard before about future events and they ask Jesus about the specifics of the future.  The disciples seem to think the destruction of the temple will coincide with another future event, the end of time when God comes and fixes everything that is wrong.

I just want to note parenthetically that Jesus, while answering this question, does not give them specific dates, unlike the prophecy guys with their color-coded maps, charts, and diagrams.  Why?  Probably because He wants us to be ready and watching.

The disciples seem to think the destruction of the temple will occur at the same time as the Messiah’s second coming.  Jesus, in answering their question, teaches that these are two events occurring at different times.  Jesus teaches here about two future events: 1) the destruction of the Jewish Temple; and, 2) the Second Coming of Christ.   There are two future events . . .

An “immediate future”

And

A “distant future.”

The destruction of the temple serves as a type or foreshadow of the future coming judgment at the Second Coming of Christ.  The nearer event – the destruction of the temple – serves as a preview of the more distant event, the Second Coming.

Verses 8-19 tell what will happen before the destruction of the Jewish temple and verses 20-24 tell about the destruction itself.

Verse 8 tells us, “And He said: ‘Take heed that you not be deceived. For many will come in My name, saying, ‘I am He,’ and, ‘The time has drawn near.’ Therefore do not go after them.’”  Jesus warns that there will be future pretenders, but they are not the Christ.  You may recall Luke 17:23 that Jesus said, “And they will say to you, ‘Look here!’ or ‘Look there!’  Do not go after them or follow them.”  There will always be future false Messiahs. 

In verse 9 Jesus says,“But when you hear of wars and commotions, do not be terrified; for these things must come to pass first, but the end will not come immediately.”  These things will happen until Christ returns to redeem all of creation.

In verses 10-11 the Bible tells us, “Then He said to them, ‘Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom.  And there will be great earthquakes in various places, and famines and pestilences; and there will be fearful sights and great signs from heaven.”  History tells us that the first century saw a number of wars, earthquakes, and famines throughout the Roman Empire.  The historian Will Durant, writing in the 1960s in his book, The Lessons of History, observes that “in the last 3,421 years of recorded history only 268 have seen no war.”  He goes to state that there have “only been 268 years of peace out of over 3,000 years.”

Jesus goes on to say in verses 12 and 13, “But before all these things, they will lay their hands on you and persecute you, delivering you up to the synagogues and prisons. You will be brought before kings and rulers for My name’s sake.  But it will turn out for you as an occasion for testimony.”  While the disciples would face persecution in the next few decades, it would give them an opportunity to bear witness to Jesus Christ.

In verses 14 through 18 Jesus says, “Therefore settle it in your hearts not to meditate beforehand on what you will answer; for I will give you a mouth and wisdom which all your adversaries will not be able to contradict or resist.  You will be betrayed even by parents and brothers, relatives and friends; and they will put some of you to death (cf Luke 12:53, Luke 14:26, Luke 18:29).  And you will be hated by all for My name’s sake.  But not a hair of your head shall be lost.”

This means that while some of God’s children will suffer physical death, none of God’s children will suffer eternal death.

In verse 19 Jesus concludes this section by saying, “By your patience possess your souls.”  Put another way: Jesus is telling His disciples, and us, “to persevere, endure suffering, stay committed to Him.”

Verses 8-19 describe what will occur before the destruction of Jerusalem, now we look at the destruction itself in verses 20-24.

In verse 21 Jesus says, “But when you see Jerusalem surrounded by armies, then know that its desolation is near” (cf Luke 19:43-44)This happened in AD 70 when Titus, acting under his father, Roman Emperor Vespasian, surrounded the city of Jerusalem and destroyed the temple and ultimately the city.  Jesus predicted this event and said what to do when it happens in verses 21-23, “Then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains, let those who are in the midst of her depart, and let not those who are in the country enter her.  For these are the days of vengeance, that all things which are written may be fulfilled.  But woe to those who are pregnant and to those who are nursing babies in those days! For there will be great distress in the land and wrath upon this people.”

A time of joy becomes a time of sorrow.  Josephus says that a million people died, and 100,000 prisoners taken.  The fact that Josephus, who was not a Christian, underscores the horror of the destruction.

This is confirmed in verse 24 where Jesus also says,“And they will fall by the edge of the sword, and be led away captive into all nations. And Jerusalem will be trampled by Gentiles until the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled.”  Jerusalem’s being “trampled by the Gentiles” is a way of saying that non-Jews will conquer and dominate Jerusalem and the Jewish people until a future time when God puts an end to it.  This “trampling of the Gentiles” continues beyond AD 70.  The Romans, Persians, Franks, Turks, and the British have all “trampled” on Jerusalem.  Even today, where Jesus had been teaching (earlier in chapter 21) on that very spot is yet another fulfillment of verse 24.  Today the temple has been replaced by the huge mosque known as “The Dome of the Rock.”

The time of the Gentiles seems to suggest a time during which the Jewish people face persecution, a time that will not end until Christ returns (cf Romans 11:11-32).

Beginning in verse 25 and following, Jesus foretells the coming of the Son of Man, the Second Coming, the future event coinciding with the end of time.  By the way, if Jesus predicted the first event – the destruction of the temple in AD 70, and the first event occurred as prophesied, then you and I can be equally certain that what Jesus says will happen in verses 25 and following will happen exactly as prophesied.  It is a guarantee!

In verses 25 through 28 Jesus says, “And there will be signs in the sun, in the moon, and in the stars; and on the earth distress of nations, with perplexity, the sea and the waves roaring; men’s hearts failing them from fear and the expectation of those things which are coming on the earth, for the powers of the heavens will be shaken.  Then they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory.  Now when these things begin to happen, look up and lift up your heads, because your redemption draws near.”  Note the two different reactions in verses 26-28. 

  • Some men’s hearts will “fail them.”
  • And others will “look up and lift up their heads” because their “redemption draws near” (is coming to completion). 

At Christ’s second coming, will you be fearful or grateful? 

Verses 29 through 33 tell us, “Then He spoke to them a parable: ‘Look at the fig tree, and all the trees.  When they are already budding, you see and know for yourselves that summer is now near.  So you also, when you see these things happening (these signs in the sun and moon, etc.), know that the kingdom of God is near.  Assuredly, I say to you, this generation will by no means pass away till all things take place(this generation of people living on earth when the signs occur in the sky)Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words will by no means pass away.”

Jesus says these events will happen!  We have already on record that which He prophesied would take place in AD 70.  If Jesus got that one right, we can rest assured He will get this one right, too. 

In verse Jesus says,“But take heed to yourselves, lest your hearts be weighed down with carousing, drunkenness, and cares of this life, and that Day come on you unexpectedly.”  Jesus is telling us to be ready.  Do not let that day catch us in self-indulgence or allow ourselves to be swept away by the things of this present, fallen world, including the daily pressures caused by worry and anxiety.

He goes on to say in verses 35-36, “For it will come as a snare on all those who dwell on the face of the whole earth.  Watch therefore, and pray always that you may be counted worthy to escape all these things that will come to pass, and to stand before the Son of Man.”  Then Luke tells us, “And in the daytime He was teaching in the temple, but at night He went out and stayed on the mountain called Olivet.  Then early in the morning all the people came to Him in the temple to hear Him.”

In light of these truths, here is the question . . .

How shall we face the future?

Because the Bible does not give us information about the future just to fill our heads or so that we will pull out the maps, and charts, and diagrams to be able to plot various points of interest and sell our books. 

The Bible gives us information

About the future to teach us

How to live in the present.

Note these practical guidelines . . .  

1) BE WITNESSING – Verses 12-15.

Remember verse 13?  Jesus told the disciples that the future difficulties they faced would give them an opportunity to bear witness to Christ.  He said in verse 13, “But it will turn out for you as an occasion for testimony.”  This takes us back to what Jesus had said earlier in Luke 12:11-12: “Now when they bring you to the synagogues and magistrates and authorities, do not worry about how or what you should answer, or what you should say.  For the Holy Spirit will teach you in that very hour what you ought to say.”

We are to live our lives as witnesses to Christ.  Luke records this truth again in his second volume, the Book of Acts.  He records what Jesus says in Acts 1:8, “You shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be My witnesses …”  In the context here of Luke 21, Jesus tells us that we are to witness to Christ when facing future difficulties. 

What a powerful witness to not

Fall away because of persecution,

But to draw nearer to Christ.

People are watching you when you face persecution.  How will you respond when the going gets tough?  Adrian Rogers used to say, “If you want to see what a man is made of shake him up really good and see what comes out.”  When you are shaken what comes out?  Dads, what do your children see when you face fire?  Moms, how do you handle adversity?  Young people, who will you witness to for Christ this week at school?

Jesus reminds us not to worry about what we will say. 

If we will live for Christ,

He will guide our words.

Verse 15 says, “I will give you a mouth and wisdom which all your adversaries will not be able to contradict or resist.”  Trust in the Lord and you will witness for His glory.

How do we face the future?  How do we live this week?  Be witnessing.  Secondly . . .

2) BE WARNED!  Verses 34-35.

Remember the two different reactions to Christ’s Second Coming back in verses 26-28?  Jesus says some men’s hearts will “fail them” and others will “lift up their heads because their redemption” is coming to completion.  That idea is repeated in verses 34 and 35 – Jesus says, do not allow yourselves to be “weighed down with carousing, drunkness, and cares of this life, and that Day come on you unexpectedly.”  Take heed how you live!

Here is a question: To whom is Jesus speaking here?  He is not speaking to religious, closed hearted Pharisees or Sadducees or a special group of Christians who will avoid all this by being whisked away to some vacation spot in the sky.  He is talking to His disciples.  “Take heed to yourselves, lest your hearts be weighed down with carousing, drunkenness, and cares of this life, and that Day come on you unexpectedly.”

On that day, there will be those who greet Jesus as Savior and those who meet Jesus as Judge.”  Which will it be for you?  At Christ’s Second Coming, will you be fearful or grateful?

How do we face the future?  How do we live this week?  Be witnessing.  Be warned.  Thirdly . . .

3) BE WATCHING!  Verse 36.

Jesus says in verse 36, “Watch therefore, and pray always that you may be counted worthy to escape all these things that will come to pass, and to stand before the Son of Man.”  Don’t miss what Jesus is saying here – We are to watch and pray “that you may be counted worthy to escape all these things,” all what things?  What Jesus has said in the preceding verses – verses 34 and 35 – that Christ’s coming not catch us by surprise because our hearts were weighed down with carousing, drunkenness, and the worries of this life, living for this world only.

It is not always easy living the Christian life.  Sometimes we face persecution and great difficulties.  But remember that Jesus says, “Not a hair of our head will be lost” (verse 18).  I like that!  Remember what the Bible says in Romans 8:38-39, “I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

When you face difficulties and trials and tribulation, watch and pray.  Look up to Jesus and ask for help:

Live by the truth of Philippians 4:6-7, “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.”

Maybe this causes you to think about the words of the song,  

When peace, like a river, attendeth my way,

When sorrows like sea billows roll;

Whatever my lot, thou hast taught me to say,

It is well, it is well with my soul.

Most of you have heard of Chuck Colson.  He was the founder of Prison Fellowship and the former so-called political “Hatchet Man” for Richard Nixon and one of the major players in the Watergate scandal.  A friend of his, Tom Phillips, shortly after Richard Nixon’s reelection campaign in 1972, said Chuck had accepted Christ as his Lord and Savior.  He described how it happened.  Church called Tom and said he wanted to talk to him.  During their meeting Phillips read the section on pride from CS Lewis’ Mere Christianity.  Colson left despite Tom’s wanting him to stay and talk more.  It was his pride that made him leave, but God was breaking-through the pride.

Colson wrote about it later in his autobiographical book, Born Again: “As I drove out of Tom’s driveway, the tears were flowing uncontrollably.  There were no street lights, no moonlight. The car headlights were flooding illumination before my eyes, but I was crying so hard it was like trying to swim underwater.  I pulled to the side of the road not more than a hundred yards from the entrance to Tom’s driveway … I remember hoping that Tom and (his wife) wouldn’t hear my sobbing, the only sound other than the chirping of crickets penetrating the still of the night.  With my face cupped in my hands, head leaning forward against the wheel, I forgot about machismo, about pretenses, about fears of being weak.  And as I did, I began to experience a wonderful feeling of being released … And then I prayed my first real prayer. ‘God, I don’t know how to find you, but I’m going to try! I’m not much the way I am now, but somehow I want to give myself to You.’ I didn’t know how to say more, so I repeated over and over the words: Take me.

I had not ‘accepted’ Christ – I still didn’t know who he was. My mind told me it was important to find that out first, to be sure that I knew what I was doing, that I meant it and would stay with it. Only, that night, something inside me was urging me to surrender – to what or to whom I did not know.

I stayed there in the car, wet-eyed, praying, thinking, for perhaps half an hour, perhaps longer, alone in the quiet of the dark night.  Yet for the first time in my life I was not alone at all.”  (p.116-117)

When Christ returns, will you greet Him as Savior or meet Him as Judge?  Tell Him today, “Take me.”

This is God’s Word …

This is Grace for your Journey …

Rest and Rejoice in this eternal truth!

Pastor Terry

Ephesians 4:7 – “But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it.”

Hebrews 4:16 – “Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”

Certainty In Uncertain: Luke 21:1-6 – Cautions For Christ-Followers

Grace For The Journey

We are coming to the last three chapters of Luke.  There is a certain order in these chapters of the synoptic Gospels – Matthew, Mark, and Luke – that makes it easy to remember where to locate a few things.  In chapters 22, 23, 24 Luke deals with the Lord’s Supper, the crucifixion, and resurrection (the same is true for Mark 14-16, 14 is the Lord’s Supper, 15 is the crucifixion, and 16 is the resurrection; and Matthew 26, 27, 28; the Lord’s Supper, the crucifixion, and the resurrection.

As we enter these last three chapters of Luke’s Gospel one of the truths we will be focusing primarily upon will be Christ’s death.  Only two Gospels give us details of Christ’s birth, but all four Gospels give us many details about Christ’s death, because Christ’s death is the integral part of God’s crowning work of redemption.  Today’s study takes us through the first six verses of Luke 22.

Judas is something of a scary character in the Gospel narrative.  He is a striking illustration of what we mean when we speak of the doctrine of perseverance, or “perseverance of the saints.”  This doctrine teaches that all true believers persevere in their faith to the end.  Or to put it another way . . .

All who are

Chosen by God,

Redeemed by Christ,

And given faith

By the Holy Spirit

Are eternally saved. 

They are kept

In faith by the

Power of Almighty God

And thus persevere

To the end.

Some of you are familiar with the classic Christian allegory Pilgrim’s Progress by John Bunyan.  Dads, get a copy of Pilgrim’s Progress and read it to your family, a chapter an evening.  It is a great story that illustrates what it means to live the Christian life.  Bunyan tells of a dream he had of a man named Christian and he perseveres in his faith along with his friend Hopeful.  When the two reach the gate of the celestial city at the end of their lives, the symbolism continues as they present “certificates” which stand for the saving grace they had received when they trusted Christ indicating that they belonged to God.  Christian and Hopeful are then escorted through the gate into heaven by two angels Bunyan calls “Shining Ones.”  Bunyan says in his dream he then saw that there was someone else trying to make it through the gate of heaven.  His name was Ignorance.  He writes: “Now while I was gazing upon all these things, I turned my head to look back, and I saw Ignorance come up to the river” … “When he arrived at the gate” … ‘he began to knock, assuming that he would quickly gain entrance.  But the men who looked over the top of the gate asked, ‘Where did you come from?’ and ‘What do you want?’ He answered, ‘I have eaten and have drunk in the presence of the King, and He has taught in our streets.’  Then they asked him for his certificate, so that they might show it to the King; so he fumbled in his coat for one, and found none.  Then they said, ‘Have you none?’ And the man answered not a word.  So they told the King, but He would not come down to see the man. Instead, He commanded the two Shining Ones, who had conducted Christian and Hopeful to the city, to go out and bind Ignorance hand and foot and take him away” … Then Bunyan adds, “Then I realized that there was a way to hell even from the gates of heaven…”

Now that is an extraordinary statement, isn’t it?  Bunyan warns that not all those who refer to themselves as Christians are truly Christians.  Not everyone who uses religious language or does Christian work is necessarily a true believer.  In the words of Jesus in Matthew 7:12, “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven.”  And such was the case of Judas Iscariot.  If we can learn anything from Judas we had better learn to examine ourselves as to whether we are truly in the faith (2 Corinthians 13:5).  We may also learn from Judas how we, too, may be guilty of betraying Christ in a number of different ways.  Let’s consider that possibility as we study these verses a little more closely and then I will leave with three cautionary considerations. 

Verse1 says, “Now the Feast of Unleavened Bread drew near, which is called Passover.”  The very fact that Luke tells us that the Feast of Unleavened Bread “is called Passover” is another reason we know Luke, himself a Gentile, was writing primarily to Gentiles.  If he were writing to Jews – like Matthew was in his Gospel – then he would not have explained that this was called Passover, because his audience would be like, “Well, duh!”  It would be like telling you Kentucky is part of a larger country, which is called America. 

The question that we do need to answer is, “What is the Passover?” The Passover was the “opening-day feast” beginning the seven-day “Feast of Unleavened Bread.”  The Passover was a Jewish festival to be observed just once a year, a special time when the Jews would recall their miraculous deliverance from Egypt.  You will remember from reading through Exodus that the final plague sent by God to Pharaoh was the death of the firstborn.  The Jews protected themselves from the plague by smearing the blood of a sacrificial lamb upon their doorposts so that the Angel of Death would “pass over” their homes.  Unleavened bread was eaten to remind the people of their haste in fleeing Egypt, the bread did not have time to rise.  By the New Testament times thousands upon thousands of people would enter into Jerusalem for this annual feast. 

Verse 2 tells us, “And the chief priests and the scribes sought how they might kill Him, for they feared the people.”  This is not the first time we have read of the envy and anger of the religious leaders towards Jesus (See Luke 19:47, Luke 20:19).  They have now made their mind up that Jesus must go.  He must be killed.  The chief priests and the scribes, however, “feared the people.”  Remember this is Passover and there are a lot of people in town.  The Jewish historian Josephus estimates there may have been as many as 1-2 million people in Jerusalem during this observance.  Jesus has grown in popularity.  The religious leaders are looking for some way to kill Him without creating a riot (Mark 14:2).

Matthew and Mark, in their Gospels, underscore the conniving nature of these religious leaders, both of them writing, “… (plotted) sought how they might take Him by deception and (kill Him) put Him to death” (Matthew 26:4; Mark 14:1).  Who could have guessed that the answer to their dilemma would come from the very inner circle of Jesus’ followers? 

Verse 3 says, “Then Satan entered Judas, surnamed Iscariot, who was numbered among the twelve.”  Numbered among the 12, was Judas!  One of the 12.  It is not by accident that he is always listed last in order when you read the lists of the 12 disciples in the Gospels.  In fact, in their references to Judas the Gospel writers often append the statement, “Judas – who was to betray Christ.”  Judas had never really believed that Jesus was the Christ and Jesus knew this ahead of time.  The Bible says in John 6:64, “But there are some of you who do not believe.  For Jesus knew from the beginning who they were who did not believe, and who would betray Him.”  The Bible also tells us in John 6:70-71, “Jesus answered them, ‘Did I not choose you, the twelve, and one of you is a devil?’  He spoke of Judas Iscariot, the son of Simon, for it was he who would betray Him, being one of the twelve.”

Of course, the other disciples did not know this about Judas.  Later in Luke 22:23, when Jesus announces one of them will betray Him, the Bible tells us, “Then they began to question among themselves. Which of them it was who would do this thing.”

Verse 3 begins with the words, “Then Satan entered Judas.”  As we learned in Luke 4:13, “Now when he (Satan) had ended every temptation, he departed from Him (Jesus) until an opportune time.”  Now is that opportune time.  Satan is back.  Satan entered Judas, finding a comfortable place there as Judas’ sinful heart made him welcome.   Satan influences Judas to go to the religious leaders and agree to betray Jesus.  The Bible tells us in John 13:27 that Satan will “enter Judas” again at the time of the Last Supper. 

Verse 4 then says, “So he went his way and conferred with the chief priests and captains, how he might betray Him to them.”  Judas “went his way.”  It is not as though Judas is an unwilling pawn in a chess game played by God, a robot with no decision in the matter.  It is disturbing to hear that Judas welcomed Satan’s entering into his heart.  But that is the power of our sinful nature.  It is never turned to go God’s way.  We never read anywhere in the Bible that Judas had no control over his actions.  He made a willful choice.  Yes, there is a mystery here.  God has a plan and is working it out.  He is sovereign.  Jesus Christ had to die, but Judas did not have to be the one to make it happen.  He did not have to be the traitor.  But because he willingly chose to be the traitor, he opened the door and Satan came in.  His sinful heart made a welcome invitation for Satan to enter in.  Judas had already been under the influence of Satan.  Now he would be under an even greater influence of Satan.

Verse 5 says, “And they were glad, and agreed to give him money.”  Judas and the religious leaders negotiated a sum of money for Judas’ betraying Christ into their hands.  Matthew puts it this way in chapter 26, and verses 14-15, “Then Judas” … “went to the chief priests and said, ‘What are you willing to give me if I deliver Him to you?’   And they counted out to him thirty pieces of silver.”  And, incidentally, this amount fulfills the Old Testament prophecy in Zechariah 11:12 as noted by Matthew. 

Verse 6 tells us, “So he promised and sought opportunity to betray Him to them in the absence of the multitude.”  We will read, of course, that the “opportunity” will come in the cover of darkness (Luke 22:53).  It is nearly always easier to sin in the dark.  So Judas seeks an opportunity to betray Christ and we can imagine Jesus quoting from Psalm 41:9, “Even my own familiar friend in whom I trusted, Who ate my bread, has lifted up his heel against me.” 

What are to make of these six verses?  Are they preserved by God in Scripture only to serve as introductory remarks about the imminent death of Christ, or is there more here for our profit?  One of the benefits of going verse-by-verse through books of the Bible is that by doing so God provides for us not only easy sayings, but hard sayings, good and bad, pleasant and not-so pleasant. 

Sometimes God’s Word comforts us,

At other times it convicts us. 

Sometimes it challenges us

And

Other times it cautions us.

We have here some cautionary principles that surface from this passage.  The are three cautions for Christ-followers.  How many of you would say, “I’m a Christ-follower?” Three cautions for us . . . 

1)  Beware Of The Danger Of Religion.

Look at all the characters in these six verses.  You have the chief priests and the scribes on the one hand and Judas on the other.  All of them are religious.  But not one of them is a true believer.  Do not you find that remarkable?  Is that not a caution to us today?  You can be really close to Christ and be lost.  This could happen in our own household, in our own family.  The chief priests and scribes new a lot of Scripture, they knew religious language, but they were lost.  Judas was one of the 12 disciples, but he was lost.

We often say that . . .

Christianity is not a “religion,” but a “relationship.”

Christianity is about receiving Jesus Christ into our lives,

Believing He died on the cross for our sins,

Bearing the punishment we deserved,

Rising the third day so we may be declared

Righteous, justified by faith and therefore

At peace with God. 

Christian faith is not so much a religion, but a relationship – a living, vibrant, day-by-day relationship with God through faith in Christ.  Beware of the danger of religion – man’s attempts to please God and get right with Him.

2)  Beware Of The Danger Of Satan.

Never underestimate the influence of the one who “entered Judas.”  I am afraid we are often guilty of too quickly dismissing what happened to Judas as “demon possession,” something that can come only to an unbeliever and that is the end of our discussion.  But whether Judas was “demon possessed” in the technical sense of that term misses a greater point and blinds us to the very real possibility that when your heart is bent toward evil, evil will find you.

The Bible says in Proverbs 11:27, “Evil comes to him who searches for it.”  This is the way we ought to think of Judas.  It is not, “poor, old Judas,” as though Judas had no choice in the matter and Satan came along and entered in and took him over against his will.  No, Judas’ heart was bent toward evil.  It is not unlike what we read in Genesis 4 with Cain killing Abel.  How many of you think Cain made a choice when he killed his brother Abel?  Me, too.  In fact, the warning from God in Genesis 4:7 is, “Sin is crouching at your door (lying at your door).”  The truth Cain needed to understand was, “Sin desires to rule over you, Cain, but you must rule over it.”  Sin was crouching at the door and Cain opened the door.  He sinned.  He sinned willingly.

Peter does not underestimate the danger of Satan.  He writes in 1 Peter 5:8, “The devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour.”  Sin crouches at your door.  If your heart is inclined to sin, Satan will do his level best to come to you and pave for you a lovely road for you to walk down.  Beware.

Sin crouches at your door all the time.  Sin crouches at your door, men, in the form of lust and internet pornography.  And you make a decision whether to open the door when you decide whether to click that link.  Ladies, sin crouches at your door when you look at that man who is not your husband and you are looking for the wrong reason.  Sin crouches at your door, young people, when you are tempted to cheat on that exam.  Sin crouches at your door when you envy another person’s stuff, another person’s position, another person’s popularity – this can happen in ministry and often does – seeking the approval of others, forever expecting others to applaud your efforts.  And just in case you feel you would never stoop as low as Judas, the Bible warns in 1 Corinthians 10:12, “Let him who thinks he stands take heed lest he fall.”

Beware of the danger of religion, beware of the danger of Satan, thirdly . . .

3)  Beware Of The Danger Of Money.

How frequently we have read in Luke’s Gospel the warnings about money and the lure of riches. 

  • We read the Parable of the rich fool (Luke 12:13-21),
  • The Parable of the Rich Man and Lazarus (Luke 16:19-31),
  • And the Parable of the Rich Young Ruler (Luke 18:18-25).

Judas seems obsessed with money.  In John’s Gospel we have that story where Mary anointed Jesus’ feet with costly oil.  Judas complains, “Why wasn’t this oil sold and the money given to the poor?”  That sounds real spiritual, but remember John adds, “He said this not because he was concerned for the poor, but because he was a thief and kept the money box and stole from it as he had need” (John 12:4-6).

He agreed to receive 30 pieces of silver in order to betray Christ.  This was an amount worth only about 4 months wages.  That is not really much when you consider who Christ is.  But it is an awful lot to a person who is greedy and whose god is money.     Judas loved money.  The love for money ensnared him, proving true the Bible’s warning in 1 Timothy 6:9-10, “But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and harmful lusts which drown men in destruction and perdition.  For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil, for which some have strayed from the faith in their greediness, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows.”

Judas is one such example, an example of a person who “strayed from the faith in his greediness and pierced himself through with many sorrows.”

Yes . . .

It is possible to have money without loving it,

But

It is equally possible to love money without having it. 

Both rich and poor alike may be ensnared by money.

The problem is love placed on the wrong thing.  Being a true Christ-follower means we love Him more than anyone or anything.  He must be number one, the love of our lives!  The desires of your heart are to be like pieces of metal drawn like a magnet to the Lord Jesus.  Anything less is idolatry.  Beware, Christ-followers, beware of the danger of money.

Those are the warnings.  And how fitting that they should come in this passage in the context of the Passover, the annual event where a lamb was sacrificed as a reminder of God’s salvation.  Each lamb sacrificed at the Passover pointed forward to another Lamb, the one John the Baptist called, “The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world” (John 1:29), the One Paul refers to in 1 Corinthians 5:7, “Christ our Passover (who) was sacrificed for us.”

Christ’s death was the ultimate fulfillment of the Passover.  Like the blood of the lamb which saved God’s people from death in Egypt, Jesus Christ shed His blood to save us from spiritual death.  Have you received Him by faith into your life?  Is He your “Number One Love?”

This is God’s Word …

This is Grace for your Journey …

Rest and Rejoice in this eternal truth!

Pastor Terry

Ephesians 4:7 – “But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it.”

Hebrews 4:16 – “Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.

Certainty In Uncertain Times: Luke 20:41-21:4 – Authentic Faith

Grace For The Journey

We are looking today at the final verses of Luke chapter 20 and the first four verses of chapter 21.  We will begin our study today at verse 41.  Remember the original Greek manuscripts do not have chapters, divisions, and verse numbers so we are going to roll right into the first four verses of chapter 21 as this seems to be the next logical break.

Jesus has been asked a couple of hostile questions.  Now it is His turn to do the questioning.  As you read this passage, listen for what Jesus teaches about authentic Christian faith.

I do not usually watch “Antiques Roadshow.”  One Sunday afternoon, during halftime of an NFL football game, I watched a segment of an episode where there was this lady who had this necklace of gold, diamonds, and turquoise.  She said she bought it 25 years ago as a gift to herself.  The guy she bought it from gave her a paper certifying that it was made in 1905 and that it contained authentic Turkish turquoise.  When asked what she paid for it 25 years ago she said she paid $20,000.

Now when I heard that, I just kind of had that feeling, you know.  Like, $20,000?!  The appraiser tells her, “Well, I have good news for you and I have bad news for you.”  That is not something you want to hear at the Antiques Roadshow!  The appraiser goes on a bit trying to cushion the blow by telling her how wonderful the necklace looks – which is the good news; and you know he is soften what he will say next, and you can see the woman bracing for the bad news.  Finally, the appraiser says, “It is not quite as old as you were led to believe.”  The appraiser tells the woman the necklace was made in the 60s and says a few more things before saying, “I would give it a current auction estimate in the neighborhood of $8,000 to $12,000.” The woman’s eyes bulge out like, “What?!”  The appraiser says, this “is somewhat less than you paid for it,” and the woman responds, “Significantly less!”  This poor woman had paid $20,000 for something 25 years ago that is today only worth $8000 to maybe $12,000.  She had been led to believe that she had this authentic piece of jewelry with Turkish turquoise, but she had something that was not authentic at all – looked like the real deal but was inauthentic.

It is always disappointing when what you think is real turns out to be false.  Everything looked so convincing, but those who are “in the know” expose the flaws and the inconsistencies.  We certainly would not think of Jesus as an appraiser nor would we think of the religious leaders of His day as people of some kind of intrinsic worth whose value was to be appraised.  But if we were looking for an example of those who present themselves as a people who seemed to be authentic but are not, then we have a found such a people in the religious leaders of Jesus’ day.  Jesus exposes their utter hypocrisy by revealing to others who they really were.  In this exchange between Jesus and the religious leaders we learn a few things about what authentic faith should look like.

Let me pose this as a general question to guide our teaching this morning . . . 

What does authentic faith look like?

Our text suggests three marks of authentic Christian faith.  First, to possess authentic faith:

I.  We Understand Christ’s Identity – Verses 41-44.

More important than any question we will ever answer is the question, “Who is Jesus Christ” and then the accompanying follow-up question, “And what now will you do with Jesus?”  Who is Jesus Christ and what will you do with Him?  These are questions we must visit again and again as families who are interested in growing and being discipled.  Dads, moms, ask these questions today of your family. 

Verse 41 tells us, “And He said to them, ‘How can they say that the Christ is the Son of David?’”  Jesus is talking about the coming Messiah.  Remember that the word “Christ” is not Jesus’ last name!  It is the Greek word for Messiah.  The Jews were looking forward to a coming Messiah or Savior.  In this question in verse 41 Jesus is building on the common, general view that the coming Messiah and Savior would be David’s son, that is, a descendant of David.  This was the accepted conventional wisdom and there, of course, was biblical support for this.  But Jesus asks, “How can that be?  How can the Christ be the Son of David?” and His point is to stress the identity of Christ.  Jesus says in verses 42 through 44, “Now David himself said in the Book of Psalms: ‘The LORD said to my Lord, ‘Sit at My right hand, Till I make Your enemies Your footstool.’  Therefore David calls Him ‘Lord’; how is He then his Son?”

Jesus’ point is to teach and stress the identity of Christ.  Jesus quotes from one of the psalms that David wrote.  David was, of course, was the second king of Israel.  His descendants reigned on the throne of Judah until 587 BC when Jerusalem fell to Babylon.  David wrote over seventy of the Psalms, including this psalm from which Jesus is quoting, Psalm 110, a psalm about the Messiah.  Psalm 110 opens in verse 1 with, “The LORD said to my Lord, ‘Sit at My right hand till I make Your enemies Your footstool.’” 

So, Jesus is asking, “What in the world is David talking about here? I mean he wrote this psalm a thousand years earlier and he says, “The LORD said to my Lord sit at my right hand.”  By the way, the “right hand” is the place of honor.  David is writing about the “LORD.”  Notice the word is in all caps.  When you see this word in all caps it is a reference to YHWH, the One True God of the Bible.  In the Old Testament the covenant name for God is YHWH.  What is God saying?  He says to David’s Lord – (Lower case letters here signify a particular person to be esteemed worthy of respect).  It was not unusual, for example, in Bible days for a son to address his father as Lord.  David is referring to someone higher than himself.  David writes, “The LORD said to my Lord” and Jesus is like, “To whom is David speaking?”

The answer is implied: David is speaking of the Messiah, the Lord Jesus Christ who, while a descendant of David is also David’s Lord.  This indicates that David’s future offspring has more authority than David.  And this statement about “sitting at the right hand” is a way of saying that this Messiah will share YHWH’s rule and reign.  Remember that angel Gabriel had said to Mary in the opening chapter of Luke’s Gospel, Luke 1:32-33, “He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Highest; and the Lord God will give Him the throne of His father David.  And He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of His kingdom there will be no end.”  What is Gabriel’s point? 

Jesus Christ IS the Son of David,

But He is much, much more. 

He is also David’s Lord.

Who is Jesus for you?  How do you identify Him?  To have authentic faith we must understand Christ’s identity.  Is Jesus identified by you as merely a good man, a good teacher?  This is how many in Jesus’ day identified Him.  Many of the religious leaders identified Jesus as merely a teacher.  Who is the Christ?  Is He God-in-the-flesh, the Messiah, Savior, Son of David, SON OF GOD who is CO-EQUAL and CO-REIGNS with God the Father in heaven?  That is how the Bible identifies Jesus.  He is God-in-the flesh who came to us to die for our sins, was buried for our transgressions, and raised the third day that we may be justified – declared righteous.  You cannot be a Christian without believing this.  You must properly “ID” Christ.  And by the way, no other spiritual question you may ask really matters until you answer this question first.

Authentic faith means we understand Christ’s identity.  Secondly, authentic faith means:

II. We Avoid Ungodly Hypocrisy – Verses 45-47.

These religious leaders of Jesus’ day really wanted to look good in the eyes of others.  They always seemed to focus on the external rather than the internal.  Jesus warns His disciples about them.  Verse 45 says, “Then, in the hearing of all the people, He said to His disciples, ‘Beware of the scribes, who desire to go around in long robes, love greetings in the marketplaces, the best seats in the synagogues, and the best places at feasts.”  The word is “ostentatious.”  These guys loved to be seen by others.  They were like clowns in a parade.  They loved it when people watched them parade by.  They loved the long greetings folks gave them: “Why hello, most holy, reverend, highest, most-blessed, Father so-and-so

Jesus continues to describe their hypocrisy in verse 47, “Who devour widows’ houses, and for a pretense make long prayers. These will receive greater condemnation.”  This last phrase is a reminder that we all will face a judgement, described here by Jesus with the word “condemnation.”  There is a judgment and there are degrees of judgment.  That Jesus says some will receive a “greater” condemnation means that others will receive a “lesser” one, but all will be judged.  Just as there are degrees of glory and reward in heaven, so are there degrees of loss of reward and condemnation in hell. 

Jesus says in verse 47 that these hypocritical teachers were “devouring widows houses” which probably means that they were cheating widows of their estates while they served as executors of their properties.  Unbelievable, isn’t it?!

In verse 47 Jesus says they also, “for a pretense make long prayers.”  It is not the long prayers that are the problem, it is the “pretense” of the long prayers.  The idea is that, for a show make lengthy prayers.  These guys were all about appearance and perception.  They looked really religious and devout, and they sounded really religious and devout.  Too many, they looked and sounded like the real thing.  But Jesus “appraises” their religiosity here and exposes their utter hypocrisy.  He had done this before.  He had laid bare their hypocritical hearts more than once before in Luke 16:15, “You (Pharisees) are those who justify yourselves before men, but God knows your hearts.  For what is highly esteemed among men is and abomination in the sight of God.”  Men may look at you and say, “Wow, what a spiritual giant!”  But God knows your heart.  Sit is not how you look on the outside or even how you sound on the outside.  It is who you are on the inside.

Why is Jesus saying this here in verses 46-47?  Does He wish to just slam these scribes?  No, He mentions this as a warning.  Who is Jesus warning here?  Verse 45 tells us – the disciples.   

Authentic faith means we understand Christ’s identity . . . Authentic faith means we avoid ungodly hypocrisy and, final . . . 

III.  We Are Known For Great Generosity – 21:1-4.

Verse one says, “And He looked up and saw the rich putting their gifts into the treasury.”  Remember Jesus and the disciples are there at the temple.  Jesus is watching folks put their money into the temple treasury.  There were 13 collection chests or boxes in the Jewish temple.  These chests had trumpet-like openings.  Seven of the chests were for the temple tax and the remaining six were for freewill offerings.  Jesus is watching folks put their money in the chests.  The money made noises as they clanged down through the openings of the chests and often you could tell the greatness of the size of the gift by the greatness of the sound it made.  Everyone knew approximately who was giving what.  They did not write secret checks, nor was there a website where they could click to “give online.”  They gave publicly and everyone heard the size of your gift. 

Verse 2 tells us, “And He saw also a certain poor widow putting in two mites.”  This coin was the lepton; the plural is lepta.  The lepton was the smallest coin used among the Jews in Jesus’ day.  The word “lepton” means “small or thin.”  The lepton was an extremely thin bronze or copper coin worth next to nothing, worth a very small fraction of a denarius.  We have learned about the denarius before in Luke’s Gospel as recently as verses 20-26 where Jesus calls for a denarius and asks whose image is on it and so forth.  A denarius represented about one day’s wages.  A lepton was worth about 1/128th of a denarius.

Jesus is watching as this poor widow puts into the temple treasure two small coins worth practically nothing.  He says in verse 3, “. . . Truly I say to you that this poor widow has put in more than all.”  We are like, “What?!  How can Jesus say that?!   Clearly this woman put in less than everyone else!”  But remember?  Jesus says, “It is not what everyone sees on the outside, it is what is going on on the inside.”  Just as Jesus could see and expose the heart of the hypocritical religious leaders so Jesus can see and expose the heart of this poor godly widow.  Jesus goes on in verse 4 and tells us what He means, “For all these out of their abundance have put in offerings for God, but she out of her poverty put in all the livelihood that she had.”

What do authentic Christians do?  They give sacrificially.  They give selflessly.  They give from the heart, a heart that loves and beats hard for Jesus Christ, the Lover of their souls.  It is not the amount this woman gave that is important.  It is highly unlikely anyone could even have heard the two coins as she dropped them into the chest.   These were paper thin coins worth basically nothing.  She dropped them into the chest and they did not clang, they floated and whispered.  It is not the amount.  It is the fact that she gave sacrificially, selflessly, from her heart, great generosity.

The main point appears to be that

God measures the gifts of his people

Not on the basis of their size but on

The basis of how much remains.

We must never forget that God owns everything.  He owns all of our stuff, all of our possessions, and all of our money.  He owns it all.  Lordship means we recognize and agree that He is Lord of everything.

When it comes to Christian stewardship and giving, our common statements are, unfortunately, not always helpful.   Someone says, “Tithing means you give God 10% and you get to keep 90%.”  So, the thought is 10% is His and 90% is yours.  But that is not what the Bible teaches – It actually teaches that 100% is God’s.  If we recognize this truth, then tithing – the biblical practice of returning to God from the top, the firstfruits – for the Christian is merely a place to begin in Christian giving.  You begin with returning 10% and then you grow to give more and more.

This woman did something very impractical: she sis not gave 10%, but 100%.  Everyone is bracing for, “Now you go and do likewise.”  Is that the point here?  Is that what we’re to do?  No, the principle is . . .

God measures the gifts of His people

Not on the basis of their size but

On the basis of how much remains.

Do you give sacrificially?  Are you known as a person of great generosity because nothing excites your heart more than Jesus?

What are you doing with your money?  Does it own you, possess you?  Are you always concerned about giving too much or not having enough?  It may be that money is your god and you do not even realize it.  It has got you in bondage.  Money can be your god whether you are rich or poor.

Authentic faith means we understand Christ’s identity, we avoid ungodly hypocrisy, and we are known for great generosity.  No other question matters more than what you think of Jesus and what you will do with that information.

This Is God Word’s

This is Grace for your Journey …

Rest and Rejoice in this eternal truth!

Pastor Terry

Ephesians 4:7 – “But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it.”

Hebrews 4:16 – “Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”

Certainty In Uncertain Times: Luke 20:27-40 – Do You Know The God of the Living?

Grace For The Journey

We have this morning the third of three questions asked by the religious leaders of Jesus’ day . .

  • The first was, “Tell us, by what authority are You doing these things” (Luke 20:2)?
  • The second question was an attempt by the Pharisees to trap Jesus, back in Luke 20:22, “Is it lawful for us to pay taxes to Caesar or not?” 
  • The question we will look at today is the second of two attempts to trap Jesus, this time by the Sadducees. 

The Pharisees had had their shot, so perhaps the Sadducees – not willing to be outdone in this contest of revealing one’s ignorance and ineptitude before Jesus – decide that they will have a go at it.

Maybe you have been questioned about your Christian faith by an unbelieving skeptic.  You have been asked something like, “Why does a good God allow bad things to happen?” Or, “If God is sovereign and knows all things and does according to the counsel of His will, then why pray?”  “Does prayer change God’s mind?” and so forth.  Asking questions is good if one really wants to know the answer, but sometimes people ask questions merely to get a reaction out of someone.  They do not really want an answer, they are just trying to make sport of someone and to trip them up in their response.  That certainly was the case with the Pharisees and now the Sadducees of Jesus’ day.

The great Protestant reformer Martin Luther who was known for his abrupt way in answering critics.  Luther was taking questions from skeptics and one skeptic – in an attempt to trip up Luther – said, “You say God created everything, so what was God doing before He created everything?” Luther replied, “He was thinking about creating hell for people like you who ask stupid questions!”

Let’s first study this question of the Sadducees and then I will leave you with a question or two of my own as we apply this truth to our lives.

Verse 27 says, Then some of the Sadducees, who deny that there is a resurrection, came to Him and asked Him.”  As we consider this verse, I think is it important to mention a thing or two about the Sadducees.  We have looked at questions from the Pharisees, identified in chapter 20 by the phrase, “Chief priests and the scribes” (Luke 20:1; Luke 20:19).  These were religious leaders in Jesus’ day known as the Pharisees.  We are introduced here to another religious group known as the Sadducees, mentioned only here in Luke’s Gospel.

Luke tells us in verse 27 that one of the differences between these two groups is that the Sadducees, verse 27, “deny that there is a resurrection.”  The Sadducees did not believe in life beyond the grave.  This is why some remember them by the humorous phrase, “This is why they’re ‘Sad,’ you see.”

The Sadducees claimed to descend from Zadok, the high priest under King David (1 Kings 1:26).  In Jesus’ day the Sadducees were like this inner circle of wealthy, and smug aristocrats.  They did not get along with the Pharisees.  The two religious parties were bitter rivals and enemies.  The Sadducees are no longer around.  They died out sometime after the Jewish Temple was destroyed in AD 70.  The Pharisees are no longer around, either, at least not in the sense of being a religious group of Jews separate from everyone else.  Pharisaism in Jesus’ day eventually became rabbinic Judaism, which ultimately produced traditional Judaism of today.

Luke reminds us in verse 27 that the Sadducees “deny that there is a resurrection.”   They also denied any kind of life after death.  The Jewish historian Josephus says that the Sadducees believed that the soul perished along with the body (Antiquities).  They also denied the existence of angels and demons.  In fact, Luke, writing in the Book of Acts, writes of the differences between the Sadducees and the Pharisees in Acts 23:8 where he says, “For the Sadducees say that there is no resurrection – and no angel or spirit; but the Pharisees confess both.”  The Sadducees also did not practice the teachings of anything in the Old Testament beyond the Pentateuch or the Torah, the first five books of the Old Testament.

I said there were no Sadducees today, but I mean the specific group of people that existed in Jesus’ day.  Because, there are “modern Sadducees” today, aren’t there?  Anyone who believes, “once you’re dead, you’re dead,” and by that they mean there is no life after death, this person is a modern Sadducee.  This is the belief system of the nihilist and of the atheistic existentialist. This is the way of anyone who denies the resurrection or the continuation of the soul at death.

I think it is very important for us as believers when we come up against this sort of thinking that we challenge folks to consider upon what authority they accept the idea of no resurrection or no life after death.  In other words, if our friend says to us, “Well, I just believe once you are dead, you are dead,” we then need to follow that up with the loving question, “And upon what authority to you believe that?  Did you learn it from reading a book or watching a movie?  Are you prepared to bank your eternity on a writer’s conjecturing?  Are you willing to stake your eternity on one man’s ideas?”  Then we take them lovingly to the Bible, our final authority.  We take them to Jesus.

Jesus believed in the resurrection.  You may remember in Luke 14:13-14 where Jesus says, “But when you give a feast, invite the poor, the maimed, the lame, the blind.  And you will be blessed, because they cannot repay you; for you shall be repaid at the resurrection of the just.”  Jesus believed in a conscious life immediately after death, remember the rich man and Lazarus in Luke 16:19-31?  How about Luke 23:39-43 where we will hear Jesus say to the thief on the cross, “Today you shall be with Me in Paradise.”

Verses 28 to 40 tell us about the hypothetical situation the Sadducees create for Jesus.  In verse 28 they begin by saying, “Saying: “Teacher, Moses wrote to us that if a man’s brother dies, having a wife, and he dies without children, his brother should take his wife and raise up offspring for his brother.”  This is true.  You can read it in Deuteronomy 25:5-6.  The purpose of this custom was to protect the family, to keep the name of the family alive and to maintain the family wealth, security, and honor.  The book of Ruth includes this custom in the telling of the history of Ruth and Boaz (Ruth 1:11-13; 4:1-22).

In verse 29 the Sadducees continue, “Now there were seven brothers. And the first took a wife, and died without children.”  The Sadducees are posing to Jesus a hypothetical question.  They are saying, “Let’s just say for the sake of argument that there is a resurrection.”  There were seven brothers.  The first marries, but dies without children.  They continue in verses 30 through 33, “And the second (brother) took her as wife, and he died childless.  Then the third took her, and in like manner the seven also; and they left no children, and died.  Last of all the woman died also.  Therefore, in the resurrection, whose wife does she become? For all seven had her as wife.”  This is really crazy, isn’t it?!  To what great lengths the Sadducees have gone to try to trap Jesus in some silly hypothetical situation.  They really do not care about Jesus’ answer because they do not even believe in the resurrection.  They had worked-out this question ahead of time, probably meeting in somebody’s basement, and plotting the whole thing and they just cannot wait to catch Jesus stumbling and stuttering in His reply.

You get the logic of their question, right?  They are like, “If there really is a resurrection, or if there really is a heaven, what do you do with a woman who has been married several times – 7 to be exact – and then she dies and goes to heaven – who will be her husband in heaven; she cannot be equally the wife of all seven, can she?”  The Sadducees believe this hypothetical situation refuted belief in the resurrection.  But you cannot “trip up” the Son of God.  Verse 34 tells us, “Jesus answered and said to them, ‘The sons of this age marry and are given in marriage.’”  “The sons of this age” simply means, “Human beings in this present earthly life,” people living today in this world, people like you and me.  We are the people of “this age.”  You and I marry and are given in marriage.  Jesus continues in verse 35 by saying, “But those who are counted worthy to attain that age, and the resurrection from the dead, neither marry nor are given in marriage.”  Jesus says, “this age” and “that age” are quite different!  He may as well have said, “You guys go wrong at the point you begin to equate ‘this age’ with ‘that age.’  They are very different.  There is no death in the age to come so there is no need to procreate through marriage.  People in “that age,” people in the future state of heaven don’t need to procreate.  Genesis 1:28 is no longer necessary where God said, “Be fruitful and multiply.” 

Jesus goes on in verse 36 and says, “Nor can they die anymore, for they are equal to the angels and are sons of God, being sons of the resurrection.”  The people of “that age,” the people of heaven and of the final state do not “die anymore.”   Jesus says “the are equal to the angels,” or “like the angels” in this sense that they are immortal.  They do not die.  This does not mean that people become angels!  Please dismiss any notion of that from your thinking!  We do not become angels, getting wings, and so forth!  We will always be people, people with glorified bodies, but people!  Jesus is talking about the fact that we will no longer need to procreate, the primary point of marriage.

The people of “that age” do not die, they live forever and are “sons of God,” being “sons of the resurrection.”  The Christian’s “sonship” or adoption is completed at the resurrection (Romans 8:23) when we receive a glorified body like the Lord’s.  Let me encourage you to read 1 Corinthians 15:53-54 as a refresher and read about the resurrection body that we will one day receive.  The Bible teaches that when the Christian dies, his soul immediately goes to be with the Lord (2 Corinthians 5:8), absent from the body and present with the Lord.  Our soul immediately goes to heaven.  When Christ returns, He will raise up our mortal body and change it into a body like His, a glorified body that our soul will then inhabit forever and ever.

The way, the phrase that we will “neither marry nor be given in marriage” does not mean that we will not know our spouses in heaven or that we will not be able to be together.  This is an encouragement to most of us who are married – we will know one another in heaven! 

Jesus calls people by name when referring to the future state of heaven.  He says in Matthew 8:11, “Many will come from east and west, and sit down with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven.”  We will know one another in heaven (see also Luke 9:30 and Luke 9:33).  And we will love our spouse more.  In fact, we will have a perfect love for our spouse and for all people.

Who will go to heaven?  Jesus tells us in verse 35, “those who are counted worthy to attain that age.”  How is one “counted worthy” to attain that age?  God saves him through repentance from sin and faith in Jesus Christ.  Those who enter into the Kingdom to Come (Luke 11:2) are those who have been saved by the power of the Gospel.

Now watch Jesus use the Scriptures to drive home the truth about heaven and about the One True God.  Verse 37 says, “But even Moses showed in the burning bush passage that the dead are raised, when he called the Lord ‘the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.’”  There was no chapter and verse in Jesus’ day like we have in our English Bibles.  When Jesus says, “In the burning bush” He is literally saying “at the bush.”  The burning bush passage is in Exodus 3:5-6.  God says to Moses, “Do not draw near this place. Take your sandals off your feet, for the place where you stand is holy ground.  Moreover He said, ‘I am the God of your father – the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.”  The passage goes on to tell us that Moses hid his face, for he was afraid to look upon God.

Jesus quotes from the part of the Old Testament with which the Sadducees would have been familiar, Exodus 3, and He points out that God says, ‘the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.’”  He does not say, “I was the God of Abraham,” but, “I am the God of Abraham.”  And then Jesus drives home His point in verse 38, when He says “For He is not the God of the dead but of the living, for all live to Him.”  God is still their God, He is still the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob because only living people can have a God.  He is not the God of the dead but of the living.  Jesus’ point . . . THERE IS A RESURRECTION.

Verses 39 and 40 tell us that the Pharisees are delighted to have Jesus on their side here, “Then some of the scribes answered and said, ‘Teacher, You have spoken well.’   But after that they dared not question Him anymore.”  Both group now have been silenced and this should have led them to be open to the teachings of Christ.

 Like the Pharisees and Sadducees, we should consider more carefully what Jesus is teaching . . .

1) Am I Ready For “That Day?”

Remember from verse 35, we asked, “How is one counted worthy to attain that age?”  The answer is:

By receiving Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior,

Which means we repent from our sin and

We receive Christ as KING of our lives. 

He is number one and we live for Him.

The Bible says in Ephesians 2:8-9, “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast.”  Are you ready for “that day?”  Have you made preparation for that day?  Theologian Charles Hodge, “It is important that when we come to die, we have nothing to do but die.” 

Are you ready?  If so, you will enter a place where you are equal to the angels, equal in the sense that you will be immortal, you will never die.  Of those in heaven, the Bible says in Revelation 21:4, “And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away.”

2) Do I Truly Live For “That Day And For The “God Of The Living?”

Or, to put it another way, “Am I living a Christ-focused life?”  Does the way I live each day demonstrate that I am living for that day?  Is it reflected in the choices I make each day, in my job, at school, with my friends?  Am I truly living with eternity in view?  Remember, “this age” and “that age” are not equal!  That was the mistake in the Sadducees’ thinking.  So ask: “Am I more in love with “this age” than I am with “that age?”  “Do I truly live for ‘that age?” and for the “God of the Living?”

Adoniram Judson, Baptist missionary who labored for almost forty years in Burma, now known as Myanmar, lived for “that age.”  He looked forward to “that day” and “that age.”  He said, “When Christ calls me home I shall go with the gladness of a boy bounding away from school.”  I can relate to that, can’t you?  I looked forward to school being out each day – except for the day we got our “Progress Reports!”  That day, as one person has said, “We would either take the short way home, the long way home, or we don’t go home at all.”  but most of the days like Adoniram Judson I bounded away from school heading home as quickly as possible!  Living for “That Age.

This is God’s Word …

This is Grace for your Journey …

Rest and Rejoice in this eternal truth!

Pastor Terry

Ephesians 4:7 – “But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it.”

Hebrews 4:16 – “Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”

Certainty In Uncertain Times: Luke 20:20-26 – Giving Ourselves to God

Grace For The Journey

We are making our way, verse-by-verse, through the Gospel of Luke.  We left off last time at verse 19 and so we will pick up right there at verse 20 and then go through verse 26.  The background here is this escalating tension between Jesus and the religious leaders of His day.  The religious leaders – who are not believers in Christ, who do not accept that He is the Messiah – these leaders are threatened by Christ and convicted by His teachings.

We looked last time at their questioning Jesus about His authority.  They did not like the way Jesus had “come into town,” so to speak, riding on a donkey, cleansing the temple, and teaching with authority.  They asked Him about His authority and Jesus tells a parable in verses 9-18 about the wicked vinedressers.  In the telling of the parable Jesus, in essence says, “My authority comes from the Heavenly Father, the One Who sent Me and refers to Me as, “The Beloved Son of God.”  Jesus goes on in the parable and pronounces a judgment upon those who reject Him, those like the religious leaders.

We left off at verse 19 where Luke writes that the chief priests and scribes connect the dots and figure out that Jesus “had spoken the parable against them.”  They are royally ticked off and they are going to do whatever they can to get Jesus out of the picture, to get Him arrested, to get Him carried away, to get Him killed.

This business of the chief priests and the scribes is a devilish attempt.  Luke tells us in verse 20 that they “watched” Jesus and they “sent spies who pretended to be righteous, that they might seize on His words,” that is, that they might trap Jesus, get Him to say something incriminating in order to turn Him over to the authorities.  They are trying to get Jesus to trip over His words.   

Have you ever tripped over your words?  If you have ever been in a high-pressured situation, like testifying in court, you know how easy it is to get your words mixed up.  Sometimes it is the questioners themselves who hope to get you all mixed up.  You are asked a loaded question like the infamously classic, “Have you stopped beating your wife?”  Well, how are you going to answer that?!  It is a loaded question.  Like loaded dice, the question comes with a predictable outcome.  The questions assume a premise.  In this case, the premise is, “You have been in the practice of beating your wife.”   The question, “Have you stopped beating your wife” is a trap.  If you say, “Yes” or “No,” you admit to beating your wife.

Other examples of loaded questions:

  • “Have you stopped cheating on your taxes?”  What does that question assume?  You have been cheating.
  • “Do you enjoy taking advantage of your position as supervisor?”
  • A guy interviewing you for a job says, “Can you appreciate this wonderful opportunity we are making available to you?”
  • A teacher says, “Aren’t you ashamed of the little effort you are making in this class?”
  • A borderline loaded question comes from the cult classic film, “Napoleon Dynamite,” where Napoleon, referring to Deb’s milk at school says, “I see you’re drinking 1%. Is that ’cause you think you’re fat? ‘Cause you’re not. You could be drinking whole if you wanted to.” 

That question doesn’t have anything to do with this, I just wanted to share it cause I like that movie and have a weird sense of humor.

On what was probably Tuesday or Wednesday of the week leading up to His crucifixion, Jesus was confronted by a group of Pharisees and Herodians and asked a question about one of the most controversial issues of the day.  You see how these religious leaders were “out to get” Jesus? They set out to trap Him, to “seize on His words,” to catch Him.  Again, they realized that Jesus had spoken the parable of the wicked vinedressers “against them” (verse 19), so they now attempt to trap Jesus in His words so they can turn Him over to the authority of the governor, the governor being Pontius Pilate.

That is the background for these few short verses in our study today.  The religious leaders ask Jesus something of a loaded question, a question that cannot really be answered with a simple “yes” or “no” and we will study that question this morning.  We will make our way through these verses and then I will give you a few take-home principles for to learn and live by.

Verse 21 says, “Then they asked Him, saying, ‘Teacher, we know that You say and teach rightly, and You do not show personal favoritism, but teach the way of God in truth.”  Such pretense!  Such flattery!  They are acting like they really appreciate Jesus.  What they say is true.  They speak truth here.  That Jesus spoke and taught truth is a true statement.  Jesus did, in fact, “teach rightly.”  In fact, the Greek word there is the word “orthos,” the Greek prefix for “straight,” as in “orthodontics (straightening the teeth).”  It is teaching that which is “straight” and “right.”  The other thing they said in verse 21 that was also true is the statement: “You do not show personal favoritism.”  Again, true!  The idea is, “You do not act one way to one person and another way to another person.  You treat everyone the same.”

But this is all a sham.  They are flattering Jesus.  This is flattery, pure and simple.  I think it is true, what has been said . . .

If gossip is saying behind a person’s back

What you would never say to his face,

Then flattery is saying to a person’s face

What you would never say behind his back.

The Bible says in Proverbs 29:5, “Whoever flatters his neighbor is spreading a net for his feet.”  Here comes the net, a loaded question, in verse 22, “Is it lawful for us to pay taxes to Caesar (Tiberius) or not?”

They want a “yes” or “no.”  If Jesus said, “No, it is not lawful,” then the religious leaders could accuse Jesus of sedition and could get Him into big-time trouble with the Roman authorities.  He would be arrested and carried away.  On the other hand, if Jesus says, “Yes, of course it is well and good to pay taxes to Caesar,” the religious leaders know that Jesus’ followers will not take too kindly to that response because they hated this poll tax that had been unfairly imposed upon them by the Romans.  This was an annual tax on their houses and land, other possessions.  The Jews despised the idea of having to pay tribute to their ungodly, pagan Roman oppressors.

They had hoped to trap Jesus by forcing Him to answer “yes” or “no.”  Now look: They cannot outsmart the Son of God!  In verse 23 it tells us, “But He perceived their craftiness, and said to them, ‘Why do you test Me?’”  The word for “craftiness” here is the same word used by Paul in 2 Corinthians 11:3 to describe Satan’s “craftiness” in deceiving Eve in the Garden of Eden.  Jesus may have asked, “Why are you guys acting like Satan?!”  Jesus knew their thoughts (see also Luke 5:22 and Luke 6:8; also compare Luke 7:39-40).  Jesus knows all things.  He is God-in-the-flesh.

Now, watch this classic response – He is not going to answer with a quick “yes” or “no.”  What does He do?  Verse 24 tells us Jesus says, “Show Me a denarius. Whose image and inscription does it have?” ¶ They answered and said, ‘Caesar’s.’”  The denarius was the common Roman coin in Jesus’ day.  One denarius was the usual pay for one day’s work.  On one side of the denarius is the image of Caesar.  In Jesus’ day the Caesar was Tiberius.  Tiberius’s image was on the coin and on that same side of the coin is a phrase that reads, “Tiberius Caesar, son of the divine Augustus.” To have one of these coins in the pocket was like having a small idol in the pocket.

Jesus has them get out a coin. That they had one in their pockets or pouches showed that they were not opposed to carrying such a thing around, even if it had this blasphemous inscription on it.  It is pretty obvious that they needed the coin to buy, sell, and so forth.  Jesus is doing the questioning now.  Verses 25-26 tells us, “And He said to them, ‘Render therefore to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.’  But they could not catch Him in His words in the presence of the people. And they marveled at His answer and kept silent.”  In our day the value of a person’s entire political career often hinges on a hastily spoken soundbite absurdly taken out of context and replayed endlessly at full volume.  But this “soundbite” of Jesus is just perfect.  It cannot be improved upon! 

Jesus says, “Look, the coin represents the tribute that you are to give to Caesar.  It is a reasonable expectation of his that you give.  You live here, after all, and you benefit from the Roman government, so Caesar is right in demanding this tax from you.”  Jesus does not explain why Caesar has this authority.  Paul and Peter will do this later . . .

Romans 13:1-7 – “Let every soul be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and the authorities that exist are appointed by God.  Therefore whoever resists the authority resists the ordinance of God, and those who resist will bring judgment on themselves.  For rulers are not a terror to good works, but to evil.  Do you want to be unafraid of the authority?  Do what is good, and you will have praise from the same.  For he is God’s minister to you for good.  But if you do evil, be afraid; for he does not bear the sword in vain; for he is God’s minister, an avenger to execute wrath on him who practices evil.  Therefore you must be subject, not only because of wrath but also for conscience’ sake.  For because of this you also pay taxes, for they are God’s ministers attending continually to this very thing.  Render therefore to all their due: taxes to whom taxes are due, customs to whom customs, fear to whom fear, honor to whom honor.”

1 Peter 2:13-17 – “Therefore submit yourselves to every ordinance of man for the Lord’s sake, whether to the king as supreme, or to governors, as to those who are sent by him for the punishment of evildoers and for the praise of those who do good.  For this is the will of God, that by doing good you may put to silence the ignorance of foolish men – as free, yet not using liberty as a cloak for vice, but as bondservants of God.  Honor all people. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the king.”

We are to obey the governing authorities.  We are not to disobey unless we are being forced to do something against Scripture, such was the case with Peter in Acts 5:29 when they were told to stop telling people about Jesus, “But Peter and the other apostles answered and said: “We ought to obey God rather than men.”

The last part of verse 26 tells us, “But they could not catch Him in His words in the presence of the people. And they marveled at His answer and kept silent.”   There is a break in the conversation now as these religious leaders marveled at His answer and kept silent.  The one who is wiser than Solomon (Luke 11:31) has again silenced the opposition!

Now, let’s look a little more closely at this statement of our Lord’s in verse 25, “Render (or Give) therefore to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.”  The denarius belonged to Caesar because it bore his image.   We belong to God because we bear HIS image (Genesis 1:27).  While what Jesus says is important insofar as rendering to Caesar what is Caesar’s, He gives a much more important command in saying that every one of us – we who bear God’s image and likeness – must give ourselves go God.  Caesar and God are not equals.  What we give to God is more important than what we give to Caesar.  Yet so many Christians live their lives as though Caesar is more important than God!

With that thought, here are take-home principles for us to live by . . .

There are three lessons I immediately see from this passage which are applicable to us today.

Let’s examine each of these . . .

1) Awareness.

Jesus knew what the Herodians and Pharisees were up to.  Luke tells us that Jesus perceived their wickedness, and Matthew says Jesus called them “hypocrites,” (Matthew 22:18) and in a tone of rebuke, publicly challenged them to explain why they were tempting him.  When confronted with a challenge, including (and perhaps especially) when people attack us or try to “trap” us (as the Herodians and Pharisees were trying to do with Jesus), it is important that we have the awareness to know what’s going on.

Too often, we react emotionally rather than respond thoughtfully.  Awareness begins with a strong prayer life and a sensitivity to the spiritual aspects of life. We are, as the Bible tells us, engaged in spiritual warfare, wrestling “not against flesh and blood,” but rather against Satan and his forces of darkness (Ephesians 6:12).  It is important that we understand the Enemy will use circumstances and people to trip us up, slow us down, discourage us, or defeat us.  We must also be aware of the people around us and the context in which we live and operate.

This is what Jesus was getting at when He said to His disciples: “Behold, I send you forth as sheep in the midst of wolves: be ye therefore wise as serpents, and harmless as doves.” (Matthew 10:16)  This need for awareness is also bolstered by repeated biblical admonitions toward wisdom and discernment in Proverbs and Ecclesiastes.

In Jesus’ case, He knew that, while the Pharisees and Herodians had little in common, one of the things they did have in common was they saw Him as a threat. As the old saying goes: “The enemy of my enemy is my friend.”  To be clear, the Herodians and Pharisees were cultural and political enemies.  The Pharisees were strict adherents of Jewish laws and traditions, and bristled at both the Herodian dynasty as well as Roman occupation.

The Herodians were members or supporters of King Herod’s family and dynasty. Herod was of course not a Jew, but an Edomite who owed his rule to Rome.  He was a merciless, wicked, and paranoid king responsible for great suffering in the kingdom. While Herod himself was dead by the time of Jesus, his descendants still ruled the region.  The Herodians were those Jews aligned with Herod’s family and who compromised and curried favor with Rome and were tied to and benefited from the political, social, and economic interests of the region.  This is why Jesus called the Pharisees “hypocrites.” They were casting aside their principles in order to gang up on Him.

Jesus was also aware that a straightforward “yes” or “no” answer to their question would simply play into their hands.  If He affirmed paying taxes to Caesar, then He would lose favor with the people and be associated with their Roman occupiers and the corrupt Herodians. On the other hand, if He said “no,” He would be subject to arrest by Roman authorities for sedition.

Quite often, Christians find themselves in similar no-win dilemmas today – in politics, in business, on social media, at family gatherings, and in everyday conversations.  Like Jesus, we need to strive to RISE ABOVE the fray.

This leads us to the second lesson . . .

2) Altitude.

Jesus’ answer lifts the very nature of the conversation to a whole new level.  He does not play their game.  He refuses to answer on their terms.  He refuses to let Himself be a pawn on their board or to easily play into their trap.  Note that the Pharisees and Herodians initiate this conversation.  They do so with a challenge.  Jesus responds by making clear He know what they’re up to by asking why they are tempting Him. And then.

Jesus establishes Himself as the leader in this exchange by getting them to respond to His question – a question that was obviously rhetorical, since Jesus (even in His incarnate humanity) would have known Roman coinage bears the image of the Roman emperor.  Getting them to say “Caesar” also sets up the statement that Jesus wants to make. They are now responding to Him and waiting on His answer. What is more, they have now said the name “Caesar” themselves, which trained teachers and public speakers know, will further “impact” what Jesus will say.  When a teacher, speaker, counselor, or coach echoes back the same words used by the student or listener, it sharpens the connection and primes the brain for deeper learning.

In case you’re missing my point about mirroring back words for greater impact, had the Pharisees and Herodians said “Tiberius” (who was the Roman Emperor at the time), Jesus would have almost certainly said, “Give to Tiberius what belongs to Tiberius and give to God what belongs to God.”  Jesus is the Master Teacher.  Looking through the Gospels, we can learn a great deal of how Jesus connected with His audiences – and how we can learn a thing or two from His example. Jesus’ answer worked, because rather than score a victory, His accusers “marveled at His answer and kept silent” (Luke 20:26). 

Our goal in human interaction, especially when we feel cornered or trapped, should be to provoke thought. Leave your readers or listeners with something to think on, to mull over, and to reflect on. Jesus did this routinely and masterfully.

Most importantly . . .

By answering them at a higher level,

Jesus transformed an attempt to trap Him

Into a teaching point that has stood

For 2000 years as part of recorded Scripture.

He took a question about taxes and answered with a principle much broader in scope.

And that leads us to the final lesson, which is from the teaching itself . . .

3) Attitude.

Jesus tells us the exact ATTITUDE we are supposed to have when it comes to our interactions with civil authorities.   It is the same attitude we should have when it comes to our interaction with God.  It is just that God’s scope is so much greater than anything on this earth and in this life.

But before we get to what we owe God (everything), let’s look at what we owe Caesar.  If you buy a house, you cannot get mad when the mortgage comes due. You need to honor that mortgage.  Same with buying a car.  You need to pay for that car – either with one big check or with payments over time.  If you go to work for XYZ, Inc, you need to work the hours you agreed to work, fulfill the duties you agreed to take on, and cooperate with company management.   

Likewise, if a first century citizen of Jerusalem chose to remain living in Jerusalem, and thus take advantage of all the benefits and privileges of living under the governing structure of that day, then such a citizen – to be consistent with his choice – should not begrudge paying taxes or cooperating with the civil authorities.  This is what Peter is getting at when he says we should “submit to every ordinance of man” (1 Peter 2:13) and “honor the king” (1 Peter 2:17). It is what Paul means when he tells us to “subject unto the higher powers” (Romans 13:1), and “pay tribute” (Romans 13:6).  Paul really drives it home when he writes: “Render therefore to all their dues: tribute to whom tribute is due; custom to whom custom; fear to whom fear; honor to whom honor.” (Romans 13:7)

Jesus, Peter, and Paul would all agree with the following statement . . .

If you’re going to live under Roman rule,

Then willingly cooperate with

Roman laws, taxes, and customs.

The only times we are allowed or expected to disobey or rebel against civil authorities is when God tells us to do so (Exodus 1-2, Acts 5:29, Daniel 2:21, Daniel 3, Daniel 6).

Civil government plays a role in this fallen world, and we as God’s people are expected to cooperate with that role.

As I write this, I am sitting in my office at church.  My children and grandchildren attend public schools. I am protected and served by the local police and fire departments. If a medical emergency happened, I can call 911, and an ambulance would come my way. The roads I drive on are maintained at taxpayer expense. The country in which I live is protected by an intelligence network, by national security measures, and by the men and women of our armed forces.  I can go on.  The fact is, I live in a stable, peaceful, family-friendly community in the freest, most prosperous nation in world history.  It is not too much to ask that I be a respectful, tax-paying, and law-abiding citizen.

I realize the United States is not perfect, and frankly I believe God did call upon many of His followers to engage in civil disobedience during some of the civil rights struggles in our nation’s history.  But, as a general rule, we should cooperate willingly with the society in which we live.  That is Jesus’ lesson in Matthew 22:21.

Of course, Jesus does not leave it there.  He does not stop with Caesar.  He adds that we should “give to God what belongs to God.” Well, what belongs to God?

Answer . . . Everything

God is sovereign over this entire universe.   Everything is under His authority and power. And that includes you and me.  Caesar Tiberius had his image inscribed on Roman coinage to assert his authority over the Roman economy.  When anyone transacted business in Rome, it was a reminder that they were conducting business in Caesar’s empire. (Caesar was the state).

Well, whose inscription is on us?  Answer: God Himself.  We are made in the image of God, and therefore we are God’s.  God owns this entire cosmos, and He owns Heaven. And He owns you and me.  He owns everyone and everything, and He is entitled to everyone and everything.

There are some things to which Caesar is not entitled – like, for example, worship.  But God is entitled to everything.  We owe Him our gratitude, our full allegiance, and our very lives.   By giving these things to Him willingly, we show Him our love.

And this is the crux of the lesson . . .

Whatever life may throw at us – whenever enemies may come against us – we must always remember that we are here to serve God.  And everything we do or say should be to advance His kingdom and to bring honor and glory to Him.  He alone is worthy of all that we have.

This is God’s Word …

This is Grace for your Journey …

Rest and Rejoice in this eternal truth!

Pastor Terry

Ephesians 4:7 – “But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it.”

Hebrews 4:16 – “Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”

Certainty In Uncertain Times: Luke 20:1-19 – The Need To Accept Jesus As Savior

Grace For The Journey

We are continuing our series of studies, verse-by-verse, through the Gospel of Luke.  I believe the best way to studying and preaching is to go through Books of the Bible.  That is the best way to learn what Paul called “the whole counsel of God,” studying each passage carefully in context, and unfolding the meaning and application of the passage.  I believe God has a word for us each time we look into the Scriptures.

We have noted in recent weeks that as Jesus has made His way into Jerusalem He is coming up against a group of religious leaders who bristle at His authority.  He has been making His way steadfastly since Luke 9:51 on a straight course to Jerusalem and He has now arrived in the city, riding on a donkey which symbolizes His authority as king, and then He cleanses the temple of the profiteers and this, too, is an exercise of His authority to rule and reign and so this little band of insecure religious leaders is now going to do something about it.

If you have ever watched brick masons work you will notice how they do not just lay the bricks but examine them very carefully before they put them in place.  They have these pallets full of bricks and they will pick up the brick in one hand and chop at it with their trowel in the other hand, chipping off pieces so the bricks would fit properly in the structure, really an art form these guys have down.  Sometimes I have watched them, and they would pick up a brick or a stone and they would look it over and toss it aside, rejecting it for present use.  They might pick it up again later, but for the immediate task it was rejected.

This is a significant illustration because later on in our passage Jesus will refer to Himself as the Chief cornerstone.  Those of you who build things know about the importance of the cornerstone or the capstone of a building.  The cornerstone is the main stone that bears the weight and stress of two walls that are built upon it.  Without this key cornerstone the two walls collapse and come tumbling down like a house of cards.

Jesus is the key or chief cornerstone upon which everything is built.  Without Jesus, God’s building of the church collapses.  But the religious leaders in Jesus’ day were blind to Christ’s authority as King, were blind to the church He was building, and so they rejected Him the way a brick mason rejects a stone, tossing it aside or throwing it away as useless.

Now we will come back to this picture as we make our way through the passage, a passage I have broken down into two main considerations. 

First . . .

I.  Consider The Authority And Rule Of Christ.

In verses 1-8, Luke provides for our consideration Christ’s authority and rule.  We read in the opening two verses, “Now it happened on one of those days, as He taught the people in the temple and preached the gospel, that the chief priests and the scribes, together with the elders, confronted Him and spoke to Him, saying, ‘Tell us, by what authority are You doing these things? Or who is he who gave You this authority?’”

Remember that Jesus had come into Jerusalem riding a donkey, symbolically indicating His authority as King.  We also read in our last study of Jesus’ cleansing the temple like a man of authority.  Luke tells us in verse 1 that our Lord is teaching again in the temple, “He taught the people in the temple and preached the gospel,” and you will remember how we read earlier in Luke’s Gospel that the people said Jesus taught like a man who had authority (Luke 4:32), so the chief priests and the scribes and the elders – people who were used to being in authority themselves – are like, “Hey, where do you get the authority to act this way?”

So, Jesus says in verses 3-4, “I also will ask you one thing, and answer Me: The baptism of John – was it from heaven (that is, from God) or from men?”  Jesus is so good at answering questions with questions!  This is a great question because the Bible tells us that the entire ministry and message of John the Baptist was, in essence, “I am a voice heralding, a finger pointing, pointing to the Messiah, the Lord Jesus Christ.”  That was his message, so if the Jewish leaders could answer this question about John’s authority correctly, then they would have the answer to the other question, too.

Verses 5 and 6 tell us their response, “And they reasoned among themselves, saying, ‘If we say, ‘From heaven,’ He will say, ‘Why then did you not believe him?’   But if we say, ‘From men,’ all the people will stone us, for they are persuaded that John was a prophet.’”  The picture is that of a football team in the huddle, whispering among themselves, trying to come up with a game plan.  Verse 7 tells us, “So they answered that they did not know where it was from.”  We may counter that they knew where John’s authority was from, they just did not want to believe.  In any case, verse 8 says, “And Jesus said to them, ‘Neither will I tell you by what authority I do these things.’”

Facing their hostility and exposing their ignorance Jesus is like, “Well, since you could not answer that question and you are all just standing around looking at one another, let Me tell you a parable that may help you out a little,” and then we have a parable in verses 9-19 as we come to the second main heading for our consideration today.

Secondly:

 II.  Consider The Abandonment And Rejection Of Christ.

Verse 9 tells us, “Then He began to tell the people this parable: “A certain man planted a vineyard, leased it to vinedressers, and went into a far country for a long time.”

This is the last parable recorded in Luke’s Gospel, a parable that is found in all 3 synoptic Gospels – Matthew, Mark, and Luke. This parable is like a short history of Israel, the history of Israel in a nutshell.  The parable describes God’s sending of prophets throughout the Old Testament period to turn the hearts of the people back to faithfulness to the One True God and how the rebellious people of Israel continually punished the prophets and, in the main, rejected their message.

Verse 9 describes Israel as a vineyard.  The vineyard symbolizes Israel’s blessings of being the chosen, privileged people of God (Isaiah 5:1-7; 27:2; Jeremiah 2:21; Ezekiel 19:10-14; Hosea 10:1-4; Psalm 80:8-13).  The vineyard is “leased to vinedressers” (or stewards of the vineyard), this would be the Jewish people in the main, but largely the religious leaders.  Then we read that the “certain man” … “went into a far country for a far time,” which means that God the Father entrusted the Jewish people and leaders with the blessings of being God’s chosen people, and that He blessed them with this special privilege for many, many years.

Verse 10 says, “Now at vintage-time he sent a servant to the vinedressers, that they might give him some of the fruit of the vineyard. But the vinedressers beat him and sent him away empty-handed.”  The servant represents the Old Testament prophets.  The beating symbolizes Israel’s abuse of the Old Testament prophets.

Verse 11 and 12 tell us, “Again he sent another servant; and they beat him also, treated him shamefully, and sent him away empty-handed.  And again he sent a third; and they wounded him also and cast him out.”  We see that this parable pictures the way the people of God mistreated God’s messengers: beating them, casting them out, and ignoring their message.  Certain prophets come to mind from our reading through the Old Testament:

  • The people wanted to stone David back in 1 Samuel 30:6.
  • They stoned Adoram in 1 Kings 12:18
  • Naboth was stoned to death in 1 Kings 21:13
  • Zechariah was stoned to death in Jerusalem in 2 Chronicles 24:21
  • John the Baptist, also a prophet of God, was beheaded in Matthew 14;1-12.
  • The writer of Hebrews summarizes the abuse of the Old Testament prophets in Hebrews 11:37-38. 

The rejection of God’s prophets continues in large measure even today.  In one sense we could say that God sends one prophet after another after another and yet, in the main, their message is rejected.  Preachers come and preachers go, preaching the eternal truths of the Gospel and yet, society remains woefully unchanged.  Churches remain – at least in current Western culture – largely unchanged.

Jesus says in verse 13, “Then the owner of the vineyard said, ‘What shall I do? I will send my beloved son. Probably they will respect him when they see him.’”  The phrase, “My beloved Son” recalls the words spoken by the Father to Jesus at His baptism (Luke 3:22; cf. Matt. 3:17) and identifies Jesus Christ as providentially sent by God the Father to proclaim the Gospel of the Kingdom to Israel, yet they rejected Him (John 1:9-11).

In a sense Jesus is saying, “Here is my authority.  I am not all these other prophets.  I am like them in one sense: I am a prophet, but I am unlike them in another sense: I am THE prophet (Deuteronomy 18:15), I am the LAST prophet, I am the Son of God.”  The Jewish leaders had rejected and abandoned one prophet after another.  They refused to listen to one prophet after another after another.  Now here comes Jesus saying, “You asked about My authority earlier.  Do you see how I am unlike these previous prophets?   I am the beloved Son of God.”

Incidentally, this parable reminds us why people are comfortable with your Christian faith so long as you will go along with the ecumenical spirit of the so-called “interfaith community,” everyone just trying to improve their moral condition and improve the world situation – “Let’s all join hands and pray to our Higher Power, you pray to yours and I’ll pray to mine.”  But should you respectfully raise your hand and say, “But I believe Jesus Christ is the only way, He is the beloved Son of God,” and it’s “Game Over.”  Now you are branded an intolerant, fundamentalist, troublemaker.

It is the same reason Islam is comfortable with your Christianity so long as you think of Jesus merely as an Old Testament prophet.  They are fine with Jesus as a prophet.  They are NOT fine with Jesus’ being the beloved Son of God and LAST prophet.  You cannot say Jesus is the last prophet.  Oh, no!  Muslims believe Mohammad – who came 650 years later – is the last prophet, and the implication is, “So he is much more important!”  Without going into all of the inaccuracies of that statement and the historical problems of Islam and biblical inconsistencies ad infinitum, this parable of Jesus hits the target, doesn’t it?

Writing of the Jesus Christ, the beloved Son of God, the writer of Hebrews says in his opening words, Hebrews 1:1-2. “God, who at various times and in various ways spoke in time past to the fathers by the prophets, has in these last days spoken to us by His Son.”  Jesus Christ is the last prophet.  He is the last prophet because He is more than a prophet.  Jesus Christ is the beloved Son of God.  But what do the vinedressers do to the owner’s son, the beloved son?  Verse 14 tells us, “But when the vinedressers saw him, they reasoned among themselves, saying, “This is the heir. Come, let us kill him, that the inheritance may be ours.  So they cast him out of the vineyard and killed him.”

It is important to go from the parable to the truth being illustrated.  What do the vinedressers – the Jewish religious leaders – do with Jesus, the beloved Son?  They “cast him out of the vineyard and killed him.”  He is condemned in Jerusalem and cast out of the city and crucified on a hill at Golgotha.  Verses 15 and 16 state, “So they cast him out of the vineyard and killed him.  Therefore what will the owner of the vineyard do to them?  He will come and destroy those vinedressers and give the vineyard to others.”  And when they heard it they said, ‘Certainly not!’”

The common people heard Jesus gladly (Mark 12:37), the Jews who believed in Christ and received the Gospel were shocked to hear that the privileged position of stewardship of the things of God would be taken away and given to others and that the vinedressers would be destroyed.  This is why they gasp at the end of verse 16, “Certainly not!”  But of course, this is exactly what would happen.  That the owner would “destroy the vinedressers” picks up on what Jesus had said previously about the destruction of Jerusalem back in Luke 19:43-44, the destruction of the temple fulfilled in AD 70 by Roman Emperor Titus.  The vineyard, then, is given to others, the vineyard of the “Kingdom of God” is now offered to the Gentiles.  You may read about this in greater detail in Acts 13:44-47.

 But this casting out of the beloved Son and judgment of God upon Israel in AD 70 finds a fuller sense of fulfillment at the final judgment.  Verse 17declares, “Then He looked at them and said, ‘What then is this that is written: ‘The stone which the builders rejected Has become the chief cornerstone?’”  The builders here are Israel’s leaders and they continually reject this stone because they do not even know what they are building!  And the rejected stone, the beloved Son of God, becomes the chief cornerstone, the Head of the church (Psalm 118:22; also Acts 4:11 and 1 Pet. 2:7). 

Verse 18 says, “Whoever falls on that stone will be broken; but on whomever it falls, it will grind him to powder.”  The phrase in verse 18, “Whoever falls on that stone” (Isaiah 8:14–15;1 Peter 2:8) means everyone who stumbles at this stone, rejecting Jesus Christ as Messiah and King.  Whoever falls on that stone will be broken.  And the phrase, “On whomever it falls” refers to Christ’s coming again, coming back in judgment.  He will come again and fall on those who reject Him, grinding him to powder.  That is certain judgment.

Now if there is any question about the interpretation of the parable in the way we have interpreted it, make no mistake: the Jewish leaders interpreted it the same way as the final verse indicates.  Verse 19 states, “And the chief priests and the scribes that very hour sought to lay hands on Him, but they feared the people – for they knew He had spoken this parable against them.”  This verse shows us that the religious leaders “knew He had spoken this parable against them.”  I i’s fascinating, isn’t it?  They knew Jesus had spoken this parable against them, yet they refused to repent.

I often pray before I preach or teach, “Show us our sin, show us ourselves, and show us our Savior.”  Can you back up a few steps, backing away from the chief priests and the scribes and ask yourself, “Have I repented?  Am I submitting to the rule and reign of King Jesus?  Do I bow before His authority?”

 Here are a few take-home principles for you to ponder and live by this week . . .

  1. We Will Be Held Accountable For Having Heard The Preaching And Teaching Of The Word Of God.

Prophet after prophet after prophet was sent to the people of God to proclaim His message.  One messenger after another, down through the ages, each one coming to preach the message given by God.  The fact that God judges those for what they have heard is a stark reminder to us that God expects us to follow through with the preaching and teaching we receive every time we come together as the church to worship.

In one sense, going to a Bible teaching church is a dangerous endeavor.  In a Word-saturated church every time you hear the Word, God expects you and me to align ourselves under its teaching.  This is a clear principle surfacing from the parable.  God will hold accountable those who have heard the message of the prophets, the preachers, the teachers of the Word.  Secondly:

2) God’s Love Is Illustrated In His Patience.

The loving character of God is seen in this parable – a God who is willing to delay His judgment upon a people who deserved judgment ages ago.  Despite the ill-mannered treatment of His prophets, God just continues sending one prophet after another.  Why? The Bible reminds us in 2 Peter 3:9, the Lord “is long-suffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance.”

 God is a loving God and a patient God.  However, this leads to principle 3 . . .

 3) We Must Not Mistake God’s Patience For Indifference.

God will judge.  God will execute His wrath.  God will demonstrate His anger upon a people who are rebellious of heart.  If that sounds unusual to you, just imagine a human analogy.  Imagine having a friend who never got angry at anything.  You say at first, “Well, that sounds like quite a friend.  I’d like a friend like that!”  Here is what I mean: he never gets angry at anything.  He is never angry when he turns on the TV and watches a documentary about social injustice across the world, atrocities in Sudan, killings in Afghanistan, the senseless tragedies and sudden deaths that happen to people in automobile accidents or the collapsing of a building that kills thousands of people.  Your friend just smiles and says, “Oh, that is terrible, but that is life!”  What kind of a friend is that who knows nothing of injustice and whose heart is cold to the incongruities of peace, war, hunger, famine, freedom, and oppression, a friend who winks at sin.

Thankfully our God is not that way.  He is a loving God, a patient God, but we must not mistake God’s patience for indifference.  In the mysterious workings of His grace, providence, sovereignty, and our freedom, God has demonstrated His righteous wrath by imputing all of the sin and injustices of a fallen world upon His own beloved Son on Calvary’s cross.  God has made a way for sinful humanity to be saved from future judgment.  We need only receive Christ.  Will we receive Him or reject Him? 

This leads to the final principle . . .

4) Ultimate Rejection Of Christ Means Ultimate Separation From Christ.

If you reject Christ as Lord and King of your life today, casting him aside like a stone that just does not work for you right now in the building of your life, then know you will be separated from Him forever and ever.  The Bible says in Paul 2 Thessalonians 1:7-9,  “… When the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven with His mighty angels, in flaming fire taking vengeance on those who do not know God, and on those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ.  These shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of His power.”

Ultimate rejection of Christ means ultimate separation from Christ.

This is God’s Word …

This is Grace for your Journey …

Rest and Rejoice in this eternal truth!

Pastor Terry

Ephesians 4:7 – “But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it.”

Hebrews 4:16 – “Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”