Regarding the authorship and date of Luke-Acts, see “Introduction to Acts.”
Unique features of Luke’s gospel
Luke is the only gospel with a sequel.
Luke is the longest gospel. While Luke only has 24 chapters, it has the most amount of verses. Mark contains 678 verses, John contains 869 verses; Matthew contain 1071 verses; but Luke has the most verses at 1151.
Luke connects the life of Jesus with the birth of the early Church. It answers the question of how Jesus could be the Jewish Messiah, when many Jewish people rejected him.
There are forty-three references to women in Luke’s Gospel.
In chapters 9-19, 30% of the material is unique to Luke.
Luke 1:1-25 (John the Baptist)
(1:1) Leifeld writes, “The introduction to Luke is a long, carefully constructed sentence in the tradition of the finest historical works in Greek literature… The classical literary style of the preface contrasts with the remainder of the Gospel, in which Semitisms abound.”
Paul probably wanted this information to be orderly. He had only originally spent two weeks with the apostles (Gal. 1:19).
(1:2) He is probably thinking of the apostles, when he refers to the “eyewitnesses.”
(1:3) Luke gives more detail and coverage than any of the other gospels. His gospel is the longest. The book of Acts is the sequel to this book, where he also mentions Theophilus (Acts 1:1).
“Orderly” doesn’t necessarily mean chronological: “We cannot determine from this preface alone whether Luke is referring to a chronological or to a thematic order. He does not specifically claim to have aimed at chronological sequence.” It makes sense thematically and geographically.
(1:4) Who was Theophilus? While we don’t know for sure, he was probably a Gentile, judging from his name. He may have been asking himself, “What am I as a Gentile doing in a Jewish movement?” Luke wants to assure Theophilus of his new faith. Leifeld writes, “Theophilus was, however, a proper name, and ‘most excellent’ naturally suggests an actual person of some distinction. He may have been Luke’s literary patron or publisher, after the custom of the times.”
(1:5) Luke compares John the Baptist with Jesus in order to show that Jesus is not just another prophet. Luke sets the scene coming straight out of the OT. Zacharias and Elizabeth were both from the priestly line.
(1:6-7) We see the repeated theme of God moving through barrenness in the OT.
(1:8-9) Zacharias would go up to the Temple to minister twice a year for a week. He would help with the incense of the Temple—a privilege mentioned in the Jewish book of the Mishnah. Lots were cast to get this honor. It was a unique day. He was one out of 18,000 men to have this honor. Leifeld writes, “Each of the twenty-four divisions served in the temple for one week, twice a year, as well as at the major festivals. An individual priest however, could offer the incense at the daily sacrifice only once in his lifetime (v. 9), since there were so many priests. Therefore this was the climactic moment of Zechariah’s priestly career, perhaps the most dramatic.”
(1:10) A huge multitude (18,000 people?) stood outside the Temple. This would be like getting the honor to light the torch at the Olympics: everyone would be excited in anticipation.
Zacharias was having a good day, but little did he know, this would be the defining day of his entire life.
Zacharias had been serving God through the Temple, but now God wants to take him to the next level.
(1:11-12) Zacharias would be so excited for this honor, though I doubt he would’ve expected for an angel to show up at the altar. Imagine being so excited to light the incense, and then you look over, and an angel is standing there!
(1:12) Apparently, this caused him to jump in his shoes.
(1:13) The angel announces that God would give Zacharias and Elizabeth a son: John the Baptist. What was Zacharias’ petition? It was probably for a child, but God gives more than he could even imagine (Eph. 3:20). Zacharias asked for a Toyota Corolla, and he got a Porsche instead.
(1:15) John the Baptist is “great in the sight of the Lord.” Jesus is described as simply “great” (v.32). Period. John recognized that Jesus was greater than him (Lk. 3:16).
This miraculous child will fit into the pattern of Samson’s birth (Judg. 13:7) and Samuel (1 Sam. 1:15).
(1:16-17) He wasn’t Elijah, but he was coming in the “spirit and power” of Elijah.
(1:18) What was so wrong with Zacharias’ question? Well, don’t forget that he was talking to an angel! In fact, this is how Gabriel answers him (v.19). He says, “Dude! I’m a freakin’ angel! I stand in the presence of God!”
(1:20) Compare Zacharias and Mary’s reaction. He wanted a sign (Lk. 11:29). Gabriel was angry with him, because he did not “believe” his words.
(1:22) This is where we got the game of “Charades” from… just kidding!
(1:23-25) God wanted to move Zacharias into a new and major role in his plan; yet Zacharias wanted to remain in his comfortable and familiar service for God. He was an older man, and he might’ve been content to stay in a comfortable relationship with God.
Luke 1:26-38 (The birth of Christ)
In this section, we see Mary’s attitude of faith to follow God—even in difficult circumstances.
We need to address the question of whether the virgin birth was derived from Paganism. For one, Luke wrote his gospel to Gentiles, and he never cites Isaiah 7:14 to support this view.
(1:26) Nazareth was a small town (Jn. 1:46).
(1:27) Leifeld writes, “Since betrothal often took place soon after puberty, Mary may have just entered her teens. This relationship was legally binding, but intercourse was not permitted until marriage. Only divorce or death could sever betrothal; and in the latter event the girl, though unmarried, would be considered a widow.”
Betrothal (or engagement) was much more serious in this time, than it is today. Morris writes, “Mary was betrothed, a state much more binding among the Jews of that day than is an engagement with us. It was a solemn undertaking to marry, so that divorce was necessary to break it.” Bock writes, “At this point the bride legally became the groom’s and could be called his wife. About a year later the actual marriage followed, and the husband took his wife home. In the first century betrothal could take place starting at the age of twelve.”
(1:29) Mary was just an ordinary woman. She must have been thinking, “Why would God send an angel to speak with little-old-me?” God never seems to break into our lives when we expect it. He also seems to enjoy reaching ordinary and average people in order to produce eternal ramifications (1 Cor. 1:26-29).
(1:30) It isn’t that Mary was “full of grace.” The Greek states that she found grace from God. The term heures means “to come upon something either through purposeful search or accidentally, find” (BDAG).
(1:34) Mary isn’t punished for asking God a question.
(1:36) To answer Mary’s honest question, Gabriel gives Mary evidence of God’s power. He tells her that her relative Elizabeth (an elderly woman beyond child-bearing years) is already six months pregnant.
(1:37) He concludes his response by noting that God is all-powerful.
Mary has been confronted by God with his will. How will she respond?
“What will I say to Joseph?” As it turned out, Joseph did not initially respond well to the news. Matthew tells us that he was thinking of divorcing her (Mt. 1:19).
“What will I say to my parents?” This would be hard for a girl today, let alone back then.
“What will the neighbors think?” Jesus was later persecuted for this (Jn. 8:41).
“I could be prosecuted!” The Jewish law stated that adultery was grounds for capital punishment (Deut. 22:23).
“I’m not ready for this!”
“Find someone else!”
She could have simply refused, harbored bitterness with God, or passive compliance. Instead, God wants a positive decision. She could have urged Joseph to bump up the wedding and sleep with him (like Abraham with Hagar). This would’ve been legalism—using moral self-effort to get to God’s goals. Instead, God wants us to trust him to produce the miracle.
(1:38) Instead, Mary made herself available to God. She later had to watch her son tortured and killed.
Consider the story of another Christian: Demas. Apparently, Demas had been in Paul’s small group (Col. 4:14; Phile. 24). Yet at the end of his life, Paul said, “Demas, having loved this present world, has deserted me and gone to Thessalonica” (2 Tim. 4:10).
We are free to follow God’s will, or to deny it.
Following God’s will is risky and costly, but it’s worth it.
God doesn’t always speak to us through an angel, but God still does speak. Maybe he’s speaking to you tonight. Will you have the reaction that Mary had? Or will you resist Him?
Both Zacharias and Mary were afraid about following God’s will into this difficult arena, but Mary exercised faith and Zacharias didn’t. Mary had more excuses than Zacharias, but still chose to follow God’s will despite this.
Luke 1:39-80 (Two important babies: John and Jesus)
(1:39-40) Mary rushes back to talk with Elizabeth. She had just heard that Elizabeth was pregnant, and she probably wanted to see it for herself.
(1:41-45) When Elizabeth heard Mary, the baby leaped in her womb, she was filled with the Holy Spirit, and she realized that Mary would carry a child.
Imagine what this would feel like to be these two women. No one else knows what they know about God’s plan. Imagine having God bless both of you, and you’re both in the same family.
(1:46-55) Mary bursts into a wonderful prayer and worship of God. She may have been ruminating over God’s work in Hannah’s life in 1 Samuel 2, as she made her four day trek to Judah to see her family.
(1:56) Mary stayed through her first trimester, and then returned home. She would’ve been coming home to Joseph with a little “bump” in her stomach. I wonder if the neighbors would’ve been questioning her, where she’d been, and why she was now pregnant.
(1:57-58) The neighbors gathered around Elizabeth to celebrate her pregnancy and the birth of John the Baptist.
(1:59-64) It was custom to name a male heir after the father or someone in the family line. Yet they decide to call him John. When Zacharias agrees with God on this, he regains his voice.
(1:62) They “made signs” to Zacharias, who must have been thinking, “I’m mute, not deaf.”
(1:65-66) The entire community started wondering what John would grow up to be.
(1:67-79) Zacharias praises God for his miraculous work in his life and in the nation of Israel.
(1:80) This verse leaves us with a cliffhanger. What will his appearance be like? What will he do? How does he relate to the other child of Mary’s?
John probably didn’t have his aged parents for very long to raise him.
Luke 2:1-24 (Birth of Christ)
The story of Jesus’ birth is so familiar to us that we often lose the meaning.
(2:1) Augustus (“the revered one”) was Julius Caesar’s nephew, who died in AD 14. Because of the pax romana, many Romans considered Caesar Augustus to be a “savior” of the human race.
Consider the Priene Inscription—an inscription about Caesar Augustus—which dates to 9 BC:
“Since Providence, which has ordered all things and is deeply interested in our life, has set in most perfect order by giving us Augustus, whom she filled with virtue that he might benefit humankind, sending him as a savior [sôtêr], both for us and for our descendants, that he might end war and arrange all things, and since he, Caesar, by his appearance [phanein] (excelled even our anticipations), surpassing all previous benefactors, and not even leaving to posterity any hope of surpassing what he has done, and since the birthday of the god Augustus was the beginning of the good tidings for the world that came by reason of him [êrxen de tôi kosmôi tôn di auton euangeliôn hê genethlios tou theou],’ which Asia resolved in Smyrna…”
Luke records that Caesar made a decree; yet the true Savior and true King was providentially coming into the world.
Critics argue that Luke invented this census, so that Jesus would be able to fulfill the prophecy of Micah 5:2 (“But as for you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, too little to be among the clans of Judah, from you One will go forth for Me to be ruler in Israel. His goings forth are from long ago, from the days of eternity”). Yet this criticism is unwarranted for an obvious reasons: Luke mentions the census, but never mentions the prophecy! If he was inventing the census to make sense of the prophecy, then he would’ve at least cited it. Instead, Matthew cites the prophecy, but doesn’t cite the census (Mt. 2:6).
(2:6) If you’ve read your OT up until this point, you’d be anticipating a powerful entrance for the Messiah! Where was the birth of the Son of God—the Savior and King of humanity?
(2:7) Jesus was in his own town: the “city of Bethlehem” (v.4). Yet, even though he was the King in his kingdom of Bethlehem, he was born in the barn “because there was no room for them in the inn.”
HUMOR: When I was growing up, I would leave the door open and let the heat out of the house. My dad would say, “Close the door! Were you born in a barn?” If you had asked Jesus this question, he would’ve said, “Yeah…”
Leifeld writes, “It may have been a cave, as tradition suggests, or some part of a house or inn. Even today in many places around the world farm animals and their fodder are often kept in the same building as the family quarters.” Justin Martyr tells of a tradition that Jesus was born in a cave (Dialogue with Trypho, 78).
Imagine the people in the inn that night. They carried on eating, drinking, laughing, and sleeping, while the Son of God was outside entering the world. Is this a subtle metaphor for humanity? While we are focusing on the decrees of the powerful players of humanity (Lk. 2:1) and carry on in life (Lk. 2:7), God’s will is unfolding unnoticed.
He was placed in a “manger” (phatne), which is a “feeding trough” (see NASB footnote). Paul writes, “For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though He was rich, yet for your sake He became poor, so that you through His poverty might become rich” (2 Cor. 8:9).
The incarnation of Christ is mysterious (see “Defending the Deity of Christ”). Paul writes, “By common confession, great is the mystery of godliness: He who was revealed in the flesh” (1 Tim. 3:16).
(2:8-14) An angel appears to some shepherds nearby. The angel announces the birth of Christ. Specifically, the angel called him three titles: (1) Savior, (2) Christ, and (3) Lord.
(2:15-16) The shepherds decide to look into the birth of the Messiah. They showed “urgency” in seeking him.
(2:17-18) Why did God send shepherds to fill in the information about Jesus being the Messiah? Why didn’t he send someone else? Morris writes, “As a class shepherds had a bad reputation. The nature of their calling kept them from observing the ceremonial law which meant so much to religious people. More regrettable was their unfortunate habit of confusing ‘mine’ with ‘thine’ as they moved about the country. They were considered unreliable and were not allowed to give testimony in the law-courts (Talmud, Sanhedrin 25b).”
Shepherds were strange people. No one wanted to be a shepherd. This wasn’t the job that you would try to gain; it was the job you got stuck with.
(2:19-20) While everyone was out exclaiming with joy, Mary was sitting back, reflecting on what she had heard. Like the reader, Mary was trying to figure out everything that was happening.
(2:21) As a good Jewish boy born “under the Law” (Gal. 4:4), Jesus was circumcised on the eighth day.
(2:22-24) The parents paid to offer the firstborn to the Lord (Num. 18:15ff). Because this couple was poor, they offered two turtledoves instead of (Lev. 5:11; 12:6-13).
Luke 2:25-38 (Simeon and Anna)
(2:25-32) Simeon was an old man who was following God. It doesn’t say that he’s a priest, but he turns out to be a prophet. God directed him to show up to the Temple (v.27), and God had revealed that he would not die until he met the Messiah (v.26).
(2:30) To look at Jesus is to look at God’s salvation. They are one and the same.
(2:33) Joseph and Mary were “amazed” at these things. It isn’t that Mary had amnesia from the earlier announcements. Instead, she’s amazed that another prophecy was occurring.
(2:34-40) Anna—an 84 year old prophetess—also shows up to praise Jesus. Jesus continued to grow in his humanity.
Luke 2:41-52 (Teenage Jesus)
(2:41) The parents made the annual trip to Jerusalem. Morris writes, “All male Jews were required to attend at the temple three times in the year, at Passover, Pentecost and Tabernacles (Exod. 23:14–17).”
(2:42) Twelve years pass, and Jesus is a preteen. This portion of Luke only exists in this gospel, giving a brief window into Jesus’ childhood.
(2:43-44) How did they lose their son? For one, Jesus was older at this point. At age 12, boys could be betrothed, so kids grew up quicker back then. Also, Joseph and Mary travelled in a “caravan” (v.44). Most likely, they had a large group of their family to travel with, and Jesus must have gotten lost in the mix.
(2:45) They returned back to find Jesus—probably in a state of panic. This was before cell phones, children services, etc. There were several hundred thousand people in Jerusalem, and they need to find just one of them: their son.
(2:46) It took them three days to find him!
(2:49) Jesus assumed that his parents would know that he would be in the Temple.
(2:50) They were wondering, “What does he mean by ‘My Father?’”
(2:51-52) We might think that Jesus was being impertinent by leaving his parents. Yet Luke records that he continued to subject himself to their leadership. Could you really be angry with your kid if he ran away in order to read the Bible and learn from godly teachers?
Luke 3:1-22 (John the Baptist)
INTRODUCTION: After one thousand years of Israel’s history, the final prophet (Malachi) predicted the coming of the Messiah. He famously wrote, “Behold, I am going to send My messenger, and he will clear the way before Me. And the Lord, whom you seek, will suddenly come to His temple; and the messenger of the covenant, in whom you delight, behold, He is coming” (Mal. 3:1). Before this event, Malachi predicted that Elijah would return to pave the way for the Messiah: “Behold, I am going to send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and terrible day of the Lord. 6 He will restore the hearts of the fathers to their children and the hearts of the children to their fathers, so that I will not come and smite the land with a curse” (Mal. 4:5-6).
And then, God went silent!
Theologians refer to the next four centuries as “the silent years,” because there were no prophets and not even prophetic pretenders. Reflecting on this period, later Jewish rabbis wrote, “After the latter prophets Haggai, Zechariah, and Malachi had died, the Holy Spirit departed from Israel, but they still availed themselves of the bath qôl [the divine voice? The word of God?].”
The Jewish people regularly heard from prophets, even in their times of rebellion. Now they hadn’t heard from a prophet for 400 years! Imagine the anticipation! What an epic cliffhanger!
It is in this context that we discover a man, preaching a following out in the wilderness: John the Baptist.
(3:1-2) All of these figures have been attested in extra-biblical sources.
(3:3) While John was in the desert doing baptism, he apparently found areas where there was enough water to baptize: “Aenon near Salim” (Jn. 3:23).
The “sinners” were baptized at this time—not religious Jews. The Gentiles had to wash off their filth.
(3:4-6) Luke cites Isaiah 40:3-5 to show God’s prediction of John the Baptist. In the Hebrew, Isaiah 40 uses the term “Yahweh” for the “Lord.” Thus Luke is associating Jesus with “Yahweh.”
|John the Baptist|
|“He was a hairy man with a leather girdle bound about his loins” (2 Kings 1:8)||Clothes||
“John himself had a garment of camel’s hair and a leather belt around his waist; and his food was locusts and wild honey” (Mt. 3:4).
Persecuted and lived in the wilderness
|Lived in the desert||Preached from the wildnerness|
|King Ahab and his wife Jezebel||Confronted the wicked king||
They hunted him and tried to kill him
|Persecuted by the king||
Herod beheaded John. John condemned the fact that Herod had married his half-sister Herodias
(3:7) Luke references the “crowds,” but Matthew specifies the “Pharisees and Sadducees” (Mt. 3:7). This is most likely because Luke was writing to the Gentiles—not simply the Jews.
Jesus also called the Pharisees a “brood of vipers” (Mt. 23:33).
Whenever there is a major religious movement, some “join the fad.” He must’ve discerned this, and he was calling out their motives.
(3:8-9) Several keys to coming to faith in God become apparent:
(1) Inner heart change. We need to see that the root of repentance is different from the fruit of repentance. We don’t do good works to repent; we repent and good works follow.
(2) Not based on family heritage. Many believe that if they grow up in a Christian home, then they automatically become Christians.
(3) Urgency. If we don’t change our attitude toward God, we will have to pay for our own sins.
(3:10-14) Luke is the only author to include practical steps from John on how to repent. He addresses (1) people, (2) tax collectors, and (3) soldiers.
(3:15) John was so famous and influential that many believed that he was the Messiah! The Jewish and Roman historian Josephus writes, “Now some of the Jews thought that it was God who had destroyed Herod’s army, and that it was a very just punishment to avenge John, surnamed the Baptist. John had been put to death by Herod, although he was a good man, who exhorted the Jews to practice virtue, to be just one to another and pious towards God and to come together by baptism. Baptism, he taught, was acceptable to God provided that… the soul had already been purified by righteousness. Because of this suspicion on Herod’s part, John was sent in chains to the fortress of Machaerus… and there put to death.”
(3:16) John flatly denied that he was the Messiah. While John placed people into water, the Messiah would place them into the Holy Spirit (1 Cor. 6:17; 12:13) and fire (i.e. hell).
(3:17) Ancient farmers would stop the pods of grain. The shells would break (i.e. the “chaff”) and the wheat would come out (i.e. the wheat). Then the farmer would throw the wheat and the chaff into the air. The heavy pieces would fall to the ground, and the light chaff would float away with the wind. The wheat was gathered for harvest, and the chaff was burned.
(3:19-20) Herod locked up John in prison and later had him decapitated (Mt. 14). This was because John didn’t approve of Herod marrying his half-sister, Herodias.
Luke 4:1-14 (Jesus battling Satan)
This passage comes on the heels of Jesus’ ancestry back to Adam—the first human (Lk. 3:28). Where Adam failed, Jesus succeeds. Jesus also quotes from Deuteronomy 6-8, which recounts Israel’s failure in their 40 year wilderness wandering. Where Israel failed and grumbling against God for 40 years, Jesus succeeded.
Here we see that Satan attacks three essentials to God’s character: (1) the provision of God, (2) the priority of God, and (3) the protection of God.
We get a window into the spiritual realm, whereby there is a spiritual battle behind the scenes.
(4:1-2) What was Jesus doing wandering around in the desert for 40 days? Also, why was the Holy Spirit leading him there?
Even though Jesus was physically empty (“hungry”), he was spiritually full (“filled with the Spirit”).
“Devil” (diabolos) literally means “slanderer.” We see him slandering and distorting the character of God and the word of God.
(4:3) First, Satan first attacks the PROVISION of God. It would have been easy for Jesus to conclude that his needs were legitimate: Is it wrong to want food?
He remembers that the Holy Spirit led him out into the desert. If God wanted him to eat, then he would provide.
The reference to bread reminds us of the provision of manna in the wilderness. The Jewish people grumbled against God for better food. Jesus thinks of this event, and rebuts Satan’s claim from Scripture.
Jesus didn’t want to do anything himself: “I say to you, the Son can do nothing of Himself, unless it is something He sees the Father doing” (Jn. 5:19). He also said, “I do nothing on My own initiative, but I speak these things as the Father taught Me” (Jn. 8:28).
(4:4) Jesus refutes this claim by quoting Deuteronomy 8:3. In a sense, he argues that our spiritual provision trumps our material provision.
Jesus cites Deuteronomy 8:3, 6:16, 6:13.Why does Jesus cite these OT passages? (see comments on Matthew 4:4-10)
DISCUSSION: What do we gain by waiting on God’s provision?
(4:5) Matthew records that this event occurred on the top of a “high mountain” (Mt. 4:8).
(4:6-7) Second, Satan next attacks the PRIORITY of God. Bock writes, “As Satan makes the offer in verse 6, he places you (soi) in the emphatic position as if to say, ‘Look what can be yours!’”
This probably felt tempting because it was a half-truth: As the Messiah, he would rightfully rule the world. It’s sometimes easy to justify an ungodly method to achieve God’s goals. Yet Morris comments, “It is not difficult to see how such a vision might be regarded as a legitimate aim. It would mean government concerned only with the genuine welfare of the people and the way would be opened for much good. But it meant compromise. It meant using the world’s methods. It meant casting out devils by Beelzebub. For Jesus it meant turning his back on his calling. His kingdom was of a very different kind (John 18:36f.). He had already identified himself with the sinners he had come to save (3:21). That meant the lowly path, not that of earthly glory. It meant a cross, not a crown. To look for earthly sovereignty was to worship wickedness and Jesus decisively renounced it.”
As goal oriented people, it’s easy to feel tempted by this.
(4:8) He cites Deuteronomy 6:13.
DISCUSSION: How might a Christian use this method of “the ends justify the means” in regards to doing Christian work?
(4:9) Third, Satan attacks the PROTECTION of God.
Satan is limited in his power. He cannot throw Jesus from the safety of the pinnacle. He merely suggests Jesus to throw himself.
Some rabbis believed that the Messiah would appear on the top of the Temple.
The peak of the Temple was probably the royal porch. Bock writes, “The exact location at the temple is uncertain; two locales are possible. Some suggest the high temple gate, but more likely is the ‘royal porch’ on the temple’s southeast corner, since it loomed over a cliff and the Kidron Valley, some 450 feet below (Josephus Antiquities 15.11.5 §§410–12).”
Since Jesus is so set on quoting Scripture, Satan quotes Scripture from memory.
(4:10) Satan carefully omits a portion of Psalm 91:11.
(4:12) He cites Deuteronomy 6:16.
DISCUSSION: How might a Christian use this method of inappropriately banking on God’s protection to justify their own way of life?
(4:14) Jesus is full of the Holy Spirit.
DISCUSSION: What do we learn about Satan’s strategies from this passage?
What does Satan get out of this temptation? He wants to show that everyone else is really just faking God’s way, but they’re really out for selfish gain, like him.
Satan can quote Scripture from memory.
Satan uses half-truths in these examples.
Satan can bring a proof text to mind in order to completely justify our direction.
DISCUSSION: What do we learn about Jesus from this passage?
Would Jesus utilize his own power, or depend on the power of the Holy Spirit? Likewise, will we operate out of the flesh (our own resources) or out of the Spirit?
We need to learn to depend on God to meet our needs.
God will bring us into times of testing and even pain.
Jesus didn’t depend on his own resources, but God’s word.
Luke 5:1-11 (Becoming a fisher of men)
This passage explain how Jesus called his disciples.
(5:1) This is another term for the sea of Galilee.
(5:3) Jesus most likely talked from the boat to have an amphitheater effect.
(5:5) The fish in the sea of Galilee would feed at night. Here we’re in the middle of the day, and they took in a huge catch (v.7).
(5:7) The fishing boats were extremely tiny.
(5:8) It’s scary to come into God’s presence (cf. Isa. 6:1ff).
Peter had heard of Jesus before, but this one is up close and personal! He doesn’t know exactly who Jesus is.
(5:10) Christ calls Peter, James, and John as a unit. These men were business partners and friends, and Jesus called them together.
(5:11) These boats were probably handmade and pretty expensive. They also must have left the big catch of fish. Of course, Jesus had been in this area for a while, so they must have seen him before.
Do you think these three regret leaving their boat and fish behind?
Based on verse 8: Isn’t this sort of a strange reaction? Why do you think Peter would have this reaction in meeting God?
Based on verse 10: Why does Jesus compare evangelism with fishing? In what ways is sharing our faith similar to fishing? In what ways is it different?
Based on verse 10: Do you think it’s intolerant to share your faith with other people?
Luke 5:12-32 (Reaching the marginalized of society)
(5:12) Lepers were considered freaks of nature. Hansen’s disease is fatal, and people were paranoid of being infected. The ancient Jews would quarantine lepers. Even today in Africa and India, we still see leper colonies.
This leper knew that God had the power to heal him, but was he willing.
(5:13) The term for “touched” is really better translated “grasped.” In Jesus’ thought, there are no untouchable people.
(5:14) Why does Jesus send him to the priests? In Leviticus 14:2, the priests would judge if the person was really changed (maybe from having psoriasis or eczema).
(5:15-16) In ministry, we often feel the pressure of the work, and can’t stop to pray and read the word, because we’re “too busy.” This is having more of a messianic complex than Jesus! Christ felt the need to access God’s power and direction.
(5:20) Why does he forgive the man’s sins? He was paralyzed.
(5:21) They throw the gauntlet, asking him about his divine identity.
(5:22-26) These first-century Jews believed that people were punished with sickness for their sin, or maybe their parents’ sins (cf. Jn. 9:1-3; Lk. 13:1-5). According to ancient rabbinic teaching, sin was a result of divine retribution. Jesus meets them on their own terms. If sin was divine retribution, then healing could only be because of divine healing and forgiveness.
(5:27) We might not like taxes today, but these are at least for a purpose. In this day, the taxes were purely evil. The Jews were in foreign occupation under a tyrannical empire. These taxes were not for any government aid, roads, etc. These were given back to the Roman Empire to build more weapons, soldiers, etc.
Taxes collectors would bid to collect more and more taxes for each province. They would claim that they could collect more money for each province. Armed guards would protect these people to collect taxes. There was no court of appeals to protect the people from being overtaxed. Jewish society fought back by ostracizing tax collectors (e.g. tax collectors couldn’t testify in court; their money was considered unclean). The Romans and Jews didn’t like the tax collectors, because the Romans viewed them as traitors too. Most rabbis taught they had passed the point of repentance and forgiveness. Complete ostracizing.
No one would take this job, unless they were already a low-life, criminal, or loser.
Matthew (his Greek name) was also called Levi (his Jewish name). Jesus hires this lowlife to be one of his twelve disciples! It’s hard to compare this to someone today. It would be like Billy Graham hiring a man from a Colombian drug cartel.
(5:28-29) Matthew threw a big party, invited a lot of lowlifes. Isn’t it interesting that they were thinking about this party and who to invite, and they thought of inviting… Jesus!
(5:30-32) The Pharisees (“the separated ones”) held that they should be separated from culture, much like fortress theology today. Jesus felt that these people were far from God because they couldn’t admit their own sin; in fact, the tax collectors would come to God first (Mt. 21:31). In this account, the only people that weren’t healed or called were… the Pharisees!
Wine and wineskins
(5:33) They started comparing his ministry with John the Baptist and the Pharisees.
(5:34-35) These religious leaders were creating practices (e.g. rampant fasting) by human authority—even though God never taught this (see comments on Matthew 6:16-19).
(5:36-37) When these old wineskins expanded, they would tear. These old creaky wineskins were spilling the wine, and Jesus’ point was that these old wineskins need to be replaced.
Old wine: This refers to the old covenant under Moses.
Old wineskin: Rabbinic teaching served as the human embodiment of the covenant.
New wineskin: This refers to the new covenant.
New wineskin: We don’t know what this is yet. When the new covenant arrives, we will have
Jesus’ point here is that he isn’t trying to give the old wineskins a tune-up. Jesus isn’t a revisionist, but a revolutionary!
EXAMPLE #1: Eating on the Sabbath
(6:1-2) They were allowed to take some grain and eat it like this (Deut. 23:25). But the Pharisees were upset that they were “harvesting” on the Sabbath. The Pharisees had declared 39 types of work that were illegal on the Sabbath. These wineskins were elaborations on the Law, and Jesus is refuting it.
(6:3-4) This event occurred in 1 Samuel 21. David’s men were starving, but he violated the ceremonial law. Jesus defended David for doing this (Mt. 12:7). Mercy is more important than ritual sacrifices (see “Prioritized Ethics”).
EXAMPLE #2: Healing on the Sabbath
(6:6-7) This guy had a serious problem. In this day, he was practically unable to get a job. This is a crying need in front of Jesus. These teachers were more concerned about the wineskins (the extra laws), than they were about helping this poor man. What do these rabbinic wineskins communicate about God’s character?
Mark states that God created the Sabbath for humans—not for himself (Mk. 2:27). God created it as a humanitarian law so that people wouldn’t work themselves to death.
(6:11) These religious teachers couldn’t stand this. Religious legalism collides with the person of Christ.
We need to think of our wineskins in a number of ways:
Our language. Repent, getting saved, sanctification, holiness, ordination, worship, and church. All of these words have lost meaning in our culture.
Music. When we create a musical subculture, 99% of people we talk to don’t listen to music like this. Singing hymns from the 1800’s, organs, choirs. Why would create music like this for people to listen to? This isn’t from Scripture, so why are we pushing for this.
Dress. Wearing robes or vestments. None of this is from the new covenant.
Architecture. Having cathedrals, stained glass, pews, altars, pulpits, or steeples. Why should churches look different from other buildings? Why choose these wineskins? They aren’t biblical, and they aren’t helpful.
Meeting times. Why do we need to meet on Sunday morning?
Taboos and rules. We can’t do Halloween, go into a bar, dance, rock concerts, cinema, and alcohol.
How big of a problem are these wineskins? It’s a huge problem considering the fact that people are grossed out by Christianity because of these wineskins. The criterion for a good wineskin is if it is flexible enough to not spill the wine. We cannot change the wine (i.e. the unchanging truths of Scripture), but we should periodically review the wineskins (i.e. the methods we use transmit God’s truth).
Luke 6:17 (Sermon on the Plain)
The context for Jesus’ lecture (“The Sermon on the Plain”) was that the Pharisees “were filled with rage, and discussed together what they might do to Jesus” (Lk. 6:11).
(6:17) These cities (Tyre, Sidon, Jerusalem, etc.) were 60-80 miles away. Thousands were coming to here to learn from Christ.
This is a different teaching from the Sermon on the Mount (Mt. 5-7). This is on a plain (“stood on a level place”)—not a mountain. It doesn’t fit with the same chronology. It also contains different material.
(6:18-19) Jesus could apparently feel God’s power go out of him when he healed him.
(6:20) Our interpretation should focus on the fact that Jesus was speaking to “His disciples.”
(6:23) When everyone is happy with us, it’s possible that we’re compromising our principles.
(6:25) In this day and age, being fat was a staple of social prosperity, because food was so scarce. Similarly, in other cultures, it is considered unpopular to be tan. Being tan in these cultures means that you’re poor, because you’re working outside.
Being put down
|Pharisees claimed that these qualities made you unfavorable in the eyes of God.||
Pharisees claimed that these were signs of God’s blessing.
The hunger here for the woeful must refer to a spiritual hunger. They will experience a hunger and aching in their heart now, and they will experience this in eternity as well.
The disciples were making a conscious decision to be rejected or impoverished because of their commitment to Christ—not because they were unable to make money.
(6:31) This refers to the Golden Rule. While other religions have a similar commandment, they are not the same as Jesus’ call. Consider each of these examples below:
Rabbinic Judaism: “What is hateful to you, do not to your fellow man. That is the entire Law; all the rest is commentary” (Talmud, Shabbat 31a).
Hinduism: “This is the sum of duty: Do naught unto others which would cause you pain if done to you” (Mahabharata, 5:5157).
Buddhism: “Hurt not others in ways that you yourself would find hurtful” (Udana-Varga, 5:18).
These are similar, but not the same. You might satisfy this moral call by doing nothing. Jesus says that we need to actively love someone—not just passively do nothing. This is a much higher call.
(6:38) The picture is that we’re taking as much as we can carry—and more! You’re pouring the grain into your bag, stamping it down, and using your shirt to carry the overflow.
He isn’t saying that if you give to others that they will give back to you. He’s saying that God will give back to you.
Will you base your life on taking care of yourself? Will you entrust your needs to God and live for others?
Luke 8:1-18 (The parable of the soils)
(8:1-3) Read the parallel passage in Matthew 13:10-15 which describes the problem with parables. When God speaks to us, it hurts when we don’t respond. We were designed to listen to God, and it hurts to push him away. We build a callous around our hearts. When guitarists play for years on end, they build up callous tissue on their fingers so that they won’t hurt their fingers. Jesus tells us that this can happen to our hearts.
(Hos. 4:17; Amos 8:11-12).
(8:11) In each case, the seed is the same and the sower is the same. The difference is the soil. We shouldn’t beat ourselves up over our performance in sharing Christ.
Soil #1: Beside the road
(8:12) How might Satan move to snatch the word from people’s hearts? He doesn’t do this by force. How might he do this?
Soil #2: Rocky soil
(8:13) This refers to a superficial faith. It might refer to pleasure seekers, foxhole religion, or traditionalism.
Soil #3: Thorns
(8:14) Matthew adds more detail, stating this refers to the kosmos or “world-system” (Mt. 13:22).
Soil #4: Good soil
(8:15) These are not supermen. Instead, these are just people who are honest with what God communicates with them.
We aren’t fated to be a type of soil. These are attitudes that we choose. Which soil do you want to be?
(8:18) Our role is to listen and respond to God’s word. Dennis McCallum gives the illustration of a child who wants a steak. After you fix him one, he doesn’t eat it, and he asks for another one. Not only will you not give him a second steak, but you’ll also take away the first steak too! The same is true with God’s word: If you don’t respond to what you’ve already heard, then God won’t give you more.
Luke 8:22-56 (Miracles)
Miracles over nature
(8:22-24) The boats in the sea of Galilee were very small. Waves in the Sea of Galilee can get up to seven feet tall! It’s no wonder that the men were afraid.
(8:25) What sort of power were they dealing with? Their lack of faith comes in the statement, “We are perishing!”
Miracles over the demonic
(8:26-39) Satan exists, and he has others with him. When people go into the occult seeking a healing, they haven’t carefully vetted the source of the power. If you’re lucky, nothing will happen. At worst, you could be influenced, oppressed, or even possessed. This is what we see here. See our earlier article “The Occult.”
Why did the people send Jesus away? Why were they afraid of him? (v.37) The formerly possessed man didn’t have this attitude (vv.38-39).
Miracles over disease
(8:40-41) This account opens with Jairus’ daughter being sick, but it gets distracted with the story of a hurting woman.
(8:43) Mark notes that she had visited every doctor, but couldn’t find anything (Mk. 5:26).
(8:44) Mark notes that the woman planned this event.
(8:49) We get back to Jairus again. Because of this distraction, his daughter dies.
Luke 9:18-25 and 57-62 (The two most important decision of your life)
Consider how even small decisions have an effect on your life in large ways. When you started a friendship at age 6, you didn’t realize how much this would form your personality, sense of humor, etc. In this chapter, Jesus calls on us to make two decisions: (1) trust him for forgiveness and (2) trust our lives to him.
Decision #1: Trust Christ for the next life
(9:18) Why was Jesus praying right before he asked this question? Was he praying that God would reveal his nature to them? Matthew records that God gave this revelation to Peter (Mt. 16:17). After all, Herod was aware of the public opinion surrounding Jesus, but he still didn’t grasp his identity (Lk. 9:7-9).
Where did this event take place? Morris writes, “Matthew and Mark locate this incident in the vicinity of Caesarea Philippi, near the foot of Mount Hermon. This was heathen territory, the worship of the great god Pan being especially prominent.”
(9:19) Why did they confuse Jesus with John the Baptist? It’s true that they both began their ministry with the statement: “Repent, for the kingdom of God is here.”
Why did they confuse him with Elijah? Or just one of the prophets? Matthew adds that the people confused him with Jeremiah (Mt. 16:14). According to 2 Esdras the Lord promised: “I will send you help, my servants Isaiah and Jeremiah” (2:18). Later on the Mount of Transfiguration about eight days later, Elijah shows up to demonstrate that Jesus is far greater than a prophet (Lk. 9:28-36).
(9:20) In all three Synoptic gospels the “you” is emphatic and it’s also plural (“you guys” or “y’all”). The people believe all sorts of things about me, but what do you think? If you’ve been reading along so far in the gospel of Luke, you realize that this is an important question. Jesus has taught better than any teacher of the day and with more authority. He’s performed nature miracles. He has authority over the demonic realm. Who is this guy? Just another prophet?
People are very uneasy to outright reject Christ, but they’re often just as hesitant to accept him. Some people make it through their entire lives without ever making this decision.
Not Peter! Peter was the one at the Bible study who spoke first, and thought about his statement second. Peter had a “Ready, fire, aim!” mentality, and in this case, he’s right. Peter’s answer was a mixture of clarity and also confusion. He gets the title right, but he doesn’t fully realize what this means. Like many Christians today, Peter called Jesus “the Christ,” but didn’t understand all that this implies.
Peter thought Jesus was merely a religious-political king. Later in the gospel, just hours before Jesus’ death, Peter was pulling out a sword to defend “the Christ” (see Lk. 22:50; Jn. 18:10). Later in the chapter, Jesus said, “Listen carefully to what I am about to tell you: The Son of Man is going to be betrayed into the hands of men.” 45 But they did not understand what this meant. It was hidden from them, so that they did not grasp it, and they were afraid to ask him about it” (Lk. 9:44-45). The reason that they couldn’t grasp it was because they were focusing on being one of the greatest (9:46).
No one expected that God would come as a King, but then die on the Cross. In Mark’s and Matthew’s accounts, Peter quickly rebukes Jesus for predicting his death and resurrection (Mk. 8:31-33; Mt. 16:22). Later he grasps this deep truth in his preaching to the Jewish leaders after Pentecost (Acts 3:17-18).
(9:21) Because the people had a different concept for what the Messiah was, he wants it to be quiet about it. The people were so caught up with kingship and triumphalism that it would’ve clouded the subject even more.
(9:22) This is Jesus’ first prediction about his death and resurrection—a turning point in the gospel. After this point, Jesus was “determined to go to Jerusalem” (Lk. 9:51), and we see “Jerusalem” and the raw terror of the Cross looming over everything in the rest of the gospel. The center of Jesus’ life was not to teach, but to die. He was on a “search and rescue” mission.
Up until now, Jesus has been like a larger-than-life superhero—healing the sick, raising the dead, casting out demons, and calming the storm. Now that he has vindicated his nature (the Messiah), he now teaches them that he needs to die. It’s right at the height of his popularity that Jesus announces his death. Jesus says that this “must” happen.
The people who were religious were the ones who rejected Christ (“suffer many things and be rejected by the elders and chief priests and scribes”). Similarly, today, people who are religious are offended by the death of Christ (1 Cor. 1:23).
Decision #2: Trust Christ for this life
You might think that these two decisions are one and the same, but they are not. The first decision is separate from the second.
(9:23) Jesus has his Cross, and we have ours. Morris writes, “The disciples’ recognition that Jesus is the Messiah is followed immediately by the teaching that this means a cross for him, and a cross, too, for them.” Jesus already taught, “A pupil is not above his teacher; but everyone, after he has been fully trained, will be like his teacher” (Lk. 6:40).
In the Roman era, victims of crucifixion carried their crosses to their death. Edwards, Gabel, and Hosmer write, “Since the weight of the entire cross was probably well over 300 lb (136 kg), only the crossbar was carried. The patibulum, weighing 75 to 125 lb. (34 to 57 kg), was placed across the nape of the victim’s neck and balanced along both shoulders. Usually, the outstretched arms then were tied to the crossbar.” Historians estimate the crossbar at roughly 80 lbs. Even though the crossbar was only 80 lbs, Jesus was unable to make the trek because of his injuries, which was only 600 yards away (Mt. 27:32; Mk. 15:21; Lk. 23:27).
Is Jesus calling for martyrdom? Possibly. But notice that he says that this is a daily endeavor. God wants “living and holy sacrifices” (Rom. 12:1), not dead sacrifices. While we might be called to die for Christ, it’s much harder to live a self-sacrificial lifestyle every day.
Should we carry a literal Cross? A man named Arthur Blesset thought it was his Christian service to carry a literal Cross around the world. But surely this is not a literal Cross, because Luke adds that this is to be done “daily.” If it was literal, it would only happen once. Paul wrote, “I die daily (1 Cor. 15:31). Luke is the only one of the gospels to mention that this is “daily.”
Nolland writes, “Taking up the cross refers to the Roman custom of requiring the condemned criminal to carry to the place of execution the cross-bar to be used in the execution (cf. Plutarch, de sera num. vind. 9.554b: “Every criminal who is executed carries his own cross”; for further references see Schelkle, Passion Jesu, 218–19).” We might modernize this to mean that we need to “put our neck on the chopping block” or “put the noose around our neck.”
(9:24) “Saving your life” stands in contrast to “taking up your cross.” Christ comes to give us abundant life (Jn. 10:10). The term for “life” (psuche) is used for physical life in Luke 6:9 (“Is it lawful… to save a life or destroy it?”). Earlier Jesus said, “Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God… But woe to you who are rich, for you are receiving your comfort in full” (Lk. 6:20, 24).
(9:25) Here is a good reason to give up your life to Christ. There is no pursuit and no pleasure that could compensate us for losing our precious lives. We get only one life, and we lose 24 hours every day. How will you spend this quickly depreciating time?
The urgency of the decision
(9:57-62) We shouldn’t wait around to make this decision. The author of Hebrews writes, “Today if you hear His voice, do not harden your hearts, as when they provoked Me” (Heb. 3:15).
Luke 9:28-36 (Transfiguration)
At this point, the disciples have been on a spiritual high, moving from miracle to miracle. It’s here that Jesus begins to tell them about what it costs to truly follow him to the Cross (Lk. 9:51).
Luke has the much longer account of the Transfiguration. At the same time, it is important to appeal to the other gospels for further details.
(9:27; cf. Mt. 16:28) Did Jesus make a false prediction about his second coming?
(9:28) Why does Luke say it was eight days later, when Matthew and Mark say it was only six days later? (Mt. 17:1; Mk. 9:2) Luke might be marking his time from the point of this teaching, adding “after these sayings.” Whereas Matthew and Mark might start the timeframe from a later date. Maybe Luke adds the hike up the mountain, whereas Matthew and Mark skip retelling this. Craig Evans writes, “According to Lev. 23:36 there are to be offerings for seven days and then on the eighth day there is to be “a holy convocation” or gathering. During this time the people are to dwell in booths (tents or tabernacles) (Lev. 23:42), the purpose of which is to remind the people of the exodus long ago (Lev. 23:43)… Luke begins his episode on the eighth day, the day on which a “holy convocation” was to take place (Lev. 23:36, 42). Undoubtedly, in the evangelist’s mind there could be no holier convocation than the meeting of Moses, Elijah, and Jesus; God’s Law-giver, Prophet, and Son.”
Leifeld argues that this would fall under the notion of approximate figures, which is accounted for by the CSBI: “It is obviously an alternative way of indicating the passage of approximately one week.”
Which mountain is this? Luke just calls it “the mountain.” Matthew and Mark call it simply “a high mountain.”
Lemke writes, “Tradition names Mt. Tabor as the scene of the Transfiguration, but that is debatable because the summit of Tabor was occupied by a fortress. It was more likely Mt. Hermon, a snow-capped mountain near Caesarea Philippi.”
This might be an encouragement for hearing all about the difficulty of following Christ. It’s similar to Paul being taken up to the third heaven to be encouraged.
The last time that Luke records Jesus going up on a mountain to pray, Jesus was picking his disciples (Lk. 6:12). Now he prays to reveal himself to them.
Why just Peter, James, and John? These were Jesus’ “inner three” disciples, who he focused on more than the others (Lk. 8:51; Mk. 14:33; Acts 1:13).
(9:29) Mark adds “as no launderer on earth can whiten them” (Mk. 9:3). Matthew goes even further saying that his face was like the sun, and his clothing was beaming with light (Mt. 17:2).
Luke omits the term “transfigured,” but Matthew and Mark both mention it (Mt. 17:2; Mk. 9:2). The word means “a change in appearance that comes from within,” and it gives us the English word metamorphosis.
Beyond the suffering of the cross would be the glory of the throne, a lesson that Peter emphasized in his first epistle (1 Peter 4:12–5:4).
Rom. 12:1-2; 2 Cor. 3:18
To see the disguise taken away would be an incredible sight. Paul couldn’t see for three days after his encounter with Christ. John passed out cold after he saw Jesus.
It isn’t that Jesus became the King here; it’s that he was revealed as the King here. I recently watched a youtube video of a professional athlete who dressed as an elderly man in disguise. Makeup artists used cosmetics and haggard clothing to make him look 80 years old. Yet beneath the veneer he was a pro athlete in his prime. As he took to the court, the men’s eyes lit up as the athlete ran circles around them. Finally, at the end of the game, the athlete pulled off the disguise, revealing his true identity.
(9:30) Luke uses this expression (“behold, two men…”) at the resurrection to refer to the two angels (Lk. 24:4) and the ascension to refer to the two angels (Acts 1:10).
How would these Jewish men have reacted to seeing Moses and Elijah? It would be like meeting Michael Jordan saying that your basketball coach was a great coach.
Both Moses and Elijah met with God on a mountain: Mount Sinai (Ex. 24) and Mount Horeb (1 Kings 19).
Both Moses and Elijah were taken into heaven. Elijah was taken before death (2 Kings 2:11) and Moses was taken after death (Deut. 34:5; Jude 9). God himself buried Moses (Deut. 34:6).
In Moses’ interaction with God on Mount Sinai, we read, “The skin of his face shone” (Ex. 34:30).
Malachi calls attention to both Moses and Elijah before the day of the Lord (Mal. 4:4-5).
At the end of the gospel, Jesus makes it clear that the “law and the prophets” testified to him (Lk. 24:27, 44). We are likely seeing this literally acted out here at the Transfiguration.
If you remember the end of Moses’ life, he wasn’t allowed into the Promised Land. Here at the Transfiguration, he finally enters.
(9:31) The Greek word for “departure” (exodus). The Passover imagery could also be in view.
(9:32) Did this event happen at night?
Luke is the only author to mention Jesus’ “glory.”
(9:33) Peter is the type of person that doesn’t know what he’s thinking until he hears himself saying it.
Peter must have wanted to celebrate by reenacting the Festival of the Booths (“Tents”). Craig Evans writes, “To commemorate the exodus Jews celebrated the Feast of Booths by living in small booths or huts (“shelters,” niv) for seven days (Lev. 23:42–44; Neh. 8:14–17).”
Yet if Jesus listened to Peter’s request, it would’ve meant that he would have avoided the Cross. In order to get the glory of the transfiguration permanently, Christ had to make his path to Jerusalem (Lk. 9:51).
God didn’t want to return to tents; instead, he had put on a “tent” in the person of Christ (Jn. 1:14).
(9:34) God spoke from the cloud in the OT (Deut. 5:22). They entered the cloud. This is different than the OT, where Moses was chased out of the Tabernacle when the cloud descended (Ex. 40:35). Remember, the Jewish people were afraid of God’s cloud and voice as well (Ex. 20:19-20; 34:30).
Have you ever been on a mountain when a cloud comes through? It’s kind of creepy.
His voice came out of the cloud.
(9:35) God is specifically identifying Jesus as his unique Son and Messiah. The only other two times we hear from God the Father is in Matthew 3:17 and John 12:28. This is similar to Jesus’ baptism, but Luke adds “listen to him!” Moses predicted this of the great and final prophet (Deut. 18:15). God does his role in speaking, but will we listen?
With his final breaths, Moses predicted an even greater prophet, and we should “listen to him” (Deut. 18:15).
Notice that the voice doesn’t tell us to listen to Moses and Elijah (though this is assumed), but it places Jesus on a much higher level altogether. Remember, this scene comes on the heels of the people thinking that Jesus was just another prophet (Lk. 9:18-19).
Later, at the Cross, the people taunt Jesus for being the “Chosen One” of God (Lk. 23:35).
When Isaiah came into God’s presence, he needed to confess his sins and experienced forgiveness. We see nothing like this from Jesus.
(9:36) They really don’t grasp what they saw until after the resurrection (Lk. 24:44ff).
Luke 9:37-56 (Three Narratives: Humility, Faith, and Inclusivity)
Motives and methods in ministry
Episode #1: Lack of prayer and faith
(9:37-39) While Jesus and the three disciples were up on the mountain, people still had pressing needs. The remaining disciples couldn’t heal this man’s son, who was afflicted with an evil spirit. In Mark’s account, we discover that this little boy was being terrorized like this since childhood (Mk. 9:21).
(9:40) This man went “over the head” of the disciples and went straight to the source.
Were the disciples filled with embarrassment at this remark?
Why couldn’t the disciples heal the boy? Remember, Jesus already “gave them power and authority over all the demons and to heal diseases” (Lk. 9:1). They had the authority, but they lacked faith and prayer.
Lack of prayer. In Mark’s account, the disciples asked why they couldn’t drive out the demon. Jesus said it was because they didn’t pray (Mk. 9:29). Were they waving their hands? Were they using meaningless phrases? Were they speaking to the demon without speaking to God first?
Lack of faith. In Matthew’s account, the disciples asked why they couldn’t drive out the demon. Jesus said it was because of their lack of faith (Mt. 17:20).
Jesus makes clear that it isn’t the amount of faith, but the object of our faith: “Because of the littleness of your faith; for truly I say to you, if you have faith the size of a mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move; and nothing will be impossible to you” (Mt. 17:20).
Here we also discover that the father was torn—only having a little bit of faith. This was good enough for Jesus (Mk. 9:22-24).
From Matthew and Mark’s accounts we understand that the disciples didn’t exercise prayer or faith in their ministry. Maybe the disciples prayed the same magic words that they always prayed, but it didn’t work. Maybe they were filled with cynicism, short-arming it, or filled with past successes.
(9:41) Jesus gets really frustrated with this. He doesn’t get frustrated with our inability or ineptitude, but our lack of faith.
(9:42) Jesus doesn’t strain or sweat to heal the boy; he simply commands in faith. Christ gives this authority to believers.
(9:43) While the people were amazed at the miracles, Jesus redirected his disciples’ focus back to the Cross.
(9:45) Luke gives a four-fold emphasis on how the disciples didn’t perceive this: they lacked understanding, its meaning was concealed, they lacked perception, and they declined to discuss this subject further. They couldn’t understand the Cross because they were too focused on who was the greatest (v.46).
Application: God has his role in Christian work, but we have ours: faith.
Episode #2: Obsession with greatness
(9:46-48) The disciples were expecting a Jewish kingdom, and they were probably arguing about who would have prominent political offices in this kingdom. It sounds stupid to argue over who is the greatest like this, but when we carefully reflect on our experience, we find that much of our time is spent thinking about ourselves!
To disrupt their thinking about greatness, Jesus turns to a little kid. We know the kid must’ve been relatively little, because in Mark’s account, Jesus scoops him up and places him in his lap (cf. Mk. 9:36).
Ancient view of children
NT scholar Steve Lemke writes, “A child in the ancient world had no real status, so to use a child as an example of the humility one must have was a powerful illustration. To welcome a child was to welcome someone with no status, and yet Jesus gave that child a status equal to His own. In this way, the least are to be seen as great.”
In the ancient world, children were not viewed as significant in the ancient world. For instance, m. ‘Abot 3:10 reads, “Morning sleep, mid-day wine, chattering with children and tarrying in places where men of common people assemble, destroy a man.”
Joel Green writes, “Children were the weakest, most vulnerable among the population. They had little implicit value as human beings, a reality that is related to the likelihood that they would not survive into adulthood. Even if women procured their place in the household by bearing children, especially sons, children themselves were of the lowest status.”
In Matthew’s account, he records additional words of Christ to make another point: “Truly I say to you, unless you are converted and become like children, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven. Whoever then humbles himself as this child, he is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven” (Mt. 18:3-4). Kids are violent, lying, and aggressive. We need to becoming like children in our ability to being willing to receive gifts, willing to admit they can’t handle situations, and willing to be helped.”
Kids never say, “I couldn’t never accept this…”
Kids will run for help. They are totally dependent.
Am I relating to God this way?
Episode #3: Competition
(9:49-50) This is how John “answered” this object lesson about the child!
The disciples had just failed at healing the young boy of demon possession, and they were all genuine followers of Jesus. Now the disciples discover that a rogue Jewish exorcist has been casting out demons, and he wasn’t even a disciple of Christ! These men were so focused on ladder climbing (cf. v.46) that they were jealous of this other man doing good.
This doesn’t contradict his later statement: “He who is not with Me is against Me; and he who does not gather with Me, scatters” (Lk. 11:23). Here Jesus refers to being against “you” (the disciples), but in Luke 11, he refers to being against “Me” (Jesus).
Application: We can have fellowship with other Christians who agree on the essentials: Salvation by grace (Gal. 1:6ff). Jesus is not God or human (1 Jn. 4:1-2). Jesus didn’t rise from the dead (1 Cor. 15:12ff). We can debate and argue with other Christians, but not repress them.
Jesus doesn’t tell the disciples to go join this man, but merely to “leave him alone.”
As a result, we have freedom to disagree, criticize, and refute other Christian groups. We don’t have freedom to be territorial, narrow, or repress other Christian groups.
Episode #4: Hatred and anger
(9:51) Soldiers often report that the worst part is not the war itself—but the night before. It’s the waiting that tears you up inside. Jesus didn’t just haphazardly fall into the Cross; he resolutely planned to face the raw terror of taking on the judgment of God for humanity. When I’m preparing for a scary situation, I’m normally pretty irritable or anxious. Yet Jesus’ mind was clear for this entire period—even though he knew what he would face.
(9:52-53) The Samaritans had a sordid history, and the Jews hated these people on the whole (see “History of the Samaritans”).
(9:54) Now we see why these guys were called the “sons of thunder” (Mk. 3:17).
Why is he so self-reliant?
Why is he trying to be great, and make himself such a big deal?
Why is he always comparing himself to other people? Why does he think that he’s the only one who knows how to do it right?
Why is he so angry at other people?
Luke has already recorded that Jesus had set his face resolutely toward Jerusalem (Lk. 9:51). In preparation for this final visitation, he send his disciples ahead of him to prepare the way (similar to 9:1-6). Luke is the only gospel to record the sending of the 70.
Jesus explains their (1) mission, (2) message, and (3) motivation.
(10:1) How many were sent out? 70 or 72? Morris calls this “one of the most difficult textual problems in the New Testament.”
It was common to send the disciples out in pairs like this (Mark 6:7; Luke 7:18–19; Acts 13:2; 15:27, 39–40; 17:14; 19:22).
Jesus called his disciples with two purposes: (1) to come to him and (2) to go out from him (Mk. 3:14). Matthew 11:28. Those who only go out become weary, but those who never go out grow stale.
What are the names of the people whom God is sending you to? Do you believe that God has people you’re uniquely suited to reach?
(10:2) The beginning of our service of Christ starts with prayer. This task is far beyond our own ability or best efforts. When we think of being sent by Christ into his mission, is prayer the first thing we think of?
“Few” in what sense? Few in comparison to the total population in the world? Few in comparison to the amount that need reached? Few in comparison to the church itself?
(10:3) This isn’t going to be easy. Lambs don’t stand a chance when they’re in a pack of wolves. This shows that they needed to be totally dependent on the Good Shepherd.
(10:4) The disciples needed dependence. The lack of sandals probably refers to a second set of sandals. In a different mission, Jesus told his disciples not to carry two coats, sandals, or staffs (Mt. 10:9-10). Moreover, in the earlier sending of the Twelve, Jesus says to take “nothing,” but then says “do not even have two tunics apiece” (Lk. 9:3). Later Jesus tells them, “‘When I sent you out without money belt and bag and sandals, you did not lack anything, did you?’ They said, ‘No, nothing.’ And He said to them, ‘But now, whoever has a money belt is to take it along, likewise also a bag, and whoever has no sword is to sell his coat and buy one’” (Lk. 22:35-36).
“Greet no one on the way” This doesn’t mean that they should be impolite. It means that they shouldn’t waste time dilly-dallying on the road. Morris notes, “Eastern salutations can be elaborate and time-consuming.” Like a soldier in active duty (2 Tim. 2:4). Their mission was so urgent, that they didn’t have time to sit and talk (cf. Lk. 9:60).
Part of the blessing is that they get to host the disciples in their houses.
(10:7-8) The disciples were supposed to be content with whatever was set before them (Phil. 4:12). They shouldn’t feel guilty for receiving food, drink, and a roof over their head. But they also shouldn’t look to make a profit either (“do not keep moving from house to house”).
(10:9) Verses 9 and 11 explain that they have something to share with the people.
Don’t miss this opportunity.
This is supposed to be done in a gentle way (v.3).
It is supposed to be done in good for all people (v.9).
We should never dilute or compromise the message (v.11).
Treating people with respect. Not bullying them.
We don’t have the authority to adjust the message.
(10:10-11) We can’t force people to come to Christ. If the disciples were rejected in the houses, then they were to take to the streets and publicly announce judgment.
“Shaking off the dust from your feet” refers to a Jewish practice (cf. Acts 13:51). Morris writes, “There was a rabbinic idea that the dust of Gentile lands carried defilement, and strict Jews are said to have removed it from their shoes whenever they returned to Palestine from abroad. The disciples’ shaking of the dust from their feet was a testimony against them. It declared in symbol that Israelites who rejected the kingdom were no better than the Gentiles. They did not belong to the people of God.”
Their rejection of the message didn’t change the message at all.
(10:12) Is this literal? It’s one thing to reject God’s general revelation in Sodom. It’s another to reject his specific revelation.
(10:13) These “woes” are not calls for vengeance, but lament. Morris writes, “Woe is not a call for vengeance, but an expression of deep regret, ‘Alas.’” We know very little about these towns. In fact, we only know of Chorazin from this passage and Matthew’s parallel account.
(10:14) Tyre and Sidon were Phoenician cities that were judged by God (Ezek. 26; Isa. 23).
(10:16) When people rejected the disciples, they were really rejecting Christ (Mt. 10:40; Jn. 13:20).
(10:17) Apparently, the disciples didn’t find a bunch of rejection on their trip.
(10:18) This could refer to (1) Satan being defeated as a result of the disciples’ work or (2) Satan falling eons before. If it refers to the latter, then it would be a reason not to be proud in ministry.
(10:19) The “serpents and scorpions” must be figurative. These are connected with “all the power of the enemy.” The “serpents and scorpions” are similar to the pests out in the wilderness (Deut. 8:15). More likely, this concept is being lifted from Psalm 91:1-3.
(10:20) The disciples’ names “are written” (perfect tense) showing permanence.
Jesus isn’t saying that we can never rejoice (Jn. 4:35; 13:17; Acts 20:35).
The fact that you wrestle with this temptation is the proof that you’re following Christ. In other words, it’s a bad sign if you don’t wrestle with this.
“I rejoice when…”
This must have been a reoccurring topic (Mt. 22:34-40; Mk. 12:28-31; Lk. 18:18ff).
The key to properly interpreting these passages is the questions in verses 25 and 29. This religious leader is putting Jesus to the test, and he’s trying to justify himself. He sees no need for Christ or his forgiveness.
(10:25) He was standing up in the classroom and challenging the professor. Ekpeirazon means “to subject to test or proof, tempt” or “to entrap someone into giving information that will jeopardize the person, entrap” or “to entice to do wrong by offering attractive benefits, tempt” (BDAG).
What shall I do? Do versus done.
(10:26) Jesus met this man on his own ground: the law.
(10:27) The lawyer combines Deuteronomy 6:5 and Leviticus 19:18. The former passage (the Shema) was recited twice daily.
He knew the proper interpretation, but not the proper application.
Jewish traditions greatly varied from Jesus’ view.
(10:28) He says his answer is orthos (“right”). It’s one thing to answer correctly, it’s quite another to do this (citing Lev. 18:5).
(10:29) This implies that there is such a person as a non-neighbor. Bock comments, “Jesus refuses to turn people into a subspecies or into things that can be ignored.”
(10:30) They stripped him of his nice clothes (e.g. Starter jacket, Jordan’s).
Morris writes, “The distance is about 17 miles and the road descends more than 3,000 feet.”
Nolland comments, “The location is suitable for robbers and for traveling priests and Levites, quite a number of whom lived in Jericho and traveled up to Jerusalem for their periodic responsibilities at the Temple (Str-B H. Strack and P. Billerbeck, Kommentar zum Neuen Testament, 4 vols. (Munich: Beck’sche, 1926–28), 2:66, 180).”
Bock writes, “[The road] was about seventeen miles in length. It was a rocky thoroughfare winding through the desert and surrounded by caves, which made good hideouts for robbers who laid in wait. Even centuries after Christ’s time, robbers continued to exploit travelers on this road.”
He’s coming back from his religious duties when this happens.
(10:31) The priest shows up “by chance.” What luck! If you’re going to be found in this state, at least you’re discovered by a priest! But the priest may have had many motives for ignoring this man’s plight:
Didn’t want to touch a dead body? OT priests weren’t supposed to touch cadavers (Lev. 21:1-3; Num. 5:2; 19:2-13; Ezek. 44:25-27). Morris writes, “Since the man was ‘half dead’ the priest would probably not have been able to be certain whether he was dead or not without touching him. But if he touched him and the man was in fact dead, then he would have incurred the ceremonial defilement that the Law forbade (Lev. 21:1ff.).”
Didn’t want to help a sinner? Rabbinic teaching stated, “If you do good, know to whom you do it… and do not help the sinner” (Sirach 12:1-4). The Essenes wrote, “Love the sons of light … and hate all the sons of darkness” (Manual of Discipline, 1:9-10).
Regarding Leviticus 19:18, Rabbi Akiva (AD 135) said, “This is a great and comprehensive principle in the Torah’” (Sipra 200). Hillel (late first century BC) said, “What is hateful to you, do not do to your neighbor; that is the whole Torah, while the rest is commentary. Go and learn” (Šab. Šabbat, 31a).
Didn’t want to get robbed himself? Whoever beat and robbed this man could be waiting in the caves nearby.
Whatever the reason, the priest ignored this man’s suffering. When we fall into ommissive sin, we always have a “good excuse,” but it doesn’t matter in the end. This man is so concerned with committing a sin that he’s willing to let a man die!
Under the legalistic mindset, it would be held as spiritual to pass to the other side of the road.
(10:33) In Greek, the order of words shows emphasis. This verse begins with “Samaritan.” It’s as if Jesus is saying, “But a Samaritan… came upon him.” He felt in his bowels. He also did something.
Bock writes, “Jesus may not only be instructing the lawyer but also his disciples about how they had responded to the Samaritans (Luke 9:51–56).”
(10:34) The Samaritan had to walk, so that this man could ride.
Burdick writes, “It is a well-documented fact that oil was one of the most common medicines of biblical times… Josephus (Antiq. XVII, 172 [vi. 5]) reports that during his last illness Herod the Great was given a bath in oil in hopes of effecting a cure. The papyri, Philo, Pliny, and the physician Galen all refer to the medicinal use of oil. Galen described it as “the best of all remedies for paralysis” (De Simplicium Medicamentorum Temperamentis 2.10ff).”
Bock writes, “In some Jewish circles, to receive oil or wine from a Samaritan was not allowed.”
(10:35) Bock writes, “Such innkeepers were not noted for their care, and so the man’s choosing to stay and offering his money “up front” insures that the man will be treated until he recovers.”
Morris writes, “According to the historian Polybius, a man could secure accommodation in inns in Italy in his time (c. 150 bc) for half an as a day, i.e. 1/32 of a denarius. If rates in Palestine at this period were at all comparable, the Samaritan was paying for about two months’ board. J. Jeremias brings forward evidence that a day’s rations cost a twelfth of a denarius at this time. If this be accepted the period for which the Samaritan was paying is correspondingly reduced. But it was still a worth-while period.”
Bock writes, “The money was enough to take care of the man’s room and board for twenty-four days, since the daily rate for a poor man was about one-twelfth of a denarius (SB 1:291).”
The Greek here is emphatic: “I will repay—not the man!”
(10:36) Leifeld writes, “To a Jew there was no such person as a ‘good’ Samaritan.” The “good terrorist” would be similar.
(10:37) Leifeld writes, “The “expert” cannot avoid the thrust of the parable, though he apparently finds it impossible to say the word “Samaritan” in his reply.”
Paul cites the same passage (Rom. 10:5), and he interprets this passage similarly (Rom. 10:4).
Luke 10:38-42 (Mary and Martha)
(10:38) Martha invited Jesus into her home, but she was too busy to sit and talk with him.
(10:39) It’s incredibly odd for a Jewish rabbi to have a woman disciple like this!
(10:40) Martha has several problems:
- She thinks that Mary isn’t doing anything. In fact, Mary is doing the most important thing: learning from Christ. Do you ever feel guilty for making time for the word?
- Martha felt “alone.” She was the only one doing the serving.
- Martha was “distracted.”
- She turns to manipulating Jesus and bossing Jesus around.
- She asks Jesus if he is not “concerned” (melei).
(10:41) The double vocative (“Martha, Martha…”) shows emotion. In reality, there are always many things that can distract, worry, or bother us. In this case, the thing that’s taking the place of listening to Christ is Martha’s ministry—a good thing.
(10:42) Jesus said that Mary “chose” the good portion. It’s a choice to turn to Christ, rather than being distracted.
From all we can tell about her, it seems that Martha was a good and godly woman (Jn. 11:5). In the gospel of Luke, she exercises her gift of hospitality, inviting Jesus and his friends to stay at her home (Lk. 10:38). This wasn’t the only time that she would serve the disciples in this way (Jn. 12:2), and she probably made a habit of it. But Luke tells us of a major contrast between Martha and her sister Mary. Mary was “seated at the Lord’s feet, listening to His word. But Martha was distracted with all her preparations” (Lk. 10:39-40).
Surely many Christian workers can relate to Martha. She was probably an active temperament. And like most active temperaments, she was judging the inactivity of the people around her. She was probably thinking to herself: “Why can’t everyone be as hardworking as me?” But unlike the rest of us who just think this without saying it, Martha was bold enough to speak up. She careened into the living room, saying to Jesus, “Lord, do You not care that my sister has left me to do all the serving alone? Then tell her to help me!” (Lk. 10:40)
Martha’s service wasn’t wrong, but there was something wrong with it: She was obsessed with working for Christ without resting in him. Martha was operating out of self-effort, and it shouldn’t surprise us that anxiety filled her. Thus we find Jesus correcting her: “Martha, Martha, you are worried and bothered about so many things; 42 but only one thing is necessary, for Mary has chosen the good part, which shall not be taken away from her” (Lk. 10:41-42). Jesus certainly believed that serving him was incredibly important (Jn. 4:34; 13:17; Acts 20:35; Mt. 22:37-39). But he says that drawing strength from him is “necessary” in order to do this. If we don’t listen to Jesus on this point, anxiety will fill us.
Many workers and leaders for Christ have still never learned this simple but profound lesson. They are plagued with ministry anxiety. They haven’t learned that the most spiritual thing they can do for those around them is to sit quietly in front of the word of God. They haven’t learned that what their people need the most is a leader that has been transformed by Christ’s word (Jn. 17:17), who is full of faith (Rom. 10:17), who has the mind of Christ (1 Cor. 2:16), and who has let the word of Christ richly dwell within them (Col. 3:16). Jesus said, “My yoke is easy and My burden is light” (Mt. 11:30). If we are fraught with constant ministry anxiety, then we are not in the yoke with Christ. Like Martha, we are operating out of self-effort. Pastor Chuck Smith writes,
What I mean by devotional life is that private time the pastor spends with God. The time that is essential for feeding your own soul; that time of drawing close to God in personal worship. Not that time of sermon preparation or prayer for the ministry, but rather that time of personal study and intimate communion with God. What makes this so difficult for the pastor is his lack of time and the demands of the congregation. You will be tempted to feel that you should be attending to more urgent matters. You may even feel guilty that you take this time for yourself when others need you so badly. The usual approach is to begin to combine your devotional time with your sermon study time, and this is easy to justify because you are in the word. This temptation must be resisted! The pastor’s devotional time must become the greatest priority of his life. You must recognize the importance of this! You must make the necessary time! If you neglect this important discipline, you will begin to personally dry up spiritually, and that will begin to affect your ministry! You must resist the temptation to lessen its importance! You must resist the tyranny of the urgent and seek the eternal! This is what will make you the most effective person for God in the long run!
Christ doesn’t merely want us to do the right things; he wants to change us into the right people. As Francis Schaeffer writes, we need to do “the Lord’s work in the Lord’s way.”
Luke 11:1-4 (A model prayer)
Jesus was a model for prayer and faith. Luke earlier recorded, “Jesus Himself would often slip away to the wilderness and pray” (Lk. 5:16). He also wrote, “It was at this time that He went off to the mountain to pray, and He spent the whole night in prayer to God” (Lk. 6:12; cf. 22:41; 23:34, 46).
According to a recent Pew Study, prayer is still an active part in people’s lives: “More than half (55%) of Americans said they pray every day, according to a 2013 Pew Research Center survey, while 23% said they pray weekly or monthly and 21% said they seldom or never pray.”
(11:2) Corporate prayer. “Our father…” He’s both imminent and transcendent. Abba is new for Jesus (cf. Mk. 14:36; Rom. 8:15; Gal. 4:6).
To “hallow” something is to make something your supreme and ultimate thing in your life.
The parallel shows that we need to do this in secret. This shows what we adore the most.
Jesus lived this out in the Garden of Gethsemene.
(11:4) It isn’t that God would lead us normally into temptation (Jas. 1:13).
Luke 11:5-8 (Shameless audacity in prayer)
The historical context helps to inform this parable. Food was a scarce commodity. Bock writes, “In first-century Palestine, food was not as readily available as it is today. There were no evening shops, and bread was baked each day to meet the day’s needs.”
Hospitality was virtually a law in the ancient Near East. If someone came and asked for help, you were obligated to answer. In our society, we might give someone directions or tell them the time if asked, but we wouldn’t give them a meal and a place to stay.
(11:5) “I got nothing.”
This man wouldn’t have food prepared at midnight. Remember, he couldn’t just reach over into his refrigerator and pull out a frozen pizza.
(11:6) In the ancient Near East, hospitality was demanded.
(11:7) In this culture, the family would all sleep in one room and in one bed. If you’re a parent, you know what a pain it is to have your kids woken up. It isn’t that the neighbor is unable to help, but he’s unwilling.
(11:8) The man will answer the door, because it would be more of a nuisance not to answer. In other words, if a selfish, grumpy friend will even give… then how much more will a generous God?
The Greek word here (anaideian) is used only here in the NT. It could be translated as “shameless audacity” or “nerve.” What kind of person would go and ring a neighbor’s doorbell for a cup of sugar?
How on Earth could we approach God with “shameless audacity” (NIV)? This is based on our new identity in Christ. It’s actually audacious to not approach God in this way. We realize that there is nothing too big to ask for (STORY: Praying humanistic prayers).
We can come to him in every situation (Phil. 4:6). Instead of letting the worry pile up, you just slowly take your needs to God.
Does this mean that God is so bothered that he needs to give in to our prayers?
This is what is called an a fortiori argument (Latin “For a stronger reason”). After the Enlightenment, analogical reasoning became popular. But a fortiori arguments are much older. This was popular in rabbinic literature.
Here it isn’t the similarity that is being compared, but the difference between the two. God isn’t like the begrudging neighbor, as we see in verses 9-10.
(11:9-10) We need all of these: ask, seek, and knock.
Ask: We’re willing to speak up.
Seek: We want God’s will—not ours.
Knock: Take a step of faith.
Luke 11:11-13 (God’s goodness in prayer)
(11:11) “Daddy, can I have a fish?” The father responds, “Okay, close your eyes and open your hands.”
(11:12) “What do you want for breakfast?” The daughter says, “Can I have some eggs?”
(11:13) Good gifts plural (Mt. 7:11). This refers to fillings of the Spirit.
Paul writes, “In Him, you also, after listening to the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation—having also believed, you were sealed in Him with the Holy Spirit of promise, 14 who is given as a pledge of our inheritance, with a view to the redemption of God’s own possession, to the praise of His glory” (Eph. 1:13-14).
Present yourself to God in this way (Rom. 6:13).
- A personal relationship involves persistence. Would you talk about a bothersome issue once with your spouse two years ago?
- Creates trust. It creates more faith to come back to him. God doesn’t specify the timetable in which he’ll answer us. We forget to talk with God.
- Creates appreciation. When God comes through, we are baffled by his power and persistence.
God doesn’t forget the prayers—even if we sometimes do.
- Immature Christians don’t see answers to prayer, because they are weeded out by persistence.
Hallesby writes, “This weapon is the more valuable to the friends of Jesus, because it is not possible for the enemies of Jesus to make use of it. True, His enemies can lay hands on the weapon; but the moment they grasp it in earnest they are transformed from enemies to friends of Jesus.”
One of the key issues here is that we really don’t believe that God is good. If we really believed this, we would be coming to God way more.
(18:1) Elsewhere, Paul writes, “With all prayer and petition pray at all times in the Spirit, and with this in view, be on the alert with all perseverance and petition for all the saints” (Eph. 6:18).
Bock writes, “The call is to continued prayer, not in the sense of praying at all times, but in praying again and again.”
(18:2) He was the sort of man that couldn’t be budged by either God’s law or even public opinion.
(18:3) She doesn’t have money to bribe the judge. She just has the truth and persistence.
What is the difference between persistence and “meaningless repetition”?
|Persistence in Prayer||
Looks for God’s will
|Looks for my will|
|Ask God for guidance||
Expects an answer
|Demands an answer|
Mechanical and impersonal
Based on God’s goodness
Based on self-righteousness
What about when God says, “No”?
We might ruin a good gift if it is given prematurely.
Are you willing to ask? Are you a seeker?
We’re often more thankful for “No” than for “Yes.”
Jesus presupposes that God is able to answer prayer. But each parable emphasizes his willingness. Our biggest barrier in prayer is whether or not God is good.
We can tell them, for instance, that we have read in the papers every now and then about children who have accidentally shot themselves either with an air rifle or an ordinary gun and have become cripples for life, and that sometimes children have even been killed in that way. How did this happen? Because they had asked their fathers and mothers for air rifles and because they were so unfortunate as to receive what they asked for. If only their fathers and mothers had had sense enough not to give them such dangerous weapons, they would have been spared the terrible misfortune.
Chuck Smith adds, “Actually, I am the one often changed by prayer. Many times as I am praying God will speak to me. He will show me His way and His plan, which is always so much better than what I had in mind. While in prayer, God deals with me and shows me the folly of certain things that I have been insisting, and practically demanding, from Him. I respond, “Thank you, Lord, for not answering me during the last five years.” He knew what was best for me all the time! At this point in my life, as I look back, I am as thankful for the prayers He did not answer as those He did.”
Why do we pray at all if God already knows our hearts?
(11:14-15) Note that even the enemies of Jesus didn’t deny his ability to perform miracles. The Mishnah (the “Tannaitic” literature) dates from the first century to roughly AD 200. The Amoraic period wrote commentaries on the Mishnah: one in Palestine and one (larger, more important) in Babylon. This excerpt comes from this later literature. It confirms what the NT teaches regarding the antagonistic view of Jesus’ miracles.
On the eve of the Passover Yeshu was hanged. For forty days before the execution took place, a herald went forth and cried, “He is going forth to be stoned because he has practiced sorcery and enticed Israel to apostasy. Anyone who can say anything in his favour, let him come forward and plead on his behalf.” But since nothing was brought forward in his favour he was hanged on the eve of the Passover!
(11:16) The people were asking for a sign, but the truth is he already was giving them a sign, and they were explaining it away.
What does Beelzebul mean? It can be rendered “Lord of the flies” or “Lord of dung” (Baalzebul). Morris writes, “Our best understanding of the evidence seems to be that the Jews took this name of a heathen god and understood it in terms of the similar sounding Hebrew, ‘lord of dung’. They applied it to a prominent demon, perhaps to Satan himself. Jesus clearly understood it to refer to Satan.” It’s used of the god of Ekron in 2 Kings 1:2-6, 16.
(11:17) Satan is unified.
(11:18-19) This shows that their argument is not only illogical, but also self-incriminating.
(11:20) The book of Exodus, the non-believing Egyptian magicians could even recognize the truth of God through miracles, saying that they were done by “the finger of God” (Ex. 8:19). Perhaps Jesus uses this expression (“the finger of God”) as an subtle accusation against them.
(11:21) In context, the “strong man” is none other than Satan. Jesus teaches that Satan is powerful. But there’s good news: There is someone who can beat up on this strong man!
(11:22) Jesus (by virtue of the fact that he’s casting out demons) is the “stronger man” here. He is moving on the offensive, and he is pulling away the “armor” of Satan.
(11:23) There is no compromise expressed here. You need to pick your side (e.g. Switzerland in World War II).
(11:24) This doesn’t say that it was exorcised, but it could’ve left voluntarily to seek out someone else. You better have the stronger man in your heart, or you’re vulnerable (Eph. 3:17; 1 Jn. 4:4).
(11:28) Obedience to Jesus is more important than lineage to Jesus.
Luke 11:33-12:3 (Hypocrisy)
(11:33) It’s like taking a picture with the lens cap on, or having a projector with the cap on. Jesus used this illustration in several different contexts (Mk. 4:12; Mt. 5:15). Is this passage parallel to others, or is it a different message?
(11:34) He seems to be saying that if you take in his teaching (light), then you will be enlightened (Lk. 1:78-79; 2:32; Jn. 1:4; 3:19-21; 9:39-41; Acts 26:18). Bock writes, “The implication is that if one has good eyes one will see the light Jesus offers, but if one’s vision is clouded by evil one will miss the light.”
(11:35-36) Jesus is concerned that the people will reject his teaching (cf. 11:31-32). His point is that you’re spiritually healthy if you receive Christ’s light.
(11:37-38) This Pharisee must have felt like he was one who had the light—like Jesus was just talking about. Yet instead of focusing on Jesus’ message, he focuses instead on ritual, ceremonial washings. Multiple people (namely Pharisees) were invited (v.45). The Mishnah Yadayim (1:1-5) explains some of these ritual washings:
A quarter [of a log, a specific unit of volume] of water is to be poured onto the hands, for [the ritual washing of the hands for] one person, and even for two. Half of a log [is to be poured from] for three or four. And from [a vessel containing] one log [of water], five or ten or even one hundred [people may wash their hands]. Rabbi Yose says: but only provided there not be less than a quarter [of a log remaining] for the last one of them [to wash]. One may add [water, by pouring it onto the hands past where it had fallen] on the second [pouring of water; i.e. on a third pouring, one can pour past where the waters fell on the second pouring]. But one may not add on the first [pouring; i.e. on the second pouring, one may not pour past where the waters fell on the first pouring]. 2 One may pour [water for washing] onto the hands from all [kinds of] vessels, even from vessels of bovine dung, from vessels of stone, or from earthen vessels. One may not pour [water for washing] onto the hands out of the sides of vessels [i.e. from vessel fragments], nor using the [broken off] bottom of a large jug, nor using the bung of a cask, nor may one pour [water] onto [the hands of] his fellow out of the hollow of his [own] hand, since one may only fill, sanctify, or sprinkle the chatat waters [the waters containing the ashes of the red heifer, used as part of the purification ritual] with a vessel, nor may one take them into one’s hands. And nothing can be preserved [from being rendered impure, in cases of an impurity caused by being overshadowed by an enclosed area containing an Origin of impurity] by means of a tight seal [which can sometimes protect against an overshadowing impurity], unless it is [contained within] a [whole] vessel. And something can only be preserved from [being rendered impure by an impure object contained beside it within] an earthenware vessel if it is itself a vessel. 3 Regarding waters which have become unfit for animals to drink, if they are in [any kind of] vessels, they are invalid [for washing one’s hands]; and if they are in the ground [i.e. in a ditch], they are valid [for washing with them, by immersing one’s hands in them]. If ink, sap, or metallic dye fall into them and change their appearance, they are invalid [i.e. the waters are invalid for washing]. If they had been used for any occupation, or if one soaked one’s bread in them, they are invalid. Shimon, the Teimani said: even if one intended to soak [one’s bread] in these [waters], and it fell into those [waters instead], they are valid [for washing]. 4 If one rinsed vessels in them, or if one cleaned out measuring vessels with them, they [i.e. the waters used] are invalid. If one rinsed out [already] rinsed or new vessels, they are valid [i.e. the waters are valid to be used for washing]. Rabbi Yose invalidates [the waters] regarding new ones. 5 Waters into which the baker has dipped [unbaked] rolls are invalid. And when he [instead] rinses his hands in them [and then splashes the rolls with water from his hands], they are valid [i.e. the waters in which he rinsed his hands]. Anyone is valid to pour onto the hands [of another person, in order to wash them], even a deaf-mute, shoteh, or a minor. A man may place a cask between his knees to pour [the water over his hands, to wash them], or tip a barrel onto its side and pour [onto his hands]. An ape may pour [water for washing] onto one’s hands. Rabbi Yose considers these two [i.e. tipping a barrel or using an ape] to be invalid.
These ceremonial laws had nothing to do with hygiene. Note that this text states, “One may pour [water for washing] onto the hands from all [kinds of] vessels, even from vessels of bovine dung, from vessels of stone, or from earthen vessels” (Mishnah Yadayim, 1:2). Morris rightly states, “This had nothing to do with hygiene, but was a rule made in the interests of ceremonial purity. Before eating anything, scrupulous Jews had water poured over their hands to remove the defilement contracted by their contact with a sinful world. The quantity of water and the manner of washing are prescribed in minute detail in the Mishnah (Yadaim 1:1ff.).”
The Babylonian Talmud states, “Whoever eats bread without previously washing the hands is as though he had intercourse with a harlot.” It also states, “When he washes his hands he should say: ‘Blessed is He who has sanctified us with His commandments and commanded us concerning the washing of hands.’”
Jesus completely rejected this teaching (Mk. 7:15-23). The problem here is in the fact that “when people concentrate on the trivial they are apt to overlook the important.” This is a red flag for our discernment. When people focus on minutiae like this, it should warn us that they have fallen into legalism.
(11:39-40) Hypocrites try to present themselves on the outside in a way that is different from the inside. If I had to pick, I’d rather have the inside of the coffee cup cleaned—not the outside. How do you think God feels about this?
The inside is so filthy that the hypocrite tries to cover it up. We’re all sinners, but the hypocrites try to cover it up.
(11:41) Luke later records that “the Pharisees… were lovers of money” (Lk. 16:14). Why is financial giving such a contrast to hypocrisy? When we give, no one sees it—only God. This is probably why God took such a strong stance on this hypocrisy in Acts 5 with Ananias and Sapphira.
You might feel puffed up about hypocrites, but do you financially giving.
(11:42) Jesus isn’t against their tithing (Lev. 27:30). Instead he’s against focusing on such a minor issue instead of the larger ones. It isn’t what they’re doing, but what they’re not doing that bothers Jesus.
|Slander and division|
|Non-Christian music, books, movies||
Love for God and others
Pride and hypocrisy
Tattoos & piercings
Voting for a Democrat
(11:43) Hypocrisy likes attention. Bock writes, “The greeting in the public place is not so much a quick hello as an involved salutation of respect. In the Talmud, such elaborate greetings were compulsory for teachers of the law (Luke 20:46; Jerusalem (Palestinian) Talmud, Berakot, 4b [2.1] [= Neusner et al. 1982–93: 1.66]; SB 1:382; Windisch, TDNT 1:498; Manson 1949: 99; Marshall 1978: 498–99).”
In Jesus’ other attack of the Pharisees, he said, “Everything they do is done for men to see: They make their phylacteries wide and the tassels on their garments long” (Mt. 23:5 NIV).
(11:44) In Jewish culture, if you touched a dead body, you became ritually unclean for a week (Num. 19:16; Lev. 21:1-4, 11). By being an “unmarked grave” (NIV), people would become unclean and not realize it. The Pharisees were leading ignorant people into spiritual death.
(11:45) “Jesus, excuse me, I think you’re insulting me too!” Jesus responds, “Yeah… you! I almost forgot about you scribes!” Jesus unloads both barrels on this crowd full of hypocrites.
(11:46) Morris writes, “The Mishnah lays it down that it is more important to observe the scribal interpretations than the Law itself (Sanhedrin 11:3).”
It’s possible also that the scribes knew all of the “loop holes” in the added laws. So they could get around these, while the uneducated could not.
Legalism and hypocrisy won’t get its hands dirty in the lives of others. It piles on the imperatives, but doesn’t give the person help.
The scribes’ teaching was crushing people and making God’s way seem awful (Mt. 11:28-30).
(11:47-48) You’d rather love dead people than living people. If only we were there for Isaiah, we’d protect them… Meanwhile they’re killing the son of God. One commentator wrote, “The only prophet you honor is a dead prophet!”
(11:49) Jesus isn’t quoting a source. He’s quoting God’s plan in general.
(11:50) Abel was the first prophet, and Zechariah was the last one (2 Chron. 24:20-25).
(11:52) Morris writes, “They turned the Bible into a book of obscurities, a bundle of riddles which only the experts could understand.” Hypocrites hate it when people actually appeal to Scripture.
(11:53-54) With that, Jesus left. Afterwards, the religious leaders followed him, trying to trap him in a theological trap so that they could kill him. Morris writes, “The word rendered catch is thēreusai, which is used of hunting wild beasts. It is a vivid word for intense opposition.”
(12:1) Jesus just confronted the religious establishment. This would be like a person chewing out Congress, the Senate, and even the President. As we would expect, this drew many thousands to flock to Jesus.
Why does Jesus compare hypocrisy to yeast? Hypocrisy is contagious, puffs up, and spreads silently.
By saying “beware,” Jesus is warning the disciples that even they could fall into the same trap. The same is true of the believer today. We too can fall into hypocrisy.
(12:2-3) In the end, everything will be exposed (1 Cor. 4:5; Rom. 2:16).
Have you ever given a half-confession?
Have you felt bad that someone else gets more recognition than you?
Do you act differently around your Christian friends?
Have you ever been defensive about personal failure?
Hypocrisy is exhausting. It makes friendships fake. It makes spiritual growth impossible. It excludes the grace of God.
(12:6) God takes notice of the commonest and cheapest of birds. Much more, then, will he be concerned for people.
Luke 12:13-34 (Wealth and worry)
(12:13-14) Note how this topic comes up. When life circumstances and transitions change, it uncovers the love of money that was there the whole time.
This guy wants to use Jesus as Judge Judy to give him a portion of the estate.
(12:15) The term “beware” means “positive action to ward off a foe.”
(12:17-19) “My” appears four times in verses 17-19, and “I” occurs eight times. The rich fool can only think of “me, myself, and I.”
(12:20) He was in control of so much that he thought he could be in control of his future (Jas. 4:14).
(12:22) Can you prepare without being worried? Saving versus hoarding. Responsible saving. Alcorn.
(12:24) Ravens were unclean (Lev. 11:15).
(12:29) The term for “seek” (zeteo) refers to a murmuring, deliberating, or active seeking.
(12:31) This isn’t asceticism. We realize that we can utilize these resources to further God’s kingdom.
Luke 12:31-59 (Investing in eternity)
The context is the foolishness of living for wealth—when all that you earn will be taken away in a moment.
(12:31) The term “seek” (zeteo) means “to seek information, investigate, examine, consider, deliberate.” The Bible uses this word to describe the way Jesus would “seek” to save sinners (Lk. 19:10), or how Herod’s men “sought” to kill Jesus as an infant (Mt. 2:20).
(12:32) “Little flock” is only used here. For an explanation of selling our possessions, see Luke 14:33. Eternal rewards aren’t selfish. For one, God wants to give these to us. He has an over-abundance of good things, and he enjoys giving these out. Also, if we are pursuing these with selfish motives, God won’t reward us (cf. 1 Cor. 4:5).
(12:33) This doesn’t mean that we sell all of our possessions. We buy material goods, but we aren’t attached to them (1 Cor. 7:30-31). Zacchaeus sold half of his goods (Lk. 19:8), and Christ was pleased with this.
This isn’t a fear-threat motivation. It’s an opportunity.
(12:34) This sort of investment will change your life.
(12:35-36) We need to be ready for going to God, or having him come to us. He could open that door at any minute. Consider a professor who proctors the final exam, and leaves to go get a cup of coffee. People begin to cheat, but you know that he’ll open that door at any moment. Likewise, he’ll see which students are being honest.
(12:37) This fits with Jesus’ other statement (Lk. 22:27). So Jesus will serve us in Heaven?
(12:38-40) We know that this event is going to come, but we just don’t know when. So the best posture is to be ready at all times.
What does it look like to be ready? Not being in a materialistic stupor. Not just working “when the Boss is watching.” No personal convictions. Cultivating a lifestyle of serving.
(12:41-43) You get promoted if you’re on the ball. Steward versus ownership. Passivity leaves us losing reward.
It’s not just that we’re going to go to heaven, but we get eternal rewards as well.
Exposit 1 Corinthians 3:10-15. In an ancient city, the temples and expensive political buildings were constructed with stone and inlaid with precious metals. The poor people’s houses were built with wood thatch and mud. When a fire passed through the city, only the stone buildings would remain.
The “wood, hay, straw” refer to works done by impure motives or even sins (cf. 1 Cor. 4:5).
We’re not going to be bummed out when we stand before God if we blew it. We won’t be in an ego-filled state at this point.
(12:44) One of the aspects of reward will be being in charge.
(12:47-48) We will be judged for what we know—not for what we don’t know. The people in the backstage will come out onto center stage.
(12:49) Could this be the Church? Could it be judgment?
(12:51) It’s peace in one sense, but not peace in another. It’s a war of ideology—not force. Morris writes, “When people do not rise to this challenge they not uncommonly become critical of those who do. The divisions that thus arise may run through families (cf. Mic. 7:6).”
(12:54-56) You have avoided dealing with this subject.
(12:57-59) You should try and settle before you get before the judge. God knows we’re going to court, but he has paid the price. That’s a pretty fair argument, and in fact, it’s extremely generous.
Morris writes, “They should spare no effort accordingly to get right with God. When he finally condemns anyone the penalty will be inflicted to the uttermost (copper = lepton, the smallest coin in use).”
Luke 13:1-5 (The problem of evil)
This section is unique to Luke’s gospel.
(13:1) Pilate was an anti-Semite, and this fits with his character.
(13:2-3) They thought this was a punishment for sin (Jn. 9:2).
You think this is a tragedy, but there’s a greater tragedy coming!
The fact that they thought this was a punishment for sin implies that they weren’t sinners. Jesus goes after this and tells them to repent.
(13:4) Bock writes, “Siloam, a reservoir for Jerusalem, was located near the intersection of the south and east walls of the city (Isa. 8:6).”
(13:6-9) The vinedresser was patient. The main point is that they’re getting one final chance.
God hasn’t forced his will on the world… yet.
Luke 13:18-35 (What is the Kingdom of God?)
(13:18) The Jewish people were expecting a literal kingdom. Jesus breaks from these expectations, and tells them about the spiritual kingdom of the Church that would precede his Millennial Kingdom.
What does it look like? (vv.18-21)
(13:19) Luke doesn’t mention the size of the seed, but the result. Morris writes, “The precise plant in mind is not known for certain.”
(13:20-21) Only a small amount of leaven is needed to make a large quantity of dough rise. Similarly, God worked through a small contingent of disciples.
It’s small. It won’t grow immediately. Look at the ground after a seed is planted or immediately after the dough gets the yeast. It is identical.
It’s amazing that this promise has been fulfilled.
We can slow down growth, but we can’t speed it up.
Our role is as important as it is small.
Our role is to be patient—even when we can’t see the growth. The seed is growing and the yeast is spreading—even if you can’t see it.
Who gets in? (vv.22-30)
The Jewish expectation was that the Jewish people would all get into the kingdom when it came. Mishnah Sanhedrin 10:1 states, “All Jews have a share in the World to Come.” Jesus upset this expectation.
(13:24) Morris writes, “Strive is a word denoting whole-hearted action. It is a technical term for competing in the Games (LSJ), and from it we get our word ‘agonize’.”
Jesus said that all who seek will find (Mt. 7:7), but we need authentic seeking. Earlier in Luke, we read, “As the crowds were increasing, He began to say, ‘This generation is a wicked generation; it seeks for a sign, and yet no sign will be given to it but the sign of Jonah’” (Lk. 11:29).
Paul said, “I know what enthusiasm they have for God, but it is misdirected zeal. 3 For they don’t understand God’s way of making people right with himself. Refusing to accept God’s way, they cling to their own way of getting right with God by trying to keep the law. 4 For Christ has already accomplished the purpose for which the law was given. As a result, all who believe in him are made right with God” (Rom. 10:2-4 NLT).
Persecution. It’s difficult when the religious authorities get you against the gospel.
(13:25) There will be a time when time is up.
(13:26) Nominal spirituality. We were close.
(13:27) Conformity leads to hell.
(13:28-29) Nationality is irrelevant.
(13:30) Double mortification: They’re out, and Gentiles are in.
Does God want someone like me in it? (vv.31-35)
There isn’t a single thing God wouldn’t want more!
(13:31) This is intimidation.
(13:32) Morris writes, “The fox was used by the Jews as a symbol of a sly man, but more often for an insignificant or worthless one.”
(13:33) Is this sarcasm? It’s always the capitol of the nation that kills the national prophets.
(13:34-35) God wants us to be in the Kingdom.
Luke 14 (Dinner with a Perfect Stranger)
Have you ever been invited to really bad dinner party? Jesus can relate. This was Jesus’ third dinner with the Pharisees (Lk. 7:36ff; 11:37ff). Each time, it ended awkwardly—yet they keep inviting him back. The Pharisees must’ve been gluttons for punishment!
Jesus would go to dinner with people that he didn’t get along with. But he wouldn’t schmooze and be nice. He would confront them with the truth.
Healing on the Sabbath: Admitting you were wrong (vv.1-6)
(14:1) “Watching him closely…” Makes sense. He’s been offensive and confrontational each time: What will he do this time?
(14:2) “Dropsy” was a sickness. Bock writes, “Its symptoms are swollen limbs and tissue resulting from excess body fluids.” What caused it? Bock writes, “Some rabbis argued that dropsy resulted from sexual offenses (b. Sabbat. 33a) or from intentionally failing to have bowel movements (b. Berakot. 25a).”
Was this a “set up”? The use of idou (“behold”) suggests surprise. Did this man stagger into the dinner party, or was he sent there to trap Jesus?
(14:3) It seems like a setup, because Jesus “replied.” He asks about the legality of healing before he does anything. Does this sound familiar? (Lk. 6:9)
(14:4) He heals him.
(14:5) Bock writes, “The Mishnah mentions Sabbath exceptions for cattle (m. Sabbat. 5; 15.2; m. Erubin. 2.1–4).” Have you ever tried to lift a cow out of a pit? It’s a lot of work!
(14:6) Their silence speaks louder than words. In fact, their silence was deafening. Their problem was that they couldn’t swallow their pride. They couldn’t admit that they were wrong.
(14:7) Bock writes, “Later Judaism spoke of a U-shaped table with a three-person couch located on each prong of the table. The host sat at the bottom of the U, in the middle between the two wings of the U; the most honored seat would be to the left and the next honored seat would be to the right.” This was according to rank or age.
(14:8-11) It would be mighty embarrassing to seat yourself at the head of the table—only to be placed at the “kid’s table.” Bock writes, “The main point is that it is better for others to recognize who you are than to suggest to them your ‘proper’ (or improper!) place.”
Where does the host want me at the table? You’re going to end up in the same place no matter what. So why not just agree with the host from the beginning? Let the Host (God) place you wherever he wants you. If you try to elevate yourself, it will end up worse than before. Similarly, if the Host (God) wants you to sit at the head of the table, you don’t feign “humility.” You go where he wants you.
The Pharisees loved taking the exalted seat (Lk. 11:43).
Am I content with the place God has placed me?
What kind of an attitude do I have about myself? Would I be happy (happy!) mopping the floors in Heaven?
Do I want to see those I invest in succeed—as long as they don’t succeed more than me?
Am I angered when slighted or insulted or don’t get recognition?
What is pride?
Pride is the sin of the devil (1 Tim. 3:6).
Pride is competitive.
Pride is exhausting.
Pride ruins relationships.
Pride blocks God’s gifts. (2 Sam. 12:8)
Jesus was humble (Phil. 2:5-11; Mt. 11:28-30).
God is always against pride:
(Prov. 13:10) Pride only breeds quarrels, but wisdom is found in those who take advice.
(Prov. 16:5) The Lord detests all the proud of heart. Be sure of this: They will not go unpunished.
(Prov. 16:18) Pride goes before destruction, a haughty spirit before a fall.
(Prov. 16:19) Better to be lowly in spirit and among the oppressed than to share plunder with the proud.
(Prov. 11:2) When pride comes, then comes disgrace, but with humility comes wisdom.
(Prov. 21:4) Haughty eyes and a proud heart, the lamp of the wicked, are sin!
(Prov. 29:23) A man’s pride brings him low, but a man of lowly spirit gains honor.
(Ezek. 28:17) Your heart became proud on account of your beauty, and you corrupted your wisdom because of your splendor.
What is humility?
Dennis McCallum shows the differences between biblical and postmodern humility in this way.
|It would be arrogant for me
to declare what is “truth” or morality for anybody except myself
It would be arrogant for me
I decide what is true and right for me
|I don’t decide what is true and right, I submit to what is true and right|
|I stand over truth and right, because I am the ultimate judge||
I stand under truth and right, because God is the ultimate Judge
Since I agree not to tell anyone when I suspect they are in the wrong, nobody should tell me that I’m in the wrong
I’m so error-prone that I need others to tell me often when I’m in the wrong
I also realize at times others might need me to tell them they are wrong
How do we gain humility?
God gives humility as we suffer or experience failure.
H. Tung writes, “The emphasis on pride and it’s opposite, humility, is a distinctive feature of biblical religion, unparalleled in other traditions.”
We gain humility by agreeing with God’s placement.
We gain humility through suffering and failure.
We gain humility through focusing on others. Paul writes, “Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves” (Phil. 2:3).
The key to battling pride: Focus on others (vv.12-14)
(14:13) Darrell Bock points out that Qumran didn’t allow them (1Q28a [= 1QSa = Rule Annex] 2.3–10; 1QM 7.4). Jewish tradition allowed them in the community—to serve tables! (Mishnah Abot, 1.3-5).
While the Bible excluded these people from the Temple worship—along with many other people, the Jewish Law taught to take care of the marginalized (Deut. 14:28-29; 16:11-14; 26:11-13).
(14:14) God will reward this sort of service, because the people can’t repay.
Who am I serving where I can’t get a reward in return? This doesn’t exclude strategic investment. This is an issue of the heart that Jesus is describing here.
Why should I invest in people? To get acclaim? So they give something back to me?
God’s incredible party: Humility of accepting God’s free lunch (vv.15-24)
(14:15) It’s sounds like he’s trying to smooth over the tension—like at Thanksgiving dinner when the older aunt tries to make a joke out of her drunk husband. He’s trying to appeal their common Jewish heritage.
Jesus doesn’t allow the tension to be broken, because this is the third time he’s dined with the Pharisees, and they still don’t get it. The banquet is closer than they think! He’s thinking about the banquet of the kingdom; meanwhile he’s eating dinner with the King.
(14:16-17) Turning down the invitation at this point would be like RSVP-ing, but then being a “no show.”
Worst excuses EVER!
Think about asking a girl out for a date, and she says, “I’ve gotta wash my hair.” The worse the excuse, the more you realize just how much they don’t care about you. Excuses of this sort really show the heart of the person giving them.
(14:18) “I’ve… ugh… gotta watch my grass grow… that night.”
(14:19) “I’ve gotta go chase my cows around the field for a while.” Morris comments, “No one would buy oxen without first satisfying himself that they would do the job. And if he did, there was no hurry for his testing. The oxen would keep.” The oxen can wait. They won’t know the difference.
(14:20) “I’m married… so my social life should end.”
(14:21-24) The servant doesn’t take the rejection personally. He knows their problem is between them and the Host. This angered the host. He had more than enough food, but no one to eat it.
God will provide an incredible feast—free of charge. And he will throw this party—whether you’re there or not.
You’ve been invited (v.16), but God will respect our freedom to reject his offer. This rejection cannot be revoked.
These people weren’t obtusely evil. They were just… busy.
The messengers didn’t take their rejection personally. They just reported to the Host (God) what they said.
Are you humble enough to respond to this invitation? If you’ve accepted this invitation, he’s got a second invitation for you.
Cost of discipleship: The humility of putting Christ first (vv.25-35)
Maybe you remember Jesus talking about this second decision in Luke 9. Why are we bringing this up again? Because Jesus is bringing it up again.
(14:25) Jesus really got the attention of the crowds at this point—though we don’t see how the Pharisees responded to him.
It’s interesting that this vitriol comes up in the context of Christian discipleship. Making a decision for Christ is usually (though not always) respected by others. It’s when we choose to follow Christ and put him first that we get a negative reaction—even from those closest to us.
Is investing in Christ worth it? We need to compare the temporal rewards with the eternal—the material and the spiritual. If you only view life from the temporal and materialistic viewpoint, then discipleship will seem like a poor investment—a complete waste of time and resources. If you believe Jesus was who he claimed to be, it is viewed as the ultimate investment.
(14:29) Regarding the “ridicule,” Bock writes, “Ἐμπαίζειν (empaizein) has the nuance of ridiculing and making fun of someone.” When we don’t fully commit to God, we look like a fool to people in the world: Why did you waste all of that time? You could’ve been working on a graduate degree, working a second job, or even caught up on vacationing or television.
(14:34) Bock writes, “The modern idiom would be “running out of gas.” “Running out of gas” as a disciple is always the result of not having Jesus be primary.”
Some Christians look like this calcium deposit: They look like salt, but they taste like chalk.
“Can you admit you’re wrong?”
“Will you take the lower seat and lift others up instead of yourself?”
“Are you humble enough to respond to his invitation to the banquet?”
“Are you humble enough to count the cost and say yes to his invitation to discipleship?”
Luke 15 (God’s heart for the lost)
God seeks them out in each parable.
(15:2) Grumbling is a theme throughout the Bible.
(15:3-4) The reason you’d leave the 99 is because they are safe.
(15:5-6) The shepherd is happy to carry it home.
(15:7) An ancient Jewish source. ‘There is joy before God when those who provoke Him perish from the world.” Siphré, ed. Friedmann p. 37 a, line 13 from top
(15:8) The drachma was a day’s wage.
An Eastern house would have no windows, or very small ones, so the lighting of a lamp was necessary for a close search even in the daytime.
Morris writes, “If a man keeps seeking for a lost coin much more should he seek for the Law, said the rabbis (Canticles Rabbah I.i.9). There is no rabbinic equivalent to God’s seeking of sinners.”
The three parables follow the same pattern with the exception of the self-righteous son at the end. You’re expecting the credits to roll, but you get this commentary instead.
(15:13) He left nothing behind to connect him to the Father. His brother said that this included prostitutes later (v.30).
(15:14) He definitely had some thrills—no one would deny that. But it ran out. He started to see his aching need.
(15:15) ‘Cursed be the man who would breed swine’ (Baba Kamma 82b). The pig was unclean (Lev. 11:7).
(15:16) He couldn’t even eat the swine’s food. Look up swill. You end up doing things you never thought you’d do.
(15:17) This time of pain could be good for people.
(15:18) He needed to take some initiative. He admits his fault.
(15:19) He didn’t even want to be treated as a son, but as a slave.
(15:20) This shows the relational component: he went back to his father. The father was watching and waiting for him.
(15:21) He sees that his sin wasn’t just with people, but God.
(15:22) This could be the signet ring.
(15:23-24) The Father wasn’t a joy-killer. He had an even greater party waiting for him the whole time.
(15:28) He refused to enjoy the Father’s joy.
(15:29) The verb form of “slave” is used here (douleuō). Morris writes, “The proud and the self-righteous always feel that they are not treated as well as they deserve.” The son disowns him.
Notice the first person pronoun.
(15:31) The Father loves both of the sons. He speaks kindly to both. The Father didn’t give him a sacrificial goat; he gave him everything. Andrew Murray writes,
The elder son was living with his father and serving him “these many years,” and he complains that his father never gave him a kid, while he gave his prodigal brother the fatted calf. Why was this? Simply because he did not ask it. He did not believe that he would get it, and therefore never asked it, and never enjoyed it. He continued thus to live in constant murmuring and dissatisfaction; and the key note of all this wretched life is furnished in what he said. His father gave him everything, yet he never enjoyed it; and he throws the whole blame on his loving and kind father. O beloved, is not that the life of many a believer? Do not many speak and act in this way? Every believer has the promise of unbroken fellowship with God, but he says, “I have not enjoyed it; I have tried hard and done my best, and I have prayed for the blessing, but I suppose God does not see fit to grant it.” But why not? One says, it is the sovereignty of God withholding the blessing. The father withheld not his gifts from the elder brother in sovereignty; neither does our Heavenly Father withhold any good thing from them that love Him. He does not make any such differences between His children. “He is able to make all grace abound towards you” was the promise equally made to all in the Corinthian church.
Some think these rich blessings are not for them, but for those who have more time to devote to religion and prayer; or their circumstances are so difficult, so peculiar, that we can have no conception of their various hindrances. But do not such think that God, if He places them in these circumstances, cannot make His grace abound accordingly? They admit He could if He would, work a miracle for them, which they can hardly expect. In some way, they, like the elder son, throw the blame on God. Thus many are saying, when asked if they are enjoying unbroken fellowship with God:—”Alas, no! I have not been able to attain to such a height; it is too high for me. I know of some who have it, and I read of it; but God has not given it to me, for some reason.” But why not? You think, perhaps, that you have not the same capacity for spiritual blessing that others have. The Bible speaks of a joy that is “unspeakable and full of glory” as the fruit of believing; of a “love of God shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost given unto us.” Do we desire it, do we? Why not get it? Have we asked for it? We think we are not worthy of the blessing—we are not good enough; and therefore God has not given it. There are more among us than we know of, or are willing to admit, who throw the blame of our darkness, and of our wanderings on God! Take care! Take care! Take care!
And again, what about that other promise? The Father says, “All I have is thine.” Are you rejoicing in the treasures of Christ? Are you conscious of having an abundant supply for all your spiritual needs every day? God has all these for you in abundance. “Thou never gavest me a kid!” The answer is, “All that I have is thine. I gave it thee in Christ.”
Dear reader, we have such wrong thoughts of God. What is God like? I know no image more beautiful and instructive than that of the sun. The sun is never weary of shining;—of pouring out his beneficent rays upon both the good and the evil. You might close up the windows with blinds or bricks, the sun would shine upon them all the same; though we might sit in darkness, in utter darkness, the shining would be just the same. God’s sun shines on every leaf; on every flower; on every blade of grass; on everything that springs out of the ground. All receive this wealth of sunshine until they grow to perfection and bear fruit. Would He who made that sun be less willing to poor out His love and life into me? The sun—what beauty it creates! And my God,—would He not delight more in creating a beauty and a fruitfulness in me?—such, too, as He has promised to give? And yet some say, when asked why they do not live in unbroken communion with God, “God does not give it to me, I do not know why; but that is the only reason I can give you—He has not given it to me.” You remember the parable of the one who said, “I know thou art an hard master, reaping where thou hast not sown and gathering where thou hast not strawed,” asking and demanding what thou hast not given. Oh! let us come and ask why it is that the believer lives such a low experience.
(15:32) Morris writes, “In leaving these points unresolved he throws out a challenge to all his hearers, be they like the elder brother or like the younger.”
Luke 16:1-13 (The Shrewd Steward)
(16:1) In the ancient world, wealthy benefactors would have stewards or managers who would run their estate—sort of like money managers today. In this parable, the manager was squandering the rich man’s possessions. The term “reported” (diaballo) means “to bring charges with hostile intent” (BDAG).
(16:2) The rich man wants to see the accounting records. The manager might not have been immoral at this point. He was simply incompetent at running the business. He is fired.
When you’re fired at a corporation today, they clean out your desk for you on your way out, so you don’t steal from the company. This rich man wasn’t so careful…
(16:3) It’s embarrassing for a corporate money-manager to take a job flipping burgers. Bock writes, “The expression I am not able is idiomatic of people who do not like their prospects… Digging (σκάπτω, skaptō) is the labor of the uneducated… He had a white-collar job and does not feel capable of returning to menial labor.” He’s faced with unemployment. What will he do?
(16:4) He’s about to lose his position, but he might as well make the most of it before he does. What does he have at his disposal? He has a plethora of contacts with his soon-to-be-lost job.
(16:5) The manager knew how much they owed. He had accounting records (v.2). He must have been asking them for psychological impact.
(16:6) 100 measures was equivalent to 875 gallons of olive oil—or 1,000 denarii. A denarius was equivalent to a day’s wage, so this would be equivalent to three years’ salary.
(16:7) 100 measures of wheat would be equivalent to 100 acres of wheat. Bock writes, “So the debt was between 2,500 denarii and 3,000 denarii—or about 8–10 years’ salary for the average laborer.”
He’s scratching their back, so that they return the favor. He’s setting himself for life.
(16:8) Jesus doesn’t admire this man for being a thief—but for being shrewd. The steward knew he was fired. His future with the rich man was over (“Now what?”). He could see the end in sight, so he acted “quickly” (v.6) light of this certainty.
Many Christians don’t pass this test. We need to invest in the right things before the value drops or the value sky rockets. Why is it that Christians have less zeal in spiritual treasures than secular people have in earthly treasures?
(16:10-11) Most people treat money as their ultimate value in life. God calls money “a very little thing.” We should try to avoid investments that will lose value.
(16:12) This is the difference between a stewardship attitude and an ownership attitude.
(16:13) We can’t serve both any more than we can have a wife and a girlfriend on the side.
Luke 16:19-31 (Lazarus and Hades)
Parables don’t usually give names of real people (e.g. Abraham, Lazarus). Yet Robert Morey writes, “The rabbinic literature before, during, and after the time of Christ is filled with parables which built imaginative stories around real historical characters.” He cites a number of rabbinic sources (Midrash: Lev. 407; Eth. Enoch 22; Kohelith Rabba 1.15, d. Rom. 6a; Ruth Rabba 111.3, 6c).
Lazarus did not sit in Abraham’s literal bosom.
The man in Hades still remembered Lazarus, and his five brothers.
(16:19) The rich man doesn’t get a name. The poor man does (Lazarus).
Bock writes, “Purple clothes came from dye derived from snails and were extremely expensive.”
The “fine linen” (byssos) refers to his undergarments. Thus even his underwear was expensive.
(16:20) He is probably physically handicapped. He can’t even avoid the dogs licking his sores, and he was laid at the gate to beg.
(16:21) It isn’t that he was fed, but he longed to be fed.
The dogs were not house pets. The term (kyon) refers to wild dogs. Because of this, dogs were associated with being unclean (Rev. 22:15; 2 Pet. 2:22; Mt. 7:6).
(16:22) Before Christ’s death atoned for sin, even faithful believers couldn’t come into God’s presence. So they went to wait with Abraham—the father of faith—for Christ to die.
(16:23) Elsewhere Jesus spoke of the Pharisees weeping and gnashing their teeth at seeing Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob in heaven with forgiven people (Lk. 13:28).
(16:24) By calling out “Father Abraham,” was the rich man trying to rely on his heritage to get out of judgment? If he was, this was a mistake (Lk. 3:8).
Regarding his plea for mercy, Morris writes, “It is interesting that he who showed no mercy asks for mercy.”
He was still treating Lazarus like his water boy. Nothing had changed in his heart.
He uses Lazarus’ name. This shows that the rich man knew who Lazarus was the entire time—but he didn’t help him.
(16:25) The rich man received everything that he could get on Earth. For the rich man, Earth was the closest he got to Heaven. For Lazarus, Earth was the closest he got to Hell. People who are living apart from Christ: this is the best you’ll ever get.
(16:27) The rich man changes his aim. He knows that he can’t leave judgment, so he wants to reach his brothers. Yet he doesn’t change his attitude. He is still bossing Lazarus around! He wants Lazarus to be his messenger boy! There is also a subtext that God’s revelation wasn’t good enough for him.
(16:28) Why five brothers? This doesn’t seem to have any special meaning that I can see.
(16:29) Scripture is capable of generating the conviction to have a change of heart (Lk. 11:28). Miracles don’t typically produce a change of heart like this. Often, miracles scare people.
(16:30) He’s arguing with Abraham. Nothing has changed in his heart—even in Hell.
Jesus eventually raises a man from the dead (Jn. 11), but the Pharisees still don’t believe. This could be an example of an “undesigned coincidence” between Luke and John. Of course, the Lazarus of John 11 had a family who cared for him (i.e. he wasn’t dirt poor), so the association isn’t necessarily literal.
Luke 17:1-19 (Living a Life of faith)
In these series of five vignettes, Jesus shows us what it looks like to live the life of faith.
1. False teaching
(17:1-2) What is a stumbling block, and why does it warrant capital punishment? The word here is skandalon (“stumbling”), not hamartia (“sin”) as NIV has. Why would capital punishment be better for someone who causes someone to sin? No, instead this refers to stopping someone from coming to Christ.
People will fall away from the faith, but don’t be a cause of this!
Jesus is the original Tony Soprano!
As teachers, we should realize that we are held to a stricter judgment (Jas. 3:1). False teachers are held to an even harsher judgment. If we tear apart the church, God will get even (1 Cor. 3:17). Tearing down people’s faith is a serious issue.
When Christ refers to “little ones,” this could refer to children. But as Bock notes, “The reference to ‘little ones’ (μικρῶν, mikrōn) may allude to new disciples who need instruction.”
Murder is sinful, but what if there was such a thing as spiritual murder?
(17:3) This passage disagrees with the view of our culture:
The postmodern view is that other people’s problems are “none of our business.” This is a sub-level view of love. It’s really based out of self-preservation.
The biblical view of love is based on the concept of a family (“if your brother…”). The people in the spiritual community should not be strangers; they’re brothers. While you might not speak into the life of a stranger, you would (hopefully!) speak into the life of your brother.
People would rather gossip, nurse a grudge, or hate others in their hearts, rather than speaking a word of correction (Eph. 4:15).
The postmodern view doesn’t have a basis for forgiveness. Since they reject moral truth, they don’t have an intellectual basis for sin—so it’s difficult to forgive if nothing is really wrong.
The result? People give up on relationships, don’t respond to phone calls or texts, and overall keep their distance when they’ve been hurt. We might nurse bitterness for years and suffer from depression as a result.
The biblical view has a basis for forgiveness because we have been forgiven far more than anything we can hold against anyone else.
The result? Friendships grow closer through admonishment and forgiveness. It’s amazing how friendships become strengthened. Even though we’re corrected, we’ve also accepted and loved at the same time.
Paul sheds light on this: “Brethren, even if anyone is caught in any trespass, you who are spiritual, restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness; each one looking to yourself, so that you too will not be tempted” (Gal. 6:1)
(17:5) As a skeptical or cynical people, we often wish that we had a stronger faith.
What are mulberry trees? Bock writes, “This tree, the hapax legomenon συκάμινος (sykaminos), is probably the black mulberry, with a vast root system that enabled it to live up to six hundred years.”
Why aren’t mulberry trees flying around all the time? We can only see answers to prayer according to God’s will (1 Jn. 5:14-15). We would never want God to answer a prayer outside of his will.
Elijah prayed for a supernatural drought (Jas. 5:17), but this was according to “God’s command” (1 Kings 18:36).
The sincerity is less important than the veracity of our faith.
The object of our faith is more important than the amount of our faith. Morris writes, “It is not so much great faith that is required as faith in a great God.”
4. Faithful servants
(17:7-10) Luke 12:37 has the picture switched: While God doesn’t need to wait on us, he will freely choose to. Jesus is a servant (Lk. 22:27).
Some people feel like God owes us if we do the right thing. This is an entitlement mentality.
To the unthankful attitude, God could give more and more blessings, but it would never satisfy. McCallum compares this to paying off a friend’s debt of 100,000 dollars—free of charge. When you agree to this, the friend says, “Can you pay for some new furniture too?” When you object, he says, “What’s your problem?! You have the money… What is an extra thousand dollars between friends?”
(17:12) Hansen’s disease (leprosy) invades the nervous system through a microbacterium, causing numbness in a period of the body. They are prone to injury, sores, and blisters. It is communicable to others. We only diagnose 200 cases a year in the US, and 150 of these are from people entering the US. The poor typically contract Hansen’s disease because of poor hygiene. They are then ostracized from the rest of their community—both because it is communicable and also because it’s so ugly.
Lepers had to call from a distance, because the Law prescribed a sort of quarantine for such communicable diseases (Lev. 13:45-46; Num. 5:2-3).
(17:13) It would’ve been easy for Jesus to say, “I’m too busy… I need to go die for the sins of the world.” Instead he stopped and helped.
(17:14) The OT law prescribed lepers to show themselves to the priests to be sure of being cleansed (Lev. 13:19; 14:1ff). Morris writes, “Jesus was putting their faith to the test by asking these men to act as though they had been cured.”
What a remarkable event in the lives of these men! Their entire world was changed in this moment. You’d expect all of them to come back and thank Christ for this miracle!
(17:15-16) Only one returns to give thanks. It’s amazing that a Samaritan comes back to give thanks. Samaritans were racist against Jews and vice versa (see “History of the Samaritans”).
Notice that the man was formerly at a distance from Jesus. Now he is close to him—at his feet. The sociological alienation is gone.
Morris observes, “If people do not give thanks quickly, they usually do not do so at all.”
Ten healings and only one thank you! How could they not be utterly overcome by seeing this miracle? Occasionally, we feel thankful for one or two blessings, but days can go by without gratitude.
Luke 18:9-17 (The Pharisee and the Tax Collector)
This account isn’t just for a dead fraternity of legalistic Jews. If we’re careful readers, we’ll realize it’s about you and me today.
(18:9) Jesus turns again to the self-righteousness of the Pharisees.
(18:10) Josephus records the Pharisees were “known for surpassing the others in the observances of piety and exact interpretation of the laws” (Jewish War, 1.5.2). They comprised about 6,000 men (Antiquities of the Jews, 16:42). For more on the history of the Pharisees, see our earlier article, “Judaism in Jesus’ Day.”
The Pharisee’s attitude
(18:11-12) This passage fits with our extrabiblical knowledge of legalism in Pharisaic circles:
If there be a thousand, I and my son are among them; if a hundred, I and my son are among them; and if only two, they are I and my son. (Babylonian Talmud Sukkah, 45b).
I give thanks to thee, Lord my God, God of my fathers, that you cast my lot with those who sit in the study hall and the synagogues, and you did not cast my lot with those who sit in the theaters and circuses. For I toil and they toil. I arise early and they arise early. I toil so that I shall inherit [a share of] paradise [in the world to come] and they toil [and shall end up] in a pit of destruction. (Palestinian Talmud Berakhot 7d, 4.2)
Rebbi Yehudah says, “A person is obligated to say [the following] three Berachot (blessings) every day: Blessed are You Hashem, our God, King of the world, for not making me a gentile. Blessed are You Hashem, our God, King of the world, for not making me a woman. Blessed are You Hashem, our God, King of the world, for not making me a boor” (Tosefta Berakhot, 6:23).
First, he only mentions God at the beginning of his prayer, but refers to himself (“I”) five times. Morris writes, “The Pharisee came short of congratulating God on the excellence of his servant, but only just. ‘He glances at God, but contemplates himself’ (Plummer). After his opening word he does not refer to God again, but he himself is never out of the picture.”
Second, he doesn’t ask God for anything. He must feel like he has everything that he needs.
Third, he compares himself with others. Specifically, he compares himself with a notorious sinner as his comparison, rather than God.
Fourth, he narrowly defined sin. He doesn’t consider omissive sin, subtle sins, or attitudes of the heart. He only mentions gross external sins.
Fifth, he forgets about loving others. He forgets the greatest commandment! He found it perfectly acceptable to have “contempt” for others! (v.10) Notice that he attacks the tax collector who is standing right there! How degrading!
Sixth, he creates arbitrary and invented religious laws. The OT Law only commanded fasting once a year—not twice a week! He fasted 100 times more than necessary. Plus, what really is the moral importance of fasting??
Apologetic point: We’re not picking on a unique faith. It’s interesting that all man-made religions have some form of legalism like this. All man-made religions have legalism at their core. Even the early Christians fell into legalism quickly. In one very early text we read, “Let your fasts not [take place] with [those of] the wicked. They fast on Monday and Thursday; you, though, should fast on Wednesday and Friday” (Didache, 8:1).
Meanwhile, the tax collector…
(18:13) The tax collector was a sinner—no doubt about it (see Jewish Encyclopedia article titled “tax-gatherers”):
The (evil) Roman Empire occupied Israel.
Rome encouraged “tax farming,” whereby the highest bidder could collect taxes in each region (Josephus, Antiquities, 12.4; 14.163). The tax collector (publican) would collect a fixed sum, and any additional money went to him.
People were killed for not paying their taxes (Josephus, Antiquities, 12.4).
Rabbis refused accepting the financial giving of the tax collectors in the Temple, because it was considered dirty money or blood money (Jewish Encyclopedia cites: B. K. x. 1; “Yad,” Gezelah, § 5; Shulḥan ‘Aruk, Ḥoshen Mishpaṭ, 370, 389).
Tax collectors couldn’t be judges or witnesses in court (Sanhedrin, 25b). Even his family couldn’t perform this function (Sheb. 39a).
Rabbis held it was okay to make a false vow to tax collectors (Nedarim, 3:4).
Rabbis held that they were on par with murderers and highway robbers (Nedarim, 3:4; Bava Qamma, 10:2).
Many people can admit that they are a sinner, but repentance needs to go a step further. We need to ask for God’s mercy. Morris writes, “He, too, puts himself in a class of his own, but how differently from the Pharisee!”
On one side of the prayer is “God.” On the other side is “the sinner.” In the middle of the prayer is “be merciful to me” (hilaskomai). This Greek term is used for the “mercy seat” (Heb. 9:5) or “propitiation” (1 Jn. 2:2; 4:10; Rom. 3:25).
(18:14) The term “justified” (dikaioo) means to be legally acquitted or declared righteous. This is a wordplay on verse 9. We get “righteousness” (dikaioi) from self or from being “justified” (dikaioo) from God.
If we are already a Christian, we don’t need to continually ask for forgiveness every night, because we’ve already be declared righteous.
(18:16) Mark 10:14 says Jesus was indignant.
(18:17) The psalmist writes, “Surely I have composed and quieted my soul; like a weaned child rests against his mother, my soul is like a weaned child within me” (Ps. 131:2). Bock comments, “That Jesus receives children and takes time to bless them in the midst of a pressure-packed ministry is touching and reveals much about his concern for individual people.”
Luke 18:15-19:10 (Seeking Christ: children, rich man, Zacchaeus)
(18:15-17) What does it mean to be “like a child” or be “such as these” children?
Children are never bashful in coming to their parents. They never refuse gifts. They tell their needs.
(18:18) Is this like saying, “Good morning!” And the person says, “What’s good about it?” No, it’s more like The Princess Bride (“You use that word ‘good,’ but I don’t think it means what you think it means”).
Matthew 19:20, 22 tells us that he is a young man.
We’ve seen this question earlier in Luke (cf. Lk. 10:25ff). Here we see it again.
(18:20-21) Jesus meets this man on his own terms: he gives the requirements of the Law. This man has lowered the standards of the Law. As Rabbi Eliezer asked, ‘Akiba, have I neglected anything of the whole Torah?’ (Sanhedrin 101a).
(18:22) Do we have to sell everything? For one, this isn’t a universal moral imperative: it’s directed at this particular man. Secondly, this is a case of “Plan A” versus “Plan B” theology for salvation. Thirdly, Jesus makes this call for the man’s own benefit. In Mark’s account, he notes that Jesus told him this, because “Jesus felt a love for him” (Mk. 10:22). The purpose for giving up materialism is to do good for others (“distribute it to the poor”), gain eternal rewards (“have treasure in heaven”), and better follow Christ (“come, follow Me”). (see comments on Luke 14:33)
(18:23-24) This man thought that he was following God perfectly. The problem is that he was following the “god of money” perfectly. He couldn’t give that up if he was asked.
(18:25) Pastors often claim that Jesus was referring to the “needle’s eye,” which was a little gate that camels had to stoop to get through. William Barclay writes, “It is said that beside the great gate into Jerusalem through which traffic went, there was a little gate just wide and high enough for a man to get through. It is said that that little gate was called the needle’s eye, and that the picture is of a camel trying to struggle through it.” The problem with this interpretation is that it is demonstrably false! No such gate exists. Another scholar writes, “The so-called needle’s eye gate in ancient Palestine has no historical basis, and is purely the concoction of a European expositor several centuries ago.”
(18:26-27) If the rich can’t get to Heaven, who can? Morris writes, “All this represents a reversal of accepted ideas. It was commonly held that riches were a sign of God’s blessing, so that the rich had the best opportunity of getting the good things of the next world as of this.”
(18:28-30) Mark’s account adds “along with persecutions” (Mk. 10:30). Health and wealth preachers never like to add this part to this promise!
God does bless our lives and meets our needs when we put him first (Phil. 4:19).
(18:31-34) They were oblivious to God’s plan (see our earlier article, “Why Did Satan Crucify Jesus?”).
(18:35) Matthew 20:29 states that Jesus was “leaving Jericho” when this happened. Luke states that he was “approaching Jericho.” Which is true? Carson writes, “Many avoid geographical contradiction by noting that in this period there were two Jerichos—an older town on the hill, largely in ruins, and the new Herodian town about one mile away (cf. Josephus, War IV, 459 [viii. 3]). In this view Matthew and Mark, under Jewish influence, mention the old town Jesus was leaving; Luke the Hellenist refers to the new one, which Jesus is entering. This may well be the explanation.”
(18:36-37) He could hear the crowd, and wondered what it was. They told him it was Jesus of Nazareth.
(18:38) Ironically, the blind man can see better than the crowd. He calls him “Son of David” (Messiah), while the others call him “Jesus of Nazareth.”
(18:39) Seeking Christ is rewarded. Who cares what others think? If they want to reject Christ or not seek him, that’s their choice. We each need to make up our own minds and develop our own convictions.
(18:40-41) Christ was willing to heal, if he just asked.
(19:2) Not just a tax collector, but a chief tax collector. Remember, as we saw last week, these men were despised.
(19:3) It’s like having bad seats at a concert. He didn’t let his “shortcoming” stop him. He was tired of being “belittled” and “overlooked.” He was a tax collector, and he was tired of “stooping so low.” He was also tired of being “looked down on.”
(19:5-6) Zacchaeus never expected this. He can hardly believe it, scampering down the tree.
(19:7) Why are they grumbling? The crowd loved Jesus’ miracles, but they don’t like his friends.
(19:8) He’s exceeding the law, which only called for 20% restitution (Lev. 6:5; Num. 5:7). He’s giving 400% instead.
(19:9-10) Jesus “breaks the fourth wall” here. This is a lesson for all of us. Christ wants to come into your life.
Rich young ruler: Legalism and self-righteousness bring sadness.
Zacchaeus: Grace brings joy and excitement—not licentiousness. Maybe you don’t understand why he would be so generous. That’s probably because you haven’t met Christ. Zacchaeus didn’t let anything stand in his way.
Christ didn’t just want to come into Zacchaeus’ house for dinner, but yours too (Rev. 3:20).
Self-righteous people want to keep people from Christ.
Luke 19:11-27 (Minas)
Jesus is still in Jericho—about 17 miles from Jerusalem.
(19:11) As Jesus was finishing up with Zacchaeus, another parable came to mind. Jesus was bringing a totally different kind of kingdom.
(19:12) He was going out to receive a kingdom.
(19:13) A “mina” was approximately worth 100 drachmas (or 100 days’ pay for a laborer).
The king only addresses three of the ten servants.
In a similar account, Matthew writes that the master “entrusted his possessions to them” (Mt. 25:14). What has been entrusted?
Physical beauty or strength
Some people are entrusted with more (10, 5, or 1), but some have less.
God only expects what he’s given to me. Not to be jealous of the man with 10 minas, nor to scorn the man with only 1 mina.
This refutes the idea: “I’ll come back to this when I’m 50.”
(19:14) Jesus tells this parable, and he too will be rejected.
(19:15) In Matthew, the master “settled accounts with them” (Mt. 25:19).
(19:16) They didn’t take credit for the money which was borne. They call it “your mina.”
(19:17) He says that this is a very little thing.
(19:20) Worst security deposit EVER! Even putting it in your mattress would be better.
(19:21) Leifeld writes, “In his case conservatism was born of fear and was wrong.”
“Take up what you did not lay down and reap what you did not sow.” These are “proverbial expressions for making gain through other people’s efforts.” This sounds less like a defense, and more like an accusation. He’s challenging his character, and saying he’s a thief and the money doesn’t belong to him in the first place.
He’s trying to blame-shift onto the King.
(19:23) This shows that the third servant’s excuse was somewhat of an irrational smoke-screen. He was too lazy to even put it in the bank. What was wrong with what this man did? He did nothing! Apathy and omission are serious sins before God.
(19:25) This doesn’t seem fair.
(19:26) Leifeld writes, “Whether a person has little or much depends on his use of opportunities to increase what he already has.”
Our window of opportunity will soon be over. The reward will go to someone else.
(19:27) The severity is related to their sin and violence in verse 14 (“his citizens hated him and sent a delegation after him, saying, ‘We do not want this man to reign over us’”).
Luke 19:28-48 (Triumphal entry)
They were trying to seize him (Jn. 11:57).
Human tendency to think there’s a political solution.
(19:43-44) Morris writes, “Josephus tells us that when the Romans besieged Jerusalem they set up siege works (Bellum v.262, 264). There must have been a good deal of timber in them, for the Jews destroyed them with fire (Bellum v.469ff.; the Romans replaced them with a wall).” This is why Jesus is crying.
Luke 20 (Battling religious leaders)
Up until this point, Jesus hasn’t directly confronted the religious leaders. He will debate from time to time, but he won’t reveal his character. At this point in the account, the “gloves are coming off” and Jesus directly confronts the false religion of his day.
To properly understand this confrontation in chapter 20, it’s important to see the context at the end of chapter 19.
(19:45-46) Matthew 21:12–13 and Mark 11:15–17 add further detail about Jesus turning over the tables. Why was Jesus being so harsh?
These religious leaders were profiteering off of a poor culture. The historical background of this graft is important.
Josephus: “When Pompeii entered Jerusalem (80 BC), ‘There were in that temple… the treasures two thousand talents of sacred money.’” (Josephus, Antiquities of the Jews, 4:76)
- One Attic talent was ~ 60 lbs.
- 2,000 talents
- 120,000 lbs of gold
- 92 million ounces (an ounce is $1,500)
Josephus: “Now Crassus… carried off the money that was in the temple, which Pompeius had left, being two thousand talents, and was disposed to spoil it of all the gold belonging to it, which was eight thousand talents.” (Josephus, Antiquities of the Jews, 7:105)
- 68 million ounces
- In total, $14.4 billion.
Josephus: “The Romans exacted of us, in a little time, above ten thousand talents; and the royal authority… became the property of private men.” (Josephus, Antiquities of the Jews, 4:77)
Josephus: “And let no one wonder that there was so much wealth in our temple, since all the Jews throughout the habitable earth, and those that worshipped God, nay, even those of Asia and Europe, sent their contributions to it. Nor is the largeness of these sums without its attestation; nor is that greatness owing to our vanity, as raising it without ground to so great a height; but there are many witnesses to it.” (Josephus, Antiquities of the Jews, 7:2)
For a milder example, consider spending $20 for a beer at a sports game. Once you’re at the Temple, you can’t go back and get another lamb from home. You must get bilked by the people in the Temple.
Imagine buying a used car for 8 grand, only to discover that it was only worth 2 grand. In fact, I think I’ve bought a few cars like that…
(19:47-48) Jesus’ cleansing was not good for business. This would be like shutting off the power at Wal-Mart on Black Friday. They wanted to dispense of him, but they couldn’t because he was well liked.
What is the difference between righteous and unrighteous anger?
The Bible never prohibits anger; instead, it tells us to keep our anger under control. Paul writes, “Be angry, and yet do not sin” (Eph. 4:26). Here we see that anger is not necessarily sinful. In fact, anger is commanded. James writes that we should be “slow to anger,” but it does not prohibit anger altogether (Jas. 1:19). Paul writes that the fruit of the spirit is “self-control” (Gal. 5:23).
Some anger is very sinful. James writes, “The anger of man does not achieve the righteousness of God” (Jas. 1:20). Solomon writes,
“Do not be eager in your heart to be angry, for anger resides in the bosom of fools” (Eccl. 7:9).
“A quick-tempered man acts foolishly, and a man of evil devices is hated” (Prov. 14:17).
“He who is slow to anger has great understanding, but he who is quick-tempered exalts folly” (Prov. 14:29).
“A hot-tempered man stirs up strife, but the slow to anger calms a dispute” (Prov. 15:18).
“He who is slow to anger is better than the mighty, and he who rules his spirit, than he who captures a city” (Prov. 16:32).
“A fool always loses his temper, but a wise man holds it back” (Prov. 29:11).
“Do you see a man who is hasty in his words? There is more hope for a fool than for him” (Prov. 29:20).
“An angry man stirs up strife, and a hot-tempered man abounds in transgression” (Prov. 29:22).
“Do not associate with a man given to anger; or go with a hot-tempered man, 25 or you will learn his ways and find a snare for yourself” (Prov. 22:24-25).
Even having unexpressed anger in our heart is punishable by God (Mt. 5:22), and one of the deeds of the flesh is “outbursts of anger” (Gal. 5:20; cf. Col. 3:8). By learning to see how our anger affects others, we gain a greater sensitivity to further outbursts.
|Done for the sake of others||
Done for the sake of self
|Humble: done even when we realize our own sin||
Hypocritical: overlooks our own sin in favor of another
Slow to anger (Jas. 1:19)
The Jewish people couldn’t exercise capital punishment. They could beat and imprison people, but not put them to death. They needed their Roman rulers to do this. So all of Luke 20 demonstrates how the leaders were seeking to find grounds for having Jesus put to death by the Romans.
The greatest minds in Jerusalem prepared all of their top questions to grill Jesus—center stage in the Temple.
The question of authority (vv.1-8)
(20:1) Jesus’ enemies were plotting to kill him, while he was speaking about “good news.” This isn’t the complete doctrine of justification by grace through faith—something that won’t be accomplished until the Cross. Instead, Jesus was preaching about good news. Bock writes, “Euanggelizomenou (preaching) has no object, so ‘the gospel,’ ‘the kingdom,’ or a similar idea must be supplied.”
Notice who comes to confront him: the religious leaders (“the chief priests and the scribes with the elders”). It’s about to go down!
(20:2) What gives Jesus the right to cleanse the Temple, handle the Law, and perform miracles?
(20:3) He answers their question with a question—a common practice of Jesus.
(20:4) Was John the Baptist from God—or was he a false teacher? Because John the Baptist pointed to Jesus (Lk. 3:16), Jesus’ authority is wrapped up with John’s authority. Reject John and reject Jesus. Accept John and accept Jesus.
(20:5-6) They don’t seem to care about truth, but rather, the pragmatic consequences instead. Morris writes, “They concentrate on the effects, not the truth of the possible answers.”
(20:7) They feared death, so they wouldn’t tell the truth. Jesus told the truth and was later killed. Bock comments, “Sometimes agnosticism is really an evasion of the truth.”
(20:8) Jesus’ answer was silence. If we aren’t truly seeking him, he won’t give any information.
McCallum compares this attitude to a court jester in medieval times. Court jesters were usually smarmy or crippled people who would do tricks for the royalty to laugh at. God is not our court jester! We can’t demand for him to perform for us the miracles that we want. We need to seek out the evidence that he has given to us.
We don’t always know what’s in someone’s heart. So it’s probably safer to give people information if we’re not sure if they’re seeking. What are signs that a person is really seeking versus pseudo-seeking?
Evil vineyard workers (vv.9-20)
(20:9) Apparently, the “people” or general population were present to hear this debate. Mark’s account (Mk. 12) is longer. Matthew and Mark add that the owner planted the vineyard, created a hedge, digs the winepress, and builds a tower.
(20:10-12) The workers obviously didn’t think that the owner deserved anything from their winepress. Mark 12:5 adds that they even killed some of these men (“beating some and killing others”).
(20:13) Jesus was referred to as the “beloved Son” earlier in Luke (3:22; 9:35).
(20:14-15) This Owner (God) gave them this beautiful vineyard to work in and gain a sustenance from. Are they grateful? No! Instead they want to kill the Owner’s son. This shows the insanity of sin.
The Owner (God) wasn’t a weakling. He was patient (2 Pet. 3:9). His motivation was a motivation of love. But there is a limit—eventually he is going to come and judge.
(20:16) The people agree with the parable’s message. Now Jesus makes the parable personal by quoting Scripture: Psalm 118.
(20:17-18) Why does Jesus cite Psalm 118:22? This is a messianic psalm (Lk. 13:35; 19:38). It shows that the people could actually reject the “stone” that God has chosen.
If the stone falls on the pot, the pot will break. If the pot falls on the stone, the pot will break. This situation cannot end well for that pot.
God loves us—that’s why he wants to lead us (Mt. 11:29-30). Our problem is the fact that we reject him.
God could be trying to reach us—reach you—but we are too stubborn to accept his efforts.
Question of Caesar’s authority (vv.19-26)
(20:19) These leaders were wildly angry with Jesus: “Who gave him the authority to tell us what God would or wouldn’t do?!” People still hold this animosity towards Jesus today.
(20:20) The religious leaders send some flatterers in order to trap Jesus. Notice all of their flattery at the beginning (to drop Jesus’ guard?). In reality, they spring a hot-button issue of politics. The historical background behind the poll tax is helpful.
Josephus: “Under his administration it was that a certain Galilean, whose name was Judas, prevailed with his countrymen to revolt; and said they were cowards if they would endure to pay a tax to the Romans, and would, after God, submit to mortal men as their lords. This man was a teacher of a peculiar sect of his own, and was not at all like the rest of those their leaders” (Josephus, Jewish War, 2.8.118).
Josephus: “[Judas and Sadduc] became zealous to draw them to a revolt, who both said that this taxation was no better than an introduction to slavery, and exhorted the nation to assert their liberty” (Josephus, Antiquities, 18.1.4).
Josephus: “The sedition at last increased so high, that the very temple of God was burnt down by their enemy’s fire” (Josephus, Antiquities, 18.1.8).
This might be similar to asking, “Who would you say we should vote for in the 2016 election?”
Pharisees and Herodians were both present and both took different views on the poll tax (cf. Mk. 12:13).
What would the Herodians want? These were later called the “zealot” party after the fall of Jerusalem in AD 70. They supported Herod’s family in power. They were also violent. They would blend in with the crowds and stab Roman-sympathizers with sicae (i.e. daggers) and disappear into the crowds. They were similar to the assassins in the Irish revolutionary film Michael Collins. Bruce writes, “Under every form of torture, none of the sicarii [zealot assassins] who were taken captive, whether young or old, could be compelled to acknowledge Caesar as lord.” Bock writes, “The Herodians favored a solution that let Rome have a mediated presence through the house of Herod.”
What would the Pharisees want? Bock writes, “Preferring that Rome not be present at all, the Pharisees would have opposed the tax.”
Remember, the Jewish people didn’t have authority to enact capital punishment, so they are hoping to get the Romans on their side. They later lie about his answer found here (Lk. 23:2).
(20:21) They are buttering him up for a blunt and binary question in order to trap him.
(20:22) These Roman taxes were severe. Liefeld writes, “These totaled over one-third of a person’s income and included a poll tax, customs, and various indirect taxes.”
(20:23) Jesus discerned their motives in asking this. Their question wasn’t an academic question about taxes. It was a trap.
(20:24) Bock writes, “The inscription on a silver Tiberian denarius reads, ‘Tiberius Caesar, Augustus, son of divine Augustus.’ On the reverse side his mother Livia is portrayed as an incarnation of the goddess of peace, along with the inscription ‘high priest.’” These hypocrites use this image for trade all day and every day.
(20:25) In this situation, Jesus doesn’t answer either/or. He answers both/and. He doesn’t address the question of what to do when the authority of God and the State contradict—though other passages surely do (see “Prioritized Ethics”).
(20:26) What should be rendered to God? Everything! You should give your taxes to the government, but you should give your whole life to God.
Question of marriage in the resurrection (vv.27-38)
The Sadducees only accepted the Torah, and they rejected the resurrection of the dead, so they attack Jesus on this topic.
(20:31) If you were the seventh brother, you might be a little worried marrying this woman!
(20:34-36) Jesus hinges his argument on the fact that the afterlife is not like this life. For one, death will not exist. Secondly, marriage will not exist.
(20:37-38) Jesus chooses to cite from a passage that they would consider inspired Scripture: Exodus 3:6. If the patriarchs are dead, then so are God’s promises to them.
(20:39-40) The scribes (who affirmed the resurrection) said, “Good point!” They liked seeing the Sadducees shut up for once. The scribes also didn’t know what else to say (v.40). So much for the emergent claim that debate and argument are modernistic or irrelevant: Jesus used both effectively.
This passage shows us that Jesus knew his Bible and hermeneutics well.
It also shows that Jesus would contextualize based on his audience (citing the Torah for the Sadducees instead of Daniel 12:2 for example).
Jesus’ argument for his authority in Psalm 110 (vv.41-44)
(20:41-44) He cites from Psalm 110. Bock comments, “Jesus’ point is simple enough: how is it that David can call a son, a descendant, by the title Lord? This is a significant act in a patriarchal society, where a son is under his father. The answer is not a denial of Davidic sonship, but rather an implication that Messiah as David’s Lord transcends him. It recognizes the key authority that is ascribed to the Davidic heir—an authority that David acknowledges. So the key title to be associated with this important figure is Lord, not son of David.”
For further exegesis of this prophecy, see comments on Matthew 22:41-46.
Final rebuke to the religious leaders (vv.45-47)
(20:45-47) Jesus squared off and defeated the greatest minds in all of Israel. Now that their intellectual arguments have been defeated, their moral and spiritual issues really emerge.
Luke 21:1-24 (Olivet discourse: Part 1: Regathering of Israel)
(21:1) Thirteen trumpet-shaped bowls sat outside the Temple. These collected the offerings of the people. Jesus is watching what people are putting into the collection.
(21:2) This old widow was “poor” (penichros) which means “very poor” (TDNT). She puts two copper coins (lepta) into the collection. Bock writes, “Lepta were small copper coins, the smallest currency available, whose value was one-eighth of a penny.”
(21:3-4) This is a good passage for those of us who claim we’re poor and don’t have much to give. If we put our bread and loaves in the hands of God, he can do amazing things with them. He also rewards us based on what we have.
Jesus isn’t putting the others down. He’s lifting the widow up. She stands in contrast to the Pharisees who use the widows (Lk. 20:47).
(21:5) Josephus describes the Temple as made out of white marble stones, and covered with gold.
Josephus: “Now the outward face of the temple in its front wanted nothing that was likely to surprise either men’s minds or their eyes, for it was covered all over the plates of gold of great weight, and, at the first rising of the sun, reflected back a very fiery splendor, and made those who forced themselves to look upon it to turn their eyes away, just as they would have done at the sun’s own rays. (223) But this temple appeared to strangers, when they were at a distance, like a mountain covered with snow; for, as to those parts of it that were not gilt, they were exceeding white” (Josephus, Jewish War, 5.222-223).
The stones were 40 feet long, 18 feet deep, and 12 feet tall (Josephus, Antiquities, 15:392). Tacitus called it “immensely opulent” (History, 5.8). The Talmud records, “He who has not seen the Temple of Herod has not seen a beautiful thing” (Baba Bathra, 4a).
(21:6) Critics say this must post-date AD 70 (because Jesus couldn’t possibly predict the future). But if this is an ex eventu (“after the fact”) prophecy, it’s odd that the NT never records the fulfillment of this event. Specifically, Luke would have recorded it in Acts, but he is silent about it. Also, if it’s truly ex eventu, then why isn’t there more detail?
Josephus recorded, “It was so thoroughly laid even with the ground by those that dug it up to the foundation, that there was left nothing to make those that came [near] believe it had ever been inhabited” (Josephus, The Wars of the Jews, 7:1:1).
(21:7) Luke’s account seems to focus on the Fall of Jerusalem (at least until v.25).
(21:8) Notably, Jesus opens this discussion with the warning that many teachers will try to highjack Jesus’ teaching. Don’t get swept up by them.
False teachers were rampant before the fall of Jerusalem. Josephus records a few examples:
- A false prophet led the Samaritan Jews to rise up. Their leader “was one who thought lying a thing of little consequence” (Josephus, Antiquities, 18.85). He led the Samaritans up to Mount Gerazim, promising the sacred vessels from Moses. They showed up armed, but Pilate had them murdered (18.86-87).
- Theudas (a false prophet) who claimed he could separate the Jordan River. As a result, Josephus records “many were deluded by his words” (Josephus, Antiquities, 20.98). The procurator Fadus had them all killed or captured. Fadus had Theudas beheaded (20.99).
- A false prophet from Egypt convinced the common people that he could bring down the walls of Jerusalem. He even predicted this from the Mount of Olives (the same place Jesus made his predictions!). Felix had 400 killed and 200 taken alive. The Egyptian prophet escaped, but the civil unrest resulted in villages and houses being burned to the ground (Josephus, Antiquities, 20.169-172).
- During the time of the Jewish War, a false prophet convinced the people to go to the Temple to see miraculous signs. He said these things so the people wouldn’t desert the fight (Josephus, Wars of the Jews, 6.285-288).
- Jesus (son of Ananus) shouted to the city for seven years, “Woe, woe to Jerusalem!” He was whipped and beaten, but this didn’t stop his message of doom. He issued this warning until the first stone flew over the barricades from the Roman catapult, killing him (Josephus, Wars of the Jews, 6.300-309).
(21:11) Josephus said that a star (and a comet?) stood over the city of a full year during the destruction (Josephus, Wars of the Jews, 6.289). Tacitus writes that celestial signs accompanied the destruction of the Temple: “There had been seen hosts joining battle in the skies, the fiery gleam of arms, the temple illuminated by a sudden radiance from the clouds. The doors of the inner shrine were suddenly thrown open, and a voice of more than mortal tone was heard to cry that the Gods were departing” (Tacitus, History, 5.13).
(21:12-13) “Before” all of these events, the disciples would face persecution. We see these events coming to fruition in the book of Acts (Acts 8:3; 12:4; 21:11; 22:4; 27:1; 28:17). The disciples stood before rulers on trial (Acts 4:3; 5:18; 12:1; 18:12; 21:27; 24:1–2; 25:8; 26:1).
(21:14-15) They don’t need to worry, because God will give them the words that they need to say. The opponents won’t be able to refute their testimony.
(21:16) The disciples will face persecution—even from friends and family. Sean McDowell’s recent PhD dissertation (The Fate of the Apostles, 2016) assesses the historical plausibility of the disciples’ deaths.
(21:17) This must be a case of hyperbolic language.
(21:18-19) Martyrdom is possible (see v.16), which would seem to preclude a literal reading here. Does it refer to protection from going to hell (cf. Lk. 12:4-7)? Why the emphasis on not a single hair being hurt?
Could it be that if the disciples follow Jesus’ orders in the subsequent verses, then they will be rescued from the Jewish War? (vv.20-24)
(21:20) Luke focuses on the short-term fall of Jerusalem in AD 70, whereas Matthew and Mark focus on the long-term fulfillment at the end of history.
Josephus states that 1.1 million were killed, and 200,000 taken captive (Josephus, Jewish War, 6.5.271-73; 6.9.420; 7.5.118; 7.5.138; 7.5.154). Children were cooked for food (Josephus, Jewish War, 6.3.201-213).
(21:21) The early Christians fled Jerusalem—just as Jesus commanded.
Epiphanius (church historian—late fourth century AD): “The Nazoraean sect exists in Beroea… Pella, and in Bashan… That is where the sect began, when all the disciples were living in Pella after they moved from Jerusalem, since Christ told them to leave Jerusalem and withdraw because it was about to be besieged” (Epiphanius, Panarion 29:7:7-8).
Eusebius (church historian—early 4th century AD): “But the people of the church in Jerusalem had been commanded by a revelation, vouchsafed to approved men there before the war, to leave the city and to dwell in a certain town of Perea called Pella” (Eusebius, History of the Church, 3.5.3).
(21:22) Unfaithfulness to the covenant brings judgment (Deut. 28; Lev. 26).
(21:23) The term “earth” (ge) can be understood as “land” in this passage. The context for Luke is local persecution. Of course, this is a foreshadowing (a type) of the final destruction, emphasized by Matthew and Mark.
Luke fails to mention three key components to Jesus’ sermon: (1) no human would’ve survived these days unless God cut them short, (2) this was the greatest tribulation the world had ever seen or will see, and (3) the abomination of desolation would occur—only mentioning “its desolation.”
Predictions about Jerusalem’s first destruction by the Babylonians (6th century BC) are similar to her second destruction by the Romans (1st century AD). But these are not the same events. Instead, the fulfillment of the one offers confidence that the second will be fulfilled later in history.
Luke 21:25 (Olivet discourse: Part 2: Preconditions)
(21:25) The end of human history will be a poor time to be without the security of Christ. The focus here is on the “nations,” not believers. People without Christ will be experiencing:
“Anguish” (synochē) means “a state of distress that involves a high degree of anxiety, distress, dismay, anguish” (BDAG).
“Perplexity” (aporia) Bock writes, “It almost pictures “being at a loss” over a circumstance.” Picture how people felt after the most recent flood or tsunami.
(21:26) People will be seeing where the world is heading, and the result will be an unbridled and crippling fear. The skies themselves will shake.
(21:27) This must be an allusion to Daniel 7:13-14.
(21:28) We can contrast those without Christ (anguish, perplexity, fear) with those who know Christ (straighten up, lift up your heads). While the world will be fainting to the floor, the believer can look up and anticipation. Skeptics often accuse Christians of being “alarmists” regarding eschatology. While we believe there is reason for alarm, we are not alarmists. We have the security that everything is going to be okay.
Matthew says that the angels will gather all believers at this time (Mt. 24:31).
(21:29-31) We’re supposed to be able to recognize the signs of the times. When we see these things, we should know that Jesus’ return is near.
(21:33) Jesus emphasizes that this teaching is a reality.
(21:34) Is eschatology a meaningless subject? Not at all. Jesus teaches that reflecting on the future should change us in the present.
“Weighted down” Bock writes, “Hearts ‘weighed down’ (bareō) refers to insensitive hearts.”
“Dissipation and drunkenness” Bock writes, “The allusion is to living in excessive attraction to an intoxicating, sinful world.” For those in this state, Jesus’ return will feel “sudden” (cf. Lk. 12:45-46).
(21:35) This is a universal judgment.
(21:36) No matter which generation we’re in, we should all be watching for Jesus’ return.
This teaching about the return of Christ should drive us to pray. Specifically, we’re supposed to pray for the courage and strength to make it through this period of history.
Luke 22:7-20 (Jesus’ final meal)
(22:9) They didn’t know where the lamb was because they were from out of town.
(22:10-13) Jesus sends Peter and John to set up the Passover.
(22:14) In ancient Israel, the people would recline at the table.
(22:15) He has been looking forward to this meal, because it also looks forward to a future meal—after the Cross in the kingdom (v.18). This passage shows that the Passover meal is in view—not just a generic meal.
What must Jesus have felt at this moment? As he is looking at this sacrificed lamb, was he thinking, “This is going to be me in a little while…” John tells us that love for his disciples filled his heart at this moment (Jn. 13:1).
(22:16) This is a good passage to support Dispensational theology regarding the reforming of Israel in the Millennium. After all, Jesus says that they will “eat” the Passover in the kingdom. This means that commemorative sacrifices will continue in the Millennium (cf. Ezek. 40-48). We will celebrate the Lord’s Supper “until” Jesus returns (1 Cor. 11:26).
(22:17) The term “given thanks” (eucharisteō) is where we get the term “Eucharist.” Paul picks up on this concept of “sharing” when he explains the Lord’s Supper (1 Cor. 10:16-17).
(22:18) This must mean that the Mormon doctrine of Jesus travelling to the Americans to celebrate communion is false. He says that he won’t drink wine again until the kingdom.
Luke 22:3-6, 21 (Peter and Judas)
(22:3) If you remember, the last time Satan was active in the narrative was in Luke 4:13 (cf. Lk. 10:18; 11:18; 13:16). There we read, “When the devil had finished every temptation, he left Him until an opportune time” (Lk. 4:13). This is the that “opportune time.” We see the same language in John 13:27.
Being in close proximity to Jesus or his followers doesn’t make you a Christian.
(22:4) They “discussed” (stratēgoi) how to betray Christ. Remember, they might have been scared of Jesus, because he was a miracle worker (Jn. 18:6).
(22:5) Matthew 26:15 states that Judas went asking for compensation and money. Matthew specifies the 30 pieces of silver. The religious leaders literally “rejoiced.”
(22:21) The genitive means that he’s in the process of betraying him. Even as Judas was in the process of betraying him, Jesus chose to wash his feet (Jn. 13).
(22:22) None of this is a surprise for Jesus (Lk. 9:22).
(22:23) Judas must’ve been a very able faker. In Matthew’s account, we read, “Surely not I, Lord?” (Mt. 26:22). John records that the disciples were “at a loss to know of which one He was speaking” (Jn. 13:22). They were more likely to indicate themselves than Judas.
(22:24) Imagine what Jesus was thinking here as they were arguing over who was the greatest—the night before he would be crucified.
(22:25-30) What was the final teaching that Judas heard from Jesus? What was the “straw that broke the camel’s back” for Judas? What was the final thought that convinced him, “I can’t follow Christ anymore”? It was Jesus’ teaching on self-giving love and servant leadership. Judas was finally coming to the realization that he couldn’t get anything out of following Christ.
John records that Jesus washed the disciple’s feet at this time (Jn. 13:4-5). Were the disciples bickering over their greatness, only to discover Jesus quietly taking the basin and rag and washing their feet?
John’s Account (Jn. 13)
|Luke’s Account (Lk. 22)|
|The devil had “already put into the heart of Judas Iscariot to betray him” (v.2).
This must be before the Last Supper.
“Satan entered into Judas who was called Iscariot, belonging to the number of the twelve. And he went away and discussed with the chief priests and officers how he might betray Him to them” (vv.3-4).
This must be before the Last Supper.
Jesus eats the Passover (v.2)
|Jesus eats the Passover (vv.7-20)|
|“During supper…” Jesus washes the disciples feet (vv.2-12)||
Since John doesn’t tell us when he washed the disciples’ feet, we don’t know when this occurs in Luke. It could’ve been before or after they were arguing over who was the greatest (vv.24-30)
States that the Scriptures predicted his betrayal and death (vv.18-19).
Announces that one of them will betray him (v.21).
|Announces that one of them will betray him (v.21). This has been “determined” (v.22) by Scripture.|
|The disciples are shocked and ask who it is (vv.22-25)||
The disciples are shocked and discuss who it is (v.23)
|The disciples argue over who is the greatest, and Jesus teaches against this (vv.24-30)|
Announces that it’s the one whom he gives the dipped bread to (v.26)
Satan enters Judas (v.27)
Disciples are still confused (vv.28-29)
Judas leaves to betray Jesus
|Peter promises he will lay down his life for Jesus (v.37)||
Peter promises to face death or imprisonment for Jesus (v.33)
Jesus predicts Peter’s betrayal (v.38)
Jesus predicts Peter’s betrayal (v.34)
Peter’s betrayal predicted
(22:31) The “you” here is plural.
(22:32) The “you” here is singular—specifically for Peter. Satan wants to take down Peter—one of Jesus’ central disciples. But Jesus prays for him.
(22:33-34) Ironically, Peter does end up going to prison (Acts 5:19; 12:3ff) and death for Jesus. But before he is able to do this, Jesus has to break Peter’s pride and self-will. This courage doesn’t come from himself. Peter needs to learn that all courage comes from Christ.
Mark states that Peter will deny Jesus three times “before a rooster crows twice” (Mk. 14:30).
(22:35-38) Jesus warns them that they will be in the thick of suffering and persecution. He might prescribe the “two swords” for the purpose of self-defense, or maybe to scare off criminals. Of course, Jesus doesn’t approve of Peter aggressively using the sword to try to prevent his betrayal (vv.49-50). It’s also possible to read Jesus’ statement (“It is enough”) as him dismissing their talk of having swords. Bock writes that this could be “a Semitic expression that means he is dismissing the topic.” In other words, Jesus is saying, “I’ve heard enough of that.”
(22:39) Luke doesn’t specifically mention Gethsemane (Mt. 26:36; Mk. 14:32).
(22:40) Remember, Satan wants to sift the disciples like wheat (v.31). So Jesus tells them to pray for this temptation. We need to pray for our people like Jesus did, but we also need to encourage them to pray for themselves. The disciples didn’t pray, so they did fall into temptation. He tells them this twice (v.46). The disciples eventually learn this important lesson (Acts 4:24-31).
(22:41-42) By contrast, Jesus prepared his mind to suffer for the Cross (1 Pet. 4:1). The battle was won before the Cross in prayer and trusting in God’s sovereignty.
The “cup” refers to God’s wrath (Ps. 11:6; 75:8-9; Isa. 51:17, 19, 22; Jer. 25:15-16; 49:12; 51:57; Lam. 4:21; Ezek. 23:31-34; Hab. 2:16; Zech. 12:2).
Jesus wasn’t losing his faith here. He shows up in prayer to open his heart up to God in honesty. His petition to “remove this cup” is buttressed by “if You are willing” and “not My will, but Yours be done.” He was depending on the sovereignty of God in his prayer. This shows that Jesus had a choice in whether he wanted to take up the Cross. We willingly went there.
This passage shows that the first-class conditional should not be always rendered “Since…”
(22:43) God hadn’t abandoned Jesus. He comforts him through an angel. Knowing the love of the Father for the Son, he probably wanted to comfort Jesus personally.
(22:44) Jesus didn’t sweat literal blood. This is a simile (“like drops of blood”). Jesus is in psychological agony here. We never see Jesus afraid of people—only God’s wrath and separation from the Father.
(22:45) The disciples were depressed and sleeping. They kept hearing that Jesus was leaving. This doesn’t mean that they have everything figured out, but it implies that they knew something bad was going to happen. They could’ve picked up on this by seeing the expression on Jesus’ face when he returned from his time in prayer.
(22:47) It was dark, so it would’ve been difficult for the soldiers and religious leaders to see Jesus in the light from their torches. John records that they brought an entire Roman cohort (Jn. 18:3), which was “a tenth of a legion, or about six hundred men.”
Why 600 men for one Jewish rabbi? Temple police tried to apprehend Jesus before, and they failed (Jn. 7:32, 45-47). There might have been a “crowd” which was separate from the cohort (Mt. 26:47; Mk. 14:43). Thus they may have been worried about a riot ensuing. Or, finally, they might have been afraid of Jesus, because he was a miracle worker (Jn. 18:6).
(22:48) This was Judas’ way of covering his tracks, making it look like he wasn’t responsible. He’s pretending to get ambushed.
(22:49-50) Peter (Jn. 18:10) doesn’t wait for the answer: Ready, FIRE, aim!
(22:51) Jesus heals the slave (Malchus).
(22:52-53) Is Luke seeing a symbolic action that this happens at night? (Col. 1:13; Eph. 6:12)
(22:54) So far, Peter has tried to defend Jesus, as he promised (Lk. 22:33). Instead of defending Jesus, he just hacks the ear off of a slave (rather than fighting the 600 man cohort!), and Jesus rebuked him for this.
Now he’s following Jesus back to the high priest’s house. Will he help Christ escape or lay his life down for Jesus? Peter wanted to see “the outcome” (Mt. 26:58).
(22:55) Peter is sitting with the men who are holding Jesus (!) in the courtyard of the high priests home. Perhaps they took Jesus inside the house, and the servants are outside in the courtyard. They have kindled a fire. The high priest’s slave (Malchus) would be there in the group…
Peter had committed to Jesus in front of his fellow disciples (Lk. 22:33), but will he do so in the public square? Who will be the intimidating person he needs to stand up to?
(22:56) The great Peter couldn’t even stand up to a little girl (HUMOR: not even a rich girl, or a muscular girl, or a girl with a sword… a slave girl!!)
Remember, it’s night time, and they can only see each other by the dim light of the fire. So she is “looking intently” (atenizō) at him or “staring.” She announces her suspicion to the courtyard: “He was with him!”
(22:57) Bock writes, “The phrase is like the Jewish ban formulas used against those dismissed from the synagogue.” It might be like saying, “We no longer know you” or perhaps “You’re dead to me.”
(22:58) Matthew and Mark record that Peter got up from the fire and went to the porch (Mk. 14:68) or the gateway (Mt. 26:71).
In his second denial, he denies his fellowship with the disciples of Jesus: “I’m not one of those people!” He’s trying to stay close to Jesus, but he’s denying his witness to him.
(22:59) An hour goes by… Peter’s accent gave him away (Mt. 26:73). One of the relatives of Malchus (the slave whom Peter attacked) spots him (Jn. 18:26). Peter also got himself into trouble because of cutting off the ear of his friend.
Matthew records that Peter invokes a curse on Jesus, swearing before God that he doesn’t know him (Mt. 26:74).
(22:60) Before Peter can get the words out, the rooster crows.
(22:61) Morris writes, “We do not know where Jesus was at this moment. He may have been in a gallery overlooking the courtyard, or in a room looking out on to it, or even in it, perhaps passing through on his way from Annas to Caiaphas. At any rate he was in some place from where he could see Peter and he turned and looked at him.”
(22:62) This term for “wept bitterly” is often used of weeping over the dead (Lk. 8:52; Jn. 11:31, 33). So this is probably an uncontrollable sobbing.
This whole time, Jesus predicted Peter’s failure, but he also predicted his repentance and restoration (Lk. 22:32). Our sin isn’t a surprise to God. The question is: what will we do when we fall into sin?
Beating, mocking, and kangaroo court
(22:63) They blindfolded him, beat him, mocked him, and spit on him (Mk. 14:65).
(22:64) They think that he is nothing more than a false prophet. They’re saying, “If you’re a prophet, then who hit you?!” Ironically, Jesus predicted this very thing! (Lk. 18:32-33)
(22:66) Mishnah Sanhedrin 4.1 states that a morning meeting was necessary for conviction. Matthew and Mark mention a night meeting (Mk. 14:55-64; Mt. 26:59-66). It could’ve been that there were two meetings, or the meeting lasted all night and into the morning.
Why did Judas betray Jesus? First, he was greedy (Mt. 26:14-15; Jn. 12:6). Second, he could see that following Jesus was about servant love—not authority (Jn. 13).
Luke 23 (The Cross)
None of the four gospels describe the resurrection itself.
(24:4) These are angels (Acts 1:10).
(24:13) Archaeologists have had a difficult time finding Emmaus.
 Wiersbe, W. W. (1996). The Bible Exposition Commentary (Vol. 1, p. 178). Wheaton, IL: Victor Books.
 Leifeld, W. L. (1984). Luke. In F. E. Gaebelein (Ed.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Matthew, Mark, Luke (Vol. 8, p. 821). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House.
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 Leifeld, W. L. (1984). Luke. In F. E. Gaebelein (Ed.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Matthew, Mark, Luke (Vol. 8, p. 826). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House.
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 Bock, D. L. (1994). Luke (Lk 1:26). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.
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 Babylonian Talmud, Yomah 9b. This sentiment is also reflected in Sota 48b, Sanhedrin 11a, and Midrash Rabbah on Song of Songs, 8.9.3
 Flavius Josephus, Josephus Antiquities of the Jews, 18:116-119. Josephus puts a political spin on John’s execution, while the Synoptics place a moral and religious angle on it. These can be harmonized because the religious and political were so closely conjoined at this time.
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 Strack and Billerbeck: Kommentar vein Neuen Testament aus Talmud and Midrash, 1:151. Cited in Leifeld, W. L. (1984). Luke. In F. E. Gaebelein (Ed.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Matthew, Mark, Luke (Vol. 8, pp. 864–865). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House.
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 Lemke, S. W. (2007). The Academic Use of Gospel Harmonies. In Holman Christian Standard Bible: Harmony of the Gospels (p. 112). Nashville, TN: Holman Bible Publishers.
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 Evans, C. A. (1990). Luke (p. 154). Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books.
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